life and all its ups and downs, nonfiction, reasons to drink, Survivor

I have a Confession



survivor1

I am a survivor.

A survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

A survivor of childhood psychological abuse.

Whew. I have never written those words before. The relief and peace are overwhelming. For thirty-four years I have carried the weight of these realities alone attempting to navigate the “how” in how they affect my life.

Because they do affect my life.

My friendships, my parenting, my romantic relationships. All of these are affected.

My truth is that, I spent much of my formative years not feeling wanted by one of my parents and abused by people very close to me.

…Again, something I have never had the courage to write before.

As a child, the obvious dislike my father had for me was outwardly apparent enough that it ended my parent’s relationship, and by default my relationship, with an entire set of relatives. It was not until I had grown, moved out on my own, and made contact with my estranged grandparents myself, that I learned this dirty little family secret. It did not surprise me though. I had always felt passed over and unsupported as a child so this narrative simply put the puzzle pieces together. Finally, I knew that I was not alone in believing there was something wrong with my family dynamic. That I was not the black sheep but, that I was the white lamb who, by some miracle, escaped and later thrived.

That narrative make it all sound so easy: live through the abuse, get confirmation that it was abuse, heal then live life. Three simple steps that are anything but.

In truth, it has taken over sixteen years of intense inward reflection and therapy to combat my negative self view and, I still struggle everyday.

It takes conscience strength to push my social anxiety aside and make friends, to trust, and to maintain my relationships. This is especially difficult with men. When the one man who shaped your idea of what constitutes a man was a drug addicted, abusive father it leaves wounds.

Wounds that run deep and penetrate every aspect of my romantic life. From whom I am attracted to, to my view on how men should treat women, to how women should treat men, to how I sometimes still have to fight my urge to fetch male attention.

The aspects of myself that I most despise stem from these wounds.

But I carry on. I continue to heal, discover who I am, and learn to trust.

 I love the above image because it encompasses everything a survivor wants to be: courageous, strong, inspiring. To be honest though, most of the time being a survivor feels more like this…

survivor

…and I am in constant fear of being voted off the island thanks to my social anxiety. It is something that people do not always understand- the need to hold people at an arms length. It makes getting close to me difficult. I let very few people in but those that do I trust entirely. It is the only aspect of my personality that is black and white. I either trust you or I don’t. This protects me from being hurt. It is my defense mechanism.

Although my personal and romantic life have taken the biggest hits from my childhood traumas, my outlook on life has become consciously and carefully designed around my past and engineered to empower myself and prepare my children for the world they face.

Being a survivor has taught me to dig deep when it comes to others and my own children.  I have taught myself to examine every viewpoint of a situation and to aim to understand the larger problems instead of focusing on the symptoms, such as behavior. Assumption is the opposite of understanding and only leads to judgement.

Being a survivor has taught me to council my children about how bullies are often bullied themselves and, often times need grace, but also boundaries, and how it is important to know how to deal with these aggressive, manipulating classmates because those people only grow up to be aggressive, manipulating adults.

Being a survivor has taught me that I can only control my reactions to situations. Others are in charge of their behavior and that I can be there for them when they are ready, but I can not control them or make them see my truth.

Most importantly…

Being a survivor has taught me that the way people treat me says more about who they are then who I am. For I am a survivor.

beat the odds and will raise a generation to defy them.

 

I beat the odds

Introducing Katie Amann, Novel

Change is Good

Notice the new look?

The brand consistency?

The sleekness?

The new name?

As with most tasks I take on, I tend to jump in before testing the waters. I disregard the depth or temperature and think, “Yeah, thats a great idea. I’ll do it now.” Then, in hindsight, I see the error of my rush to completion and I stop, backtrack, and research until I find a vision. It was over the past month that I have focused on creating a brand that I like and  then building it. Buying up a few different urls, creating new Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts, then somewhere finding time in the middle of my three week interim session of Behavioral Statistics (I must be crazy), to write about it all.

So, you ask, what have I learned in this period of time steeped in research and development?

Besides discovering that I do not qualify for an R&D tax credit (It was worth a try), I did learn that…

  • Being a well worded writer does not make myself a decent self-marketer and that my lack of brand consistency across mediums was detrimental.
  • That, associating my stories with my given name is a choice I do not have to make and that using a pen name provides privacy for my family.
  • A pen name is also an opportunity to intentionally market myself in a way that reflects my chosen genre.
  • That specialization in skill is important. Yes, I can copy-write, blog, narrate fiction and nonfiction, but how do I find an audience, one reader at a time, if I am not bringing the same readers back again and again. Being a generalist is great, but not when you are marketing yourself.
  • Finally, I learned that my computer’s search history is quickly becoming interesting and questionable due to the themes of my two current works-in-process.

Taking all of this into consideration I have found my consistency, my tagline, and my name. I am Katie Amann, fiction writer who draws from real life, intertwining truth with tale and dwelling in the middle of it all.

