Seasons come.  Seasons go.  Time passes so quickly, speeding by at a frenzied pace toward the cliff in its haste to carry us to our final end.

When I was a child in the spring of my life, seasons held no meaning beyond the climate associated with each of them.  Days became warmer as we moved toward summer.  Leaves unfurled, beautifully adorning once barren trees.  Flowers blossomed, proudly showing off their magnificent colors.  The sky was blue more often than it was gray.  Once brown grass slowly turned a lush green.  Gentle breezes and sweet air caressed my skin deliciously.  And the sun reigned, banishing the consuming darkness of winter to a shorter, more bearable time span, allowing just enough time for refreshing sleep.

Even during the summer years of my life, I didn’t see the seasons as painting my story, echoing the doomed trajectory of my life.  I didn’t see the parallel.  I had an abundance of time stretching out before me.  There was no need to worry if a year seemed to slip away unobserved or barely experienced.  Or that all I managed to accomplish was to survive. I basked in the sunshine, in my youth, in the possibilities of tomorrow.

It was as I approached and moved into the fall of life that I began to sit up and take notice.  It was at this point I began to panic.

It dawned on me suddenly that my time was now limited and supply was dwindling.  I was utterly stunned to realize there were far more years behind me than probably remained ahead.  My skin began to sag, no longer firm and smooth.  Wrinkles appeared beneath my eyes, around my mouth, as if time was using my face as a canvas with the intention to mar and mock.  I woke tired after a night of sleep.  The days turned colder, unwelcoming and short.  All the things I believed I would accomplish by this point in life were yet undone.  Not achieved.  The damage from years of childhood abuse crippled me and I was left struggling to overcome the destruction in hopes of someday thriving.  I had to work harder to get to the line where others started their journey and I was never able to catch up.  Fall was not friendly.  But it whispered of even worse days to come.

In the summertime, everything is alive, growing.  Fruit hangs from the vine and weighs down the branches of lush trees.  Flowers dance in the warmth.  Trees and shrubs and plants put out new shoots and increase in stature.

I experienced summer as a season, but I never lived during the summer of my life.  I never emerged from the darkness.  I never reached a point where I was fully alive, much less flourishing.

I blinked and summer was gone.  Just.  Like.  That.

Now, each year I survive comes with the understanding it could be my last.  Though I am not bent and ancient, if I continue to breathe, I am not as far removed from that coming stage of life as I am from my youth.  The end is clearly in sight.  And it’s terrifying.

I have walked.  Oh, my, how I have walked.  Many steps.  Many years, putting one tired foot before another.  I have left footprints in the dust where I longed to leave them in stone.  In cement.  I wanted to leave something lasting behind me.  But the wind has swept away the dust as quickly as I have passed through, leaving no trace of my coming and going.  Even the air that once caressed my youthful skin does not recognize or remember me.

I have walked.  But I have gone nowhere.  Looking back over the years and seasons, though I know the path taken, I cannot see any sign of my ever having existed.

Someday, winter will arrive, harsh and uncaring.  My home will be left empty.  The contents will be given or thrown away.  Every word I have written will be discarded, for no one will care to hear what I had to say.   Winter will strip me of the few leaves I managed to produce and will bury me under mounds of icy snow.  I will be wiped from the face of the earth.

Winter is coming, hard and fast and frigid.  All that I am and all that I have hoped to become will vanish without a trace beneath the cold hands of time.   The harsh touch of the darkness will erase me completely. Nothing I leave behind will make a difference to anyone who comes after.

I can feel the chill.  I was plunged into eternal darkness by my parents as they abused me and I never escaped the impact, nor got to enjoy the light of long summer days.  I was too numb.  Working too hard to persevere.

A time is coming when I will not see another season unfold.  When spring will blow in like a lion, but I will no longer breathe the fresh air…or any air at all.  The summer sun will not warm me or my dry, brittle bones.  Fall will have nothing else to take from me, for I will not be required to die yet again.  Only winter will want me.  The icy winter will hold me in frosty arms.  My eyes will not see, my heart will no longer cry in pain or be torn by unbearable regret.  I will be frozen in that final moment.  And in that moment, I will begin to return to dust.  Dust that someone else will walk through as they leave their footprints trailing behind them.  Hoping, as I once did, to leave their mark.

The Ax Forgets

“The ax forgets. The tree remembers.” African Proverb

The ax.  Cutting.  Destructive.  Powerful.

The ax forgot, if he ever acknowledged, the impact of his hands upon my prepubescent body, probing forbidden places.  Touching private, sacred places that fathers should never touch on their daughters.  Never.

The ax stands and cuts, with lust dripping from his penis.  Lust that coursed through him, caused his voice to tremble, his breath to come short, jagged and quick, his hands to move with cold deliberation, his eyes to watch greedily.  Hungrily.

The ax conveniently forgot, if he ever recognized, what it did to that daughter when he forced his hard, swollen penis inside of her as the pain split her apart.  When he came on her, covering her with his sticky goo.  When he came in her mouth, shooting his seed down her throat, causing her to gag uncontrollably.

