Tag Archives: alone

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.
 
 

Beating on Walls

I have walls.  They were constructed long ago, when I was a child.  And let me tell you, I was one heck of a builder.  They are thicker than an Egyptian pyramid; more impenetrable than a nuclear bomb shelter.  My walls are AMAZING.  And terrifying.

They keep me locked tightly inside.  They prevent my emotions from escaping.  Keep me in a warm cocoon.   I can’t get out, even when I want to.  I can’t feel though I struggle and try with all my might.  These walls are high and thick and deep and wide and strong. Very strong.  Massive.  Painfully constricting.

I’m currently beating my head against them while I fight to claw my way out. I’ve been battling to tear them down.  I’ve been laboring to dig my way out from under them or to find a way around them…since I can’t seem to get over or through them.  I’ve begun to despair that I may be trapped within the confines of this fortress forever.

My walls, these walls I built with my own hands to protect me, these horrible walls will be my coffin.

Is there some magic word I need to say?  Some formula I can use that will cause them to crack and come tumbling down?  Some trap door I’ve yet to find?  Some secret passageway?

I am in awe that I constructed them well before I hit my teen years. I’ve fortified them since, over the years.  But still, this mighty wall that runs through my heart, through my mind and that imprisons my soul, was largely complete before I reached the age of 13.  Time has not worn them down, caused them to decay, eroded them in any way, or created even a slight breach.

I’ve been trying for years to destroy them, to no avail.  I remain tightly encased.  Enclosed.  Trapped.  Untouched by emotions, for the most part.  I experience a profound level of depression and not much else.  No highs to go with the lows.

To be fair, we all have walls.  Some boundaries are healthy.  I don’t want to completely dismantle mine.  But I would like to significantly reduce them.  Perhaps include a few windows and doors.  I would like to be able to escape them if I choose to do so.  I would prefer they not be my prison.

Or my coffin.

My walls keep everyone out.  Everyone.  Out.

They keep me in.  Caged.  Bound.  Incarcerated.

Neither do they keep me safe.  Nor do they protect me.  They give me a sense of security and numb me.  But I can still be hurt.  Even deeply wounded.  Yet, if my ability to connect wasn’t nearly nonexistent, the damage would be far more extensive.  They can still stab me in the back and make fun of me.  They can look down on me, ridicule me and reject me…all of which is painful.  But I survive.  Behind my walls.  Alone and numb.

The most critical task my walls perform is to isolate me.  They do an astonishing job.  So astonishing, I no longer seem to have a choice in the matter…my walls have completely taken control.  I’ve not been able to reclaim power over them.  Reminiscent of Frankenstein; once created, the monster had a life of his own and could not be restrained.  My own creation has become my captor.  My jailer.

As desperately as I long to flee, that which I created has proven to be inescapable.  There is no hidden hatch.  I wander endlessly in this maze, this desolate wilderness, beating on never-ending barriers that don’t give an inch.

I’m weary of beating on walls.  I am weary of trying to escape this coffin.  This coffin in which I will surely be buried.  In which I am, even now, buried alive.

The 2nd Floor

I never had children.  There was a time I wanted one; maybe two.  Girls.  Once upon a time, I even picked out their names.  But the desire passed before I graduated from high school, attributable to reading a book or two that supposedly documented a cycle of abuse.  Asserted that those who are abused as children will, in turn, abuse their own children.  Though I didn’t believe I would ever be capable of hurting an innocent child, especially my own, I decided I couldn’t take the chance.  I didn’t want anyone to suffer the way I had suffered, particularly at the hand of a parent who was supposed to protect them.  My hand.  So, I set that daydream aside, swallowed the pain and disappointment and decided I would never give birth or parent a little one.  

