In the summer between finishing elementary school and going off to 6th grade at Ray Middle School, my dad and stepmother received a letter inviting me to participate in the Honors program.
I don't know where we were going at the time, but we were in the car when they told me about it. Linda was driving, Dad was in the passenger seat, and I was alone in the back. When I heard about it, I was thrilled! I really wanted to take part.
That excitement was short-lived, however, because I soon found my needs and desires up against their strident arguments that being in the Honors program was going to interfere with me being able to get all my chores done. There would be too much homework and studying, they reasoned. I'd fall behind.
On the damn CHORES.
I have always had a tremendously difficult time standing up for myself -- still do -- but I was tenacious and made a stand. I remember arguing and maybe a little begging and pleading - but no crying. That was a rarity for me! In the end, I had to make many promises and agreements in order to join the Honors classes.
Was it worth it? Absolutely, in my opinion. I thrived there, all the way up through and including my 5 AP classes before graduation. But as I suspected, it did come at a price.
I got screamed at every day of my life. That is not an exaggeration (nor was it new). Every single day. Many days it was multiple discrete sessions of her screaming, face twisted in sarcasm, while I tore up the tissues into which I cried. It was always just an issue of "what will it be this time?"
But sometimes, it was particularly cruel. And believe me, I always aimed not to do and be my best, but to do and be completely perfect, in an attempt to avoid the daily screaming session. But if there was absolutely no reason to yell, this didn't bother Linda: she would just make something up! Many days, she was tearing into me regarding some pure fabrication of her mind in front of other people who knew what she was saying to be a lie. They usually didn't stand up for me, though, and I didn't expect it, as this would make them the next target.
But when I started that Honors program at age 11, it was a lot of work. I put long hours into my homework, studying for tests, making projects, and writing papers. I was already up until midnight or 1AM at that point, and I had to get up for school at 5:20 AM every day. So between school and chores and homework and studying and more chores just in case and extracurriculars, I didn't get a ton of sleep.
Linda knew all this, of course, and she took advantage. A lot of times, she'd get up early when I did, to count the minutes I was in the shower (yes, I was timed; the screaming covered way more territory than just the chores, after all), or make me late for the bus, or just leave me a crying mess for when I did get on the bus.
Or she would get me up in the middle of the night, sometimes with my dad and once or twice with my sister until I became the sole hated one, to berate me for a job not well done. Like if I had cleaned their bedroom and bathroom, top to bottom including putting fresh sheets on the bed and getting all the dust bunnies out from underneath it, I might get screamed at for an hour at 3 AM because the heat registers around the baseboards were still too dusty. She especially loved to do this the night before a big test, and so I learned to develop more and more elaborate mnemonics to remember the material, even if I was too exhausted to think. When the predator evolves to be more cunning, so must the prey become more wily.
But my personal favorite was a punishment she used if she was feeling particularly villainous, I guess. It was no secret at that point that I loved school and was a total nerd. And she probably realized it was my escape from our pretty heinous home life (what I'm telling you here is only a very mild glimpse). So I guess she just wanted to mess that up for me? Why else would she frequently rip up the homework that I'd already completed for that night and sequester all my books and supplies, in my backpack, in her locked closet for two days, on average? Who punishes a kid by taking away their homework?
In the 6th grade Honors program, we had Mrs. Mogren for both English and Math. I remember so many occasions when I bent my head down to avoid Mrs. Mogren's sharp glare, because I had to tell to tell her -- for both classes that day! -- that I didn't do my homework. And I got another goose egg in the grade book. Honestly, I can't believe I didn't develop an ulcer then.
I'm telling you all this and writing this out not for sympathy but simply because it's pouring out of me right now, but it's after midnight, and everyone here is asleep. I needed a brain dump. Sometimes the mind gets overloaded with tricky thoughts.
My therapist in Boise and I were working on me being able to forgive myself for what happened back then, so that I could learn to love myself. My therapist wanted me to be the parent to the inner child me that I needed back then. I guess I'm finally getting started.
Love and light, y'all.