Sunday, January 1, 2012

Interview with Tammy Williams 12.31.11

On the last day of 2011, my girlfriend Tammy sat at my kitchen table and ate nachos with me while she went through about five pages of notes. She’d just previewed my book and said she had a ton of questions. I asked her if we could actually do an interview for my blog, and she agreed to it. What follows is not her entire list of questions, and I’m sure I was not as eloquent in my verbal answers as I seem to be on this written page. But this is the gist of a very lovely afternoon with a wonderfully insightful good friend. I hope this speaks to you.

Tammy: How often does a person get to read a book and actually interview the author?

Daisy: Well, the author hopes it happens a LOT! (Laughs)

Tammy: True, you want the exposure.

Daisy: Absolutely! You spend a lot of time and effort pouring your heart out all over the pages, and you just hope it touches somebody.

Tammy: Now, if I ask something that’s too personal, or…

Daisy: (Laughing as she interrupts) Oh, Mylanta! You couldn’t! There’s no way…

Tammy: (Slightly wide-eyed) I could ask you anything?

Daisy: Pretty much! Honestly, my life is an open book. There’s probably not a question I wouldn’t answer. I think I revealed just about all there is to know in the book—it’s all there.

Tammy: Yeah, you were extremely open in the book.

Daisy: Yes. We’re as sick as the secrets that we keep, right?

Tammy: Right. I’ve read this book a few times through, and I have to say… (pauses and shakes her head) … it’s amazing, Daisy. I really felt the hope that you talk about in the final chapters.

Daisy: Thank you. I’m glad. Then it’s done what it’s supposed to do.

Tammy: You’ve been through so much.

Daisy: Yep.

Tammy: I have a million questions.

Daisy: Fire away. (Waves a hand through the air in invitation)

Tammy: OK, you know the first time I read this, I thought you were a white girl living with an African American family?

Daisy: (Busts out laughing and smacks the kitchen table with her hand) WHAT? (Both hands come up to her forehead) Oh, my gosh! I have to fix something then… Why did you think that?

Tammy: You said your family all had dark features and your features were light!

Daisy: That’s hilarious! No, they were all Caucasian—they just had dark hair and dark eyes and skin that got a lot darker than mine in the summer. I was blonde and light and had blue eyes. I was different in every way, it seemed.

Tammy: I figured that out my second time through.

Daisy: Well, I’m glad you got that clarified! I’ll have to go back and look at that again. If you thought that, then other people probably will too!

Tammy: You talk about the juxtaposition of your Grandma Jean’s house and the house you were raised in. Your Grandma’s house always had lots of food and a pool and big parties where show business people would show up, but at your parents’ home there wasn’t a whole lot to eat and bad things happened there.

Daisy: Yes.

Tammy: And your parents were ultra-religious?

Daisy: Yes.

Tammy: You say in the book that they didn’t agree with the way she lived her life—she had an affair with Buck Ram, who wrote The Platters’ music and such…

Daisy: She did. And they weren’t too hip on all that “sinning.”

Tammy: Why did they spend so much time there and allow you kids to be there if they were that “principled,” so to speak?

Daisy: Because she bankrolled everything. We knew we could always get a meal there. We kids could eat. She was the one who bought all our school clothes. All the holidays were at her house. And my mom loves her mom—they were very close when I was a kid. But my mom’s husband was never too principled to stand there with his hand out.

Tammy: You write that the setting for every nightmare you’ve ever had was your grandmother’s house.

Daisy: Absolutely! That house has always had some weird voodoo on it. I’m not saying it’s haunted, per se—I’ve never seen a ghost or anything like that. It’s just weird. The history of the house is pretty trippy—of course, my grandma thinks I’m crazy, but that house is whacked. It always has been. So, yeah, whenever I’m having a nightmare, that house is where I always am in my dream.

Tammy: But toward the end of the book, you talk about a dream where your “stepmonster,” as you call him, tries to sneak into your bed to mess with you, and you were in your house in the dream?

Daisy: Hmm? (Considers this) You’re right. That seems contradictory, doesn’t it? Now I’m rethinking that whole thing.

Tammy: So, which is it?

Daisy: (Laughing) I’m in a spot here!

