Tag Archives: childhood sexual abuse

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.

Dominoes

Time.  It takes so much time.  To lay them out.  The intricate design.  The perfect spacing.  Tedious work, to accomplish the plan.  To achieve the desired outcome.

One tile at a time, placed with purpose.  Adjusted.  Adjusted again.  A slight nudge to the right.  Move them closer together here and there.  There is a goal.  A dream.  A whisper of a hope that it will all be worth it in the end.  And that things will work out.

Placing dominoes.  Measuring carefully.  To make it happen.  My plan.

By the time I am 30, I will have done…  I will have been…

In my next job, I will be…  I will make…

By the time I’m 45, I will have…  I will know…

I placed my dominoes precisely.  I believed.  I believed in carefully laid plans.  Dominoes that would fall the way they should.  All lined up, ready, in perfect rows that formed a precise, exquisite pattern.  I believed the preparation and hard work would bring about desired results.  And the future would be different, very different, from the past.

When I hit 30, I still hadn’t done.  I still hadn’t been.

My next job wasn’t.  I still don’t know.  I never have made.  And I don’t have.

The first domino fell.  The next two dropped as planned.  I survived.  I escaped.

But the fourth one…it didn’t go so well.  Healing from the devastating abuse of my childhood didn’t happen.  Which meant the fifth didn’t work out as planned either.  It fell in the wrong direction altogether.  Finding love?  Not in the dominoes.

By then, all the frantic adjustments in the world couldn’t save me.  Couldn’t turn things around.  Dominoes falling all over the place.  The design forever ruined.  The plan in shambles.

Once the first domino fell, the second, the third, once they missed the next planned target, failing to knock down critical tiles, skipping key turns, it was over.  Before it began.  Everything fell apart.  No order.  Doomed before the first tile tipped and dropped, in spite of how meticulously they had been laid out.

I tried to change the pattern that was set in motion when I was born into a family led by parents who were mentally ill, narcissistic and abusive.  I tried.  But the pattern couldn’t be broken.  It couldn’t be altered.  The dominoes fell and collapsed and crashed in chaotic frenzy.

Dominoes.  Scattered everywhere.  Strewn across the floor.  The pattern ruined.  Wrecked.  Nothing to do but start over.  And it’s too late to start over.

Dreams.  Lost and shattered.  In shambles, laying at my feet.  Destroyed.

Out of options.

The thing about life…you only get one chance.  If you crash and burn, if the dominoes don’t fall the way you expected, the way you need them to fall, there are no do-overs.  What’s done is done.

I stand, defeated, and view the ruins.  There is nothing left to do.  This mess is all that remains of my labor.  Of my hopes.  Random dominoes without meaning.  Life without meaning.  What was set in motion at birth could not be changed.  Chaos prevailed.    As tends to happen when something goes awry the moment the first domino tilts, wobbles and erratically falls.

Pivotal Moments

Pivotal moments.  They don’t announce themselves.  Most of the time they are gone in virtually the same second you become conscious of them.  Precisely when you become aware of the fact they hold extraordinary significance.  Every life holds a few  “lightning bolt” revelations; some experience more than others.  It is only in looking back we are allowed to see their weight, importance, impact.  Only when looking back do we see them for what they truly are.

Game changers.

The first time I can remember my father sexually abusing me.  Not the first time he actually did sexually abuse me.  That, I don’t remember.  I was too young to process what was happening, so I turned it all into a weird fantasy. Wrapped it in a blanket to hide it from sight.  To mask it.  Because I was too little to comprehend.  But as I grew older, hiding it didn’t work.  Making it into something different altogether became impossible. The first time I remember, really remember, when the band-aid was ripped off and I saw what he was doing for what it was, time stood still.

The moment when I grasped it was over.  That he was done with me sexually.  I was 14.  I walked from my bedroom into the living room and noticed specks of dust dancing in the air in the sunbeams shining through the glass window of the front door.  I stopped.  Suddenly unable to walk.  Or move.  Watched the particles rise and fall in the dappled light.  And just like that, I knew.  I don’t know how I knew, but I knew.   And I took my first breath of air in years.