The years flew by.  And then one fall, I received the results of my annual exam.  My PAP was abnormal.  Further testing indicated my cervix was covered with severe dysplasia.  Abnormal cells.  Pre-cancerous.   My doctor recommended an immediate hysterectomy.  I was concerned about the time I would have to miss from work…a job I had just gotten not quite a year before.  My boss was not sympathetic to my situation.  He seemed to delight in pressuring me to “earn my keep.” To contribute more than the men who reported to him. I, a mere woman, was expected to work longer and harder to prove my worth.  That meant forgoing necessary medical treatment if I wanted to keep my job.  But the doctor insisted.  They said my only option was to have the hysterectomy immediately because the cells were quickly progressing and nearing a cancerous state.  

Even then, immediately didn’t quite work for me. Feeling the need to do my duty, I put it off for a few months, mainly trying to get through the holidays.  I wanted to find a time that would be more convenient for my staff and for friends who would be helping me out afterwards.  I made it until February.  My doctor pestered me, strongly insisting that I was putting myself in danger.  Telling me I couldn’t wait any longer, no matter what.  

And so, it was arranged.  Two weeks later, a friend took me to the hospital early in the morning and I was prepped for surgery.   She graciously opted to stay with me, waiting in my room to watch over me as I slept and woke repetitively from my morphine-induced haze that first day.   

I was touched.  It turned out to be a more emotional experience than I had anticipated. 

You see, my room was on the 2nd floor.  They asked me if I would mind if they put me in a room on that particular floor before the surgery and I had agreed to their request.  I didn’t think it would matter.  Didn’t think it would be a big deal.  But as it turned out, it was harder than I thought. 

The 2nd floor was the maternity floor.  I had never been in the maternity ward before.  My first stay in this particular area of the hospital was not to give birth, but to have all that baby-making equipment removed.  And surprisingly, it hurt.  Even though I had set aside that dream many years before.

I was old enough by the time I made it to the 2nd floor, no one should have supposed I was there to have a baby.  But the young man who wheeled me down to my friend’s car upon my release from the hospital said, “Just you?  You’re not leaving with anyone?”  And he sounded rather sad.  I wanted to laugh…I mean, I WAS far too old.  But for some reason, I also wanted to cry.   

I told him, “Yes.  Just me.”  Not leaving with anyone.  No new little life.  Never did that.  Never had that experience.  Never will.  

Didn’t even have a husband to pull the car around and help me into the passenger seat.

As I said, it was mostly by choice…never having a baby.  I was so afraid of damaging a child.  I read too many books, research papers and articles about abused people abusing.  I would prefer not to risk it…it was too big of a chance to take.  So, even though I felt strongly and would rather die than abuse an innocent little one, I chose the safest path.  I was concerned the brokenness of my soul and all the things that were missing in me would create lasting problems for a tiny little being left in my care.  It was better avoid the risk.  So, I remained childless. And now it was far, far too late to change my mind. 

Sometimes it still hurts a lot.  Sometimes I feel good about the decision I made.  More often than not, I believe I did the right thing in sacrificing my own selfish desire.  Most of the time, I only experience a dull ache and the regret is bearable.  

My stay on the 2nd floor was short.  I was only in the hospital for a total of 32 hours.  The room they gave me was toward the end of the floor and there weren’t any others in my “pod.”  I think they did this on purpose, so I wouldn’t be near the nursery or the new mothers.  Near those who had just given birth.  I didn’t see a single other patient during the mandatory walks I made after my hysterectomy.  But I didn’t venture too far down the hall either.  I walked in a circle around my lonely little pod.  I didn’t want to see.  I didn’t want to encounter a tiny new life, a beaming new mom, a proud new father. Hearing the muted cries from the other end of the floor was surprisingly heartbreaking.   

Sometimes, when I think back on that experience, I am suddenly flooded with regret and sadness.  There is a wistfulness that comes over me.  A horrible emptiness.  As much as I was willing to sacrifice to ensure I never hurt a child, I can’t help but wonder.  Might I have been a reasonably decent parent if I had really tried? Reached out for help?  Did I give up my dream too easily?  Was it wisdom or overkill? 

