“For every kindness, there should be kindness in return. Wouldn’t that just make the world right?” D.G. Kaye
December’s Featured Blogger is Author D.G. Kaye.
In your bio, I hear a sense of determination and hope. How do you find hope?
I don’t find hope, I keep it tucked deeply inside. Hope is all we have when facing tragedy or adversity. In our darkest moments many of us, like myself, cling to that hope. But those who cannot focus on the light often get lost in the abyss of the darkness of the moment. I refuse to go to that place. I’m a firm believer that we manifest what we focus on to the universe. And what we focus on we attract. Staying focused on the negative and dark thoughts of an undesirable situation keeps us rooted in the fear instead of finding solutions to rise above the issues. I am a problem solver by nature. When life is dishing out curve balls I don’t cower and drown in fear, I look for the way out or the path I must take to overcome the adversity, focusing on the overcoming and the healing.
Did you write as a child, if so, what is the first thing you wrote?
Yes, I wrote as soon as I learned how to write my alphabet. I began writing love notes to my parents. I was hyper aware of my family dysfunction as far back as 3 years old. All I wanted was for my parents to love each other and show me affection. I believe, looking back on those years, that my fears to verbalize what I was feeling translated directly into writing to express my feelings and desires.
What was your favorite book as a child?
Sadly, I hate to admit it, but I have no recollection of any books in my home growing up. The fairy tales I learned were from teachers reading to us in school. I somehow always identified with Cinderella and her wicked step-mother as I grew to realize that I felt my mother had used me as her personal housekeeper and messenger from the age of 7 and on. My love for reading began once I entered junior high school when we were given books to read as part of curriculum in English classes.
Who are your inspirations as a writer and in life?
Well, going back to childhood, I would have to say Barbra Streisand became my idol at a very young age. Funny Girl, still one of my favorite movies, became a movie I identified with because Streisand’s character – Fanny Brice, reminded me so much of myself.
Brice was portrayed as an awkward girl trying to make it on the stage, beginning with her shows with the Ziegfeld Follies. She didn’t consider herself beautiful or elegant enough to fit in with the beautiful and sexy cast of dancers, so she used her sense of humor to win over the crowd, which eventually, pushed her to stardom. One line in particular, caught my attention, and that line stuck with me and became part of my character – “I want them to laugh with me, not at me.”
As for my writing, it wasn’t the classics that inspired me as they have many writers. Being that there weren’t any books around my home, I loved reading the newspaper when sentenced to spending weekends at my paternal grandparents’ home, and soon found myself addicted to reading columns on everyday life and problem solvers by column writers like Ann Landers, Dear Abby, and Erma Bombeck. Even as a child I was fascinated by life stories and emotions and eager to learn how to resolve issues. As I got older, I found myself connecting with the writing of Norah Ephron.
When did you decide to write about your relationship with your mother?
I think it was in my early teens when I began to resent my mother for the way she treated my father and ignored the emotional needs of her children when I began taking notes about her and writing letters to her about my feelings. I never, ever gave her one of those letters, but somehow it was cathartic for me to get my pent-up angst on to paper and out of my head. My life was an ongoing saga of dramatic and traumatic events with my mother, so I often documented in journals what I was feeling and my analysis of what provoked my mother to act as she did. I got the urge to write a book about my life with ‘mother’, but my fear of ever publishing a book while she was alive kept me from bothering to write one.
I suppose the urge to expel my thoughts and stories rose to a peak as my mother became less lucid and immobilized, empowering me with knowing she could no longer attack me or reprimand me, or even sue me, for that matter. So, in early 2013 I began sorting out pages from my journals and writing Conflicted Hearts – A Daughter’s Quest for Solace from Emotional Guilt.
How did the decision change your life?
When I began writing that first book that’s all I thought I would write. But while I worked on the book I began learning about self-publishing at the same time, which led me to opening a blog and connecting with a whole community of writers and new friends who shared the same passion for writing. By the time I published my first book, I knew there was no turning back. I finally found I was doing what burned within me most of my life – writing.
In your introduction to Twenty Years: After “I Do”, you describe your husband as a soul mate. What does soul mate mean to you?
First, let me state that soul mate is typically said of a partner, but soul mate could also apply to a friend we are connected deeply with.
A soul mate is one we connect with on a spiritual level. When we are in tuned with someone who we share similar values in life with, understand their words and feelings without being spoken, and share a bond where there’s an intuitive knowing of their soul is my definition of soul mate.
When did you decide to write a memoir on menopause? Do you see it as a political statement?
My long-time bestie and I laughed our way through menopause and continue to laugh at the remnants of our former selves after surviving the event. We’d often joke around and make fun of our symptoms and that was my inspiration for sharing my journey through ‘the change’ with others to let them know what can be expected in trying times, and to share some important information and helpful tips to help ease through it. I also poked fun at the symptoms and shared how I dealt with them.
I never personally felt the book was a political statement, rather a part of life that every woman must endure. I mention my husband’s take on some of my antics in the book as he was the one who had to put up with some of my newly acquired crazy things I did to get through the process, sometimes involving almost freezing him out and leaving him feeling as though he were walking on eggshells if he even spoke at the wrong time, lol. Political no, but I was surprised to hear from a few men who read the book to get some enlightening about what their own partners endured or in preparation for what to expect.
In the prologue to P.S. I Forgive You, you write: “My mother had been dying for years, and through those years she refused to surrender her bitterness and remained in denial of her flaws. The many times I heard she was dying reminded me of the boy who cried wolf. I almost believed she was invincible, and even though I never wanted her to suffer, she did.”
