Nov 17, 2014

I'm weird, and it's actually OK!

Being too introspective and self-reflective can become a problem in itself. I have known a few people who've gotten stuck at this phase of recovery. It makes me uneasy, to be self-examining so much. But on the other hand turning inward to find out what's broken to fix, and what's not broken and doesn't need fixing is essential, I think, in rebuilding (or just building, for the first time) confidence in the aftermath of emotional wreckage. Emotional abuse demolishes you.

About fourteen years ago or so, I walked into the office of Dr. Bounous, of the BYU music department. I hadn't sung for two years. I'd had a pretty terrible experience with a voice teacher, and in my discouragement I abandoned singing for a while. It's an unfortunate coincidence that, during this same two year period, I was...

I don't even know how to say what it was that happened to me. There's no descriptive phrase for it. My husband wasn't my husband. My marriage wasn't a marriage. I was being emotionally and physically abused (it really kind of galls to put it in that way, passive. "being" abused. Ugh. I don't know why I have such a negative reaction to that. It just feels gross.)

Anyway. I decided to start singing again. I believe that was the beginning of my pulling away from the situation--taking something for me again. My relationship with my ex-husband had turned me into a nothing-person. My entire existence was lived to prevent him exploding, to prevent him from hurting himself or hurting me (and more often both). I spent all my energy trying to be "a better wife." That's how I perceived the situation. If I could just fold the towels exactly right. If I could just do all the dishes so there wasn't a single speck on a plate or cup. If I could just keep up with the laundry, if I could only stop biting my fingernails, if I could force myself to stop eating things with garlic and onions, if I could get rid of the upset and angry and helpless feelings I was having, if I could just be more interesting, so he wouldn't spend so much time in front of the playstation....

I walked into Dr. Bounous's office an empty husk of a person. I remember how drab I felt--I could see myself, how it wasn't right, even though I couldn't figure out how to be different at the time. I wore a white T shirt, washed-out overalls. my hair was blah and midlength. I generally wore no makeup, made no effort. I had no excitement about anything, no hope for joy in my life. I remember feeling extremely drained as I talked to him--perhaps the only person outside of my husband I had really communicated with in two years. (except for the phone conversations and occasional yelling-fights with my mother and other family members.) I remember as I went back and listened to the tapes, hearing how completely flat, drained, and passive I sounded, even as I sang, which in the past has been the way I express all the overpowering emotions I've struggled with all my life.

I was an empty person. I was used up, squeezed, out, burned out, drained. I was nothing.

Singing helped me on the way to recovery. Also, I latched onto whatever passions might be lying around--I worked with girls who had eating disorders, so I became passionate about feminism and body image. To the point of being grating on my friends and family members. Jeff was a vegetarian and a homeschooler, so while dating him and after marrying him, I became passionate about homeschooling and vegetarianism. Nature abhors a vacuum... I was vacuuming up everything in my immediate vicinity that I even sort of liked or was interested in, and adopted them as pieces of my identity.

Part of recovery for me has been to disassemble all this confusion--the causes and passions I've collected--and turn them over and examine them and decide which of them are real. This has made for some difficult times with Jeff--I've realized that, actually, I think homeschooling is wonderful but I also have some deep feelings about why homeschooling is not so good. And the same about vegetarianism. And a multitude of other things--feminism, liberalism, lots of isms and also lots of passions. Singing, for instance, is something I Love, but not something I need to be pursuing with professional intensity. I've realized that, and we no longer spend money on voice lessons. For me they were therapy. They were the vehicle that brought me back to myself. I told jeff, when I married him, that we probably either needed to afford voice lessons or therapy. ANd that turned out to be right. When, after eight years of lessons with Dr. Bounous, we moved away, and I tried voice lessons with someone for a bit, it wasn't quite the same. I didn't "need" them anymore. What I needed was...

yeah. Therapy. And spiritual counseling.

