I have the Audible App and if you aren’t a reader but still enjoy books this is the way to go. Audible can open a new world of knowledge. I hate reading, always have. I think it goes back to my junior secondary school days in year 7 when I was put in a remedial reading class. It made me feel so dumb. I discuss this in https://the-world-thru-my-eyes.blog/2019/02/18/why-i-write-a-blog/
I could read but at school I was always a slower reader. I love books and what we can learn from them. I can listen and still drive, do things around the house. Reading books you need to sit still and apart from not enjoying reading, I don’t have time to sit still and read. By listening to books in the car I can use my time moving myself from one destination to another productively. Time in the car doesn’t feel so much like wasted moments.
My latest book, Educated, by Tara Westover, is great read\listen. I highly recommend it. Jane my daughter suggested it to me and when I started listening, it took a few chapters (5 or so) to get into it because it seemed about a bunch of hillbilly’s. But I persisted on Jane’s recommendation and so glad I did. This is one of the best books I’ve read, well, listened to.
It is interesting and thought provoking on so many levels. The book is a memoir. The author was raised in a survivalist Mormon family. It touches on racism, family violence, education, religion, relationships, mental health, love, neglect and belief in ourselves. In the Rocket Man movie based on Elton Johns life there’s a line…
‘you have to kill the person you were born to be, to be the person you want to be’.
This book has a similar theme about breaking away. If you intend to read it warning, spoiler alert. Don’t read any further!
Through her childhood she was physically and mentally abused by her brother. Told she was a whore, told how to think, what to believe, what to wear and physically humiliated. Her father’s extreme religious beliefs forced upon her. ‘The Lord will provide’. Emotional and physical pain became her norm. Ridicule was easier to withstand than kindness and praise. It took a long time after her initial break away to accept gratitude and admiration.
Tara writes how she felt different to others at University. Her clothes were different and she was different. She says even if she did have nice clothes she still wouldn’t be one of them. The professor points out that it’s not the clothes that will make her belong it’s her believing in herself. That she deserved to be there and have opportunity just as the other students.
‘She was just a cockney in a nice dress until she believed in herself then it didn’t matter what dress she wore.’
(Quote taken from the novel Educated)
Self belief is empowering. Getting an education, where she was able to learn about many different points of view on many different aspects and events of the world gave her the freedom to be her own person. To decide what she believed and how that meant living her life. She mentions in an interview, ‘that thinking about the world from another persons point of view is education. Respecting other people is the first step to respecting yourself’. She goes on to say, ‘learning about why other people shouldn’t be treated a certain way, is a step on the way to thinking that you shouldn’t be treated a certain way either.
Abuse is an assault on the mind. (Abusers) They have to invade your reality and they have to distort it. They have to change how you see yourself and what you think happened. The abuser has to have this almost kind of mind control’. She writes in her journal as a 16 year old her version of an abusive event and her brothers point of view as two separate narratives. She allows herself to remain sure of her version. Her bother the abuser plays down the incident. She relayed how she wanted to believe his version because that’s easier than believing her own, which is one of abuse. She wants to believe he doesn’t really mean to hurt her because that version is nicer.
She allowed herself this time to write she was frightened, she was in pain and that had she been able to tear her brother apart she would of. He says to her again after this incident, it was just a game, you should of told me if you weren’t having fun. It was the first time she couldn’t say what he’d experienced, his version, because it’s his version, but she knew what she had experienced and she knew she had not been having fun and that was her view of it and she wasn’t going to change that to accomodate him or make him feel more comfortable. This was the moment she started to see her experiences for what they were, abuse, and knew it wasn’t how she wanted to be treated. A step to breaking away and evolvement as a person.
She goes on to talk about love. She says she wasn’t tricked into loving her brother the abuser, she actually loved him ( most of the time he was nice to her ) and she loved her parents. The love was real and that sometimes the idea of love is really simplistic and we think of it as something that fixes everything. If the love is real then, she goes on to explain, you definitely have to stay, and that the relationship is great because there’s love in the relationship. Tara has a different interpretation around love. Love is not the great conquer so often believe by many. Tara believes the only way to respect love is to respect its limits, and respect that it doesn’t give you the power to change other people. You can love someone and still choose to say goodbye to them because it’s not really a question of whether you love them but whether they belong in your life. She says,
‘You can still miss someone everyday but still be glad they aren’t in your life’.
