Be a One Woman Riot

Photo by Alexa Mazzarello on Unsplash
Photo by Alexa Mazzarello on Unsplash

When I was a kid, if my siblings and I argued
or made too much noise, we were put on silence.
Silence meant we were not allowed to speak or make any noise.
If we found a way to communicate through spelling letters
through sign language or motioning,
we might even be put on frozen statues.

Frozen statues meant you were not to move at all. No touching or laughing or smiling because a smile meant you might be up to something. If you did not obey the rules of silence and frozen statues, then you could be beaten with the Persuader. Such was the “fascist regime” of my childhood. And while I loved my parents, I hoped to leave such control behind by the time I reached adulthood.

Of course, I didn’t realize when people can no longer control you with the belt, they will guilt and shame and shun to push you into doing what they want. Even as a young adult, I rarely spoke to my siblings about what happened in our childhood because to do so was considered breaking the ultimate rule of family togetherness. Family togetherness means you never speak of the past—not even to each other–all must be forgiven and forgotten.

Family togetherness also means you never, ever speak about the family to outsiders. And in case you are wondering, I’m doing that right now. I’ve been doing it for seven years and I have had less phone calls from my parents than you can count on one hand. Every year, I get an email from my mom acknowledging that I was born on my birthday, but my attempts to have a real relationship with them is very limited—not because I don’t want to have one, but because they feel I have broken the rules of family togetherness and they basically have no interest in my life.

Simply speaking about things that happened over thirty years ago makes me a monster to them, but I am writing a memoir—not out of anger toward them (actually I hope to portray them with love and compassion) but because my childhood was unique and strange and it was very hard for me to grow up when I got out into the real world.

So why can’t I keep quiet? Because if I don’t speak up, no one will ever have known that I was alive or what happened in my life. No one will know what it is like to have Mt. St. Helens blow up your life and be isolated from other teenagers and denied an education while you wait for Jesus to come. I have to speak it because it was not just their lives that were affected by their choices, it was my life. These are my stories, not so much theirs, but they do play a major part.

I’ve mentioned how the current US administration brings on my childhood PTSD. It’s the authoritarian rule. In the past no matter which party was in office, it was not a huge deal because presidents from both sides respected the U. S. Constitution and at least made an effort to treat all people as equal. But my PTSD was most recently triggered this last week by the treatment of the press by the White House.

I took some journalism classes in college and the first thing we were taught is the press is the watchdog on the White House steps and to imagine it being muzzled reminds me of many fascist regimes throughout history and the losses of freedom including religion. The worst part about this is that so many, even within my religious community, seem unable to see this.

My sweet grandma always kept a diary. I call her sweet because whenever I walked into the room, she made me feel like I was the most important person in the world. And she wasn’t playing favorites, I’ve seen her greet my male cousins and brother and my sisters in the same way. I think it could be fair to say she was kind to even her son in laws who really never seemed to respect her very much. There was a lot of eye rolling because she didn’t cook much and she did CPR on cats at least twice to save their lives. It’s true she talked to cats and raccoons and skunks and birds. She was like a Grandma Doolittle and many people were nervous about the skunks she fed on her back porch. It could be said about Grandma that she walked with skunks and angels.

Grandma talked to Jesus and about Jesus every day. And for decades, she kept a diary. The contents were often mundane about the weather or her pets, but sometimes they told stories of her faith in God and how he came through for her. She lived through her parents’ divorce which mortified her and separated her from her siblings and she endured the great depression and worked as Rosie the Riveter during WWII and endured many sad events such as losing her firstborn child at birth. Grandma lived a life of faith despite her pain.

When Grandma hurt her hip and ended up in elder care, my parents took all those decades of diaries and burned them in a big bonfire. They took away her voice before she was even dead. My siblings and I were appalled when they told us but no one confronted them because we knew it would make things harder for our family to get along.

Silence. Silence from one party can mean sadness, anger, disconnection, or even death. But forced silence is another thing altogether. Forced silence is a form of control to murder another’s voice. Or even another’s right to determine the truth by hearing more than one side of the story.

During the Women’s March, I saw a video of a group of women singing a song by MILCK. My husband played it for me because he thought I would like it and when I heard it, my eyes immediately filled with tears. This is why I must write on. I can’t stop my blog or my memoir as hard as it is when I have no family to support me in telling my story, I will press on because Jesus cares.

Jesus never asks us to keep quiet about our pain or to ignore injustice. Jesus comes to each of us with love and forgiveness, but he always, always leans in to listen to our pain. I have a friend who had an abortion decades ago and she is still feeling ashamed about it. I asked her if her little boy ran over his pet turtle on his bike and was feeling horrible about it, would she care about the turtle who was not in any more pain now, or for her child? She said her child of course.