Knowing yourself is an important step in recovery from emotional abuse. One of the greatest miracles and gifts about the counseling I've received over the last couple of years is that I was talking to someone who is a whole lot like me. I don't think I can convey adequately what a rarity that is. Do you know how many people I've met in my life who I feel i share even minimal traits with? It's an extremely rare thing for me to find someone I identify strongly with. My cousin Greg was one, and when he no longer came to family reunions, I ached and felt empty, because I felt nobody else around me really understood me. My parents didn't, my cousins, while hilarious and nice, really didn't either. My best friends didn't. I had friendships that were long-standing, but not deep and vulnerable. I often felt rejected by people, and as I grew up, I stepped away myself, from offering feelings and thoughts that were vulnerable, from offering friendship.

My friends. Growing up was an interesting experience. I had a best friend in gradeschool who was so good at being "good." Being perfect. I remember constantly feeling unworthy of her. She got perfect grades; I struggled to make C's in math. She kept her thoughts focused on higher laws than I did... I got curious about the world's less righteous elements and would examine and turn them over in my mind and try to understand them. I didn't feel safe going to her, or to my parents, with these sorts of observations because a "good" girl shouldn't be thinking of these things, should she? I should be more like my friend, who thinks about... I don't know. Tithing and fasting and the Book of Mormon all the time.

As I got into high school, that spectrum turned full circle on me. My friends were not very religious--one was, but most of the people willing to hang out with me weren't, because I was Mormon and most were strong Baptists or Protestants or other ants who believed Mormons to be risky to associate too closely with. SO then I became the "too unworldly to get close to" element in my friendships. I felt, from them, exactly what I had felt toward my elementary-school best friend. They sheltered me; they protected me. They kept me away.

I had one LDS friend who I was close to sort of, in high school. But the relationship was often difficult. She made fun of me a lot. About me being gullible, using words that were too big, being "weird." She was kind of merciless, actually. It got pretty wearing, but there were also great times with her. Plus, I cared about her, and knew she was struggling.

But her treatment of me was kind of typical for my acquaintances. Growing up, I more often got made fun of than anything else. I learned to fight back. In Jr High it got pretty intense. I had jr high boys telling me how ugly I was, others making fun of me for things like not shaving my legs (I wasn't allowed until I was 14), and even sexually harassing me. I learned quickly some terms that I'm pretty sure my prim-and-proper best friend was never subjected to. I'm not sure why me, and not her... we were both prude mormons. Maybe I seemed weaker. Or maybe it was because I didn't cry. Or maybe it was because occasionally, when I got to the breaking point, I'd let off a rather cutting retort, and they enjoyed the reaction. I don't know.

The point is, going into my abusive marriage, I already had pretty poor self-esteem. I already felt completely alone, I felt like nobody understood me, heck, I didn't understand myself. I didn't know who I was.

I'm learning now. Some revelations are welcome, others not-so-welcome. But one thing i've realized is, I've got nothing to be afraid of. I think that for a long time (most of my life, maybe) I was frightened that I was actually a terrible person inside, and that, because I tried so hard to be good but somehow still messed up and somehow still seemed weird and unacceptable to people, and because I had so many struggles with my family, I was *actually* essentially, bone-deep, inescapably, bad. It's hard to look inside yourself if you're terrified of what you're going to find.

I've been using Typology lately to try to understand myself and some of the more difficult interactions I've had with others. I don't think things like the MMPI and the MBTI and even the DSM-IV are bringers of truth. I don't think they describe anything real. I think they're tools that can be both helpful and incredibly dangerous--they can give you a starting point and provide a map or a list of more-likely-to-be-useful suggestions, but they can also be a basis for judging others and pigeonholing yourself.

So I'm not going to state what I've found from these measures here. Sufficient to say, I've come out on the rare side of things. I've learned, from these tools of self-reflection, that part of my problem is, there really aren't that many people who are like me on this planet. I'm an unusual person.

When I was younger I internalized this as "weird," I was a weird person. Unnaceptably, uncomfortably weird. When I walked into a crowded room I would become intensely aware of my appearance, my posture, I'd be incredibly anxious about how people might be made uncomfortable by me.

It got so bad, I noticed I wasn't looking anyone in the face. I had to give myself a goal, my senior year in high school, to smile at people if I passed them in the hall and I actually knew them. People started smiling back. It was a revelation to me... that if I made an effort, I could still be acceptable to people.

