Tag Archives: Aging

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.

 

Don’t Blink

The days are long.  Endless.  They drag on forever.  Except weekend days.  Weekend days seem to go a little faster.  But work days?  Normal days?  They drag on so long, sometimes I think I will never get through them.  I long to close my eyes and let the time wash over me without my awareness.    I am weary of counting the seconds and minutes.  Weary of doing so many things I have to, but never getting to do the things I want to do.

The years, however, oh my!  The years are short.  They whiz by, time spinning like a ceiling fan on high speed.  They march along, month by month, ripping pages from the calendar and leaving them scattered about in my memory.  A year is quickly spent.  Suddenly evaporated.  Then ten.  Twenty.  Where did the time go?  How did so many years escape so rapidly and without notice…yet when I look back I am startled to find they have gone without leaving a trace.

The days are long.  The clock ticks unhurriedly, second after second after second, painstakingly meandering around the dial.  The minutes accumulate at a snail’s pace.  I feel their weight.  They are a heavy burden, one building upon another.  When I finally lay my head down on my pillow at night, it is with a sigh of relief and a prayer for a better, lighter, less tortured tomorrow.

How is it that seconds seem to pass more slowly than minutes?  That minutes pass more slowly than hours?  That hours pass more slowly than days?  That days pass more slowly than months?  That months pass more slowly than years?  That years pass more slowly than decades?  Yet a life flies by in less than the blink of an eye or the beat of a heart.

I am frightened by how sluggishly the minutes pass and how dawdling are  the days.  I am terrified by how hastily the years have raced by me leaving me with so little time ahead.  I’m stunned by the way the decades have passed at super-sonic speed; they were nothing but a blur.  I have accumulated far too many decades without ever living a moment of them.

The moments were uneventful and unremarkable while I lived within their walls.  They didn’t make an impression.  But I long for them, now that they are almost gone.  I realize how much I missed by not grabbing hold of them with every bit of strength I could muster.

How can a day be so full of things that must be accomplished, but the years so void of progress?

Life is built by minutes that are boulders and decades that are sand.  Boulders that are heavy and hard.  That smash you.  And try you.  Sand that washes from my hand, instantly wiped away without a trace.  I was a girl of 16 who turned her head but once, only to find myself suddenly transformed into a woman of 50.  Sand.  All that sand.   I lived the boulders; they were harsh and painful, filled with difficulties to survive.  But nothing came of them.  And they stole everything from me.  Gone before I even knew they had arrived.   Washed back out to sea.  Lost forever.

I existed through the tedious minutes. One by one by one, until they became an hour and the hour became a day and the day became a month.  I existed, waiting for my life to begin.  Waiting and holding on to a grain of hope.  A grain of sand that slipped through my fingers.  For nothing could restrain the rapidly vanishing years. Years filled with dying stars falling into darkness and disappearing there forevermore.

The days are long.  The years are short.

Life is but a second long. 

Don’t blink.

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.

I Will Not Be Remembered

There will come a time when no one will care that a shy tow-headed little girl grew up in a small Missouri town.  They won’t remember the way she was afraid of the adults around her.  They won’t know how hard she toiled, trying to make sense of chaos, trying to find her footing amid the deadly earthquakes and terrifying explosions experienced daily in her unstable world.  It will not matter that she was physically, emotionally and verbally abused by her mother…her mother who looked the other way as she was sexually, physically, emotionally and verbally abused by her father.  No one will remember how beaten down and torn apart she was when she ventured out into the world at 17 years of age.  As she struggled to figure out how to live like a normal person with so many of her pieces missing or crushed.

They won’t recall her at all, nor will it matter.  That young girl who kept trying.  Who daydreamed and believed.  Her, trudging along with a heart that was shattered.  A soul that was torn and decimated.  No one will remember or care about her struggles, failures, disappointments or unrealized dreams.  She will not be remembered at all.  Her life was and is insignificant.  She never managed to accomplish anything great nor contributed anything approaching wonderful.  Her biggest victory was to survive.  For she survived in spite of the odds.  But surviving, in this case, means only that she has continued to breathe while putting one foot in front of the other year after year.  It is no great thing.

Her footsteps in the dust are even now being blown away and covered by the sands of time.

It is a harsh wake-up call.  A startling realization.  To be staring at the end of your life and to know you’ve done nothing, become nothing, are nothing, and that nothing you’ve gone through, none of the experiences or events of your life will be remembered.  By anyone. Because nothing done or achieved is in any way worth remembering.  None of it.

