All posts by rbird007

I'm just another little person out here in the big world of cyberspace who decided I wanted to have a voice, even if no one paid me much attention or cared for what I had to say. I have been around at least as long as dirt, if not longer, which means I'm old and opinionated, if not wise. I am mom to two Miniature Schnauzers; the older is named Zoe and the younger is Hannah. They are the delight of my life. We share a home together (they graciously let me live with them) and we romp together daily. I try to wag my tail and enjoy each day as much as they do, but shamefully, I'm afraid they beat pretty much every day. Life can be challenging, but they have taught me that there's nothing a good belly rub won't cure. Well...maybe not NOTHING it can't cure, but if you're a dog, there's nothing better! And I love giving them belly rubs because they enjoy them so much. Seeing them happy makes my heart smile. Back to the "real" world. If only it was as easy as getting a belly rub to cure me! Unfortunately, as you will discover if you poke around here, my life has been kind of ugly. I was badly abused as a child, physically, sexually, emotionally and verbally. The sexual abuse occurred from the time I was about 4 or 5 years old until I was about 14 years old. The "other" abuse lasted until I left home at age 17. I've been trying to recover from those first 17 years ever since. It's a constant struggle. I was married for 22 years to a man who repeatedly told me he didn't love me...and yes, like a dummy, I stayed (can't you see the "L" for Loser on my forehead?). I didn't think I deserved to be loved. I thought being tolerated was the most I could hope for. So I settled for what I thought was the best life could offer a disgusting, broken, messed up person like me and I would be there still but for the fact that he finally left me when he "fell in love" with another woman. That's when I totally crashed and burned. Since then, I've been trying to find that mystical (and I hope not mythical) path to recovery. It's been mostly up hill thus far. And the scenery hasn't been that enticing...in fact, it's been kind of yucky. But I'm still walking and that's positive, I think, although I do get stuck in the mud occasionally. This blog is part of my journey. I'm taking it one little step at a time...

Blanks

We begin with nothing but blank pages.  Yet, even while in the womb, we start to write our story.  The prologue to the book of our life is created as we form in the darkness.  And then, violently, we are born.  Taking our first breath, we cry out.  At that moment, we put pen to page and record the first line of our first chapter.

We aren’t aware we’ve begun to write our saga.  We don’t even realize we are on a journey.  This revelation doesn’t occur until much later.  But with our first cry, we wildly slash, leaving a bold, daring line across the pristine sheet of paper before us.  We are.  We make our initial mark.  And so, we begin to fill the pages of our book.

Our first poopy diaper.  The first time we roll over.  Our first smile.  The day we discover our own arm.  The first time we crawl.  Take a step.  Run.  Outgrow that poopy diaper.  Say our first word.  Our first day of school.

Chapters are written and they can’t be revised.  Or replayed.  Nor can they be undone.   Time writes with indelible ink.

In a weird twist, we forget our story even as we are writing it.  Who recalls the exact moment they first tottered across the living room floor without falling?  Who can remember saying their first word?  And who recollects the first time we excitedly ripped our hand out of that of our parents, running onward without them?   We achieve, but continually move forward.  One step follows another until we no longer recall from where we have come.  Blank sheet after blank sheet, filled, written, then forgotten.  We turn the page and keep writing…whether we want to or not.  What we do each second creates a line or paragraph within our book.  But most of those minutes are lost almost as they happen.  Only the major milestones are remembered.  And often, they are only recalled with difficulty.

We catch and release.  Moment after moment, lived and lost.

We fill in the blanks as we carelessly fill our empty pages.  I was born in _______ city.  I grew up in a house on _______ street.  I got my driver’s license ___ days after I turned 16.  I graduated with a ____ GPA in ____ year.  My first real job was at ______.  My first car was a _____.  I was ____ years old when __________ kissed me for the very first time.  My first love was ___________.  I got married when I was _____ years old on _______ date.

We write chapters with increasing speed.  The memories are lost even as we live and create them.

We fill in the blanks.  We fill up the blank spaces.  But we also blank out large chunks of our life.  We blank out the pain; the painful memories.  We erase from our minds large portions of what we have written.  We run from our own story.  Or deny we have one.

We create a chronicle of our life, chapter after chapter, year upon year.  We don’t foresee the end.  We never know when time has decided to leave us behind.  We don’t realize we are writing the final word upon that last page; not until the pen slips from our hand.  We grasp for it, but in vain.  It tumbles and falls silently to the floor, empty, used up.

We don’t know we are taking our last breath until suddenly, we fail to take another.

That last page?  I can’t tell you what it’s like.  I’m not there yet.  And no one lives to share their experience.  Even if they did live to tell, it’s very different for each one of us.  We reach that page at assorted ages, in dissimilar conditions, at various stages of life, and in a variety of ways (car wreck, cancer, heart attack…it’s a long list).  We are in differing states of mind, at a distinct place emotionally, physically and spiritually.  No two of us are alike and our final moments are as varied as snowflakes.

The last page, the final breath, the last word we write is very private event.  For this is a journey we make alone.

Everything is finite.  We all have an expiration date.  We don’t acknowledge or comprehend this when we’re young.  We don’t truly grasp it until we gasp in our final lungful of air and exhale for the last time.  Then we know with absolute certainty.

Suddenly, there are no more blanks.  Nothing exists beyond that moment.  Every experience we will ever have has come and gone.  Lived and ended.  Every moment allotted to us has been spent.  Every blank has been filled. There will be no more firsts.  No more memories to record.  Nothing for us to struggle to remember as it slips away.  No memories whatsoever.  It’s as if we have been erased.  As if our book was written in disappearing ink.