The ax forgot, if he ever considered her at all.  He forgot how it destroyed her when he made her strip and dance before him or forced her into the shower with him.  The ax forgot how it hurt when he hit her. When he knocked her across the room or threw her to the floor.  His memory only lasted as long as he stood in the moment.  Only until he got what he wanted from her.  It lasted only as long as the marks he made upon her body, if that long.

The ax forgets.  But the tree remembers.  To this day, she remembers.

I remember.

The ax forgot the pain of her slaps on her daughter’s face and the humiliation of her angry, cutting, degrading words.  The fear of being dragged by the hair as that mother raged and ranted and told her how badly she failed to live up to expectations.  The ax forgot how cutting her words of rejection and disappointment were to the ears of her eager child; the child who longed to please her, who wanted to be accepted and held and wanted.  The child who sought her love.  The ax forgot what it meant when she averted her eyes, refusing to see, as that same timid child was being sexually used, abused by her husband.  When the daughter looked to her for help, but found only denial, demands and dismissal.  The ax forgot.  But the tree remembers.  Though the tree kept the secret, she remembers.

To this day, she remembers.   I remember.

The tree is forever altered.  Deeply damaged.  Laid to waste.  Barely able, if able at all, to remain standing.  The tree no longer flourishes.  No longer lives and breathes.  All of its energy and lifeblood is spent attempting to heal the ghastly, horrific, oozing wounds that resulted from the ax as it hacked deep into her soul.  The tree longs to forget.  Longs to overcome.  Longs to be whole again. But the wounds of the ax have done the unspeakable.  Those injuries are unbearable, horrifying, atrocious.  The ax has forgotten.  The ax moves on. The tree cannot forget.  Because the tree is not what it was before and it will never be what it would have been had it not been so dreadfully wounded by the vile ax.

The ax will go on to wound again and again in many abominable and staggering ways.  Over time, the scars in the bark of the tree are so many, it is permanently deformed, stunted, hacked apart.  Disgusting.  The tree cannot forget because the tree cannot escape the effects of the ghastly blows.

The tree tries to survive. Gone are the dreams of thriving.  Of providing shade for the birds and shelter for the squirrels.  The broken, now wretched tree is ruined.  Injured beyond repair.  The ax forgets.  But the tree, the tree cannot forget no matter how hard she tries.  She lives with the brokenness.  She carries the stink of her defilement.  She cannot leave it behind her because it is woven into every cell and memory.

It is who she has become.

So profound.  The ax doesn’t have to live with the damage it created.  Its steps are not hindered by the crippling blows it meted out.  By all that came before.  It’s over and never thought of again.  Everything…all of it.  In the past.  But the tree cannot escape the damage.  It cannot leave the destruction in the shadows of yesterday.  It has been shattered and dismembered.  Misused.  It will never be what it was meant to be.  The ax doesn’t understand why the tree doesn’t “get over it.”  Why it doesn’t simply go on. But the tree can’t undo what has been done or change who the ax has made it.  It doesn’t have that kind of magic in its lacerated limbs.

The ax forgets.  The tree remembers.  It longs to forget.  But it can’t.  It remembers everything.  In pieces and slivers, like watching old, damaged film, memories fading in and out of the darkness.  But it remembers.

It remembers, though it tries to go on as if nothing happened.  How the tree wishes it could forget.


In spite of the massive spiderwebs of scars splashed across her face, you could still tell she had been exceptionally beautiful.  Now, misshapen bones formed bulges in inappropriate places.  Even the thickest foundation couldn’t cover the mass of crisscrossed red lines where skin had been sliced to the bone.  Multiple surgeries had pieced her back together as best as they could, successfully returning her appearance to something less hideous than Frankenstein.  But they left her far from her previous beauty queen status.  And though the wreck was her fault, she was angry over the damage.   The unfairness of it.

Years ago, she drank too much, then drove.  She and her little sister in her new Corvette, T-top open, unrestrained by seatbelts.  Typical youth; fearing nothing.  She was driving ridiculously fast, over 100, when she lost control in the sharp S-curve.  Went over the embankment.  Her sister was thrown from her seat and the car rolled over her, killing her instantly.  Beauty queen went through the windshield, then the trees, brambles and rocks, shredding her face and much of her body while breaking almost every bone.  Much later, when she regained consciousness in the hospital, she had no memory of the wild drive or the accident.  They had to tell her she had killed her sister the night she destroyed her face.

Years later, she is still furious over her lost beauty.  Lost supremacy.  Her looks now represent everything that’s wrong with her life.  Before the “accident,” she knew who she was.  Beautiful.  In control.  Powerful. Triumphant.  Confident.  People worshiped her.  Wanted to be close to her inner circle. Wanted to be her!  She was a daughter, sister, graduate about to head to college, life at her feet, waiting to step into a perfect future.  She knew where she was going.  She knew who she was.  She knew how to use her smile.

Now, she is nothing of who she was.  She is nothing like the worry-free “before” person.  And she hates everyone who looks at her, then quickly looks away.  Their glances speak of her losses.

Or perhaps she is the one who cannot bear to look.  Perhaps she is the one who turns away…before anyone else has the opportunity.