The realization is painful.  Everything I went through, all the things I learned the hard way, all the hopes that I had of finding love and healing, touching the world, making a difference…all of this, the essence of who I am and what I have felt…it will die with me when I take my final breath.  And it will not matter.  Not in the least.  I will not leave anyone behind who will care.  Or remember.   Or even know I once was.

Maybe that is simply the way it is.  We are all destined to be forgotten.

I wanted the pain to count for something.  I wanted the nightmares I lived through and the abuse I experienced to have a reason.  I wanted to leave something behind that would help others find their way through the darkness.  I wanted to leave a mark. I wanted to accomplish something worth noting.  I wanted to do something worth doing.  I wanted to be worth remembering.

But I will not be remembered.  I haven’t found answers or knowledge to share with those who are coming after me.  I haven’t accumulated great wisdom that can be passed down.  I’ve done nothing spectacular, significant or news-worthy.

I live in isolation.  My life is hollow, void of meaning, purpose, joy.  I am nothing and I have nothing to give.  I am not worth remembering.  My heart still beats.  My lungs still inhale and exhale.  But I am not truly alive.

I started my life broken, but believing.  Believing I could overcome.  Believing I would find my way and have an impact.  I near its end still broken, but out of hope.  Without dreams.  Without spirit.  This is not at all what I expected or where I expected to be at this stage in my life.  I expected to come to the end with something in my hands worth leaving behind.  But as I open them and bare my palms, my hands are empty.

I am already all but forgotten.  For I have lived an utterly forgettable life.

 

Thanksgiving Day at Golden Corral

Here we go again.

Let the holidays begin.  Thanksgiving.  Family gatherings.  The annual celebration of abundance.  More food than anyone can possibly consume.  Stressing over the perfect turkey.  Meticulous meal preparation, timed to the minute.  Football.  Laughter…forced and genuine.  A time of setting aside differences. And of eating together.

Then, people hang lights that sparkle on trees, both real and artificial, with smiles that are wide and hearts that are happy.  They camp out in the cold and dark waiting for stores to open their doors at midnight so they can shop deals as fake as the plastic pine tree sitting in their living room.  They wrap packages in fancy paper, tying them up with ribbons and bows.  Attend parties large and small with friends, family, coworkers.  Some, they want to hang out with.  Some they don’t.  They get extra time off work to celebrate, which almost makes up for the extended hours of darkness and the frigid weather.  The presents that were so carefully wrapped are picked up, shaken, weighed by excited children and hopeful adults.  Everywhere you look, lights twinkle in the night, chasing away the emptiness, burning electricity with great abandon from where they have been artfully strung across rooftops, around windows and along shrubbery and sidewalks.

Everything appears warm and welcoming. Shiny.  Happy.  At least on the surface.  And perhaps that is all we can ask of the season.

It’s a time of abundance and joy; at least this is what we have been told.  Or sold.  The season of relationships.  Gatherings, recognizing and recounting all you have to be thankful for, of expressions of love and appreciation.  A time of laughter, consuming, overeating, extravagant spending and connecting with those who matter the most to you.

Connecting.  Celebrating.  Counting your blessings.  Light.  Laughter.  Family.  Bonding.  Attachment.

Unless you have no family.  No meaningful connections.

When you are alone, the glare of the twinkling lights only serves to expose the void in which you exist.  There are no get-togethers.  No festivities.  Instead, it is deafeningly quiet.  Empty.

Thanksgiving is just another day off work.

Food can’t fill you.  Decorations can’t make the world you live in a pretty, appealing, palatable place.  And there is no one to connect with…or cook for…or camp out with on unforgiving concrete sidewalks while waiting for merchant’s doors to open so you can buy those you cherish the one thing they want more than anything in the world (this year) at a price that has been marked up twice and marked down only once.

If this is you, it’s likely you will find yourself standing in line, as did I, at Golden Corral at noon on Thanksgiving Day.  Waiting for the 200+ people who arrived before you to eat with their families and head home, finally opening up a table for you.  You inch forward, listening to the chatter and lighthearted exchanges.  The giggles and groans.  You are assaulted by a wall of sound.  All around you.  Produced by people.  People who have people.

You can’t help but wonder: What are they all doing at Golden Corral on Thanksgiving Day, standing in this ridiculously long line of people waiting to eat?

They are not alone.  They are linked.  Kids, parents, grandparents. Cousins, friends, siblings. The line waiting to get in the restaurant isn’t the only line in which they stand.  They represent generations, the culmination of those who have come before.  Little pieces of their ancestors within their cells.  The line will continue.  The kids will grow up, having kids who will have kids who will have kids.  Lines.  Connections.  Continuity.

Unlike you, they do not represent the end of the line.  The last generation.  They have reason.  Purpose.  Meaning.

