Tag Archives: Abuse

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.

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.

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.

Pawn

I am a pawn on a chess board.

The game is heated, complex and heavy, for there is much at stake. I have no idea what is going on. I don’t know which direction to move. Or if I should move at all.  I am but a pawn. A lowly pawn.  Expendable.

I do know my place. 

I am apprehensive.   I fear the other players.  They have confidence and authority.  They know how to play the game and move with purpose.  They have options.  I have none.  I am lost, confused and afraid.

I didn’t expect to be the queen.  But I certainly didn’t want to be a nobody pawn.  I would have liked to be a rook or a bishop. A knight, perhaps. Maybe if I were of greater importance, someone who had more strength, power and value, I would have a small chance of winning.  Perhaps if I knew the meaning, the reasoning behind each move, I could survive the competition. But as it is, powerful people are vigorously playing the game with great intensity and focus.  They are waltzing all about me while I stand motionless on my tile, fearing their next move, waiting to be eliminated.  And crushed.

I am of no consequence.

Others flourish, make daring exchanges, taking opponent’s pieces as they move onward triumphantly.  They lunge forward with purpose and conviction.  Some easily gain important ground.  The queen, the powerful, mighty queen, flaunts her authority, tossing irrelevant players from the board.  Caring not.  She is the queen, after all.  How dare lesser men defy her!  How dare they try to restrict and defeat her!  Or block her. God help me if I find myself in her way.  She will sacrifice me without a thought.  Barely noticing my demise, should she in any way register my defeat and sudden death. She is all about the plan.  And winning.  I am nothing to her.  Nothing.

I am nothing to anyone.

Players move in predictable patterns, but in ways and at times that can’t be predicted.  I am frozen on my small square, watching them stride with assurance and composure.  They know where they are going.  They understand their purpose.  They demonstrate self-confidence, strength, and power.  They understand the game and know how to play it.  They play well.

I pray they do not see me.  I am fairly certain they are the predators and I am their prey.

They only want to use me.

While they travel precisely about the board, their movements a dance of daring, authority, and certainty, I stumble, stagnate, and stall.  It is only a matter of moments until I will be taken completely out of the game.  I, who have no power.  I, who can offer nothing worthwhile.  Who is of no significance.  I have no meaning.  I add nothing.  I exist to be sacrificed.

I look up to them.  They look down on me.  They push me around and brush me aside.  They determine how to best position me to their advantage.

This is my life.  Complex.  Frightening.  Intimidating.  Overwhelming.  Terrifying.  I am powerless and unneeded.  Unwanted.   I do not know the rules.  I do not have the moves.  I am not able to take the leaps they take.  Not even when they manipulate me into a corner.  Not even when my life depends on it.

Pawns always lose.  I am a good pawn.  I lose often.

 

Someone Has to Pay

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.

Monsters

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.

Seasons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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