Road Trip

Some of the best and most challenging thoughts come to me the moment I wake up. Take this morning. My first thought was, I'm never quite sure I'm doing this life thing right. And of course, that thought brought up a slew of other such thoughts.

I remembered a trip my mom and I took in the spring of 1972. Joel was around 15 months old and we packed her Toyota to the seams with baby accoutrement and the three of us set out for a six-week road trip that took us from California to Texas to Louisiana, to Colorado, and back home again. We took turns driving and read The Lord of the Rings trilogy aloud to each other. It was one of the best times we ever spent together. But this entry isn't about that so much as it is about remembering my one supposed screw up during the trip...

In Colorado, where we spent a few days with family friends, I was invited to a band practice of one of our hosts' sons. I was 20, the same age as the guys in the band, and we jammed together at the bass player's house. It was great. I played guitar and a little drums and sang some, and we had a good time. No booze, no drugs, just a little fun making music. Earlier, when we'd left the house where I was staying, our hostess told us to have a good time and since I was with her son, I thought nothing about not coming back until practice was over. I'd gone with him, after all, and he was driving.

When we returned a little after 1:00 am and I went upstairs to the guest room that Mom and I shared, she was up and waiting for me, and she lit into me about being a bad guest, of embarrassing her in front of her friends, etc., etc.. I didn't think I'd done anything wrong, but she had flipped into one of her manic episodes and there was no stopping her. I knew the routine all too well. She became verbally and psychologically abusive, screaming loud enough for everyone in the house to hear. I was horribly embarrassed and ashamed, and she ruined the entire trip for me for years to come. Like any abusive person, she had a knack for finding the smallest thing and building it up her mind until it was all out of proportion (one is reminded of "Mommie Dearest"). She was monstrously hurtful when her hormone levels changed like that and because I was grown and she could no longer beat me, she let her tongue become the doubled up black leather belt she'd used on me when I was a kid.

As I lay in bed this morning thinking about that event, it occurred to me that whenever I begin to wonder if I've done life correctly or not, I can trace it back to my mother. I mean, yeah, sometimes I screw up of my own volition, but since her death I've started to realize that my mother's mental illness and subsequent abusive behavior played a huge part in creating my underlying sense of failure and futility. Just when I start to feel good about myself and my accomplishments, a huge, accusing finger juts down into my life and tries to push me back down the hill. That finger has always belonged to my mom. No wonder my relationship with "Goddess" has been problematic for me while that with "God" has been comforting. It's true that we create our Father/Mother God in the image of our earthly parents.

Sometimes, when I think of all I've been through, I'm amazed at how psychologically healthy I am. I can attribute this to a number of things. The most important is that, despite the abuse, there was never any doubt that I was loved; for every bad thing that happened, there were a hundred good things. But while much was expected of me as a child prodigy, I was indulged at least equally as much. Even up to their deaths, my parents indulged me, which did me no favors, really. I was never taught how to survive on my own with no net to catch me when I fall.

I'm sorry there's no big red bow to tie up this entry. I usually like to end with some pithy or insightful comment. I just wanted to get this thought out before it gets lost in the business of the day.