The young never believe bad things will happen until they do.  They aren’t wired to believe life will let them down.  Bad happens to others.  To those who are flawed, unlucky and lacking.  Bad doesn’t happen to ruling beauty queens who are adored and worshiped by the world.

Yet, her scars are visible for all to see.  Her tragedy is written on her face.  Plainly telling the story.

I am also scarred.  But mine don’t show in lines across my face.  They are just as red and ragged, but instead, they mar my heart.  My soul.  I have been changed by the wreck that occurred in my childhood every bit as much as the beauty queen was changed by the wreck she had that dark night when she missed the curve and crashed in a ravine.  People seeing her feel sorry for her.  They understand her anger and her loss.  But they do not understand my pain or brokenness.  Because the scars aren’t visible.  They are not physical, so are not an acceptable excuse for my shattered state.

Interestingly, because her story is written across her face with bold red lines and unnatural lumps where once were smooth surfaces, no one dares expect her to put her horrid past behind her.  She wears her tragedy.  It has become part of who she is today.  It is accepted.

But since they cannot see my scars, hidden away deep in my traumatized soul, I am not extended the same courtesy.  My scars are every bit as much a part of me today as are those caused by her night of terror.  That one night that changed her world.  Yet they do not provide an adequate explanation.

My childhood nights were filled with nightmares that couldn’t be escaped.  They did not happen once, but a hundred times, over and over again.  I couldn’t flee the wreckage of twisted metal and begin to heal.  I went off into the ravine night after night after night.  I was broken and ravished and used and tossed into the dirt and stones time and time again.  Healing wasn’t an option.  Yet, I am supposed to get up, dust myself off and walk away as if nothing ever happened.

She is trying to find herself again.  She, the ex-beauty queen.  She had a certain impact, left a certain fantasy in her wake as she walked the halls of her high school.  She knew how to get what she wanted.  And she misses catching her lovely reflection in the glass as she passes windows and mirrors.  She lost her magic wand.  The person she is inside doesn’t know how to respond without her fancy outer wrapping.  So, she wears anger and rejection like a blanket, layering on the foundation, as she struggles to adjust to her new reality.  It is understood.  She has lost much.

But I too have lost.  Much.  Everything.  The world where I lived before is gone.  My childhood, vanished.  My innocence, stolen.  My trust, broken.  My heart, shattered…more shattered than her once-lovely face.  I have died, yet not been reborn.  I was not provided with any restorative surgery.   I’ve not healed.  My pain has not even been acknowledged.   I am the walking dead.  No one will accept my wounds because no one sees them.  I hide them away, fully knowing they are horrifying.  Fully understanding I am to keep them covered beneath layers of smiles and empty, placating words.

We both cover our scars and hide away in shame.  Alone behind the mask.


The sky is crying and so am I.  It’s that kind of a day.  Cold, rainy, gloomy, depressing.  The hint of spring we were beginning to catch glimpses of last week has been swept away, now hidden beneath freezing fog, pellets of “snow cone” snow and branches encased in clear thick layers of ice.  Agonizing frigid air lashes out aggressively, stabbing relentlessly.  Movement is treacherous across slippery surfaces.  Even the hardiest don their heaviest winter coats, scarves and boots in a futile attempt to generate an artificial warmth so as to stave off involuntary shivering.  The sky drips disapproval.  Tears.  Frozen tears.

I’m so ready for spring…but spring is not yet ready to come.

I discover in the darkness of this day, in the unrelenting freezing rain, thick, impenetrable flurries of snow, in the bone-chilling wet and piercing, raw cold, I am struggling to summon enough will to propel myself from bed.  To dress.  Even to eat or brush my teeth.  The iciness has sapped all my strength.  My voice is gone.  I cannot articulate my pain.  I feel broken, cracked like shattered ice.  And utterly empty.

My teardrops join those glacial raindrops the clouds cry, spit and sling upon the earth.  Words are often inadequate vessels and today they leave me especially bitter and alone.  I seek hope in the gloom, a flower where there is none.  A green blade of grass where only dry, lifeless remnants of foliage lay buried beneath the ever-deepening ice and snow.  In this wintry, lonely place, I am swallowed by the emptiness, without voice or expression.  In the absence of words, my teardrops speak, even as they freeze upon my cheek.

Winters are grueling.  Exhausting.  Punishing.  They make survival so much harder.

Life is harsh, biting and lonely, even in the best of times.  During the prevailing darkness, when every inch of the terrain is carpeted beneath too many inches of endless white, trying to stand is hazardous.  Trying to move, to make headway, to walk a path or cautiously creep toward a destination, is foolish and ill-advised.  And pointless.  It is best to hunker down.  To burrow beneath layers of denial.  To wait for the sun…praying it will come to provide much needed thawing and relief.

I cry with the sky as I lift my eyes in search of a reprieve.  Then hunker into my shell.  Hunting in vain for warmth where there is none to be found.


