Rough draft

 

 

PROLOGUE

 

 

My whole life was negatively influenced by an unknown and unrecognized emotional trauma. My body remembered that pain for almost a lifetime so my life's journey always seemed much more internally focused than externally.

 

I grew up feeling unsafe, rejected and not good enough for Mummy, never feeling loved by her or anyone else. I believed my feelings didn't matter to anyone. 

 

When I began to have thoughts, there was a strong sense that something was definitely wrong with me. Fear and terror moved in and there was a deep sense I was somehow flawed and defective. I always wanted to know what it was that made me so different from other kids.

 

I lived in quiet desperation for years, feeling angry, scared, worthless, unwanted and ignored most of the time. I had no mentors to offset anything I was experiencing. In society generally, but especially in my family and in the nineteen forties, there was no touching or hugging behavior exhibited, let alone a discussion of feelings and emotions. Daddy always said, "Children should be seen and not heard." I learned to keep all my angry, scared, unhappy, sad and painful feelings inside where they took a huge negative toll on my overall development.

 

It wasn't until late adulthood that all the pieces fell into place and I'd finally understood the impact of what happened to me and why I'd felt so flawed and defective. Thanks to trauma experts Dr. Gabor Maté and Dr. Bessel van der kolk, plus Sarah Hendrickx, a woman with Asperger's syndrome.

 

Dr. Maté explained how situations in which an infant isn't picked up and attended to when crying or screaming from any discomfort, including hunger, teaches the infant their feelings do not matter. That then becomes deeply ingrained subconsciously in a body memory, which significantly and negatively alters the brain and nervous system, impacting behavior and how the world is perceived.

 

My mother named me Karen which was changed to Keri, because I wanted a nickname, then back to Karen when I realized there wasn't anything wrong with Karen. Later, while recognizing my true essence was neither masculine nor feminine, the name Kaiven, which was also genderless, became my legal name. 

 

 

ONE FAMILY'S STORY  

 

~ PART 1 ~

~ Chapter 1 ~  1940 - 1950

 

 

Hitler had invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939 and WW2 began. I was born three months later in Boston. Then Pearl Harbor was attacked and the US entered the war a week after my second birthday. Sirens sounded when blackouts happened. I remember Mummy telling me she had to crawl on the floor at night with a flashlight because we didn’t have blackout curtains on the windows. However, one night a policeman hollered up to our second floor apartment saying, “Douse that light.” 

 

Looking back, Mummy no doubt suffered a good deal of stress, caring for infant me, plus becoming pregnant with my brother while a fearful world war was going on. I no doubt began in utero, to experience her worry about everything. In addition, I later learned that doctors back then held mothers to a strict and rigid feeding time schedule for their babies. So when I cried from hunger off schedule, I wasn't fed until the next scheduled feeding time. What I subconsciously learned during those times, was that my feelings didn't matter.

 

I was only eighteen months when brother Kenny was born and took my place in Mummy's arms nursing, being cuddled, feeling safe and loved in Mummy's arms. Every day when my baby self saw him nursing, I could only watch helplessly, while he received what I know I wanted badly, but could no longer have. After all, I'd spent my whole life there, being cuddled and feeling loved, until just before he was born. I'm convinced my baby reaction was feeling rejected and abandoned, because I grew up with deep internalized fear, confusion and anger, which accompanied me through most of my life

 

I think Mummy was dealing with so much stress she couldn't understand nor deal with my grief. If Mummy did try to cuddle me in her arms, I'm sure baby me would have made futile attempts to nurse. But, being a practical woman and in an effort to calm and reassure me, she no doubt said something like, "You're a big girl now. You can eat grownup food, you don't need to nurse." But I had no mind developed to understand her rationale.

 

When I was first able to have thoughts, I sensed something must be wrong with me, but I never quite knew what it was or why. I just felt ashamed, worthless and not good enough for Mummy, throughout childhood and into adulthood. I desperately craved Mummy's approval, but never felt it.

