First of all, never ever forget this. Dreamweaver is brave. Brave and heroic! Every trip to Arkansas carries with it bittersweet pain, co-mingled with nightmare. She is only just beginning to build a body of memory that has joy and happiness associated with "going to Arkansas". The entire state is one great big PTSD trigger for her; returning to it is always an act of courage and faith.
She was born in Indiana and then uprooted as a child to Arkansas away from family, her church and all she had ever known by events beyond her control - she only learned some of the truths behind that event so long ago on this trip, in conversation with her father. Her mother has schizophrenia...there is no way to over estimate the collateral damage this illness can cause in a child's life when a parent has this illness. Her mother, (let it be pointed out, only because of the grip of the illness, its paranoia and the voices in her head), neglected, abused and communicated to her only daughter that she, Dreamweaver, was not wanted. Was not loved. That she should not have existed. Her mother withheld love and affection, often acting as if Dreamweaver did not exist, even to the point of withholding food. There was no stability in that house. Rules changed. Permission to do the smallest thing would be given and rescinded hours later, harsh punishment always followed. Dreamweaver learned to live without a hard and fast reality. Learned that rules were not to be trusted. Learned that nothing was ever safe. And as she grew up, Arkansas, with its deeply abusive conservatism and unspoken unreasonable societally constructed "rules" became hell on earth. No matter what she did, she could never get it right. No matter what she did, nothing ever made sense. There was no hard and fast ground to stand on, any where.
She fled Arkansas and her first short unwanted marriage (her mother literally forced Dreamweaver to marry the young man she was then dating, though Dreamweaver did not want to). She was then her late teens, with no concept of what a normal life was or how to function in the "real" world. And the real world, as it does so many of us, chewed her up and spit her out. She returned shattered and broken to Arkansas, remarried, had two sons. There is a lot of this story I am not telling, because its her story to tell...but I am going to focus on a certain part of the story, with her permission, in this post. Her second husband was a complicated problem. He was a good man as best he knew how to be. He was funny and he loved his sons....but he was also chronically depressed, an unambitious man who would only ever have a high school education and a low paying factory job in one factory his whole life, and his wit could and did turn sarcastic and cruel. He was so far out of his league being married to Dreamweaver, that I can sometimes muster up some pity for him.
Dreamweaver is stunningly intelligent, she wanted more than dirt ignorance and a lonely house, a community that rejected her, and a factory or cashier job in perpetuity. She struggled with her past. She had to commit her mother to institutionalized care during those years, because her father would not step up to the plate and deal with the situation. She struggled with rejection, never fitting in any where, in their church or community. She also struggled with the beginnings of chronic life long depression, and then further, with post-postpartum depression on top of that after the birth of her second son. She struggled to parent two small active children, with no skills, no help, no way to know how to be a parent; when all she had ever known of parenting herself was abuse and mistreatment, passed down through generations of dysfunctional families. She feared desperately her own temper, her own lack of understanding or knowledge, her isolation, and lack of parenting skills. She did her best, and all the while, her soon to be Ex husband, either could not or would not give her the support, the care, the kindness, the understanding she needed to survive and escape her past. He loved her...but he did not love her unconditionally, he could not connect the dots between her past hell and her present struggle. He judged and he cut her with his words, driving her further into depression and shame.
And lets be honest - Dreamweaver struggled with a temper, that was created by and complicated by PTSD triggers, and damaged attachment from her childhood. She had no way to self soothe, or to understand how the effects of her abusive childhood were shattering her ability to manage relationships. There is no way around the fact that she was not easy to live with...but she knew too, that something wasn't right. At one point, pleading for help, struggling with Post-partum depression on top of her already desperate situation, she called DSS on herself, terrified of her own behaviors and temper. DSS, got her a baby sitter for one afternoon, sent her to the mall for a few hours, and closed the case. Not, as you might guess, a lot of help there...
And of course, this marriage ended. And Dreamweaver gave the care and custody of her children to her Ex, terrified of and fleeing the possibility that she would pass on to them the damage done to her by her mother, and dysfunctional past. She struck out to make something of herself, to have a career and a life and to afford more for her children someday in the future, when things might someday be better.
She wanted college, and a world where education and a career made a difference. Today she holds a BA, an MA, an EDS, and is a liscenced therapist working in her field and seeking to build a private practice. She began back then by entering college in Indiana. Her marriage with Ex may have ended...but of course, when you have children together, like it or not, you must continue to co-parent. To be in a relationship with the person you have divorced. The Ex stayed in Arkansas, with the boys; Dreamweaver went to college, looking out and up. She earned her BA in English in Indiana, and during that time, she dated men, but never looked for more than friendship and fun. School was her main focus and passion. She traveled endless miles to see her sons, and beggared herself financially to bring them to her for visitation, all the while struggling with the endless guerrilla warfare of the Ex, who resented her and her involvement in her own sons lives. She would arrive in Arkansas, for her scheduled time with her sons, to find "plans" made that prevented her from being with them, or circumventing what she had planned to do with them. She dealt constantly with manipulation, and shortened visits, and spiteful behavior from her Ex, and legally she probably could have called him on it in the courts, if she had known how the system worked, how it was being played against her.
