Tag Archives: damage

To Be Seen

When you grow up with abusive parents, you tend to learn some hard lessons very quickly.  You learn by osmosis, without anyone speaking a word.  It’s there in the air.  You breath it in and just like that, you know.

One of the first, most critical lessons you learn, is that your parents are not there to care for you; you exist to care for them.  To meet their every need.  Or desire.  So, if you are to survive, you must see what can’t be seen, hear what hasn’t been spoken, perceive the intent of the heart behind verbalized words, and accept that reality and truth are cloaked by smiles and pleasantries.  You must read the shifts in mood and atmosphere.  React before there has been an action.  Anticipate danger so you can escape before everything explodes and falls out from under you.  You must recognize the monsters who live within, who are secretly watching and waiting, harboring ravenous, ungodly cravings, their presence masked by your parent’s innocuous faces.

You learn that certain things are expected.  Certain things are forbidden.  Certain actions are mandatory.  There are thoughts that must never be vocalized.  Questions you must never ask.  The abuse teaches you what you must and must not do.  Who you must be.  Who you must never be.  What you must say and must not dare to utter, not even if you whisper the words in your mind when you are alone in your empty world.  You learn.  When it’s safe to come out and when you should hide.  What is required.  Demanded.  How to earn the right to exist.  What you must do to protect the family.  You learn because abuse is a harsh taskmaster, painfully driving the points home.

By the time you reach the tender age of 4, you know all of this and much, much more.

You learn that being seen is dangerous.  Being known makes you a target.  If your parents don’t really see you, they might forget about you for a while.  If they don’t know your heart, they can’t gouge their sharp, cutting words into your weakest parts.  You come to understand their world is all about them.   What they want.  What they need.  They’ll find you when they want something from you.  If you’re fortunate, you’ll have some space, some time in between when you can breathe and recover from your encounters with them.  If you can protect yourself well enough, you just might make it through another day.

You learn to take soundless, shallow breaths and to expect nothing from those who created you.  Nothing but abuse.  Many different varieties of abuse.

You also learn that it’s dangerous to be seen and known by others, those you interact with outside the home.  You quickly realize any recognition requires quick thinking to effectively hide in plain sight.  Wearing a heavy, suffocating mask.  Smiling when you want to cry.  Not talking, not sharing, remaining a closed book with a pleasant cover.  You learn to wear silence like your own skin.  Because you must not tell the secrets.  You must never talk about the things that happen in the dead of the night behind drawn curtains and locked doors.

You must not be seen.  Known.  The truth must never be revealed.

You learn to live in a very dark space in a very lonely sphere.

Once you enter elementary school, you discover how different you are from your classmates.  They laugh from their heart and belly.  They smile with their eyes and their soul.  They are who they are and don’t yet have anything to hide.  No dark secrets to guard.  They are helium-filled balloons, fluffy white clouds meandering across a blue sky in the sunshine, butterflies, ice cream and rainbows.  They haven’t yet glimpsed the darkness of life.  They haven’t had to live in a perpetual, frightening nightmare where one wanders through thick fog, stalked by dangerous predators.

But you must appear to be the same.  The same as the untouched.  You must never let them see the you who lives inside.

Those lessons are driven deep into the psyche and personality.  They become who you are.  They shape everything you do.  They define and limit your possibilities.   The older you get, the deeper they go.

You learn to keep yourself to yourself.  To keep your feelings tightly bottled inside your innermost being.  To numb your heart in order to endure the unbearable agony of your existence.  You realize that who you are…the real you…is unacceptable.  No matter how hard you try, how much you give, how well you perform, you are defective.  Less than.   Shattered.  And because you are fractured, oozing from raw wounds, you are a burden and threat to others.  An unbearable weight.  A liability.  Toxic.

You have become an alien, forced to wear a disguise as you walk among the humans around you while desperately trying to avoid being discovered.

You learn.  That no matter how painfully you long to connect with someone in an intense, profound way, you can’t.  Because you can’t let them see you.  If they see how broken you are, how much “baggage” you carry, the ugly scars that crisscross your heart, they will turn away in shock and horror at even a glimpse of the real you.  You are too much of an encumbrance for anyone to bear.

To be seen.  For who you really are.  The greatest risk.  A risk you wish you could take.  Because it is also your greatest desire.

To be seen and loved for who you really are.  A wild, ridiculous hope.  The impossible dream.

There are too many secrets that must be kept.  Too many deep, dark secrets and foul deformities within you that must never see the light of day.

Brittle

Brittle (brit·tle) – Hard, but liable to break or shatter easily.  Having hardness and rigidity, but little tensile strength.  Easily damaged or destroyed.  synonyms:         breakable, splintery, shatterable, fragile, frail, delicate, rigid.

There’s a procedure for hardening metal.  Just the right amount of heat. Quench.  Applying too much heat to steel or heating it for too long at a high temperature causes the metal to become brittle.

Interestingly, it works the same way with people.  We can take the heat, but then we need that quench.  The relief.  The time of rest and recovery.  Applying too much heat (trauma) or exposing us to that trauma over a long period of time causes brittleness.

Over time, after seemingly unending trauma, bad luck, hardship and heartbreak, after experiencing repeated rejection and injustice, suffering loss after loss after loss, it doesn’t take much to cause an irreparable break.  The little things that would not normally be a problem are suddenly insurmountable.  The small amount of stability you appeared to possess evaporates and is lost as your carefully constructed world crumbles…over nothing.