I’d been warned to walk away many times but couldn’t muster the heart to do so. I lived under the thought that a child should never abandon their parents, and I was always worried about how I’d be judged by others for banishing my mother.
Finally, as often happens in life, the last straw hit with words I could no longer tolerate. At fifty years old I hung up on her for the very first time in my life and resolved myself that was the last time I’d take her nonsensical shit and I never saw her again. Oh, it was painful as I lived with my own new self-imposed guilt for doing so, but as the years passed, it got a lot easier to swallow, despite my feeling sorry for her. When she was dying, I had more fear of visiting her for all the years I abandoned her. Her vitriol only increased as she lashed out to anyone who would listen about her terrible children. I just couldn’t go back. And when she finally died, despite my grief for what never was with us, it was the first time I ever felt that hold she had on me was released.
I tend to think life as an adult child of narcissist is an ongoing process of separating the self from the abusive parent. Would you agree?
I would absolutely agree Rob. Narcissists don’t change. From childhood through adulthood we remain under their control, albeit, in different ways when we’re older. I spent my childhood waiting for the day I could break free from her hold on me, and when I finally got the chance to move away from home at 18, I thought I gained my freedom from her reign, but I found out that wasn’t so.
I spent my life with her trying to be the good daughter, doing everything she guilted me into doing and feeling bad for the things I didn’t do. My empathy for her was like a glue that I couldn’t unstick, which kept me falling prey to her schemes and tears and beckoning for her every whim. I’d try not answering her calls and keeping her separate from my life many times, but family events and celebrations bringing me back into her orbit repeatedly kept me within her web. I went years at a time not talking to her, but ultimately guilt or circumstances brought her back into my life. It was a never-ending merry-go-round of unresolved hurt and relentless tactics she performed that kept me in her hold.
How would you describe the job of the writer?
Hmm, that’s an interesting question. I think that every writer would have their own unique spin on this. For me, I don’t look at it as a job, but rather a passion. The only job I feel obligated to do as a writer is to tell my truth – essential for a memoir and nonfiction writer. But whether writing fiction or nonfiction, I think it’s important that we all effectively relay our stories in a fashion that readers can relate to and take something from whether it be a message, or an invitation to exercise imagination and feel like we’re right there in the action in fictional stories.
Would you share an excerpt of P.S. I Forgive You?
I’d be thrilled to share an excerpt Rob. I’m choosing an excerpt from this particular chapter since I think it highlights some of the turmoil I carried within while my mother was in her final days, despite my refusal to go back.
Chapter: The End is Near
My mother had been dying for years, and through those years she refused to surrender her bitterness and remained in denial of her flaws. The many times I heard she was dying reminded me of the boy who cried wolf. I almost believed she was invincible, and even though I never wanted her to suffer, she did.
I thought it was just a horrible and sad way to die—holding hatred for those she had chased out of her life, living in bitter seclusion, knowing her days were numbered. Her once vibrant life had diminished into a mere existence of watching TV and complaining. She’d also given all her caregivers a difficult time, bitching at them all and letting them know how useless they were to her because of what her life had become. Nobody was exempt.
I asked my brother Robby why God didn’t just take her out of her misery and pain during one of the many times she was on the brink of death. Why would he not spare her from suffering? He replied, “God has his own plans.” I couldn’t help but wonder if he was letting her suffer because she had hurt so many people in her lifetime, but in my next thought I couldn’t believe God would play those cruel games, tit for tat.
I wondered what thoughts had to have gone through my mother’s head. How awful it must have been to know her time left on earth was limited. I thought about how frightened she must have felt in her lonely world, although she’d never admit it. I was sad for her, knowing that the anger and bitterness she displayed was a front for the depressed state of her pathetic life. I couldn’t fathom why she remained so obstinate in her resolve to spend what little time she had left wallowing in misery instead of embracing the end and making amends with her children. I wanted to fix her, but I didn’t know how.
Her formerly grand life had diminished into a tiny existence. She no longer flaunted her beauty to all who idolized her. Her schemes to extract money from my brothers to support her gambling pleasures were no longer effective. Three of her children had already exited her life because of her verbal abuse. There was nobody left to fall prey to her demands.
I hurt for her. She wasn’t much of a mother, but she was still my mother.
I wondered so many things about her. Because she had lived in disguise all her life, I was never certain if she truly believed she was a wonderful person or if she had only spent her life pretending as much.
Thank you so much for inviting me over today Rob. I enjoyed the interview and greatly appreciate the intimate questions you chose for me to answer and share here on your wonderful blog.
Connect with author D.G. Kaye:
www.twitter.com/@pokercubster (Of course there’s a story to this name!)
I think of you
I look for you
and savor the
memory of my
How can I express
of my gratitude?
To hold you,
to know that
I am safe,
I look into
that you are
I can never
for the wonder
but I can tell
you these secrets:
you kiss my lips and open my heart
you touch me and awaken my body
you gaze into my eyes and heal
and when you hold me,
I am complete.
(c) Rob Goldstein 2015-2019
I first posted ‘I Will Tell You These Secrets‘ in August 2016 as an experiment in
the use of VR and video to stage a performance. As I review the video I can
see what works but I think it lacks maturity.
I’ve revised the poem and re-posted it because it is a heartfelt expression of
love and gratitude.
In the interests of transparency I’ve left the video as part of the post.
What do you think?
If you celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope yours is warm and safe.