Her relationship with her parents remained strained at best, but she did see them, off and on, and so did the grandchildren, Dreamweaver's sons.During those years she remarried once again, and then was widowed, which was a shattering event unto itself. And now we come to something that happened that was to nearly destroy Dreamweaver. She was dating/friends with an Indian man - Indian as in India, the country, not the American indigenous people - who also knew the kids, and spent time with them when he could. Their relationship caused difficulties for them when they were in Arkansas - he was very dark skinned, and they were taunted with racists slurs and bigotry; at one point they were very nearly run off the road by another car for being an interracial couple. Dreamweaver considered him a friend more than a boyfriend, though they were dating. She kept the relationship very circumspect, especially when the children were visiting her. And then disaster struck...Indian had a car wreck. He was alone in the car, no one was with him; the kids who were up visiting, were with Dreamweaver, elsewhere.
And out of the blue, the next time she went to Arkansas to pick up her children at their school, she was presented with a restraining order denying her ability to see them, alleging endangerment by allowing them to be in the car with a man not she was not married to, and allegedly involving them in the wreck - which they were not! they were never anywhere near the wreck - and calling for her appearance in court to most likely lose her visitation rights. It was a cobbled up lie, complete fiction, and it was about to cost her her children. And underneath it boiled the societal prejudices against non-custodial mothers, and interracial dating. Horrified, she sought a lawyer and set out to endure the separation from her children, struggling to prepare for the court. In the end, the legal advice she was given was brutally simple...if you ever want to see your children again, even though none of this is your fault, and none of it really happened, you and Indian must get married. Its your only choice, your only hope,your only chance, she was told, because due to cultural prejudice and small town politics, you will not win this one. If you and he are legally married, then it becomes null and void. Stunned, heartsick and exhausted, Dreamweaver complied, marrying Indian, before the court date, even though she did not really want to. Every instinct she had warned her that this was not what she should do. And it was her only choice, or otherwise she would not see her sons again for over a decade. (this made Arkansas legal history btw; the laws were amended after what happened to her so that restraining orders could never again be served to a parent on school grounds, which is what happened to her when she went to pick up her sons on that horrible day.)
The courts case crumbled, and years later Ex apologized for the harm he had done by pushing the flawed and illegal case at the behest of an ambitious and hungry lawyer. (little did he know, for he knows nothing of what really happened after.) Her youngest son, the Enlightened One, shaken by the obvious lies, and by not seeing her for so long, requested to change custody to her care; he was too young to legally make the choice to go live with her...but her older son, The Marine, was old enough to petition the courts. And so they moved in with her, later, when she came to live in Atlanta with Indian.
But now, Dreamweaver was married to Indian. And her instinct that she really didn't want to marry him proved out to be fatally right. Indian turned out to be her darkest nightmare. Ex was a confused, narrow, judgmental man, a product of white patriarchal male Arkansas culture at its most bigoted narrowest, but he tried to love Dreamweaver - he just no more had the skills to be in a relationship then she did, at the time. He did and does love his sons... but Indian was an honest-to-god Sociopath, for real, with no conscience or morality to speak of. His intent from the beginning had been Dreamweaver's destruction, and once he married her, as carelessly cruel as a cat playing with an injured mouse, he set out to ruin her, and perhaps even end her life. And he nearly succeeded. Those years I will not tell - that is Dreamweaver's tale to tell, should she ever so desire to. And I am not sure this blog is the appropriate place to tell that part of her story. Those were her darkest years and they became a horror. Suffice to say, she survived...broken and wounded beyond telling, but survived. Taking the advice of an alarmed and determined therapist who told her, "if you don't get out, that man will kill you", she finally fled the relationship
And in the very end she went on to thrive, but those intervening years cost her dearly. Fleeing Indian, vulnerable and wounded, struggling alone in Atlanta with two children to now provide for, she stumbled into one final last bad relationship with yet one more cruel man. And that wound up costing her everything she had fought so hard to save - her home, her finances, her spiritual community. And part of what she lost in the end was her children after all. Shaken by the damage of the last man's manipulative evil, her now teenaged children fled back to Arkansas. The Enlightened One would not speak of what happened, though he told his mother "you were right" as he left. The Marine, bitter, deceived by the last man's machinations, and as judgmental as his own father, broke off his relationship with his mother altogether. It would be years before Dreamweaver would ever hear from either of her sons - and then only sporadically from The Enlightened One, despite his love for her. The Marine remains cut off from us, denying us the ability to see and know our grandchildren. Those years were agony for her. And Arkansas became the nightmare of her memories.
I want to add here, that I was there for part of this. I saw Indian from a distance. I knew Dreamweaver back then, and the man she was with in the final relationship. I saw his lies and manipulation and was even deceived myself by them for a short time. I saw it all come apart, and helped Dreamweaver move out of her condo when she lost it, into her best friends basement. I was ring side to the unraveling revelation of just how manipulative this man was, destroying not only Dreamweaver's life and hopes, but also a local church youth group as its youth minister (lying about credentials he did not have). When she needed a new start, I opened my home to her in another state, little knowing that our friendship would blossom into love and marriage. So, I can attest to the brutal truths of what Dreamweaver has survived.