 

Comments Mummy made to me growing up, served to confirm my feelings. She told me I would never let her pick me up or cuddle me ,"like Kenny did." Being picked up and cuddled was not for me. Something inside was convinced I'd be painfully rejected if I ever got physically close to her again. 

 

I became fearful and often terrified of other people also, especially kids who bullied me which reinforced my feelings of shame and unworthiness. 

 

At some point in my adult life I heard Mummy comment that "having babies closer than two years apart was not a good thing." So I know something about my negative behavior must have affected her after Kenny was born.

 

One of my earliest memories was at bedtime. I was around three or four and stood in front of Mummy's left knee as she sat and said to me, "Run and get the hot stuff." I knew where it was, so off I trotted down the long hallway into the living room to fetch it. I watched as she painted the smelly, colorless liquid on my tiny nails before I climbed into bed. It was supposed to keep me from biting them, but it didn't. I got used to the bitter and continued compulsively biting them lifelong.

 

I didn't begin to question why a three year old would be so anxious and nervous she'd compulsively bite her fingernails, until after 2000. 

 

Memories of being in school and terrified of other kids prevailed. I was picked on frequently and made fun of. I felt like the only kid with red hair, freckles and buck teeth and thought that was why I was hated and made fun of. Shyness seemed acceptable and teachers didn't seemed to notice fear inside me, but it had a detrimental effect on my whole nervous system. My early school years were filled with anxiety that served to confirm there was definitely something dreadfully wrong with me. None of the other kids seemed as bad as I felt I was.

 

In September, three months before I turned five, I began kindergarten at the Sarah Greenwood elementary School. Mummy showed me how to walk the block, over the railroad tracks, to the schoolyard. She showed me one spot where I could see our living room window and told me to wave each morning when I passed by, which I did. 

 

The school yard had a black wrought iron fence around it, with bars four inches apart. In addition, the fence went down the middle of the schoolyard, separating boys from girls. There was no play equipment and kindergarteners were in a different section of the schoolyard around the corner. When the bell rang, the girls got in a line by grade, pairing up and holding hands. Then on command, beginning with first graders, we filed into the building, one grade at a time. 

 

My most frightening experience happened after school one afternoon in first grade. For some reason we had to file out of the back of the building instead of the regular way through the schoolyard, to go home. As soon as I realized we were headed in a different direction than usual, I was seized with terror, convinced I wouldn't be able to find my way home from a new place. I began crying and screaming in panic and couldn't stop. 

 

“I don’t want to go this way, I want to go home my own way.”

 

Miss Kelly, my teacher kept telling me, 

 

"You'll see where you are as soon as we get outside," but that wasn't enough to calm me and I continued crying. 

 

“Look around,” she told me, “no one else is crying."

 

I looked at the other kids faces in the line. They were all looking right at me and none of them were crying. I was puzzled, but I kept quiet until we reached the back door. Once outside, embarrassment took over as I recognized the back part of the school. I felt extremely relived, 'cause I knew my way home from there. 

 

Then the following year in second grade, I stood bent over my desk one day. My head was about three or four inches above my paper, with pencil in fist, scribbling heavy lines back and forth on my paper. It felt pretty good, like expressing something from inside maybe. Suddenly I heard my teacher, Miss Bowles voice above me. 

 

"What do you think you’re doing? You should be ashamed of yourself. Go show that to Miss Kelly (my first grade teacher) and see what she has to say about it.” 

 

Cloaked in shame and embarrassment for what I'd done, I speed walked down the long wide corridor, pretending I was on an important errand, in case anyone saw me. I passed by Miss Kelly’s classroom, only glancing in through the door window, knowing I could never have gone into that room and shown her my dreadful deed. I walked to the end of the hall, paused by the stairs, then slowly headed back to my classroom. I snuck into the room and to my seat, hiding my shame as best I could. Soon, I heard Miss Bowles ask, 

 

"What did Miss Kelly think about your paper?" 

 

“She thought it was awful and terrible.” 