The Interview

She came for an interview today.  Arrived a proper 5 minutes early, waiting in the car until just the right moment.  She was young.  Very young and slightly awkward socially.  Care had been taken with her outfit; she had done a lot with the little she had, dressing up inexpensive, worn pieces with a scarf, intricately woven and tied neatly around her neck.  Her gratitude over being considered for our open position was obviously heart-felt.  She didn’t have any of the required experience and she knew it.  Nothing to offer but willing hands.  And her hands were shaking.

As we began to talk, it quickly became obvious she was not a typical carefree young person.  Clearly, she was not like her average peers.  I could feel her fear and struggle over what to share.  Over how to share it while still being honest.  How to phrase her thoughts without causing a potential employer to immediately reject her.  Her voice trembled slightly.  Hands held in her lap remained tightly clasp.  Her back, ram-rod straight.  Her feet were placed tightly together and were positioned side-by-side flat on the floor.  Though she tried to make steady eye contact, she faltered.  She would look at me for a moment, after which her expressive eyes fell quickly back to the table sitting between us.

Her only job experience had been accumulated while working for her parents in a string of unrelated business ventures that evidently failed with some degree of regularity.  She had worked hard at those jobs.  Cleaning stadiums.  Cutting down trees with a chainsaw.  Securing the trees by ropes placed to ensure they fell in the right direction.  I found it difficult to imagine her even lifting a chainsaw, much less using one, especially considering her slight build and tiny arms.  But she spoke with knowledge hard won.  The knowledge of someone who had been there, had done the work and survived to tell the tale.

Her family formed a band, a musical group, playing in a small geographic region, disbanding at the point when they were finally being recognized.  She wrote songs for the group and sang them from her heart.  Her dream was to reach someone.  To touch them deeply.  I thought of all the songs I wrote when I was younger.  How we shared the same dream.  Exactly the same dream, her words an echo of my own.

She was unlike me.  So unlike me in many ways.  Yet so very much like me in other glaring and significant ways.

Her father viewed her as his property.  She was not permitted to do anything outside his authority and he didn’t respect her as an individual.  As a person.  She had to obey.  He demanded it.  Demanded she do as she was told.  Work hard.  Contribute.  Submit.  The only time she was heard was when she had an idea that would ultimately save him money.  These kinds of ideas were permissible.  Ideas about what constituted right and wrong or what was fair were not permissible.  She was his to use.

So unlike me.  So unlike me in some ways.  But so very like me in many profound aspects.

She doesn’t know “being loved.”  She doesn’t know what it feels like to be protected.  Cherished.  Simply for who she is; not what she does.  She doesn’t know she matters.

Two months ago, she broke free, flew away, and is now trying to get a foothold so she can begin to work her way forward to the starting line.  The place where “normal” people begin their journey in life.  She’s clawing for something to grab hold of.  Trying to sort through the mess she sees in her mind when she looks inside herself.  She’s trying to understand.  To figure out what to keep and what to toss away.  Trying to put all the pieces together, in hopes her soul will miraculously have prevailed.

Oh, God.  So like me in so many of the terrible details.

As we talked, I felt my eyes growing moist.  I fought the urge, staying focused on business.  The job we were filling.  The requirements.  Her ability to fulfill those requirements.  But, as I walked her to the door, I did something I have never done in my 30-year career.  I encouraged her to seek help and support.  Now, while she is young.  Now.  Because it can change the course of her life.  Because no one can rebuild themselves alone.  No one can do it without love.  Without finding a place and a person of safety.

And then, I gave her the precious words my grandmother gave me when I was a child of six, sharing my very first poem with her.  I told her to never stop writing.  I told her I had also had a rough start.  That writing had saved my life so many times when it was all I had…and I found it to be enough.  Writing pulled me through.  So, I told her to never, never, never stop writing.  To never let that go.

She began to cry quietly, fighting it, as was I.  With tears in our eyes, we hugged, holding each other for a long time.  And as I held her, she repeated over and over again, “You understand.  You know.”

Yes, little bird, you who finally found your wings.  Who survived and now has flown away at last.  I know.  I do know.  With every fiber of my being, I know.  And I will do whatever I can to lift you up so you can eventually fly further and higher than I have ever been able to soar.

Profound Silence

I live in a world of silence.  Silence so profound, it beats upon my eardrums and screams at me until I fear for what is left of my sanity.  It is all I can hear.  It is the voice of my nightmares.

It is a silence nearly complete.  Almost unbroken.  It consumes everything in its path.

Within my world, an overpowering silence reigns.  My dogs occasionally bark.  My phone infrequently rings or a text announces its arrival. Rarely, I play music or turn on the TV to try to drown out the droning voice of the persistent emptiness that envelops me.  I have been captured and am held a prisoner in this intensely silent world.  This place of nothingness.

There is no one to talk to other than my dogs and they don’t have much to say in response.   There are no conversations, dangling or otherwise.  No laughter.  No chatter.  No friends who want to get together.  Nothing to break the stillness or to challenge the powerful quietness.

I occupy myself by reading books, playing with my two dogs, poking around on my laptop.  I post on Facebook and long for responses so I can convince myself I have friends.  Connections.  I write my blog.  You can hear the tapping of the keyboard as I type, the distant traffic noises and children playing in the street outside the window providing minimal relief from the deafening, endless, pulsing silence.  In spite of these brief intrusions, there is a prevailing quietness to my existence that presses down on me, forcing the air out of the room.  Leaving me gasping and longing for a reassuring word or touch.  Suddenly, I see clearly, painfully aware of how utterly alone I am.

