Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk {4}

Hello Friends, I apologize for the delay, it’s been a while since I’ve posted on my autobiographical anthology, Injustice: My Bell Jar Diaries, it has proven more difficult than I anticipated. For those of you who are seeing this for the first time, I’d like to invite you to visit my page at the link below, which includes my introductory post, numbered posts that ease you into my story, and supporting posts to provide additional context. It is my hope that I’ll be able to reach those suffering from these issues, be a source of encouragement and inspiration, create awareness, and drive change! Thank you for reading and thoughtfully commenting on these deeply personal stories. I appreciate you all continuing to support me! P.S. In an act of reciprocation, I’ve continued My Blog Soundtrack: Songs I Write To at the very end. Enjoy the music and my little message!

https://youlildickens.com/injustice-my-bell-jar-diaries/

***Readers Beware***
These are true stories that may shock you — anger and haunt you. Posts under this category may contain disturbing content that could upset or trigger individuals. *MILD LANGUAGE*

We were known in our one stoplight town as the most polite, respectful, well-behaved children from a big wholesome Christian family. Mmm hmm, that’s what they all saw: The Lie, The Facade. Our reality was, we were TERRIFIED children, positively frightened to be anything less than exactly what they demanded of us. The alternative was too heavy a price to pay.

Children are meant to be seen and not heard.” If I had a nickel for every time I heard that… We could never say, “Can I,” it had to be, “May I?” If we forgot — cue the glare and condescending “I don’t know? Can you what? Come back when you’ve learned how to talk right.” Or, “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.” Gee, I wonder why I’m so Type A. One of the most sacred expectations was to say, “ma’am and sir” when we spoke to any adult. But here comes the BOOM…this has to be one of, if not the worst of them all…

I don’t want your love, I want your respect!

My Father’s Favorite

For us — LOVE was earned, not freely given.

To quote my buddy, Forrest Gump, “That’s about all I got to say bout that.”

I’m a proponent of good old fashioned manners and place a high value on respect. However, their parenting took things to excessively unhealthy levels accompanied by constant rigidity, inconsistency, and secrecy. “What happens in THIS family, stays within THIS family. Don’t you dare go around telling anyone our business.” That included family members not living under our roof. No degree of equanimity existed. We lived in fear — knowing at any moment he could go off. Sometimes, we could see the wall cloud, the beginning stages of rotation. Other times, it was too abrupt to see the precursor. We didn’t have a shelter in our storm, we didn’t have a cellar to take refuge, no meteorologist with a warning to forecast our F5’s. This man — our human tornado, leveled everything in his path. There was a secret phrase among the three eldest children that we’d whisper or silently mouth, “Don’t rock the boat. Do NOT break ranks.” We were his little toy soldiers. Ordered about, serving our purpose, fulfilling our duties. He was a former Marine and a textbook Narcissist. My mother, a homemaker and a classic codependent. What a pair, huh? The perfect storm of parenting.

Freedom From Want ~ Norman Rockwell

I remember with such clarity the first time I saw Rockwell’s Freedom From Want, in a library book, and thought, “Well, we sure look the part, but that’s the point, isn’t it?” How absurd! I was jealous of a painting! Later that evening, I opened the book and stared at that picture while I wrote in my diary about how ironic the title was.

Dinner was served promptly at 1900 hours. No exceptions. We obediently took our seats and silently bowed our heads, instinctively lifted our hands to clasp the ones on each side as he led us in prayer. Holding hands at the dinner table, forming a ring, representing the circle of love and unity of a family. I wish it had been meant for ours. After the prayer, in unison, we said, “Amen.” Now, this wasn’t the part where we proverbially dug in. Oh no! You waited patiently with your hands in your lap until a bowl or plate was passed to you. No elbows on the table. No needless chatter permitted. It was disrespectful to speak at our dinner table unless addressed directly.

He sat at the head of the table, no one else, even if we had company, a chair was never placed at the opposite end. His authority must never be challenged. He reigned supreme, the king, the head of the household. Their marriage was not a partnership, but rather a grotesque portrayal of heliocentrism. He was the sun, she existed to revolve around him. My mother passed the bowl of mashed potatoes to him first, then the platter of pork chops, the basket of rolls, you get the idea. She prattled on, sweetly soliciting any attention or praise, listing errands she ran for him, his shirt had been mended, folded, and placed on top of the dresser. Always the dutiful wife, always the respectful children, always the perfect family — with Narcissus at the helm.