I'm weird, but weird doesn't necessarily mean bad. I'm re-realizing that. But two elements of my weirdness provide me with some real struggles right now. One, perhaps the most damning for me, is that I need people to be authentic. Any hint at deception, or game-playing, or lack of honesty and authenticity, and I struggle to want to associate with someone even on a superficial level. That's a problem because how many people are really authentic like that? Does that make them bad people? No. But to me, emotionally, it's the world falling, to find out someone I trusted to be honest with me has deceived me... even white-lie deceptions, even "I don't want to let you know what I'm really feeling," deceptions.

This has been, of course, vastly compounded by the experience I had, where I married someone I thought I knew, and he turned out to be something completely different. I still go back over all my interactions with him, when I knew him before we dated and while we were dating, to see "what I missed." I can't find anything. He very successfully deceived me. And that's unusual--generally I can read people very well (though interacting with them is a different matter.)

The other struggle I have is, I blame myself for everything that goes wrong. Everything. And logically I know that's not the case; I know I can't possibly be responsible for everything that happens. It generally takes two. Lately I've successfully been able to get through forgiving myself when I know I've done something wrong, and asking forgiveness from others.

The thing I struggle with is how to forgive others when I've done nothing to deserve the hurt that comes. WHen I've contributed, I find it very easy to apologize, to accept their apology and move on. When I've done nothing, I struggle to move on. I hold on to it without wanting to. And it seems to continue... hurt upon hurt hurt upon hurt in every new interaction with them.

I think part of it is, I struggle to *believe* that I haven't done something to deserve it. That's something that just doesn't fit into my mind right now. And so what happens is, I go back over and over the situation, find that I couldn't have done anything different, and feel like, therefore, I must be an essentially bad person, because even though I did my best, I still did something bad that resulted in the "punishment" of someone hurting me.

Anyway. More vulnerable thoughts. Not necessarily needing a response. But if you have any suggestions... if you've been able to overcome some of these things, I'd love a place to start. A more-likely list of possibilities.

In any case. I'm learning right now, that I'm OK. I'm a good person. I really am. Isn't the definition of being a good person, someone who tries their hardest to do what is right and be kind? Sure, we all mess up every once in a while. But part of being a good person is messing up and asking forgiveness, or messing up and figuring out how to do better the next time. That's what it's like to be a human, during this probationary period. That's the *point* of it.

Nov 12, 2014

California Adventures: Going After Roots, unsettling miracles

I blogged a few days ago that I would be going down to Sonora to the Tuolumne County Museum and Geneological Society to look at a file they had on my family.

I admit, I had some doubts. I hoped there would be some good information I did not already have, but I figured I already had most of it.

When I got there, one of the museum attendants took my kids on a tour of the museum while I sat down with the file folder. I found it contained accounts of baptisms of the Silver children and the places they were baptized. Several of the chidlren were missing... I'm guessing they didn't live until baptism. This is sad to me, because another thing I found out is that the Silvers were strong Roman Catholics, and one of the Catholic beliefs is that baptism is necessary for children to go to heaven. I wonder what sort of heartache my great great great grandmother silver had, burying half of her children. She might have thought they were lost to her completely.

I found, also, some communication--emails-- between several people who seemed to know a whole lot about my family. I of course wrote these email addresses down. I emailed them all as soon as I got home, but the sad thing is, they all returned with an error... all of them were defunct. Except for the man I'd communcated with before--his email was still good, and we've had a lot of conversation over the past couple days about the Silvers/Salvadors. His father and great aunt apparently related a lot of stories about the family, including stories of the three adventurous Salvador sisters who settled in gold country (my grandmother Silver and her two sisters, Mary Freitas and Virginia Freitas, whose work was done (by Mary and Martha. Martha, if you're reading this, you now know how cool it was to be able to do their work. I am grateful they were able to get them done in the same session... it just felt right.)

He also has visited and lived on the island of Faial, where he's gone after Parish records. He found my grandmother's baptism record. He has family stories about the family who left Faial to go to America, then never returned, including stories about my grandmother's family, the Salvadors. Apparently, at the time of their immigration, there was an epidemic that killed a lot of children. IN fact, in the records it looks as if several of the Salvador siblings died that year. It was likely that Julia and her sisters were sent to America to escape the epidemic.