She could step back and look at her childhood and her parents and see they loved her but their love had limits. She could never change them.
She became estranged from her parents. This was a difficult time for her. She grieved her family and want of a family life but knew, the evolved her couldn’t exist in both worlds. That the way they believed she should live her life she knew she no longer could once becoming educated. Their extreme views did not allow compromise and she could no longer bow to their commands and forget another narrative she now knew in her head.
Education had given her new perspective on beliefs. She had been able to form her own opinions as a result of being more informed. Her beliefs no longer aligned with her parents or the Mormon beliefs. She chose to also leave the Mormon Church.
With time she was able to develop a new narrative around who she was. The person she wanted to be.
She knew her father cared about her safety yet they were never safe. If she got hurt she felt like she had done something wrong . She now believes her dad has some kind of mental illness. She says that because of the way her father’s brain worked he didn’t have the ability to understand risk, he didn’t have the ability to understand that they could get hurt and that after the fact he would interpret harm as something God had wanted to happen as a path to spirituality. It wasn’t something about safety but something about the way his mind worked . The mental irregularity he had caused the religious extremism that it wasn’t the other way around. She wants to make that clear that this novel is a negative on Mormonism. She struggled with some of the mainstream Mormon beliefs such as the ideal of polygamy and that is one reason she chose to leave the church
The author confronts her mother about her abuse. Her mother admits her view around mental illness of her father and knowledge of abuse by her son towards Tara and her sister and her sons wife. This acknowledgment was healing. Her mother saying , ‘you were my child I should of protected you’ gave validation. Her mother telling her she had not been the mother she’d wished she’d been, was a mother who was saying sorry for all that had happened, acknowledging she was not protected and cared for in a way she ought to have been and acknowledged all the wrongs that had been done to her.
Acknowledgement and validation of feelings can be healing. It heals self blame, it assures all the feelings felt, the longing for protection were not crazy or wrong. That all those feelings, all that happened actually happened and at last someone believes you and confirms wrong doing was done and it should of not happened. That ones not crazy that one was justified for feeling what was felt. Her mother was no longer looking away at that point.
Her mother validating her experience freed her of her shame about her family because she believed the wrongs were being righted. That her abuser was going to be confronted and made accountable. That what her abuser did was unacceptable and could not continue to treat others this way. That there would be an end to these shameful acts and an acknowledgment in that accountability that gave freedom from repression.
What had happened in her childhood was not ok. Having that acknowledged gave her confidence to tell others about what had happened. Allowed her to say this horrible stuff actually happened to me that was wrong. Until this validation from her sister confronting their mother and her mother’s response she had not spoken a word about her upbringing and childhood to anyone. She hid it, embarrassed and ashamed.
She now had had her suspicions confirmed. Her mother admitting her father’s mental health was the reason for her survivalist Mormon upbringing that it wasn’t because of a radical religion, that all his extremism was driven by a force of his twisted mind. An unwell mind. And that her mother turning a blind eye from the harm this brought all her children was why they became damaged individuals mentally and physically. All this made the thoughts in her mind real and ok. Something to work towards changing. She could begin to heal. To change the narrative in her head and positively build on moving forwards.
The power of saying sorry can not be underestimated .
To turn a blind eye, having lack of strength to stand up to something you know is wrong to protect another can be damaging to those affected and also also cannot be underestimated.
She had come to prefer the family she had chosen than the one she had been given. She felt more comfortable at Cambridge. Her friends in Cambridge had become a sort of family and she felt a sense of belonging with them . She felt guilty that she preferred a teacher than her own father.
Her brother, her abuser confronts her about what her sister had said about abuse. He denies it. She doesn’t respond. She turns to her father after her brother has threatened to kill his sister. Her father becomes verbally aggressive and says she has no proof of any abuse. Her mother sat silent. She was alone, her mother would not stand up for her in front of her father.