A small dose of silence can be good for the soul, providing time to reflect, to examine new thoughts and ideas, to consider alternate perspectives.  I can take a fairly hefty dose of it.  But it can become unbearably oppressive when it is a near constant companion.  It crushes.  Tears one apart with sharp teeth and razor claws.  In excessive quantities, it is excruciating. Even deadly.

Essentially, silence is exceedingly noisy.  It never stops.  Never shuts up.  Never relents.  It weighs on you, pressing your breath from panting lungs.  Destroying hope.  Revealing a reality that is intolerable.  It beats you up until you are frightfully bloody and broken beyond repair.  And it takes everything from you, creating a vacuum that is agonizing, dark, terrible, excruciating.

You’ve heard the term “deafening roar?”  Silence is like this.  It roars.  ROARS!  And the roar is so horribly loud, it causes even the bravest to cover their ears and run.  That deafening roar is overwhelming and oppressive.  The sound of it tears the soul into tiny fragments, leaving nothing behind but dust.  It generates immeasurable terror and eternal desolation.  There is no escaping the overwhelming soundless emptiness.

Whoever said silence is golden likely didn’t have it as a near constant companion.  Didn’t live with it day in and day out.  Didn’t have to come home to it, dine with it, sleep with it, drive with it, bathe in it.

When profound silence and a suffocating emptiness is all you have to look forward to, all you have to live for, you find, essentially, you don’t have anything for which to live after all.


I do not feel.  Not now.  Not for a long time.  I numbed myself years ago.  To survive the volcanic pain I held in the depths of my heart.  The raging torrent that threatened to overwhelm and drown me.  I intentionally twisted the massive valve inside my soul until the flow of caustic emotions stopped.  Until only a trickle escaped.  Until I was no longer being ripped apart by its sharp talons.  Until the agony no longer crushed me with its unbearable weight.

Once closed, that valve is impossible to reopen.  I did not know this when I shut it tight.  Had I understood, I would have chosen to let the pain take me down and rip out my throat.

I have lived my life in this state of suspension, neither dead or alive.  I have talked about all the things that will never matter and none of those that did.  Or do.  I’ve worn my poker face carefully, as if my existence depended on it.   Said what was proper in each situation.  Laughed when it was appropriate.  Cried only in secret, if at all.  Told everyone I was “fine” and “great” while turning the spotlight away from myself because I feared what it would revel if anyone looked too closely.  I performed.  Kept walking.  Went through the motions.  Amazed by the lack of a heartbeat as I took one step and then another.   And another.

I absorbed each shockwave, each loss and trauma, without reacting.  Took the next step.  Feeling nothing.  Kept moving because that was what I was supposed to do.  What I had to do.  Because it’s what “normal” people do.

No heartbeat.

Empty.  Broken.  Shattered.  My only choice was to keep going somehow.  Or die trying.

But when I am alone, when the darkness of night swaddles me tightly, pinning me in its cocoon, when the silence screams in my ears until I fear I will go deaf or insane or both, when I have nothing to hang on to and hope is a distant planet, I write.  I search for words to tell my story because I have no voice with which to speak.  Nor do I have anyone waiting by my side who will listen.  I search for the perfect words to express all the things I would feel, if only I could turn that massive handle backward, reopening the rusted valve I closed so long ago.  I vent my emotions through vowels and consonants.  I use my pen to exorcize the decaying,  pent up, blunted, deadened feelings.  The words on the page are the only way I know I am still alive.  They speak.  Quietly and falteringly.  They attempt to make sense of the repulsive tale.  They are my tapestry.

I inject all of my buried emotion into those words.  Into each one of them…each word and phrase.  I don’t feel, so much as I write it out, then read what I should or would be feeling if only I could.  I write about what I might be experiencing somewhere deep beneath the surface of my frozen soul.   I pack the sentences and paragraphs full of descriptors, hoping to attain a reaction upon impact.   I long for a response from my destroyed soul.  Any response at all.  But no matter how well I capture the moment or paint the picture or weave the tapestry, my words do not cause so much as a tiny ripple in my heart.

And so, I continue to write.  Trying in vain to uncover even a microscopic sign of life.

I long for seismic activity.  For the volcano to spew forth the hot lava that burns my insides and eats me from within.  But there is no activity to detect.  Nor even so much as a bit of steam escaping from the throat of the volcano.   The fissure does not vomit out its contents.   There is no relief.  Only enduring silence.

I search for words I cannot find.  Attempting finally to release the noxious toxic gasses into the atmosphere.  But the crater is cold, sealed by too many thick layers and far too many years.

No heartbeat.  The valve can’t be reopened.  Time can’t be unspent.  There is no going back to do it differently.  All the paths not taken will never be traveled because I did not choose to walk them.  I did not take the risks I should have taken, nor did I dare to explore uncharted territory.