Now that I am approaching old age, now that I am totally alone, I realize it would be comforting to know a little piece of me would live on in a child.  That through them, a particle of my soul might go forward into some distant future.  That perhaps I could have even given them the love I never received myself.  And given them the ability to trust, to believe, to feel, to hope, to dream.   

It would be comforting to think someone would be there to see me off when I arrived at my last day of life.  But these are selfish thoughts.  And I have always fought to avoid selfishness. 

There is no rewind button.  No going back.  No do-overs.  The choices made are written in stone.  The story of our life, once lived, can’t be rewritten or revised.   What is done is done.  

And so, my one and only stay on the maternity floor of the hospital was to recover from a hysterectomy.  Highlighting everything I had lost.  And the losses were massive and deeply painful.  I lost the chance to live for someone else.  To be needed in that special way a child needs a parent.  To heal.  To know joy and connection.  I lost so much more than my ovaries, uterus and cervix.  So very much more. 

I can never go back and take a different path.  I will have no opportunity to repair all that was broken inside of me.  All that is sick or was eaten away.  No chance to repair all that was taken from me.  I can never start fresh.  That time has come and gone.  I left important pieces of myself behind on the 2nd floor.  They rolled me out in the wheelchair, gutted and alone.  In more ways than one.  

Solitaire

One place starts to look like all the others I have been
There’s another lonely face painted up to make the scene
Hollow laughter fills the air
Hiding hungry hearts too weak to care
It’s a shallow little game called solitaire

Ice cubes clink in glasses as thoughts click behind eyes
Making empty passes; telling empty lies
Lips mouth insincere words while saying all the proper verbs
With smiles frozen in place, the patterns never swerve

We wear the masks
until we think
it’s who we really are
and no one asks what lies behind
they would have to reach too far

We’re islands connected
only by surrounding air
locked in isolation
playing solitaire

The conversations float off into meaningless sound
The rules strictly in force, we pretend it’s all profound
I stand detached and watch the play
with its subtle moves that don’t betray
how high the stakes, what a toll it takes to play solitaire

I’ve seen it all before and it’s a game no one can win
Keeps us on hold, posed like a store-front mannequin
We become so good at playing roles, never realize we’ve sold our souls
Survival builds a strong and mighty barrier

We wear the masks
until we think
they’re who we really are
and no one asks
what lies behind
they would have to reach too far

We’re islands connected
only by surrounding air
our lives locked in isolation
playing solitaire

Locked in isolation
playing solitaire

 

 

Wishing on Dying Stars

“I wish I may

I wish I might…”

Do you remember?  The days of possibilities.  As a child, standing in the darkness beneath a star-strewn sky.  Wishing wishes, believing with all of your heart those wishes would come true.  No doubts.  No anxiety.  Just an unshakable knowing that the impossible is possible; inevitable.  Dancing beneath the moon.  Believing in dreams.  Believing in tomorrow.  Feeling the magic.  Touched by the mysterious force of innocence.

Gazing upward, making wishes on dying stars.

The sky seems limitless.  Surely anything can happen.  Everything will happen.  The beauty of those sparkling, twinkling dots of light, visible from so far away, captivates the imagination and fuels the fire.  The air is alive, filled with the sweet perfume of hope.

No need to worry.  Cup the moment in your hands and drink deeply.  The night is enchanted.  Hold it tight.  Do not let it go.

We wish upon those twinkling stars as they shoot across the deep velvet dark of night.  Never stopping to think that we have handed our dreams to a star that is dying.  Falling from the sky.  Its light, in one last spectacular explosion, forever extinguished.

We hold our breath, guided by foolish sentiment and release our most sacred desires into the opaque darkness.  We see through our imagination.  And trust what is vanishing right before our eyes.

We watch the star as it streaks across the sky, believing it has heard, that it carries our wish and hurries to fulfill the desires we have whispered as it falls.

