Memoir Writing Dreams are Bigger than Family Dynamics

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Dreams are Bigger

When I quit my journalism job to take a year off to write my memoir book, Confessions of an Undutiful Daughter, at first I didn’t tell my teen-tiiny micro-family about my dream. I said I needed a break. I needed to do something new. I’d probably look for a job that was completely different and maybe I’d write something.

My adoptive mother, the mother who raised me, had died in April that year and by August I was gainfully unemployed and focused on my dream of writing a book about toxic mothers. My goal was to provide a way for people to talk about growing up with toxic moms and how to live with them as an adult.

Of course I told my husband, who was supportive from the word go. But I didn’t tell my step-mother or my brother and his family, or my aunt and uncle and cousins. For a while there I had trouble even telling close friends.

I hated that look. That look that said

I always knew you had a weird mom but I had no idea she was cruel.

I’m stronger than my experiences with my toxic mom. I’m funnier than my experiences. And I needed to get to a place where I could convey the entire goal of self-examination, story-telling, story-gathering, analysis, and self-tests. I especially needed to include what got me through everything, HUMOR and HOPE.

So, fast forward to now, the tail end of my writing effort, of my blogging at 8WomenDream, which opened doors to other women’s stories. Little by little I told everyone. Now I’m telling strangers in movie theaters about my book and they’re handing me their addresses on little slips of paper to let them know when the book is available.

In my dream’s home stretch, two weeks ago my 88-year-old step-mom – the only sane mother figure in my life – died suddenly. Her motto – It’s never what you worry about – has been ringing in my ears ever since.

Death is a doozey because what happens next between those left behind is always surprising. I’ve been struggling with some rancor over my step-mom’s will which shined greatly upon myself and my husband and less so to another family member who expected more. Feelings were hurt and anger rose to the surface and I learned that in death sometimes anger is redirected at the living.

I’ve been having those deep thoughts at 4 a.m. when your husband is snoring and you’re staring at the charcoal ceiling. I never realized that the connections we feel when we are younger are so dependent on constant rebuilding and testing. The close relationships that we assume will always be there can burst like dying stars and fall around us in ashes.

Just as daughters of toxic mothers often struggle with older or younger siblings who view their mother in a more positive light, I’m finding a death in the family forces you to examine your own unique experience with that departed soul. Can it be true that a family is like a chain? That the relationships we have assumed were strong were really dependent on other links, other family members to make us feel that we belonged and bonded to others?

During this time, it’s focusing on my dreams that has given me peace and hope. At some points in your life your dream is what gets you through.


Rayne Wolfe’s dream is to write her first book Confessions of an Undutiful Daughter by the end of 2011. She completed her dream journey May of 2011 on 8WD after a year living her dream. You can find her at Toxic Mom Toolkit on Facebook.

  • Claire

    I would definitely say that everyone on the family has their own experience. My sisters agree my mom is controlling and has a sense of entitlement to meddle in our lives and take over our parenting job when she deems it necessary. Still, they prefer to ignore it all and just leave her to it. I’m the rebellious one. I don’t accept this toxic behaviour. And in a way this makes me feel like the bad daughter. Why can’t I just leave it alone? Keep your mouth shut. In the mean time mom continues to barge into our personal business whenever she thinks she knows better. When is enough enough?

  • Carole


    The more I read your articles, the more I can not wait to read your book and buy quite a few as gifts for family members and friends.
    It is amazing to me that a total stranger – someone I have never met or talked to can bring so much light/peace to my insides with so few words.
    For that I thank you.
    On Sundays I jump out of bed, work out and get everything done so I can watch football and hockey. Now I jump out of bed, turn on the computer and read what you have written.


  • Motivational Speaker Kelly Swanson

    In some ways I feel like I’ve met my doppelganger – or someone who has been to my WEBSITE!;-)

    I’ve struggled through some of the same negative “embedded parent track” in my head issues, and an unsupportive family (at least from certain family members). One of my goals for last year was to kill the left-over negative scripts in my head. I feel that I’ve accomplished that, mostly anyways. This is the direction that I thought your post was taking. But…

    I was pleasantly surprised at the sharp turn you made by exploring the “chain links’ that connect one family member to others, and the fragility of relationships that we thought were solid. It resonates for me. Nice job!

    • Rayne

      Hey Kelly – LEAVE your website URL. I’m sure my readers would like other sources on this topic. Don’t be shy at! No shy girls allowed!

  • Rayne,

    This post was touching and filled with softness. Deeply appreciated.

    As always, thank you,


    • Rayne

      Thanks Shellie for always leaving tracks. I kowmy readers are out there. It’s just that most of them are shy about leaving notes. See you next Sunday, – Rayne

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  • Catherine Hughes, Editor & Chief

    Wow, I love this, “burst like dying stars and fall around us in ashes.” So beautiful. I often say that “my father’s death was like someone throwing a bucket of ice water on my soul.” It took me many years to deal with it. I don’t really think I began healing until I had my son. Lovely post Rayne.

    I have found that working on this dream has seen me through some tough spots over the last two years too. I have been thankful to have this to focus on. Plus reading everyone’s posts gives me comfort to carry on when I feel like quitting. I’ve had a horrible writers block the last three weeks, and this morning thought, what would Rayne do? Rayne would tell me to write every day and to write anything, so that is what I will be doing today.


    • Rayne

      Write everyday even if it’s only the grocery list. Make it an exciting grocery list.

  • Remy G

    I agree with you about life, death, and the connection links from family to family – and even generations…You have created an amazing support system, just by writing about your life. Feel the fear, joy, pain, humor and love, and please keep writing! I can not wait to read your book. xox Rem

    • Rayne

      My entire experience during this time has really taught me that what is most personal is most universal. This morning: another questionnaire. Another person who will tell their most personal story to help other women they;ll never even meet.