There is a crater where once was housed a soul.  There is a stone where I once nurtured a heart.  There is numbness and death where once there was breath and life.  And there are now only inadequate, insufficient, unmoving words scattered across the page where once there was a heartbeat.

My heartbeat.  Silent forevermore.

Liar, Liar

I’ve had a bad couple of weeks.  First, I fell on the ice.  It was supposed to be a warmer day and the back patio didn’t look wet or icy, so I was unprepared for slick pavement.  It’s the worst fall I’ve ever taken.  I hit especially hard, squarely on my right hip.  With all of my weight.  I was taking my dogs out before leaving for work, so I felt pressured to keep moving.  But I wasn’t sure I could get up off the ground.  When I finally did, after crawling back to the door, I discovered I already had a rather large, extremely painful knot forming.  Which concerned me.  I worried that I might have broken my hip, though I was relieved when I was able to walk, even if I kind of stumbled around.  I could put weight on it and took that as a good sign.  But the knot grew and grew until it was hard and huge; bigger than a grapefruit.  I let my boss know I would be delayed, called my sister-in-law, who is a nurse practitioner, and asked her to take a look to see if she thought I needed to go to the doctor.  Her shocked expression when she saw the knot pretty much said it all.

Turned out it wasn’t broken, but the doctor told me to stay home for the rest of the week…which wasn’t going to happen.  I worked 8, rather than my normal 9-1/2 to 10 hours a day, feeling guilty about “going home early” for a few days, even though I was in a tremendous amount of pain.  A week and three days later, it still hurts like crazy any time I touch it.

But that was just the first blow.

Next, came the ridiculously cold temperatures.  Down to -11 with a wind chill that was even lower.  Then ice.  Real ice.  The kind you could see.  Then the snow.  And to top it off, I developed a horrible sinus infection.  My hip was hurting so much, I couldn’t sleep at night and now my face felt like it was going to explode any minute.  I was getting disgusting, hard, green things out of my nose every time I blew, which was often, along with a lot of frothy green goop that made me want to puke.  Honestly, it was a bit alarming and incredibly gross.  I was miserable.

And then, the weekend ended.  I had to pull myself together enough to go to work.

You are probably thinking this is a stupid story, or, at the very least, an unpleasant and uninteresting one.  But I’m attempting to “set the stage” so you will understand what followed.

I was in pain, sick, dizzy, exhausted, cranky, couldn’t think and was so weak, I could barely stand.  Outside, we were going through a record-breaking cold spell, the roads were icy, or at the very least, snow covered and slick.  My nose felt as if I had a steel pencil rammed up my nostrils and my hip hit me with a zinger of pain every time I touched it.  Most people probably wouldn’t have felt apologetic about calling in sick, considering.

I did.  I felt guilty.  I wasn’t certain I was “sick enough” to justify staying home.  I kept telling myself I could do it…I could force myself to get dressed and go to work.  Just needed to put on my big girl panties.  Driving in my fuzzy state would have been scary, but I wasn’t sure I had a legitimate excuse to stay home where it was warm and soft.  Where I could rest.

Eventually, I did call and I reluctantly stayed home for a couple of days.  But I was overcome with shame and terrified I would be fired.  Or they would look down on me.  I was sure they didn’t believe I was sick.  I thought they probably figured I didn’t want to chance the icy roads and made it all up.  So, you know what I did?  I took pictures.

I took pictures of my snotty Kleenex, green and bloody and yucky.  More than one picture.  Four or five of them.  And I took a couple of pictures of me with my Rudolph nose, slits for eyes and my massively swollen, black bruised hip.  To prove I was legitimately unable to compel myself to go work.  To prove I wasn’t lying.

I have had this fear, this doubt about myself, this feeling that I am not going to be believed, for most of my life.  It goes back so far, I can’t ever remember feeling credible.  I’ve always, always, always had this nagging trepidation in my heart that no one would believe me, even though I was telling the truth and nothing but the truth.  I never feel I have a right to take care of myself.   I’ve always feared everyone would think I was lying.  I’ve always felt the need to prove I was being honest, all the while doubting myself, even though I knew I wasn’t lying.

Somehow, in the midst of my misery, with excruciating sinuses, with a coal black bruise, swollen, throbbing hip and pressure so great within my skull I was certain my eyes were sure to pop out at any moment, a thought…a reasonable, logical, intelligent, shattering thought…occurred to me.

Lightbulb flash.   “Why do others not feel the need to present documentation to prove they are telling the truth?  Why do I always feel as if I’m lying, even though I know I am not?”

And the lightbulb flash became a lightning strike.  A blinding flash of comprehension.

I was an abused child.  I was abused from the time I was born until I left home at age 17.  Much of the abuse was emotional and verbal.  Lots of negligence.  But there was also a great deal of physical abuse.  And the sexual abuse decimated me.  I struggled mightily to survive.  It was a test of my mental and physical endurance.  A horrible nightmare.  An unbearable trial.  And I cracked exactly two times.  Twice.

I reached out for help.