Standing on the edge of the playground in 6th grade, watching all the other children laugh and play, running and chasing each other, swinging, playing on the merry-go-round while I stood to the side, taking it all in.  In a panic. Desperately trying to figure out what had caused the world I had known to completely change.  Overnight. What had turned the familiar into something foreign and terrifying and unrecognizable.

Realizing in my late 30’s…it wasn’t the world that changed.  It was me.  I had been changed.  Forever altered by abuse.  Unable to ever see life in the way I had only seconds before.  I had been tainted.  Shattered.

Falling in love and getting married.  Finally, a dream come true, or so I thought.  Briefly.

Two weeks later, newly married, driving to the city where my husband grew up with all of our worldly possessions, abruptly and unexpectedly realizing he regretted having married me. Didn’t love me and never had.  Destroyed because I was unwanted and not cherished.  I had been judged, found to be defective and rejected yet again.   He was ashamed to introduce me to his friends.  He was ashamed of me and didn’t want to take me “home.”

At 14, in Civics class, learning about the dangers of drug abuse, but seeing them as a way to survive the nightmare of my home life.  Maybe the only way.  A way to survive the abuse.  A way to run away without running away.  A way to numb the raw pain and agony.

Meeting God for the first time at age 23.  Everything changed.   Me included.  Yet, too many things stayed the same, even as the world shifted and morphed.

The time I begged my husband to be patient with me and asked him to give me a little time to recover when the hurt that was stored in my soul beat me down and chewed me up. I knew I was a mess and I was trying to fix myself, but it was hard.  I begged.  Only to be told he didn’t want to hear anything about my thoughts or feelings.  Only to be told to keep it to myself.  That he didn’t want to be bothered.  And the way he turned from me in disgust.  We had been married less than a year and his rejection broke something deep within me.  Drove the pain even further inward.

Graduating from high school.  Realizing I made it.  I survived.  And two weeks later, diploma in hand I left my parents behind.

When I started counseling, so full of hope.

When I finally gave up on counseling.  After 13 years of arduous work.  Still damaged.  Still wounded.  Unhealed.

When I tried to kill myself.  And failed, even at that.

When my husband left me for another woman. A woman I had called “friend.”  The man I had given my heart to.  Left it laying, vulnerable before him, even though he didn’t want anything to do with me.  The man I believed I would grow old with.  A marriage forever lost, though I had prayed, waiting for a miracle.  Waiting for him to see me.  To want me.  The man who walked away because he didn’t love me.  Because he didn’t believe in miracles.  Or wanted no part of a miracle that involved me.

When I lost my job.  Having no other income.  Having no one to turn to.  No options.

When I lost my home.  My dream home.

When I was forced to move back to the place where I grew up.  A place I hated, filled with horrible memories that ambushed me at every turn.

There are more.  Moments when the fabric of my world was ripped apart, cast aside, trampled.  Those times when I shattered, despite my frantic effort to hold all the pieces together.  Times that mortally wounded me, altered me, left me for dead.

Pivotal moments.  When everything shifted. When the ground gave way and I fell into a black hole.  Moments when time stood still, freezing me, trapping me, gutting me.  When the impact went extra deep and hit extra hard.  Changing me forever.

When time moved forward once again, I was no longer who I had been.  In each instance, something precious was lost.  Some important piece of me became extinct.  ‘Til only the fossil of a life that once was remained, buried under layers of dirt and anguish.

When nothing goes as planned.  When the paradigm shifts.  And you can never see the universe in the same way ever again.  No matter how hard you squint.  No matter how strong your glasses…or your desire…or your denial.   Moments that change the picture the puzzle would have made.  Equilibrium lost, the fall is hard and harsh and hurtful.  Nothing is as it seems. Nor will it ever be.

Pivotal moments.  When silence embraces you, then chucks  you down the rabbit hole.  When emptiness slaps you into unconsciousness.  Isolation mocks you.  For all that was is no more and all that might have been will never be.  All you knew and experienced as reality has vanished into the air.  And what you see before you, your “new” truth, is tinged with insanity.  Those crazy moments. They take your breath away.  Holding the pillow tight over your face until your heart, mercifully, stops beating.