(Tammy smiles)

Daisy: You know, I remember that dream so vividly—I’m sure because I wrote about it right away—and I was having that dream almost every night. He’d sneak in, but I knew he was coming. In my dream, I’d be dreaming that I was sleeping. And I’d lie there “asleep” waiting for him to come. I looked forward to him trying to get in bed with me because I knew I wouldn’t just lie there and take it—I knew I would fight him. And the last time I ever had that dream, which is what I wrote about in the book, I beat the shit out of him. I wailed on him until he lay there in a pile while my mother sat silently in a chair. My mother has never spoken or made a sound in any of my dreams. That was a good dream. It was. It was a battle—a battle I won! After I’d told him to get out of my house, and my mother too, I never had that dream again. They, literally, were gone—not just from my life but from my mind. And I think that dream had to take place in my own home. So, I don’t know if I consider that a nightmare. It was more of a subconscious battleground.

On the other hand, if I have a dream where I’m at my grandmother’s house? I start looking over my shoulder! If I’m there and I’m dreaming? Something’s going down! (Laughs again) And I try to wake myself up before it does!

Tammy: Did you ever know “Stepmonster’s” parents?

Daisy: Oh, yeah. They were sweet, sweet people. Very loving. In fact, it was “Stepmonster’s” step-dad who gathered the family—my parents weren’t there at that point—around my sister’s casket when she died and prayed that God would receive her back to Him. Very wonderful, Godly people.

Tammy: And did the fact that you were abused come out while they were still alive?

Daisy: It did. But they didn’t know. I didn’t tell them. I wouldn’t tell them. What’s the point? It would cause them so much pain. They were elderly. There was no point in them knowing.

Tammy: You say there are people in your family who don’t believe you were abused.

Daisy: That’s right.

Tammy: Who are those people?

Daisy: (Shrugs and shakes her head slightly, deliberately not answering) Just people.

(Tammy nods, understanding)

Daisy: It’s a rough day when someone you love is accused of being a pedophile. And, frankly, he is a masterful liar. He got to them and pled his case. It’s a helluva lot easier to believe that I’m crazy or I’m lying or I’ve (puts finger quotes into the air) “backslidden into the hands of Satan” or that I’m grieving over the loss of my sister and I’ve, consequently, lost my mind than it is to believe that someone they trust and love is a predator—someone who has had close proximity to their children. It’s unthinkable. So they don’t think it.

Tammy: And where does that all land with you?

Daisy: It sucks. (Shrugs again) I’m past it. It is what it is.

Tammy: Do you see your real father? Does he know?

Daisy: My dad has passed.

Tammy: Oh, I’m sorry…

Daisy: Thank you. He didn’t… well… (pauses to reconsider) I can’t say that he didn’t know. My step-mom—I’ve talked to her about this because she knows now what happened. I never told my dad. I mean, his biggest regret in life is that he never fought for custody of me in court and didn’t have a hand in raising me. It’s like telling “Stepmonster’s” parents—why? The harm it would have caused would never outweigh any good that could come from him knowing. And my dad probably would have taken matters into his own hands—he was not afraid of being in jail, believe me! He’d have done something bad. Really bad.

Tammy: Your Grandma Jean believes you, doesn’t she?

Daisy: Oh, yeah! Absolutely! She loves my mother, but she’s no fan of her husband, for sure.

Tammy: OK! Because I would have to write her a letter or something!

Daisy: No, no! She’s in my corner! Always has been.

Tammy: Has she read the book?

Daisy: Not yet. I hope she does soon.

Tammy: Have you found peace, yet, concerning your sister’s death?

Daisy: Ummm… ? (Thinking) Yes and no. I know she’s good where she is. She is perfect in every way. She knows as she is fully known. But things weren’t good between us when she died. I still carry a lot of regret about that. I always will. “Tough love” didn’t work for me. I should have just loved her—period.

Tammy: That’s changed you.

Daisy: Well, I think that’s why I’m not so much concerned anymore about being “principled” or “standing up for what I think is right.” I catch a lot of heat about that from Christians, you know. I won’t come out and say this is a sin or that is a sin or a person needs to do this or that. I’ve been there, done that—and it really bugs people in the church that I don’t (quote fingers again in the air) “take a stand” on things they think I should. But I’d rather just love people, you know? (Shakes her head and looks out the kitchen window, almost teary-eyed)

(After another moment) I’ve carried a lot of pain and guilt because I thought I was standing on the side of what was right. And, as it turns out, I was so wrong because I didn’t just love.

I’m not gonna do that anymore. (Looks back at Tammy)

Tammy: Do you believe that Christ, to use your words, has, “… bridged the gap between what you are and what you could have been?” Do you believe you are or will be everything you were meant to be?