The first time I cracked, I was 13.  A friend took me to an event at her church one evening to see a group that had presented a program at my high school about the evils of drugs.  They were college kids, caring and easy to relate to.  I was touched by what they shared that night at my friend’s church and I went forward to talk to one of the girls afterwards.  I confided in her. That I was being abused by my parents and sexually abused by my father.  This was clearly beyond her ability to handle.  She called the pastor.  He hurriedly took me to his office, excusing the girl I had talked with, sat behind his desk and proceeded to tear me to shreds.  He told me he knew my parents.  They were pillars of the community.  My father was a respected teacher.  My mother was born there, went to school and graduated from the same school I was attending.  How dare I say such evil things about them!  How dare I talk about my parents in such a disgusting way!  How dare I dishonor them!  Then, he told me to go home and to never tell anyone such repulsive lies ever again.

I was stunned.  Numb.  I left and kept my mouth shut for 2 full years.

The second time I cracked, I was 15.  I confided in my favorite teacher, told her about the abuse, both physical and sexual, just as I had the pastor.  She looked at me with a warry expression, sending me home that day with a neighborhood kid who was the closest thing I had to a friend.  She said she and the guidance counselor would talk about it and contact my father later.

Contact my father. Contact.  My.  Father.   My father who lied about what he did to me and put on his respectable mask each time he left my bedroom.  My father who hit hard and would certainly not hold back after learning I had betrayed him by telling the secret.  The big secret.  I reached out to them.  But they weren’t going to protect me.  They were going to talk to my father, my abuser, because they didn’t believe me.  They thought I was mentally ill, making it up and needed help.

I did need help.  But I wasn’t going to get it from them.

I told them to forget it.  And they did.  Because they never thought I was telling the truth to begin with.

The only people I dared trust enough when I was a child called me a liar.  In particularly painful ways. They were repulsed by what I shared and rejected me completely.  They were openly disbelieving and hard-hearted.  At the time when I needed them the most.

I needed help.  Needed it so desperately, my soul depended on it.  I needed someone to care, to protect me, to show me I mattered.  I needed someone to believe me.  And they didn’t.

The connection was finally made.  The circuit closed.  I understood.

No wonder I always feel I have to prove I am telling the truth.  Provide documentation.  Hardcore evidence.  And even then, I don’t feel confident anyone will believe me.  Because no one ever does.  Why should they, when I can’t even believe myself, in spite of the fact I am being honest?

That’s what happens when you tell the truth and the world spits in your face and tells you you’re a liar.  You believe them.  For the rest of your life.


A little over halfway through my stay in my mother’s womb, I almost made an unexpected and early appearance.  It was, of course, considerably too soon for me to be born.  I was far too unformed.  My lungs couldn’t inhale.  Exhale.  I would not have been able to survive without that silent sac of amniotic fluid to sustain me.

The doctors gave my mother some kind of drugs to stop her contractions.  She was monitored, given even more drugs and put on bed rest for a while.  Eventually, the contractions stopped.  I survived.  She carried me full term, or close to it.  I made my appearance at the whopping weight of 6 lbs. 4 oz. somewhere slightly before my due date.

The doctors had predicted it was possible I would have a significant birth defect, their explanation for why she almost lost me.  They were as prepared as possible for such an emergency all those many years ago.  As prepared as possible for whatever horror emerged from her womb.  I disappointed them, much to the relief of my parents.  Parents who were unprepared to deal with a normal crying baby and poopy diapers.  Parents who couldn’t handle the ordinary needs of an average infant.  Because even normal, average, standard babies have a lot of needs.  And the only needs they were prepared to fulfill were their own.

At whatever cost to me.

No birth defects.  No reason for the early near-catastrophe.  I had a heart murmur.  The kind you outgrow.  No other physical issues noted.  No physical reason for me to have almost been spontaneously aborted.

Yet, it could be argued that I shouldn’t have been born.  For many reasons.

They should have never had a child.  Probably don’t need to go on.  That pretty much says it all.

I was told the story of how they nearly lost me when they were trying to convince me they truly did want a little girl.  I was told the story when I was very young.  They continued telling it until they died.  It was supposed to prove their love for me.  Their supposed gratefulness for my survival.  Survival.

But what I heard, because of the abuse I suffered while in their “care,” was that I should have never been born.  I was a mistake.  From the very first moment I took a breath of air.

What they did spoke so much more loudly than what they said.  What they did was deafening.

A mistake.  I was a mistake.  I cost them too much.

That feeling has remained with me my entire life.  It’s a big part of the reason I feel as though I have to do more, be more, perform better, give more, and justify being alive.  A mistake.  A disappointment.  A failure.  By birth.  Nothing can change the terrible thing that was wrong with me from the very beginning.

I have felt it in every relationship I’ve ever had…until I have almost stopped having them.  I can no longer get past the fact that I am defective.  That nothing will ever make up for my deficit.

I’ve felt it with every employer in every job I’ve held.  And I’ve worked harder, longer, faster, more diligently, burning out and nearly destroying myself as a result.  Trying to make up for the fact that I’m never going to be as good as the next guy.  I’m always going to disappoint, regardless of how hard I try.  I’m never going to win because losers never do.  Failures fail.  I will never have value the way everyone else intrinsically has value.  I can never be, do or contribute enough to have worth.

