This is a closing exercise for the book the Sound of Paper. I considered taking out the ranting/rambly stuff, but I decided to leave it in. Why?
Because escaping abusive people is a creative act. People trying to control your life will do their damnedest to convince you you have neither the inner nor outer resources to get away from them and get to a life of your own. Despite decades of gaslighting and nastiness, I found a way out. The trick is to be willing to recognize that this person who is supposed to love you is willing to lie to you about yourself for his or her own selfish gain. My abuse was subtle, as most is. Remember, hitting is the LAST act of abuse – not the first. It is the culmination of psychological manipulation and belittling/building in order to create an inappropriate degree of control over another person. I was hit only occasionally. But I was treated like dirt just about daily.
Creative Resume for Diana Rajchel 1975 – Present
5th grade – Wrote unicorn poem that I dropped on the floor and was discovered by a teacher. Discovered as a writer by teachers.
6th grade – One spot in Young Author’s Conference; parents prohibited attendance for music contest that happened every year.
7th grade – Rhyming poem, schmaltzy, that led to an advanced music teacher; composed multiple music pieces despite total absence of enjoyment in all musical performance. Developed bizarre friendship with CK after smacking him when he tried to wipe the contents of his nose in my sleeve during a fire drill and both of us nearly got suspended. His hostility changed to a bizarre acceptance and even celebration of my eccentricities, like my love of wearing fingerless white lace gloves and skeleton earrings for no reason.
8th grade – Recognized as an “outstanding student” for the advanced music class. Kept my full awareness of the irony of the award to myself. (Hated nearly every minute spent on music throughout my life. HATED IT.) Didn’t meet so much as I finally registered the boy who became my angsty muse for the next five years. He spent half that year trying to get my attention, and the next five probably wishing he hadn’t done that. Good friend died – grief ignored and minimized by parents since they weren’t experiencing it, and because I wisely kept any information about friends hidden from them.
9th grade – Met my first real boyfriend (as opposed to the smelly, dandruff laden boy my mother guilt tripped me to date despite my expressed aversion.) Began as a friendship of two creative artists that supported each other; he gave me feedback on my writing, and I would spell check the comics he drew. Ended in disaster as his need to look macho and his tendency to gaslight me for extremely normal civilized behavior spiraled into him stalking me as administration did nothing.
10th grade – Began writing letters to the editor about environmental concerns. Letters were published, and as one adult pointed out, frequently more coherent than the letters published alongside it. Mother complained of embarrassment since people thought she wrote the letters, not me. Did NOT complain of embarrassment when sister got caught having sex in a school elevator. Determined mother’s input invalid.
11th grade – Picked up gig at Lake County Star via my father. Most works were edited beyond recognition – it wasn’t even AP style rewriting, it was just “this is how you write it,” rewriting. Developed thicker skin early. Had relationship with person I consider my childhood sweetheart; made getting through that year much easier by giving me something happy to distract myself from my family’s relentless awfulness.
12th grade – Survived extraordinarily difficult year when I needed my family’s support the most with absolutely no support from them at all. My aunt’s death at the beginning of the year was followed with my sister’s pregnancy and marriage. My sister at 21 was quite bitter about being asked to move out despite being in a relationship with the father of the child, and being 21 and capable of living on her own, rather than age 16 – which is what you would think to hear her tell it.
Year marked with my mother demanding to make my prom outfit and forgetting about it until the morning of when someone else asked her about it, being forced to walk home in an ice storm, and my father telling me he was not about to pay a thing for my college education AND that he had decided where I was to be “allowed” to go to college despite no financial backing from him. My mother even told me she would address and send out my graduation announcements – then blamed me for them not going out and left me stuck addressing them the morning of my graduation. All trust in parents destroyed. Quietly devised plan of escape.
Went to state for orchestra – survived it, sure as hell didn’t enjoy a minute of it.
Got a writer’s scholarship for the school I did attend for two years before I transferred as far as I could to get out of my family’s reach.
Highlights included admission to National Honor Society because they lowered their standards, and telling off an entire table full of the most socially violent girls in my high school. Girls were quite shocked at my explosion, but looking back, they behaved infinitely better towards me for the rest of that year. I still want nothing to do with a single one of them.
1994 – College
Helped revive and improve the campus newspaper at the small college I attended. Encountered the first person who pushed me to go beyond my comfort zone in the form of my friend Pete. Experienced what it was like to have friends genuinely stick up for you when I explained the situation with my creepy, gaslighting boyfriend to the guys that lived on the floor below me and they started blocking him from entering the dorm. Contributed to effort that turned campus paper into award winner by the end of the year.
Transferred schools to Minnesota; recognized huge manipulative push on part of my parents to bring my closer to where they lived– that actively ignored my 3.8 GPA and clear demonstration of academic and personal responsibility.
