I am not a victim. But I am a result. I’ve always said that we are all a melting pot of our own life experiences, and I truly believe that. People will say that I got what I needed while growing up… you know, a roof over my head, food in my stomach, access to a good education and a stable family life. That is all true. I dare say, and this may hurt some feelings, that I didn’t get what I wanted… or thought I needed.
This is where the “result” part comes in. I was the youngest of four, and the only girl. I had a tough love kind of Dad and typical 50’s-60’s kind of Mom. First, I was not one of the boys. I don’t think my father knew how to deal with that. Second, he came from a fractured family (not due to anything nefarious, but due to the fact that he lost his mom to a stroke, for all intents and purposes, when he was nine, and she passed away when he was sixteen). His family structure was simply atypical. His father worked endless hours and he was left to be raised by his mother’s nurse and his sister who was ten years his senior. What I needed from my Dad, he was simply unable to give… and that was tenderness.
My mother, who I am bless to still have with me, was most definitely a product of the times. At eighteen, she went from under her father’s wing to under my father’s wing. Protected and provided for, I don’t think she blossomed into the woman G-d intended her to be until she unfortunately lost her husband of 49 years, my dad, at a relatively early age by today’s standards. I heard a lot of “wait till your father gets home…” while growing up. It was clear he ruled the roost. Mom didn’t exert herself until much later on, and I don’t think it had anything to do with the women’s movement. It came later, when she started to discover her own voice.
As for me, I was caught between two generations. I had parents that were a little “old-fashioned,” yet I was a flower child, hippie, boomer, women’s movement all rolled into one. I wanted to do one thing, and was discouraged from it for one reason or another. At the same time, I didn’t want upset them or be insolent. I was taught to respect my elders, honor thy father and mother, ya know? I was actually afraid of my father, to tell the truth.
Socially, I was a pariah. I didn’t seem to fit in anywhere. I wasn’t the kid everyone picked on, but I wasn’t in the clique… I wasn’t one of the “mean girls”… I wasn’t a “Pink Lady.” Got the picture? I did whatever I had to in order to fit in with whomever I was with. A chameleon. I did this on a regular basis, all through my “formative” years. About the only think I stuck to was drama. It was my safe haven, I imagine for very obvious reasons. When I was on stage, I could be anybody but me. I never thought of it as self-loathing. It was more like lack of self-identity.
When I reached adulthood, not too much had changed. I think every woman goes through these kind of growing pains at some point in their lives. I didn’t go through it yet. I was pretty much a late bloomer in just about everything. The whole world was experiencing the sexual revolution and there I was at 23, still a virgin. First, I was afraid of men. You would think having grown up with three older brothers I would be more comfortable around them, but it actually worked against me. Any of their friends on whom I might develop a crush was automatically a lost cause to me… I was a little sister, so I was off limits.
Without going into much detail I will say too, that I had experienced in my short life, three separate incidents of sexual abuse by then. (One was a near-rape from which I had escaped when I was 17). I even had a brief lesbian relationship because , well, because. It happened. It freaked me out, because it was right in the middle of Anita Bryant and Stonewall. I fell in love with a woman and that messed up my head. The one thing I knew was that I wouldn’t get pregnant, and I wouldn’t get violently raped by her. It lasted for a little over a year.
Eventually I married. To this day, and its 38 years later, I can’t tell you if I loved him on our wedding day or if I was in love with idea of love. I know that he made me laugh. I know that we enjoyed a lot of the same things. I know that he had a lot of patience when it came to sex. I also know I was getting older and older and I wanted to have kids. We made a good team. We had a lot of fun early on. We also had an extremely difficult time starting that family I wanted so badly. After two miscarriages, I went into a deep depression. I even offered to let him go… so he could marry someone who could give him children. After primary genetic testing, they had to do further testing on me. He was fine. We waited for an what seemed like an eternity to find out that my first test was only a lab artifact and that I as perfectly fine. It seems like nothing went easy for us along the way. Nothing. Even when we bought something from IKEA, there was always a screw missing.
My husband I went through an awful lot together. We withstood health scares, financial pitfalls, hurricane mishaps, and your typical marital discord. We’re still standing. Sometimes not together, but we’re still standing.
