As I stare into the eyes of the image before me of my younger self, reflecting over the many years of my pain, I am astonished with 1) how I ever survived and 2) the level of gratitude, humility and lightness of heart and mind that I feel now.
For years I felt that I was being punished, brought here to this planet for some senseless torture to endure to the end of my days. I was mostly too scared to think about doing myself in but also secretly hoping my exit was not too far off.
Very little of my existence on this planet made much sense to me, and I felt as though I were just “barely” existing, and for what purpose I did not know. I had difficulty making and keeping friends, my family was strange, I felt strange, and my parents seemed to have lost their minds.
I continually asked (God, the heavens, anyone who might be listening) the same question, over and over: “Why am I here?”
An image that comes to mind when describing the many predicaments of my young life is that of a grueling obstacle course on which I am walking and carrying a large pack on my back. The more time goes by, the more crisis, the heavier the pack becomes. With few respites in my pilgrimage, it seems to me that this difficult path will continue for an eternity.
I was introverted and shy, and I was ashamed by my outward appearance and that of my family. And, at the same time, I wore my pain and neediness like a flashing sign, begging for someone to pay attention to me, to rescue me, to love me. I wasn’t good at hiding or lying about my life, and I just knew everyone could see what was happening – even behind the closed doors of my family’s home.
In my previous blog article, “Sudden changes”, I stated that, at the completion of our move from Salt Lake City, south to Pleasant Grove and into a very small apartment (all eight of us, my mother pregnant with child number seven), is when things started to go terribly wrong!
The pressures of our sizable family and the lack of mutual consideration and honor in my parents’ relationship, coupled with the lack of communication between my parents and all us kids, had tipped the scales. Much was left unsaid, unconsidered and unaddressed, and started to flow out like lava, destroying whatever was in its path.
Since I began writing my book several years ago, much has shifted for me into a more positive direction.
…I will continue to share many of the most compelling events from my past, my lack of understanding of them then, and the enormous shift in my perspective of them now. I am very blessed that both my parents are still alive and that we have been able to move through these seemingly unforgivable situations and talk more freely and openly about them now.
Through our mutual sharing, missing bits and pieces of all three of our stories have been brought to light and behavioral patterns recognized that were a set-up for, not only the events that took place, but the continuation of them into the present. Most importantly, these discussions have enabled us to forgive, despite the pain and deep suffering the original events caused.
My writing about these events is not to elicit sympathy or attention for my suffering; this was my path and my parents were some of my greatest and most challenging teachers. My intention is to draw out the patterns in my family that parallel those I see in society, including patriarchy and the domination of an individual through religion, education, finances and political views using guilt and fear to control. My view of why these things happened “for me” has not made the past disappear but has been revolutionary in my understanding of the question I posed at the beginning of this article.
Why am I here, what does the past have to do with the present, and how has my past shaped my future?
In the midst of my most difficult moments, I was only able to see a tiny sliver of the much larger landscape of my life. As I have worked through layers of human constructs, generational patterns, and obscuring beliefs, my view has now been expanded to 360 degrees and has become more three dimensional. This phenomenon has brought me to a profound awareness of the level of healing possible for all humans at this moment in time. It is through healing of the accumulation of our past incarnational improprieties that we heal the present and the future. We stop the generational wrongdoings against one another, against ourselves, and against creation. In doing so, we clear the path for a happier, more fulfilling, and peaceful next incarnation.
If my story helps just one person, it is worth my time and effort in writing it.
***A telling and important awareness***
In the last chapter of my book, I mentioned that, during the writing process, I had a deep awareness that my family and I were not meant to stay in our home in Salt Lake City. I had a strong sense that, if we had stayed there, we would not have experienced so much adversity, the biggest catalyst of our evolution.
I know many people appear to have “a perfect life” and that things always seem to work out for them. And that may be true, and it may not be true. Many levels of truth exist in life, depending on your level of consciousness, and this story is my second go-‘round, a journey back in time to uncover the truth and bring in more of the missing pieces of the puzzle. By fully integrating past experience with present reality, I can finally close the box with a sense of peace in my heart.
