A post for Orphans, Obsessives, Perfectionists and Addicts, with Wood Carvings…

I’m going to intersperse this post with random photo’s of my work, to allieviate the very personal writing… all will be revealed…..later!

Setting sun, 2MG-20140621-01832

The setting of the Solstice sun.

The post I’d mused over for days, and then ‘lost’, was a serious one…prompted by all the heartbreaking stories that are emerging in Ireland, of how dreadfully women and children were treated in the Catholic Mother and Baby homes, Orphanages and the Magdalene Laundries, in the not too distant past here.
These had brought up emotions from my own story, and although my story is not nearly so bad, I wrote about how early loss and separation can have a lifelong impact . Life can only be lived going forwards, but maybe understanding the patterns can only come with advancing age and 20/20 hindsight….and can bring a deeper level of sadness….

It’s NOT as if I sit around consciously thinking about the past!…but it comes unbidden into my head in flashes of memory….in dreams….me alone as a child, me alone as a single parent, alone in Mexico, Honduras, Portugal, Kirkcudbright, Jura, London, Norfolk and Liverpool, me alone in a community of 25 adults!….the memories flash in…of always feeling alone….always an Outsider.

Quote from e.e.cummings.

Quote from e.e.cummings poem.

 The difficult thing to consider in hindsight is how far my internalised ‘Outsider’, ‘Not Good Enough’  feelings may have unconsciously contributed to the paths I trod. I’ve lived in groups, worked in groups, even started up some groups myself, but never felt totally accepted. I have no blueprint for HOW to belong…
Meanwhile, I seem to have antennae for other damaged souls…I know the deep value in empathy, and the discomfort of other’s sympathies.

I have a great capacity to ‘lose’ myself in work. Or rather, I did have. Maybe if I can write through the feelings I’ve blocked and smothered for decades, maybe then I can return to creative work?

janus, close up 2

Close-up of Janus head, in bog oak.

iJanus head mg060

The Janus Head at Drumbeg stone circle. The Janus head has two faces…one looks forward and the other looks back.

Isn’t it wonderful when words are “given” to you just when you need them? I call it Chance Triumphant. A few days back I saw a wonderful piece of writing ,

‘Lies you were told about Grief’, by Alison Nappi, which quoted one of my favourite writers:

“What if we never ‘get over’ certain deaths, or our childhoods? What if the idea that we should have by now, or will, is a great palace lie? What if we’re not supposed to? What if it takes a life time…?”

~ Anne Lamott
(The whole, brilliant article is here:  http://us1.campaign-archive2.com/?u=b8e53c620300ae88791163048&id=2a470a789b  ).

 

Who will....img409.tif

And a quote from Maya Angelou:
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

I know from what I’ve read from other adoptees, that it’s quite common to feel an exaggerated need to be known…to be understood….and to have never felt that you belong anywhere. But also to have a “secret” side….that you have to keep buried…deep. That can be a road to obsessions and addictions……more later! Is that why I’ve kept so much shtuff? To say “I WAS here, I DID do things with my life…”, trying to prove that I have some worth here? An insecure self-esteem….which is not to say that I don’t have an over inflated ego about some of my work! The lack of confidence and fear of rejection got me striving for perfection…a damnable thing to live with!

iKBT memorial mg146

A 7ft tall oak carving, a memorial for folk lost at sea, in Kirkcudbright, Scotland. This piece is dear to me, as both my sons work on the sea.

 

A digression…I wrote that I’d explain the inclusion of photo’s …it’s the fragile self-esteem versus the inflated ego! I’ve never been good at “selling myself” or my work….I’m happiest making work for the love of it,  for people not for money, which I’m quite useless at. Perfectionism can be a curse…stemming from wanting to be above and beyond criticism…endlessly needing approval…and however good a piece of work may turn out, I’m forever driven to ‘prove’ myself over and over again.
Or I was.    I’m tired now.
So, Yes, these photo’s are me wanting to paint a complete picture… wanting to be accepted. Or rather, me wanting to paint the “Good” picture first, before writing of darker things, exposing the soft and muddy underbelly!

yew head

 

There’s a great book, by Nancy Newton Verrier, called The Primal Wound. In it she talks about how even a newborn baby, without words and concepts, can still FEEL loss, abandonment, bereavement…that the bonding process is when a baby puts touch, warmth, smell and sustenance to the voice it has heard in the womb. This leads to a seamless continuity, and a secure foundation for the ego to develop. If the baby or small child is separated from the mother the feelings can be internalised…with no words or concepts to process them….and so they are laid deep down in the psyche. Every time one feels insecure, or slighted,  abandoned or shamed,  it takes you straight back to that deep well of “It must be my fault.”

