Irene Watson’s pretentious life could go no further until she faced her own past. Her poignant and inspiring memoir begins at the end, in a recovery center, where she has gone to understand a childhood fraught with abuse, guilt, and uncertainty. Her powerful story is a testament that it’s never too late to change your life, never too late to heal.
The Sitting Swing was a rope swing, hung from a tree next to the tiny cottage her Russian immigrant father built by hand from hand-milled logs and mud in Northern Canada in the early 20th century. Any motion at all would smash the child into a vigorous rose bush. It was a sitting swing in a family not given to play, in a childhood stretched between two very different cultures.
Irene was born into a tight Ukrainian-speaking community and a family struggling with guilt, shame, and grief over the death of a first-born child—a son. The old world immigrant culture placed much of the blame for Irene’s brother’s death on her mother, causing her to hold her next child close to home, segregated from the new culture, victim to the blunt aggression of male cousins, and scornful townspeople.
The Sitting Swing shows us how guilt, fear and ignorance are borne by our children. Two distinct parts of the book look at an abusive child rearing and the process of recovery that takes place years later. On many levels this is a classic immigrant story showing us that change, growth, forgiveness, and recovery are possible. It is also a heart warming healing story and a testament to the strength and courage of the human spirit. - FROM THE AUTHOR’S SITE
Irene Watson, author of award winning The Sitting Swing, was born and raised in a tiny hamlet of Reno in the northern area of the province of Alberta in Canada. It was a farming community, mostly settled by immigrants from Russia, Ukraine and Poland during the early 1900s.
Two books that had the deepest impact were Change me into Zeus’s Daughter by Barbara Robinette Moss, and, Lost and Found by Babette Hughes. Reading both books inspired Irene to write about her own life’s journey, from growing up in a semi-abusive home to finally accepting that experience as a path to a spiritual understanding of life. She now shares her story in The Sitting Swing.
Irene is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.
Irene received her Bachelor of Liberal Studies, Summa Cum Laude, in Psychology from Saint Edward’s University in Austin and her Master of Arts, with honors, in Liberal Studies: Psychology, from Regis University in Denver.
Today, Irene lives beside Barton Creek in Austin, Texas with her husband Robert of 43 years, and their Pomeranian, Tafton; their calico cat from a rescue shelter, Patches; and their rescued cockatiels, Clement and Elgin.
WORDS FROM IRENE WATSON…Readers who hear my book title, The Sitting Swing: Finding Wisdom to Know the Difference, may wonder what a swing has to do with wisdom. The swing is both a memory from my past and a metaphor for how we can get stuck in our lives, afraid to explore, afraid to let ourselves soar to new heights.
As a little girl, I could only sit on the swing in my yard. The bushes around it made it impossible for me to pump my legs to catapult the swing up into the air, to know that joyous freedom of swinging freely, without a care in the world. That swing was typical of the entrapment I felt as a child. My swing faced the kitchen window so my mother could keep an eye on me. If I had dared risk getting scratched by the bushes so I could soar on my swing, she would have stopped me.
It’s not that my mother didn’t want me to have fun—it’s that she was deadly afraid that my having fun could result in my getting hurt. As I got older, her fear expanded to her being abusive and controlling to ensure I did not rebel.
I knew the reason for my mother’s concern, but it wasn’t until I was older that I really understood the grief and fear that had paralyzed her into becoming a mother who could mistreat her daughter out of a misguided and distorted sense of love.
I was the second and last child born to my parents, but I was also an only child. My brother, Alexander, had died before I was born. The loss was devastating to my mother, who irrationally blamed herself for his death. No autopsy was performed, no clue given about the baby’s real cause of death. My mother accepted the community’s belief that Alexander had died because she had been too young and weak to bear a child. To compensate for her supposed weakness, when I was born, she adopted a brutally controlling parenting style.
I grew up obeying my mother’s every whim. She tried to protect me from the wrong friends, and if I disobeyed, I’d get a beating. If I thought differently than her, I felt the repercussions. I share the details of how she treated me in The Sitting Swing, but the point isn’t to recap my abusive childhood. The point is that I found wisdom, as in the Serenity Prayer, to know what I could and could not change. I couldn’t change my mother. I could accept her, and I eventually came to understand, love, and forgive her. I also learned I could change myself.
As I grew older, I found I had become codependent, controlling and manipulative. I fought myself, denying I had these issues, blaming my parents for them, and finally learning to forgive myself for developing behaviors that had served to protect me as a child. Rewriting my life story, creating a new story for myself, was a long process, but my visit to the Avalon Center, as I detail in my book, was the pivotal experience that pushed me in the right direction.
The greatest blessing of my journey is that finding my own wisdom has allowed me to help others. As a therapist and author, I’ve been privileged to help others rewrite their own life scripts; in fact, I’m currently co-authoring a new book titled Rewriting the Script.
Recently, I visited the cemetery where my brother is buried. As I stood over his grave, I told him, “I am who I am today because you were born and stayed just a little while. That was your path and this is mine. So thank you, Alexander.” I wonder whether my brother knew he was blazing the trail for me to come forth, to have my experience that in turn would blaze a trail for others to find healing, to learn how to soar with the swings in their lives.
Learn from your old story; then write your new one.
FROM THE BOOK FAERY REVIEWS…Thank you Irene for stopping by The Book Faery Reviews and for giving me the chance to give away a copy of The Sitting Swing. Readers, get your first chance by leaving a comment below for Irene about her latest book. For extra chances be a subscriber by e-mail and/or a reader, tweet it (add in RT @wifeandmomof3 so I can see it) or blog it (leave me the URL). Good luck! The winner will be randomly selected on July 1st so get your entry in!