You don’t crack in the heat.  But afterwards, when you have a small window in which to breathe, all strength zapped, the tiniest bit of difficulty causes catastrophic collapse.

“What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”  –Nietzsche

 

Interestingly, increased pressure or heat, when short term and controlled, will actually boost the brittle strength of a material.  Even glass can be toughened effectively in this manner.  But if the pressure is too great or it is applied for an extended period of time, it fractures the material instead of producing additional strength.  If the heat is too high and prolonged, it weakens and deteriorates the material instead of fortifying it.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…unless it pushes you too far. Unless it’s too much over too long a period of time.

If it’s utterly overwhelming or if the trauma lasts interminably, it weakens you, causing you to shatter more easily than ever before.  Instead of building your endurance, it destroys you, draining what little resilience you had, causing fragility, insecurity and brittleness.

I know this is true.  Because I used to be very, very strong.  I could take it.  I would always find a way to survive.  Maybe I had such strength because I believed the heat would end before it consumed me. The pressure would be alleviated before it crushed me.  I carried the weight and walked on, believing I would find relief before I splintered beyond repair.

Brittleness (brit·tle·ness) ) – The tendency to break without being significantly distorted or exposed to a high level of stress.  Easily disrupted, overthrown or damaged.

Now, I walk carefully and fearfully through life, praying nothing hits me too hard.  I know it will not take a crisis to shatter me.  I feel it deep in my bones.  Even “normal” stressors often become overwhelming and feel impossible to resolve or survive.  When the earth-shattering catastrophe does occur, I crumble inside, implode, fragmenting again and again until I am but a shell filled with dust that somehow continues to walk on without an intact soul.

 Even the little things, the day-to-day trials, feel immense and destructive.  Icy roads become an insurmountable barrier.  A threat I can’t defeat.  A challenge I can’t conquer.  The season of winter is wrought with stress and danger, presenting unsurvivable challenges and life-threatening trials.  Other people don’t lay awake at night wondering how they are going to successfully summon the strength to drive on hazardous pavement so as to fulfill work obligations and requirements.  Nor do they feel consumed with guilt if they decide to stay home for the day if they feel they are not up to the task.  They don’t judge themselves harshly for caring for themselves.  Nor do they label themselves as failures.  To them, it is a small thing.  Nothing to fret about.  They venture out…or they don’t.  It doesn’t crush them.  It doesn’t annihilate them.  It is not more than they can bear to face.

But I am undone.  Brittle, I fracture.  Outwardly, it may not be that obvious, if anyone notices at all.  But internally, I am destroyed.  Internally, I crumble and fall.

In a real crisis, I become numb; my soul frost-bitten.  I can no longer feel my extremities.  I can’t so much as raise my arms to protect myself from the blows.  Punch after punch, I am torn apart and laid to waste.

When I crumble, I have to withdraw, pull back, hide away so I can try to piece myself back together.  I have grown weary of piecing myself back together.  I have lost the ability to glue the shards and debris back into a whole person.  More than ever, my restorative efforts have left me deeply scarred, bearing a strong resemblance to a Picasso painting.  Or worse.

There is much guilt and shame associated with my lack of resiliency.  My brittleness of heart and soul.  The fragmentation of my psyche.  My inability to cope with the storms of life or the weather of the season.

Before the years of childhood abuse, the incest, the repeated blows of hand and word; before the rejection of a husband I loved, but who never loved me; before the injustices of the workplace where promotions are given to the popular and the masculine, the political players and manipulators; before my fear imprisoned me within walls high and mighty; before my mask fastened and melded to my face until I forgot who I am, I was pliable, hopeful, sensitive, loving and strong.  Before the furnace, the pressure, the unending stress, I was capable and undefeatable.  Before losing house and husband, friends and job, dreams and hope, I was tough, tenacious and undefeated.  I had not yet overcome, but I had not yet been overwhelmed.  I endured.  I fought.  I pushed through.  Damn the torpedoes…full speed ahead.

Brittle – From an unrecorded Old English adjective *brytel , related to brytan “to crush, pound, to break to pieces.”

I am now haunted by my former enthusiasm and tenacity.  By the choices that brought me to this point of desolation.

I have been crushed.  I have been pounded.  I have splintered and exploded into a million pieces.  I am horrified and thoroughly ashamed of the mess I have become.  Ashamed of my inability to bear the heat and pressure.  Cracked.  Weak.  Brittle.  Liable to break or shatter easily.  Splintery.  And useless.  Beyond repair.

 

Kilroy

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 officially ended.  It is, in fact, 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 with two simple, unassuming syllables, expected to encapsulate 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, not of keeping the boogieman safely outside, but of keeping the terrible secrets that occurred inside safe from prying eyes.  For the boogieman was a resident of the house where I grew up.  He built it.  The locks were pathetically ineffective in providing any kind of protection.  The fox was guarding the hen house.  Instead, they trapped me inside with the monsters, never whispering a word of what transpired behind those heavy wooden doors they valiantly secured.

One word.

Abuse.