Two years ago, the Enlightened One invited us to his wedding to Scientist, the incredibly beautiful and talented young woman he had met in college. And so, for the first time in 12 years, Dreamweaver returned to the land of her nightmares, back to Arkansas, for her son's wedding and to see her parents. That trip, two years ago, is told HERE in my blog, one of its earliest posts. It is worth reading to put this post and Dreamweaver's past 10 days in Arkansas in perspective. While we were there for that trip, we made a stunning alarming discovery that changed EVERYTHING Dreamweaver knew, or thought she knew about the events leading up to the restraining order and her marriage to Indian. We still don't talk about it much, but it changed the fabric of the landscape of her life forever, based on what her dad told her. I think we are verging on talking about it at last and exploring what it means.
So,two years ago, on that first trip back, we had been talking to her father about the past, touching very high level on that time, when she married Indian and the lawsuit against her. And he told us what REALLY happened. Shortly before Dreamweaver was presented with the restraining order on the school grounds that fateful day she went to pick up her kids, her sons were in Arkansas visiting with Dreamweaver's parents - their grandparents. The kids were suppose to stay overnight, and then Dreamweaver was to take them home to their father, the Ex. However, unbeknownst entirely to Dreamweaver, Ex called her father in high handed dungeon and demanded that the kids come home right then. Dreamweaver, aware of her precarious position as a non-custodial parent, would have taken the kids home, if she had gotten the call. It had happened before. However, her Father, who did not and does not like Ex, developed a nice case of stubborn male mulishness, and flatly and pointedly refused to allow Ex to get his kids before the appointed time. They fought about it, with Ex hanging up, furious and seeing red, determined to Do Something About This. And the next time Dreamweaver, all unknowing went to pick her sons up at school, she was confronted with that restraining order and the court case.
So....Ex's "Something" turned out to be seeking out a lawyer for advice, who saw - I presume - a shaky "legal" maneuver to deny Dreamweaver's custody rights, based on Indian's car wreck. We suddenly for the first time ever, knew why it happened. Realized that due to her father's insensitive, unilateral handling of a very tense situation, that Dreamweaver nearly lost her sons, her sanity was nearly destroyed, her life endangered, and the circumstances that led to her kids cutting her off were laid in train. And, her father, told the story to us with an oblivious disregard for the consequences of his actions - he knew that the marriage with Indian ended badly, if not the whole story, and yet there is no apology or sorrow for what his actions eventually cost Dreamweaver. Instead, all he seemed to see is that he got the better of Ex, in not letting the children go home. I find this disturbing, profoundly so. If something I had done had caused such devastating long range effects on someone's life, particularly someone I loved, I would be down on my knees in horror begging forgiveness! Instead all her father seems to be able to see is that he was "righteously right" and won the argument with Ex. And I doubt he will ever see it in any other light, given his general patriarchal sense of self entitlement.
It is almost incomprehensible to me that Dreamweaver survived these years at all. And they took their toll on her, in ways that still haunt her to this very day. But survive she did. And more then merely "survive". She is thriving! She went on, and over came the damages done to her psyche, learned how to love, how to be in relationship, how to function in ways she never dreamed of and had never experienced. This incredible, beautiful woman who is my best friend, my partner, my wife, has become so much more then the "sum of her parts", overcoming a life time of abuse that would have - should have killed her. She is loving, and strong, gentle and kind. And if she still has occasional bad moments, when memories, and fears trigger her old temper and PTSD rises up, she also masters those moments, trusting in love, and her own inner truths to over come them. She did what she set out to do...she broke the legacy of abuse and shattered attachments and did not pass them on to her sons. Enlightened One and Marine are both happily married, strong loving men who care deeply for their families, and if both of them carry some personal baggage from those years, still they did not endure what Dreamweaver endured - she stopped the legacy of abuse from passing down to yet another generation.
So going back to Arkansas for her is a heroic task. This trip was especially unnerving, as for the first time she returned alone, without my support and comfort by her side. Every time she returns, old horrors and memories struggle up from the past to ride her shoulder and try to darken her heart. And now, every time she returns, slowly but surely reconciling with her parents, enjoying the rich happy relationship of love, joy and laughter she is building with Enlightened One and Scientist, renewing old friendships, she is creating new memories. These new experiences are a journey towards a new future for her with her family, new hopes and new dreams. She dreams of being a grandmother in truth to Enlightened One and Scientist's children some day; she has already had one unbelievable dream come true she never expected to hear - her mother saying "I always wanted a daughter", speaking from beyond the illness that hid that all those years.
Arkansas will always be bitter sweet for her - difficult and charged with old horror. But I believe that someday, these new moments of love and hope will allow the sweet to begin to outweigh the bitter.
And I am honored to be in Dreamweaver's life, to be a part of her journey, to know and understand the message her life holds for us. And that message is that even though the past can never be forgotten, the affects of a life time of pain and sorrow do not have to rule our lives. That there is always hope. That change is always possible. And that now abide faith, hope and love - and that the greatest of these is love. Thank you Dreamweaver. I love you with all my heart!