Tag Archives: destruction

Sometimes the Pain Wins

I, along with the vast majority of human beings currently living on the planet earth, are incredibly saddened by the news of the death of several high profile “stars” over the past year.  Kate Spade’s suicide marks one of the most recent of those tragic deaths.  A death that was premature.  Unexplainable, to those of us watching from the outside.  “Senseless,” we call it.  Some are using it as a lesson; “money can’t buy happiness!”  Some of my friends even said it was selfish.  A few are actually angry with her.  But I can’t go there with them.  Not to the place of being angry or judging or moralizing.  Because I know something they don’t understand.   Something they simply can’t comprehend.

Sometimes the pain wins.

Until you have experienced that kind of intense, destructive, unrelenting pain in your soul, you probably can’t understand.   But I’m know it’s true.  The agony and isolation can take you down and knock you out of the game permanently.  Depression doesn’t fight fair.  And its goal is to destroy you.  Simple as that.

Depression is ugly and because it’s ugly, a lot of people won’t even glance in your direction when you are struggling.  That is part of the reason pain wins.  Ignorance.  Rejection.  Being judged as unacceptable.  A downer.  Troublesome.  A burden.   When we’re not “together,” we’re required to wear a mask and pretend as if we are.  And it’s lonely behind the facade.

When others see you as a burden, it’s unbearably hurtful.  When you can only see yourself as a burden, a negative in the universe, pain will use this advantage, this crack in your armor, and it will take you down.  It will take you out with one huge knock-out punch.  It will win.

This is the place where hope breathes its last breath.  The place where the aloneness and emptiness becomes overwhelming and shattering because there is absolutely nothing or no one to hold on to or to grab.  All strength and the will to fight is annihilated.  Nothing seems worth it, especially not you…your life.  You realize you are asking too much from the world when you ask to be wanted.  You’re more trouble than you are worth.  A toxic substance in the life of everyone you touch.  And you just can’t stand to contaminate the world or live such an empty existence one second longer.

At this point, the emotional pain becomes excruciatingly physical.  Your heart feels as if it will explode.  As if it is being ripped apart from the inside out.  Your mind stops functioning and the wiring in your brain smokes and fries.  You try; still you try.  But that kind of rending, tearing, shredding, utterly consuming pain is more than most mortals can handle alone.  And when you have been marked by the significant fracture it causes in your soul, you simply don’t stand a chance.  You are hardwired to self-destruct in times of such consuming emptiness and overload.  You don’t have the skills or the connections that are needed to survive.

And let’s face it; we live in a world of superficiality.  Your aren’t supposed to be real.  To “over-share”.  Which means, you aren’t supposed to share at all except in very limited doses in very specific circumstances.  Only the good stuff, even if you have to make it up.  You aren’t allowed to be vulnerable, to talk about weaknesses, issues, struggles, destructive thoughts, hurts.  You are not allowed to have dark and difficult times emotionally.  None of that is acceptable.  You’re supposed to be upbeat and positive and see that damned glass as being half full even when the sucker is bone dry empty.  Smile!  Look for the silver lining!  Don’t share your heart.  Whatever you do, don’t be real, don’t be weak, don’t fail, don’t cry, don’t tell, don’t acknowledge the ugly darkness that is destroying you.  Nonconformance will cause you to be labeled as defective.  Deplorable.  A plague! You will be judged and found worthless.  People will turn away and run in the other direction when they see you coming.

You can’t be real on Facebook and you can’t be real in church.  You can’t be real with your friends or they’ll stop being your friends.  You have to play the game or you’ll become a total outcast.  You can’t be honest about who you are, what you are dealing with or where you have come from or you will find yourself wholly alone.  Without even the most shallow of connections.  Lacking any form of companionship.

In those times of darkness when your own soul is gashing you to pieces, you need someone to tell you that you have value.  Even more, you need them to show you.  To be there.  To help you find your way.  To invest in you…time, heart, connection.  To believe you are worth the trouble.  You need something solid to stand on.  So you can rest and stop struggling for just a moment so you can get your strength back.  You need real.  And real…well, real is hard to come by.  Real is rare.

In fact, being real is discouraged. It’s ridiculed.  It’s scorned.  But real, honest, vulnerable…these are the only things that will pull a person through.  And if you don’t get real, that’s when the pain wins.  And when it wins, it wins for keeps.

I am saddened that Kate Spade was in that place.  That place of grasping for a hand in the darkness and coming up empty.  That place of desperately seeking a hint of light in the black, dense fog that obscured anything and everything worthwhile in the world.  Of not being able to see even a pin prick of light to guide her through. It breaks my heart that, when she gave up because she simply couldn’t walk one…more…step, there was no one there to catch her when she let go.  No one to reach her when she began to fall that one last time.

She needed real.  Something solid; someone to tell her she was worth it.  That she could make it and they would help her through.  But when she reached out her hand, for whatever reasons, it came back empty.  And the pain won.

I pray that this tragedy will cause others to break through the facades we spin for ourselves, to rip off the masks and to start a journey to the place where we share our hearts…good, bad, ugly, dark, broken, confused.  Where we embrace, encourage, accept instead of ridicule, reject, disavow.  Where we love instead of judge.  Where we offer a hand instead of a fist.  Where we share the pain until the darkness recedes.