I had to maintain the highest achievable level of invisibility to survive the secrets.  I was a silent child, terrified of those who gave me life, only to metaphorically take it away.  I could not draw attention to my battle.  Record my name upon the wall to mark my passing.  To commemorate how I had fought and suffered.  Not then. No “Kilroy Was Here” was left on board or stone to prove I had struggled and been grievously wounded.  That I had existed, though I was no more.

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

The only one protected by the darkness was my abuser.  The only one protected by the locks securely engaged, barring entrance from the world outside, was my rapist.  My father.  The only people shielded by the blinds tightly drawn against the light were my parents.  They who made me, used me and destroyed me.

I could not leave a mark as witness of what I suffered at hands that devoured me to satisfy their whims.  I was an easy target for their anger, providing a temporary release for their rage.  I was at their mercy…and they had no mercy for me.

Yet, I could not speak of the atrocities.  Nor memorialize the tragedy.  No one knew of the conflict in which I so desperately struggled and fought.  I could not tell them, for I had no voice.  I was a prisoner of an unknown and unacknowledged war, held by an enemy hiding behind masks bearing my parent’s faces.

Even if someone suspected evil lurked within the fortified house where I was a prisoner, they did nothing but turn and walk away.  Preferring to ignore the abomination.  Preferring to remain blind, on the outside, untouched.  Safe.

It is too much ask someone to watch the decimation of a defenseless child.  To fight on their behalf.

“Kilroy Was Here” was a proclamation.  It was created as a visual symbol, one that would commemorate the GI’s presence.  What he had experienced.  He left it behind as a sign for those who would come after.  To let them know he had been where they now stood…and had lived to tell, if only for another moment or two in time.

I have no clever graphic.  No miraculous tale of glory, bravery or battles won.  I have only words.  Inadequate words.  Words that can never sufficiently explain.  That will never truly tell the story.

I leave them strewn here, these simple, inadequate words, scattered across this screen for those who will come after me.  This is my “Kilroy.”  The marker I place to commemorate the battles fought.  I was left to perish, a broken soul.  Wounded by those who were supposed to die protecting me.  I have staggered beneath the weight of every form of child abuse.  And like any soldier who endures and fights in horrendous conditions, attempting to survive the unrelenting attacks of a deadly, disguised, fanatic enemy, I have been forever changed by what I have endured.

I moved on, but found no path back to the world outside the locked doors of my childhood.  Those who should have cared never did.  Never will.  So I leave these meager words stacked upon this page as a memorial, a visible symbol of the inner destruction.

Kilroy was here.  A tiny child, alone in the chaos, tortured, twisted, despised and used.  That little girl I once was started life whole and hopeful, a living, joyful being.  It is she who is buried beneath the memorial stones I stack and shape with my imperfectly placed words.  For wars inevitably have casualties.  And children can die in a million different ways.

 

Soul Whispers

I read a quote recently.  “Follow your dreams for they are whispers from your soul.” 

It caused some introspection. 

My soul no longer whispers.  I have no dreams to follow.  My pockets were once full of them.  I held them close, planning, examining them, viewing them with excitement.  I worked and waited for the day they would come true, one at a time.  I believed.  I heard them whisper to my heart, giving me hope.  Providing something to look forward to.  Something to live for.  A reason to keep trying.  Purpose.  Desire.

The first dream I can remember was the little girl dream of becoming a ballerina.  Though not yet in kindergarten, I begged for lessons.  Saved and spent my meager allowance on a poster of ballerinas in watercolor tutus to hang above my bed.  Watched ballet on TV.  I was mesmerized.  Such grace!  Such beauty!  I felt the stirrings in my limbs.  My legs longed to leap.  My feet to frolic and skip and twirl. My arms desired to move in fluid dance, precise and lovely.  Perfection from my fingers to toes. Beauty in motion.

But there were no lessons.  My parents laughed, told me I was silly when I attempted to twirl and soar.  They dismissed my dream as childish and frivolous.  A bad investment.

The second dream I recall was to learn to play piano.  As a small child, I came to love music.  It somehow set me free from the chaos and pain of my unpredictable world.  It spoke the language of my soul.  Again, I begged for lessons.  My best friend was learning to play and she hated it.  Hated practicing.  But I would sit with her and watch her fingers on the keys, moving and speaking, however imperfectly, creating a language built on beautiful sounds that resonated in my heart.  I watched, but watching was all I was ever allowed to do.  My fingers never learned to dance on the ivory.  My parents didn’t bother to acknowledge my pleas.  They dismissed them as foolish.  Wasteful.

Most forms of heartfelt artistic expression were denied me.  But they couldn’t take the pencil from my hand and notebook paper was relatively cheap.  I wrote.  My first poem was created when I was in first grade and I have never stopped writing.  It became my lifeline.  Page after page after page, the pain of my heart was recorded, expelled, neatly summed up and stored away.  I began to dream of writing books that would provide profound insights, inspiration and deeply move people’s hearts.  I hoped to become an author.  But surviving consumed my all my energy, even as writing saved my soul.

Still I write. 

At one point, I wanted to be an actress, but I was a quiet and shy child. I believed I would be good since I had to act every day of my life.  Act as if everything was normal.  As if my parents were loving and nurturing.  As if they protected me.  As if they weren’t abusing me.  Destroying me.  I had to paint a smile on my face, disguise the pain in my eyes, laugh at the right times, mirror the behavior of my peers, behave like everyone else.  All to avoid discovery.  Because I had been warned. I had to keep the secrets. Telling would cause the family to be torn apart. If anything happened to the family, it would be my fault.  I was forced to be the protector.  The protector who wore a mask and went through the motions.  Who gave an academy award performance every day of my childhood. 