I dwell where life and narrative intersect…

Katie-Amann

 

 

 

kids, Random thoughts, reasons to drink, Uncategorized

How We Define Ourselves

kahlil

Tonight, as I kissed the forehead of my sleeping five-year-old daughter, I sat beside her bed in the half-lit room and looked down at this beautiful person who traveled halfway around the world and gave me, ME,  the gift of parenting her. Suddenly it struck me how fragile it all is.

How we can bring a child into our home and call them ours, or birth them and claim them as miniature versions of ourselves yet, neither is true. Kahlil said it best when he stated “You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backwards.”

God, I love that man…

His well of wisdom must have reached the Heavens.

I want so much for my daughters. I want this ideal world where judgement does not touch them, where their communities support them for who they are and that they receive relationship as honest as that they give. I want them to be empowered by those that surround them. Not made submissive. To be truly understood.

I want my girls to grow into women who do not define themselves by the perimeters of others, or society, or outdated religious ideals. I want nothing more but for them to be free to discover how blurry the line between mistake and empowerment is.

That they are two sides of the same coin and they will be free to define the two on their own terms.

They will live lives on individual paths and will not let others reroute them. That they will hold true to their own,

and will be good despite the lack of such that surrounds them. Even when every fiber of their being craves to creativly verbally assault someone. In public.

That they will be honest about their feelings.

Well, maybe not all the time…

But, YES, all the time! They will realize that their feelings are important and valid and, in that particular moment that they are felt, that they are the most true and beautiful part of themselves.

And, when they lay dying in old age, their regrets will not be in withholding themselves from the world.

Then I thought, fuck. That is not the world we live in.

I sighed, kissed my daughter yet again and silently promised to be her steady bow.

Adoption, NaNoWriMo, Short Story

The Self is Plural

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As promised, here is an excerpt from short story #1:
The Self is Plural
There we were. Here. In a place we never thought we would be. The room we sat in was  cold and sparsely decorated with a few heavy, worn couches while the white cinderblock walls that surrounded us on all sides had a few torn stickers placed upon them in a manner that confused one as to whether they were meant as decoration or were simply un-removed, artistically-placed graffiti. I sat straight up in a chair attempting not to touch too much of the dirty fabric underneath me as this was a place that was sure to have had all sorts of bodily fluid spills in various places. I felt overdressed and completely out of place. My husband, Ryan, was struggling to make conversation with the only other set of parents in the room, but the lack of eye contact between the four of us and the short but polite responses were evidence that none of us really wanted to talk about why we were here or admit that we all, as parents, felt as failures must. In our own way, we each sat there hoping that our attempts to ignore the room, that was filled with the heavy odor of mold, and each other might actually trick our brains into thinking that this moment was really a dream and not reality. Not truth. So, we all politely smiled and laughed at Ryan’s off color jokes about how the fight we witnessed while sitting in our car waiting for our appointment, and choking down a quick fast food dinner qualified as a “dinner and a show date-night for us.” The laughing was awkward but honest. The joke was funny, in a dark depressing way, but that is the space we currently lived in. A dark and depressing space.
For the last few years Ryan and I had held together a family that was falling apart at the seams. Our eldest was succumbing to her past demons and the entirety of us were either ammunition or targets depending on the particulars of her day. From the outside we looked like a happy family with an abundant community and that made it even more difficult to find and retain the social support that we so badly needed. Our adoption related issues were often passed off by friends as typical adolescent behavior and conversations were quickly redirected to their own children’s problematic behavior. As if knowing their three-year-old son also screamed and cried made it okay for our nine-year-old to throw her mattress down the stairs in anger  or for her to cower in the top of her bunk bed terrified at everyone and everything in site. It was as if as our family’s problems were too real, or not real enough. I could never really tell which it was. What I did know was that it was better to keep the anguish and stress and emotional rollercoaster ride that was my life to myself. Sharing such problems only became more frustrating as people just did not understand.
Internally, the stress was also affecting my marriage. Ryan and I were beginning to have difficulty seeing eye-to-eye on how to manage our family’s issues and my need for social support was countered by his need to “circle the wagons” as he liked to say. He was finding our community dull and unfulfilling while I was in a place where, after being stuck at home for the past seven years, I needed to get out and connect with people whose attention span superseded three seconds. We were struggling. Struggling as parents, struggling as people, and struggling as a couple.
Then, breaking my stream of thought and providing quick relief from the tormenting compulsion to force conversation with the other parents, a woman who wore a name tag on a lanyard entered and eyed the room. Immediately she recognizing the other couple, and motioned for them to follow her, and the teenage girl who stood behind her, down a fluorescent light hallway. The girl, who was wearing an oversized gray t-shirt and ripped, faded jeans, acknowledged her parents as they tried to briefly hold her tight but she solemnly and obediently walked towards the lady who was now half a hallway ahead. She walked with her held held down in a way that forced her long brown hair to obscure her face. She looked sad. We all looked sad.
The silence, once again, became deafening as Ryan and I were alone. I hated the silence. It made my mind spin round and round with everything we could have done differently, done better. Rachel was all I thought about anymore. She had become so emotional and easily wounded over the past few years that our entire family was forced to walk on eggshells around her. It scared me to think of what lay in the future for us because I was already worn down and half broken myself. I was now finding it difficult to take Rachel’s emotional episodes in stride as the effects of them had built up within me and left me about to explode myself. In my mind I kept going back to the one night I broke down and finally came to terms with our new reality. It was about eighteen months ago and I was sitting alone on the couch after the kids had been tumultuously tucked in and Ryan was  out of town on a work trip. I passed time by reading adoption blogs silently reaching out for support or understanding, a sort of camaraderie in the long, dark middle that we were currently in. I sat in my tears silently mourning for the children  who were so broken that they could not even feel love. For every single one of the stories I came upon, including ours, were sewn from the same thread. A child, adopted in youth, nourished with love, acceptance, opportunity, and hope yet, all the children, frail in one way or another, self sabotage the bonding and connection of their family. I am sure that in that particular night and in my particular mood I searched out stories that fit my current narrative but, in that moment, I could not help but feel the dichotomous pull of both a shared maternal strength and unavoidable hopelessness.
Uncategorized