When we fill the one remaining blank – the date and time of our death – our story, good, glorious, or heartbreaking, is complete.  Someone else will add “The End” to our closing page when they say goodbye for the final time, then turn and walk on without us.

 

Ronnie P Has Left the Building

I have known him for a very long time.  He was an old friend.  One from way back.  One who never failed to have my back.  Who was always there.  Always cared.  One of the rare ones who “knew me when,” knew me now and who was still a presence in my life.

Too young to die.

I got the news yesterday morning.  At 1:30 a.m. on July 4th, Ronnie had a heart attack and died.  No warning.  Just like that.  They “worked on him” for 45 minutes, but couldn’t revive him.  Ronnie had left the building.  His final exit.  Curtain closed.  The story of his life finished.  There will be no encore.

Ronnie was one of the very few people I knew in high school who accepted me.  I was allowed to be part of his gang of mismatched castaways.  A little group of rejects who never quite fit in anywhere else.  The thing was, Ronnie was not really one of us.  He was a bit of a jock.  A football player who was friends with the popular kids, but who, for whatever reasons, hung out with us outcasts.  He was the core around which we all revolved and having brought us together, he held us close.  He was our touchstone.    We were friends with Ronnie and then became friends with each other.

After high school, we briefly lost touch.  I moved to a big city several hours away.  Last I heard, he had joined the military and I had no idea where he was stationed.  I thought of him often and wondered where he was, but in those days, finding someone was hard. There was no Facebook.  No internet. At times, I wondered if I would ever see him again.

About 5 years after we graduated, I pulled into the Sears parking lot one night.  There was a small key-making kiosk on the lot and as I walked by, I saw his face grinning at me.  Big goofy smile.  He had moved to the same city I now called home to attend college after he was discharged from the military and he was working in that kiosk while going to school.  Fate, it seemed, brought us back together.

There were times we again lost touch over the years, but he always tracked me down.  He was the one who put in the effort to find me and to maintain the bond.  I was that important to him.

It wasn’t that I didn’t care.  Or that he wasn’t also important to me.  But I was never good with connections.  I struggled with relationships.  Forever an outcast; inferior.  Ronnie didn’t care.  He went the extra mile, as if he understood it was something I couldn’t do.

And now, he’s gone.  The connection broken.  And even if I try, I can’t track him down where he has gone.

I am struggling to imagine a world with out Ronnie in it.  Without his big, tender heart.  A heart that loved strays…both people and animals.  A heart that opened up and swallowed you whole.  That loved you even when you couldn’t love our accept yourself.  Ronnie saw the good.  He never gave up on you when you were at your worst.  He was there.  Always.  And now, he isn’t.  I simply can’t comprehend it.

Ronnie P has left the building.  He loved deeply and cared even more.  He pulled people to him.  Somehow, now that I know he is gone, now that his light has been turned off, the darkness feels even more menacing and overwhelming.  He was a force.  A presence.  Without him, the world seems much more empty.

Oh, my friend…you left too soon.  You were too young.  And I don’t know how we’re going to make it without you.

 

Love is Not a Word

My parents were abusive.  They were abusive in my ways, on may different levels, all of them destructive, demoralizing and debasing.  I was something they owned and a thing to be used for whatever purposes served them at the time.  I could never live up to their expectations, nor did I ever manage to earn the air I breathed while growing up in their house.  I failed them time and time again.

My parents told me often that they loved me.

I generally tried not to think of these two opposing points because I could never allow the  opposites to exist in my mind at the same time without feeling as if my head would explode.

When I couldn’t ignore the nagging thoughts any longer, I would ask them the most obvious question.

“Did you WANT to have children?”

Regardless of how many times I asked and they answered, their response always caused additional bafflement.   And confusion.  For they assured me with very convincing words that they had wanted a child with all of their heart and had been crushed when told it might not happen for them.  Having a baby had been an answer to their prayers.

It was difficult to believe.  They were abusing me and treating me as though I was a worthless mutt who ever lived to disappoint.  They seriously wounded and treated me horribly, making it challenging to reconcile their actions with their explanations.  Why would they abuse and discard me if they had wanted me?

My brain, frantically in search of a logical justification for the incongruent data supplied, settled upon the next plausible motive for their abuse and neglect.

“Did you want a boy?”

Their response never wavered.  “Oh, no, we were hoping for a little girl.”

I couldn’t understand.  For it was at this point they usually told me they loved me, their own little miracle, their first born.

Thus, I learned to ignore my “gut.”  I learned to distrust my intuition.  My feelings.  I listened to their words.  I came to the conclusion that they were telling me the truth and love was very painful indeed.

Being loved was like being mauled by a bear.  Someone was going to get hurt and hurt badly.  And the bear was going to amble away, living to maul another day.

If love is painful, if it’s a destructive force, one that demands, takes, uses and demolishes, it’s not actually something you can cozy up to.  Walls have to be built and maintained.  You have to protect yourself from that kind of a presence.  You can never let down your guard.  And if you don’t do exactly what is expected of you at any given moment, love will turn on you and rip you to pieces.

That’s the only conclusion I could settle on.  Love took and never gave.  You needed it, but the price you had to pay was astronomical.  My parents wanted me.  They loved me.  And I wanted their love. So being loved was what caused the damage and abuse.  It was so painful, it could barely be survived.

The problem, I finally realized, was found within my definition of love…what it really means to be loved.  I was well over 40 before I realized the flaw to my logic.

I began to consider the facts once more and was startled to realize I had the equation all wrong.  I had begun with the answer and built my case on it.  But I had not started with the correct answer.