The food had been passed around the table and we made it to the “May I have seconds portion.” Nod, smile, chew, do not speak. Hold on, we’re almost there. Until, one of my brothers, 8 yrs. old, asked me to pass the peas and knocked over his glass of milk. In one fell swoop, our dinner went from zero to sixty. We each put our forks down, moved our hands into our laps, sat up straighter, and leaned back slightly in scary synchronization.

His chair flew back across the floor as he stood and roared, “Damnit, what in the hell is your problem?” He slammed his fist on the table like a judge’s gavel. The plates jumped but we didn’t dare. He came up behind Sam, grabbing him by the back of his neck, gritting his teeth he put his mouth right up against his ear, “Do you think we’re made of money? Huh, boy?” He smashed his face into the table and screamed, “DRINK IT! DRINK IT!” I was fuming, I gripped the bottom sides of my chair, my anger flared up inside of me like a wildfire in the wind. My chair screeched against the wood floor. His head swiveled, grip unchanged, still pressing my little brother’s face down in milk, little bubbles popped in the puddle as he breathed. “WHAT? Do you have something to say?” he snarled and I just stared. “Are you deaf? I asked you a question!” It took every ounce of me to say through clenched teeth, “No, sir.” struggling to remain silent I gripped my chair even harder trying to hide myself shaking with rage.

Just when we thought it couldn’t get worse, it did. He stood over him and forced him to lap it up. I looked away… “NO! You watch or you’re next!” He pulled Sam back up just inches from his face, “Have you learned your lesson, boy?” Milk dripped from his face, he managed a shaky, “Yes, sir.” He went back to his chair shaking his head, instead of sitting he looked at each one of us, disgusted. Then — in a blink, he upturned the table sending shards of glass and food through the air, shattering nearly every dish. “CLEAN THIS MESS UP! Then get to bed,” he shouted, clapping his hands at us, “MOVE! MOVE YOUR ASSES!”

Needless to say, the expression, “don’t cry over spilled milk” takes on a whole new meaning to me, it holds such a negative connotation. To this day, when I hear it, I stiffen, if I see someone accidentally knock over a drink, I still flinch. My therapist recommended this book, when I got to this page I screamed, “OH MY GOSH! YES, EXACTLY!”

Just as I chose to share, you chose to read. I humbly and respectfully thank you all.

To Be Continued…

Don’t Worry, Hold on — that girl gripping the bottom of her chair…Oh, She’s on Her Way

23 comments

  1. Oh my gosh!! I’m so sorry you all experienced that!! 😮 It’s sort of weird. In my family the dysfunction was more fluid, like things would be fine, then they woudn’t be fine, and there were all these changing and shifting factors. In your family it has a more rigid feel like it was the same kind of bad all the time. Consistency. Huh. I studied dysfunction in college and learned that people play the same roles all the time within a dysfunctional system: the scapegoat, the comic relief, etc. I think that might apply more to your family than mine! (Not that there’s any better or worse here, but it’s interesting to do comparisons.) My dad was mellow but could be (and was) physically abusive. My mom was a nutcase. She could also be (and was) physically abusive. But only my mom was verbally/emotionally abusive. She could range from life of the party to it’s the end of the world. No consistency, but in a good sense that meant we weren’t constantly on pins and needles. Sorry you’re triggered by the milk phrase! I’ll make mental note not to use it in my blog! I hear ya! I l ike your autobiographical series here!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Meg,

      Thank you, sweetheart! I love how thoughtful and compassionate your soul is. That is unfortunately a rare thing this world. I’m so grateful to call you a friend! I feel like you really get it and your comment mean a great deal to me. Thank you fo taking the time to make them. Yes, I studied the same as an elective because of my background I really wanted to understand the psychology, give my pain the right name, I suppose. We (my family) were an enigma. Backwards warped insanity…looking back on everything I think to myself, whew really surprised I’m not a drug addict, prostitute, stripper, or serial killer. Because honestly my past is a thing of nightmares…
      I’m sorry you had to and are still dealing with that! My heart aches for you. I LOVE your comparison because it helps me better comprehend my past and my feelings about it. A different perspective can often offer more than you might think. I’ve learned to deal with my triggers decisively – they may have a punch but now I know how to bob and weave. Just takes a lot of practice.

