B: yoghurt, mixed nuts, coffee
L: beef chili, half avo
D: husband has promised to take me out and show me a good time - if small boy goes on his sleepover - we'll see
and here's what the stewpot holds today...
I’m suspicious of writing about this full stop. And I’m incredibly suspicious of writing about it in a public forum. I’m extra, extra suspicious of writing about it in a public forum where – I’ve decided to moniker him ‘bacon man’ (all sizzle and no satisfaction; the promise of pork, but a mouthful of salt) might still be lurking. It strikes me as a form of exhibitionism/masochism: here, come fuck my stigmata.
There’s a degree of spinning involved – the transmutation of soiled straw into golden (hopefully) prose. The same materials get spun again and again; the narrative threads get twisted together for new purposes. No, it’s both more and less than that: the mythology of selfhood is already to a degree woven, integrated. The seams get unpicked, the fabric patched up, refashioned – spread out and cut up for you (and me) to examine, but I cannot now reduce it to single threads. The warp is too tightly connected to the weft.
Despite the fear and self-questioning of motive, I’m going to do it. Why? Because I never back down from a dare. And this feels like a dare. It’s an intellectual challenge. Can I take the bloodstained, screwed up dirty, dirty laundry and upcycle it into something worth admiring. Perhaps I can. Perhaps I can put the pieces together in a new pattern and see a fresh symmetry. As I said on another thread, don’t knock crowd-sourced therapy.
Before we start, a word on terminology. My mother, father and brother are my adopted family. I feel no need – indeed an active dislike – to term them my adopted mother, adopted father and so on. My family are my family. These are job titles and they do the job. So, for the genetic relations, I will preface them with ‘birth’ – birth mother, birth grandparents. I prefer this to the word ‘biological’ because I am not a washing powder and neither are they. The words ‘natural’ and ‘real’ are very fraught and loaded in this regard. I avoid them. Other adopted people might well have other preferences; these are mine and I stick to them.
I’m very open about the fact that I am adopted. That’s easy. And when asked I will say that while my brother’s adoption was straightforward, mine was rather more complicated. When eyebrows get raised I explain that I was fostered for a few months and then at, 13 months, fostered by my parents before being adopted at the age of four. My adoption was contested by my birth mother, who chose to represent herself in court and therefore got to see all the paperwork and so on, including my parents’ address. There was sporadic contact – phone calls – and the fear that I would be abducted was a constant phantom companion of my primary school years.
I unpack this further on occasion, but with emotional distance. Babies do not get adopted for no reason and in my case there were reasons. Birth mother originally called social services in, and I give her credit for that, but they wouldn’t have removed me if there wasn’t sufficient cause.
Here things break down into medical records and the stories my body and mind tell me. I have no trusted witnesses. Scars. Interestingly, all of these scars disappeared in puberty – hello, Freud! One on my shoulder. The suspicion was I was thrown against a wall – or did she admit that in the submission reports? My mythology says I landed on a bed, but where did this fragment come from? Signs of neglect. The timeframe breaks here too, as my mother was disparaging of the foster care I received before I reached them: left all night in dirty nappies, locked in a nursery as the foster carer’s husband didn’t like babies. These things were discussed in my childhood, but once I reached teenage years I shut down those topics of conversation and stopped looking at the records – actually, I might have destroyed them as a child. We’re in creation myth territory here; memories of memories. More scars – small raised rings. Severe nappy rash or genital warts? There was inconclusive discussion. They are not there now, but I remember them. I remember the feel of them under my fingers.
I fear we’re in When Rabbit Howls territory here (Rabbit was her first voice – all Rabbit could do is howl. I’ve not read the book, but my mother told me about it – thanks, mum!). I fear that there is damage buried in me that cannot be unearthed or clearly identified that shapes who I am. I read They F*** You Up (I've read the poem, too, obviously) and I see the earlier these things happen the more profound the effect. What am I supposed to do with this? I’m fully aware of the ‘child abuse equals adult love of BDSM’ school of thought, but ultimately I like what I like and I try not to add new images or ideas to the imaginative library of pain and degradation. Some things are safer as fantasy; some impulses should not be allowed to see the light of day. Some ideas I’d really rather not have. Self-respect and self-preservation win.
The mental well-being nurse telling me that she could clearly see I’d been sexually abused (bear in mind this would definitely have been before the age of 13 months). That really did a number on me. Not the fact that I had – still, I believe, debatable; if only because the mind recoils at the horror of baby rape – but the idea that I’m unwittingly walking around wearing a sandwich board proclaiming it.
Unfortunately, there’s more – birth mother, birth grandparents, total absence of birth father (a blank on my birth certificate). More on their stories and how they intersect, painfully, with my own. The madwoman in my attic is my birth mother. I fear that just as I wear her face – and I do – her fate will be my fate. I rebel against this, choosing to model myself on my mother instead, to a degree at least. Oh, the things that mum says come naturally to her – mothering, home-making, craft – those are her real skills, these things are what real women do. Sadly, my relationship with my family is enough on its own to send me to therapy. All the usual psychodramas of a loving family, with an inheritance of Catholic guilt, parental death and abandonment on my mother’s side. Her internal mythology was inescapable: she’s not an academic or an urban career woman, like her older and younger sisters – the younger a mother who my mum judged lacking (albeit she had a natural birth of all three); the older who never had children. Yes, natural and real are very difficult words. Who’s to judge what is natural and what is real. I distrust my feelings on this. I will not talk to my mum about it now that I am a birth mother myself, to do so would only cause her incalculable pain.
Yes. I value my ability to pass. I wear my corsetry and restraints under my skin. I keep my mind chained. I chose a calm, gentle husband – the only man who stood unflinching when I threw my tidal storms at him. A cliff face I could pound against and know I was safe. A beach I could break on. Sea metaphors, rivers, canals – my writing is full of water, blood, death, memory, bone – these motifs recur. What can I say? I have water on the brain.