If my parents loved me and my parents used, neglected and abused me, then love, though necessary, though hungered for, was painful and wounding.

If parental love + parental abuse = “True Love”

  • Then true love is nothing more than abuse, rejection, never-ending demands and disgust, among many other hurtful and appalling actions.
    • Therefore, abuse, rejection, never-ending demands and disgust are what is deserved, because this is true love.
    • I didn’t deserve anything beyond what they provided because I was asking for more than love.  I was worthless, a failure who never met their expectations, an object (not even a person).  I wanted and needed what I should not want and need.
    • They were justified. They acted out of love so their actions were what I deserved.

I created a Boolean loop.

But, what if…

What if they didn’t actually love me?

What if the way they treated me wasn’t love?  What if the things they did to me were indications of their lack of love for me?  What if those hurtful actions revealed their true motives, their own selfish desires and their narcissism?

What if love is not a word?  What if it is a force that comes from the heart and propels one to take actions or motivates certain behaviors that are totally, absolutely, conclusively not like those actions and behaviors I experienced with my parents?

If saying you love someone doesn’t equal love…?

This is when the world turned upside down .  Or maybe, more accurately, it’s when it began to turn right-side up again.

I think they loved the IDEA of having a child.  But loving the child was another thing altogether.  That was the part they couldn’t do.  And the lack of love for me was unmasked and evidenced by their acts and deeds.

I let myself be deceived.  I believed their words, discarding my own observation, intuition and understanding.  I thought I had to be wrong because they told me they loved me, proving my feelings and conclusions were inaccurate.  But what if my observation, intuition, understanding, feelings and conclusions were dead on and their words expressing love for me contained the lie?

What if love is not a word?  What if love is more…so very much more?  What if it’s not a bear that mauls you, but a puppy that can’t stop kissing your nose because you are their whole wonderful world?  What if being loved doesn’t = being abused?  What if my parents lied so I would never look too closely at their actions or question their harsh demands and judgements too carefully?

I am still working at undoing all the faulty logic in my brain.  All the thoughts that were derailed and discarded because I started with the wrong conclusion.  I believed their words and not their deeds.  But I think I am on the right path now.  I think I knew in my heart that they didn’t really love me, which caused me to probe and question them repeatedly.  In trying to fit WORDS OF LOVE and ACTIONS OF ABUSE together in a way that made sense and didn’t rip me to pieces, I allowed myself to believe their lie.

I’m finally starting to get it.  Slowly.  It’s beginning to take shape in my soul.

Love is not a word.  I have never known love.

Sometimes the Pain Wins

I, along with the vast majority of human beings currently living on the planet earth, are incredibly saddened by the news of the death of several high profile “stars” over the past year.  Kate Spade’s suicide marks one of the most recent of those tragic deaths.  A death that was premature.  Unexplainable, to those of us watching from the outside.  “Senseless,” we call it.  Some are using it as a lesson; “money can’t buy happiness!”  Some of my friends even said it was selfish.  A few are actually angry with her.  But I can’t go there with them.  Not to the place of being angry or judging or moralizing.  Because I know something they don’t understand.   Something they simply can’t comprehend.

Sometimes the pain wins.

Until you have experienced that kind of intense, destructive, unrelenting pain in your soul, you probably can’t understand.   But I’m know it’s true.  The agony and isolation can take you down and knock you out of the game permanently.  Depression doesn’t fight fair.  And its goal is to destroy you.  Simple as that.

Depression is ugly and because it’s ugly, a lot of people won’t even glance in your direction when you are struggling.  That is part of the reason pain wins.  Ignorance.  Rejection.  Being judged as unacceptable.  A downer.  Troublesome.  A burden.   When we’re not “together,” we’re required to wear a mask and pretend as if we are.  And it’s lonely behind the facade.

When others see you as a burden, it’s unbearably hurtful.  When you can only see yourself as a burden, a negative in the universe, pain will use this advantage, this crack in your armor, and it will take you down.  It will take you out with one huge knock-out punch.  It will win.

This is the place where hope breathes its last breath.  The place where the aloneness and emptiness becomes overwhelming and shattering because there is absolutely nothing or no one to hold on to or to grab.  All strength and the will to fight is annihilated.  Nothing seems worth it, especially not you…your life.  You realize you are asking too much from the world when you ask to be wanted.  You’re more trouble than you are worth.  A toxic substance in the life of everyone you touch.  And you just can’t stand to contaminate the world or live such an empty existence one second longer.

At this point, the emotional pain becomes excruciatingly physical.  Your heart feels as if it will explode.  As if it is being ripped apart from the inside out.  Your mind stops functioning and the wiring in your brain smokes and fries.  You try; still you try.  But that kind of rending, tearing, shredding, utterly consuming pain is more than most mortals can handle alone.  And when you have been marked by the significant fracture it causes in your soul, you simply don’t stand a chance.  You are hardwired to self-destruct in times of such consuming emptiness and overload.  You don’t have the skills or the connections that are needed to survive.

And let’s face it; we live in a world of superficiality.  Your aren’t supposed to be real.  To “over-share”.  Which means, you aren’t supposed to share at all except in very limited doses in very specific circumstances.  Only the good stuff, even if you have to make it up.  You aren’t allowed to be vulnerable, to talk about weaknesses, issues, struggles, destructive thoughts, hurts.  You are not allowed to have dark and difficult times emotionally.  None of that is acceptable.  You’re supposed to be upbeat and positive and see that damned glass as being half full even when the sucker is bone dry empty.  Smile!  Look for the silver lining!  Don’t share your heart.  Whatever you do, don’t be real, don’t be weak, don’t fail, don’t cry, don’t tell, don’t acknowledge the ugly darkness that is destroying you.  Nonconformance will cause you to be labeled as defective.  Deplorable.  A plague! You will be judged and found worthless.  People will turn away and run in the other direction when they see you coming.

