An exploration of the guilt and anger associated with breaking out of a box fashioned by years of abuse.
In her memoir, Mayfield (Acting A to Z, 2007, etc.) describes the hurt, longing and anger she experienced while excavating years of emotional abuse endured at the hands of her parents. The poem, written by Mayfield, that opens the book encapsulates the author’s struggle best: “It’s been many years now / That I’ve been in the box of daughter— / I’ve worked a lot on the box, / Making holes to see out / … I’ve pushed and pushed at the walls for years and years, / Trying to make the box fit me better, / But it’s a very strong box.” For Mayfield, the strength of the guilt and responsibility associated with being a daughter trapped her, even following the death of her parents. Her father, the son of a minister, was extremely lonely, living a solitary life disconnected from his wife and relying heavily on Mayfield. Her mother, a model citizen who was always helping others, was insatiable in her need for attention and enacted a reign of terror in the household. Mayfield’s discovery of her true self through daunting psychological work is a long process that she explains by describing the methods of therapy, thought, writing and reading that led her to understand the impetus of many of her issues and to improve her outlook and health. The flashbacks in the book, though clumsily called attention to with the use of present tense, are heartbreaking. One specific flashback recounts her mother’s cruel use of power to frighten Mayfield and her friends during her seventh birthday party. Mayfield’s memoir is a testament to the merit of psychological healing through the understanding and expression of feelings and allowing the past trauma of the psyche to come to the forefront to be acknowledged.
Full of stark realities of abuse but also the hopefulness of healing, Mayfield’s memoir provides helpful insight to those facing similar struggles.