My career. Not what I had put on my blueprint for life. I had wanted to continue performing, but my father said he wouldn’t help pay for college if I majored in theater. When I told him then I would just skip college, he wanted to know if I would clean houses or be a cashier my whole life. Because without higher education, that’s all I would be able to get hired to do. My dad… I loved him, but he didn’t instill much confidence in me, nor did he support my dreams. He was practical. I guess that’s why I bend or bent over backwards to try to support EVERYTHING in which my kids showed an interest.
I ended up getting a degree in broadcast journalism, and then worked a very short time in television news. I ended up in South Florida, too large a market for a neophyte like me. My father’s business, at the time, was burgeoning, so he hired me to run his marketing campaigns as well as institute the use of technology into his business. We started with the Apple IIe, so that should tell you how long a time ago it was.
After eleven years, Dad was forced to retire for health reasons. We closed up shop and I embarked on a journey into the not-for-profit world, raising funds for those less fortunate than I. For 25 years, I did events, major gift fund raising, educational symposia and parlor meetings, while handling technology, social media and more for three distinctly different companies. I learned and grew through these endeavors, both professionally and emotionally.
What I haven’t said about myself is that I am a marshmallow. I hate to be around people who are not happy. As I mentioned, I spent my whole life acting like a chameleon, trying to fit in at all costs, not rocking the boat. What did that do for me? It cost me own identity. I repressed my own demons and my own feelings, and after a while began to drink them away. Since I claim to be a late bloomer, this didn’t really start until my late 30’s. I became an active alcoholic. At first, a psychotherapist labeled me a “functioning alcoholic.” Never lost a job, never got a DUI, didn’t lose my marriage… I was fine… Needless to say I stopped seeing that therapist.
I originally sought out a therapist because of panic attacks and anxiety. Over the years, it was determined that I have Bipolar 2, Major Depressive Disorder and General Anxiety Disorder. Subsequently, I’ve been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia (a symptom of which is depression),
Low Vitamin D, Cerebral Aneurysm, COPD, Advanced Degenerative Disc Disease, Spinal Stenosis, and Psoriatic Arthritis of the Lower Spine. All that and I still don’t qualify for Social Security Disability. I haven’t worked in four years, so the financial pressure is enough to depress ANYONE. It’s a wonder I bother to get out of bed in the morning. It’s a wonder I CAN get out of bed in the morning. But I do, because my mom needs me for various things. Don’t get me wrong. Once we got through the cancer treatment and built back some strength, she’s pretty self-sufficient at 89.
Somehow, between us, my husband and I were able to raise two kids, who both avoided jail, drugs, gangs and the like. There was a lot of guidance and a lot of finger crossing. Both our kids were bright and adept. We encouraged almost everything in which they showed an interest. (We put the brake on only once, when our adventurous daughter wanted to go away on an Hari Krishna weekend). I allowed them to test the waters on their own, as my father did for me, tossing me into the pool with the promise of never allowing me to drown. I felt it was important that they learn to judge people on their character and their values. Many times, they would involve themselves with some unsavory types. It would take them awhile to figure it out, and when they did, they would make the break. Afterwards, they would ask me what I thought. If I told them, they would ask me why I didn’t say anything. My answer was always the same. “Some things you need to learn yourself.”
I never wanted to be labeled an Helicopter parent. We stayed out of their business unless asked. We’re still that way. Both of our kids live out of town. One is driving distance, and one is two planes and an Uber away. That doesn’t matter much during a pandemic, because we haven’t seen either of them in ten months save a Zoom reunion or FaceTime. Both chose noble professions in which they help others. That made us both proud. They remain, however, quite distant, and family seems to mean something different to them than it does to us.
That being said, I have defined my new purpose in life. I have to have a purpose. Doesn’t everyone? Without a purpose other than self-preservation or self-aggrandizement, I believe we would be leading very shallow lives. For one, my job is to care for my almost 90-year-old mother. While she is self-sufficient in almost every way, she may need more as time goes on. For now, I keep her laughing, fat and happy. My other purpose, I guess, not that I’m anyone special, is to share what I have learned about life in the best way I know how, and that is to tell stories… to write.
My fiction is not about fictional characters. It is about things that I personally have faced in my own life, slipped neatly into a fictional story. If the trials and challenges I have faced become relatable through fictional characters, and I can show one person, any person, anywhere, that one can survive and move on, then I would consider myself successful in this new endeavor.
I hope you will endeavor to experience some of my writing. Even if you don’t need to learn a lesson, you may just enjoy the books! http://www.jtfisherauthor.com/portfolio-2-1/