Visits to home were increasingly unpleasant with parents behaving as though I owed them massive amounts of slave labor – incident year prior where I had severe mono that had gone undiagnosed for nearly six months and was still expected to wait on everyone for Thanksgiving was major warning sign of attitudes towards me.
The next year, when my mother demanded my father and I clean the garage (a ridiculous task, since neither parent would get rid of a goddamn thing) and last straw came when father dropped a wagon on my head and then, instead of taking me in to check for concussion, demanded I wash the dishes.
Particularly hideous Christmas following where my mother told my sister that because mail for me still came to her house (despite my frequent change of address cards) that she still “expected more from me,” while Kris was a guest in her house. This ignored that Kris was over very frequently and relied on my mother, while I spent less than two weeks a year at the house and was treated like slave labor every time I went – even when it was an obvious danger to my health. Pursuant idiocy over dating a non-white man, and yet more when I was asked to make a salad dressing I hated and was told I needed to “learn how to compromise” when I asked to serve the dressing on the side instead of mixing it in the salad. Recognized mother was gaslighting me, and that she really thought it was going to work.
Came out excuse for abuse was my refusal to go to parents’ alma mater, something never even mentioned or encouraged with my sister. The grand plan to force me to transfer to Ball State where I would be under the watchful and invasive eye of my grandmother became clear after I informed them of my transfer in the opposite direction, to Mankato State. Parental behavior was spectacularly out of line and bitter given that they only contributed to one year of my higher education as the direct result of me publicly embarrassing my mother after she listed the ways she continued to support my sister both before and after she moved out of the house. Financial difference in expenditures came to a differential of almost $60,000 when cars, insurance, books, and room and board were considered. This also did NOT account for parents active encouragement that my sister have her own line of income, and their active efforts to prevent me from working a side job or making any income during school despite their near total absence of financial support. I am still REALLY angry about this. Denying support did not upset me – but taking action to prevent me from supporting myself is classic abusive behavior. My mother actually went so far as to insist that my college experience in 1995 was no difference from hers in 1964. Realized that the only way to finish my education was to get as far from that woman as possible, preferably a place where I could work.
Most creative energy of that year went into devising a plan of escape while maintaining my GPA.
Have yet to find a way to handle someone opting for delusional crazy as an excuse for treating me badly.
1996 – 1999
Transferred to Mankato State in the summer, found a job, worked multiple jobs throughout stay. Graduated with a 3.5 GPA. Recognized as outstanding upperclassman my first semester present. Established a Pagan organization. Worked in radio, news, fundraising, and for a battered women’s shelter. Frequently recognized for academic achievement and the ability to bring together concepts across academic disciplines.
First paid article published – Facing Your Fear, in Llewellyn Magical Almanac.
Published several artcles, mostly non-paid. Ran a large website with my ex that was highlighted among best religious websites in the world. Grad school. Took on book review gig; publishers still often quote reviews on book copy. Got a book contract because of website; book was never published. Still languishes with a small British imprint.
Moved to Minneapolis with a little help from great friends. Divorced, developed chronic illness, found way to survive. Continued to write at a minimized pace.
Turned TC Pagan Pride into an organized volunteer base. (This promptly disappeared when I left.)
Left corporate to write full time. Started Magickal Realism business.
Launched Fat Chic.
Started the Artist’s Way path. Addressed inability to finish books, and what I needed to do to create daily practice.
Father died. Left huge mess behind since the only thing he wasn’t concerned about was abusive behavior of my mother and sister towards me. Also insisted I carry through with my wedding, and with having mother and sister present. Predictably, mother and sister behaved like assholes – probable excuse was likely “missing my sister’s wedding,” that ignores that neither parent bothered to pick me up from school after sister gave less than 24 hours notice to take me to the damn thing. Also ignores that I did participate in ALL other wedding festivities, and did NOT punch sister’s father-in-law when he “assured” me I would be “next” to get pregnant/throw my life into the gaping maw of white trash that my sister had. (One she could have avoided by getting a real job and genuinely braving single motherhood.) Also resisted urge for violence when my mother and sister’s mother-in-law belittled my plans for college, telling me “well, other things can happen.” Sure, if your parents are assholes out to destroy your life other things can happen. Prompted me to buy thickest condoms possible before starting college.
Father also insisted I “not abandon” mother and sister. He did not address their behavior in any way, although my sister lies and claims he said they needed protection from me. Anyone paying attention knows that that’s gaslighting bullshit since sister and mother both lie constantly, if not always consciously. Partner herded me through wedding for his own reasons. I love my partner, but I really hate marriage and always have. The whole thing was a mess.
Fat Chic recognized by New York Times, and flown out for two conferences.
Scored book contract for Divorcing a Real Witch.
Named Executive Editor for Pagan Newswire Collective, the global organization. In revisions on book.