      I hope that people will take the time to read the other posts too. I think the anthology can be very powerful but not on a single or couple of posts, it’s something that needs to be seen in a sort of all-encompassing view. You know? Creating the page should help with that, I think. Fingers crossed! Thank you for your support and encouragement!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. You were a brave one to try to take a stand, a smart one not to press on. What a sickness. Another blogger followed me today and I checked out her posts. She is in her 40s now, if I read it correctly, and she has become almost completely dysfunctional from her abuse as a child. It just seems to be so much of it. I can imagine that the amount of abuse rose greatly in 2020 with everyone sent home and forced to be together. New Mexico is going to require everyone to enroll their children in early childhood education, which means all children starting at age 3 have to be in public school. I think it’s terrible to put children in public school at that age. They need to be playing and being kids. But when I read stories like yours, maybe its for the best, especially if abused children can be identified and helped. But that is probably a really big IF!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Timothy. When I heard that kids weren’t going to go to school when covid got bad I was very upset. I knew in my heart all those kids, the ones that were like me and loved school because it was an escape from the hell they called home. It reminded me of something I haven’t written about yet but have a lot of experience with. Suddenly being at home 24/7 within smacking reach is terrible, other kids, school is the only safe place they have or the only place they get a hot meal.

      Dear Sweet Lord! What NM Rep. or Sen. wrote that legislation?! You’re right, it’s terrible! Kids should be allowed to be kids. So many aren’t given that basic human right.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t know who specifically is pushing the early childhood initiative, but New Mexico is a poor state in general and there are a lot of families in need. Drug and alcohol abuse is very high and there is a lot of domestic violence and broken families that goes with it.

        I started working when I was 15 years old for an artisan woodworker. We worked with architects and real estate people, and I was asked by a lot of the people we worked with to house sit from them when they were away. I got to know one family pretty well house sitting for them. On day when I was getting instructions from the wife, she all of a sudden stopped, looked at me and said: “I need to tell you that my husband comes off as a sweet, smiley, jovial person. Don’t let his smile fool you. He is mean and cruel. He beats me and the kids and torments us.” I asked why she stayed married to him. She thought for minute and said: “The kids I guess.” I said you are not helping yourself or the kids. I didn’t know what else to say. I was surprised she confided in me, a kid myself. I’m sure she had been thinking about leaving him for a long time, but a few weeks after our conversation, she filed for divorce. I hope she and her childered did well for themselves.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I have so many thoughts, but as usual, my thoughts and emotions while reading your memoir here sort of outrun my ability to articulate what I experience when I read these things. Does that make sense? To quote the Patrick Melrose novels, there is a “core of inarticulacy” where something so loaded with inhumane injustice and associates emotion renders the reader speechless.
    So, I will try to keep it simple. I know that I always have an outpouring of compassion with each new post in this series. Foremost thoughts: I am amazed that any of the children (you and your siblings) were able to eat in this environment of oppressive abuse and horror. Having an eating disorder kind of thing, I cannot fathom consuming food under those circumstances. It amazes me that anyone ate anything.
    Secondly, what jumps out at me among the many things I cannot articulate is your absolute writing skill here. Your ability to convey a scene from memory in such detail including scene, emotion, environment, etc is not something that everyone can do. You are a wildly gifted writer, and I would like to take a moment to recognize that fact and convey my absolute respect for you. I’ve been in the habit lately of promoting blogger friends on my own blog. If you would give me permission, I would love to promote your blog. But no offense if you say no cuz the content is quite personal, etc