Father

How could you look at me
shivering child
naked
pleading
shamed
and frightened
and not see
and not care
and not
stop

How could you touch me
foul caresses
playing out your perverted fantasies
using me
while I cried
while I begged you to stop
while I trembled
in terror
and humiliation
imploring and beseeching you
for mercy
for release

How could you become engorged
aroused
inflamed
spewing your sperm
on me
in me
as I whimpered
while I shuddered
while I shivered
broken
into a million pieces
beneath your repulsive touch
my air fouled
by your fetid breath
your sickness
controlling you
annihilating me

You used me
taking
until you got what you wanted
until your lust
was quieted
finally withdrawing
as the beat of your
uncaring heart
slowed
no longer thudding
your hideous penis
shrinking
shriveling at last
to nothing
no longer a weapon
your seed
spent
momentarily

How could you simply walk away
and leave me
shattered
destroyed
defiled
alone
to pick up the pieces
to try
to fit
the fragments
of my soul
back together
putting my emotions
in a deep, dark dungeon
because that was the only way
I could collect myself
painting a mask upon my disillusioned face
so I could leave the room
and not give you away

I struggled
to not feel
to not think
to not believe
to not question
until I could leave that room
while keeping your secret
until I could leave the room
and act as though
nothing
vile
had been done to me
nothing
deplorable
had happened
nothing unspeakable
had fatally wounded me

I was frozen in pain
for a very long time
each time
you came
into my room
into me
until you cast me aside
temporarily
sated

I was unable to move
afterward
for a very long time
each time you abused me
I worked so hard
to turn the world back right-side up
trying to find my feet
to stand
to walk from my bedroom
without turning
into dust

I struggled hard
to convince myself
you had not just
shot me through the heart
with your revolting
coagulating sperm
while expecting me to clean up your mess
then smugly walked away
leaving me lifeless and shattered
leaving me
for dead
without so much as
a backward glance

 

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.

 

Living Proof

I am living proof.  Semi-comatose, numb to the core, exhausted “living” proof that the foundation laid in infancy and reinforced in childhood will forever survive.  Having hardened into place, no amount of effort or labor will dislodge it.  Or mar its surface.  Or change its form.  What is experienced when the personality is unformed will become theory.  Theory proven time and time again becomes belief.   Belief that is unchallenged becomes truth.  Thus tried and tested, it becomes an unshakable foundation upon which the life of that child is built.  Even if it is woven through with lies and inaccuracies, once accepted and adopted, it will stand.

The odd thing in this is, the mind may even realize and acknowledge the conclusions that construct the foundation aren’t logical and must, therefore, not be trusted.  The brain can process and recognize the inaccuracies, but it can’t think away the unshakable beliefs of the heart and soul.  Those matters are so deep and close to the beginning of life, it seems as if they have always been.  And therefore, always will be.  No amount of countering will transform or fracture it.  Once it becomes a part of who we are, it is who we are for the rest of our lives.

Let me give you an example.

Having been told I am nothing, treated as if I am not a person, having been used, unloved and unvalued during my entire childhood, I learned I was worthless, defective, unlovable, existing only to meet the needs of others.  I met and married – twice – men who did not love or value me.  I was never able to please them, an unforgivable failure for one who is required to fulfill desires and dreams.  Nor could I live up to their expectations.  So, the lessons of my childhood became the experiences of my adulthood.  Belief hardened to steel.  It is this belief that lies at the core of my soul to this very day.  Decades later.  In spite of the fact I have attempted to challenge and change it, at great expense and with much effort, it remains.  When I am awake in the middle of the dark night, alone, empty and without hope, I cannot deny I still do not know I am a human being.  And yet I believe with an unshakable certainly I am not one who possesses even one iota of worth.

Living proof that foundations haphazardly laid by uncaring, abusive hands will prevail.  Beyond reason.  Throughout time.  Until death does us part.

Living proof that everything can change, but nothing changes.

The dichotomy that exists is this:  That durable, that unshakable, unmovable bedrock is broken.  Crumbling.   And it fractures all that stands upon it.

It is fragile.  Delicate.  Has been pieced together pebble by pebble, stone by stone.  Imperfect.  Unpredictable.  Fragile, because all that is built upon it is but a house of cards.  Waiting to fall.  Threatening to topple with every shift and shaking from all the cracks that run beneath and throughout.  And every crevice and crater is full to overflowing with crushing pain.

