Secret Keeper No More: An Interview With Mark Greyland
© C.A. Starfire 2014, All Rights Reserved
When I began interviewing Moira Greyland about her experiences with her mother, Marion Zimmer Bradley, I told her that I'd also be interested in interviewing her brother, Mark Greyland. She checked with Mark, he and I chatted, and he graciously agreed. This interview is the result. It was conducted via chat online because that's the best way for me to communicate.
Mark writes very poetically, and I have edited his responses very little (mostly punctuation for clarity).
Mark Greyland: "Survivor"; what a peculiar word you chose. Adding that to a decision to speak, which was no decision for me at all. To be plain I credit the testimony of Elisabeth Waters (or Reyes or whomever she is choosing to call herself these days) for my speech on the topic.
Waters was interviewed as a hostile witness in a court case and was questioned about Marion abusing me and my sister. This testimony was published courtesy of Stephen Goldin along with the testimony of my mother and the words of my sister Moira whom you have already spoken with (they remembered things that I had said before and quoted me).*
A few days after her email reply** started making a lot of noise, Moira came to me to say that she was being believed; everybody was talking about what happened to us and how things that I said were confirming what she was saying.
There was no decision about current timing. This is something I said a long time ago suddenly making a difference. It should be apparent that I was not seeking out the attention. I had changed my name and was trying my best to keep out of the spotlight and am honestly distressed by the whole affair going viral.
CS: What form(s) did your mother's abuse towards you take, if you'd feel comfortable discussing that?
MG: Questions such as that are totally charged minute by minute - I have no way to convey to you what that means. Comfortable? Impossible. Safe? I have no idea how to phrase that in a meaningful manner. I live in an echo chamber where memories of yesterday can swell up into thunderstorms of thought and go rolling through my troubled valleys like a drunken Zeus hurtling thunderbolts in every direction laughing to raise the dead. And it does, corpses of memory before me shaking to the Monster Mash and filling my eyes with what I try so hard not to see.
Physical. Absolutely. But that is so much easier to bear than head games. Screaming is bad, but little whispers and threats work so much better to chill your blood and recreate being cold and naked hiding under tables hearing the shouting. To be "Bone Chewing Bear", robbing the plates of every scrap of food you could find. Life got better as I got older and there was more money, but the earth could turn any day to seeing the big cat stalking in her skin. I flinch from hands and eyes and am very polite and patient day by day by...
Mental. My god, I have no way to say this. Words work so well on me; before long the raised hand I am cowering from becomes reflex. The face is the face of guessing moment by moment what she would bring. As I got older humiliation and embarrassment became the thing and more and more indirectly as time went by.
There was no believing she was getting better as you could not tell which one of her would wake up at any moment. It is so much easier to bear being hurt yourself than being blamed for someone hurting someone else. The shame from that alone is this boulder I have hanging around my neck.
CS: In what ways have you been affected by the abuse you experienced?
MG: Day by day, hour by hour by ... you have to be joking.
I flinch. My reflex to be quiet when bad things happen is so profound I was unable to scream when a gentleman broke into our house and stole the television while I was standing back pressed against the wall trembling.
My reflexes are all wrong and I am working every day to create normal behavior. But fear is my companion, moment by moment. I flinch at loud noises, at traffic sounds, doors slamming, sudden cries of the young.
I trance out and visions fill me at the drop of a hat, then the cold spot from everything you agreed to being a joke and the sound of screams rise and I'm balling up and "too late, too late could I have done more" wars with "she never listened anyway you are nothing and the pain for her rises and …."
I speak in poetry and melodrama to shield myself from having to say any of this. I make up a me and let it play for you. I've gotten so good at it I can just go hide in the corner while my fingers type and my mind runs on. I can write for facts and I can also write for feelings. Those feelings are over there and I don't have to handle them except in lines of print. I polish the lines of words until it becomes the music and songs that let me hide.