“When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true…”

And so the story goes.  And so our silly heart believes. We wish upon a shooting star and close our eyes in anticipation of the mystical powers that will make all our wishes come true.

Believing a dying star will somehow fill us with light and life.  And guide us to contentment.

But dying stars do not grant wishes.  Nor do they cast enchanting magic spells or foretell the fulfillment of our deepest dreams.  We wish and wait for the impossible, only to find even our most fervent faith can’t forge fantasy into reality.  Though we wish upon a million twinkling stars, be they the first bright star of the night, the biggest and most beautiful diamond in the sky or the one with the longest tail streaking behind it as it falls, no manner of wishing, praying, hoping or believing will miraculously make our dreams come true.

I don’t know when it happens.  Not exactly.  We may still occasionally yet glance upward if the sky is exceptionally clear. If the millions of dancing stars are sparkling especially beautifully that night.  But over the years, we learn to keep our head down.  Our eyes to the ground.  Weighted with the heaviness of disappointment, we no longer search the endless black sky seeking infinite possibilities.  Shooting stars fall without fanfare. Without our acknowledgment.  Our dreams have long ago burned up in the atmosphere as they fell to earth where they crashed and perished.

We spent our youth wishing on dying stars.  We wished passionately until the passion was utterly drained from our body, drip by drip.  Until we were emptied of our blood and life, droplet by droplet.  We lost our hope under that vast black firmament.  Beneath the heavens so gloriously filled with sparkling diamonds.  They tempted us to believe and believe we did.  But time…ah, how thoroughly time has ravaged our soul, consuming our eager expectations.  Time causes all things to fall.  To fall until there is no getting back up again.  We thought we would be the exception.  But time brought us down, down to our knees, just as it brings everything down that is contained within the universe in which we live.  Us and the shooting stars.  Falling.

Time reminds us all things come to an end.  That it runs out far too quickly.  And it runs out long before our fervent dreams come true.

Star light, star bright, I can no longer see your light.

My eyes have grown weary.  I have run out of wishes, here at the end of my time.  I have nothing to show for my youthful excitement and anticipation.  I am but a shooting star whose light has been extinguished.  I carry my wishes to the grave, unrealized and empty.  Another dark and lonely place, my grave.  And if there are stars here, either glorious or dimming, my eyes can no longer see them.

 

Sometimes the Words Will Not Come

Sometimes.  Sometimes the words will not come.  They get lost in the deafening silence that echoes through the emptiness of my world.  Swallowed by the black hole of isolation.  I cannot speak them.  They are sucked back into the void before I can form them.  I am too numb to shape them.  It is too difficult to put them together in a way that makes sense, much less that tells my story with any degree of coherency.

I am trying to explain a perspective I can barely see or comprehend.  The words remain in my throat, strangling me, as unformed as the insight I am trying to grasp.  I’m attempting to put all the pieces back together…to make myself whole.  Trying to put the words together, to explain the unexplainable.  How does one explain nothingness?  A brokenness so absolute, there is nothing left but dust.  How can words begin to paint a picture of the reality where I exist?

Sometimes the words will not come.

Sometimes, they sit on the tip of my tongue, but I cannot spit them out.  They are peanut butter, stuck to the roof of my mouth.

My entire life, I have been silent.  I have choked back all the words that were oozing from my pores.  Choked them back along with the pain.  Focused on anything other than the abuse and the destruction it caused.  Struggled with crippling depression.  With hopelessness.  Decimation.  I have pushed the words, the emotions, down, down, down, until the volcano within me became dormant.  And it remained dormant for decades.  I have held the lava and let it burn me deep within; never spewing.  Containing the toxic gasses, the scorching fire and excruciating hurt.

Sometimes the words won’t come.  I have held them back until I forgot how to speak.

Not even the Heimlich maneuver artfully performed can successfully dislodge them from my throat.