Nothing can fix Kate’s world now.  Nothing can help her to find a reason to hang on.  To live.  Nothing can help her to see how wonderful and specials she was.  And how valuable.  The door is closed.  She closed it, alone in the night of her soul.   I am saddened that this woman who brought so much happiness to the lives of others through her many creations ran out of joy.  I’m upset that she found herself alone in the darkness at the time of her greatest need.  I hate it that this wondrous, unique, creative, beautiful individual couldn’t find a reason to hang on and couldn’t find anyone or anything to hang on to when she needed help the most.  It should never happen.  To me, this is our ultimate failure.  The pain should never win.  But it does.  As it did here.  And we are all diminished because of the loss of another special individual who should have never had to know what it is like to be that horribly alone and without hope.  Depression colors and clouds our perspective.  We need the eyes of another, their hand to hold, their arms around us, their heart beating with ours to survive those times. We need intense intervention.  Someone has to carry us when we are that lost.  And when this doesn’t happen, when we reach out, desperately grasping and find nothing but empty air, the pain wins.  There are no second chances.

I hope we will not continue to be lulled into complacency, believing things will turn out okay in the end.  Because sometimes they don’t.  Sometimes the pain wins.  And when the pain wins, the winner takes all.

 

Breaking Chains

Several years ago, I read an article in “Readers Digest” that made me cry.  I don’t often cry.  But the story touched me deeply in a tender place, liberating long overdue tears while providing a minor release of buried pain.

It was the story of a man who was sent to visit his grandfather in another country one summer when he was a child.  His grandfather lived in the middle of nowhere on a farm far up in the mountains.  He was a hard worker, but had little in the way of material goods.  So, he gave his grandson the one thing he had to give.  Himself.

During that summer, he taught his grandson some important lessons.  He spent time WITH the young boy instead of spending money ON him.  He taught him to do things for himself, to take pride in the work of his hands, instead of always buying cheaply made, but expensive, things.  One of the interesting skills he passed along to his grandson was how to make things out of wood.  A flute.  A bird feeder. A boat.  And the boat was the central character in this story.

He was proud of the little boat he made and he sailed it at a nearby lake many times during that summer visit.  But when it was time to return to the US, his father told him he would have to leave his precious craft behind. There wasn’t room in their bags for even one more item.  So the boy reluctantly took the boat to the lake and carefully hid it in a small hole under a big boulder.  Then he said goodbye.

This was in the early 30’s.  His grandfather died soon thereafter and he didn’t return again until the mid-60’s, when he was accompanied by his own children.  One of the first things he did was to search for the boat…and he eventually found it!  He told his children the story of the little boat, then returned it to its hiding place before leaving.  Over the years, they made several return trips and each time, he would pull it out and carve the date of his visits in the wood before hiding it again.

And then, he was the grandfather.  He took his two teenaged granddaughters to the old remote farm up in the mountains where his grandfather had lived and died so many years before.  He retrieved his tiny boat once more and told them the story of his grandfather, the lessons learned by his side, how he made the small craft and what it represented.  His granddaughters listened quietly.  And finally, the youngest one said, “Grandpa, I will come back and visit your boat.  And I will bring my children.”

And so, I wept.  Touched by the chain of love this family had created.  The links over several lifespans that would continue long after they were gone.  The grandfather that started it (or did he?) had been dead for many years before the granddaughters first heard about the boat.  They never met their great grandfather.  But he lived on in the grandson, just as the grandson would live on through his granddaughters and their children.  The love would survive.  Their chain of love was strong and enduring, even though the wood of the toy boat weathered and wore.   There was a legacy of love in this family, passed from one generation to the next as children were nurtured and taught and guided. A beautiful legacy of love that spread and thrived as it passed from father to son to daughter to grandson to granddaughter.  The flesh grew old and failed.  But the legacy of love never faltered.

In my own life, I am part of a chain of abuse.  A chain with steely links of rejection, depression, brokenness and destruction.  This chain binds me as surely as the chain of love binds that man and his family.

I never met my great grandparents.  I have no idea what they were like because their stories were never shared with me.  But judging from my grandparents lives and the legacy they left behind, I can’t imagine they were given enough unconditional love, nurturing or attention.  The thing I have noticed that stops me in my tracks, the really frightening thing is this: whatever is passed along tends to intensify through the years. It grows and thrives, becoming a strong, nearly unbreakable shackle.

My own father was not cared for by his mother when he was a middle-school child.  She suffered a breakdown during a divorce.  The divorce was at least partially caused by a father who chased after other women.  His unfaithfulness nearly destroyed my paternal grandmother and certainly destroyed the marriage.  He was also a drunk.  My own father didn’t drink often, but his need came out in different ways.  He was angry…violently so…and he was obsessed by pornography.  As a result, he abused me sexually and physically.  So the neglect he experienced became vicious, deviant abuse in my life.  The kind of abuse that is criminal and does lasting, deep, horrible damage.

