"It's not enough to protect children from predators. It's that we need to acknowledge the inherent worth of girls, why they are worth protecting why they are as important and as full of potential. It's genuine regard for the humanity of children. Learning how to raise our boys so that they don't grow up to be predators a hundred percent. For every victim, there is a predator." – Ericka Schickel
Erika Schickel - is the author of the new memoir The Big Hurt (2021) and You’re Not the Boss of Me: Adventures of a Modern Mom (2007). She has taught memoir and essay writing at UCLA and privately. She works as an essayist and her work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, LA City Beat, Salon, Ravishly, Tin House, Bust Magazine, and The LA Review of Books, among others. She lives in Altadena, California. (She’s the mom to two children and a Cat mom. She has lots of pictures on IG.)
'The Big Hurt is a memoir that tells the story of her seduction by a teacher in her senior year of high school, and subsequent expulsion, and the reverberations of that event throughout her adult life. The book takes on themes of generational shame and explores the many ways women get labeled by society and forced to live with those identities.' – Ericka Schickel
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Hello and welcome to Permission to Heal. I am Marci Brockman, and I am thrilled that you are here today. I have the pleasure of sharing with you. A conversation I had with Ericka Schickel, who just published her new memoir called the big hurt.
[00:00:14] She we, we had a, an amazingly raw, honest open-hearted, and vulnerable conversation. She is an essayist and an. She is from a notable family of writers for generations. Her grandfather was a writer on a ton of very notable 1950s and sixties sitcoms, like the Dick van Dyke show and shows of that ilk.
[00:00:41] And she began her career as an actor because he, I guess didn't want to continue in the family business, but it. It claimed her already. She was, she was in the toxic Avenger part too. She was in the nightmare code and, and the practice in 1997 she wrote her first book was, you're not the boss of me, adventures of a modern mom.
[00:01:03] She has taught memoir and essay writing at UCLA and privately and her work as an essayist appeared. Has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, LA city beat salon Ravishly tin house bust magazine, and the LA review of books among others. She lives in Altadena, California. She's the mom of two children and a cat mom, lots of cute pictures of cats.
[00:01:25] Her cat on her Instagram her new, her new book, the big hurt took me. A hot minute to read. It is so vulnerable. And so Frank about her experiences growing up and her own inner torment and, The abuse. She suffered at the hands of her parents and the intergenerationality of all of it.
[00:01:48] And, she tells the story of her seduction by a teacher in her senior year of high school, her subsequent expulsion from her school, and the reverberations of that event that traumatized her throughout her entire life. The book takes on the themes of a generational shift. And explores the many ways that women get labeled by society and forced to live with those identities.
[00:02:12] And we talked about misogyny and we talked about all sorts of sexual abuse and how men in our lives, especially when we are young, but men and our lives feel like it is their right to. Use us, it's their right to take what they want from women and without apology and with the growth of the me too movement. And people coming out about these kinds of situations for girls and women and for men and boys. I think we're finally starting to shed some light on what is a very dark chapter in many, many people's lives and the trauma that this creates that reverberates throughout decades of our lives and can travel through generations.
[00:03:11] The things that we go through or things that we'll have some reverberations in our children's and our grandchildren's lives. And who's to say that the things that we've gone through warrant caused by things that our mothers and our fathers and our grandparents and our great-grandparents didn't go through.
[00:03:26] There's a whole field of study in the last. I don't know, a certain amount of years of the epigenetics of trauma, the psychology of this, that I find utterly fascinating. And for those of us who were on the quest of personal healing, And finding out how to make sense out of all the things that, have occurred in our lives.
[00:03:50] This can help us, I think, get a little clarity. So I hope you listen. I hope you enjoy it. I can't recommend enough that you go out and get yourself a copy of the big hurt. It is. Mind-blowing and phenomenal. I left post-its and wrote on the pages and I had a conversation with myself and with Erica about the book the whole way through, and it brought up so many things for me.
[00:04:18] I have healed and that I need to still work on. And I don't think process the process of healing is ever complete. I think we get to a certain point where we feel a lot better and we're able to stop repeating the same things in the past. But through stories like this, through sharing of our stories like this, we are able to heal ourselves and reach out into our past and heal our ancestors and reach forward into our future and heal our children and our grandchildren and hold each other's hands and healing each other.
[00:04:56] It's a beautiful story. Of one woman claiming her own narrative. And I, I hope you'll read it and I hope you'll listen to this podcast and share it with everyone, you know, and like, and give us a five-star review and leave your comments and so on. And if you have the ability to, I hope that you will consider it. Subscribing to the permission to heal Patreon subscription and helped me make more episodes of this and help other people benefit from these important conversations because it's through these conversations and giving ourselves the permission to love ourselves and heal ourselves that we're all going to heal.
[00:05:40] So thank you all very much. I'm so glad that you're here
[00:00:05] I'm so excited to be talking to you, Marci. Thank you for having me, my pleasure, my pleasure. I, I devoured your book, but I had to do it in several sittings over a little bit of time because it brought up so much stuff for me. And I just, you know, I stuck, post-its everywhere trying to have these conversations with you about what was going on and in your life and your kid.
[00:00:30] I mean, I'm just, yeah. And there are so many things that you say in the book that confirmed for me that this was a perfect. For this podcast and this audience. And for me specifically, you say, on page 2 69, you said the only viable currency in the world of trauma is being able to tell your story. And that's what we're all about.
[00:00:54] You know? That's why I wrote my book. That's why you wrote your book. That's what, the way that I think that we heal the way we try to figure out what happened, why it happened, make sense out of the intergenerationality of the whole thing so that we don't repeat anymore. We can get rid of that toxic template that we were born with.
[00:01:17] Not pass it on to our kids, not pass it on to anyone else and use ourselves as an inspiration for others. I guess it sounds obnoxious to say it that way, but an inspiration to others to not do what we did or if they find themselves in those situations that there's hope to get. Yes. Amen sister. Absolutely.
