behind the masque – it began before me

My life story began before me.
The decisions of my parents appear in the opening credits.
The principal player in the opening scenes is Elaine – Mother of Wendy.

Scene One – First Glimpse

She steps from the shadows of my story, no longer an enigma, but a complex woman of substance and weakness. As our entwined stories unfold before you, her inner beauty will shine brighter than her blemishes.  She dreamed of loving and being loved, as a woman, wife, and mother.

My mom is a gentle, kind soul with sorrowful onyx eyes. She radiates a childlike awe in the simple, routine, often overlooked things of life, savoring deeply each moment as a gift. Seldom will she abandon herself to laughter, because her preferred expression of joy is an infectious giggle, which will absolutely melt your heart.

In a crowded room overflowing with conversations, she is the empathetic content listener grateful to be near you, but having no need to proclaim or promote herself. To know my mom is to love my mom, but you must be purposeful to discover her. Just imagine a beautiful flowering plant, concealed yet quietly blooming in a secret garden. That is my sweet mom.

She is the one who cradled my head when I was ill, checked my closet when I was afraid, and colored with me when I was bored. I am her first-born, and she is the first person to love me. I adore her, because I know her heart.

Scene Two – My First Childhood Memory

My earliest childhood memories play like a View Master reel; vividly detailed, but brief scenes alternating between unrecorded white spaces of time. Eventually the white spaces would be filled with details, but not for many years.

I was asleep, but the sound of voices awakened me. My parents were in the living room; so I slipped out of bed drawn to the sound of their strange conversation. Quickly my curiosity was exchanged for fear. I was only three, and incapable of understanding the content of their loud, harsh exchange. I only knew I was frightened, because something was wrong and strangely different about my mom. Her once gentle, loving face had vanished. A silhouette colored by anguish and heartbreak, stained by a stream of unending tears was all that remained. As she walked toward the door, she choked out the word, “leave”.

Over and over again I frantically screamed, “Mommy don’t leave! Mommy don’t leave!” She was deaf to my screams, hearing only my father’s words ravenously gnash and tear at her heart until love no longer remained.  When she reached the door my little feet suddenly began to run, intent on reaching her.  Fortunately or unfortunately  (still undecided) my father was quicker than I, and scooped me up in his arms. Holding me tightly against his chest in order to prevent my escape, I pushed against him, twisting and turning desperately attempting to break free, all the while screaming for my mom to come back.

Heart broken, hysterically crying, and alone, she stepped into the blackness of night.

Scene Three – White Space Details Revealed

On a beautiful winter morning friends and family gathered together in a small Catholic Church to witness my parents exchange their wedding vows.  “I take you to be my lawfully wedded wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.”

Unfortunately, my father struggled often with the “to have and to hold” part exclusively applying to my mother. After four years of marriage, and several babies, he selected one particular night to cruelly and viciously boast of his countless infidelities, and demand a divorce.  Future hopes and dreams ceased that evening for our little family. 

That night would become my first childhood memory.

My father’s proclamation and their subsequent confrontation marked the failure of a marriage now rapidly careening toward divorce. One wave after another crashed over my mother that night, betrayal, rejection, and shame. Barely able to catch her breath between the battering waves, there was yet one more. The next, last wave overwhelmed and broke her mind, because it wasn’t directed at her, instead this final wave would crash over the lives of her little girls. They would be raised in a fatherless home. She could endure the betrayal of trust, rejection as a wife, societal stigma, and the shame of divorce in an Italian family, but her daughters condemned to experience life in a fatherless home was unbearable. Her greatest life failure wasn’t her broken marriage. She had failed to give her girls what she had treasured in her own life, a loving father, who adored them. That wave of revelation engulfed her, pulled her under, and for a brief while away from everybody who loved her.  

When my mom walked into the night wounded in heart and mind, she didn’t return, but kept walking for twelve long miles. Her destination, a place where she felt loved, safe and protected.  Everything she was taught and embraced about life, marriage, and family had shattered into pieces around her.  At the age of twenty-four, she became a casualty of infidelity.

That night created the bridge that ushered her toward a future abusive relationship. It was paved by betrayal, rejection, shame and her overwhelming desire to give her daughters the gift of a loving father.

Later, into the space of time between pursuit of healing and healed stepped her future husband.   Sadly, my mom would then journey across the bridge.

my random partial list –
I love tulips. I love jeans. I love lobster. I love watches. I love old movies.

abuse truth –
Rejection combined with shame shatters self-esteem, creating a season of vulnerability to future abuse.
It is dangerous to enter a new relationship as a salve for a failed relationship before healing has occurred.

next time –
Behind the Masque – the charismatic controller arrives


behind the masque – is the truth

I wore a mask.
My mask was beautifully deceiving.
Only my eyes spoke the silent truth.

