Tag Archives: childhood sexual abuse

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.

 

When the Bough Breaks

“Rock-a-by baby
On the tree top,
When the wind blows
The cradle will rock.
When the bough breaks,
The cradle will fall,
And down will come baby
Cradle and all.”

The wind blew.  It started blowing before I was born.  A cold, harsh, unforgiving wind.  Destructive.  It blew. Relentlessly.  Every day.  Without ceasing.  My parents were driven by it; directionless without it.  And the first air to fill my lungs as I cried out after birth was that of the powerful wind that haunted me and cut a vicious path through my entire life.

The wind blew without ceasing.

My cradle rocked.  Wildly.  Brutally.  And the bough broke.  Time and time and time again.

Who takes a baby up to the top of the tree, only to let them fall?

The wind whipped up emotional storms.  Violent fights between my parents.  Hitting.  Slapping.  Throwing.  Leaving.  And when I tried to intervene as a tiny child, the hits and slaps landed on me.  After the storm, when they had both walked out, I held my younger brother, told him everything would be okay and cleaned up the mess.  Picked up the tossed dishes (melamine doesn’t break), the silverware that was strewn across the kitchen and small living room of the trailer where we lived.  Gathered the scattered clothing.  Did what I could to fix the unfix-able.  Did what I could to survive the fall.

Sometimes, the storm hit me full force.  There was nothing to hold on to but the ferocious wind that tossed me to the earth, broken and bloody.  No shelter.  No way to escape.  Couldn’t put the pieces back together.  The bough broke.  I fell.  Hard.

The wind blew in the abuse.  Abuse of every kind, shape and color.  It howled and danced in frenzied glee at the havoc it wreaked.  This is what the wind does.  It tears apart.  It shakes everything that can be shaken.  It destroys anything that can be destroyed.

I was vulnerable.  A child.  I was easy to take down and rip apart.  Easy to destroy.

I lived in the wind, slammed down to the ground, tossed like a weightless feather.  Watching the earth fall out from under me.  Watching my world disintegrate as we smashed to the ground once again.  Standing against the ferocious gale was impossible.  Walking in it took every bit of strength I could muster.  There was no keeping my balance.  Up was down and down was sideways.  The debris crashed into me as I crashed into it.  The tempest never died down.  Never grew tired or lessened in force.  Never lost interest in breaking the bough I clung to with tenacity, even as it was ripped out of my hand.

When the bough breaks, you fall.  You fall through empty air.  And you know it’s going to hurt when you hit the ground.  There is nothing to soften the blow.

When a child is born into the arms of the wind of chaos, even when you run, there is no escape.  It’s within you.  You can’t get away from yourself.

I tried.  I ran when I was 17.  The squall chased me.  I thought getting out of the cradle my parents created, that cradle into which I was born, I oh-so-stupidly thought it would change everything.  But I had been changed by the wind.  I was powerless against it.  When I ran, I took that sadistic wind with me.  It had become a part of the very fabric of my being.

It has been with me every day since birth.  Endlessly raging.

The storm is in me.  And when the wind blows, I break.  Everything I cling to is ripped away.  I fall to the earth, screaming silently in the wind as it rips my breath from my lungs, howling in delight at my  raw, ferocious pain and unending agony.

The Wonder Years

I missed them.  The “Wonder Years.”  The years of innocent, frivolous childhood.  The carefree days.  Believing in goodness and happy endings.  The time before fear.  The time before enlightenment.  Before darkness.

There is pain even then.  And though it seems big and awful, aging provides us with a perspective that allows us to see how trivial were our worries and betrayals.  A best friend plays with an “enemy.”  Someone we have a crush on develops a crush on someone else.  The popular kids seem to have it all together and they always appear to win.  But things are not as they appear.  We are learning life lessons as we play out our dramas on a small screen in our small, but expanding world.  The Wonder Years don’t require those massive, life-changing consequences.  Everything is softer.   We take small steps.  Eat small bites.  Figure things out slowly.  But without the weight of concern.  Without crushing responsibility.  Our course is still pliable.  Anything can happen.  And whatever happens…we believe it will be good.  We believe our course will eventually lead us to the pot of gold.

I missed it…that time of magic and excitement others experienced routinely.  That time before intimately comprehending the dark side of life.  I was born on the dark side.  I lived there.  Knew the streets.  The shadows.  I grew up under the curse.

It is not a place of security or wholesomeness.  Or beauty.