I was an actress whose life depended on no one knowing I was acting.  But the dream of making this my profession died early.

When I was 13, my music teacher aunt persuaded my parents to buy me a cheap acoustic guitar so she could teach me some chords and a few songs.  Thus, the dream of becoming a singer was born.  I was motivated to learn, though I never became a good guitarist.   I started writing my own songs, setting my poems to music.  I wanted to share my pain with the world in hopes of touching the heart of another lonely, broken little girl.  I longed to connect in a deep way, hoping to find I wasn’t alone.  To let them know they were not alone.  But the songs were never heard.  I sang them in the dark, alone in my room, doors closed, softly, so as to not be overheard.  I released a little of the turmoil and injury through the words and simple chords.  It was cathartic.  I decided I had finally found my calling.   The dream to end all dreams. And hope blossomed.

My voice was good, but untrained.  When I asked for lessons, my mother demanded I sing her a song.  She laughed when I was done and told me I sounded awful; nothing like Barbra Streisand.  Thus dismissed, I never asked for anything from them again.  I had been judged and found unacceptable yet again. After, I sang, but always in solitude, fearful of being overheard and rejected.  Even after I left my childhood behind, I never gained the confidence to share that part of myself with others.

As I matured, I longed to have a relationship with someone special; a heart connection that rendered words unnecessary.  I wanted to dive deep, far below the surface, to share those places we all hide.  Another dream.  A frivolous dream.  I fantasized about loving someone who loved me back with all of their heart and soul.  Someone who would keep me safe.  Who would cherish me.  Who would understand my pain.  And care.  Who would want me in spite of my deficiencies.

Foolish.  So foolish.

I dreamed of making a difference in the world.  Changing it for the better.  Doing something remarkable, something that would endure. 

More foolishness.

Whispers.  Whispers in my heart.  Whispers that gave me a reason to keep dreaming.

I dreamed of healing.  Of finally achieving a normal level of wholeness.  I worked hard for it.  Could almost see it through the haze. I even believed I could finally write that book, once I had achieved a state of stability and freedom, chronicling my journey in hopes of helping others who had suffered as I had suffered.  I wanted to help them find the path to well-being and encourage them during their own journey. 

I had less lofty dreams as well.  To live by the ocean.  To lose weight.  To ride in a hot air balloon.  To run a marathon.  Whispers.  “Keep going…there will be things that will make life worth living,” they purred. 

Whispers.  Quietly urging me onward.  Encouraging me to continue the journey.

I have never achieved the necessary Hollywood ending.  I never found my way out of the darkness.  And so, I have had nothing to offer.  The book remains half written.

Reality assailed and betrayed me again and again.  One by one, my dreams faded and died.

 I don’t know when the whispers faded into silence. But now, they are nothing but a memory. 

It is silent, here in my world.  In my heart.  No urgings.  No desires.  No hopes.  No dreams.  I can no longer imagine something positive occurring.   I stagger forward because I must.  Time requires it.  But there are no whispers within me.  Nothing to compel me to continue.  All I have left are these poorly written words, flung out into the universe, without hope of ever being heard.  No hope of connection.  Nor salvation.

My life ended almost as it began.  Hammered by fists.  Molested.  Slapped with hands and spiteful, selfish words.  Rejected.  Unwanted.  Never able to measure up.  Broken.  Raped by my own father.  Damaged and wounded, I tried.  I tried to do everything right, but I failed.  I tried to overcome.  I listened to the whispers and believed them.  But they lied. 

Life has always existed just beyond my reach.  Dreams are for other people, not for me.  I followed the whispers until they deserted me, left me here in the wilderness.  In this place of endless silence.  This in between place where I merely exist.   Just waiting for the final chapter.  For the end. 

I have no dreams.  There are no whispers emanating from my soul, quietly breathing into my ear.  Not even their echoes remain.

 

Darkness

Darkness is everywhere.  It comes in many forms.  Hides in plain sight.

Sometimes it is most extreme in the middle of a bright, sunny day.  When it is felt more than viewed with the eye.  Sometimes it is most profound in the middle of a cold, lonely night.  It creeps in during a too-quiet morning.  When a person responds harshly, in anger, in selfishness.  It comes on a stressful, chaotic afternoon.   On a rainy day.  Slinking in with the  setting of the sun.  The rising of the moon.  On the first rays of the morning.

Turning on the lights will not banish it.  Nor will smiling when in pain, ignoring it or willing yourself to disregard the overwhelming fear, loneliness and anguish that envelopes you.

When darkness comes calling, you can’t lock the doors to keep it at bay.  Nor can you run from it or hide yourself away.  It penetrates all barriers, breaks all locks, seeps beneath every defense.  When darkness targets you, nothing can save you.  It won’t rest until it has you by the throat, strangling you with long, cold, persistent fingers.

It wants to destroy you.  To imprison you.  To enslave you.

Darkness persists.  It permeates.  It putrefies.  It rapes, beats you and leaves you for dead.

