Friday, June 15, 2012

A House of Fear

Carrying "The House of Fear"
Digitally altered watercolor painting.

"A House of Fear"

I'm no countess, and I've never been to the Greek Islands, but I have lived in "A House of Fear" much of my life.  Like a turtle or a snail, I now carry that house of fear around with me. It's attached at the hip, and I cannot seem to shed it, no matter how I try.

It began in childhood, when my father had unexplainable black moods.  My mother taught us to be very quiet during his moods, to essentially disappear, to almost cease to be. I learned silence, I learned to never talk back, I learned not to speak my mind, I learned to hide in shadows.

My father was not always dark; he had a light side, too, a kind side.  He took us hiking, canoeing and camping, read stories to us, sang songs, played card and board games with is. But I never knew when the happy husk of my loving father would split and the monster father would emerge.  The monster was dark and carried a storm around with him, palpable black clouds hovered over his head and the air was thick with tension.

My father rarely hurt us physically.  And back then, not everyone considered using a belt on a "bad" child abuse.  I became a bad child, in my own mind, anyway, because of those uncommon but terrifying and painful punishments.  My mother used a paddle.  Her moods were not as scary, and her punishments seemed to "fit the crime."

When I left home, I chose a man, Pietro, like my father in many ways, only this man beat me and physically abused me, more and more often, and with more and more severe results.  I retreated deeper inside myself, when fighting back and running away didn't help.  He always found me, and the punishment was even worse.

I am free of Pietro now, and with a new man, Keith, who treats me kindly and lovingly, most of the time.  The trip here was long, arduous and incredibly difficult.  And the snail shell of my House of Fear often comes between us.  My husband says, "I am not Pietro!!"  He becomes confused or angry when I am fearful, tearful or angry.  He doesn't seem to understand that knowing he is not Pietro intellectually does not free me from the burden of my horrible House of Fear.

The house of fear has grown into my flesh, into my bones, into my brain, into my heart with deep, vicious tentacles that are difficult to extract.  It is my emotional reactions to things Keith says or does, most often with complete innocence, that cause flare-ups between us.  

I want to be free of the House of Fear.  Sometimes I worry that the roots of pain, the structure of the House of Fear, is so deeply embedded that any attempt to truly extract them would simply kill me.

THis story was originally written for Cowbird as a response to another story.


John said...

And yet Mary, here you are a wonderfully creative artist and writer, a loving wife and Mother. So many wonderful things to dwell on too! This house of fear in itself cannot be forgotten, yet is it possible that it can be renovated to reflect all that is positive in your life?

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Hi John, I don't mean to dwell on the negative--this was written in response to an article by someone else.

While joy and light are LIGHT and airy. pain is heavy and invested with a lot of deep energy, so that when something touches a chord, it is easy for it to spill out.

THat doesn't mean my life is full of darkness.

My painting has some of that light . . .

John said...

Your art is wonderful Mary.You are very brave to share your story and I passed it to my partner to read, her experience is not to dis-similar and it meant a lot to her to hear your story.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Thanks, John, see, I tend to take comments as criticicism and respond defensively!

But light is pouring into the diningroom and music is playing and I am content in my NOW!!

jo(e) said...


Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Thanks for the hug, jo(e)