A big part of why I wanted to start writing a blog again was to chronicle writing the book I’m working on. The story of this book, so to speak, is really a story of how I and the people in my life have grown up. In fact, it’s how I stumbled upon the name Mythos Midwest for this place. Most of the people in my stories are not only from the Midwest, but they also grew up with a rich tradition of storytelling and oral histories. Truthfully, most Millennial adults have a fascinating oral history about their family and also the place they grew up.
Both sides of my family emigrated to the United States close to or in the 20th century and then settled in the Midwest. This is interesting because large parts of the Midwest were just beginning to develop and catch up with the rest of the country. Some places in the Midwest remained blissfully unaware of the speed of the outside world. Both sides of my family settled into these types of communities – eastern Iowa and western South Dakota. This enabled them to keep a lot of their own traditions, customs, and oral histories alive a lot longer.
I also spent a considerable amount of my late childhood and early adulthood in the Midwest. Not only was I not prepared for the culture shock of how different and ‘behind the times’ everything felt, I was unprepared for how much of an outsider I really was – even to both sides of my family and their ways. So I immersed myself in learning my family’s stories and history. This was easy to do because I come from a humongous family filled with storytellers and our history seemed to sometimes take on mythological proportions.
One such person who took on that level of mythos easily was my father. In fact, the story I’m working on for my book has to do with his storytelling, his own history, how that affected me and our relationship. To this day, I am still affected by my dad’s belief in his own magic and importance, just not necessarily in a bad way anymore. It reminds me of this quote from “Educated by Tara Westover about her own father:
“You can miss a person every day, and still be glad that they are no longer in your life.”
I read Educated when I started considering writing this book for real. Over the years, I had given it these sort of half-hearted attempts that had very large, disastrous burnouts. The reason behind this was complex. I had made peace with my dads suicide years ago, but I had no peaceful resolution to the hurt he had caused me through my life. One such hurt was the belief he had instilled in me that if I believed in the fantasy of him, I would be less hurt by abuse. It was a painful lesson to learn the opposite. I think it’s a lesson a lot of people who experience abuse never recover from because it’s hard to reconcile the honesty of it all.
I also think that fantasy we engage in
helps abuse hurt less initially, but sets a person up with little to
no coping skills for the real world. We don’t know how to trust the
good things and are more comfortable when things are bad. I wanted to
explore that idea along with what was honest or real and what wasn’t
about my father. I am learning is that the fantasy he had my believe
in may have also been a shield against the abuse he dealt with as a
kid. He is not the only mythical creature in his family –
storytelling took dazzling heights with his siblings, my grandparents
and their relatives, and more.
I guess the real question becomes, what were they all hiding from? Were they all dealing with abuse? Were they all hiding from reality? Let’s learn together.