It plants its seed deep in your soul.  The seed sprouts forth engulfing pain.  Anguish.  Terror.  Emptiness.  This unholy garden grows in the soul until it splinters you.  Then, it effortlessly harvests your hope and leaves you without a single spark of life in your eyes.

Darkness comes when least expected.  During a wedding.  In the middle of a church service.  At a Christmas party.  During a family reunion.  While you’re reading a book.  Taking a walk.  Shopping.  Suddenly it comes, out of nowhere, taking you by surprise, dragging you under the cold water, drowning you.  It sucks all the joy out of your world.  Your soul.  Tainting everything it touches.  Pulling you ever downward. Suffocating you.  Until you are ruined.

Sometimes it comes when you are a child, during an innocent afternoon spent with your father, your protector, the man you adore.  It comes.  It belittles and mocks you.  Breaks you. Until it finally destroys you.  Darkness reaches toward you with the father’s deviate hand when his perverted, horrible lust takes control.  When he touches your breasts.  Your clitoris.  Pushes his fingers inside of you.  Buries his penis in your mouth.  In your vagina.  Again and again.

Darkness comes.  It cackles with glee.  Gloats in its victory.

It takes you.  Has its way with you.  There is no escape.  And once you have been infected, impregnated, there is no cure.

Darkness comes when the man you love with all of your heart, the man you gave your life to, tells you he doesn’t love you.  And throws you away.  When he tells you that you are so much less than everyone else.  That you are inadequate, defective, disgusting.  When he tells you to keep the ugliness of who you are to yourself.  To keep it all inside.  Because he doesn’t want to hear it.  Doesn’t want to know you.  Doesn’t want to be bothered.

Darkness comes.  It comes cloaked in abuse.  In rejection.  In disdain.  And it, in turn, cloaks you in filthy shame while nothingness swallows you whole.

Light cannot penetrate this darkness.  Hope cannot endure it.

Darkness comes.  It destroys you; your life.  It steals away everything that matters.  Everything that was good about you.  Everything wonderful that might have been. It steals.  It destroys.  It takes.  It demands.  And it snickers with delight and triumph as it watches you wither away.  As you are consumed by numbness and emptiness. As you are utterly decimated.  Beyond redemption or restoration.

It rejoices while you are devoured by the dark seeds with which it impregnated you.

Wisdom cannot defeat it.  Nor can willpower.  Or logic.  Self-talk. Or fact.  Only love can overcome this kind of debauched, consuming, evil darkness.

But love can’t find you, cloaked as you are in shame, broken and decimated, hidden by the night.  And if love never finds you, you are doomed to dwell in that unbearable darkness forever.

And so, the years pass.  Your lifeblood flows from you, droplet after droplet.  The droplets form a river, an ocean.  Flowing and flowing.  Until time runs out.

Darkness comes; stealthy and persistent.  It comes.  There is no escape.  And it will never let you go.

 

 

Speak

I started talking in full sentences, or so I have been told.  No testing the waters with a half-formed “mama” or “dada.”  The first words I uttered, somewhat precociously when just over 8 months old, were “See da plane!”  And then I pointed to an airplane flying across the big blue sky as I laughed in delight.

Considering the amount of time my mother spent talking AT me, my articulate pronouncement becomes less impressive.

Until the day she died, my mother talked and talked and talked and talked endlessly.  Like a machine gun.  As she drew her last breath, she probably told God not to interrupt her.  She babbled on and on about indiscernible or irrelevant topics, often complaining about (mostly imagined) slights from childhood.  And then, there was her marriage.  Her husband, who had a wandering eye and hands to go with it.  And me, her colicky baby, who was a massive disappointment and energy drain.  The piles of poopy diapers.  Crying .  Needing to be held.  Having to be fed.  But she didn’t stop there, quickly skipping to all of her unfulfilled dreams.  Her unrealized fantasies.  She talked to her little captive audience, spewing her angry, disappointed, vindictive words over me like a heavy blanket.  She buried me with her words. Thus, my language skills developed early and my vocabulary was quite impressive by the time I reached my first birthday.

It didn’t take me too long after that to learn how to be silent.

Silence offered protection.  If I was quiet, my parents might not notice me.  Being noticed was, I soon realized, not a good thing.  Having needs was an imposition.  Requiring them to expend their limited resources on me was a clear indication of my selfishness, an observation and opinion they shared frequently and passionately with me throughout my life.  Silence was a shield.

Silence was protection from their rejection.  Calling attention to myself in any way led to being told how disappointing and self-centered I was.  They were supposed to be the center of the universe; not me.  I was to bow to them and be a constant reminder of how wonderful they were.  I was created to fulfill them.  Hiding in silence was my only guarantee of not having all my many failures and imperfections repeatedly thrown back in my face.

Silence also offered protection from being hit and slapped.  If I didn’t appear on their radar, their anger would be focused in a different direction.  At a different target.  Usually an inanimate one.  The wall.  Any object sitting within reach.  Though it terrified me when they threw and punched things, I couldn’t help but feel relief that I wasn’t the thing they were hitting and throwing.

It offered protection from judgement as well.  Being seen, noticed, meant being weighed,  measured…and found wanting.  I was forever failing to meet their expectations and requirements.  They were forever reminding me of this.