[00:01:41] I, yes, it is the only currency, you know, understanding our S to understand ourselves as to understand each other, you know? Right, right. So, yeah. You know, we had childhoods that were vastly different, but as my listeners will know, cause if they're following along this podcast, they know that my mom was an undiagnosed bipolar self-medicated drug addict.
[00:02:06] Most of her life extremely narcissistic from her own childhood mishegoss. And, and what I did not realize, cause I was so busy trying to figure out my own place in everything. I kept seeing myself as the victim. And my dad was narcissistic and not really in the picture, I mean in the picture, but not involved, not enough, you know, when he left me with.
[00:02:30] You know, he was so mad at her that he left me with her and I was I still can't reconcile that with him. And he had the 81 and he can't answer it anymore. So whatever, but there's so much that I, the looking for love in all the wrong places that you did, that I did, you know, if you don't get that love from your parents, you don't feel that safety, you don't feel a connection.
[00:02:54] You don't feel like they have your back then, especially as a girl in your adolescents, you just try to find it wherever you can. And I think that the society that we're in teaches us at a very young age, that the only sort of, well, like, try to get us to believe that the only sort of currency we have is our sexuality.
[00:03:16] And so how do you find the love through. Sexual relationships that are too mature for your pay grade, you know? Yeah. I know if, of course you're too young to even understand how Loveless those attachments can be, you know? Right. And each time you convince yourself, this is it. If I love him hard enough, if I do this well enough, if I'm good enough girlfriend, if I'm pretty enough, if I fulfill his needs better or, or enough he'll stay, he'll love it.
[00:03:46] He'll give me what I need. And it's never. No. And you got to learn it the hard way don't you. Right? I mean, I hope my book would, will help. So spare somebody their pain, but you know, I think in the end you learn it the hard way. And then you've, when you get older, you realize how common it is, you know, that, you'll your little world of, of shame and hurt and longing, which you think is just yours to bear alone.
[00:04:15] It's just so common, you know, common and tragic and it's tragic. And it's commonality because people used to not talk about it. There was really no language for it. I mean, think about all of the languages we have nowadays surrounding this particular kind of hurt. I mean, first the language around trauma, which is something that's only really come to light in the last probably two or three decades is scientifically psychologically.
[00:04:46] And then it just sort of the popular vernacular really only in the last 10 years, I would say where people are really becoming comfortable with talking about it and understanding its nature and, and how it not only affects your whole life. And that if you don't do the work to understand yourself, if you don't dig deep and figure that out, yeah.
[00:05:08] Then you're just doomed to keep repeating it right over and over and over again until the universe at some point. Hits you over the head with a four-by-four. I know. Yeah. That's exactly what my story is about. Yeah. Just how I kept at it until I, you know, finally had to just, I learned the lesson, you know, but it didn't happen until I was deep in my forties.
[00:05:34] Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So let's, you know, your whole life is, is the story here, but why now, why I know you were even writing this book for a good 10, 12 years, something like that, percolating on this, trying to figure out how to tell the story, but what compelled you to tell it? Well, I mean, you know, there's so much compulsion going on it's kind of hard to sort of strain it out from but I'm a writer, I'm a writer.
[00:06:05] I had written my first book, which was a humorous mum war called you're not the boss of me, adventures of a modern mom. And I had sort of branded myself as a humorist as a person who just wrote funny short essays. And I wanted to do the same thing. I knew I had a big story in this, boarding school story.
[00:06:25] So, you know, just briefly the book, the first half of the book deals with tells the story of how I was sent to this Bohemian boarding school in 1978 in the Berkshire mountains, my parents sent me away and I sort of made an ersatz family up in this, in this very small, private boarding school in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
[00:06:49] And. Yeah. A lot of feelings about that, you know, as I was reading, like the second before, I'd get to the line where you would tell your feelings, I would write in the margins, does she feel abandoned? And then you said a little bit outraged. Like I was so mad at your mom, like what the hell? And then she moves to New Mexico.
[00:07:10] Like none of that at the time struck me as in any way extraordinary or, you know, literally out of the ordinary I mean, I, I was raised in a very sort of, oh, so sorry. A very privileged family on the upper east side of Manhattan. My both my parents were writers and sophisticated. So I was encouraged to be a very sophisticated child and like any.
[00:07:39] Who is raised in an odd circumstance. I mean, it just, it seemed, it was all I knew it's totally normal. Yeah. And, and of course I had been gas lit by my parents be to think that I was a bad kid, a bad girl. I mean, they loved me, both. My parents loved me, but fairly conditionally and when I wasn't didn't please, them, both of my parents, especially my mother was very good at just yanking her love away.
[00:08:07] Yeah, just, and, you know, back to the subject of trauma, you know, this is now we are coming to see that this kind of experience as a child is pretty traumatic. Like even before I got sent away to boarding school or raped, or any of the things that happen in this book really the big hurt is about the loss of my mother and I, I didn't understand that.
[00:08:30] That's what I was suffering from my whole life until I started trying to write this book in my middle forties. Yeah. Yeah. That's, that's the mother wound. That's a thing we don't get over until our souls in the universe are ready to let us get over it. Okay. Until the mother wound is a real bitch really is hell freaking.
[00:08:52] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So, you know, I mean, to understand this book, the book is also very much about romantic disappointment and all of that, you know, loss of friends, loss of community loss of self-respect. So many things, lots of abandonments that people suffer that are all so intricately linked.
[00:09:12] And my life is a sort of a bizarre study in that kind of, sort of benign neglect on the scale from benign neglect to outright abandonment, you know, and I sort of suffered at all, but because I was raised in privilege and because I was Gaslight my whole life. It never occurred to me that something had had that, like, that had happened to me.
[00:09:33] Right. You know? And, and when I, when I discovered it, you know, that really, what, what was screwing me up in life was that I missed my mommy. You know what I mean? Like I just, I had never recovered from the loss of her. When I reached puberty. She basically rejected me. And even though she only died about no less than 10 years ago we were a strange for most of our adult life.