They wait in a line that forms all around me.  In front of me.  Behind me.  Little ones restless, playing together, running in circles.  Parents content to let them be.  Keeping their eye on them, but loosely.  This is a day to set aside worry and fear.  This is the season of light in the darkness.  A time of believing and being grateful.  A lull before a new year begins and the lights are extinguished.

Sound.  Laughter.  Conversations.  Some serious.  Some silly.  Motion.  Hugs.  Linked hands.  Arms entwined.  Moving slowly forward.  Together.

I observe as they swirl around me.  I see, but do not belong.  I watch, but do not participate.  I am alone, frozen, dead in the middle of the living.  I watch.  But I am not a part of them, even though I stand in the middle of it all.

When I am finally seated, I eat in silence. By myself.  And then I leave.  Unnoticed.

I walk away from it.  Full.  Empty.  I walk away, a solitary figure, lonely and isolated.

There is still a line when I leave.  People are yet waiting, but they wait together.  Thanksgiving Day at the Golden Corral.  The beginning of the season of connectedness.  And I am adrift.

I watch them as I go, then turn away.  Enveloped by emptiness.

I see.  But I cannot touch.  And I remain untouched.  Though I am surrounded by a crowd of laughing, happy people, no one in the crowd belongs to me, nor do I belong to them.  I stand and sit and wait and walk alone.  Disconnected.  For no one in the orbit of my life deeply touches me.  My heart is not entangled with theirs.  Nor is anyone saddened to see me quietly walk away.  Assuming they see me at all.

 

No Sanctuary

Years ago, I watched a movie called “Logan’s Run.” The message continues to cause a significant amount of introspection and reflection.
I like science fiction and the movie falls into this category.   It has been years since I watched it, but the way I remember the plot, a remnant of civilization exists in a utopian society within a massive dome.  Their enclosed world is experiencing a terrible shortage of food and what is left to them of the planet can no longer sustain life long term.  For this reason, the computer that controls their lives has everyone fitted with a computerized clock to monitor their age.  A police-like military group oversees the city where these people live, enforcing the computer’s rulesand demands.  When a person’s life-clock reaches 30, they are taken to a large chamber where they undergo a ritual called “Carousel.”  During this ritual, they begin to float upward and disappear upon reaching the top of the chamber.  Everyone is told these people are being reincarnated and that they will never have to grow old.  The citizens are told they will all be renewed in this manner when their life-clock runs out. 
What the average citizen doesn’t know is that everyone who reaches 30 is being killed in the rooms above the chamber and their remains are being converted into food.  And this is the food that is being supplied to the remaining people within the dome.  It is keeping them alive.
Logan is one of the soldiers who keeps order in the city and who has terminated those who have tried to escape this fate.  To force him to go on a secret mission, his life-clock is moved forward from age 28 to 30 by the computer.  And he will be required to participate in Carousel with a group of suspected rebels who form a secret society.  They are being monitored and are expected to attempt to escape, as more than 1000 have reportedly successfully done over the years.  This group wears a symbol to identify them and some have been overheard talking about a place called “Sanctuary.”  They are planning to try to find this place of purported safety.  For they do not believe in the ritual of renewal and rebirth.  They are certain they will not be reincarnated, but will instead be destroyed.  So, they are going to run and Logan is to run with them.  Hence the title, Logan’s Run. 
Logan is to go with the group as they attempt to find the mythical Sanctuary. Once found, he is to report back and provide the computer with the location so their rebel fortress can be destroyed.
During his “run,” Logan learns the truth.  He sees what is happening to the people who reach age 30 and who are swept aloft in the massive chamber during the ritual.  Clever propaganda has been used to hide what is being done, but Logan now sees proof that it is nothing but terrible lies.  He realizes everyone is being killed, their remains processed and stored to provide sustenance to the remaining residents.   Disillusioned, frightened, his escape becomes much more than an undercover mission he was forced to accept.  It is now a genuine attempt to flee with the group of rebels upon which he is supposed to spy. 
What he discovers outside the dome is deeply surprising.  In unexpected ways.
Eventually, as he returns to let others know about his startling discoveries, he is recaptured by a fellow “sandman.”  His fellow soldiers, who have become his enemies.  They hook him up to the massive computer that runs all life within the dome and maintains compliance, balance and order.   He is interrogated.  They show him no mercy.  They spare him no pain. 
He is asked if he has completed his mission.  Then the question, “What is Sanctuary?”   Logan responds honestly.  Without deceit.  He has discovered the truth while outside the dome.
“There is no Sanctuary.” 
The answer is unacceptable, so the computer asks again.  Again, Logan responds, “There is no Sanctuary.” 
Again.  “There is no Sanctuary.” 
Yet again, and again, and again, the computer prods.  Logan can only tell the truth.  He can only report what he has come to know…there is life outside the dome, but there is no Sanctuary.  And this response, given while he is tortured, is the computer’s undoing.  It can’t process what it is being told.  Things begin to come unraveled within its circuitry.  Within the dome.  Things stop working.  Vital processes cease.  Things explode.  Seals release.  Cracks eventually develop in thick walls and finally the dome is split apart and crumbles.  Their world is forever altered as life within the confines of that sphere fail and come to a catastrophic end.  Because there is no Sanctuary.
I think I have finally learned this lesson.  And it’s a hard lesson. Not that there is no sanctuary, specifically.  But there is no place of being okay.  No safe haven.  No space where healing is accomplished.  Where all the wounds of the past are finally made well and health is restored.  Where things are put right.  Where the chains that bind are broken and one is set free.  There is no Sanctuary.  No magical spot or time where wrongs are righted and happy endings begin.  Not on earth, anyway.
Life is hard.  It does things to you.  It is harder for some than for others. 
My life has been a hard one.  Abuse…physical, emotional, sexual…riddled my childhood.  I didn’t learn many of the foundational lessons that others learn, so things that come easily to others are very difficult for me.  And the damage that was done to me at an early age goes deep.  It messed me up.  Changed me forever.
No one gets through this journey unscathed.  Or at least most don’t.  We are all walking wounded.  Some of our wounds are ghastly.  Others are relatively minor.  But we all get hurt.  There is no Sanctuary.  No safety.  No place of freedom.  No guarantees.
And once the damage has been done, nothing is going to undo it.
Looking back, it seems so simple.  There is no sanctuary.  There is no healing.  We are left with a cracked, demolished life that will never be what it could have been.  All we can hope to do is go from where we are and learn to live outside the dome.
It’s taken me a lifetime to realize I have spent years seeking something that doesn’t exist.  It’s terrifying to suddenly comprehend that life, the way it is, is what it is and that this is all it will ever be.  It isn’t going to get better.  There will be no sanctuary.  There is no better place, no better day, no moment of freedom, no time of healing. No putting the pieces back together.  No restoration.
I am what my life, what those who raised me, made me and there is to be no unmaking.  The damage resides within my cells.  It’s part of me.  I can only try my best to go on from here as I am.  There is no Sanctuary.  And finding meaning in this wild, terrifying world, a world where we grow old and are not renewed or restored, is no easy journey.