The mornings are for writing.

themorningisforwriting

 

In attempt to become more intentional about finishing my books and promoting my writing I have outlined schedules and milestones that I consistently fail to meet. I find my days are packed with staff meetings, conferences, five hour round-trip drives to attend a single on-site class in Greeley Colorado, school assignments, family obligations and now freelance writing assignments as well. Although my good intentions have provided me reason to start the day, by the time the day darkens and the moon is once again bright in the sky, my books remained untouched and stagnent. My main project had remained at twenty something pages for way too long and project number two has existed purely as idea.

Then came last night.

Last night, when I was was laying myself down at 9.30pm, an exceptionally early time for a night owl such as myself,  ideas, and good ideas mind you, began to loom, then materialize, and rise up and form into thoughts. Now, I am no stranger to this divine sort of intervention. There are many times in my life where I can point to a person or an event and just know something about them or it. Something I should not know, but this  had yet to happen with my work until last night. So, there I was, laying in bed with an exhausted body but liberated mind. I rolled over and grabbed my phone to voice record these no-less-than-brilliant ideas. Last night, clothed in an old tee shirt and wrapped in warm plaid sheets, I solved the issues of scheduling, how to intertwine storylines in my book, and how to create the realism of the two women’s situations in a believable way.

Poof.

Magic happened.

This morning I awoke knowing that the mornings are for writing and the afternoons are for walking.

Implimented.

I sat down at my desk after dropping my eldest off at middle school and I wrote for three hours straight. No stoping to edit or reread. No questioning the plot or the characters. No getting distracted by laundry of the fact that I was hosting ten women tomorrow evening and my house was a mess. In fact, the characters and plot wrote themselves without effort from me. The way the words effortlessly made there way to my screen was evidence that I had finally overcome my writer’s block. My six month writer’s block.

By noon I had added five pages to my novel and three to a short story.

I could finally go on my afternoon walk with Moose, my small black dog, and feel accomplished at something other than running errands. What a wonderful feeling it is.

Tonight I go to bed feeling fulfilled.

 

Uncategorized

NaNoWriMo!

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It’s National Novel Writing Month!

The aim is to write an entire novel in the month of November and, although I know that this particular goal is out of my reach, I do aim to finish one short story every week of this month. That means I will be four stories closer to book number two being finished! So now, the only question is which stories will I write? Which parts of my past are at the surface attempting to escape through the pen? What events am I ready to share? I have a few ideas.

Here is a little tase of what is to come over the next two weeks. Every week I will update with progress and excerpts of the short stories. At the end of the month I will open the blog up to questions and comments.

 

Now go write your November novel…

 

 

The Fallout of Love

Week 1

Title: The Self is Plural 

The reality of fighting depression and suicidal ideation of your child.

Week 2

Title: Shamed to Death

The perminant consequences of an unhealthy relationship.

 

 

Nela

The Northern Coast

 

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The story of Nela…

Slowly, and with my tear swollen eyes closed I breath in, then I open my eyes and breath out. I am lost in the view of the Saratoga Passage drenched in the early morning light. The water is as still as glass as it reflects the painted pink and orange hues of the heavens in a form of perfection only witnessed on the edges of northern coasts. Violet, attached to my side, leans her head upon my body. When she looks up at me I see the same perfection in her purple eyes as I do in the sea. Her and I have always been two parts of the same person. Not only is she my spitting image of pale skin and long dark hair but our connection has always come freely, without complication.  With her sister Sabine, love had always been an effort in the early years. Nothing came easy for the two of us and our connection demanded a daily effort on both our parts. It was an effort that wore me down. At the time I struggled to comprehend the amount of sacrifice that raising a child required and, after her birth, I spent months mourning my new life in my bed alongside a tiny sleeping half stranger, imagining a life without her in it. I could not help but think of the life I could have had. The life I always imagined. If only I had made different choices. Oh how I had wanted to make a different choice…