[00:09:57] I mean, that wound never truly healed until she was on her death bed and she acknowledged it, and much to her credit and allowed me to forgive her closure in a way that very few. Yeah, a form of closure. Although, as I say in the book, you know, closure is a shock, this, this idea that, oh, now I have, I have written about my mother pain and I have put it away.
[00:10:21] Right. That's not, no, it's just the beginning, those into the, well, yeah. Yes. In those moments where I observe other mother-daughter relationships or my own relationship with my own two children where I go, I missed this. I miss who would I have been if I had had a constant mother, a mother who just loved me and had my back, no matter what, where do you get your notions of motherhood?
[00:10:50] I've read through the book that you were able to eventually heal your relationship with your own children after your own love affair. So just collapsed and all of that stuff. Where do you get that from? Just to hear yearly to really good question. And I'm trying to come up with a really good answer for it.
[00:11:12] I mean, partly it's just from becoming just psychologically aware. you know, I would say I mean, first of all, I am a love-based creature, I mean, loving my children was never going to an option for me, but whether I was able to demonstrate that love consistently, I mean, that's sort of technique, isn't it?
[00:11:31] You know what I mean? Both my parents loved me, but they were not good at making me feel loved. So, when I was about when I was in. Late thirties. I met a woman who had a mother very much like mine, and she handed me a book. She was, we were having drinking wine together and she went, wait, wait right here.
[00:11:51] I'll be right back. And she brushed it to the next room and came back with a copy of the drama of the gifted child, which I don't know if you're familiar with that for your or your listeners. I'm forgetting the author's name. I'm a little groggy with jet lag, but it might come to me. But really it's about that sort of narcissistic break, you know, and about how children, the pain that is caused when we are raised to be exceptional children and to reflect our parents and the loss of self and the loss of like the genuine self that we, we hide our real selves so that we can be pleasing the parent, and we lose ourselves to ourselves.
[00:12:35] And the same wound has most likely happened to the parent who made us this way. Sure. And after reading that book, I really, I mean, I really saw my mother in the book. I saw myself in my book and more importantly, I saw. Repeating that pattern with my two girls. I had two daughters born female at birth.
[00:12:55] One is non-binary. So I will henceforth returned refer to them as my kids, but at the time they were both girls to me. And that sort of set me off on a journey of really. Looking into, who my mother was, what happened to me. And I decided that I, no matter what happened, I was going to stop what acting as my mother had being, becoming angry when you see that, isn't it turning away from my kids in anger, slamming a door.
[00:13:28] These were all the things that my mother had done with me. And, and when you're a young mother, you don't know what the fuck you're doing and you reach for the examples you have witnessed. And most often you reach for what you, your parents did to you. So by the grace of God, I found, I saw what I was doing and I stopped it.
[00:13:48] And also I had my kids were both enrolled in a really wonderful humanistic preschool that gave me some really good parenting skills that I needed. And Me to give my kids space to, for their own feelings and stuff like that. And then when it came time to re-write the book, the book really taught me the lesson.
[00:14:07] I began writing the book in 2009 and it just, it kicked my ass. I realized that if I was going to go into it, I had to go all the way through it. And I can't dip your toe in this if you're either in or you're not. Right. And I, and I did not, I did not want to go all in. And which is why I engaged a love affair with a notorious crime writer, because I started writing this book.
[00:14:32] I saw the hurt, the hurt. Eight me whole, it just swallowed me up. And then suddenly I had an opportunity to blow up my marriage with a, for an insane person. And honestly, that seemed like the safer option to me, you know, to go to return, to form, to be a bad girl, to do something was what used to be.
[00:14:58] Your template that was home, so to speak. And your marriage to your husband was your attempt to get out of that, but you still got sucked back in. Yes. Yes. And I had, I had sort of remade myself after after I was. So again, for your readers in my senior year at boarding school, I was seduced by a music teacher and I'm asking questions totally ass backward.
[00:15:23] Aren't I just, inside out, because they're hearing all of this stuff out of context. And so I was seduced by this teacher and six weeks before I was going to graduate with honors, I'd already been accepted to college. I was a great student and an upstanding member of the community. I'd really found my home and my artistic voice in the school.
[00:15:43] That was my family. All in on this school and about to graduate in glory, you know, and the affair was found out and the school essentially kicked me out fired the teacher and you know, more or less expelled for me. I mean, they said we cannot legally expel you because you are still our responsibility.
[00:16:04] However, we think that you should leave because you're going to just upset everybody if you stay here. Oh yeah. And so I was sort of, for them socks in the middle of the night I was gone, I was spirited out of that community and mailed my diploma. And I went to live with this teacher,
[00:16:23] and nearby and a town nearby and south Bennington. I mean, I'm sorry, north Bennington. And, and then at the end of like six weeks, he too kicked me out. So I began my adult, a big piece of shit. So it was an enormous turd and he roast for it. But I essentially entered adulthood just completely.
[00:16:45] Traumatized, and feeling like of just a, just a total piece of shit, but nobody wanted, no, they, I wasn't wanted at home. I wasn't wanted at school. The teacher didn't want me. And so, because I was only 18, I was just 18 at the time, it sort of formed this personality, this urge in me to like prove my worth to the world by being just the best girl ever.
[00:17:09] So I moved to Los Angeles. I married a respectable man. I did not love passionately. I raised two kids devoutly. I mean, I love, love, love my children. And, but yet I struggled It's hard to, I mean, I've always been a very expressive person, but I just, I have always felt like making myself smaller to make myself it's been a hell of a trip.
[00:17:34] Cause I can't refashion yourself to feel like that you're worthy of the love that you're brave. Yes. So that I can be kept, but it was a false identity. Again, you know, we, here we are with the drama of the, of the false identity. Once again, I could not find myself. And when I met this man who I call Sam spade in the book, but it's easily easy to Google.