Somebody

I thought I would be somebody.  Eventually.

Perhaps not in a big, fabulous and famous way.  But from some perspective.  In someone’s estimation.  In someone’s eyes.

I thought I would have an impact.  I felt I could make a difference.  I believed I had something to say.  Something worth saying.  I thought speaking out would, if only in a trivial way, leave a permanent mark within a few hearts.  I supposed I would come to matter, even if only slightly and insignificantly.

I started writing when I was six.  As soon as I learned about words and how to put them together; to arrange them on a page, I fell in love with them.  They saved me.

My first poem?

My pencil went over the ocean.
My pencil went over the sea.
My pencil went everywhere I wanted to go,
But it always went without me.

It was written on the kind of lined paper that also provided a dotted guide so a child learning to write could gauge the height of upper and lower-case letters.  The printing was crude.  But I used some big words (relatively speaking) for a six-year-old child.  And even then, my struggle with aloneness was evident.  My pencil left me behind.

I was already being abused.  Had a couple of years under my belt by that point.

By the time I turned eleven, I was writing songs.  Pouring my wounded heart out in poetry set to music.  This was around the time I started to think I had something to say.  All those years ago, I saw beyond my childhood.  I focused on the day I could leave.  When I could begin to recover.  Then, finally, I would be able to tell my story.  And surely, telling my story was going to have an impact.  On someone.  Some shadowy unknown person out there in the big new world that awaited me.

I genuinely wanted to touch hearts.  Deeply.  I longed to connect in meaningful and poignant ways on a level that went beyond the ordinary.  Until then, I created poems.  I wrote songs.  I used words in an attempt to expose the indelible damage and crippling pain within my soul.

But the abuse and agony weren’t to be my whole message.  I fully expected I would overcome the destruction.  Find healing.  My journey would be worth listening to because of the positive outcome.  That’s when I would become someone.  Somebody who was whole.