Jesus is like that. He knows we have all messed up big time at some point in our lives, but he cares more about our hearts than anything we have done wrong. This is true for parents as well as children.  But the one thing Jesus doesn’t ask us to do is be silent when we have been hurt. We are free under God’s government to share our stories and to tell our stories because this is how we overcome (Rev. 12:11).

So I don’t know about you, but I am nervous about this changing of the guard from a land of freedom of speech and diversity to a land where we are threatened to be quiet if we have a different opinion or color of skin from the powers that be, this is not how God runs his government. Jesus runs his government on freedom for all and he says we will know the truth and the truth will set us free.

If you have been shamed and abused, don’t worry if someone scapegoats you and calls you a monster. Don’t let them shut you up. You are not alone. You are one of many. Tell your story. Embrace the messy truth, speak the honest truth and cherish the value of your own voice. I’m doing it for myself, but I am also doing it for Grandma and all the women before us who were forced into silence. Let’s not be quiet. We can each become a one-woman riot! Viva la resistance!


  1. Hello Cherilyn

    Very similar story about my own family of origin, the family contract etc. I’ve now broken that by being open about what really happened in my childhood, including with an aunt (whom I haven’t heard from since and who may well turn out a flying monkey, that’s how it often goes, but I really don’t care about that anymore, telling your truth is a super BS filter). Most of my sharing is still with pseudonyms on related websites, but the openness has resulted in some real-life hugs and appreciation going both ways with some people in real life, who it turns out were dealing with similarly broken childhoods that are so rarely talked about.

    It’s funny, the very people who told lies about you to others all your life get so up in arms if you actually tell even a tiny bit of the truth about what they did to you, and didn’t do for you. Then you’re the evil one blackening their names. Did I miss something? But ironically, for many years I was mostly silent, especially with people who knew my parents, because I didn’t want to “speak badly of them” or “backstab them” and yet (1) they were doing exactly those things to me, and (2) there is a big difference between making up bad actions and behaviours a person didn’t actually do and inventing things that didn’t happen like saying you got sacked from your job etc; and telling the truth about actual behaviours and actions that certain people really did do to you or things that they didn’t do and should have done, like parents making sure there was a babysitter for a young child if they were going to a restaurant, or that you had appropriate winter clothing and bus fare for your schooling as a teenager before going off and buying luxuries for themselves.

    You know what makes me white-hot with indignation? To think that any of the bunch of fifteen-year-olds I taught before we moved out into the country to farm had to live the life I had to live as a teenager. To think that they were constantly wet and getting sick in winter because of lack of waterproof clothing, not from parental poverty but because the parents were busy crying poor at the same time they were buying racehorses for themselves. To think that they had to go home to an unpainted room with just bare drywall that wasn’t allowed to be decorated in any way, like posters; and the cheapest possible tubular bed and mattress and study desk and no personality allowed, while the parents were indulging their expensive hobbies. To think that they went home and nobody would actually see them, and nobody would nurture and support them emotionally, or want to read their prize essay, or know them as a person, or ever ask them what they wanted for their lives. And at the same time, that they were scapegoated and lied about and verbally and physically abused, especially when voicing concern about the way things operated in the household, or when discussing anything that wasn’t flattering for the parents, like did you notice you have starving cows in the back paddock and that they need feeding? (A member of the public finally went to the RSPCA. I should have done it myself but you know what life in a totalitarian household is like…) To think that anyone should call any of them arsehole or stupid cow or useless or lazy or say “Are you menstruating? You’re so touchy” to them. To think that anyone should give any of them a blood nose over a poster of a pop band. I could go on and on. And that white hot heat I now feel, finally, for the teenager that was me as well: I was a young person just like the young people in that lovely class. And I wish I’d felt it like this thirty years ago, and acted accordingly.

    There you go, you just have to scratch at it and it all comes tumbling out. I can totally get why the Resident Rump triggers your PTSD. Someone like an abusive parent, or a schoolyard bully, but in control of policy and finance for a whole country, and with a nuclear arsenal to play with. Yeah, and who thought that was a good idea? That type also seems to be de jour in Australia at present.