 

Later that day, coming in from recess, both teachers were talking in the hallway. As I passed by, I heard my teacher ask Miss Kelly, "Did you see Karen's paper?" Oh no, I thought, bolting quickly through the double doors to my classroom. I headed for the coat closet to hide. Soon a classmate found me and said, 

 

“Miss Bowles wants to see you, right now.” 

 

Stalling as long as I dared and fearing the worst, I hung my head as I walked sheepishly towards them, suffering from humiliation, shame, embarrassment and fear of consequences for my actions.

 

On top of everything else, I was caught in a deliberate lie, which was the greatest of religious sins, according to Mummy. Eyes glued to the floor and feeling not much higher, I insisted that Miss Kelly wasn't in her room when I went to show her my paper. My obvious lies must have convinced my teacher I was sufficiently punished, so was allowed to return to my desk. My lesson learned for that day was to never scribble on my paper and definitely never lie to anyone, the consequences were far too humiliating.

 

When Mummy and I were walking to the store once, she admonished me for not holding my head up, throwing my shoulders back and swinging my arms like everyone else. My shoulders had begun to “round,” probably from a subconscious desire to hide from everyone in public. I usually felt afraid and ashamed out walking in public, so my arms just hung by my sides while walking. Nobody until that day, told me they were supposed to naturally swing back and forth while walking. 

 

One morning at home, both my parents were lying in bed and Mummy looked out to the kitchen where I was mixing up scrambled eggs for breakfast. I had my back to them, but heard Mummy tell Daddy, "Karen has nice looking legs." That was the only positive thing I ever remember Mummy saying about me. She'd always been a husky young girl and often told me she wished I wasn't so skinny and nervous and more husky like she'd been. She seemed to dislike my body, but I was so pleased she thought my legs looked nice.

 

Every Sunday, Mummy marched Kenny and me off to church. The neighborhood kids would sometimes call to us and when I'd turn around to look, they'd "make a face." We weren't allowed to play outside and certainly not play cards on Sundays, either. We were Fundamental Christian Protestants, with a Puritanical slant, which Mummy said was the only right religion. 

 

That came with the Puritans on the Mayflower who were actively rebelling and leaving their religion in England to start a new, more strict and controlling one, in a new land. Miles Standish, my ninth great grandfather and three other ancestors came over on that ship. Their religion stretched down nine generations to me, where it finally ended in my own family.

 

I would often go to a friend's house after school to play. The worst time was when Mummy had to come and get me one evening. I was told to always come home as soon as the street lights came on, because that meant it would be dark soon. However, one evening we'd been playing in my friend's back yard and I didn't see the streetlights coming on. Mummy came to get me and scolded me all the way home. She didn't care if other kids could hear her yelling at me about me how ashamed I should be for this and that. "You should know better," she shouted as we passed by a kid I knew, which made me feel extra small. 

 

Most of my childhood was spent feeling hated and afraid, so I kept to myself, mostly hiding inside, so I wouldn't be noticed and made fun of.

 

The neighborhood bully Jerry, must have known I was scared kid though. One day I was sledding down the sloping sidewalk near his house. After the second or third run, he suddenly appeared and was standing over me when I'd stopped at the bottom. I heard him say,

 

“That's my sled, so give it to me, now, ” in a demanding tone.

 

Frightened, I knew I needed time to think of what to do, so I said as convincingly as I could, 

 

"Okay, but I have to unwind the rope first.” He let me do that and I was very glad he did.

 

The rope I pulled the sled with was wrapped around the steering handles, so as I stood my sled up in front of me, I began planing my escape as I unwrapped the rope. Surprisingly Jerry stood waiting and watching, until I finished unwinding it. Then quickly letting the sled drop to the ground, rope tightly in hand, I broke into a top speed run. No time to look for cars, In great fear, I dart into the street and kept running until I reached my house. When I turned around I didn't see Jerry. I felt greatly relieved to have saved my sled.

