There was a little girl, born into a world of alcohol and violence. There was neglect, poverty, gossip and betrayal. The negative emotions all ran rampant. She saw her father beat her mother in the head with a hammer. She saw her father cut her mother. She was dragged from one beer joint to the other, sleeping in the car while her mother drank and partied. She witnessed many traumatizing fights between her father and her mother. The people she called to for help would tell her to "just let them fight." When she became a teenager, a neighbor she pleaded to for help grabbed at her breasts as they were heading to her house so he could "help." One time, even a policeman grabbed her sister's breasts as she begged him to come and stop their parents from fighting.
She remembers distinctly at about the age of three or so lying under her sister's crib listening to her baby-chatter. She wondered at how she could be happy. Their first baby doll was an old-time, glass Pepsi bottle with a doll's head on it. They played with it in an empty room of their poorly-furnished house where the early-morning sun streaked through the window.
She's racked her brain and can remember only one meal at that house: birds her father had caught in a trap and cooked in rice. She remembers the table and the chairs in that big kitchen, but other than the birds, there's no memory of meal times at all. What she remembers most is being hungry. Once, she drank ketchup to satisfy her hunger pangs. Another time, there was only a brown liquidy steak sauce -- very hard to stomach by itself.
Somehow they got a set of Childcraft books. It was her first venture into how good the world could be. She spent many hours looking at the pictures and loving the colors, the art, and the creativeness. She always raised her hand when it was art time at school. She'd put on her little smock and paint. She sensed that her teacher knew of her love of painting because she let her paint at the lone easel more often than not. She flushed her dollar for the week's lunch down the commode in the school bathroom just because the teacher didn't call her name to come up and pay. People terrified her. She stayed away from them. What they might do was extremely frightening to her. All the people she had known so far were out of control. Her escape was in reading. She fostered a love of reading and learning.
By her seventeenth year, she had an angry and sullen personality. Ask her, and she'll tell you that she believes depression had set in before she was one. There was no teaching of how to live, to be, to act. There was no nurturing, no chats by the fireside, and very few family meals together. She had ambition, but no skills in discipline, no skills in life. She was lost. At 20, married, and with no idea of what to do, she desperately started to read books on self-help. A lot of it was confusing, and made her feel worse. But she continued with her struggle to find the secret to life and the way to happiness and joy.
It's been a long struggle. Now, I'm 48. With proper parenting, I would be where I am now much, much sooner. But, there's no more confusion from the hurt little girl. The majority of the puzzle pieces have come together. The book that most profoundly changed my life is Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. I have it on audiocassette. Napoleon Hill's voice has an endearingly old-fashioned quality without a hint of ego. No, it's not a book about greed or of succeeding at the expense of others. It's a book about being the best you that you can be. I highly recommend it. But, beware: the time must be right for you to receive its teachings. You must be ready to be the person you want to be. You must be ready to believe.
A side note: I now feel nothing but love and compassion for my parents. They were lost as well. How do parents show you the way when they don't know the way themselves? My father has passed on, but not before I realized that he was a scared little boy who had never gotten over his own childhood of even worse abuse. Also, through it all, there still was love. In looking back, I feel immense gratitude that the love was there. For some children, there is no love -- only horror. But, that's another story.