***Discovering life in Pleasant Grove***
We have now been in Pleasant Grove for about three months, having just recently moved into a larger, yet still cramped, brick home with a huge kitchen and living room. The front is yards of grassy area with a tree-lined long driveway, the backyard oversized as well. It has an underground storage shed and lots of outdoor room to roam. My parents even get some chickens. Railroad tracks run behind the house that go on for miles on which I spend hours and hours walking with my sisters and getting to know the layout of my new town.
The Purple Turtle, a Pleasant Grove fast food landmark, is a savory discovery – best greasy burgers and hand-dipped onion rings in town! Just a couple of blocks in the opposite direction, the downtown area has a drugstore with a slew of penny candy that reminds me of my old neighborhood in Salt Lake; only this town is smaller. Many more kid-friendly stores are also close to home. A ticket at the movie theatre next door costs only fifty cents, and Mr. G’s Gas and Goodies is around the corner whenever we get a craving for a Texas doughnut!
***My mother’s world at this moment in time as told by her ***
Shortly after we arrive in Pleasant Grove, my husband leaves the house to meet the owner of a lovely apple orchard we had seen earlier in the summer. We are planning to purchase the property and build a home on it. My husband leaves the house with $5,000.00 cash in his pocket and comes home later that day with only $1,000.00 and a 190-passenger ugly yellow school bus that gets only eight miles to the gallon.
I am dumbfounded!! Now we have no down payment and this ugly school bus, to do what with, I have no idea!
It is fall, and I am holding my infant at church. I am physically drained and very much wanting to be more active…but I have seven children now, and my husband is not very attentive to my needs, unless he is being observed as the quintessential Mormon father.
An unfamiliar striking woman is playing the organ at our church, and my husband wants to meet her to find out more about who she is. After church lets out, he approaches her and strikes up a conversation. I later join up with them, and that’s how I first meet the Dragon Lady. She is intriguing, highly intelligent, and very talented, as exhibited by her piano playing. She likes to do the things I have always dreamed of: softball, riding a motorcycle… She even takes me deer hunting for my first time.
The Dragon Lady has just married husband number three, who has four special needs children. Two of them I end up tutoring, which helps to legitimize my being at her home…her husband is very suspicious of her friends. We are attracted to one another and he senses this. What I don’t know at the time I meet the Dragon Lady is that she is a secret alcoholic with multiple personality disorder and that she has just been fired from a teaching job for this. I feel now that this is the reason she married her husband. He has a very good job and plenty of money and is not very bright.
My husband is on the phone with the Dragon Lady one evening when she collapses and is rushed to the hospital. I go to be with her, staying with her late into the night. After returning home from the hospital, I suffer a severe migraine headache. When I wake up the next morning, I know something is terribly wrong – my mouth is drooping, my left arm and hand numb. I am later diagnosed with a migraine-induced TIA and aneurism and placed on Dilantin for potential seizure disorder. I am only 36 years old.
***For Lynzie, it’s the year of being a kid***
I am settling into my family’s new routine – my father now commuting to Salt Lake City to work each day and my mother with all of us kids at our new school, except my new baby sister and youngest brother who are cared for by friends. So far, American Heritage has been very different from my previous experiences with public school. The school’s smaller size gives it more of a community feel, and because this is my second year here, I am feeling more integrated with this community. Many of the classes are shared with the higher grades, due to the tight budget and small attendance.
Mrs. Baker, my 3rd grade teacher, is older, but I find her very pretty and kind and I look forward to coming to school. My siblings are here with me and my mother in the same building, and this makes me feel safe and more secure than I had felt in my previous schools. I am making new friends and finally starting to enjoy being a kid…at least for now.
My birthday comes at the end of October, and I am turning nine.
