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Archive for October 19th, 2009

I spend a good part of last week doing some heavy housecleaning. I “reclaimed” our pantry (again) after hub hogged the pantry for his vending machine business for a few years. He sold the machines early last year and never cleaned his s@#$ out. I finally set aside several hours to throw out all of the junk in there, and I am thrilled to be able to use the pantry again. Hooray!

As I cleaned the pantry, I thought about how nobody ever taught me how to clean a house. My mother/abuser was mentally ill and never really cleaned our house when I was a kid. I did not know that a toilet ever needed to be scrubbed. I thought that floors only needed to be mopped once a year before out-of-town relatives came to visit. That was my existence throughout my childhood, and nobody ever told me anything differently. I finally learned how to clean a house by reading the book Housekeeping Secrets My Mother Never Taught Me. I followed this book like my own personal “Bible” and … voila … I now know how to clean a house (not that I enjoy it, but at least I can do it!).

When talking with people about the aftereffects of my childhood, we generally focus upon the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms like flashbacks, insomnia, self-injury, and binge eating. Compared to those very serious aftereffects, not knowing how to clean a house falls low on the priority list. However, never learning a basic life skill like how to clean a house is another loss that I experienced. Those losses matter, too.

I am sure that all of us could provide a long laundry list of skills that we never acquired in our childhoods. For example, I never learned that, when you are invited to a party or other type of gathering at someone’s house, it is polite to ask, “What can I bring?” I learned that from a fellow child abuse survivor after I was humiliated after showing up at a barbeque at someone’s house with nothing in tow. It was a very large gathering (easily over 20 families invited), and mine was the only family that brought along nothing. I was so upset that I swore I would decline all further invitations for the rest of my life. My pals over at Isurvive talked me through the experience and helped me to realize that I was not a horrible person for not just knowing this stuff. This was another loss that I experienced thanks to my terrible upbringing.

Thanks to our atypical childhoods, all of us have experienced losses that don’t seem to get discussed. I just want validate that those losses matter, too, and they are just as deserving of being grieved.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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