Daisy: I don’t know! Sometimes I think I could’ve been Madonna, you know? (Suddenly laughs—not so serious now) Or Oprah! Who knows? I know that abuse and pain changes who a person IS and, consequently, who they will become. I see broken little people every day, and I wonder if they’d been allowed to grow up in a “normal” home, how far they could go in life. But who knows?

I do believe that Christ is the Ultimate Equalizer, though—that He brings you back to the place you were supposed to be. As for me? The jury’s still out. Am I everything He ever meant for me to be? I guess it depends on how much I relinquish and how much I let Him work His magic… I hope I become everything I was meant to be. I hope I’m walking down that road.

Tammy: You talk about the universe being “random.” Do you really believe that?

Daisy: (Laughing again, slapping the table) This one always gets me in trouble with the Christian-folk!

Tammy: Do you? I mean, do you really believe, as a Christian, that God has no divine plan? Or that there is nothing to be learned from your trials?

Daisy: (Blows a quick breath from her mouth) Where do I start?

Tammy: (Smiling) Wherever you want.

Daisy: Ummm… Wow. Well? I grew up in an environment where there was some pat-answer for everything, you know? There always had to be a reason for whatever happened in life. It was very important that any question could be answered with absolute certainty—a good Christian couldn’t be stumped without an answer! And, even now when somebody’s going through a tough time, and I hear somebody respond so casually, “There’s a reason for everything!” to bring understanding to somebody’s own private hell, it always makes me cringe a little bit. No, it makes me cringe a lot! It’s like mankind needs some semblance of purpose for its pain. And I get that. I do. People want comfort—even if it comes in soundbites. But those soundbites don’t do it for me. Not after everything I’ve been through. Life will bring you to your knees—and I just need a little something more than, “There’s a reason for this!” And usually the reason people offer is that God is trying to teach us something. So, He’ll let us get molested every night? Because there’s something we don’t know and God needs to fix that? There’s something He wants us to learn? I’m not buying it. I don’t think there is a reason for everything—at least not in the way that people think. I think that the reason that we experience horror in this life is a lot more sinister—I think it’s because people put their own perversions over what is right. There’s your “reason.” And the collateral damage is devastating. So, yeah. The universe is random in that people do what the hell they want and if you’re unfortunate enough to be standing around somebody like that, you might want to duck because the evil usually splatters more than just one person.

Having said that, let me say that it’s my belief that God wastes nothing! The universe might be random, but there is nothing that God cannot redeem. And that’s how I’ve come to grips with what’s happened to me. God did not ordain or sign off on any kind of abuse. He knew it would happen, and He knew I would ultimately be His, but He didn’t say, “I’m gonna set Daisy up to go through hell so she can learn all these lessons and write a book and help other people or whatever…” That would make Him the Almighty Asshole, as far as I’m concerned. And He’s not that. He’s kind. He’s generous. And I’m not who I am because of my abuse. I am who I am in SPITE of my abuse. He brings healing—not harm. It happened. And I learned some stuff. And I happen to have written a book. But my perpetrator doesn’t get to be off the hook because he did some horrible thing that God wanted him to do to begin with so that I could learn something. I don’t buy it. God is not complicit in what he did.

Is the universe random? As far as I’m concerned, yes. Otherwise, God is not a very nice Guy. People disagree with me on that, I know. But I’m OK with it. I’m better off believing that God orchestrates our redemption.

Tammy: Let me read a quote from your book—“Our [Christian] groupspeak takes deep and meaningful truths and trivializes them. The problem is exacerbated when we can’t seem to authentically live out those truths.” So, do we not try because others fail? How do you practice your faith in this?

Daisy: First of all, I try to be mindful and not rely on those “pat-answers.” I think, ultimately, they’re harmful. Insensitive. Shallow. I don’t ever want to make a person feel like I know some deep, spiritual truth when I really don’t. I was a poser for almost twenty years—I am not compelled in any way to say something that doesn’t even ring true for myself. And I question everything. It’s probably really annoying for those whose worlds are black and white. Life is so simple for some people. That’s great for them. Life’s big questions are not that simple for me. So, I surely don’t walk around like I know anything. I pretty much don’t, and I like to let people know that sooner than later. But do we shrink back from TRYING to pursue truth and living a life that Christ would be proud of? Even when Christians are knuckleheads? Or the church gets oppressive or whatnot? No. We can’t. I can’t. Anne Rice turned her “Christian Membership Card” back in because of all the crap. And I get it! I do! I so understand the choice she’s made. Believe me, I wrote a whole book about it. But, for me, it’s not about other people or what the church currently thinks or other so-called Christian organizations. It’s about what Christ has accomplished in my life. I can’t turn my back on what He’s done—simple as that—even when people project their preconceived ideas about what a Christian is onto me. That’s probably one of the reasons I wrote this book is to make the distinction between what I am and what other people think Christians are—the good, the bad, and the ugly. How do I practice my faith in all this? I probably don’t do a stellar job—I don’t know. There are certainly other people who think I’m sucking wind at it. (Laughs)