I watched classmates with parents who adored and encouraged them.  I saw the nurturing they received.  The attention.  The care.  And it baffled me.  I saw them make mistakes, yet survive.  They were not beaten or reduced to nothingness for taking a wrong step.  They were not made to pay with their soul.  Maybe with their allowance.  But the mistakes they made didn’t mean they WERE a mistake.  They cried their tears, dried their eyes and laughed again as their parents lovingly watched over them.

I learned very early that those wonder years were just a facade.  A fantasy.  I peeled away the tissue, but there was no gift within the wrapping.   I saw behind the curtain.   And there were monsters there.

I was tightly swathed in darkness and rejection.  I was surrounded by abuse of every kind that came from every direction and I had nowhere to run nor any way of escape.  I walked through the day quiet as a mouse, hiding and running from those who gave me physical life.  Avoiding contact, for they were the ones who sucked dry my emotional and mental life while draining the hope and innocence right out of me.   I lived in fear of things that went bump in the night because in my house, those monsters were real, alive and hungry. They ate my heart and soul and enjoyed the meal.  In my house, the worst did happen.  And in my house, I bore all the blame.  All the responsibility.  The emptiness and dysfunction was somehow my fault because I could never fill them up.

I didn’t feel cherished or wanted.  I never recall a time when I was without heavy weights on my shoulders.  There are no memories of feeling light and unburdened.  Free and unrestricted and alive.  I died young, there alone in the terrible darkness.  Old beyond my years.  Broken before I even got a chance to take my first faltering steps.  Never flying.

I missed the Wonder Years, though I longed for that feeling of lightness and joy.  I wanted to taste it.  I wanted to soar…just for a little while.  To feel weightless and safe and ecstatic simply to be alive with the sunshine warming my head while the wind carried me.

But once you have lost your innocence, once you have had your trust ripped violently away, once you have been violated, there is no turning back the page.  No going backward in time.  Once you have had a bite from the apple, a new, horrible reality is revealed.  Once you have been thrust into the unending darkness and seen the face of evil, the only wonder you know is that of wondering if you will survive.

And mostly, you don’t.  Because life without wonder is just marking time.

 

Mixed Messages

The world is confusing.  It is especially so for a young child.  Antennas are fully extended.  Nothing is understood.  Everything is happening quickly and it’s being assimilated, sorted, processed and classified just as swiftly.  A massive amount of information is being filed away in their vulnerable heart.  In their curious mind.  Coming to conclusions.  They are feeling their way along. Trying to avoid anything that explodes newly laid foundations.  Trying to avoid anything that is too scary or painful.  Trying to chew before swallowing.

They listen to the words adults fling back and forth around them.  The adults who are parenting them.  Who matter the most.  Those words they speak carry much weight.  Much more weight than the words of others…at least while they are young.  They listen.  Catch those words.  Ponder them.  And learn.

Yet, actions speak louder than words.  Which is why confusion descends, wrapping them in a thick, unrelenting fog.

Sometimes, the mixed messages cause so much dissonance, the child fractures.

“We love you so much!”  But in the dead of the night, the daddy sneaks quietly into her room and uses her as a living, breathing sex toy.  Or the mother slaps her and drags her by her long hair because she didn’t complete every chore on a 2-page list between the time she got off school and when her mother arrived home from work.

“We prayed for a little girl just like you!”  But her brother is the one who gets dental care, who is taken to the doctor when he is sick, who doesn’t even have to do chores.

“If only you would…lose weight, make better grades, smile, be more popular, clean the house without being asked, like the clothes I want to wear…”  “If only you had…blonde hair, a better personality, a prettier face, slimmer legs, a smaller butt…”  There are lots of “if only” messages.  If only, then we could love you, accept you, like you, be proud of you, want you.

We love you…if only.  We love you, but oh, you’re not as mature as we thought you were.  You’re not as resourceful as we thought you were.  You’re not as worthwhile, valuable, nice, pretty, smart…as we thought you were, thought you should be, wanted you to be, expected you to be, needed you to be.

We needed you to be so much more.