[00:17:58] I felt like a re like we said, a return to form like, oh, I can go back and be what I really was, which was a bad girl who wrecks everything. And that wasn't who I was either. Was it? I mean, it's so yeah, so comfortable because you've known it before. Right. And I was suffocating in this good girl identity and also in a marriage that was, had gone cold.
[00:18:23] And I just, this feeling of just being a fake person it was painful this awful to have to live, to live that way. Yeah. And then you're not sure where you're going, you know, where's the real person inside. I had no idea. I had no idea I was, by the time I got into that affair I was sort of like the funny sort of witty kind of, I had this sort of, I don't know, like I say, in the book of sort of Gina say, fuck you that also wasn't really who I was
[00:18:58] and now I because I wrote this book because I healed myself. As far as one can be healed, I think through the offices of writing of analysis, psychedelic drugs, 12 stem and Ram and healing. Yeah. You did whole, I mean, yeah, I did it all and it hurt, it was hard. The only way out is through the only way out as they say is through yeah.
[00:19:24] Tattooed that shit on my arms. Yeah. There it is. Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. That's, it's not fun but necessary, you know? Dr. Shefali, Sabari wrote a book about conscious parenting, conscious parenting, and in it, she talks about how we have to heal ourselves before we can be the parents that we need to be for our kids.
[00:19:50] And you proved this. Absolutely. My life proved this. Absolutely. It wasn't until I tried to figure out. Who I was after my mother's death, that I was able to really come to terms with all of it and be the parent that my children needed, you know, like, like early on in my terrible first marriage, I figured out enough to know that I needed to get out in order to save myself, but in order to save them, cause I didn't want this marriage for them.
[00:20:23] I didn't want to think that this was what love was, but then I didn't know what it was anyway, but I knew what it wasn't no, I really, I think love is self-love. I mean, I really think that again, by loving yourself and coming to terms with your own pain, that's the only way to come to really love another person.
[00:20:43] And you know, and it's hard to be vulnerable enough to let yourself. Yeah. Yeah. And I think I was always vulnerable with my kids. Like my kids always knew that I loved them, but, but I was parenting in an unconscious manner and I cannot claim to like, have had some great revelation, back in 1998, that set made, set me forth on the path of brilliant parenting.
[00:21:08] I mean, I fucked it up every step of the way and I still do I mean, it's, it's a learn it's all every day is a new day of figuring it out with parenting. Now my kids or even adults and it's, you know, it's so much better, but it's also still I have a lot to learn. But the one thing I do know is that coming to love.
[00:21:30] Forgive you recognize your mistakes, your failings, the places you went wrong the places where people did you wrong, not in a, in a feel, sorry for yourself in a way, but it just in a way that just you can cut yourself some slack, like we are so hard on ourselves and really we're just children inside, like learning every day we learn, we're still learning a new thing about how to be an evolved human being and the best life is one.
[00:22:01] I think that keeps climbing upwards towards that sort of awareness, self enlightenment, whatever, you're never done no closure, but, but you can put some things away. You can put some things to rest. And with this book, I really did put some things to rest you. I think you did. Yeah. I think you did.
[00:22:22] towards the end of the book, you started to. I think started to put pieces together better. You know, you called your mom's friend and you had some conversations with CJ and alley and so on. And I think that you see figuring out all of those loose threads, you know, that the boarding school kind of used you as a cautionary tale and I think that you said even in the end that you're there still, there's still no closure from them that they're still, no, they have not revamped anything as far as I can tell. I mean, they have publicly acknowledged that there has been a past in which, I mean, you know, sexual abuse was pretty. Yeah, much a part of the culture of that school as when I was there from 78 to 82.
[00:23:10] And I'm sure in the me too era everybody's a lot more careful and aware and so forth that 77, the eighties I was, I'm four years younger than you actually, my husband. And you share a birthday, which is pretty funny, but I'm four years younger than you and I had a music teacher in my public high school who shamelessly flirted with me and tried to convince me to run off to France with him when I graduated.
[00:23:36] And I didn't even realize until years later that that was inappropriate I just thought, oh, it was just so funny, you know? Yeah. Well, because also as girls, we are just trained to. Seek approval in adult men. I mean, they are the keepers of the culture. At least they were then, I mean, it's changing now, but in that, in that time they were, and especially in my world, they were men were the keepers of the culture.
[00:24:05] They have the keys to the kingdom and back to what you said earliest earlier on, and the, where, a girl's currency, only currency that we were allowed at that time was sexuality. And, and it's not that we were I mean, I was a list, some beautiful young creature back then, but I was also, I had a pedigree and I was legitimately a brilliant girl and all of that feed fed into the egos of the men who came after me.
[00:24:39] It wasn't just that I was cute. It was that I held value to them. There was something. That they wanted to entitle themselves to of me. And yeah, it's very, it was just, and every interview I give at some point, and it's mostly with women close to my age, at some point we will say, oh, it was a different world than it really was.
[00:25:06] It was a different world. But, but that doesn't excuse the behavior. Luckily we're being, we are more aware. I'm a public high school English teacher by day. And we are very careful about what is said, and what's not as said, and you're never in a classroom with the door, closed alone with a student ever, ever, ever you're never, you never offer them a ride home, you know, like you never leave your.
[00:25:31] And that's, that's really good. And I I'm so glad that those sort of guard rails are now in place and that there are ways of if students do fall victim to sexual assault of any kind, that there are outlets for them to report that. Yeah. But I also worry that if we think the guard rails are up, that then that's enough.
[00:25:58] And I think that there's more to this conversation and in that it's not just enough to protect girls from predators or children from predators it's that we need to acknowledge the inherent worth of girls, why they are worth protecting why they are as important and as full of potential. Boys are or the adults that are in there or taking care of them are supposed to be taking care of them.