    Burning the grandmother’s diaries, wow…

    It’s the honesty of a very few people like yourself that has given me the courage to also be open about what was really going on when I was a child. That was very hard to do at first, it’s like the worst sort of Stockholm Syndrome to overcome. Also what held me back was the truth-twisting: If you spoke the truth then you were bad-mouthing. If you wanted consideration you were selfish. If you remembered details your sick mind was making them up. If you compared to your friends’ experiences they would compare to the worst-case scenarios, “Think about all those children who don’t get school lunches. Think about all those children who have nothing to wear, or who live in Ethiopia and are starving. Think about the poor children in the slums in India.” Yeah, I bet their parents aren’t buying racehorses to elevate their social positions / appease their egos / whatever…

    It wasn’t that long ago I just couldn’t speak plainly and objectively about this stuff, without guilt or feeling I was doing something evil. Through your writing, about narcissism and your own experiences and in general, I learnt so much – and that’s despite reading umpteen books on this kind of thing before. So powerful when a real person shares their real story. Good on you, Cherilyn, and thank you very much. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoy reading your posts. I’m truly amazed at the depth of your insight. Please don’t stop writing. I, for one, would love to read your memoir.

    When my sister and I were admonished by our mother to not “talk about our business,” I wasn’t sure what I could talk about since everything we did was our “business.” I therefore said nothing about our family, not even to other family members which I’m sure pleased my mother, immensely. But it was also the beginning of her pattern of silencing me and my sister’s voices, but especially mine. “Forced silence is a form of control to murder another’s voice. Or even another’s right to determine the truth by hearing more than one side of the story.” Silence i.e. non-resistance, helps them to control and execute the narrative, for their own agenda. To cry out in pain lets everyone around you know you’ve been hurt and, most likely, are in pain. To be silent–sends the message you haven’t been hurt at all.

    I like what you said at the end of your post: “I’m doing it for Grandma and all the women before us who were forced into silence.”

    This sums up how I feel about being silent:

    “I can’t keep quiet
    For anyone

    Written by Connie Lim and Addrianne

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My husband’s parents have completely quit speaking to him even on his birthday. They ignore my birthday, and our kids’ birthdays, which is actually a relief to me. But my husband is very much bound by that code of silence. He and his brothers speak about their childhood and parents to each other, and I’m privy to that information, as well. But with my husband specifically, it isn’t allowed outside that circle. I’ve told my parents (to their horror, regarding many situations) almost everything that we’ve endured with his parents, but I don’t let on to him that I do it because it makes him mad. He says they can’t understand and will think his parents are awful people. Which is true because my parents are emotionally healthy people with common sense. They don’t understand how anyone could treat their adult children, adult children’s spouses, and their grandchildren that way. I feel like my kids and I live inside the Magic Portal. Not living completely in the normal, but not living in the dysfunctional, either (thank God!).

    We do live in interesting times. I’m not political, but I do pay attention to what’s going on. I don’t believe we can trust the media OR our government to be completely honest any more. Not that we ever really could, but now more than ever. We have no idea who to believe when we’re consistently fed partial truths, biases, spins, outright propaganda, etc. I believe we can and should stand up for what we know is right and be a voice for those who may not have one, but ultimately we have to trust in God whose ways and times are not ours. So I pray, and I trust God because He IS the Truth. He knows the hearts of man.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you Andrea,

    You truly do get it! Thank you,thank you, thank you! Even the Stockholm syndrome–I often felt even though they were doing something not right and maybe belting me or yelling at me or emotionally abusing me by saying I was mentally ill, I felt sorry for them, covered for them and made excuses for them and gave them my money for years. It took a huge crisis for me to wake up and once you wake up, it can never be the same. The only thing that could fix this crevasse between us is respect and honor and this time it must go both ways. That probably will never happen if they are truly narcissistic because narcs would rather be right than kind and honest. It is all a game with them. They might cry or be sad, but they don’t feel sad for their children and how they have treated them. They feel sad because they don’t want to look bad–there is a huge difference.

    Well no more Stockholm syndrome for me.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Peace and freedom to you!



  5. Thank you so much, Lynette!

    I will be glad to share my memoir with you as soon as I am done. I have added you to my list of beta readers. I am not worried about making money. We all know the more you share a good memoir–that is if you write it well, the best thing you can do is give it away. your encouragement (and your blog about memoir) mean a lot to me!

    Peace and freedom to you!


    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi April,

    Your husband sounds like I used to be. maybe I will write a blog about it sometime, but I was married for about seven years before I told my husband about my childhood. What woke me up was my dad blatantly lying to him on the phone, telling him that I made stuff up and of course I had it on the speaker so I heard my own father, Daddy that I had always thought loved me but was just down on his luck and in a bad mood much of my life. Well I totally cracked. I walked for three days and nights around the apartment complex we lived in balling my eyes out. My husband walked with me some of the time and tried to bring me inside to eat and get warm but I was so traumatized I couldn’t sit still.
    He finally asked me to tell him what my dad was so afraid of him knowing about. You see, we had been married for seven years and he had known me for ten and I hadn’t told him anything much partially because I was keeping the family secrets like a good girl.