I did survive.  I endured the sick sexual abuse of my father.  I accepted their slaps and strikes and punches.  They knocked me down, but I got back up.  I endured being dragged across the room by my hair.  Being thrown into walls.  They were artists…hitting me hard enough to leave big red welts, but not hard enough to leave suspicious bruises or broken bones.  I internalized their angry, cutting, degrading words.  Words that they used as weapons and fists.  Telling me I was nothing.  That I was a disappointment.  That I had let them down.  I was supposed to fulfill their dreams and rectify the wrongs in their world.  I failed them time and time again.  They repeated their disdain and the message of their displeasure to me with grating consistency.  My anti-vitamin.  Infused in my brain year after year.  I sucked it up, enduring their rejection.  The isolation.  The neglect.  Their unreasonable demands and ridiculous expectations.  I believed every word they said.

But I also survived.  And then, I escaped.  Two weeks after graduating from high school, diploma finally in hand, I fled.

Now came my opportunity to pick up the pieces; put myself back together.  My time to become somebody.

It didn’t take long to find out no one cared about a battered and abused child fighting to win despite starting far behind the pack.  No one wanted to hear my story.

My heart was too disfigured and horridly crushed.  Even though I patched the pieces of my soul together as best I could, instead of a butterfly, I created a Frankenstein.  A monster.

Dreams die hard.  They die slowly and painfully with time.

Trying to be somebody who was loved, trying to build deep connections, led me down dark paths.  Lonely paths.  Desiring meaningful relationships with people who could see the good and bad in me without turning away took me to ugly places.  Because there was no acceptance.  No matter how hard I worked or how much I gave, I wasn’t adequate.  I was intrinsically defective.

I thought I could be a “real” person.  A person who had something to say and give that mattered.  But my message was unpalatable.  I was undesirable.  Deplorable.  Disgusting.  An aberration.

I shut myself up within high walls. Wrote my words and filed them away in folders and drawers.  I pretended to be normal and whole, wearing the mask to spare others from having to look at me.  I denied my brokenness and emptiness, even during the dead of sleepless nights when the truth was hard to ignore.  Being lonely was far better than being utterly alone.

I wanted to be somebody.  I thought I could.  Be someone who had a worthy story to tell.  A story of abuse survived.  Of a life being born from the ashes.  Ultimate victory.  I believed I could provide inspiration and light to others; to those coming along after me.  I wanted to help them find the way.  Point them to a path of healing and love.

But I never made it out of the darkness.  My story is but another sordid tale of failure and anguish.  I never found healing.  Never found love.  I am nothing more than a cautionary narrative that lacks a satisfactory ending.  There is no inspiration in my saga.

I am not somebody.  Even the little I was able to attain is fading away into nothingness.  Drowning in the emptiness of my hollow, fragmented life.  Dust returning to dust.

Still, I arrange words on pages.  Casting them into the cosmos, though they are void of meaning.  Though I am nothing more than a nobody with nothing left to say.

 

If I Could

“If I could turn back time…”  So goes the song.  So sings my heart.  So cries my soul.

