Ashley, Reagan, America discussed on Design Matters with Debbie Millman


I can be, you know what I mean? That's intentional. There's control there. And I think that's what was terrifying to them to have to tell us was that somebody had made that kind of choice who was that closely related to us? Yeah, we'll get to that in a little bit. I want to talk a little bit more about your early relationships. Over the course of your life, your relationship that you've had with your mother has been really complicated. You know, this book is as much about her as it is about your dad. You've described experiences with her when she became unrecognizable to you and you've written about how there was mama, the loving mother we knew before whatever sparked her ire. And then there was mother who showed up in her place. Mother felt separate, somehow apart from our otherwise happy and harmonious existence. She rose from somewhere within mama and did the latter's dirty work. Ashley, where did mothers rage come from? As I've gotten older and talked to my family more, I know that my mom has always had issues with anger. And nobody was really surprised by the fact that my mom has issues with anger or that the book mentions so many of my mom's issues with anger. And that was even before what happened with my dad. My mom was a very angry young woman. She had some terrible pains in her body. And I got to tell you, knowing my grandmother, there's no way she showed very much compassion in those moments. She was just not that kind of person. My mom would have never seen an example in my opinion of what to do with fear, except turn it into anger. Immediately. And my mother went from being a 22 year old married woman, a mother to suddenly being a single 22 year old with two kids under three. Like, wow, that. In Reagan's America, okay? Yeah. So we also have to understand that at this time, the everything that had happened to my mom that had been out of her control, all of these are circumstances. All of this is out of her control. Not only is that true, that she didn't make the choices that led to this moment. It is also true that the country at that time was demonizing women who fit the demographic of my mother's life at that point. Not enough money, no one to help. Kids, needing help and assistance. That was all demonized. Why would you need help and assistance? Why can't you just do it yourself? Yeah, I understand you had a husband and he was working and contributing and now he's in prison. But how is that our problem? That's not our problem. That's your problem. So what are you going to do about it? And I don't think my mom has ever truly recovered from that time in her life. I don't know how she would have with no help, you know? I mean, maybe some help from her family, but therapy, absolutely not. Absolutely not. And now we look at that and we go, that's trauma. Everybody needs to be in therapy, right? Yeah. But back then, nobody was thinking about that. And so I believe my mom has a lot of unprocessed anger. I think she does not know where to put her anger when it comes. And so it feels like it belongs everywhere. And I think that she also grew up in a time and in a culture where apologizing to your children was unheard of. And it was a relinquishing of power instead of a strengthening of a bond and a relationship. And so because of that, and for other reasons, we just don't have that foundation, my mother and I. She often beat you. Yeah. When you were young and the punishments were severe. And you've written how when you next did something bad, you learn to carry the secrets of your badness, silently and alone. There would be no more confessions, whoever wanted to know how bad you could be would have to get close enough to find out and nobody tried. Did you at that point have an innate sense of badness? I did. I did. I could not imagine why this person who loved me so much would hurt my body so badly if I didn't deserve it. If I wasn't bad, if something about me and in me wasn't bad. And I knew enough at that time to essentially decide like, okay, clearly I'm back, or at least there's some bad in me, something in here is bad. And I now have to protect my badness. I have to not let anybody see that because I'm tell you what I'm not going to sign up for. Another whopping. I'm not signing up for that ever again. And because I didn't trust myself to really understand what would get me in trouble and what wouldn't because I was a child and nobody was really explaining that to me, I just thought, okay, I know that good is quiet. And I know that good is doing exactly what you're told to do exactly when you're told to do it. And any other part of me, I'm just gonna, I'm just gonna leave out of the equation because I'm not sure whether or not that's gonna get me in trouble. And that makes you terrified of being a human being. It makes you tear by having feelings expressing feelings. And I was terrified of all those things. And so it's sometimes wild to me, you know, when I think about my childhood and I think about growing up, I wonder what did my mom look at me and think like, yeah, this is a totally normal kid. This is this is totally how normal kids act. This is why I don't understand why so many people out in the community seem to really like my kid and talk about her bright personality and how much they really dig her. And then she comes home and I'm like, who is this? You know? But I don't know if she didn't have the time or inclination to dig that deep. I want to read one of the most powerful paragraphs in your book, and then ask you about it. You've written this. There was no beauty in my badness and there was no hiding my badness from anybody who got too close. And then you go on to state this. My mind was caught somewhere between extreme longing for love and tenderness and the fear of being mishandled or misused. Even as I was drawn to connect with the people around me, I feared them. Afraid of how much they might come to mean to me and how terribly I would have to mourn when they inevitably left me behind. At night I'd sit in bed and say to myself, everyone leaves. You'll be okay. Everyone leaves. You'll be okay. I'd say it over and over until I could picture them leaving until I could feel the tears on my cheeks. When I cried, I thought I could feel some of that inevitable pain, sparing my future self. I did not mind getting hurt as much as I minded being surprised by the pain. I wanted to see it coming. Not only is that a remarkable paragraph, it is also just a remarkable insight to have about your young self. Did you feel that you were intentionally cutting yourself off from people to try and control how much pain you were in or could be in and your future self? Uh, yeah..

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