When I was a child the words were near the surface and available, if not fully understood by my immature brain.  The wounds were raw.  It would have been so easy then to release them and let them fly away.  But there was no one to tell.  No one to listen.  No one who believed me.  That’s when I started to hold them down in the dark depths of my soul.  That’s when I learned to stop talking.  To hide.  Behind a mask and a wall of silence.  I learned to pretend everything in my family was fine. To act as if I was a normal kid.  That’s when I learned how to lie.  To still my tongue.  To close my mouth.  And that is when I became acquainted with shame.  When I lost my words for the very first time.

Love could have freed me.  But sometimes there is no love.  No prince to ride to the rescue.  No shining knight.  No escape.  Sometimes, it really is that hopeless.

Now, I try to pry the words out of the crevices where they have been lodged for such a long time.  I try to release them.  To allow the lava to flow.  To let them dissipate into the atmosphere.  I try to form them, to let them roll from my mouth and be whatever they are. Whatever they want to be.  To say what they want to say…what they have wanted to say for the entire length of my lifetime.  They are not beautiful.  They are not skillfully crafted.  They are not inspiring.  But saying anything, I have learned, is far better than saying nothing at all.

And so, I write whatever words I can find and I send them out into the world of 1’s and 0’s.  Out into another dimension. And I leave them hanging there.

Whatever comes, however they sound, I let them go.  I let them tell my story in whatever way they can.

Sometimes they are not reachable.  I fish for them and come up empty.  But I have learned, catching a Sun Perch is better than catching no fish at all.  I catch whatever swims by; whatever I can.  Then release.  Watch them go.  Grateful for having touched them.  For having finally been able to say something.

I held them, those slimy words, for a moment in my hand.  Felt their barbs.  Let them make me squirm.

Sometimes the words will not come.  But sometimes, if I sit very, very still in my silent world, I can hear the child I was so long ago crying in the endless night and I can find a tiny word or two to let her know her pain has not gone unnoticed or unacknowledged.  It is then that I realize, I do not need to speak.   It is enough to simply sit with her in her empty, lonely room, to hold her hand and watch the tears as they fall, one after another, from her eyes.

 

All The Tears I Never Cried

Psalm 56:8  New Living Translation (NLT)

You keep track of all my sorrows.
    You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
    You have recorded each one in your book.

The message is clear; touching.  We have heard it repeated and expressed in many different ways.  Through songs, blogs, stories and in inspirational articles.  In sermons and poems. God has our tears.  Every tear we’ve ever cried.  Not a single one is lost.  Not a single one went unnoticed.  He collected them each one.  He recorded them in His book.  God is moved by our weeping.

But what about all the tears never cried?

All those tears I was never able to release.  All the pain still held behind my eyes.

Most of my tears haven’t been cried.  My eyes have stayed disturbingly and resolutely dry.  The dam I built when but a child remains strong.  No water is released, no matter how great the need for relief.  No matter how much the pressure behind it.

It wasn’t safe to let them flow freely; not when I was a preschooler.  Nor when I was in junior high. Not when married to the man who rejected me.  Who didn’t love me.  Never loved me.  It wasn’t smart to release them to form rivers that would drip from my cheeks and drop off the tip of my nose.  It wasn’t safe to feel.   I held them in and kept them sealed tightly inside, carefully hidden in the darkest depths of my soul.  Until I forgot how to open the floodgates.

There they remain.  Tears never cried.  Stagnant.

My heart has been in deep pain most of my life.  My journey hasn’t been easy.  It hasn’t had many ups.  But the major blows have been plentiful.  I’ve encountered too many difficult challenges that beat me to a pulp until I was too numb to respond.  Until it was all I could do to get up off the floor.  Take a step.  Then another.  I’ve had abundant reasons to cry and I’ve longed many times to weep uncontrollably.   But showing vulnerability has never been safe.  Feeling such raw emotions has proven to be foolish.  Letting someone see my heart has always been idiotic.  When I slipped and exposed my weakness, the repercussions were many and they were terrible.  So I have swallowed the pain.  And the tears.

