Messy House (Preface)

Photo Credit: Hale Newcomb, Photo Art: Bonnianne Ratliff

I was never able to keep a diary until I discovered blogging. Although I struggle with social anxiety and so appear in some ways to be an introvert, in theory and in constitution I am actually an extrovert nourished by human connection. Interacting with people is what gives me energy. So back in the dark ages of the early 2000s I started my first blog at It’s terrible. Completely. It’s dull, full of lists of what I did or it’s griping about stupid things my ex said. Why anyone wanted to read it, I will never understand. But they did and I’m glad because that is ultimately the vehicle that helped me fully grow into the person I am today.

Blogging regularly taught me introspection. As my entries began to become more complex, I learned to examine who I was and who I wanted to become. One entry in particular was boiling beneath the surface of my mind for a while before it finally manifested, the entry that led not only to my own sanity, but to this thesis. I no longer remember where the idea came from, just that it was itching under my skin, insisting that it come out until I could no longer hold my silence: I told my friends and readers everything. It was not a well-written essay by any means, but it was pure and purifying. It was confessional. My mind and psyche purged all the illness that had been fostered and festered. I disrobed and stepped out of my skin, standing nakeder than naked in front of my friends and readers; I was seen for the first time, ever.

My mother held her secrets close and nurtured them, cherished them even though they ate away at her like cancers. She forced them upon me; she fed them to me until they became a part of my skin, my genetics. It was not until I became angry enough with her that I was able to say something.

My first baby was born at home. It was a good birth, long but slow, powerful and primal. I left behind my socialized self and became raw and pure. There she was, I reached down and pulled her up to me, all purple with arms reaching up and out, and she just looked around at the world while we held on to each other.

My mother had not been invited. She did not take this well.

She began calling and calling and leaving crying messages on the machine about how hurt she was. Midwives are badass warrior women and mine offered to speak to her, to kick her out if she tried to come over. They mothered me when I had no mother.

I don’t know if it was her ridiculousness of turning the birth of my first child into her own personal trauma, or if it was the primalcy of the birth itself that allowed me to finally sprout, but there I was, planted among the blood and placenta of new life. Fertile. Angry – a freeing anger provided the energy needed to grow this new me. My daughter was born that day, and so was I. And so, too, was the garden in which I would eventually plant the seed that became this thesis, and someday, a full book.

I walked away from that blog post physically lighter, psychologically cleaner. The change was immediate and incredible. I learned that one must speak one’s truths, even – especially – if they are difficult. Over the years, as I have spoken up about more and more of my secrets, I have found people who needed to hear them, and I needed to hear from those people. When we become naked together, we become stronger than when we hide in the dark alone.
That, then, is where this project began. In my desire to cleanse myself of Her shit and in my desire to open up so that others can learn they are not alone. It is my confession as much as it is my offering to anyone in need of it: you are not alone.

My mother is my greatest mystery, a case I must solve. I am compelled to search and search for answers, although I realize there never will be one. I have read through her old journals and letters. I have talked with my aunt, LuAnne, who was my mother’s younger sister and thus the only other person on the planet who knows what it feels like to have been shaped by Karen’s manipulative hands from an age too young to remember. I have scoured old family documents seeking out the truths behind who my grandparents were and how they came to be the parents who raised my parent. I have researched mental illnesses that my mother may have had. I have Googled places she lived in the hopes that even they may provide some clarity. My maternal grandmother, who I am not unlike in many wonderful ways, was the family historian and whether because I inherited this desire, or because she shared so many family stories with me as a child, I seem to have fallen into this role myself now. It has been strangely fulfilling to see my memories and half-memories confirmed and clarified through research and late-night Google searches.

I have pulled my knowledge of feminist and spiritual theory from Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Irene Lara, Sadie Plant, Ina May Gaskin, Shelley Jackson and many more. Always at the heart of my personal philosophies on life are Madeleine L’Engle and Douglas Adams.

I have sewn this piece together like Shelley/Jackson’s Patchwork Girl* herself, made up of old letters; journal entries; my own memories and understandings of how everything happened; and found poetry created from notes my mother left on envelopes, paper plates, and other miscellaneous bits. I have worked hard to make this as factual as possible while still providing creative insight into each player’s own mind and heart.

In L’Engleian-Adamsian fashion, I recognize that nothing in life is singular. I have tried to express that interconnectedness, as well as the “messy” foundations my mother laid for my life with her mental illnesses through the format I have created here wherein stories are meshed together and narratives interrupt each other through time and space in order to weave a more spiritually accurate version of my life, of Life in general.
Here I open myself to you, connected and interconnected, as a gift to me and to anyone who needs this.

Photo Courtesy Newcomb Family Photos

*From Shelley Jackson’s hypertext (electronic literature) Patchwork Girl. Jackson credits herself as Shelley/Jackson in this hypertext because she is pulling from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and creating a sort of collaborative story.