You can’t be real on Facebook and you can’t be real in church.  You can’t be real with your friends or they’ll stop being your friends.  You have to play the game or you’ll become a total outcast.  You can’t be honest about who you are, what you are dealing with or where you have come from or you will find yourself wholly alone.  Without even the most shallow of connections.  Lacking any form of companionship.

In those times of darkness when your own soul is gashing you to pieces, you need someone to tell you that you have value.  Even more, you need them to show you.  To be there.  To help you find your way.  To invest in you…time, heart, connection.  To believe you are worth the trouble.  You need something solid to stand on.  So you can rest and stop struggling for just a moment so you can get your strength back.  You need real.  And real…well, real is hard to come by.  Real is rare.

In fact, being real is discouraged. It’s ridiculed.  It’s scorned.  But real, honest, vulnerable…these are the only things that will pull a person through.  And if you don’t get real, that’s when the pain wins.  And when it wins, it wins for keeps.

I am saddened that Kate Spade was in that place.  That place of grasping for a hand in the darkness and coming up empty.  That place of desperately seeking a hint of light in the black, dense fog that obscured anything and everything worthwhile in the world.  Of not being able to see even a pin prick of light to guide her through. It breaks my heart that, when she gave up because she simply couldn’t walk one…more…step, there was no one there to catch her when she let go.  No one to reach her when she began to fall that one last time.

She needed real.  Something solid; someone to tell her she was worth it.  That she could make it and they would help her through.  But when she reached out her hand, for whatever reasons, it came back empty.  And the pain won.

I pray that this tragedy will cause others to break through the facades we spin for ourselves, to rip off the masks and to start a journey to the place where we share our hearts…good, bad, ugly, dark, broken, confused.  Where we embrace, encourage, accept instead of ridicule, reject, disavow.  Where we love instead of judge.  Where we offer a hand instead of a fist.  Where we share the pain until the darkness recedes.

Nothing can fix Kate’s world now.  Nothing can help her to find a reason to hang on.  To live.  Nothing can help her to see how wonderful and specials she was.  And how valuable.  The door is closed.  She closed it, alone in the night of her soul.   I am saddened that this woman who brought so much happiness to the lives of others through her many creations ran out of joy.  I’m upset that she found herself alone in the darkness at the time of her greatest need.  I hate it that this wondrous, unique, creative, beautiful individual couldn’t find a reason to hang on and couldn’t find anyone or anything to hang on to when she needed help the most.  It should never happen.  To me, this is our ultimate failure.  The pain should never win.  But it does.  As it did here.  And we are all diminished because of the loss of another special individual who should have never had to know what it is like to be that horribly alone and without hope.  Depression colors and clouds our perspective.  We need the eyes of another, their hand to hold, their arms around us, their heart beating with ours to survive those times. We need intense intervention.  Someone has to carry us when we are that lost.  And when this doesn’t happen, when we reach out, desperately grasping and find nothing but empty air, the pain wins.  There are no second chances.

I hope we will not continue to be lulled into complacency, believing things will turn out okay in the end.  Because sometimes they don’t.  Sometimes the pain wins.  And when the pain wins, the winner takes all.

 

Breaking Chains

Several years ago, I read an article in “Readers Digest” that made me cry.  I don’t often cry.  But the story touched me deeply in a tender place, liberating long overdue tears while providing a minor release of buried pain.

It was the story of a man who was sent to visit his grandfather in another country one summer when he was a child.  His grandfather lived in the middle of nowhere on a farm far up in the mountains.  He was a hard worker, but had little in the way of material goods.  So, he gave his grandson the one thing he had to give.  Himself.

During that summer, he taught his grandson some important lessons.  He spent time WITH the young boy instead of spending money ON him.  He taught him to do things for himself, to take pride in the work of his hands, instead of always buying cheaply made, but expensive, things.  One of the interesting skills he passed along to his grandson was how to make things out of wood.  A flute.  A bird feeder. A boat.  And the boat was the central character in this story.

He was proud of the little boat he made and he sailed it at a nearby lake many times during that summer visit.  But when it was time to return to the US, his father told him he would have to leave his precious craft behind. There wasn’t room in their bags for even one more item.  So the boy reluctantly took the boat to the lake and carefully hid it in a small hole under a big boulder.  Then he said goodbye.

This was in the early 30’s.  His grandfather died soon thereafter and he didn’t return again until the mid-60’s, when he was accompanied by his own children.  One of the first things he did was to search for the boat…and he eventually found it!  He told his children the story of the little boat, then returned it to its hiding place before leaving.  Over the years, they made several return trips and each time, he would pull it out and carve the date of his visits in the wood before hiding it again.

And then, he was the grandfather.  He took his two teenaged granddaughters to the old remote farm up in the mountains where his grandfather had lived and died so many years before.  He retrieved his tiny boat once more and told them the story of his grandfather, the lessons learned by his side, how he made the small craft and what it represented.  His granddaughters listened quietly.  And finally, the youngest one said, “Grandpa, I will come back and visit your boat.  And I will bring my children.”

And so, I wept.  Touched by the chain of love this family had created.  The links over several lifespans that would continue long after they were gone.  The grandfather that started it (or did he?) had been dead for many years before the granddaughters first heard about the boat.  They never met their great grandfather.  But he lived on in the grandson, just as the grandson would live on through his granddaughters and their children.  The love would survive.  Their chain of love was strong and enduring, even though the wood of the toy boat weathered and wore.   There was a legacy of love in this family, passed from one generation to the next as children were nurtured and taught and guided. A beautiful legacy of love that spread and thrived as it passed from father to son to daughter to grandson to granddaughter.  The flesh grew old and failed.  But the legacy of love never faltered.