What was behind my mask? Fear. Confusion. Brokenness. Hopelessness.

The day I innocently placed my mask upon my face, I was four. That invisible, yet visible barrier on my face was both friend and foe. At times it shielded me from abuse, yet at the same time it perpetuated the abuse. It was part of me, attached as any arm, leg or hand, until (what a great word) until my eighteenth birthday. On that day in a moment of extreme bravery, I ripped my mask from my face, vowing never to wear it again. That single act of defiance toward abuse forever changed the course of my life.

My refusal to continue the charade I had so carefully perfected over many years, felt foreign at first, and some how selfish to me. Yes, old and new friends, my journey toward emotional and mental wellness would be an arduous one. In my initial moment of bravery, I had absolutely no idea the depth of my woundedness, or even worse the insidious corruption of my thoughts and beliefs about life, others, and myself.

In my family, nothing was as it seemed, and nobody was who they pretended to be. We were so well-trained in the art of (deception for self-preservation) that it became our normal. It was simply what you did to survive in a home brutalized by an extreme narcissist, who was a controlling, manipulative, emotional abuser. Sadly, he held the title of father/stepfather.

Let’s pause right here for just a moment, because I want to pose a question. When you read the words, narcissist controlling, manipulative, or emotional abuser, they didn’t startle you, did they? I believe the reason may be that our society has become increasingly familiar with these terms, but general familiarity does not equal understanding. Actually, it is usually just the opposite. General familiarity is often ripe with misconception and fallacy. The combination of familiarity and lack of knowledge leads us down the road called complacency.

Over the past few years I have moved from concern to red alert as our society subtly becomes increasingly anesthetized to the devastation inflicted on individuals or entire families living in abusive relationships. The current media trend to romanticize abusive behavior in any form has been extremely contributory in perpetuating two dangerous fallacies. Consensual means approval. If you love, endure, and change enough, the abuser will eventually change. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As I have listened to the opinionated commentary on controlling, manipulative relationships marked by degradation and emotional abuse, a few things are very clear to me.

First, our current culture has lost its ability to recognize and identify the characteristics of the abused and the abuser. Second, there is an overall lack of understanding of the methods and mechanisms an abuser employs to control their victim. Third, though many individuals are speaking out today from a clinical perspective concerning abuse, there are few speaking from an experiential, personal perspective.

That is why I choose now at the mid-century + four mark of my life, to share my childhood story in a different, hopefully helpful way.

If you’re like me, before I commit my time and energy to anything, even if it’s just following a blog, I want to know what I can expect. So, I will indulge all those who want to know just a few more details about what this blog will actually look like. Here goes, just a warning, it will begin with a question.

Whenever, you initially read a brief description or general explanation of something, do you ever find yourself, asking your screen questions? I have to admit, I do it all the time. Yes, I am that girl waving her hand, holding up class dismissal with just one more question for the teacher. Two of my top favorites are, “Yes, but what does that really look like?” Followed by, “Can you give me an actual example?”

My answers – Yes I can. Yes I will. Yes I must.

As, I strive to transparently share my personal childhood experiences you will be ushered through the doors of a living laboratory observing control, manipulation and emotional abuse at the hands of a narcissist. Together we will examine and identify the mechanisms executed by the abuser to bend the mind and break the will, while constantly demanding proof of total dependence dedication, and devotion.

My heart’s desire as I open the pages of my life story is simple; to transparently share knowledge that will help you identify abusive behavior, thus preventing the entrapment of a controlling, manipulative, emotionally abusive relationship.

Together we will –
Unmask the lie to recognize the truth.
Unmask the cultural misconceptions and myths in a section titled, abuse truth.
Unmask the mechanisms executed by abusers to bend the mind and break the will.
Unmask the short and long-term effects a toxic environment has on a developing child.

Each time we meet I will conclude with my random partial list, and a few snippets of information. I must confess, I am a list lover, and the creation of colored sticky notes has long been my enabler.

Now, without further adieu, I present my random partial list and snippets.

My random partial list –
I love writing. I love questions. I love restoration. I love people. I love God.

Abuse truth –
Ignorance is never benign; it has perpetuating power.
Effects of abuse are both immediate and cumulative.

Next time –
behind the masque – it began before me

Please know I am humbled you have joined me on this journey discovering what lurks – behind the masque.