As we continue to countdown to Mo*Con VIII, with the theme of The Mind & Spirit of the Artist, I’ve been stunned by the reaction from folks.  The outpouring of e-mails of support, and more importantly, reports of “you’re writing my life.”  In fact, you ever run across one of those stories and your reaction is “wow, even them?”  That was my reaction when Michelle Pendergrass sent me her guest blog.  Michelle will be having her own show (yay!) during the First Friday event of Mo*Con, but will be back Saturday the 4th for her very popular art workshop.

Guest Post by Michelle Pendergrass

I’ve always pondered whether the abuse made me a creative, or if my creative saved me from the abuse.

Or both.

It’s a long, sordid tale of all sorts of abuse that started so very early in my life. Physical, sexual, mental, emotional, and spiritual abuse tore through the fabric of my youth and ripped it to shreds. I diligently picked up the pieces, braided them, and became a woman with a very thick coat of triple-braided cord. It was me, myself, and I who fought against them all. I wrote to myself in my journals, gave myself advice, criticized, chastised, hated, loved, loathed, wished, wondered, and wanted to die.

I read Stephen King because I watched Carrie from the same couch on which certain abuse took place. I never had pig’s blood poured on me but I did want to set fire to things with my mind. I became thoroughly focused on the supernatural–with ESP and out-of-body experiences, I could change things. I could control my environment instead of being a victim to it.

Writing fed that need of survival as well. The characters were mine. The story was mine to tell. The words, the sentences, the paragraphs–all mine. And because they came from my mind, no one could steal them from me. And it was very private. It was the only thing that I had that fully belonged to me, that was not violated. Drawing and painting manipulated the ugly reality and turned it into beauty.

And then in high school, they found my creative and they broke her. You’re not good enough for art school, they said. Writing isn’t a career, it’s a hobby, they said. Those aren’t careers. Study this calculus, this chemistry, these honors classes. Be a lawyer or an accountant, you’d be great at those. Stop daydreaming and study for a real career.

I be{lie}ved them and they won. It was just so exhausting trying to fight their opinions of who I should be. So I drank. And fucked. And drank. And got straight A’s–because I could. And drank. And graduated top ten–because I could. I went to college my senior year of high school. After graduation, I took a full course load, worked sixty hours a week, pulled a 4.0, made the Dean’s list, and gave them all the finger. I married at nineteen because I thought he loved me, but I didn’t know what love was, I knew what abusers said to little girls to control them.

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During that time I went from atheist to born-again believer and then my husband left me with a God I knew nothing about, one who hated divorce and yet, there I stood. Alone again four months after our vows before God. The pastor who married us telling me I could never marry again otherwise I’d be an adulteress for the rest of my days, and God doesn’t hear the prayers of an adulteress (Obviously he didn’t hear the prayers of a scared little girl crying from violation, or a young teen wife crying over abandonment, either), but I could marry him again if he came back. I should wait for him, even if it meant being alone the rest of my days.

I wasn’t even good enough for God.

My first suicide attempt was in there somewhere. I was a coward, though. It was more because he was abusing me verbally and I wanted it to stop and I wanted to know if he valued my life (he did not.) He called my mother thinking she would think I was crazy and then he could have more power over me to lock me up. I told her with clear mind that I did it to know if he cared (he did not) and I was coming home. And she knew. I know she knew. Because she came home as a little girl to find her own mother with her head in the gas oven trying to kill herself because “he” didn’t care. Because “he” had slept with her brother’s wife and because her brother killed himself. And mom knew because dad was bipolar and had PTSD from Vietnam and tried to kill me once. She knew I wouldn’t kill myself.

I went to my first counselor at that time. He worked at a Christian counseling center. He heard me say father…bipolar…and wanted me on meds immediately. I told him to fuck off that I didn’t need meds that I needed people around me who didn’t use me and throw me away. And I read a book called Happiness is a Choice.

I made some hard choices. For me, medicine wasn’t an option. Whether it was pride or something else, I don’t know, I just didn’t think a pill was the answer to the overly complicated hand I was dealt. I felt like I needed a big, red, stacked Craftsman toolbox full of tools that I could use to navigate my path. Maybe the healing would’ve happened faster with the medicine as a tool. I can’t say for sure.

I read a lot of books. I went after healing with fervor and passion and determination. I met God along the way. The REAL God. The one who loves unconditionally and shows Himself.

That was a lifetime ago. Two decades. I sit here today, on my forty-first birthday, and know that in that time, there has been healing. I’m not completely healed. I still have a toxic family.

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I still struggle. But I’ve cut off the most toxic of the relationships, I’ve moved away, I’ve traveled with my husband as over-the-road truck drivers, and I’ve learned that I am not what they say I am.

I am beautiful.
I am important.
I am loved and can love and will love.
I am valuable.
I am treasured.

And so are you friend. So are you.

I still fight these days. With words, with paint, with the girl who was born a creative. I take all of the ugly that they intended for harm and turn it over to God and pour it out as an offering. I can hold my hand out and grab yours and say, “I’ve been there. Let’s go. We’re done with that.” It won’t ever be easy. Easy is staying where you are. The fight comes in moving forward and shedding the skin of that old you.

~michelle pendergrass

MichellePendergrass.com
Visual Prayer

 

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Mo*Con VIII: The Mind and Spirit of the Artist

May 3 – 5, 2013.  Indianapolis, IN

Previous Guest Blogs:

Maurice Broaddus – Being Crazy, Christian, and Creative

Lucy Snyder

Doug Warrick

Jim C. Hines

Gary A. Braunbeck

Nate Southard

Delilah Dawson

Michelle Pendergrass

Steven Saus

Janet Harriett