So, in other words, this person I'm communicating with is a miraculous resource for me and my family. As my great, great, great grandfather was also born on Faial, it is possible that, when this guy goes back, he can go after records about the Silvers as well, and it might well be through him we finally learn the name of my great, great, great, great grandmother Silver, and perhaps more about what happened... immigration dates seem to be confused.

Since then I've also gotten a good email address for two of the others in the communications I read, and I've emailed them both. A woman wrote an article on the silvers with many wonderful pictures, and it's my hope I can get digital originals of them for my family.

After that we traveled to the IOOS cemetery. OK, this is a funny story. The night before we left for Sonora, I was all set to find my grandparents in the Shaws' Flat Cemetery. I assumed they were buried there because they lived in Shaws' Flat, and i'd felt so strongly compelled to go there. I decided to google Shaws Flat cemetery again... it was the early hours of the morning, and i couldn't sleep because i was feeling unsettled about going on such a long trip with my kids. I wanted to see the picture again, of Shaw's flat, because I hoped I'd feel less unsettled by it if I looked at it again. I'd been feeling that Shaws' Flat Cemetery would be a rather eerie place.

When I googled I found a website detailing Cemeteries in the area of Sonora. I clicked on the link, and found that the odd acronym I'd seen listed on my great great great grandfather's death certificate... IOOF Cemetery, was listed. I'd found his cemetery. An hour or two before we were to leave. Someone didn't want me to be dissappointed.

IOOF stands for Independent organization of Odd fellows. It's a men's club, and apparently membership comes with free burial plots. My great great great grandparents were strong catholics, and this is a protestant cemetery, but they were too frugal to turn down a free burial plot, as my great great great grandfather (and his brother) were members.

I found the Cemetery, and also my grandparents. And Antone, who is my great, great, great, great uncle--my grandfather's brother. And one of the Silver Children and spouse.

It was a cool cemetery--very steep, with tiered plots. My kids enjoyed playing on them. There were lots of interesting graves there.

After that, we headed to Shaws' Flat. I'd felt so strongly compelled to go there; I just felt I ought to go even though I'd already found my grandparents. Plus, I was given a map, along with the other genealogical information, of where the "Old Silver Ranch," the land they farmed, used to be.

I decided to GPS and travel to the Cemetery first. I plugged "Shaws Flat cemetery" into my phone, and followed directions until I saw the graves--on a little rise above the road.
There was no place to park, so I pulled over at a wide spot in the road in front of a gate.

The cemetery was as unsettling as I'd anticipated. It's like, I think, I was being prepared so I could get my courage up and go in anyway.

I was kind of hesitant to bring my kids in, but we'd traveled all that way so I had them hold hands (hoping it'd quell their tendency to use gravestones as a playground... i wasn't sure this particular place would be as conducive to that. I was right, it wasn't. Daniel knocked over a gravestone, hooray. Fun family activity? Desecrating graves. In a place where you can easily imagine a very material sort of objection being made.)

You see from that last that I found some Silvers. This is the grandson of Frank and Julia, and I think the one who likely still farmed the ranch. One of the emailers wrote that she remembered there an "Old Farmer Silver" she was told to avoid as a child, because he tended to load up his shotgun with rock salt and shoot trespassers with it. Kids from the school would sometimes try to cut across his property. I'm guessing it was this guy, buried here at Shaws' flat. You see he died in the 1980's.

I had some strong feelings, too, as I walked around.

Back to my great-great-great grandmother and her children... where do you think she would have buried them? I didn't see any markers, but I felt sort of like they were there. The babies. I felt sort of like I knew what area they were, too. It was unsettling but also, important. And wonderful. A feeling of... these babies have a mother now--we sealed them. She didn't lose them when they died, like she thought she did. This *used* to be a sad place... now it's a holy place.

I walked back to the car, kids in tow. We got in. And I looked at the map and found that I'd parked directly in front of the gate....

to the Old Silver Ranch.

Kind of a miracle. As I stood there in front of the gate, I felt a lot of things. The spirit was pretty strong.

