My fantasies sleep with me,
keep me company,
whisper lies to me.
They tell me my meaningless world is profound
They fill me up and warm me with imaginary heat.
They walk beside me,
hold my hand,
but they cannot set me free
from this empty, endless, all-consuming drudgery.
I let them deceive me
because I do not want to see
the depth of my loneliness;
my bleak reality.
Smoke and mirrors
I create worlds.
Populate those worlds with people to interact with me.
Pretend we are connected
because I am starving for intimacy.
I created a man who is a fantasy.
Who wraps his arms around me
and holds me through the darkness;
through my pain.
It doesn’t matter that I lack the words
His arms are strong;
he holds me in his powerful embrace.
I’m secure and safe within this magic place.
For this man who is a fantasy of mine
believes that I am worth his love;
He wraps me in his heart
and watches over me;
this man who is nothing but a fantasy.
He gets me through another empty night.
Then fades away in the harsh, cruel morning light.
My fantasies sleep with me,
keep me company,
whisper lies to me.
They tell me my meaningless world is profound
and I am deeply grateful for
their soft whispers of deceit.
Someone has to pay…and the price is high.
It costs all the years when children innocently dance the days away, safe and secure, chasing after fireflies. Chasing after dreams. Laughing from the belly; giggling with a carefree heart. Running with the wind as it blows through their hair. Jumping, leaping, straining to touch stars. Twirling beneath a warm blue sky and falling into the soft green grass. Life is magic. Nothing is impossible. Worries are for another day.
It costs the years when young teens take their first tentative steps into the future, full of a sense of adventure mixed with trepidation, looking forward while still looking back, because “back” isn’t all that long ago. Reaching for a parent’s hand even as they struggle to let go completely. Whirling in the midst of all they have been taught, the foundations that have been constructed, carefully and lovingly. Testing them. Finding their own way.
It costs all the years of young adulthood, when tentative steps solidify into ever more confident strides. When life begins to come into focus. When dreams start to mature, decisions are made, hopes are stored into tomorrow’s treasure chest. Ideas become plans. Goals come into focus. True friendships deepen and childish things are put aside, though not forgotten, for old memories are still to be enjoyed as new ones are made. Meaning and purpose is sought and slowly found. Life is being built a step at a time.
It costs the years of middle life, times of growing, achieving, gaining wisdom and understanding. Times of learning what is actually important. Connections. The giving of your heart to others. Commitment to a spouse. Transparency and joy, raw vulnerability and finding a place of safety within the heart of others. The birth of children ushers in pain beyond imagining. And love beyond anything and everything that has ever been before. Love so deep, your heart aches with it, throbs with it, cries with it, laughs with it, prays with it, embraces it, cherishes it. You tremble with wonder and the fear of it as you hold it gently inside like a rare and delicate butterfly. The world is no longer only about you. It expands. And the happiness of others becomes even more important to you than your own.
Such a high price. It costs every hope. Every dream. Every joy. Every bit of meaning and all trust. It exacts a price every moment, stealing your soul, infusing your heart with anguish, stripping you of normality. It purloins all sense of worth. Damages so deeply, nothing can grow in the wasteland within. Nothing can thrive or live in that shadowland where all has died. The wounds and scars will mark the graves forever. The land is left toxic, poisoned and desolate.
When parents take from their children, rape their children, make their children objects to be used and abused, it costs the child everything. All of this and more. Though the parents refuse to acknowledge what they have destroyed, what they have stolen away, the child is the one who loses the world. The child is the one who pays. They pay with their life, with all they should have had but never knew and all they could have been but will never be. They pay the price. They pay with their heart and their soul.
They pay an exorbitant price every day until the day they finally die.
Years ago, in small town USA, where locking your doors was optional and leaving your keys in the car as you ran into the tiny grocery mart that served the community was common practice, people never once gave monsters a thought. They didn’t dream they existed in real life. You didn’t read about them in the weekly 6-page newspaper; nor in the paper from the small city 30 minutes to the east. They were the things of a young child’s imagination, of story books and badly done horror movies. Good for a thrill or a scare, but they had no substance, nor were they something to be feared.
The monsters of that day wore a mask and walked among us. They went to church and served as volunteers for popular worthy causes. They held down respectable jobs, bought nice homes, laughed with their coworkers and prayed before meals. They hunted and fished and bowled. Sat in the bleachers at neighborhood baseball games while child after child struck out amid giggles and chants, not worried about winning while having a great time playing. They blended in, vigilantly hiding their true character and motives beneath carefully crafted facades that wholly concealed their ugliness. Their selfishness. Their lust.