CS: Do you think other people were aware of your mother's abuse of you and your sister at the time? If so, in what ways did they respond?
MG: You assume that I would have felt free to say anything. There was always drama and there was always the invisible blade of what would happen if all of this dreadful secret got out. The atmosphere of fear of discovery was simply everywhere and there was no place to hide.
Worse, I was ashamed. When you are small you believe stuff, and I felt with my whole heart that I was responsible when she would go bad. There was absolutely no way I was gonna drag the mountain onto my head. And that made every day a drama, a thick clogged tube of waiting for the dreadful, the un-nameable horror.
And nobody spoke. Everything was always fine and that was my clown suit. I thought everyone knew and that I was such a bad person no one would speak to me. My echo chamber filled me with such fear of exposure I would do anything to make the shadow go away. And I did. The shame paints my world yellow and pink and brown. I don't want to say these things any more.
CS: How has your mother's abuse finally being revealed publicly affected you?
MG: I am not doing well. I am filled with frightened images of what everyone is thinking while reminding myself that no one can really tell how I feel even if I shout it from the rooftops. I stop and shiver and remember and try to focus on anything (Look! Squirrel!) that will keep me on the task at hand. I stop and stare and look in the mirror. I make art and write verses down.
CS: How do you feel about the way your mother's been regarded by many as a feminist and/or neo-pagan icon?
MG: What she did is to tell stories; long and hard enough she would act them out. When women started approaching her saying stuff like "you saved my life; now I don't have to kill myself", she started wearing new faces around them and more and more of them would gather around her.
Some of them were so angry they treated me like I was a crime for daring to be male around her. Others would give me the deer in the headlights look then look away.
There were times these unhappy women would gather around her by the dozens and I would stand back and watch her on stage and happy. I saw the rituals and the other weirdness close up and then at a distance. What they got out of it was something I did not understand, but I could see that the people were volatile and likely to blow up for invisible reasons.
Feminism to me was a lot of very unhappy women telling stories to each other about how they had been hurt. They were getting ready to change the world and I didn't want to be in front of that train when it started rolling. It didn't matter what I thought about it when it was erupting right in front of my eyes in our back yard. I was already primed to be frightened of emotional scenes so I knew better than to try to introduce myself to these people, but it happened anyway in dribs and drabs and occasional floods.
I don't have to feel any way at all. I saw the transformation and the aftermath which continued after I left.
CS: Do you have any message for the people who were deeply affected by your mother's books and are having difficulty reconciling that with the knowledge that she was a child abuser?
MG: People grow and change. We learn from everything that happens to us. Your feelings are real: if you felt empowered or freed from reading her stories, that is real. It happened and you felt it. You had no reason to know. There is no blame to share; what happens behind closed doors was unseen.
If you cannot relax with the knowledge or if it happened to you as well, you have my deepest sympathy.
I am discovering that the keeping of secrets to hide shame is poison, and I am trying to recover from the echoes every day. You can too. I have learned it was not my fault when it happened and it is not your fault either. Free yourselves.
CS: Who benefits from the sales of your mother's books and the MZB trust?
MG: I was disinherited by language that sounded so unlike my mother that I knew she never wrote it, as was my sister and my half-brother who is now deceased.
The money went to the opera and to her lover.
CS: Is there anything you'd like to add?
* "Marion Zimmer Bradley: In Her Own Words" http://www.sff.net/people/stephen.goldin/mzb/
** Mark is referring to Moira Greyland's email to Deirdre Saoirse Moen, which is published at http://deirdre.net/marion-zimmer-bradley-its-worse-than-i-knew/
Mark Greyland is an accomplished artist. Some of his artwork may be seen at http://4art.com/profile/MarkGreyland. His public Facebook page is at https://m.facebook.com/mark.greyland. Both sites are linked with his express permission.
I can be reached via Facebook at www.facebook.com/C.A.Starfire and my contact email is available on the "Contact Me" tab above.