When I got back, one of the things I found among all the information from the genealogical society was a description of the Ranch, and how, at one point, the land the cemetery is on, was included in my grandpa Frank's property. And in an unpublished survey, done a long time ago, several unmarked graves were found. The article with this information postulated that several of the graves were likely the Silver Children, as a portion of the Cemetery was actually on my grandparents' property, and they were too poor to afford official burial in the catholic cemetery.

So I wasn't wrong, feeling that way, as we walked there. They were there.

I've thought about this family all my life. From the time I was a girl and my mother was showing me our family history, and I learned of Julia Silver and her 21 children, (including two sets of twins, and one set of triplets), I have had my heart turned to that family. And I feel so grateful that we sealed them. Now they're up there, watching and guiding me. And hopefully, cheering me on as I raise my own large, young, brood. I feel Grandma Silver a lot right now. I bet she could give me some pretty good advice.

Nov 7, 2014

California Adventures day 3&4: The Captain and the Cowboy and random graveyard stalking

Yesterday was crazy. I decided to allow my mother's car's GPS to guide me down to where my grandfather is buried, in a cemetery in the town where he grew up. We found the grave

and also 4g, on our phone. In the middle of nowhere between Marysville and Sacramento. We haven't been able to get full bars or 4g anywhere , not even in Grass Valley or Nevada City. Apparently farmers really like Sprint, but Hippies are more T-Mobile types.

While down in Wheatland, I decided to travel to the county assessors office as well, in Marysville, to see if I could find anything on any of my ancestors here. I looked through stuff from the late 1800's on up to the mid 1900s and found one thing, in the twenties. A notice of decision of judgment. No deeds or anything that would help me know where properties are located. But on my way home, I took a route past Smartville and Beale, where my family owned some land before the government took it for the air force base. I also drove out on Mooney Flat Road, where my great, great, great grandfather and grandmother ran a boarding house in the mid 1850s, taking in mostly 49er gold miners, of course. I don't know where that was located either. I need addresses.... but my mother is in China, so.

IN any case, as I drove home I felt a deep sense of nourishment. It was like I was one of those dusty oak trees, finding my native soil again. Honestly. It sounds cheesy, but it's how I felt and I always feel this way, coming back here. It's kind of hard to brush off six to eight generations of ancestors. I grew up right here... right where my family settled after coming over on the boat from England.

We then headed up to Nevada City (after picking up my sisters at the high school).

We saw lots of fanciful and beautiful things, as is usual in that town. I wanted to take more pictures of people but worried it would be offensive... you'll have to take my word for it that literally half of the people who pass you by are fancifully hippie-like. Black berets galore. Colorful hair, or dreads down past the shoulders, woven hats colored in rainbow hues. People with long beards and curling golden locks.

It's my town. And there's noplace like it... except perhaps in the thick of the redwoods, or in southern Oregon.


My kids were climbing the walls at that point (quite literally)

so the walk was nice. But I was too exahusted when we got home to do much blogging.

Today we took it easy. We went to the park again
and to a beautiful local cemetery

(Where I went grave-stalking because I am weird that way)
which is across the street from the old Indian Springs School. It operated in the mid-late 1800s and later moved down the road, combined with the Rough and Ready school and became Ready Springs School, where I attended elementary school.

On the way out to the park and cemetery, we got a flat tire, and were helped by two samaritans, the (self-styled) Captain and Cowboy. They admitted they were working off the aftereffects of a night of overindulgence and told me I was lucky they were, because it meant they had to take a day off work, and therefore had time to help me. I'm quite thankful for the Captain and the Cowboy and their overindulgence, though I cannot condone it.

See how nice they are? And they live on my road. They informed me that this incident was proof that our road hasn't gone completely to sh*.

And they were right. It hasn't.

After the park and cemetery outing we went to pick up my sisters at school and came right home, which I am glad about because my kids still haven't quite slept off their aftereffects from our previous days' travel.

This morning before we left I spent time at home, doing research on FamilySearch and making phone calls. I found out from a lady at the Sonora County Library and Museum (she's a researcher for the Tuolomne geneological society) that the library does indeed have a file on my family, the Silvers (Silveira-Pereira) with a lot of information.
I'm going over there tomorrow. It's a 3 hour drive, one way. With four kids.