[00:26:32] You know, I think we need to progress the conversation to really, you know, so that not only it's just guardrails, but it's genuine regard for the humanity of children and, you know, and the vulnerable and learning and how to raise our boys so that they don't grow up to be predators a hundred percent. You know, it's when you see the statistics reported, you know, there's always a percentage of girls who were raped or assaulted, but it's an equal percentage of men and boys who do.
[00:27:06] The, the, the assaulting who go after the inappropriately young, innocent girl. So for every girl there is for every victim, there is the predator. It's absolutely true. And also one of the reasons I dedicated the book to CJ is not just because he was my beloved friend who helped guide me down this path, as you, as readers will find, but that to remind people like it's not just girls that, that any situation, and God knows, we've seen this in the last 5, 10, 15 years with the Catholic Trevor relations in the Catholic church, in the boy Scouts, in private schools, in any, any situation where.
[00:27:47] Adults nonfamilial adults, although even sadly familial adults, but we're adults are left in charge of children in a, in a sort of unsupervised structure. Right. and just as in the Catholic church these predators, at least at my school, they didn't get kicked. They, you know, if they got fired, my predator got fired, but he was also teaching simultaneously at Bennington college.
[00:28:11] And they did nothing about school. Never let Bennington know that they had a predator on their, on their faculty. So, and that's called passing the trash. I mean, that's the term for it. And, so all of that has to stop and it's just the whole culture of predation is it's still here, you know, just cause we have outlets for victims doesn't mean that the culture that creates these situations, isn't still going strong.
[00:28:39] Absolutely. Absolutely.
[00:28:44] So you talk in the book about intergenerational trauma, about the epigenetics, if you will, of how your being victimized by your teacher and falling prey to the gas lighting and the abuse. And so on was the third incidents of this in your family. Yeah. Yeah. I was hoping you could talk about that. So, because this just fascinates me the whole epigenomes of this in a previous episode I have a cousin of mine who was an addict, and we talk a lot about epigenetics because his, our mothers, our sisters, and my mother was an addict and he is, but it's all from the same.
[00:29:26] Yeah. We're traced it back to Russia, to our shared great, great grandparents are all traveled down that's a fascinating. Yeah. I mean, it's, it's real yeah, in my family. So when I was kicked out of boarding school, my father, my parents of course were, had been toxically divorced for several years at that point.
[00:29:49] And my father was furious with me and he wouldn't speak to me. And my mother with whom I had been estranged off and on since puberty in this moment was like, darling, come to my bosom. And she was living on Cape Cod with her partner at the time. And I went down there and she was just all warmth and acceptance.
[00:30:15] And I learned that it was because she too. Had had a disastrous. That's my word, not hers , a love affair with a teacher when she was at Sarah Lawrence college. And she had gotten involved with a psychology professor there. And she sort of framed it to me in very romantic terms and, and treated what had happened to me as a romance and, and in fact, my teacher came down to the Cape to find me and she welcomed him and made him dinner and then sent, I wrote WTF and a thousand exclamation lifts.
[00:30:52] Or are you kidding me? Because you were 14 or 15 years old. She let you go out with a 35 year old man. Anyhow, like yeah. So my mother, there are things I know about my mother and there are things I only suspect about her. And she died in 2016 and took some secrets with her. But what I was able to piece together about this affair through like Googling this man whose name was George and he had published, I Googled him up and I found that he had published two books.
[00:31:27] They were sort of adolescent psychology. If I remember correctly, one was called the role of schools in mental health. And the other was called experiencing youth. He experienced youth. All right. He really liked to experience some youth. So and my mother was cited in the public schools book because she had gone, she had followed him from Sarah Lawrence to Harvard on a Woodrow Wilson fellowship and had helped him in his studies.
[00:31:57] And she was interviewing children for this psychological study. He was conducting at Harvard and it was through those interviewing and writing up those case studies of those kids that she discovered, decided that in fact, she wasn't a psychologist. She was really a writer. She liked writing those up. And she had always told me that story.
[00:32:18] As a kid, I knew that she'd worked on some psychological study and she had told me a story about Oh a boy who thought her name was Jill Wieden and she, and she was known as miss Sweden. And the boy came in and was had stars in her eyes in his eyes because he thought that she was actually miss Sweden, a beauty queen.
[00:32:42] So I had been aware of it, but it wasn't until this thing happened, that I realized that she had, we had had this same experience. And then after she died, I interviewed her best friend from childhood and they'd gone to college together. And it was her friend, Joanna, who really was said, you know, this experience completely changed your mother.
[00:33:02] She went from being a fun, loving, warm, funny person to a very cold standoffish, sad person. The mother that I knew. Both things about, of course she was funny and brilliant and so forth, but she was in some way wrecked. Yeah. And it was, and I came to see that it was this affair with this teacher that had wrecked her and that, and that my great aunt, a generation before she too had married her English teacher at the age of 16.
[00:33:39] Wow. So and it was a very short-lived marriage, you know, it didn't lead to much, but in my great aunt's time, of course that marriage between children and adults was much more accepted in the 1915 or 1918 or, yeah. Yeah. So, you know, as to the affair, so it was, she didn't get scandalized because she wound up being the missing.
[00:34:04] Exactly. Exactly. So, you know, there is the, the culture we lived. I mean, we're soaking in it this kind of thing has just been the way of the world for women, for girls and women where it is acceptable to be with much older men. And when I was a kid also remember 1970s pretty baby and taxi taxi driver.
[00:34:29] And there were all these examples of Woody Allen's Manhattan it was, yeah, it was just so cool. And back then taught the child bride was a cool thing. It's I'm so glad we've evolved. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I used to mentioned Woody Allen. Ooh. And I, I, you know, reading your book and all of that.
[00:34:56] The circles that you sort of skimmed through your friends and your friend's parents and the the socialite kind of in New York. And I just that image of you and your friends, spying on John and Yoko through the window and seeing them walk finishes and the Dakota. I stopped my husband from what he was doing.