As I grew, the real attraction of hiding in silence came from a fearful need to go unnoticed by my father.  My father who began sexually abusing me around the time I turned 4.  If he didn’t hear me, he might not “see” me in that way.  And if he didn’t see me, he might not get quivery with lust ignited by my undeveloped body.  He might not suddenly transform into “bad daddy.”   I might be able to escape his penis for a whole day.

Though I didn’t understand how different I was or how abnormal was my childhood, I knew something was not right.  And just as surely, I knew I must never speak of it.  To anyone.

I swallowed my words.  Time and again, I held them in my mouth and forced them down my throat.  And the longer I swallowed them, the more they changed.  The letters rearranged, forming new sentences.  They became something they, at first, were not.  Toxic.

“Why don’t mommy and daddy love me?” became “I am unlovable.”

“Why do they hit me for no reason?” became “I am so bad; I deserve to be hit.”

“Why does daddy touch me like that and do those awful things to me with his hands, his mouth and his penis?” morphed into “I must be doing something to cause him to do this.  It must be my fault.”

“Why doesn’t anyone care about me?” turned into “I am a worthless object, not a person.  I am an object to be used and discarded at will.  Objects have no value.  Therefore, I have no value.”

“I wish someone would pay attention to me and want me,” became “I’m supposed to take care of everyone and everything around me.  I have to perform, to make everyone happy, to make them look good, to meet their expectations and fulfill their desires.  I am not supposed to have needs, but exist to meet the needs of others.”

When you swallow your words, they change.  And then they change you.

When I finally escaped my parents and later married, my husband only reinforced their message.  I didn’t speak the words I had swallowed, but cracked the door ever so slightly.  I warned him I was broken, that I grew up in an abusive home.   I took an enormous risk in telling him.  But he brushed my words away like you would shoo a fly that was buzzing around your head.

He told me he loved me.  But I learned quickly after we were married that he had deceived me.  He didn’t really care.  He told me point blank he didn’t want to hear my words.  He didn’t want to know what was inside of me.  He didn’t want to know my story or what it had made me.   What it had done to me. He wanted easy and smooth.  For me to keep myself to myself.  And so, as my fragile core shattered into a billion pieces, as I felt the life drain from me, I shut my mouth once more.

The door I had barely cracked slammed shut and closed tightly.  This time, I locked it behind me and threw away the key.  I tossed my hope into the wind and watched it scatter until every last particle was gone.

“There is hope,” became “It doesn’t matter.  Nothing matters.  I don’t matter.”

“Someone loves me!” turned into “Even God can’t find one single person on the face of this earth who can love me in spite of my flaws.  I don’t deserve to be loved.  I’m unlovable.”

“I can be real and connect with someone in a wonderful and meaningful way,” morphed into “I must hide myself away inside the dark places of my soul because I’m so hideous and unacceptable, I can’t let anyone see me the way I really am.  I’m too repulsive.  Too broken.  Too ruined.”

I have grown old while swallowing my words.  I have grown weary.  I am left with nothing.  It seems I now have nothing to lose.

And so, I write my story.  Week after week.  Piece after piece.  A fragment here and there.  I have finally given myself permission to speak.  To speak whether or not anyone hears.  To record the dreadful truth of my journey as a broken, abused being, crushed early and cast aside by all.  I will not hide in silence any longer.   I pull the foulness and pain out of the darkness where I have hidden it away and thrust it into the light.  Even if it isn’t pretty.  Even if it offends.  Even if it’s unacceptable.  I’m allowing myself to say those words I have for so long swallowed.  I record them here for others to read; to witness.  I present them, broken, twisted, despicable though they may be.  I release them from their cell into the universe.  Even if no one in that universe is listening.

I have decided I will not swallow another word.  I will speak.  And I will let the universe do with me whatever it will.

 

 

Thanksgiving

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

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

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

It’s a time of abundance and joy; or so we are told.  Sold.  The season of relationships.  Gatherings, recognizing and recounting all you have to be thankful for, expressions of love and appreciation.  A time of laughter, consuming, overeating, extravagant spending and connecting with those who matter the most to you.

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

Unless you have no family.  No meaningful connections.

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

Thanksgiving is just another day off work.

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

If this is you, it’s likely you will find yourself standing in line, as have I, at one of the few restaurants open on Thanksgiving Day.  Waiting for the 200+ people who arrived before you to eat with their families and head home, finally opening up a table for you.  You inch forward, listening to the chatter and lighthearted exchanges.  The giggles and groans.  You are assaulted by a wall of sound.  All around you.  Indistinguishable murmurs and laughter produced by the people standing in the snaking line in which you are waiting.  A line of people who have people.

I’ve often wondered: What are they all doing at a restaurant on Thanksgiving Day, waiting in a ridiculously long line of people expecting to eat a festive meal?

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

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

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

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

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

Even though I am in line with them, I am not with them.

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

I walk away from it.  Full.  Empty.  I walk away, a solitary figure, lonely and isolated.  I walk away from those who are joined, linked and coupled.  Those who have much to celebrate.  They represent life; a life where I will never belong.

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

I watch them out of the corner of my eye as I go, then turn away.  Enveloped by emptiness, I let it swallow me.

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

 

Lies

“Truth is treason in the empire of lies.”

Ron Paul

One thing I have learned in life is this:  we lie.  Often.  And sometimes for no reason.  We human beings have a very hard time telling the truth.