If I could…oh, if only I could. 
If I could turn back time, I would not keep secrets.  I would tell someone.  And I would tell someone else.  And I would tell another person and another and another until someone listened.  Until someone believed me and realized I existed within a tortured reality while attempting to act as if everything was normal and safe.  I would shout if I had to and tell the truth until someone heard, reacted and removed me from my parent’s home.  I would tell them about the sexual abuse.  The physical abuse.  The neglect.  The rejection and constant deriding.  The emotional abuse.  I would speak up and keep speaking until someone understood.  Until they took me seriously.  Until someone reached into the darkness where I was trapped and helped me escape.
If I could turn back time, I would do whatever it took to get help a lot earlier.  I would allow myself to believe I was worth the time and the money.  I didn’t believe it then.  I started so late.  So late, it was too late.  The brokenness had calcified.  Cemented into place; impossible to dislodge.  Instead of trying to figure it out on my own, I would find someone who could help me untangle the knots, put the broken pieces back together and mend me.  A gifted professional who could wade with me into the depths of pain flowing from the wounds created by my destructive childhood.  I would let them show me a different reality and how to wade out of that vicious current to the other side.  I wouldn’t put it off, thinking there was time…later.  I would pursue healing relentlessly, with extreme urgency, doing whatever I had to do to make it happen.  Because being healed would have completely changed the course of my life.  In a wonderful way.  It would have taken me into a new and healthy dimension where robust, genuine life was possible.  I would have sacrificed whatever I had to sacrifice early in life to pursue wholeness and not given up until I found it.
 If I could turn back time, I would never have gotten married when I was 17.  I was so young.  I felt old.  I felt like I had already lived a lifetime, battling to survive.  Going back, I would whisper in my own ear, “You have time…let yourself be young!”  I wouldn’t have given my heart to an 18-year-old boy who would ask me for a divorce a mere two weeks after our wedding. 
And I wouldn’t have married again at 25.  At least not the person I married back then.  I let him convince me he loved me and wanted to be with me.  I wanted so badly to be loved!  I took the bait, longing to be filled.  So, if I did again foolishly believe and marry him, when he told me a few months after we wed that he didn’t love me, I would have filed for divorce right away.  I wouldn’t have wasted a lifetime hoping he would someday, somehow come to love and want me.  I wouldn’t have hung on, believing he was the best life had to offer.  I wouldn’t have given him 22 years of my time.  I wouldn’t have allowed him to move into my soul, breaking my heart in the process.
If I could turn back time, I would have gone to college.  When I was young and just out of high school.  Lived on campus.  Had the whole experience.  Taken interesting classes and hung out with friends until I could discern a path that excited me.  I would have worked hard too.  I was always good at making the grades.  But I also would have torn down my walls, raised my expectations, explored, learned, laughed, figured out who I was and moved forward into the light of a promising future.
I would also relocate to one of the places I dreamed of living.  I would move there when I was young.  When it was easier.  When I wasn’t so encumbered with the burdensome responsibilities and debts of life.   I would have made my way closer to the ocean.  And started building my life there.  Not wasting time living where things seemed to fall into place, taking the path of least resistance.  I would move to a desirable location and find ways to stay as I created the existence I yearned for and dreamed about. Even if it was hard initially.  I would carve out a home in that space and finally find a sliver of joy.  I would spend time on the beach, listening to the soothing and calming voice of the waves.  Basking beneath glorious sunrises and sunsets.  Rejoicing in the warmth.  Greeting the day with gratefulness instead of reluctantly waking while bound by heavy disappointment and despair.
I wouldn’t have worked jobs that demeaned and demoralized me.  Not if I could turn back time.  I wouldn’t slave for bosses who didn’t appreciate me.  Who used me all the more because I was too unsure of my value to protest.  I would have pursued fulfilling work instead.  Pursued my dreams. While I still had dreams.  And hope.  And a future ahead of me. 
If I could turn back time, I would save more money and spend more on the things that create memories with those I love. 
If I could turn back time,  I would surround myself with those people…the ones who live in my heart and bring joy into my life by simply being.  I would work harder at staying real – even vulnerable – so I could truly connect with others in a deep and significant way.  I would take the risk instead of hiding and pretending and trying to fit in with the crowd.  I wouldn’t close myself away in darkness or shroud myself with shame that I wore like skin.  A skin I grew into while still very young.  Because of the abuse.  I would seek help.  I would tell myself over and over again that it wasn’t my fault.  I would tell myself until I believed it.  Until I knew without doubt that what was done to me didn’t mean I should be ashamed.  Didn’t mean I was disgusting and tainted.  My past wouldn’t be something to hide.  It’s my reality.  My history.  So, I would stop denying where I came from and what it had done to me.  I would acknowledge that past, embrace the possibilities of the future and begin to connect deeply with special people when I encountered them.  Meaningfully.  I would be transparent, unmasked, open and do what it took to build deep relationships.  Those connections would be my priority.  If I had another chance.  Another chance to do it over.
If I could turn back time, I would listen more to my heart and less to my brain.
I would try more things, even if I was afraid of failing, looking stupid and making mistakes.  I would kayak and kick-box and learn a martial art.    I would dance often.   I would visit the ocean frequently and let it sooth my wounds.  I would live where there was lots of sunshine.  I would ride in a hot air balloon, even if I had to save up for a long time to afford the pleasure.  I would take classes on subjects that were of interest to me.  I would sing more.  Write that book.  Publish those poems.  I would risk and not let fear rule my choices.
If I could turn back time, I would hold on to each moment.  Live it.  Fully experience each day.  The pain and the joy.  The fun and the difficulties.  I would be present in the present and tattoo each experience on my brain for later enjoyment.  For later contemplation.  I would fill my memory bag with experiences so when I looked back, the years would not have disappeared in an unending chain of monotony.  There would be more happy memories and less regrets.  More to recall.  More worth remembering.
I’m sure I would still make mistakes.  But I think I would make smaller ones, less costly ones, having learned some hard lessons the hard way.  I wouldn’t make so many of the huge, monumental errors that erode quality of life until there is no life left.  I wouldn’t let life…or the people in my life…tell me I didn’t matter.  I wouldn’t accept being a worthless object to be used and cast aside when inconvenient or if not operating up to user expectations.  No, having worked hard early on to find a place of wholeness, I would believe in myself and in my own worth.   I wouldn’t be beaten down, settling for simply being tolerated.  I would move on.  Cut my losses.  Find a healthier path.
If I could turn back time, I would understand the value of the minutes that were sifting silently through my hand and I would cling to each one.  I wouldn’t live for a blurry tomorrow.  I would live for today.  Milking each moment for every drop of happiness and meaning I could find.  I would dance in the rain and soak up the sunshine.  I would follow my dreams.  I would refuse to be numbed by the blows.  I would feel each emotion: deep, small, hurtful, joyful.  I would face the damage, tear it apart and rebuild when I was young, strong, more pliable.  And continue to rebuild throughout my existence, repairing, refinishing, refurbishing, restoring.  I would not settle.  I would not sleepwalk through the days.
I would give my heart only to those who also gave their heart to me.  Never casting my pearls before swine.  Understanding that even my broken heart was a pearl.  That life is a treasure.  And I need to spend this treasure carefully.  I would savor each one of those seconds while I was standing within them.
If I could turn back time, I wouldn’t now be sitting in a dark room alone but for my dogs, surrounded by regrets and loss and pain.  I would be a different person in a different place living a very different life.  Silence wouldn’t accompany me throughout my days.  Numbness would not cripple me.  There would be laughter and tears and conversation.  My world would not be empty.  It would be messy and full of all that results from a life well lived.   I believe I would understand so much more clearly what was at stake and would act accordingly.  I would discover the person I was meant to be…before the wounding, abuse, rejection and destruction.  I would be fully alive.  Finally. 
If only I could turn back time.  If only there was such a thing as a second chance.
 