[00:35:18] And I'm like, can you believe, know? I mean, in many ways I had a magical childhood and I was sort of at the, I was in the eye of the cultural storm in Manhattan in those times. And my father was a noted film critic. He was Richard Schickel and wrote for movie reviews for time magazine through all of that.
[00:35:42] So, yeah, it was super privileged and an odd in that way I but we were not a rich family. I mean, we did not have like family wealth with my father. We were upper-middle-class because there was an upper middle class in those days. Right. And my father paid for our entire Manhattan lifestyle by his typewriter.
[00:36:03] That just as a freelance writer, an author, yeah. Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines, books, books, books he just hammered them out so kind of prolific writing like that. Awesome. Me. I mean, that's what I grew up with. My father wrote 37 books and he made 37 documentary films as well. He became a documentarian later in life.
[00:36:26] So he was in your ex-husband worked in his production company or something sort of a family business so he was very prolific and brilliant, but he was also. Sort of on another level narcissistic and clueless. Like he never, I mean, as somebody who was such a brilliant interpreter of narrative, right.
[00:36:48] He was a film critic and an author and he never understood my narrative. He never understood what happened to me at Buxton. And he always sort of was like, oh my God, Erica, when are you going to move on from that? And it wasn't until after he died that I finally put all the pieces of it together
[00:37:08] and what was the letter that he wrote your mother? Where he was basically like we failed her. It's our fault you were cold and you were distant and I'm culpable too. And I thought, Richard, you're finally getting it. Amen. And then like four pages later, he's the shithead again. I'm like you whiplash and I wasn't the daughter, he had it, he sure had his moments.
[00:37:33] And I mean to his credit, I will say that I never doubted for a moment, whether he loved me with my mother in the end, I know that she loved me, but I didn't always know it and on, on some level I, she never loved me enough to really. Be there for me to consistently get past. My mother was always, it was always there for me, even though he was a misogynist and had no taste for female narrative, he not even, he was even what was that piece that O'Brien have written about Jerry about Jerry Salinger and, yeah.
[00:38:10] And in fact, oh, so yeah, and you know, I don't know if this is too literary for your audience, you know, to get into, but when I started writing this book, I read a book called at home in the world, which was a memoir by Joyce Maynard who had an affair with JD Salinger when she was beginning her like freshmen or sophomore year at Yale.
[00:38:32] She was on the cover of time magazine, Sunday edition with a sort of world weary view from an 18 year old looks back on life and like me. She was had sort of the same parents, the same kind of upbringing. And I started reading this book as I began to write my memoir before I had met my own notorious writer before I began that affair and that the book lead Sam spade, the book just resonated for me and really broke me open.
[00:39:02] And. And so there's a sort of payoff at the end of my book, which maybe I won't spoil it for your readers because there's this sort of aha moment where the Joyce Maynard story comes full circle. But suffice it to say that my father had no appreciation for women other than, as sexual creatures, you know, handmaidens to his ego.
[00:39:27] And I, in his eyes was a junior version of him. You know, he did not understand my woman's story. He only understood me as a reflection engine of him. Yes. His, smoking buddy from the past. Yeah. And, and he, and we had a wonderful relationship on that level. You know, I'm not, I don't want to throw that away or Relationship.
[00:39:51] And I miss him dearly and he loved me and he did the best he could, but you know, in some ways it wasn't so good. Yeah. Yeah. And a therapist in the late eighties, early nineties who said something to me that I'll never forget. I was trying to figure out whether or not it was worth risking the vulnerability to continue to have a relationship with my father, especially.
[00:40:16] Yeah. Yeah. And he said to me, you obviously don't get to choose your parents. Right. But your parents by and large, unless they're a sociopath and you know, whatever they're not out to hurt you. They're not malicious. They're not working. Right. They're doing the best they can with the tools they have available.
[00:40:35] And so your dad may be trying his best and can't do anymore. This is just who he is. So you have to decide. Is having a relationship with him on whatever level he can muster. Good enough for you and walk away. That's something that everybody has to decide for themselves. I certainly walked away from my relationship with my father for short periods of time where we would just piss each other off.
[00:41:04] You know, when I first told him about the end of my marriage and getting together with, with this other writer he was furious with me and we, and, and he wouldn't talk to me for like three months. Stayed off the phone. And we were both living in LA and we were very close. We would go talk to each other every few days.
[00:41:23] So, I mean, there were times when I just couldn't, I had no time for his shit, but do you think he was pissed that you would like rock his boat because your ex-husband worked with him and he was rocking his boat and he just wanted, he kept saying, I just want to know I'm in my sunset years and I just want to know that everybody's happy and settled.
[00:41:42] And why do you have to wreck everything because you're not happy. And I said, I wasn't happy and settled and it's not about you stop making it about you. Exactly. Back to the epigenetics. You know, I w a real point of healing for me came in. This was actually during an Iowasca ceremony where, I, which I, which I pursued out of just, I was in agony and I was looking for any way to level up through the pain.
[00:42:11] And I went on this journey where I went and I flew around Los Angeles. I went into my, the backyard of my mother's house and I saw her standing in her backyard as a little girl and just lost alone. I saw my father in, in Wallatosa Wisconsin. And as a little boy, I saw my lover as a young lost, abandoned neglected child.
[00:42:41] And, and then I went back and I saw myself back in my apartment in 19 east 88th street sitting in my window seats. And. It just, I, it sounds almost trite and, you know, you can never tell a, a drug story and have it sounded good, but it was so deeply healing to me to understand that though, all those people who had tormented me were just lost lonely children themselves.
[00:43:08] And that's where that healing comes in. Like, if you can heal yourself enough to stop handing down that damage to the next generation, then I feel that you've been successful in your human life. And that because the more we are coming to learn about reality and the nonlinearity of time that, that by healing ourselves, we heal our, our ancestors reaches forward and backwards and backwards.
