My home environment was difficult at best. My mother lacked the empathy and wherewithal to be the sort of mother that a child needed. Her need for self-gratification overwhelmed our needs as children. Her need for self-deprivation terrified us. Her need for self-humiliation left us conjecturing when the next uproar would transpire. Not only were we abused as children, we witnessed the abuse between my mother and stepfather daily. Sometimes, he would be angry and smack her across the face without incitement, but other times, she would provoke him into the violence.
I became perspicaciously aware of my surroundings. The amount of stress that a child who is constantly anticipating the next scrimmage is tantamount to that of a soldier at war awaiting the enemy to fire upon them. I waited and watched. I learned to gauge the moods of the adults in my life so that I could calculate my behavior in terms of how I should conduct myself. The adults were the directors of the savage show, but they rarely gave clear guidelines on what to expect from the child actors. I learned to read between the lines when their battle ensued. I learned to listen beyond their words when they berated me. I learned to appraise the silence and predict the next act of combat. I learned to be acutely responsive to their body language. I learned to shut out the voices and give the appearance of attentiveness at the same time. This education was for my own subsistence.
Since my mother was consumed with violence and verve, I spent a great deal of my time by myself. The farther away from my mother that I was, the less likely I would feel her wrath. Although my brothers were my primary playmates, the games they played weren’t of much interest to me. I played with my dolls creating a family life that I dreamed every chance I got. These types of fantasies were my escape from the insanity that plagued me as a child and the foundation of my persistent daydreaming. My mind became captivated with my inventions, and, like a movie, my dramas were broadcast in my head to disallow painful situations to cloud my thoughts. My imagination became my hero.
As I grew, my imagination flourished. I reveled with delight over the furtive, in-my-head life. My mother’s voice triggered the trance-like state that took me to my clandestine dreamland. It was there in my surreptitious life where my personality flourished. In real life, I was meek and timid. My interactions with illusory people helped me later in life in social situations. My fabricated life was my salvation. If not for it, most likely I would have been a completely different person today.
As it was, no one knew the real me. I was only surviving life, not living it. As I grew and my situation changed, I was afraid to be myself. I had been acting for so long to please others that I had not developed the confidence to be myself.
What I discovered is that not only was I a different person in my daydreams, but others were different as well. The people in my daydreams were not judgmental. They were accepting and inviting, therefore, my ego grew in healthy ways in my daydreams. In my real life, I was surrounded by people who displayed disparaging attitudes. At home, I sheltered myself, but as a young teen, I desperately wanted to be social. At first, I opened myself to situations that appeared to be the same as at home where I was a victim of manipulation. Because of my strong desire of having friends and the lessons I learned that in order for people to love me, I had to be what they wanted. I left myself open to the two options: the choice was to train myself to be the person others wanted me to be or to fall completely apart.
Many readers have inquired about my ubiquitous transformation. How did I transform from the docile, fantasy-driven child into an aware, reflective adult? It wasn’t easy. It began with the decision to trust. The trust of others was a pivotal move, but without trusting myself, I would have been stationary. I had the certitude that I needed to be resolute in whom I could trust and whom I could not. I developed a gift of keen observation as a child. I used that to make the determination of whom I should trust and in which situations. It wasn’t until I turned the power of examination inward that I was able to see who I was meant to be, and then be that person. When I looked within, I questioned myself about my behavior. Was I making choices that were in my best interest? Were my choices made to please other people? Am I being true to myself? When I became that person, being true to myself, it was easier to trust others.
Today, I stay as true to myself as I can. I still have an underlying urge to please others, but that doesn’t come from desperation as in my early teen years. It comes from the love that I have for others and the gratitude I feel from them when I have done something wonderful for another person. Pleasing doesn’t mean I have to alter myself. As Shakespeare wrote the words for Polonius, he also wrote them for me;