I have very foggy memories of my birthdays, but my ninth birthday seems to stick in my mind – probably because my friend Robert, who I am sure is gay, is the life of the party. I am opening one of the gifts I have received from my new friend Shereen and am surprised and a little embarrassed to find several pairs of frilly underwear and a nightgown (her mother sold La Voy Lingerie) in the box. This is an unusual gift, but I am excited to have new colorful and silky soft underwear…my usual underwear is cheap white cotton and very plain and also a bit ragged.
Robert thinks this is so funny, and he is using my new underwear as a slingshot, shooting the panties up into the air in my front yard, laughing so hard he almost pees himself. Well, one day during an English class, he actually does pee himself, his urine flowing all over the chair and onto the floor. I will never forget the sound of the urine dripping and his miming for me not to say anything. But I am pretty sure the whole class knows and is too embarrassed to say much.
***Lynzie’s version of the ugly yellow (now green) school bus***
Until I talked to my mother while collaborating on this book, I had forgotten about the bus my father ended up turning into a house on wheels. He had the whole thing decked out like a motor home. It had a kitchen sink with a stove, countertops on both sides, and a small refrigerator. He had built a dining table that folded out to accommodate most of us, and a bathroom with shower, sink and toilet. Further back were bunk beds on both sides that would fit four of us, and in the very back, two huge half circle beds that conformed to the roundness of the bus. My mother had received some donated dark green paint, which she used on the sides of the bus, along with metallic paint for the top. Once it was painted, she thought the bus looked a whole lot better than the ugly yellow. But, if you had asked me, I would have said it was pretty ugly, and I was very embarrassed to be seen in or near it.
I remember all of us taking a trip across country to New York to visit my aunt and uncle and five cousins. I can only imagine what they were thinking when we drove up and parked in front of their house in the giant green machine. On the way home, we made a side trip to Niagara Falls. As my father drove up a small side road to a lookout area, the engine cut out, causing the bus’s brakes to fail. The bus started to roll backward toward the parking lot, where many people, unaware of what was happening, were milling about. God must have been with us because, after what seemed like an eternity, the bus started up. The brakes came back online just in the nick of time, or I wouldn’t be here sharing this…but maybe it would have been better for me if they hadn’t?
We made another trip to California to visit my grandparents for Christmas that same year. There is no doubt in my mind that my grandparents were horrified by the green machine sitting in their driveway.
***Mom’s story about her misstep into the cow pie***
I am enjoying teaching sixth grade, and it seems my kids are really engaged and interested in life. I am also teaching drama, as well as assisting many of the teachers in putting together our monthly assemblies, plays and holiday worship programs. Music is mine and my husband’s specialty, and that is where we shine.
I become friends with one of the women whose kids also attend American Heritage. She is a substitute teacher and an amazing pianist. A couple months earlier, I had asked her to take over my sixth grade class while I was on maternity leave. Unfortunately, she only lasts about three weeks when I have to step in and come back full time. She is emotionally fragile and can’t handle the stress of teaching on her own. Something seems off about her that I don’t realize until later, and this should have been the telltale sign for me to move forward with discernment and caution.
I drive her home one day after school, and during our conversation, she explains to me that she has issues with men, especially those in the priesthood of the Mormon church. She had written letters to the church president and each of the twelve apostles and had mailed them out, but not one of them had responded to her. She asks me if I can drive her to the church president’s home so that she can hand deliver the letters, this time in person. She does not offer to have me read these letters, and I don’t ask. (Hindsight is 20-20, right?) I drive her to his home and wait in the car while she knocks on the door. I can see the president answering the door and see them talking, but he does not invite her in.
Several days later, I receive a call from the principal of American Heritage. He wants to speak with me in person, but I do not know what it’s about. The principal tells me that the president of the Mormon church has two of his grandchildren attending American Heritage, and he has informed the principal about the letters from my substitute teacher and so-called friend. The principal wants to fire both of us. He dismisses me on the spot! I am completely taken off guard and in shock!