They have remained dammed up behind a massive wall of numbness.  Repressed for years and years.  Every blow has caused the wall to be built higher.  Wider.  Stronger.  The ocean of tears to grow deeper.

What about those tears?  The ones I’ve never cried?

Are they of no significance?   Hidden and unexpressed, have they lost their authenticity?  Is unexpressed pain of no importance?  Do only the tears actually released have meaning?  Are they the only ones that count?  The only ones God collects and treasures?

The tears we cry matter. He sees.  Has compassion.  Wipes them away.  Holds each one.  Knows the reason for them; for every single one.  These are the precious tears that are kept in His bottle and recorded in His book.

Are they the only tears God cherishes?

If so…

I have a million uncried tears rotting in my soul and they will never have significance.  They are worthless. The battle I fought to contain them is meaningless.  The struggle I went through to carry them, to prevent them from inconveniently raining down on others, is inconsequential.   I carried them when sharing them would have been easier…if riskier.  I held them back and pasted a smile on my face to survive.  And when surviving became all I knew how to do, the uncried tears multiplied until they were legion.

They are legion still.

But they are not in His bottle.  They are bottled up in my heart, a painful reminder of all I have suffered alone.  Of how my life has left me with nothing more than regrets and toxic memories.

“He knows your name
Every tear you cry
He knows the pain
How you feel alone”

 (Moriah Peters, “No Shame”)

When I do not cry, is He unable to know my pain?  Does He not discern how alone I feel?  How the nights are empty and silent?  And the days are wrapped in rabid isolation?  Does He continue to absent Himself, uncaring of the hurt that rips me apart and stomps me helplessly into the earth where I am ground again to dust?

When I can’t cry, does He not care?  Is He untouched by my tearless brokenness?

I wish I could cry freely and let God collect the tears in His bottle and record them in His book.  I wish I could believe my pain moved Him, whether I managed to shed the tears or remained too afraid to let my guard down; to open my heart.  To be that vulnerable.  Revealing weaknesses through tears is risky.  It can give those who are intent on hurting you a way in to your most tender places.   Places where they can do the most significant amount of damage.  But I cannot cry.  I am imprisoned behind this wall.  I have waited too long to seek release.  The ocean of tears I have held in for a lifetime know the boundaries set for them so long ago and no longer cross the line.

They are contained in my bottle.  A dead sea.

All the tears I have not cried.  That I’ve held inside trying to survive.  That I’ve choked down while they almost choked me.  The only bottle my tears reside in…is the cavern of my heart.  I am drowning in them.  Their salt stings my eyes.  I taste them in my mouth.  But God doesn’t gather them.  He does not hold them in His hand.  There is no comfort to be had.  Only this ocean of sorrow.  Growing larger, deeper, wider with every passing moment.  And I do not know how to swim in the foul waves any more than I know how to weep until this endless sea of tears is finally drained dry.