She runs to the bathroom in tears. Stares in the mirror now wearing a cashmere sweater. She looks at her reflection as many times before but this time it was different. Her cashmere sweater wasn’t the difference, it was her mind that was now different just like her professor had told her earlier about the cockney women. That it didn’t matter what clothes she wore that made the difference it was believing in her own thoughts, her own values, morals, her own self. That was now the difference. The power of her self belief, that’s what had changed. Her belief in what’s right and wrong and of how she should be treated and that she had the power to remove herself from the toxicity of her family. She had the knowledge, this new insight, to see them for the extremists and unhealthy thoughts and beliefs they had as a result of altered mental health, coercion and violence. Their one dimensional lives were never more apparent. She was now different to them.
She loved them but they did not belong in her life the way they were. She could no longer be around any person who believed and lived their life that didn’t align with her own beliefs she had been able to develop through education. Through having the opportunity to hear multiple opinions and form her own. That is education and she was now educated.
When living in a house of constant chaos and abuse she had numbed herself, shut down as a coping mechanism. Once educated and living abroad, away from the abuse, her mind freed from her guilt of believing what had happened in her childhood, knowing it wasn’t her fault, and now having experienced, kindness and tenderness and admiration in her life, she was frightened by her brothers reaction to her at her family home in front of her parents when he confronted her about her claims he was also abusive to her as well as his sister. She no longer had those shut down numbing feelings that protected her in the past from his abuse. However that numbing, that shutting down of self was actually the harm he had done at the time, she could see that now. He had stopped her from feeling. She now knew of an alternate existence. He brings her a bloodied knife and tells her to kill herself because it will be easier than what he is going to do. She went into survival mode, denied having said anything, she placated him. She smiled, accepted his apology like the old Tara would have but this time it all was fake. She devised an escape plan like abusers are advised to do and left when safe to do so.
She had once again not been protected by the very two people who she should of been able to rely upon to do so, her parents. Her father failed to believe her and her mother lacked the strength to stand up to her father and had lied to her that her brother was being dealt with. That the wrongs would be righted. Her mother’s previous words of understanding were now seen as shallow, insincere and empty.
She writes about the individual relationships with her siblings, her brother that encouraged her to go to school, her brother who she always felt was smarter than her and her sister who encouraged her to speak out about the abuse but then turned as a result of the abusive brother and her parents persuasion. She accused Tara of being the person who caused conflict and lead her astray and sent an email telling Tara she was no longer welcome in her home. There became a divide between the three siblings that had doctorates and the non educated members of the family. Richard, Tyler and Tara left Idaho and educated themselves.
One of the wonderful outcomes of reading a novel is that we all take out of it something different because of our own interpretations resulting from our beliefs of our own life experiences. This has been my interpretation of the book after reading it and after listening to multiple interviews the author has done since it’s publishing.
It’s provoked thought within myself of aspects of my life. Although I have not endured such things as she has, I am still able to relate to the context and situations I have been in that have helped mould me. It has given rise to help my own personal growth around my own insecurities developed throughout my childhood and life experiences as a young adult, highlighting a belief I have developed . The belief that being you is your uniqueness, your power. It’s what makes you interesting and intriguing. It is what separates you from anyone else and you should stand tall, embrace it and feel self assured your uniqueness is something to love because you are like no other and can offer to the world something no other can. That your presence, your being has a place in this world. Your opinions can help educate others and help others become who they will be. That your footprint on the path of others will remain long after your are gone. Your impact you have on others can be positive or negative and that aiming to leave this world with people speaking fondly of you for all your quirkiness, weirdness, intellectual self and life experiences, kindness, is a legacy that is wonderful to leave.
You matter. Your thoughts matter. Your presence matters. We are all just trying to make sense of this world we exist in. None of us have all the answers but we can learn from the past and each other.
We can also love someone but still know they have no place in your life but miss them everyday. I think that’s quite profound.
We continually self evolve. Sometimes this is done once removed from a situation and we can reflect. Our life as we live it is an evolution of ourselves. It makes us who we are. Our unique self, that matters.
Love Lucy x
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