In my own life, I am part of a chain of abuse.  A chain with steely links of rejection, depression, brokenness and destruction.  This chain binds me as surely as the chain of love binds that man and his family.

I never met my great grandparents.  I have no idea what they were like because their stories were never shared with me.  But judging from my grandparents lives and the legacy they left behind, I can’t imagine they were given enough unconditional love, nurturing or attention.  The thing I have noticed that stops me in my tracks, the really frightening thing is this: whatever is passed along tends to intensify through the years. It grows and thrives, becoming a strong, nearly unbreakable shackle.

My own father was not cared for by his mother when he was a middle-school child.  She suffered a breakdown during a divorce.  The divorce was at least partially caused by a father who chased after other women.  His unfaithfulness nearly destroyed my paternal grandmother and certainly destroyed the marriage.  He was also a drunk.  My own father didn’t drink often, but his need came out in different ways.  He was angry…violently so…and he was obsessed by pornography.  As a result, he abused me sexually and physically.  So the neglect he experienced became vicious, deviant abuse in my life.  The kind of abuse that is criminal and does lasting, deep, horrible damage.

My mother had a grandfather who was diagnosed in later life as paranoid schizophrenic.  My mother was depressed, angry, self-centered, manipulative and felt the world owned her.  She, in turn, abused me physically, emotionally and verbally.  She was never beaten and her own mother loved her, trying to make up for her father’s paranoia.  The “abuse” she suffered was verbal (which is also damaging).  But again, the bad was intensified.  She was far more abusive than her own father had ever been.  The bad became worse.

The chain of love never seems to diminish.  It remains a steady, flowing stream of life, health and stability.  But depravity intensifies and causes more damage with each generation.  When a person is deprived of what they need to become a healthy, whole human being, if the chain is not somehow broken or the pattern isn’t significantly disrupted, the depravity expands and strengthens.  Just as those addicted to pornography have to find more intense ways to thrill and stimulate themselves, the abusiveness seems to grow worse and worse, spreading like a cancer of the spirit and soul.

As much as we may not like it, as much as we may fight against it, the hand we are dealt impacts us.  It doesn’t totally define us.  We can overcome it in some cases if we’re willing to delve deeply into the damage.  With much work and dedication…and maybe some luck…we overcome.  Without significant intervention, we succumb to the hideous chain that binds us to our legacy.  We have a choice.  We can acknowledge it and fight it, or give in to it.  We may love it or hate it, submissively accept it or get mad about it.  But acknowledged or not, our legacy does leave a mark.  It has a positive impact or a negative power.  And that gets passed down through the generations, even if we are able to bypass a lot of the negative fallout.

It is our foundation.  We may build a big, fancy, wonderful life on that foundation and the house we build may survive in spite of the cracks and faults of the foundation.  But the chances of the house making it through our lifetime increase with the sturdiness, solidness, levelness and health of the foundation on which it is built.  If the foundation is bad, the house deteriorates rapidly over time.

I am thankful to have broken the chain.

Fearful of my ability to change the patterns set in motion by my own foundation, wary of the damage my own brokenness might cause a developing child, I remained childless.  I will leave no legacy behind simply because there will be no one with whom to leave it..   There will be nothing of me to pass down, to go forward in the heart and genes of another human being.  No stories of my life, nothing to be remembered…good or bad.  When I die, my lineage comes to a screeching halt.  The only dates that will be carved in memoriam will be those on my tombstone.  A tombstone that will not be visited by children or grandchildren.  The legacy of pain and abuse will die with me.  Laid to rest at last.  Safe beneath the boulder where it will remain forever undisturbed, soon to be forgotten.

Fallen Sky

“’My, oh my, the sky is falling.  I must run and tell the lion about it,’ says Chicken Little as she begins to run.

She runs and runs.  By and by, she meets the hen.

‘Where are you going,’ asks the hen.

‘Oh, Henny Penny, the sky is falling and I’m going to the lion to tell him about it.’

‘How do you know it’s falling?’  asks Henny Penny.

‘It hit me on the head, so I  know it must be so,’ says Chicken Little.”

 

Chicken Little was right after all.  The sky has fallen.  It has fallen to the ground and hit me on the head.  But I have no one to run to.  No one to tell.

The sky has fallen and I can’t put it back where it belongs. The stars have shattered on impact and lay broken in frosty shards upon the ground.  I’ve tried to repair and rehang them.  To string them up.  To tape them in place.  I’ve tried, but I have failed.  The empty black void above me is a testimony to my failure.

The sky has fallen and I can’t make it blue again.  I’ve attempted to paint it with a brush.  Wished for a magical solution.  I’ve tried to find a button to push; one that would right all that has become wrong.  Worked diligently to restore light and to coax a soft breeze from the stagnant, stale air.  I’ve tried for what feels like forever.  But the heavens remain dark, gloomy and empty in spite of my best efforts.

Paint doesn’t stick to a fallen sky.

The damage happened long ago.  A storm of meteors slammed into my world, dragging the heavens down with them as they sliced through the atmosphere.  Everything changed in the blink of an eye.  All that was familiar was instantly gone.  A foreign landscape appeared and tenaciously remains where life once flourished.  A terrifying transition that has taken root and taken over.  All that I once knew and believed and trusted…vanished.  The ground shifted violently below my feet, callously throwing me to the dusty earth without a second thought.  Without a single concern. That’s when the sky fell.  That’s when it hit me in the head and fractured me.  That’s when the stars crashed and splintered and died.  That’s when who I was became someone I didn’t know and had never seen before.  And those who were around me were unmask.