I call the principal the next day, asking if I can do anything in exchange for my kids’ tuition. Because the school has no janitor, he suggests I take over this position. I agree, and I perform the janitorial duties for a little while. Eventually, though, my body gives out, and I have no choice but to leave and pull my kids out of the school.
I am so humiliated by this incident: One day I am teaching, and the next day I am a janitor. When I share the news with my husband, he shrugs it off as though it were no big deal. He doesn’t seem to be upset about this and tells me that I have made a poor decision in helping this woman with her misguided errand. I am very puzzled by this reaction because he had been all in at the school’s inception. So, why, now, is he not concerned that we must pull the kids out of the school?
***Lynzie’s side of the American Heritage story***
It is December, the fourth month of fourth grade at American Heritage and year number three at this school for me when I get some very disturbing news. So far, I have not been made aware of any changes in my mother’s position at American Heritage, but one Friday evening my parents gather all of us kids together for a “special” meeting. In his stern voice, my father shares news with all of us kids that we will no longer be attending American Heritage. The following Monday morning we will be registering at Central Elementary, the local public school nearest to us.
I don’t recollect either of my parents telling us kids that my mother had been fired from American Heritage.
The news is like a hard slap across my face, the sting bringing tears to my eyes. I am so shocked I can barely breathe. For the first time since starting school, I feel as though I finally belong. It certainly isn’t perfect, but I am content. I am also getting pretty used to going along with all of the changes that have been happening in my family up to this point…but, this change I am not prepared for! To have to transfer to yet another new school in mid-year? Come on! I am angry, but underneath the anger I am really afraid, and I have no other way to communicate my fears except by kicking, screaming and crying. Even with my hysterical performance, I know that nothing will come of my reaction. I am heading into school number five!
***Lynzie reflects back now***
I don’t have much recollection of this time except that I was very depressed and deflated and really struggled at this new school. The courtyard was huge, and I felt completely alone among the unfamiliar faces around me as I roamed the halls trying to find my way. It was already January, and I was walking into the middle of a class that was well established.
I never really settled in. This served me in some ways because the rug was about to be pulled out from underneath me once again…and very soon!
***Mom talks about the time she ended up flat on her back***
Christmas has come and gone, and it is now late January 1972. My husband’s job takes him away frequently, and on one trip, he flies to California, to an Air Force Base, to teach a class. While he is away, I fall on the ice in my driveway as I rush to get the garbage out – breaking my tail bone. I am alone with seven children and must have emergency surgery. When I call David’s hotel room later that day to tell him this, a woman answers the phone. My husband denies that there is a woman with him when I bring this up later, but I already know the truth. I know he is lying, and it hurts me deeply. To this day, I don’t really know what happened. At the time, I didn’t really want to know because it hurt too much. Now…
I have created a friendship with the Dragon Lady, and she seems to be the only one here to help with my children while I am in the hospital. As usual, my husband seems to be very preoccupied and unavailable to support me and the children in our greatest time of need.
When I return home from a week’s stay in the hospital, routines continue as usual – leaving me with the children to care for from my bedroom as I lie flat on my back – my husband going about his work and religious duties as if nothing has changed.
***Lynzie expresses her confusion***
The energy in the home is very unsettling because my mother is ill, spending most of her time in her room in bed. Her new friend from church is coming to the house regularly to help all of us kids with meal preparation, laundry and getting to and from school. This new way of life is troubling to all of us kids because my mother has always been around. Even though she is home, she seems more inaccessible, and this makes things at home feel really strange. I don’t have anyone to talk to about it, so I just stuff it, as usual.
***My mother’s recollection of the fight that ended her marriage***
My oldest son, who is fourteen years old, has been left in charge to prepare dinner for the family – chili and a loaf of homemade bread from a batch I had made the week before my surgery. He feels good that he has been placed in charge and is happy to help me when I ask him.
The children have all eaten, and the dishes have been cleared. My son is finally able to eat his portion when my husband comes home from his home teaching duties. As soon as he comes in the door, my husband immediately yells at our son, “Here you are, feeding your fat face!” My second oldest son goes to the stove to get his share of dinner, not daring to say a word as tensions build.