Can’t See It

I was watching that You Tube video again…the one about the blind man sitting on the concrete walkway with his little cardboard sign, begging for money.  He is getting a minimal response: a coin here and there, but certainly not even enough to buy him a cup of coffee. 
Then a well-dressed woman stops, picks up his sign, rewrites it, sits it back down beside him and walks on. 
And suddenly everything changes.
People walking by pause; read.  And they give him money. Quite a bit of money.  He has no idea what is causing them to respond with such generosity.  He’s clearly amazed.  After a long successful day of begging, he recognizes the footsteps and feels the shoes of the lady when she stops in front of him again. He asks her what she did to his sign.  She tells him she simply said the same thing he had said, but differently. 
She has reworded the sign to read, “It’s a beautiful day and I can’t see it.”
(In case you haven’t seen the video:  Blind Man Begging)
I’m looking out my living room window as I type this.  It’s a beautiful day.  But I can’t see it.
No, I’m not blind.  Not physically blind, anyway.  But I am emotionally blind.  My soul is blind.  My heart is blind.  Because I’m so depressed, no matter what good there might be right in front of me, I can’t see it very well.  Not really.  Everything is completely overshadowed by a bleak, gloomy, gray film that cloaks my world.  I’m shrouded in a thick fog that hides the sunlight and prevents me from recognizing much of anything positive.  The fog covers my thoughts, my soul, and it is everywhere.  Depression does that to a person.  It sucks all the beauty and life out of one’s existence.  It makes me blind.
I truly do try to find beauty in the small things.  At this moment, one of my Schnauzers (Zoe) is laying on my legs, dozing, content, snoring lightly.  The other (Hannah) is happily chewing a stuffed toy on my lap, secure, safe, adored.  I love them both fiercely.  I take pleasure in them.  They are one of the few pinpoints of happiness I experience and they motivate me to get up in the morning…and to continue to live.   It’s not as if each day doesn’t hold some good.
Birds do sing outside my window.
Inside, I am alone.  I am surrounded by silence…except when Zoe and Hannah alert me to a bird flying by, a squirrel in the yard or to the arrival of my mail.  Or perhaps a rabbit has invaded their yard.  Mostly, I listen to the refrigerator hum.  The heater kicking on and off.  A jet as it flies overhead on the way to some distant airport.  The keys of my computer click and the hard drive hums quietly.  Occasionally, sirens wail as the fire trucks or ambulance rush by on the main road closest to my house.  At certain times of the day, I can hear a low, muted roar from distant traffic. There is no laughter.  No conversation.  The click of doggie toenails on the tile or their paws as they pad on the carpet behind me are the only other footsteps in my life.  There is no hand reaching out for mine.  No welcome hugs.  Excited dogs bring much needed life to my otherwise bleak reality.  I try to make that be enough.
My reality threatens to swallow me whole.  I fight the darkness.  I want to see.  I want to live.  But life laughs in my face and runs away into the fog.  It remains always just out of my reach.  So elusive.  Unattainable.  It’s a beautiful day and I can’t see it.  I can’t reach it.  Can’t touch it.  There is so much pain.  So much brokenness.  So many regrets.
It’s a beautiful day.  But I am alone.  It’s a beautiful day.  But I am without hope.  Without connections.  Terrified.  It’s a beautiful day.  But my soul has been nearly destroyed by childhood abuse and rejection.  By isolation.  It’s a beautiful day, but my heart is heavy, shattered, hurting.  I am unloved.  Unwanted.  It’s a beautiful day, but I have nothing to look forward to.  More struggles.  More loss.  More pain.  It’s a beautiful day, but I can’t see it.  My eyes strain to find the beauty.  I try to make the tiny things big enough to give me a reason to go on.  Yet I am overwhelmed by my wounds.  By emptiness.  By devastation. 
There is no magic pill for me.  Nothing alleviates the darkness of my world.  Nothing opens a door.  Nothing seems able to set me free. I have tried everything I know to try and done everything I know to do.  But still, I cannot see.
There is no way to write the sign in a nicer, prettier way; to say something profound that will evoke the help I need from those who pass through my shattered world.  My dilemma can’t be solved by coins tossed in a can.  Although the money would certainly help, no sum can solve my problems, allow me to escape this suffocating isolation or heal my broken heart.  The crowds pass me by without seeing me…as blind to my darkness and need as I am to the sunshine through which they walk.  We exist on different plains.  In different dimensions.  There is no portal through which I can cross over to the warmth and caring of their world.  No surgeon can repair the damage.  No psychiatrist or psychotherapist can put my fragmented soul back together again.  I haven’t any second chances.  No miracles appear to be waiting in the wings.  It’s a beautiful day and I can’t see it.  Can’t touch it.  Can’t get there from here.
There are things that could make a difference.  There are people who could as well.  But I don’t live in their world and they don’t want to believe in the existence of mine. It’s too harsh and cold in this place where I exist.  I would cause them too much inconvenience. Too much trouble.  I am never worth the effort.  The expense.  The love.  My flaws have robbed me of value.
I don’t mean to cast a dark shadow across their path. I don’t expect them to acknowledge me or throw a few coins in my direction.  No one has to read my sign as I sit, lost, empty, hurting.  I realize I am not their problem and they bear no responsibility here.  I am but a speck in the eye, easily blinked away.  The help I need is far beyond what most are capable of giving.
It’s a beautiful day.  I can’t see it.  I long to be set free.  But I can’t find the words that will magically make everything change.
 