The massive meteors slammed into and sliced through my stratosphere, tearing apart all that was normal and good, leaving nothing behind but ruins, wreckage and terror.  Chaos and confusion.  Ashes and emptiness.  I shattered with the stars.   My tears crystallized on my cheek, freezing my heart until my soul was completely numb.  I worked so hard to pick up all the pieces of my demolished world, of my fractured being.  I strove to glue them back together, to make something functional of them once more.  I looked to the sun for guidance, only to realize it was nowhere to be found.  Nor could the ruined stars provide direction.  Alone, I could not repair even a small portion of the damage.  Alone, I could not find my way to stable ground.  Alone, I sat waiting in the darkness, hoping only to survive the trauma and ravaging shock.  I could not hope for more…it seemed frivolous to do so.  For my dreams had perished in the catastrophe and lay buried somewhere in the midst of the ruins.

I have been sitting alone in the darkness now for decade upon decade.  The light has never returned to my broken, fallen sky.

I cannot fix what has been smashed and wrecked.  I am left with nothing but the debris.  Millions of particles that can never again be fit together.  What once was is lost forever.  There is no life remaining in the barren, lightless world that is now spread out before me.  The sky has fallen.  The damage has been done.  Magic has failed.  As have prayers.  The rewind button never functioned, refusing to return to me even one second of that which has passed into oblivion.   I am not who I was, but am instead who I’ve become because of the tragedy that wrecked the planet on which I must somehow live.  A planet with little air to breath.  One that shifts beneath my feet and hides my path in blackness that can’t be penetrated.

I shattered with the traumatized stars as they fell to the earth and died.  My world is blanketed by the cold unending darkness of a moonless, starless, sunless void.  I am but a shadow of the person who once lived.  Who was growing straight and strong.  Who laughed and loved freely.  I am no longer related to the one who existed before masks were ripped away and everything changed.  Before the meteors hit, slashing apart the sky, bringing it and all it sheltered crashing to the ground, annihilating my world and every wonderful thing I erroneously thought it contained.  The meteors stripped away all falsehood, exposing the truth behind the façades.  And that truth was devastating.

The sky has fallen.  It hit me on the head.  Crushed me.  Scattered me.  Left me without remedy.

The sky has fallen.  I cannot pin it back to the heavens.  Nor can I any more pretend that it did not utterly ruin me when it fell.

Shelter Animal

Wanted:  Good, loving, caring home for older female.  Has some idiosyncrasies and anomalous behavior as a result of early abusive treatment, worsened by continued rejection by prior owner.  In spite of the past cruelty, she is  loyal, faithful, and eager to please, though she has trust and fear issues that require consistent love and a strong commitment.  Doesn’t do many tricks, but is grateful for attention and has been housebroken.  Hates baths.  Affectionate.  If interested, please call. 

You may or may not have guessed…the older female in need of rescue is…me.

I remember as a young girl begging my parents for a dog.  I loved animals; dogs in particular.  I was the child with a tender, compassionate heart who brought home all the strays.  Cats, dogs, baby rabbits, even baby mice.  I couldn’t bear to see a defenseless, innocent animal alone, with no one to protect and nurture them.  I couldn’t turn away from their need.

But I never got to keep them.  My father was a hunter.  He didn’t value animals, other than for the food they provided.  I, on the other hand, often revived the fish he caught and brought home for dinner by placing them in the bathtub filled with water. Took sick woodpeckers to the vet.  To me, all animals were worthy of care (except snakes).   I did, however, feel a special connection with dogs. So, after having yet another stray taken away (and likely killed by my father), I started a campaign to win his permission to get a dog I could keep and call my own.

It took a long time to convince my parents.  I had to prove that I would be responsible for caring for a pet and that I wouldn’t tire of it after the novelty wore off.  I had almost given up when they finally and unexpectedly relented.  I was filled with joy and excitement the beautiful Saturday morning we set off for the animal shelter to look at the dogs that were waiting for adoption.  I was wiggling almost as much as they were as I went from pen to pen.  The dogs jumped and danced.  They licked my fingers and stuck their noses through the wire fenced cage gates.  I wanted all of them! 

And then, I saw Lady.

She was curled up in the back of her pen, tail tucked, looking sad and forlorn.  So sure was she of being rejected, she had given up all hope and stopped trying to gain attention.  I almost didn’t see her.

They let me in the pen with her because she wouldn’t come up to the gate.  I sat on the cold concrete floor and coaxed her onto my lap.  And I knew she was the one.  She needed me.  She needed my love, approval, and acceptance.  She was at least part Cairn Terrier, a wheat color with thick, wiry fur.  And she was a smaller dog, sweet, and affectionate, just the right size for cuddling and holding on my lap.  I was sold.  Hooked.  She was mine.

Lady was fairly young when she came home with me…they estimated her to be 1 to 2 years old.  She lived a long life.  I kept my promise and took care of her.  I loved her.  I even got into trouble occasionally because I couldn’t bear to stop petting her before school, which made me late.  She had such a great need for affection and I had a great need for her unconditional love.  Though she was an outside dog, I spent hours playing with her and showering her with attention.  I had to leave her behind when I left home, which broke my heart.  But by then, even my father had accepted her into the family.  She finally found a place where she was loved and wanted.

My story doesn’t have such a happy ending.