    Liked by 3 people

      1. OOOOHHHH…Good Grief! I’m tearing up, I’m tearing up! Again. 😂 Thank you, Melissa. I have so much guilt that I carry around with this particular memory. For years, I thought myself, such COWARD! Like, how could you just sit right THERE across from your little brother practically drowning in a puddle of milk and do NOTHING?! But then — that’s why I used that particular song and ended my post with that little message. Because trust me, it got to a point where I could not and would not be silent any longer! Hold on…I’m coming…;)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You’re amazing. But I’ve told you that before hun, and it’s true. You were an oppressed little one, there was nothing you could do and you were brave under the circumstance.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, consider me colored to the “core of inarticulacy” myself. I guess, I’m just not used to rendering people speechless. 😂 Gosh, I love that, I am saving that for a rainy day. Thanks 😉

      As per usual, your perceptiveness is pristine! One of my sister’s had an eating disorder from being forced to eat some horrible things, in some really horrible ways.

      Your “Secondly” portion of this comment touches me on a whole other level! I can count on one hand how many times someone has made me feel the way you have. I don’t even know how to properly thank you, I’m stunned with happiness and gratitude! I don’t know what’s more unbelievably awesome…your kind words or your kind offer. IT’S BOTH!!! Yes, you absolutely have my permission. I am tongue tied over here in muggy Oklahoma just as happy as clam! Melissa, you have no idea how fantastic you’ve made me feel! I’d be honored for you to promote my blog. I’ve been asked why do you write about such painful things when they cause you such emotional dissonance?

      My answer is because if I don’t, then who will? Nobody knows my story if I don’t tell it and if I don’t tell it how can I hope to help others who have gone through the same, if not worse things than I have?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Eleanor, the way your write your past into a way for your readers to truly understand is admirable. I’m so sorry you had to go through this and here you are today to tell your story of survival and also with wisdom showering from above. 🌹🙏🏻

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amber, my dear friend, it’s comments like this that keep my Writing Heart beating ❤️ There was a time, not so long ago, I was incapable of allowing myself to speak, write, or think of any of these things. It took a lot of work…then, I realized something wonderful. I didn’t have to let my past have so much power over me. I didn’t want it to, it wasn’t helping me, it was hurting me, and in turn, I was hurting everyone else around me. This was years after I left home and was free. FINALLY! But I wasn’t, not really. Letting someone live rent-free in your head is one of the worst forms of self-inflicted torture imaginable.

      It’s not as simple as: Oh, well I should forget about it, move on, leave the past in the past. All of that is a bunch of crap! In fact, that’s some horrendous advice! You don’t just forget stuff like this, you can’t simply move on, and you should NOT leave the past in the past! Why? Because there are lessons, no matter how painful and horrific they might’ve been, they taught you something, that helped you grow, that made you stronger — all the pain, the ridicule, every kick, slap, punch, the neglect, the absence of love, the suppression of self. If every person kept their trauma to themselves, where would we be? I shudder to think of that world. It’s not one I’d want to live in.

      I could run away, stay away, put as many miles as possible in between them and me — it was never enough. They were still there, living rent-free in my head – because I let them. A Fellow Eleanor said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, that lady knew what she was talking about! What I realized was in order to be truly free, to stop the past from pushing me around, and having so much power over me was to STOP giving them consent to live rent-free in my head.

      I did that by going through this very painful process of reliving terrible moments of my life, writing about them as if they were happening all over again. That’s what I do, on every post for my anthology. It is arduous, it’s debilitating but when I finish writing…I’m finished. For once in my life, I take the power away from the memory instead of the memory taking power from me! I fight it out. Bob and weave. Duck and throw a right hook. Then, I share, hoping that it may resonate with another, inspire someone, give them hope, make them feel like there is light at the end of their long tunnel. It sounds like a very ill-advised form of therapy but it works for me. I know there are others like me and I know some take their past to their grave. What a heavy heart they must have. I unburden myself by fighting through writing. When I HIT that PUBLISH button – that’s my TKO: My Technical Memory Knock Out. Then comes freedom, one down, more to go…that’s the plan anyway. They aren’t up there living rent-free in my head anymore and I killed the memory dead!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for those kind words. You are truly the ” Master of the Pen ✒️ ” I love to read, I am reading ” Addict ” 😅 My downfall is I forget to write 📝 to busy learning stuff. Wow, I added you to my Professor Lil. Thank you for teaching me. ❤ Shalom

        Liked by 1 person

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