I sit up in bed listening to the conversation and yell out to my husband that our son has just fed all the children and that he is now sitting down to eat his own dinner. I sense the anger in my husband’s voice and am preparing to calm the waters verbally. And, then, I hear scraping as the chair my son is sitting in is being dragged across the floor. His father is now yelling at him, “Get up; I’ll show you who’s boss!” A lot of commotion ensues, and I can hear my husband punching our son as he begs for his father to stop.
By this time, I am in the doorway, and I look around the room to see my second oldest son with his spoon in his hand looking stunned. I see my husband just taking a hold of my oldest son’s shoulders and shirt collar, swinging him around in a circle and shoving him into a wooden rack for drying clothes, his glasses flying through the air and landing on the floor, broken in two.
My son is now lying on top of the floor furnace while his father stomps on his back. I take a step forward with my crutches…the pain intense as I raise my right crutch over my head and scream, “Touch him again and I’ll kill you!” My husband gives my son one more kick in the side, turns around, grabs his coat, and storms out the door.
My second oldest picks up his brother’s glasses that are now in two pieces and brings them to me. My son is still on the ground, dazed. He looks up at me, and I try to help him up with my left hand as his younger brother comes to help him up the rest of the way, he too, confused by all that has just transpired.
I call the Dragon Lady, and she quickly comes and takes my son to her house to stay for the time being.
My husband does not come home that night. I assume he is probably sleeping in the bus.
A few days later, I end up moving into a small house the Dragon Lady owns a short distance away to try to get some rest and to continue my healing from my back surgery. I arrange for help to come in because I have to leave my children behind. While I am away, I must undergo another surgery, this time a hysterectomy. Strangely, I have to have my husband’s permission to have my uterus removed. In Utah, at this time, the wife’s uterus belongs to the husband.
At the end of February, I begin to make a plan to leave my husband for good, gathering all of my children’s clothing and supplies together. It is the beginning of March, and it is still winter. We move into the tiny house that the Dragon Lady owns in Orem, Utah, where I have been staying. It has only one bedroom. The bathroom has no door, only a curtain to draw for privacy. The kids sleep in a bunkhouse in the backyard that we make into a bedroom. A porta potty is used for nighttime visits to the bathroom. It is early spring and still very cold, so a space heater provides warmth.
It isn’t enough that I have many things going on physically; now this situation takes it to new heights.
My family’s love has been torn apart by violence, and the jagged edges cut deeply into my heart.
***To the best of Lynzie’s recollection***
I have a very foggy memory of the fight between my father and brother. I know it happened, and I also know I have blocked out most of it because remembering it is experiencing the violence all over again. I can’t say that my father was typically violent although he did spank us with a belt when we did something he didn’t agree with. We would get an hour lecture before the sting, which made the apprehension of the punishment much more wearying.
This latest event has taken things to new heights and really surprises me. But that undertow I had been feeling since living in Salt Lake is beginning to bubble to the surface again.
My parents gather us kids together for a family meeting during which they share that they are separating. I am completely stunned and really (even after all that had happened) have had no idea that this had been coming. Things at home have already been strange enough with my mother’s hospitalizations and her latest disappearance from the household routines. I don’t feel as though I can ask my parents to explain to me what is happening and so I just follow along, in the dark. I have no idea how things will unfold from here, where we will end up, or if we will all be okay. I am really scared!
***Lynzie experiences the old song herself, “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do!”***
The infrastructure of my home and family is crumbling. My once familiar life is breaking into many jagged pieces that cut me deeply. I do not see this coming and feel unprepared to move along with what is out of my control.
My mother and all seven of us kids move into the tiny Orem house. Because all eight of us are living practically on top of one another in this miniature house, tensions run high.