I feel very much like a shelter animal, hiding in the corner, no longer able to muster any hope of someone  discovering me and finding value there.  I long for someone to offer me a place in their heart.  To give me love and acceptance.  Make me theirs.  But I know it isn’t going to happen.  Time is no longer on my side.

I want to be able to open my heart to someone.  To feel safe for the first time in my life.  To give them the unconditional love I have coveted.

I have waited a very long time. 

Again and again, I am passed over.  Ignored.  Unnoticed.  Rejected.  Again and again, someone cuter, better, more wonderful, whole, healthier, and “easier,” with far less baggage, is removed from their pitiful cage and set free.  Taken home.  Loved.  I watch it happen.  I’m happy for them.  The others.  But I am so alone it hurts.  I stay in my corner.  I know this thing called love is not for me.  Acceptance is never to be mine.

Lady found love.  A home.  She was cherished, cared for and wanted.  She led a full life, in spite of her harsh, abusive beginning.

It seems that I am not so fortunate.  I fear I will die a shelter animal.  In my cage.   Alone.   Waiting for tenderness and affection.  Waiting for someone to see me, yet still want me.  Waiting for their love to rescue me.  To set me free.

 

Braced for Impact

When I manage to pull memories from the black hole in my mind where flashes of my childhood are deeply lodged, those few I can retrieve are not typically painted by the vision of a moment in time.  The details and images of those childhood events are lost, buried deep, sealed away.  I cannot recall most of them with any specificity.  The scenes themselves are shrouded in fog and blurred by the things that were hiding there, waiting to devour me.

No, what I recall with great clarity is the waiting and watching.  Being frozen in petrified silence.  The tension in my neck and shoulders, even as I played, trying to appear to have fun as would a “normal” child.  I may not see much of the memory in my mind, but I feel what I felt.  The terror.  The dread.  Trying to be invisible.  Being unable to breathe.  I remember the feeling of never knowing when the experience would disintegrate into something so ugly, I utterly lacked words to describe what was happening to me.  I have, in fact, spent my life since escaping the claws of that childhood darkness and fog, trying to explain, define, understand and recover from what happened to me in that ominous gloom.

I was ripped apart one mouthful at a time during that period of darkness.  I was the prey.  My parents were the monsters who hid within the fog and shadows.  I knew they were hunting me.  All I could do was brace for the impact as best I could.

My defenses were not born of my ability to intimidate my attackers.  I couldn’t protect myself with my fists.  The shield I constructed about myself was invisible, a trick of the mind.  I blamed myself for the actions of those monsters, shifting my logic and perspectives, distorting my thoughts and feelings, accepting their abuse as what was due me.  Believing it was what I deserved.

As a result of the soil in which I grew, the thing I remember most about that time is my hypervigilant watchfulness.  Anticipating what was sure to come.  Knowing the worst would soon unfold and slam me to the ground at any moment.

I always had one eye ever on my surroundings.  My antenna was continuously extended, listening for the things not said out loud.  For the things brewing inside my parents’ dangerous minds and twisted souls.  Tapping into what they were feeling, trying to prepare for the blast; the eruption.  Nothing was ever as it seemed.  So I listened, adrenaline coursing, always on high alert.  I waited.  But I never had to wait long.

Even though I braced for the impact, the pain, shame and terror still took me by surprise.  Every single time.

I watched.   I tried to anticipate their actions.  Tried to calculate the moment when the mask would be ripped away and my world would fall apart. When they would turn to devour their prey.  But they were unpredictable.  So I remained in a state of fearful anticipation.  As prepared as I could be, with my mind shield working overtime to deflect their obscene attack.

I was braced for impact, but somehow was never prepared.  I felt it coming, but I could not soften the blow.

This is how I have spent my life.  In a state of hypervigilance.   Neck and shoulder muscles taunt and aching.  Always waiting.  Knowing destructive, dreadful, hurtful things were coming, but never knowing when they would hit me or how much damage they would do.

I have had the lofty goal of surviving the next ghastly event.  And I have survived, for the most part, but not without losing some key and critical parts of my heart.  Yes, I have survived, but there has been an enormous price to pay.  For to survive, I have had to forego living.  And though I have survived, I have never escaped the darkness.   I have never learned how to relax, to let go, to believe something good could happen.  I have never been able to believe I deserved more than the pain and rejection, the abuse and disdain.

I have never been able to let down my guard.  My antenna remains extended and probing.  I am clenched tight and hardened, waiting for the next cruel clash, muscles constricted and painful, no matter how weary my soul has become.

Braced for impact.  Praying I can survive yet another blow.

 

Clouds & Shadows

We all come from a place of utter darkness.  A womb, warm and nurturing, but black as the blackest night.  We are born into the light.   A world of brightness, noise and chaos.  Confusion.  And cold.  It is a shocking experience, one we aren’t equipped to comprehend.  Suddenly, we are alone in a strange and frightening place, no longer embraced, required to exist on our own, though without the skill to survive unless we are provided with care and sustenance.

Care and sustenance are rare commodities.

I was born at 10:03 a.m. on a cloudy day beneath a sky that was normally clear and deep blue.  I was born into the light, but it was filled with shadows. Thrust into that murky daylight where sound was no longer muffled and all nurturing abruptly ended.

I cried.

My parents said they wanted me, or thought they did.  But their reasons centered around themselves and their needs.  They wanted the experience of having a child, for they had been told it would bring them fulfillment and great joy.  It was what married people did back then.  They fantasized that a tiny baby would suddenly give meaning to their life and fill every void they had ever felt in their heart and soul.  I was intended to be the rainbow after the storm.  I was meant to make all their dreams come true, like a magic wand in a fairy tale with a happy ending.

