Remembering the Good of a Painful Childhood


Tree-House, a place to dream (Photo credit: Ronan_C)

As I pull myself up out this sadness, I want to focus today on positive thoughts. I spend so much time thinking about how the abuse in my past has hurt me, and held me back. Today, with the rain, and hurricane Sandy approaching where my company is based, even though I work remotely and my home is safely tucked away mid-country, states away from the coastline.

So I have tried this exercise before, and it never works for me, but is recommended in many self-help books. I try to think of happy memories, because even though I grew up in a dysfunctional family full of abuse, we had good times too. Really, we did, if you can squint your eyes and overlook the context.

  • Mom had a nice dinner ready everyday at 5pm. Everyday my dad would come home at precisely 5pm and we would have dinner. We were not rich, but dinners were plentiful. I never had to worry about cooking or cleaning when Mom was around. I had other chores, but the kitchen belonged to her.
  • I believed in Santa. There was always something special for me under the tree.
  • I had a treehouse and swings. I spent lots of time out there reading, writing, and imagining all kinds of great stories, and best of all I dreamed out there. dreamed of the places I would travel to, and things I would experience.
  • I had nice clothes. Never expensive name brand cool stuff, but I was always warm. Mom also took care of laundry, and I can’t think of even once that I would open my dresser and not find clothes in it, neatly washed and folded for me.
  • I had a computer, coleco/atari, and CD player. Dad was a computer programmer, and so we were always first to get high tech stuff. I learned to type before I learned to write.

I have to stop here. I have a “but” for each of those, and so I know this exercise is done. Maybe it will work for someone else though.

I am grateful I grew up in a warm, clean home, with enough clothing and food. That is all I wanted to say today. (It’s absolutely not all I want to say, and I’m actually feeling angry right now, this exercise makes me angry. Like wow, thanks for providing the basic needs of shelter, food, and clothing, but we actually needed a lot more than that to feel secure, and loved.) Geez, this didn’t work well at all. But now I have some energy for that treadmill that has been mocking me in the corner.

And wait until I post my memories of Halloween.  The anger is not misplaced, not one bit. And anger can be good, supplies energy to make more changes.


11 thoughts on “Remembering the Good of a Painful Childhood

  1. Go you! Yes! I’ve also found that anger is great for accomplishing something I need to do but don’t necessarily want to do. Whip the treadmill into shape. It doesn’t care… sorry, rant of my own, clearly. Actually, just reading this made me feel prickly. I’ve been wracking my brain for any happy childhood memories. Nope. Nada. None. Everything even bordering on happy included an underlying edge of anger and/or fear and usually both.

    • Yup, that’s what I’m finding. Yes each one has some underlying anger, fear, or general ickiness that I understand more now than then, as I was being manipulated or controlled. As for that treadmill, I am moments away from showing it who’s boss, I have my sneakers and supportive garments on – I’m serious! LOL

  2. Thank you for sharing this. Indeed it is so difficult to remember the good when the dysfunction and abuse takes over everything. I too have many “but’s” that follow my story. It is hanging on to the positive that can help us remember and process the emotions of our past. Although they may bring in the many dark memories it is those good childhood smiles that count most in our lives. I will pass on this lesson as I have a few who’ve contacted me about exactly this, not being able to remember the good. thanks tons, wishing you fond moments and smiles, trish 🙂

  3. Thank you Shelly for mentioning my blog!
    I can totally relate to your ‘About’ profile and it’s great to find others who have been through similar events in life.
    The awfulness of this post is that you are angry trying to remember good things about your childhood when in reality there either weren’t any, or the bad memories outweigh the good. I can understand how you are feeling angry. The news at the moment is off the terrible storm displacing thousands of people. So you should be grateful for your shelter. Yes, but you can’t compare this to your childhood situation.
    You had a right to more than just a warm home and nice clothes. You had a right to be loved, nurtured, respected and to be simply a child. And today you have a right to be angry!
    Be kind to yourself. 🙂

  4. Pingback: My Kids Must Think I Don’t Remember My Childhood | Roots to Blossom

  5. Remembering the ‘good’ of an awful childhood is a lot like looking at a family photo album of the birthday parties and Christmas dinners. It’s memories without the context. It’s a lot like the lies we were forced to live and tell every day.

    My sisters (some) do the same thing, tell me ‘oh it couldn’t have been ALL bad’ – but a photo/memory snippet doesn’t take into account the feelings that accompany the whole thing. Smells, and fear, and emotion, and what happened just prior to dinner, and just after. Sure it looks like Norman Rockwell for that instant in time, but what about the bruises you can’t see under my shirt?

    I’ve said before – it’s like an archaeology dig site where you find a piece of broken pottery and everyone is all about ‘how was this used? what did they cook in it?’ when the REAL question should be ‘how was this broken? Who threw it? Who did it hit? Who cried, and who raged?’

    Like the old adage about how if you hear hooves, it might actually be ZEBRAS instead of horses. Things aren’t what they seem. We would have given up a coupla dozen warm dinners for a few warm hugs. “Things” don’t make up for fear. And doubt. And hatred.

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