So, it makes sense that the monsters in my house didn’t hide under the beds, disguise themselves in dark corners or conceal themselves behind closet doors. They weren’t afraid of the daylight; didn’t worry about needing to stick to the shadows to remain undetected. Nor were they worried about being exposed by someone who thought they caught a hint of something nightmarish behind their broad smile. Why fear detection when no one believes you exist?
My monsters sat with me at the dinner table. But no one else saw them for who they were.
I did try to rip the mask from their faces a couple of times, in hopes of saving myself.
I told the pastor of the local Baptist church, only to be chastised, humiliated and sent home with a stern warning to never lie about them again. He would not listen to my pleas or hear the description of what I knew from experience truly reclined behind their disguise. They were, after all, respected members of the community. I was nothing more than a troubled child. Sullen and sensitive. Shy and strange.
On another occasion when depression and fear sought to eat me whole, I confided in an admired teacher at my high school. But she also didn’t believe me and rejected my desperate disclosure, acting thereafter as if I weren’t even in her classroom, refusing to acknowledge my presence, much less my suffering. I’m not sure what I expected, considering my father was also a teacher. And he taught in that small city to the east of my tiny township. The city where all the small-town teachers longed to for a classroom. Where resources were plentiful and the pay was superior, though not yet enough to provide a livable wage. In retrospect, it was rather foolish of me to expect to be rescued by someone who secretly envied and related to him.
Experience and rejection taught me to stay silent. I learned not to tell. To keep my mouth tightly shut and my heart numbed to the pain. I learned to walk silently, to ask for nothing and to fear everyone.
I learned that no one else could see the monsters.
But they were (and are) there. Hiding in plain sight. Smiling at the neighbors. Tipping the waitress. Picking up their mail from the post office. Raking leaves. Washing the car. Pretending to be nothing more than the disguise they have carefully constructed and religiously maintained.
I couldn’t escape them. At best, I hoped only to survive.
Abuse exacts a toll. Survival comes at a cost. They stole almost everything of importance from me. My trust. My innocence. My hope. My value. My dreams. My soul. My heart. They twisted my thinking and broke me down into jagged, shattered, hurting pieces. Hitting me. Rejecting. Demanding more. They were selfish and judging. Withholding acceptance, medical care, touch. Except to touch me in places they shouldn’t. In ways I shouldn’t have been touched, especially by a father. At ages when I was too young to even begin to understand what was being done to me.
That’s when the facade failed. That’s when I saw them for who they were. When they dripped with evil passion and allowed lust and self-centeredness to control them. That’s when I realized monsters were real. And far more frightening than any horror movie had ever portrayed.
I still feel them lurking. Watching. Not the monster parents who gave birth to me, for they are long dead. But others. I catch their reflection in a window glass. Out of the corner of my eye as I walk by. I see it in the way they look at a child. In unguarded seconds. I see it in their expression. In their eyes. Monstrous wickedness. Painstakingly veiled.
You will see them too, if you dare to look.
The only way to stop them is to expose them. But to expose them, you have to be willing to see the unthinkable instead of turning away. You have to be able to acknowledge their existence rather than writing them off as an illusion while telling yourself they only live in the realm of twisted imagination.
There are monsters among us. Monsters who are worse than your wildest nightmare or most hideous fictitious devil. Lurking. Plotting and planning. Preying. You still don’t read about them all that often. But they are there. Shopping for groceries. Mowing their lawn. Stopping at red traffic lights. Singing in the choir. Biding their time. Waiting for the perfect moment to pounce.
I feel nothing. See nothing. Am nothing.
I lost sight of land such a long time ago. I can barely remember what it was like to walk on solid ground. Perhaps it was but a dream, a creation of sleep and imagination. A sweet fantasy I can no longer adequately recall.
I used to feel desire, but now, I have only a gnawing sense of shame. And devouring regret eating away at my soul. I used to believe I would write myself a happy ending. By working hard to overcome. I believed I could change my path. I believed all the pain would be worth suffering because of the outcome. Today, I long for nothing beyond release. For an end to my story. To be untied from this harsh, ruthless world.
Isolation is a brutal master. It forces one to build massive walls, cracking its whip to impel you to move faster. To do more. To work harder. To place stone upon stone. Until you are utterly alone and completely disconnected. Imprisoned by the very work of your own hands, with no hope of escape. Defeated.
I am adrift and I have been adrift for a very long time. Cannot get my bearings. Left without the strength or will to stand or the hope to swim. The current takes me where it will and I no longer fight it. Weakness and defeat tie my wrists tightly, leaving me defenseless and broken.
It used to matter to me. But now, I can’t even summon the will to care. I fought long and hard, but I have lost the battle. There is nothing left to do at this point but to surrender. And float. In this empty void, wrapped in darkness, tortured by regret, waiting for the end. Praying it will come soon.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.