Thus, they didn’t know what to do with me when reality and I finally arrived.  I wasn’t supposed to be a burden.  I was created to lighten their load, to make them blissful and content.  But they didn’t feel bliss, or even happiness as they held me that first day shortly after birth.  They felt overwhelmed.  I was tiny and demanding and they didn’t even know how to pick me up or hold me without my head flopping about.  They quickly put me back in the incubator and stood staring at me, wondering what they had gotten themselves into.  As I lay helplessly screaming and kicking tiny fists and feet, they began to consider that they had made a mistake.  I needed them.  Needed things from them.  This was not at all what they had expected.  This was not what they had planned.

No wonder it took a couple of weeks for them to name me.  They were probably trying to decide if they wanted to give me back.

In a flash, with my birth, the shadows came.  Shadows and clouds covering the light.  They blamed me for the clouds.  For not chasing them away.  For not bringing sunshine and rainbows.  And perhaps they were right to hold me responsible.  For shadows have certainly followed and haunted me throughout my life.  They have trailed me wherever I have traveled.  I have never been able to leave myself…or them…behind.

I was born to be used, and use me they did, again and again, in every way and in every form possible.  By the time I was in grade school, the shadows no longer wrapped themselves around me.  They covered me like skin.  They were inside of me.  Part of me.  Cells and molecules.   My DNA.

They ate me for breakfast.  Became one with the air I breathed.  The inky, obscure blackness I lived in became the blood that pulsed through my veins.  It was all I knew.  It became who I was.

I grew in the darkness; was raised in the shadows.  Not the darkness of a loving womb.  Not even that of a womb done with its job, spitting me out because this is how life begins.  This darkness left me cold, empty and defenseless, having to find my way as best I could.  This darkness damaged me deeply.  Hid the sun and stole all of my hope.  I lived very small.  Cloaked in silence, wrapped in gloom.  Doing my best to survive in a hostile, lonely and dangerous world.

I was born into the arms of the shadows, suckled at their inky breast.  They fed me emptiness, pain and sadness.  Laughed when I was abused.  I have lived in their gloom and there I remain.  Still longing for warmth, for light, for love, but lost in the darkness waiting for a happy ending, just as my parents foolishly did.  A happy ending that, like me, will never come to see the light of day.

 

The Day My Father Died

pexels-photo-296234.jpegThe day my father died, the day they removed the ventilator that was keeping him alive, I left work early, even though I wasn’t sure why.  It just seemed as if I should, considering.  He was lying in a hospital bed 3-1/2 hours away and I could have made the trip back to see him off.  But I didn’t want to be there at the end.  It felt too hypocritical.  I couldn’t make myself wear the “good daughter” mask even one more time.

He had died to me so long ago, I didn’t think it mattered if I was at his bedside.  I didn’t want to hold his hand.  I didn’t need to say goodbye.  There were no words that could change our lack of connection or mend our relationship…not at that point.  Years of abuse had culminated in the construction of layers of walls meant to protect me from more damage than I could survive.

I sat in the sunshine that unusually warm October day, staring at the incredibly blue sky, knowing he would not experience the next beautiful day.   Nor would he see the leaves turn and fall from the trees or smell the lovely scent of flowers in the springtime.  For he would never see or smell anything ever again.  He would not wade the creek with fishing rod in hand or haunt his favorite fishing hole.  He would not mow another yard or drive his car, write a check, go out to eat, putter in the garage or breathe fresh air while gazing at the star strewn sky.  His tomorrows had all been spent.  So, I sat that magnificent day, thinking about the end of his life, waiting.  Knowing he was likely taking his last breath that very moment, the final second slipping from his hand as the air silently left his lungs.

But I felt nothing.  Nothing at all.

I knew I should be grieving, yet the emotions weren’t there.  I knew I should at least feel sorry that I would never see him again.  But the only sadness I could muster was over the reverberations of his life, the damage he did, the opportunities he missed to connect with a daughter who used to adore him.  All because he chose his lust instead of his child.  I felt an emptiness only because he left nothing worthwhile or cherished behind with me.  Only pain.  Suffering.

I sat beneath the vast cerulean sky as the warm air caressed my skin with a gentle breeze.  I wondered if it was over.  And when I couldn’t make myself feel sorrow, I retreated inside and waited for the call telling me he was gone.

I did feel a little guilt over my lack of distress.  But even guilt could not goad me to produce a tear or two.

The next day, I went back to work.  I went on as if nothing had happened.

I thought perhaps it would hit me at some point.  I assumed there would come a moment in time when I would feel some level of misery because of his death.  It didn’t happen at his funeral, which I did attend.  It didn’t suddenly roll over me like a wave of sorrow at any time during that first year after he was gone.   In fact, this coming October will mark 20 years since his passing and I have yet to shed a tear.

The only thing I have felt is relief.

I sat in the sun the day he died and felt a huge burden lift from my shoulders.  The stress of having to talk to him, to continue to act as if nothing had happened…gone!  The guilt of not going home as often as I “should” because it was so terribly hard to be around my sadistic parents…gone!   The pain of listening to him tell me I “turned out alright,” as if all the horrible things he did to me when I was a defenseless child hadn’t had any impact on who I had become…gone!  I didn’t have to think about him at all.  Or force myself to make that 3+ hour drive to see him ever again.  I was…free.

If only it was as easy to be freed from the destruction he left behind, from all the damage to my heart and soul.  His legacy.

I sat in the chair beneath the vast, blue sky without a tear in my eye.  Then I went inside, closed the door and stepped out of the chains that tied me to him.  Liberated, but wounded.  Relieved, but broken.  I silently closed the door and breathed a huge sigh of relief.