We love you…you were supposed to fulfill our dreams and meet our every need, make our life wonderful and make us happy.  Instead…you’re too much trouble, too much work, you’re a disappointment, you’re a failure, you’re making things harder for me, you need too much, you aren’t doing everything we want you to do, you’re not acting like we want you to act, you’re not performing up to standard, you’re not living up to our expectations…

We love you.  We hit you because you deserve it.  We abuse you because we own you. Because you owe it to us to make us happy. We reject you.  Your needs don’t matter.  We love you.  Smile, dammit!  Do what I say.  Don’t tell anyone.  Don’t look at me like that!  What do you want from me?  We love you.  Not now.  Leave me alone.  I have too many problems of my own to deal with without having to think about you.  You’re not making my life better.  Or easier.  What’s wrong with you?  You’re so fat!  Clean your plate!  I don’t care what you need.  Or what you think.  Clean the house.  Keep the secrets.  We love you.  Do you know how expensive it is to go to the doctor!  You had better be sick enough to justify all that money being spent on you!  Mow the grass.  Clean out the refrigerator.  Mop the floor.  Dust the paneling.  Clean the kitchen.  Vacuum.  Wash the windows.  Make me whole.  Make me feel good about myself and how I’m doing as a parent.  Fix my life.  Why can’t you be more like her?  You’re making us look bad.  Keep your mouth shut.  We love you.  How dare you!  You’re so disappointing.  We can’t be bothered.  Go to your room.  We love you.

The child tries.  Tries to sort through the words.  Tries to comprehend the meaning of what they are saying.  These very important people who are shaping them. Tries to make sense of their actions.  Tries to get the pieces to fit together.  Tries to find a way to make it make sense.

“Love” is nothing more than rejection hiding behind sweet words.  It is abuse, using, hitting.  It means being tolerated if you remain silent.  If you perform to standard.  Yet the standard is constantly changing for the bar is steadily moved higher when you come close to succeeding. You have to earn it, this thing called love.  And the price is high.

Being loved means being judged and found lacking.  It means having no value or worth.

It is the only way to get the mixed messages to fit into one coherent concept.  It is the only way to resolve the distortion, the startling clash between opposing perspectives.  It is the only way those opposing perspectives can exist together in the same room.  Or be spoken with the same breath.

For the other alternative, the one that CAN’T BE TRUE NO MATTER WHAT is that what they are showing you, what they are doing to you, what they are asking of you and demanding from you…isn’t actually love…at all.

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.

 

I Hold My Breath

I hold my breath.  Hold it in.  It’s what I have to do.  To keep all the painful emotion inside.  All the disgusting yuck inside.   Inside where it must stay.  To inhale…to exhale…both would give me away.  Both would allow everyone to see my defects.  My brokenness.  The “yuck” that is me.  So I hold my breath.  I hold it all deep down in the depths of me.  Where it can’t escape inadvertently.

I hold my breath to keep from confirming everyone’s suspicions.  They know I am not like them.  They sense I’m different.  A different species.  Alien. They suspect there are things inside of me that aren’t inside of them.  Ugly things.  Dark things.  Things that need to be held in, never shared, that should never see the light of day.

I hold my breath because I’m not sure I deserve air.  I’m not sure I am worthy to partake.  That I have done enough to earn the right to breathe.

I hold my breath because I am afraid.  Of everything.  I wait, cringing inside, for the blow that is sure to come.  And I am afraid because I don’t know if I will be able to survive the next one.  I’m afraid because I’m not sure I will want to survive the next one.  I’m afraid of what the next blow will cost me.  For I am sure the price will be too high for me to pay, even if I find I want to pay it.

I hold my breath and smile.  Acting as if all is well.  Pretending to be who I was supposed to be, but will never be because that person didn’t survive her childhood.  Walking dead woman…can’t let it show.  Some secrets are not meant to be revealed.  Not ever.  So, I hold my breath.  Hold it in.  Even as it explodes inside of me.

I hold my breath and perform to the best of my ability.  Try to be good enough.  Try to do enough.  Try to do it all without breathing.  Without bothering anyone.  Without causing ripples or stirring the still, silent air.  Never daring to relax enough to cautiously take a tiny, simple breath.  A sip.  Never daring to let down my guard.  To let my mask slip.  To allow my fractures to show for even a second.

I hold my breath so I won’t offend unduly.  For I have come to understand, by simply existing, I offend.  I am a freak of nature.  Unspeakable.  Horrible.  If I hold my breath, I can almost remain invisible.  If I hold my breath, I can be a ghost.

I hold my breath because I’m not at all sure I deserve to live.  Nor am actually I sure I am still alive.  Dead things, you see, do not need air.  They can’t perish without it because they no longer require it to survive.  So, I have come to wonder if I’m holding my breath because I have finally died.    If the time for breathing has passed me by.  If I can finally exhale.  And finally let everything I have been hiding and holding in place for so many years…quietly go.