    I am not really political either until this year. I would have voted for Saunders though if it had been an option. My husband and I read the book by Greg Boyd, The Myth of a Christian Nation and we firmly believe we are called to a higher government than following nationalism. We want to serve God’s kingdom but not the religious right version which we believe is false.

    I will stand up for issues one at a time and I think God would call us to stand up for the marginalized and broken and hurting.

    Thank you so much for sharing a part of your story too!

    Peace and freedom to you!



  7. I’m really thinking about those truth-twisting techniques just now. An interesting scenario was presented on an advice forum several years ago, I came across it a while back. This is what I remember: There was this young man, early twenties, writing in for advice. He said he was from NZ and working in Australia, and spent most of his post saying how wonderful it was that his parents had taught him good financial management from the time he was little: They simulated the “real world” for him by not just giving him pocket money, he had to earn it, and then he was “encouraged” (my cynical amphasis on the word with the quotation marks) to save it in a special account they set up for him, and that he did the family’s books from the time he was able, and how it taught him so much about accounting and management, and how his parents had started charging him rent when he started a part-time job as a high school kid, because he wasn’t supposed to be “one of those kids who feel entitled and have no financial clue.” The young man was quite gushing in his gratefulness to his parents about how far ahead he was financially compared to his peers now he was a few years into his working life, no debts, because not using credit cards to pay for things he couldn’t afford etc, and a good little housing deposit building up in his account from an automatic percentage deduction he’d arranged from his salary, and he was so grateful to his parents for teaching him well so that he wasn’t in the awful situation many young people are in nowadays of being up to their ears in debt (and I just want to add that this is a genuine and widespread problem we have in our country.)

    And then, he said he had a bit of a conundrum now. The family expected him home for Christmas as always in their mansion (he warmly praised all they had accrued) and that he paid rent while he was staying at their place. But now he had a fiance and they wanted to meet her and he was supposed to bring her over for Christmas but they were going to increase the rent because it was an extra person. He said that what with already paying for flights and for the rent back at home, he didn’t think he could afford to go home for Christmas this year, what should he do? He thought it was perfectly reasonable that they charged him rent but with the extra person he’d either have to ask his fiance to pay her part of the money to his parents, or take it from his nest egg. Or maybe he just wouldn’t visit, but his parents would take that badly…

    Are your alarm bells ringing yet? Yet I know it’s so easy for someone to be lost in this kind of fog about their parents’ behaviour, especially when they can point to the positive outcomes they had as a result (even though those positive outcomes can also be produced in an unexploitative way, methinks…)… and for a long time, I did that myself. But I found this particular case startling… (having not grown up in his shoes…)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Andrea,

    Thanks for sharing that story. I was fascinated by it and I am sure others might find it helpful as well.

    It’s sad because it seems so positive util you get to the paying rent to come home for Christmas part. Bizarre. I think some people do eat and sleep and dream money and for what?

    As always, Peace and freedom,



  9. Here in one woman who says she’s going to be a revolutionary after a really awful experience with rude people at a US border – one of our children’s book authors, now in her 70s. It seems that a malignant narcissist in charge brings out bad behaviour elsewhere. It is good that people are speaking out, and fighting back.

    Best wishes. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow! That is so sad! So sorry that one of your country women was treated this way! I wish this was an isolated incident. Sadly, I fear this is the future of things to come.

    We must do all we can to spread kindness!



  11. Wow this is so helpful for me to read. I don’t feel alone. I have finally started speaking of abuse in my family spiritually and emotionally that left me a mess for a while. I didn’t know how to voice myself since I was so inverted with pain for so many years is abuse. Now I’m not afraid or ashamed to tell the truth. I want people and family to beware if people that are wolves in sheep’s clothing even if they are family members. I don’t care anymore. I am now valueing my life the way God sees me. I’m so glad I found your blog. It has helped tremendously.God has freed me from being a prisoner! And now I have a voice. God bless

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi Lisa,

    It’s a blessing for me to read all of your comments! I am so glad my blog has been helpful! And I am thrilled that you are finding your value in God’s eyes and realizing you do not have to be or do what anyone else wants you to be or do. It is my prayer that you will continue to walk with Abba Father God and know your worth!

    Peace and freedom always!



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