We convert the small shed in the backyard into our bedroom for me, my two sisters – one younger and one older – and my two older brothers, who are there only part of the time because they are being shuffled between my mother and father. The pathway to and from the main house is covered in snow, and the room has no insulation in the walls and a concrete floor. To conserve electricity, we have to see our breath before we turn on the heater and get the place warmed up.
Together, my sisters and I glue down squares of shag carpet in a rainbow of colors, covering the floor. Each night before bed, we crank up the heater and huddle around it, warming our hands and feet before climbing into cold sheets, breathing our warmed breath into our covers to warm us. This is something my father used to do with all of us kids.
I feel completely separated from my mother, who shares the only bedroom with my younger brother and baby sister. As time wears on, she feels more distant and more unavailable to me.
And here we go again, another school to adjust to, this being number six since I began kindergarten. New friends, new teachers, new routine at home and at school…new everything. And now I have come down with the mumps!
My sisters and I make friends with the family across the canal. They are the Washburns, and their boys go to the same school, so we all walk together. We are in this house until the middle of summer. My mother’s new friend, the Dragon Lady, helps her finance a down payment on a house back in Pleasant Grove, where we move in late July 1972, just before I am to begin fifth grade. This school will be number seven!
My father stays in the home we had lived in all together for a short time and eventually moves back to Salt Lake City, taking on a side job helping a young mother of five to do repairs on a home she had been sharing with her now ex-husband. Her ex had lit the house on fire, causing damage to the home’s wiring, rendering the electricity unusable. My father drives the bus up the canyon where they live and parks it on the property, living out of the bus until he eventually moves in and they later marry…and that’s a whole other tangled story.
***The end of Lynzie’s story and her feelings now***
I often fantasized about escaping my heavy-hearted disposition and, instead, feeling jovial and lighthearted. I would observe those around me, wondering how they could seem so happy, so spontaneous, and free from the baggage I carried. I was so jealous of how simple it seemed for some to feel this way and how difficult and forced it was for me. I was jealous of anyone who had what appeared to me to be “a normal life, with normal parents”. My friends’ parents would eventually see my emotional starvation and the attendant neediness. As a result, I wasn’t able to keep many friends.
I wanted to fit in, and I wanted to be wanted, cared for, worried about, and shown that I mattered. These holes in my life made me angry, and that anger festered inside of me for years.
Through my recent conversations with both my parents, along with my reflections on the past, I am struck by the fact that, as a child, I did not have the capacity to understand all that was happening. My lack of understanding was partly due to my age and partly due to my parents’ failure to keep us kids informed about what was going on. I did not have the voice to express myself or communicate my feelings…besides, no one would listen anyway. A backlog of unresolved emotions built up within me, adding to the weight of my backpack!
Through my writing and my exploration of the events of my past, along with a more mature perspective, I feel I have had a second chance to absorb all of what I can remember. I have been able to ask my parents questions to fill in holes where my memory isn’t clear, or I just don’t know what happened. I have been able to ask about the things I didn’t know to ask about way back then and to come to an understanding finally about why these things happened and what they were there to teach me – to teach all of us.
One of the most profound things my father said to me was during a recent conversation we had. It concerned him and my mother at the time they first met and were married. He told me, “We were two people who didn’t know who we were when we came together.” Hearing this struck a chord in me because I had recently written a blog called, “Know thyself and love will follow”, which you may read by clicking the link.
My journey into the world after my separation and eventual divorce gave me the opportunity to get to know myself – in my development as a human being – the good times and bad – and to see the strength that carried me through the difficult times. At the time of my divorce, I had begun to do some very deep spiritual work, along with meditation and much more.
I was recently listening to an audio version of a workshop put on by my spiritual teacher and his community. As I listened, I was suddenly struck by a profound sense of gratitude and humility for all that I had been through and a deep appreciation of where I am now. I don’t think I could have felt this depth of gratitude had I not been through what I had experienced. I can now say I am grateful for all of it because re-experiencing it as I collaborate with my mother to write the book has given my past great purpose in shaping my present and future.
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