 

To the Left of Me

She lives just out of sight
to the left of me
I catch glimpses of her
from time to time
her battered wounded body
bruised and broken
a quivering mass
helpless
repugnant

My eyes do not linger long
not wanting to look too closely
not wanting to see too clearly
not wanting to know
what has been done to her
to make her appear
so horribly ruined
She is little more
than a pulpy mass of torn and beaten flesh
So grave are her injuries
she cannot escape the moment
where she is frozen
forever
in time

I’m not sure of her age
don’t know
her features
for I never look too attentively
Yet, even if I could bear to study her
I doubt I could describe her
in any detail
she is too badly fractured
she is too deeply wounded
she is too hideous to carefully observe

I do not acknowledge her
in those rare moments
when I catch sight of her
out of the corner of my eye
there to the left of me
I do not give her
even the slightest
friendly sign
Instead
I look away
turning from her
quickly
telling myself she is not my concern
not someone I want to get to know
or spend time with

Sometimes thoughts of her prick my mind
and I wonder about her
what she is like
why she is there
what happened to her
who she is
But I sense the answers are intensely painful
causing apprehension to shoot through me
like liquid ice
causing me to squirm inside
to sweat fear from my pores
So I quench the questions
before I can finish the thought
swiftly close the door
turn the key
in the lock
and I walk away

Yet when I am alone
in the deep darkness of the night
I can’t help but ponder
her
I can’t help but
contemplate her fate

I sense she is a child
with unruly golden hair
one who used to love to run with the wind
whose limbs were strong and growing
I believe she danced in the sunshine
twirled in the cool green grass
caught snowflakes on her tongue
breathed deeply the crisp fresh air
I believe she was alive once
inquisitive
sensitive
I think she must have laughed with delight
at the beauty she saw
in rocks
and leaves
in stars
and trees
in clouds
and fields
She was a child
who was fully alive
like the wriggly trusting puppy
she loves
with all of her heart

She was animated
and knew the joy of life
until
abuse stole her spark
left her dark
and pulverized
She could no longer dance
or laugh
and she watched the wind
run
without her

I think she withdrew
deep within herself
in a vain attempt to protect herself
from the crippling blows
the horrible physical
emotional
sexual abuse
the violent environment
the nightmare of her world
The lack of love and nurture
broke her
into a zillion pieces
annihilated her
mutilated her
decimated her
crushed her
and left her as she is
today

She is bloody
trapped
isolated behind her walls
She is deathly quiet
shunning oxygen
existing on emptiness
surviving
but not thriving
not living
not alive

What does she want from me?
Why is she there?
I feel her watching me
feel her pleading eyes follow me
as I go about my day
She is like a scratchy sweater
too warm and too tight
pricking, itching, scraping me
binding, squeezing, restricting me
I am so uncomfortable with her
uneasy
wary
wanting her to go away
wanting her to leave me alone
to release me from her prickly
painful touch

I fear her
for I am afraid
she is not simply an elusive ghost
haunting and unsettling me
dwelling where I can’t quite see her
to the left of me
I am afraid
if I look too closely
I will find
she wears my face
shares my heart
sees with my eyes
cries my tears
tastes my fear
and that it is my blood
she is bleeding
my blood
running through her veins
spilling from her wounds

I can’t bear to look at her too closely
because I fear
this broken
horribly disfigured child
is me

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.