Tammy: Can’t worry about that.

Daisy: Yeah, I’m done worrying about that.

Tammy: As long as you know Christ accepts you.

Daisy: I think He does. I know He loves me—He’s certainly spent enough energy on me.

Tammy: Do you believe you have to travel into God’s love?

Daisy: No. He loves us wherever we are. In fact, I think he has to come and snatch us up from whatever path we’re on or else we’d never reach Him.

Tammy: In your chapter—Satan, My Sibling… Wow! What the heck was THAT?

Daisy: Did you like it? Or not so much? (Laughing)

Tammy: No, I loved it! It just blew my mind where you put it—and I didn’t know if it was a dream or what it was. I had to go back and read the chapter before it and then skip the Satan, My Sibling chapter and read the chapter that came after for some continuity.

Daisy: Yes, an editing conundrum. Somebody smarter than I am will have to fix that…

Tammy: It really was fascinating the way you wrote it—don’t get me wrong. It just seemed to get allegorical all of a sudden.

Daisy: That’s exactly what it was. I took the characters of Satan and that wimpy little Jesus I was raised with and made them actual, tangible members of the family. It was almost like you could see them sitting at the dinner table or something. And they battled over us and Jesus lost every time. That Jesus did anyway.

Tammy: As opposed to the Jesus you met in college.

Daisy: Exactly.

Tammy: But you had problems with that Jesus too, though.

Daisy: Sure! I flat out asked Him, “So, where were YOU when all this crap was going down?” I totally accuse Him of neglect in that chapter. But, as you read, He doesn’t get His shorts in a twist. He’s not offended. He’s not shocked. He doesn’t bail.

Tammy: One of the things you ask Him is whether or not you’re safe with Him.

Daisy: Yep.

Tammy: Do you still wonder whether you’re safe with Him?

Daisy: Yep. (Nods)

Tammy: And then He asks you if you trust him. Do you?

Daisy: Sometimes.

(Tammy grins, almost reluctant to be the next one to speak)

Daisy: What? You want I should lie?

(Tammy cracks up, still not saying anything)

Daisy: It’s a journey. (Smiling) It’s a journey.

Tammy: I have one more question. You don’t talk about this in the book, but your name wasn’t always Daisy Rain.

Daisy: Right.

Tammy: Will you tell me what your name was?

Daisy: I don’t speak it. (Laughing as she recalls…) HA! I said there was nothing I wouldn’t tell you if you asked me!

Tammy: You don’t have to!

Daisy: I just don’t say it. I’m not that girl anymore. To be called by my former name is like nails on a chalkboard to me. It’s not a good feeling. When someone calls me that, it makes me feel… I don’t know… like I’m “back there” in that old life. Or that someone refuses to acknowledge that I’ve come as far as I have. I think it’s a respect thing. I changed my name to Daisy Rain Martin because that’s what I want to be called. It’s funny—I didn’t want my old name to be written on my tombstone. I’m not her. That’s not who I ended up to be.

Tammy: I totally understand. I get it. Just one more thing… I want to hear you sing.

Daisy: Oh, Lord.

Tammy: PLEASE!!!

Daisy: There’s actually a video of me singing on my website. Just click on “Videos.” It’s the last one.

Tammy: I’ve been on your website! I didn’t see it.

Daisy: It’s there.

Tammy: Any idea when this book will be out?

Daisy: Ahhh, isn’t that the million-dollar question? I have a good friend who is a publisher and an amazing writer. He asked for the entire manuscript, and he’s looking over it right now. Just waiting for him to get back to me.

Tammy: When will you know?

Daisy: I have no idea. I try not to obsess about it.

Tammy: I’m sure he’ll take it.

Daisy: I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Believe me, when this book gets picked up, I’ll be shouting from the mountaintops!