I have written all throughout my life. After writing my first poem long ago, in first grade, I ran home from school, to my grandmother’s house, which was where my brother and I went each day until our parents came home from work. I proudly showed her my four-line poem scrawled on a piece of lined paper from my Big Chief’s writing table. I remember the moment so well. She was sitting in a lawn chair beneath a shade tree and I piled onto her lap. She held me tight and read each line as if it was a thing of beauty. And then, she told me it was wonderful. And amazing! And that I should always keep writing. I did. There were not many glimmers of light in my childhood. Her words were of the few I received that were encouraging and validating. Largely because of her encouragement, I used the pen and paper to keep the pain of the abuse I endured from being too much to bear. I wrote songs and poems and stories filled with the deep darkness of the physical, emotional and sexual abuse I suffered at the hands of my parents. I poured my anguish and terror out, spilling it onto the page in words crafted to paint a picture of my suffering and terror. Trying to capture the intense and wrenching emotions. And with every spilling, there was a brief moment of relief. A sense of having said what needed to be said. It was a little like vomiting with words. And I felt better for a moment after purging.
Most of what I have written has remained unread and unheard. Shared with no one. Kept secret, just as I kept secret the abuse and resulting destruction of my being. It is only recently, in sharing here on this blog in near anonymity, that I have dared to crack the door.
I think, in some ways, I have tried to tie up all the pain, all the confusion, all the loose ends and destruction and brokenness, with words, fitting the darkness into a tidy package I could, somehow, live with. I have tried to use words to describe the horrendous destruction of my being so the terror and distress wouldn’t seem as big and overwhelming to me. I’ve used words to contain and define and limit the hurt, wounding, and the decimation of my soul. It places everything into boxes, labeled by topic. Slightly removing me from that front row seat. Allowing me to watch from a safer distance. And giving me the ability to evaluate what I see a little at a time. I sort things out by combing them through words as I search for a way to express what weighs heavy on my heart. What is oozing from the gaping hole in my soul.
Dreams and hopes have died, but I have continued to write. I have lost jobs and houses and relationships and desires and churches and friends, but I have never stopped writing. My hair has fallen out, I’ve gained a million wrinkles and several pounds, my skin sags and my joints complain, but still I write. When I reflect on where I started in life so long ago, writing is the one and only thing that has endured. That remains. That retains meaning. And gives purpose.
Some of you have been encouraging to me about my writing. It is a privilege to speak. An honor to be heard. And some of you have listened and heard me, in spite of the fact that what I have to offer isn’t pretty or exciting or uplifting. I am grateful. In writing, I have realized the one enduring desire of my heart is to touch the heart of another with my words. To forge a connection so deep and real and raw, it somehow changes the world. Not in a big way. I don’t flatter myself to believe I have that kind of ability. But in a small way. And if what I have to offer, ugly and bleak and discouraging though it might be, is heard, received, assimilated by another, maybe, just maybe, somehow, in some way, it will slightly change something somewhere in the universe. And maybe that will eventually cause an avalanche.
Child abuse cripples a person for life. Maybe, if enough people hear and truly understand the incredible cost to the child, maybe, just maybe, a person here and there will begin to take a stand. Raise their voices. Do things that change things. And if I can be a ripple in wave of change, well, that’s all I can ever hope for. That would be an answer to prayer. That might even, dare I say it, be a reason to live.