[00:43:39] Yes. It's really profound. We are multidimensional. We are fractals and to heal ourselves. As I said, at the beginning of this is to heal each other and, and it's compassion for ourselves that brings compassion for the people who hurt us. And I have no bitterness. Well, maybe I have some bitterness.
[00:43:59] I have relatively, I try very hard not to have too much bitterness on any given moment because I understand that all of these that hurt people, hurt people as the saying goes, and you just, if you're gonna forgive yourself, then you're gonna end up forgiving other people as well. Yeah. And that's the hard forgiveness.
[00:44:22] That's hard. Yeah. Forgiveness is incredibly, incredibly hard. And there are a few, couple people out there that I still struggle with for on the forgiveness score. And I haven't gotten there yet, but as far as my parents are concerned and as far as my self is concerned, which is the most amount I wish I'd done better.
[00:44:41] And I forgive myself because I did the best I could. Yes, you could. With the tools you had, you were just looking for love and ultimately you, you came up with the idea, you shared it with us in the book that the, the, the, the love that you really had to look for, you found in yourself. Yeah. And it's just, it's almost a cliche.
[00:45:02] I, you know, I mean, I wish there was Erica, but it's still true. Yeah. It's all true. You know, I think we all struggle with, with self. I think that's the biggest struggle, you know, how do we fulfill our own expectations of all the roles that we have, but really ultimately take care of ourselves. And especially, you know, those of us who are being, who have been forced to grow up in the totally relentless unforgiving structure of Western culture, you know, where we are given.
[00:45:38] So few opportunities for inward looking. So few opportunities to like be still with ourselves and figure it out. You know, look at our stories, tell our stories, rewrite our stories. I feel so very blessed to have been born a writer, which I really was. I mean, I, I never went to school for it. I just sat surrounded by people writing my whole life.
[00:46:07] So there's gotta be an intergeneration ality of that as well. It's the family trade. I mean, and, and literally, I mean, I have, I've gone back through generations and all of my people, you know, whether they were clergy or poets or archivists, you know, everybody in my family tree is a writer of one kind all the way up to my sister's a writer.
[00:46:29] My kids are fantastic writers. Hopefully they won't do it professionally. But but I was given a really powerful tool for self healing, but I would say to your listeners, Pick up a pen, you know, really just pick up a pen for your own safe, say and write it down. Tell your story the way you want to tell it w the way it is is true for you, because there's just, even if it's a, just a journal, a letter to yourself, you know, maybe you want to self publish a little book to leave for your children that tells your version of yourself, you know, do it that there's so much healing in that.
[00:47:13] Oh my God. I talk about this ad nauseum. I've been keeping journals since 1983. I didn't know what I was doing at the time, but I was giving myself a life. Raft, saved myself, saved my ass, saved my brain, saved my soul, saved my heart many, many, many, many times over. And I was an only child. I was the only one going through what I went through and the way that I did there was no one to share it with.
[00:47:40] My mom had effectively caught off and. Anyone that I would have had as somebody to go to as a safe Haven. And that was all I had was the, you were bearing witness to yourself and that's an especially I would see as an only child, how important that would be. My other great blessing is my sister, Jessica.
[00:48:03] Who's not in the book very much because we were practically raised separately. We were separated at a very young age and we found each other again in adulthood. And when we did, and we got to know each other, we were blown away by how much we had in common, not just because we were sisters, but it just, what we think is funny and the terrible men we found attractive and the hurts that we bore and the, all of our hangups were so.
[00:48:33] We have come out of the churn of the Schickel family. It was sort of the same product in a lot of ways. And so thank God I have my sister who was always there for me and, and can bear witness to that can crazy childhood. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And she is a fantastic writer. Oh my God. That's wonderful.
[00:48:57] Yeah. That's wonderful. So, yeah, so I mean, I had a couple of really good advantages at that saved me in the end, but, but I look back on my life and I think, God, who would I have been if this stuff hadn't happened to me, if I hadn't been consistently thrown away by every single adult that was, that was responsible for me as a kid.
[00:49:21] You know, you did a lot of floundering, but it taught you. Hardship teaches us resilience. Our ship teaches us that even unmoored and cast a drift, we can find our way to shore. You know, we, we can teaches us to be our own lifeboats. Yeah. Yeah. And yeah, I think we're really coming into a time where that kind of awareness is becoming more available to people.
[00:49:48] And I really hope so. I mean, I know that we are speaking from the left and right coasts of this country and you know, where, you know, this kind of investigation is. More ordinary, you know, psychological inquiry and so forth. But but I also think that we're coming to a time where people are really beginning to put it together, you know, the trauma piece and, you know, the codependency, the way we use the way addiction is really just a response to pain, you know?
[00:50:21] And some great thought leaders are showing us the way, you know, whether it's, you know, Glennon, Doyle or Brenae brown or , or brown has saved my life single hand. Yeah. Or, you know, even going back to Terence, McKenna, may he rest in peace? You know, there are people who are guiding lights for us to evolve.
[00:50:45] So we're, we're in a good place and it's thank God for it because we need it now more than ever, you know, we need to save ourselves so that we can save the world. It's as simple as that. Amen. Oh, my God through a words were never spoken. Yeah. There's no time to waste everybody to pick up your pen, pick up kind to yourself, permission the truth, or telling your story.
[00:51:14] Absolute love on yourself. Love on yourself. Love on my neighbor. Absolutely. Absolutely. So normally I begin podcasts with the six quick questions, but, I totally forgot about them again. Did you ever ask me those? Cause I don't know. Well, they were on my original survey thing, but sort of things anyway, so it's fine.
[00:51:38] So if you're ready, I will shoot. I can't guarantee a good answer, but I'll do my best, Erica. I don't think you could give a bad answer. What six words would you use to describe yourself? I was actually once did an inquiry into this as an actor. And I, if you could give them to you now, I think, vivid, vivid, bantering, forthright, uptown off kilter.