 

Once

I was her once.

She is young; no more than 25, and she sits across the table from her mate, staring into his eyes.  Her eyes are filled with love and adoration.  She is happy.  Hopeful.  They are having a date night, taking advantage of the cheap prices at the “all you can eat” buffet.  It’s a big deal.  They don’t have the money to go out often.  They are celebrating.  Laughing at each other’s jokes.  Enjoying the moment.

It doesn’t have to be fancy.  They are together.  That’s all that matters.

Newlyweds, they barely have enough to pay their bills or buy essentials.  They count the days until payday, hoping they can get by until they can deposit their next checks at the end of the week.  They worry about how they’re going to afford a pair of retread tires for their car.  What they’ll do if anything unexpected happens.  Praying it doesn’t.  But they’re in it together.  They will make each other strong.  They believe in each other.  They will get through it, whatever comes.  Somehow.

I was there once.  I remember.

Tomorrow will come with its worries and challenges.  But tonight, all worries are set aside.  Tonight, they are enjoying each other’s company and are content in their love for one another.  Tonight is all about having a good time, talking, dreaming about the future.  A future when they don’t have to worry about how they will afford tires.  When they can buy them new, four at a time.

They work 8 to 5 with a little overtime thrown in when they’re lucky.  They brown bag their lunch, eating bologna sandwiches on week old stale bread with a bag of chips and a glass of water.  Their clothes come from the resale shop and shoes are purchased at Wal-Mart.  When they’re on sale.  They buy gas $5 at a time.  Clip coupons.  Plan carefully.

They save up for their date nights at the all-you-can-eat buffet.

It’s them against the world.  United.  Together.  Strong.  Moving forward together.  They have nothing and no one but each other to cling to.  And that is enough.  For now, it is enough.  More than enough.

This was me once.    They are a reflection of my past.

Full of excitement.  Just starting out, believing the best was yet to come and that it was coming soon.  Young.  Filled with energy and hope.  Newly married.  In love.

Back when I was her age, an entire world lay before me, ripe for the picking, waiting for me to finally begin to live my dreams. Waiting for me to step into a brand new and beautiful future.  I knew everything was going to be wonderful.

And I was so completely in love; head over heels.  I looked at him the way she is looking at her young man.  Her new spouse.  I was that giddy once.  I believed we would build a good life together and that our love would allow us to overcome all obstacles.  Even though there were a lot of obstacles.

Back then, I still believed in love. In the power of love to transform me.  I still believed someone could love me.  Even me.

Time passed swiftly.  Far too quickly.

Then I was 33.  A young professional.  So excited when I was finally promoted to management.  Went to Service Merchandise and carefully selected my very first briefcase.  Maybe I was less hopeful about my marriage.  Okay, I was pretty much out of hope. I now knew beyond any doubt the love I had for him wasn’t returned.  That he didn’t love me and never had.  But I still believed things would eventually work out.  I thought if I worked hard enough, made enough money, did the right things and was a good person, he would eventually see there was something about me that made me worth loving.  I might have to go through unpleasant times, but he would come around.  He would begin to love and appreciate me the way I thought he did when we married.  I just had to prove my worth.  I just had to do everything perfectly.  I had to BE perfect.