We have reasons.  Or we convince ourselves we do.  If not reasons, excuses.  Very good excuses.

A lot of the time, we tell “white lies,” as if lies could ever be good.  Wrapped up in niceness.  Lies meant to spare the feelings of the person we deceive.  Or to gently let us off the hook.  Kind lies.

At times, we lie because we’re afraid to speak the truth.  We fear rejection, repercussions, ridicule.  We betray our heart and thoughts to protect ourselves from pain.  We hold our cards close and cringe at our duplicity.

Many lie because they seek to shift blame or to avoid consequences.  We know we deserve condemnation, but we don’t want to have to pay the price.  Thus begins the deception.  We tell ourselves we aren’t truly guilty.  But we know.  We know what we’ve done.  Yet we do everything we can to talk our way out of it, even if it means making someone else look as if they are responsible.  Letting them take the fall.  If we have a conscience left, we may feel bad for a few days.  If not, if our conscience has been destroyed by our selfishness and narcissistic views, we may not give those lies a second thought.

A handful have become pathological liars, being dishonest even when the truth would benefit them.  They have somehow lost the ability to speak factually, or to know the truth, or both.  While compulsive liars are motivated by the desire to paint themselves in a favorable light, pathological liars habitually lie, typically to gain attention or sympathy.  They weave stories that are grandiose or fantastic in scope, making themselves the heroes or victims of the stories they concoct.

“The closer to the truth, the better the lie, and the truth itself, when it can be used, is the best lie.”

Isaac Asimov

We all lie, whatever our reasons, however frequently or infrequently.  At some point, we take a grain of truth and weave a story around it that is full of fiction.  A tapestry.  Sometimes others believe us.  Sometimes they don’t.   But we stand on the grain of truth encased in the falsehood, insisting we are being honest as we try to sell our tale based on the tiny sliver of reality we’ve buried at the core of it all.  We sell it to ourselves first, refusing to look our falsehood in the eye.  We tell it to ourselves again and again until we can no longer discern where the truth ends and the fabrication begins.

Of all the lies we tell, we tell our biggest lies are not told to others, but to ourselves.  In fact, we lie most frequently not to someone else, but to ourselves.  We don’t even need to speak the words.  We whisper them in our own ear time and time again.  Until finally, we believe wholeheartedly.  And those lies becomes our reality.

“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”
Soren Kierkegaard

The biggest lies I tell myself were taught to me when I was young and impressionable, perhaps by parents who were pathological liars, selfish, narcissistic and hell-bent on making themselves look like the hero.  “You’re such a disappointment.”  “You could be pretty if only…” If only I was thin.  If only my hair was blonde.  If only I would dress a certain way.  “You’re so much trouble; you’re too needy.”  “People would like you more if you would smile.  Stop being so serious.”  “Be quiet and stop bothering me!”  “You’re not the kind of person we hoped you would be. “  “You can do anything you want…well, not that…or that…”  You’re not (fill in the blank).  You aren’t going to amount to anything.  You’re not good enough.  You’re a failure.  You’re not easy to like.   You were supposed to…but you’ve let us down.

They were abusive in may ways.  The way they used their words has greatly contributed to my destruction.

Their displeasure stacked up.  Walls built with pain as mortar.  Built word upon word.  Disappointment upon disappointment.  Rejection upon rejection.  Demand upon demand.  Unfulfilled expectation upon unfulfilled expectation.  Each one of them a poison dart to the heart.  They told me how worthless, unlovable and unacceptable I was.  And I believed their lies.

At least, I hope they were lies.

“The lies we tell other people are nothing to the lies we tell ourselves.”

Derek Landy, Death Bringer

I read the words of the Bible, telling me God loves me; that He doesn’t reject me. Loves me so much He died for me.  But I hear the words my parents spoke over me and I cannot believe this thing called love is real.  I can’t grasp the concept nor believe love could ever be given to me.  That I would be worthy of it; not have to earn every morsel and scrap tossed in my direction.  I have lived nearly a lifetime without it.  How can it be true when it violates what I was trained to believe and what I have experienced throughout the years I have walked upon this planet?  I have learned to be content with tolerance.  Being tolerated has become for me what being loved is to most.

Though I know logically I can’t be the one exception to what God has spoken, my heart cannot accept this truth.  The lie has become who I am.

“Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.”

Pearl Strachan Hurd

The atom bombs my parents dropped on the flourishing landscape of my soul when I was a child laid waste to all that was good, blooming, and becoming.  My soil was made radioactive and so it remains.  Nothing grows but the words with which they bombarded me.  I ceased to be a living soul and became what they spoke over me.  Their words have shaped me and my destiny.  I have carried them with me every moment of each day and they pepper my dreams as I sleep each night.  I haven’t been able to recover.  I believed their words.

They told me I was nothing and nothing I became.

The lies have become the truth.  The truth has become the lie.  And all that might have been has been wiped away as if it never was.

 

Winter in Disguise

Fall is but winter in disguise.  Painting over death with vivid, lovely colors, masking the ruin and decay that destroys all it touches even as we watch.  Hiding beneath the leaves, it stealthily moves in, takes over and proceeds to strangle Summer, showing no mercy or remorse.  Slowly turning down the temperature until we abruptly realize the world around us is desolate and very cold.  Uncomfortably dark.  And frozen.

