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Ghosts

June 7th, 2010

Dweaver talks about how the ghosts of our pasts affect our present lives and who we are.  Specifically, how his childhood has affected his adulthood.  Thanks, Dave!

I get epiphanies at the weirdest times.  One I had recently was that we are all products of our past.  More importantly, being healed of the damage done to us in our past doesn’t make that any less true.  You see, this latest epiphany came while I was riding the bus into work.  I work in the same town I grew up in (from 3rd grade on).  This is important because someone else still works in this town after over 30 years.

To understand where this is going, you have to understand a bit about my childhood.  Early on, I had the stereotypical good childhood; any tension between mom and dad was well hidden form we kids and had no discernible affect on us.  Then came the war; the Vietnam war.  My dad (I was an air force brat) was sent for a tour of duty there.  He came back…different.  Essentially, he came back an abusive bastard.  That started my childhood’s quick slide into one of misery, for the most part.

I suspect he’d always been an alcoholic, but before that nine months (the tour was cut short), he had it relatively under control.  That ended after he came back.  He also came back fairly paranoid.  He was convinced mom had cheated on him and went out of his way to prove it.  Over the next few years, he steadily abused my mom, both mentally and physically.  Before long, she was seeing a psychiatrist and taking some pretty heavy meds; which, ironically, the good doctor allowed my dad to control.  Needless to say, she didn’t get any better.

Eventually, after several suicide attempts, she committed herself to a psychiatric facility.  The next day, my dad filed for divorce and custody, based on the fact that my mom was incapable of taking care of us.  He hired a young, up and coming lawyer to represent him, and that’s where we get to today.  That lawyer still plies his trade in my home town.  I see his current offices every time I ride the bus, and I keep thinking to myself, “If I could just spend half an hour talking to this (?) idiot…jerk…amoral bastard…” 

You see, my dad browbeat all four of us boys into saying things about my mom that simply weren’t true.  13-14 year olds don’t stand up to dad, especially dads who have been seen to physically attack their mom (and gotten in the way once) for arguing with him, very well.  This lawyer was either complicit or blind as a bat in these lies.  My younger brothers went so far to please dad that they told everyone, including mom, that they never wanted to see her again (at least two of them never have).

I don’t consider my dad an issue in my life any more.  I’m over his treatment of mom (that she’s happy in a good marriage now helps a lot).  I’m over his treatment of me after the divorce.  I kept my distance so he couldn’t do any more damage and went on with life (he’s dead now).  He just doesn’t have an ongoing affect on my life now.  Yet, there’s this lawyer, and I wonder to this day, if he ever regrets what he helped cause to happen.

It was in the middle of those thoughts that it hit me.  True, my dad doesn’t affect me any more, but it’s also true that my past history with him is one of the defining forces in who I am now, and that will never change, ever.  If I’d turned out like my dad, an abusive alcoholic, it would be so much more easier for someone to see how he fed that in me.  But, I didn’t turn out that way.  Many friends have told me I turned out pretty much the opposite of him.  It’s like he’s a ghost that haunts me, not so much in a bad way, but in influencing who I am.

These ghosts haunt all of us.  How we react to them does as much to define who we are as their presence in our lives does.  For much of my life, I actively struggled to not be who my dad was. I fought his ghost in a battle to the death.  I ended up alone in life.  I never dated, for many years, and the two dates I’ve ever gone on were no-starters.  I’ve actively avoided relationships with women beyond casual friendship so I couldn’t abuse them.  I don’t like to drink, for the most part, though I can these days as a normal part of socializing when it’s appropriate.  Worst of all, I allowed myself to rot in a dead end job, because…I don’t know why, it was just easier than doing anything else.

I only opened up to the possibilities in my life when I stopped fighting my dad’s ghost.  I realized how much I hated that job.  I went back to school, got my degree and teaching certification. I became a great teacher.  Most importantly, I was open to being who I was in the world of kink (what ever that may end up being).  One significant, and somewhat unexpected result of my ghosts was that I never struggled with accepting that BDSM is not abuse, in and of itself.  You see, I’d seen real abuse, and knew that what was done in BDSM didn’t have to be abuse.  This doesn’t mean I didn’t have my OMG moments, but it does mean I didn’t instantly condemn those moments either.

We are all haunted by the ghosts of our past.  Some are good ghosts, some are bad ghosts.  But, what determines how they affect us is not what the ghosts are, but how we react and treat them.  These ghosts made us into the people we are today, but we don’t have to stay as that person, if we don’t like who we are.  We can change, and we don’t have to banish the ghosts to do it.

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  1. June 23rd, 2010 at 17:43 | #1

    I once wrote this in journal regarding my own childhood traumas…

    Once someone asked me if I wished it had not happened and I stepped back and looked at my whole life. I am strong. I am smart. I am beautiful… perhaps more so because of the pain I have had to overcome. I know I would not wish it on anyone else, but like a shattered crystal vase lovingly reassembled with patience and glue, I cannot help but decide that I am all the more beautiful for the way the light catches in the cracks and stronger for the glue that holds me together.

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