The pain and wounding hold that unstable foundation in place.  This impenetrable, erratic, wobbling foundation, cruelly fashioned by abusive and neglectful parents is immovable.  It is tough.  It is weak.  It is unbending.

I am living proof that what has been laid beneath our feet and put into place within the heart when the heart was vulnerable and needy will shape the course of our life.  We cannot go against the current, walk off the path, nor disregard the direction we have been thrust.  We can try.  But it will pull us back, smacking us back into line.  It reminds us that we are foolish to believe we can rise above, idiotic to hope for a better future, unwise to long for something that wasn’t woven into that unrelenting belief system that was tested and proven and upon which we were shattered time and time again.

I am living proof.  The hands that form us, they form us for life.  We never forget the feel of those harsh hands upon us.  Every slap.  Every touch.  Every time they destroy us and consume more of our fading innocence.  We become what they make us.  Clay on the potter’s wheel.  Created, thrown away and shattered, learning our place, learning who we are and who we are not.  We learn and as we learn, layer upon layer of “reality” is built beneath our feet.  And though we attempt to unmake what has been made, though we put all we have into tearing it apart, this fragile, unbending foundation placed beneath us remains.  Holds us in place; holds us back.  Reminding us from where we have come.

Always reminding us from where we have come.

Living proof.  I bear witness to their unholy craftsmanship.  It prevails.  It will affect me until I finally leave the foundation behind.  And step outside of time.

 

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.  

Kilroy Was Here

The war in which I fought, the war that left its indelible mark on me, was not a major battle lauded by historians as a great victory or a lesson learned.  It was not researched after the fact, analyzed, viewed from various interesting angles and dissected by great minds with the intent of culling any worthwhile data it might provide.  Nor was it documented with video equipment and reenacted, or detailed in studious dissertations.  It was not noted at all, in fact, by any person alive on planet earth, either during or after the terrible war had essentially ended.  It is actually only briefly noted within a massive list of words and definitions by a single two-syllable word that resides in Webster’s Dictionary.  Just one word to explain the hideous events that changed my world forever.  That annihilated me, though I fought for survival ever so gallantly.  One word.

Incest.

The battle was fought in my own home behind doors that were kept locked with the intent of keeping the boogieman safely outside.  But the boogieman was a resident of the house where I grew up.  He built it.  The locks were pathetically ineffective.  The fox was guarding the hen house.

I had to maintain the highest level of invisibility achievable by a child who was terrified of those who gave her life, only to metaphorically take it away.  I could not draw my name upon the wall to mark my passing.  To commemorate how I had fought and suffered.  No “Kilroy Was Here” left on a board or stone to prove I had been, though I was no more.

I cloaked myself in darkness, but again and again, the darkness betrayed me.  For it did not hide me from my father who quietly sneaked into my room at night and took what he wanted from me, leaving little behind.  It did not soften the impact of being raped, abused and used.  It did not shield me from his warped lust.

I could not leave a mark as a witness of what I suffered at their hands as they used me to satisfy their whims or to release their raging anger.  I could not speak of the atrocities.  Nor memorialize the tragedy.  No one knew of the war in which I so desperately struggled and fought.  I could not tell them.  I was a prisoner of an unknown and unacknowledged war.  People do not want to hear, they do not want to know the ugly truth of the torture such prisoners endure.  Even when the war is supported, they turn their head and shut their eyes.

“Kilroy Was Here” was a proclamation.  It was created as a visual symbol to commemorate the GI’s presence.  He left it behind as a sign for those who would come after.  To let them know he had been where they are now…and had lived to tell.

I have no clever graphic.  I have only words.  I leave them strewn here on this screen for those who will come after me.  And sadly, there will be many more who come after.  More broken souls who start their life wounded by those who were supposed to die protecting them.  Staggering under the weight of every form of child abuse.  And like any soldier who endures and fights in horrendous conditions while attempting to survive the unrelenting attacks of a deadly, disguised, fanatic enemy, we are each one forever changed by what we have endured.

We may survive, but we don’t get out alive.