I didn’t notice right away…though we had the funds to go to a better restaurant, it had been a long time since we’d had a date night.  It had been a long time since we had openly talked.  I was no longer the young woman at the buffet.

I watch her, remembering.  Wishing for another chance.  Oh, if only…

I hope she doesn’t someday sit where I am sitting now, watching another young woman the way I am watching her.  I hope by the time she is my age, she is still holding the hand of her adoring spouse.  That they still talk about their dreams and deep feelings.  That it’s still them against the world.  I hope they are together and that being together is all that matters.  That being together is enough.  More than enough.  And I pray they are still going out for date nights.

 

 

Alone Again, Naturally

“…In my hour of need
I truly am indeed
Alone again, naturally

It seems to me that
there are more hearts
broken in the world
that can’t be mended

Left unattended
What do we do? What do we do?

 –Gilbert O’Sullivan – Alone Again (Naturally)–

In a couple of weekends, many of us who are fortunate enough to be off for Good Friday will have a holiday weekend.  A time when family and friends get together.  Share.  Connect. Relax.  Enjoy.  At least, that’s what genuine friends and healthy family members do to celebrate a holiday.  Close family.  Close friends.  It is a time to celebrate.  Together.

But I’m going to be alone.  Again.  Life happens all around me.  Not with me.  Not in me.

Most of my time after work is spent sitting on the couch with my dogs on my lap.  I am their bed.  Their protector.  I give them warmth.  They snuggle their noses under my hand and breathe heavily. They keep me company and I am glad they are with me.  But I am still very alone.  Again.  Naturally.  Just me and the dogs. 

I thank God for the dogs.

The TV plays endlessly.  I’m not watching.  Or even listening; not really.  It’s noise.  To keep me company.  To chase away the silence.  To distract me from the emptiness.

I feel so isolated.  So unwanted.   Life holds no meaning without connectedness.

The upcoming holiday is one that prompts us to reflect.  To reflect on the past.  To be grateful.  I remember.  But I do not want to remember.

The past holds no appeal.  It holds only pain and sadness. Abuse. Rejection.  Brokenness.  There is no hope there.  The past is the place of my demise.  The past is where I was destroyed. Fractured.  Fragmented.  Ground to dust.

But the future doesn’t hold hope either.  Only the promise of more of the same.  More rejection.  More pain.  More isolation.  More destruction.  More silence and emptiness.

I fought it.  I fought this fate.  But fate was not intimidated by me, nor impressed with my efforts to escape.  My past became my future became my past became my future.  A river with swift and dangerous currents that flow where they want.  Eroding the ground where I stand.  The currents sweep my feet out from under me and carry me away. 

I absently listen to the television playing endlessly.  Background noise.  I need the background noise. Distraction.

It has been rainy and it is predicted to be wet and gloomy over the holiday weekend.  I have been in this place before too many times.  I will watch the water painting rivulets down each window pane, my vision distorted; blurred.  I will try not to think about the emptiness of my life.  I will try to blur reality.  I will try to convince myself that what is isn’t.  But running takes energy and I’m almost completely drained.

I’ve been alone.  For too many days.  For too many years.  For too may decades.  It has been raining. For too many days.  For too many weeks.  I’ve been in pain.  For too many days and for too many long, sleepless nights.

They say more storms are coming.  Wind.   Violent weather.  My whole life has been a violent storm.  I have been alone through too many violent storms.  I am weary of the storms.  Of being battered and beaten by them.  I don’t know how many more storms I can face…alone.

Alone.  As I have been nearly every day of my life.  Alone.  In a vast universe.  A dot.  Nothing.   Alone. 

Life holds no meaning.  My life seems so empty…because it is empty.  I have tried to fill it up.  I have tried in vain.  My life, like the coming holiday, is hollow.  I am drowning in endless emptiness.   Desolate.

I talk in the silence to cover it with my words.  I turn on the TV.  I talk to my dogs.  I make noise to drive away the meaninglessness.  But nothing works.  Nothing.  I pretend.  I ignore.  I discard reality.  Deny.   But in spite of my pretense, there is one fact I can’t escape.  I am alone again.  As always.  I am alone and disconnected.

Alone again.  Naturally.

I dance to the radio to make myself move.  To force my limbs to life.  I dance alone as my dogs watch me, amused by my wild contortions and seeming madness.  They grab their toys and run around me, shaking them viciously, happily squeaking squeakers.  I dance on.  Alone in the midst of their joy.  I twirl.  Alone. 

Beating back the silence. Trying to beat back the silence.  Always trying to escape the silence.  And the emptiness.  Always trying to fill this yawning void that can’t be filled.

Alone again, naturally.