Like most people in the US lately, I have been watching the news coverage of the massive wedge tornado that hit Joplin, MO, on May 22nd. I couldn’t tear myself away, couldn’t make myself stop watching, even as my heart broke for the people who were so horribly affected. Joplin is only about 80 miles from where I live. I go through there when I travel back to Springfield to visit my brother and his wife. It hit far too close to home. Too many people I know are from there, have family there or live there. I hurt for them. No one should have to go through what they are going through right now. No one should have to suffer that much.
The more I watched, the more I became aware of an eerie parallel between me, my life, and the utter destruction I watched unfolding before me on the live streaming video coverage presented by The Weather Channel. Everything was in ruins. Everything. In every direction. Everywhere you looked. Every landmark had been wiped out or forever altered. Destroyed. There were massive piles of debris and stunned survivors walked aimlessly, disbelieving what they were seeing, unable to take it in.
My own life was forever altered by the tornado of sexual abuse that devastated me when I was a child. It didn’t blow through quickly. I suffered through years and years and years of caustic abuse at the hands of my father, the man who, I’m told, should have loved and protected me. My home environment was, frankly, filled with pretty awful and destructive weather even without the sexual abuse, but that swirling turn of events totally wiped me out. I was a timid child, one who adored her daddy. His abuse of me cut a deep, devastating path through my heart, soul, mind and being. It wiped out everything that was in its wake, left the landscape completely obliterated, massively distorted, twisted, ruined. I was broken, badly injured, irreparably damaged. Altered beyond repair.
There were no rescue workers. No one to pull me from the rubble, give me the emergency care I desperately needed. I had to care for myself as best I could and find some way to live in what was left of what used to be me. No one rushed to my aid. No one cried for me the way Mike Betts wept in compassion on The Weather Channel as he reported on what he saw. No one gave me shelter. There was no clean-up or rebuilding effort. No one even noticed how horribly damaged was the landscape of my heart.
I stumbled in and over and through the massive debris left of my soul, trying desperately to put the pieces back together again, trying to rebuild, trying to reconstruct as best I could so things would be the way they were before the storm. It was a futile effort. Insane to even try. But what else was I to do, faced with such a wasteland, with such massive destruction, with near total annihilation? I would find some little piece of something and carry it with me for a time, hoping to find something else that would fit with it, trying to make sense of what had happened. But there was no sense to the wreckage and disintegration. Craziness reigned. Everything had been ripped away, right down to the foundation. The ground was stripped and gouged. There was nothing but twisted, broken fragments of what used to be a little girl.
I used to have horrible nightmares about tornadoes when I was a child. I still have an unhealthy fear of them. To say that they terrify me is to terribly understate my anxiety. But in reflecting about the tornado of abuse that destroyed me so completely many, many years ago, I can’t help but wonder if perhaps the worst has already happened. I’m still trying to clean up the incredible mess. Still trying to salvage something from the unending piles of debris. I’ve grown old but the destroyed landscape hasn’t changed much since childhood. And that is the most tragic thing of all. I fear I will go to my grave still wandering through the horribly damaged rubble that is all that remains of what used to be me. Still trying to pick up the pieces.