Pray for me. (and my kids)

Anyway, I am really excited. These are graves (if I can find the cemetery where they are buried) that my mother has never seen. This place, Shaws' Flat, where they settled in the mid 1800s and where my great, great, great, great grandfather passed away in 1910, is a place where my mother has never been. The contact at the museum is a sort of miracle--I got it because I'd been doing google searches on the Silvers, and found an article written by the genealogical society, for a magazine they put out. In 2011. I contacted the woman who wrote the article, and she said that there was a lot of information on my family. ANd now, two years later, I'm going.

I also connected with a man on Ancestry. He is a distant cousin, descended from another branch of the family line who took a different americanization of the name "Silveira." Instead of "Silver," they go by DeSilva. Anyway.... he happens to live 20 minutes away from my parents, where I am staying right now. I emailed him today and let him know I have several family photos he may want. I asked if he would like to meet. I think he's worried about me being Mormon-- he granted access to the family tree and then it was revoked soon after. It's not an uncommon thing for people on these sites to be put off when they find they are corresponding with Mormons. They worry we're going to try to baptize all their ancestors. Which isn't the case, of course... we're not supposed to baptize for those who aren't our direct relatives without the permission of other direct relatives. We can lose our temple privileges over this. But you can't expect people to know that after all the sensationalism present in the popular media. And of course there are a few who break rules and ruin it for the rest of us.

It has been strange. I have felt compelled to go to Sonora to see the graves. It's been a little unsettling, how strong the feeling is. I was tempted, as i drove south yesterday, to keep going. The only thing that kept me from throwing caution to the wind was the fact I needed to be back in time to pick up my sisters from high school.

So I guess we'll see tomorrow.

I'll just leave you on this note (a sign I drove past in Nevada City, with an accumulation of random objects underneath it):

Shanti, my friends. Shanti Shanti.
(I hope I didn't just curse you)

Nov 5, 2014

California Adventures, day 1

So yesterday I left my home and half my family behind in Idaho, to travel to the mysterious and magical place of my childhood. I have my four youngest with me, while the four older stayed behind with Jeff. I'm here to watch my two little sisters while my parents journey to China for the last time to adopt a daughter. I'm also here to introduce my children to the fairtyales of my childhood:

the grocery store of yore, at the edge of the ponderosa groves

Where milk is twice as delicious, so it has to be twice as expensive.

The garden full of mystical asian pines and small, quiet pools where there are no goldfish because Herons feel right at home coming to steal them

And parks have three-story slides that adults are hesitant to utilize, even with the goading of their offspring

And creeks are populated with squirrels which are likely to be capable of speech

and there are gremlins

and giant things.

I'm also here to do some family history. My mother's the first convert, and so a lot of the history is oral, or in jumbled piles in boxes. I brought my scanner and my laptop. I'm transcribing and scanning.

I'm also planning on visiting a few places--a graveyard an hour away in Wheatland where my grandmother and grandfather are buried and one three hours away in Sonora, where some of my ancestors are buried.

My mother has never been there to see them. I don't even know if they're there for sure.

There are some family history mysteries to solve. I don't know the name of my great, great, great, great grandmother Silveira-Pereira. She and her husband perished in a shipwreck off the coast of Maine in 1839, a year where there were lots of terrible storms during the early winter months, and many ships wrecked and many people died. I am going to the county library in the place where the Silvers settled a hundred and fifty years ago. I've heard there's a lot of information there on the family. Nobody's gone there to investigate. That I know about, at least. It's possible that a name is written somewhere on a stray piece of paper, or on a record. That is my goal this trip--find the name of my four-greats grandmother. THey were the generation that immigrated from Portugal... the next step after finding her, would be to go over there, to the Azores Islands. A job for my brother, probably-- he served a Portuguese-speaking mission in Brazil.

While I was writing this, my four year old daughter went outside to play. For some unknown reason (mostly because she is my daughter) she decided to remove her shoes. She just stepped on a digger pine cone and cut her foot. Can I claim her as the ninth generation of californians, now that the red dirt of my childhood is literally in her veins?