In my thirties I saw a great therapist, who asked me “Weren’t you angry with your parents for dying?”. I was incredulous, how could I be angry with them? She said “Charlie, you were two and a bit years old when your mother died, and a year later your father died too….you must have been a very angry young child”. Well, anger was an emotion that was utterly frowned upon in my new adopted family. (But of course, it came out in more covert ways.) And to make it even stranger to try and fit in, I had to learn to speak the Queen’s English, not the broad Mancunian that had surrounded me up until then. With anger so frowned upon, I saw my anger as shameful…if not positively dangerous…had my anger as a Terrible Two year old, driven my family away? Could my anger make the sky fall in? And when anger gets suppressed, it can manifest in depression, low self esteem, shame…..and, very rarely, a feisty, rebellious two year old, shouting “Feck the lot of youse!”  But I can’t even shout.

  I believe another reaction at such a young age, to parents dying, is that you might feel anger at losing the first, but losing the second and three elder sisters you might well think “It must be MY fault”. Internalising Anger, internalising Shame.
To quote Oscar Wilde: ”To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”

   I have a distant half memory of a witticism from Noel Coward; someone was commenting at the (possibly drunken) grief of a man who’d lost his father, Noel’s reply was along the lines of “It must be so hard to be an orphan….at 70 years old!”
   I learnt early on to be embarrassed, if not horrified by sympathy…and can remember saying at Primary School “Yes, I’m adopted, but I’m fine!”. Wanting to run with the pack, wanting to be the same, but unconsciously feeling “less than.” Always an outsider. And driven by a need to be accepted, to be beyond criticism…striving for perfection, a damnable road to travel.

 

ipad play...IMG_0010

A line from The Crock Of Gold, by James Stevens.

I’m not sure if folk who had happy and secure early years could imagine the rootlessness….the insecurity of adoptees? The feelings of inferiority, of shame, of never being good enough.
There again, I’ll never forget a situation where I was on my way back from a Demo against Nuclear submarines in Holy Loch. We were five women, one girl and my dog, and we got stranded in a Ford Estate, in a snowstorm for about seven hours. There was a marked difference between the reactions of the three mothers in the car and the two single women…one of whom really got on my nerves. (There’s a whole story about that night, but I’ll not tell it here, now!) So when we finally got back I went to a friends house, and was sounding off about the woman who’d riled me….the friend I was telling launched into equally disparaging comments about her, to which I guiltily thought I should redress the balance, and said “Well, she DID have a fucked up childhood”, to which my friend said “Charlie! We ALL had fucked up childhoods!”. Some truth in that alright!


Baby Angel img138

This blog is more than enough for folk to trawl through, and so I’ll end this post with a photo of a piece I carved some years back….I was talking with a friend this morning about Chance Triumphant……this piece was one of the first I exhibited in the RHA in Dublin. If my memory serves me correctly, it was bought by a couple who had had a stillborn child….
Offered here in memory of all the Lost babies…the stillbirths, the ones torn so harshly from their poor young mothers,  the ones who died from institutional neglect and were buried with no sign that they had ever been here….and for those who can Never Forget.

 

 

 

 

 

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17 responses to “A post for Orphans, Obsessives, Perfectionists and Addicts, with Wood Carvings…

  1. Powerful sculptures, powerful memories, powerful words. Thank you.
    For what it is worth, I was not adopted but I can relate to the non-belonging, the insecurities and the swallowing of anger. All things toxic and difficult to parse out when feeling overwhelmed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Virginia! I’ve just found your FB page, and am going to explore yr website…..fascinating work!
      It helps to have folk understand and identify…….writing personally can feel dangerous…but necessary!

      Like

      • I agree, there are a lot of people who, for whatever reason, don’t want to delve into the inner mind, much less read about it. I find that my more personal posts get less “likes” but way more interesting comments.
        One of my goals is to find friends who are more comfortable talking/writing about the “real stuff”. Keep it up…I’m there with you.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It is a great skill to be able to speak true and from the heart like you do. So many people still repressed and holding in and onto their anger and feelings of frustration. Beautiful, honest post and of course beautiful work of yours.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Such great writing Charlie, as many have said it is a gift to be so clear and straight from the heart. I too know the anguish of “am i good enough?” so well hidden that it was years before i was even aware of it myself – perhaps it’s part of the universal human experience? Just different degrees….
    And as for the carvings – well, you know you have my heart there too x

    Liked by 1 person

    • xxMiriamxx I think you’re right about ‘universal human experience’….just some of us are right off the scale!
      The answer I got from the Happiness Engineer involves <<<>>’s, and gawd knows what…talk about ‘old dog, new tricks’! I’m getting into hopeless guddles with switching phones too…just going to go and have an attack of the vapours! xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You are a fascinating person and your ability to convey your feelings through your writing is extraordinary. While I had none of the pain and turmoil of your beginnings I lived for a good part of my adult life in fear that people would ‘discover’ I wasn’t as accomplished as they thought…that I was a fraud and apparently that irrational fear is not unusual in women. Your carvings are exquisite – especially the final one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed it does! It seems that the more ’emotional’ posts don’t get the same feedback, but the feedback they do get is High Quality! ( By which I mean, the other person understands where I’m coming from!).
      Thank you for your kind words…I’m not computer literate, and very new to all this, so it’s lovely to feel that I’m not just casting words out into the wilderness! x
      P.S., I thought I’d answered this very early this morning…NOT my time of day! Just home from a very long day ouit, so forgive me if I answered already…

      Like

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