Winter wears a mask of pumpkin spice, cozy fires and soft, crystal blue-sky days.  But once the glorious orange, yellow, red leaves have fallen and turned crunchy brown, we begin to understand.  Only then can we grasp the depth of his deception.  That is when the mask is ripped away and the cold-hearted demon is revealed.

Winter knows it will not be welcomed by most with open arms, so it sneaks upon us wearing a glorious, vivid cloak that promises cozy connections made around a roaring fireplace, sipping warm cider while cocooned in fuzzy, comforting sweaters.  When Winter touches our cheek and Fall’s concealing cloak is removed, we encounter an endless, frigid white blanket that covers the once lush earth.  When there is no longer a need for pretense, it comes quickly and without warning.  Before we can adjust.  Before we can escape.

Nature goes through endless cycles.  Season after season.  They come and go.  Fall ushering in the cold and death of Winter.  Concealing the shadows that are to come.  Giving Winter the jump on us.  But we count on second chances.  We know if we can hold on, survive the pain of this frosty season, Winter will be dethroned and banished.  Warmth will return and life will be restored.  As will hope.  For Spring will come to the rescue with rising temperatures and gusty winds that blow away the darkness, melting the icy fingers Winter has long twined around our neck.

Winter is to be tolerated, not embraced.  Endured.  Days counted until Spring kicks its butt and slowly brings the world back to life.

Fall is but Winter in disguise.  The trickster, deceiver, master of the sleight of hand.

We humans go through the cycle only once.  We get one shot.  No second chances.

We begin our journey in the lovely Spring, then run head-long into Summer as fast as our legs will carry us.  There, we stand and survey our world, full of ourselves and our dreams of the future.  We linger and relish the Summer sunshine, basking in the warmth of the time we burn. We think we will live forever.  Never dreaming the fire will someday scarcely smolder or the flame be extinguished entirely.  Fall is a distant, unformed concept.  Winter a delusion.

But there comes a day when the delusion becomes reality.  Then, we sorrowfully discover, just when we desperately need our fire to glow even more brightly and vigorously than ever before, we no longer have time to burn.

I watch the falling leaves, lovely confetti dropping all about me, until only a few stubborn rebels remain.  They know, as do I. There is no going back.  And once they let go, decay will follow.  There is nothing but a bleak, stony emptiness ahead.  Twilight.  A cold, damp ground.  An even colder decline.  Nothing ahead but a Winter that will not be followed by Spring.

 

The Shadow Over Me

“Child abuse casts a shadow the length of a lifetime.”
Herbert Ward

I have lived my life in shadows.  In murky darkness and gloomy twilight.  Those shadows have clouded my vision, eroded my soul and short-circuited my thinking.  Memories have been whisk away into their depths, swallowed whole, emerging in bits and pieces at inopportune times, only to be digested yet again.  I cannot recall my past in a single linear timeline.  Instead, I see fragments reflected in shards, like a broken mirror scattered across the floor.  Nothing fits together, nor is it easy to grasp.  The sharp edges cut me deeply and I bleed profusely from the wounds.

But I bleed in secret.  I promised I would never tell.

I didn’t speak about the shadows until my father died.  With him gone from this world, there was no damage I could do him by reaching out for help.  I lost decades to the darkness with my mouth zipped shut and my heart surreptitiously oozing.  By the time I decided to tell, I had forgotten how to speak.

It has been a struggle for me to tell the story.  I can only reveal it a shard at a time.

When one exists in an opaque cloud, seeing oneself and the world realistically is an impossibility.  Experiences are distorted, as is self-image, if indeed, you are lucky enough to be left with one.  I was not left with a sense of self.  I believed myself to be nothing but an object, and not one of honor.  I was an object to be used and cast aside when the user was done with me.

Rebuilding a heart and soul is a quest akin to Don Quixote, charging windmills.  I have fought giants, attempting to put my world right, but the true monster is not the windmill I charge and fail to slay.  The true monster fathered me before striking me with fatal blows that changed the course of my journey forever.   It is much easier to hoist the lance and charge all manner of imaginary menaces than it would have been to face the one who abused and destroyed me.  I was but a child.  And then, when I escaped the monster’s grasp, I was a messy adult.  One who couldn’t speak the unspeakable.  And so, the unspeakable monster who did monstrous things walked free while I served time within my tiny, dark, and lonely cage, trying to slay the windmills that turned relentlessly within my own mind, blades slicing me into smaller and smaller pieces.

The shadows have grown long and darken with every passing year.

I longed for the warmth of a summer day filled with sunshine and soft breezes.  Instead, I have stooped and groveled beneath a cataclysmic eclipse that forever blocked the sun, freezing my heart and stealing my hope away little by little until not a drop remained.

Everything in my world has been darkened and drained of joy because everything inside of me was damaged and twisted by the fiend of a man from whose seed I have come.

I walk in the shadow of the valley of death.  My life has been spent in this valley, seeking refuge and escape.  The shadow has followed me through every day, every moment, every year, every occasion and it has spoiled and stolen every dream I ever had.  I have mounted my horse again and again, picked up lance after lance, charged and taken aim, only to find I was attacking a phantom without substance or form.

The only one I have managed to slay is me.