The part of the mind that a person is not aware of is often a powerful force in controlling behavior and therefore our future and the choices we make. This happened to me many years ago. For decades I had wanted to return to the small farming community in northeastern Nebraska where I had lived for many of my growing up years. To me it had been my hometown. By fortunate circumstances I was able to achieve this much desired dream in my late thirties. It was everything I had hoped for. I connected with old friends, visited farms and hiked along rivers and through woods I had only daydreamed of and written about in poetry through all my years of living in the Los Angeles area. The forested Rae Creek area, due to an elm disease and a tornado, had been reduced to a treeless acreage with only a trickle of mucky water running through it. My crushing disappointment reduced me to tears as I sat on the side of the road and mourned the loss of what I used to call, for reasons I didn’t remember, my sanctuary. I had spent so many hours hiding in the limbs of the oak and the elm that threaded through the rippling waters of the creek as I wrote poetry, what I was later to call my inner voices.
One place I visited turned out to be disturbing for reasons I couldn’t fathom. It was my visit to the house I had lived in, no longer scarlet with white trim, now mist green with an add-on making it difficult to recognize until I started to enter the rear of the house. A bedroom beckoned, the one that had belonged to me and my two sisters. I swiftly backed away and began trembling.
This experience and Rae Creek were the only negatives in a week of great joy. Once home I longed to return again and again as if to replenish what my father referred to as my badly damaged heart and spirit. A few nights later as I lay in bed I couldn’t sleep. I kept thinking about my home town and what it would be like to return there for good. Always cursed and sometimes blessed with an active imagination, I began weaving a story in my head. A young girl who had grown up in that town decided to return with her husband and her two children. Once there she found that she began to realize something bad had happened to her in that town and she had needed to return to it to discover the truth of what lay in her unconscious mind. I became feverish with the story and the young girl’s predicament. I got out of bed and went into the living room feeling as if ghosts followed me. I sat at the piano and began creating a song. I wrote the lyrics as I sang, having no idea where they came from.
Don’t take away the child that lives inside of me.
Don’t let her wander off just let her wander free.
When first you said you loved me, I was filled with ecstasy.
But then you locked me up and threw away the key.
A world filled with wonder was lost and now forlorn.
The innocence I’d known, removed and badly torn.
Where is that time of joy that left me long ago?
The child that lives inside is tired of paths of woe.
My life is but a journey, traveled far and wide.
Looking for the truth buried deep inside.
Each blow that knocks me down is a clue to find the keys.
The force that I call life, drives me to my knees.
Why won’t you listen to my cry containing truth?
What shall I do to reach you? What can I give as proof?
Perspiration covered my body and I felt my heart throbbing in my head. Feverishly, as if I had the ague I read and re-read the words. What did they mean? I crawled back in to my bed and lay staring at the ceiling trying to reach in to my brain to find out where these words had come from. I spent the next five years writing this novel and after that, married to my third abuser, a man both sadistic and violent I entered five years of recovery from incest. My father had told me twice about the five-year cycle of violence with night time raids and beatings at the instigation of my mother for what she decided was my fault but I had never believed him. I had a vague memory of the first night but my mother had told me at the time that it was just a nightmare.
While my novel was not about incest or even child abuse it was about a young woman trying to uncover a painful secret from her childhood. The trip to my hometown after so many years of depression, suicide attempts and promiscuous behavior had begun tearing off the layers of cover wrapped around my memory. The writing of the story of the woman I had begun to call Lenore and especially the night the above poem flowed out of me in a torment tore off the next layer. Watching the man I loved and had betrayed dying of cancer furthered my desperation to discover what I had become and why. In stepped my third abuser. He ripped the rest of the layers off. In behavior, character and brutal control, he mirrored my father so completely even down to his taste in music and reading. Having sexually abused both his sister and his daughter he completed the recreation of my life with my father and began little by little to destroy me. It forced me into recovery. Eventually I developed my own recovery program called REPAIR, worked a rigorous and honest 12 step program. I returned to my hometown and forced myself to walk into that bedroom where my father had first raped me. It was one of the most terrifying moments of my life but it gave me the courage I needed to return home and rid myself of my abuser.
If I had not returned to the scene of the crime; if I had not written the story of Lenore and if I had not put myself in the path of my abuser I would never have survived and gone on to become the happiest person I know. I return home frequently and as the years have passed, I see that Rae Creek too has returned to its original beauty. Now I know why I called it my sanctuary. Now I too have returned and freed my inner child. It’s called unlocking your unconscious mind and setting it free to return to who you were before your abuse.