[00:52:05] And can we just cut to the chase? Wow. That's awesome. That's pretty much me and tenderhearted. Yeah. Yeah. But you wouldn't know it to when you first meet me. Cause I seem like a very snappy piece of cheese, but inside I'm actually super loyal and I meet feel things very deeply and I'm very tenderhearted and I already love you.
[00:52:31] So I love you too. And anyone who reads this book would know that about you. Absolutely. You'll have to go ask a question. This is good. This is fun. What is your favorite way to spend a day?
[00:52:43] In the garden. I am a gardener. If I could just be out digging and planting and weeding and watering, I'm pretty happy with that. Flowers, vegetables, Vicks. I'm right now I'm growing native plants. I'm trying to transform my little yard into a native habitat. So I'm looking to bring in the birds and the butterflies, nice little creatures, but I love it all.
[00:53:11] And I grow food as well. That's great. My back can't do the back. It can't do the gardening anymore. I just, the stooping, I just can't and the knees and yeah, I, the last thing I'm going to dig will be my own grave. Nice, nice. Okay. So in this elaborate web of yours, what is your favorite childhood memory?
[00:53:38] Oh my God. That's how. Favorite childhood memory? One of them. Okay. Here's one. I was just remembering this because I was just in New York. I remember that when I would get sick, my mother would come in at night and I'd be all feverish and she'd, I'd lie on my bed. And she would rub which Hazel into my skin to pull me down and the feel of her hands and the smell of witch, Hazel to me is just it's heaven.
[00:54:11] And it was one of, it was one of the moments where my mother was just physically tender with me. And so that's a very cherished memory, palpable, very sweet, very sweet. Wow. Very cool. What is your favorite? Hmm. My favorite foods are, I love lobster. Like you can't even imagine. And I love dimsum and I frequently, I live very close, to a part of Los Angeles called El hombre, which has a very rich Asian community and many incredible dumpling restaurants.
[00:54:49] So I go with a group of friends every like six weeks or so, and we just, we get a giant table and like 12 of us just order everything on the menu and eat until we can eat no more. And that's one of my great pleasures. I love the foods that are served in a bazillion little dishes. Yes. And everybody's sharing and everybody's cross-talking and dipping and pouring.
[00:55:16] And it's fantastic. Yeah. It's one of my favorite things about big family dinners, my noisy crazy family, which is really my mom's side of the family. Just, it's just a riot. Just love it. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. What one piece of advice would you like to give your younger self? I think I have a clue as to what you might say.
[00:55:38] I remember answering these questions are coming back to me now. It would be, don't be so hard on yourself. Erica just don't be so hard yet. The world is hard enough. You don't have to be hard on yourself, but you know, that's a factual piece of advice because when we're young, we just, we do what the word we are, who the world tells us.
[00:55:59] We are, you know, we, we live inside of that limitation. So that that's wisdom that comes with age, you know, absolutely hard. One. I, if I, if I was to try to go back and tell myself that I was more. Then my relationship with my mother would allow me to see. Yeah, probably wouldn't have believed my older self anyway, of course.
[00:56:25] Yeah, of course not. So it's a waste of time. I used to imagine. Oh, last, last and what is the one thing these questions are crazy, that you would most like to change about the world? I would like to do away with separation. I would like the world to understand that we are one thing that each of us, as we are all individuals and we are fractals, we are just a reflection of the whole and that the sooner we can figure that out and.
[00:57:06] Come to each other with compassion and again, not to beat that drum again, but that means you have to come at yourself with compassion first. Yeah. But if I could just do away with the separation, which is the root of all evil in this world, you know, binaries suck. And I would like, I would do away with that and we would be an Eaton, I think.
[00:57:30] And we would see too, that we are the world, that the environment is us. All of it. We are it. And it is us. Yeah. More we're poisoning ourselves and poisoning our environment. And yes, until we stop all of this toxicity, we're not going to get better. All of that separation is lovelessness and lovelessness is separation.
[00:57:51] It's the same thing. Yeah. Yeah. I was having a very similar conversation with my students yesterday morning. But they weren't quite awake enough to respond, but I was having a nice monologue. Well, good for you for, for introducing them to that. I'm trying, you know, this year is difficult in the middle of the pandemic.
[00:58:13] I teach an 11th and 12th grade English and some of my juniors haven't been in school since. Yeah. March of their freshman year. No, my partner teaches ninth grade English in the , public school here in Los Angeles. And he's saying the very same thing. I mean, it's just so hard. They're anxious and they they're nervous about being in school.
[00:58:36] They don't under, they're not comfortable in their own skin. They're all wearing masks. They're afraid they can't be seen and heard. Yep. You know, it's just a level of burden before they're dealing with puberty and, and, and being a teenager, freaking hell, I would never do that again. And they're doing that in the middle of a pandemic and there's all sorts of emotional, mental health, financial, every kind of crisis known to mankind in their homes.
[00:59:01] And they're all shell shocked. They, every single one of them has PTSD from this they're freaking nuts. So why devote Fridays to teaching them how to care for them? Oh, that's great. We're doing tapping and we're doing yoga and we're doing meditation and we're teaching them breathing activities. And we're doing every single day.
[00:59:18] We do journaling. , tomorrow we're doing art therapy because I'm an artist also. So we're talking about their homework tonight is to watch a video about the medicinal power of art. Yes. And tomorrow is art. Their homework is to bring in magic markers and we're going to do neurogenic art and everything that I can bring to them.
[00:59:38] And I'm like, you don't have to love any of this, but maybe something I'm throwing at you will stick and help you get in touch with yourself. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. That's great. That's really great. All about giving ourselves permission to take care of ourselves and there ain't nothing wrong with that. Nope.
[00:59:54] Thank you so much for being here, Ericka. This was so much pleasure. Absolute pleasure. I was looking forward to it for quite a few weeks. Yeah, me too. I'm so glad we finally made it work, really? It was great. Absolutely. Be well, take care.