 

For Christmas when I was seven or eight, I got a large leather doll carriage with springs, that looked just like the big carriages mothers pushed their babies in. I had received four dolls during my young years. Nancy was first, then Sarah came, they were both soft bodied dolls. Mummy had saved my baby clothes which I dressed them in. I had a doll high chair, a crib, a doll house and dishes, along with a small table and chairs and accessories.

 

My third "baby" was a drink and wet doll from my cousin Shirley, who came to live with us when I was four, so of course I named her Shirley Rubber. When she drank from the bottle she wet her diaper so I had to change it. My fourth doll Roberta was a hard bodied doll with jointed arms and legs. She was soon taken to a “doll hospital” in Boston to receive my red hair on her head. Needless to say I was delighted with my own hair on Roberta’s head that I could braid. I spent endless happy hours with my doll family. 

The next Christmas Mummy broke down and bought me a "boys erector set,” because my cousin gave one to Kenny and Mummy must have known I'd be wanting to build with it too. My erector set became my favorite building toy. Kenny and I spend many hours building together, each with our own erector set. My dolls and my erector set were all I remember playing with as a youngster. 

 

I saw that boys got to play with fun toys, like bikes, trucks, trains, scooters etc. but girls could only play house and dress dolls. Kenny had trains and things I really wanted to play with however, it was firmly dictated by our religion and society in the forties, that girls did not play with those things. Boys grew up to drive trucks and machines, so they practiced with their toys and girls grew up to be mothers and needed to practice with dolls. I longed to play with “boy toys," especially one of those cars with pedals and a steering wheel to “drive” around, but that was too expensive even for Kenny to have. 

 

Walking to the library one summer day, I stopped to watch a big yellow backhoe, digging dirt out of the ground in huge scoops. I was fascinated, so I stood there to watch. But after a couple of minutes, a boy yelled from across the street, 

 

“What are you looking at that for, you’re a girl,” with much emphasis.

 

I felt humiliated, ashamed and angry, ‘cause I was only watching, but feeling embarrassed I continued walking to the library. I knew girls weren't supposed to be interested in machines, but I found them quite fascinating. I wished I was a boy so it would be okay to like machines and boy things. 

 

In March of 1950, I was looking out our kitchen window when Mummy came up behind me and explained that we were all going to move to a farm in Maine with hundreds of acres of land. I asked her how big an acre was.

 

She said, “Imagine the whole block, over to the next street with no houses on it, that would be an acre.” 

 

“No houses at all?” I asked in amazement. Trying hard to imagine so much land with no houses on it seemed impossible. 

 

“Nope, not one house,” she said.

 

Excitement began to fill my insides. I asked if I could stop going to school a whole week before we moved and Mummy agreed. I also begged her to let me cut my hair in bangs so the kids in the new school wouldn't make fun of me. They wouldn't know I'd just cut them before they saw me, so I wouldn't get made fun of. After much begging and pleading, she agreed. 

 

On April 10th 1950, Mummy’s enthusiasm was contagious. I was ten and I'd waited excitedly for this day when we'd say good-bye to Norwell St. and hello to our new farm in Canton, Maine; population six hundred. Daddy had already driven up with his brother George, ten days earlier. Mummy had everything packed. The movers came for our furniture and then we took the trolley car with its electric wires overhead, to the subway station in Boston. Getting off at the station, we boarded the steam locomotive bound for Maine. 

 

The acoustics inside the Pullman car created a noticeably muffled sound as we walked down the aisle to our dark green fuzzy cushioned seats facing each other. I carried Kenny's and my turtles Sammy and Tillie, in a glass baking dish.

 

Late that afternoon Mummy, Kenny, Sammy, Tillie and I arrived at the Livermore Falls railroad station, seven miles from the farm. Uncle George soon showed up and drove us the seven miles to our farm. Much snow had recently melted so when we got to the farm we saw the moving van stuck in the mud of our long driveway. Kenny and I watched excitedly as the movers carried the rest of our furniture and boxes up the driveway.

 

It wasn't long before we bedded down for the night on mattresses on the floor. 

 

 

~~~~~