I should never have been born.  I can’t make up for that fact.  There has always been something so wrong with me, even my mother’s womb tried to reject me and thrust me out into the void.  Nature tried to cull me for a reason.  Not a reason that is visible to the naked eye.  But the flaw is so great and deep and terrible, my cells should have never come together.  I should not have been created.

A mistake.  That can never be corrected or redeemed.  Such a terrible mistake, the only way to right the world is to go back in time and erase me totally.

Oil & Vinegar

When we were kids, my brother and I ate a lot of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup.  Our mother seemed to think she was providing us with a healthy meal, with something that was especially good for us.  But neither one of us liked the soup.  Specifically, my brother liked the broth, but not the noodles.  I, on the other hand, liked the noodles, but not the broth.  So, when our mother wasn’t looking, he gave me his noodles, I gave him my broth, and we were both satisfied.

He was oil.  I was vinegar.

He was the child who would not clean his plate, no matter what, unless he was hungry.  I was the child who cleaned my plate as quickly as possible so I wouldn’t have to sit at the table for a second longer than was absolutely necessary.  To me, it was punishment, having to sit.  My brother frequently fell asleep with his head laying in his food long after I was gone.  He never gave in.

From as far back as I can remember, he liked to wear dress shirts, ties, nice slacks and dress shoes.  I was the bell-bottom, peace-bead-wearing hippie child.  To this day, he wears dress shirts, suits, a tie and nice shoes…that’s his “casual” look.  He owns one pair of jeans.  I, on the other hand, have an eclectic “freaky” style.  I own one pair of dress pants.

He loves cats.  I love dogs.

I was a straight A student.  He bumped along making C’s.  Or even an occasional D.  If I made a B, I felt like a complete failure.   He simply wasn’t interested in most of the topics offered in high school and therefore, didn’t care enough to try to succeed.  When he was interested, he did well, which he proved in college, graduating magna cum laud.  I was driven to excel on general principle, to justify my existence.

I was the rebel.  He was the perfect child.

He drank Orange Soda.  I drank Grape.

He loved lemon drops and orange slices.  I adored chocolate covered cherries.  Or butterscotch candy.

I was badly abused.  He was coddled and protected.  But the “dysfunction stew” in which we grew had a significant impact on both of us.

Oil.  Vinegar.  So different.  But somehow, inseparable.

We were both imaginative children who created fantasy worlds and immersed ourselves in them.  So, though we were very different, we connected through our wildly active imaginations.  We even made our own board games because the “store bought” kind weren’t complex enough for us.  We retreated into our fantasies to survive.  For different reasons.

We did everything together. Riding bikes, playing with Lego, drawing intricate spy maps and then shooting our way through enemy territory to complete our missions.    Hitting the beach ball back and forth over the house, sitting in the tree house, pretending we were different people, climbing the cherry tree and devouring cherries, eating rhubarb and cucumbers from the garden.  Together.  We even shared a bedroom until I was nine and he was seven.

He is a cold weather person.  I hate cold weather.  He loves the snow.  I despise it.  He loves mountains.  My dream is to live by the beach in some warm or tropical locale where I can listen to the ocean all day long.

He’s spontaneous.  I like to have a plan.  For me, it’s survival.  He doesn’t need to survive because he’s living life fully.  And he’s fully alive.  I’m a walking dead person.  I have to make sure I have time in my schedule to recharge.  Alone.  Some time with no demands and with plenty of room to breathe.  I’m an introvert.  He is an extrovert. Never met a stranger.

He deeply enjoys classical music.  I’m rock and roll, baby!

My brother is the saver.  Me, not so much.  Even as a child, he kept whatever money he got for his birthday or Christmas.  Hiding it away so he would have it when he needed it.  I, on the other hand, didn’t see as much value in having money. It’s always been about what I could do with it.  Save a little, but enjoy what has been earned.  Not that he doesn’t treat himself, but he is very careful and only spends after he has more than enough set back to handle any emergency.  So, even though he’s younger, he was the first to buy a car.  A house.  And he paid it off.  But he is also generous with those in need.  He has a tender heart.  Mine started out tender, but I learned how to encase it in a hard shell.  I learned to numb my emotions to stay alive, if only minimally.

He is more liberal politically, even though I was always the rebel.  He has relationships and a plethora of connections.  I connect with my dogs.  And I love him with all of my heart, grateful for what time he can spare for me from his busy life.

I left my childhood “home” at 17.  He lived at home until he was 23.  I couldn’t get out fast enough.  He didn’t want to leave when he did.  Had to be nudged out of the nest.

Different.  But connected.

When my world fell apart…again…when it crashed, smashed and burned, he was there.  He made sure I had somewhere to turn.  That I wasn’t alone.  That I had at least one person who wasn’t going to walk away when I had nowhere else to go and nothing to offer.  My tenderhearted little brother.  Who owed me nothing, but who gave me everything.

He is a child of the light.  I am a child of the darkness.

He is oil.  I am vinegar.

I can’t imagine vinegar without oil.


The World Through My Eyes