My mother had a grandfather who was diagnosed in later life as paranoid schizophrenic.  My mother was depressed, angry, self-centered, manipulative and felt the world owned her.  She, in turn, abused me physically, emotionally and verbally.  She was never beaten and her own mother loved her, trying to make up for her father’s paranoia.  The “abuse” she suffered was verbal (which is also damaging).  But again, the bad was intensified.  She was far more abusive than her own father had ever been.  The bad became worse.

The chain of love never seems to diminish.  It remains a steady, flowing stream of life, health and stability.  But depravity intensifies and causes more damage with each generation.  When a person is deprived of what they need to become a healthy, whole human being, if the chain is not somehow broken or the pattern isn’t significantly disrupted, the depravity expands and strengthens.  Just as those addicted to pornography have to find more intense ways to thrill and stimulate themselves, the abusiveness seems to grow worse and worse, spreading like a cancer of the spirit and soul.

As much as we may not like it, as much as we may fight against it, the hand we are dealt impacts us.  It doesn’t totally define us.  We can overcome it in some cases if we’re willing to delve deeply into the damage.  With much work and dedication…and maybe some luck…we overcome.  Without significant intervention, we succumb to the hideous chain that binds us to our legacy.  We have a choice.  We can acknowledge it and fight it, or give in to it.  We may love it or hate it, submissively accept it or get mad about it.  But acknowledged or not, our legacy does leave a mark.  It has a positive impact or a negative power.  And that gets passed down through the generations, even if we are able to bypass a lot of the negative fallout.

It is our foundation.  We may build a big, fancy, wonderful life on that foundation and the house we build may survive in spite of the cracks and faults of the foundation.  But the chances of the house making it through our lifetime increase with the sturdiness, solidness, levelness and health of the foundation on which it is built.  If the foundation is bad, the house deteriorates rapidly over time.

I am thankful to have broken the chain.

Fearful of my ability to change the patterns set in motion by my own foundation, wary of the damage my own brokenness might cause a developing child, I remained childless.  I will leave no legacy behind simply because there will be no one with whom to leave it..   There will be nothing of me to pass down, to go forward in the heart and genes of another human being.  No stories of my life, nothing to be remembered…good or bad.  When I die, my lineage comes to a screeching halt.  The only dates that will be carved in memoriam will be those on my tombstone.  A tombstone that will not be visited by children or grandchildren.  The legacy of pain and abuse will die with me.  Laid to rest at last.  Safe beneath the boulder where it will remain forever undisturbed, soon to be forgotten.

Fallen Sky

“’My, oh my, the sky is falling.  I must run and tell the lion about it,’ says Chicken Little as she begins to run.

She runs and runs.  By and by, she meets the hen.

‘Where are you going,’ asks the hen.

‘Oh, Henny Penny, the sky is falling and I’m going to the lion to tell him about it.’

‘How do you know it’s falling?’  asks Henny Penny.

‘It hit me on the head, so I  know it must be so,’ says Chicken Little.”

 

Chicken Little was right after all.  The sky has fallen.  It has fallen to the ground and hit me on the head.  But I have no one to run to.  No one to tell.

The sky has fallen and I can’t put it back where it belongs. The stars have shattered on impact and lay broken in frosty shards upon the ground.  I’ve tried to repair and rehang them.  To string them up.  To tape them in place.  I’ve tried, but I have failed.  The empty black void above me is a testimony to my failure.

The sky has fallen and I can’t make it blue again.  I’ve attempted to paint it with a brush.  Wished for a magical solution.  I’ve tried to find a button to push; one that would right all that has become wrong.  Worked diligently to restore light and to coax a soft breeze from the stagnant, stale air.  I’ve tried for what feels like forever.  But the heavens remain dark, gloomy and empty in spite of my best efforts.

Paint doesn’t stick to a fallen sky.

The damage happened long ago.  A storm of meteors slammed into my world, dragging the heavens down with them as they sliced through the atmosphere.  Everything changed in the blink of an eye.  All that was familiar was instantly gone.  A foreign landscape appeared and tenaciously remains where life once flourished.  A terrifying transition that has taken root and taken over.  All that I once knew and believed and trusted…vanished.  The ground shifted violently below my feet, callously throwing me to the dusty earth without a second thought.  Without a single concern. That’s when the sky fell.  That’s when it hit me in the head and fractured me.  That’s when the stars crashed and splintered and died.  That’s when who I was became someone I didn’t know and had never seen before.  And those who were around me were unmask.

The massive meteors slammed into and sliced through my stratosphere, tearing apart all that was normal and good, leaving nothing behind but ruins, wreckage and terror.  Chaos and confusion.  Ashes and emptiness.  I shattered with the stars.   My tears crystallized on my cheek, freezing my heart until my soul was completely numb.  I worked so hard to pick up all the pieces of my demolished world, of my fractured being.  I strove to glue them back together, to make something functional of them once more.  I looked to the sun for guidance, only to realize it was nowhere to be found.  Nor could the ruined stars provide direction.  Alone, I could not repair even a small portion of the damage.  Alone, I could not find my way to stable ground.  Alone, I sat waiting in the darkness, hoping only to survive the trauma and ravaging shock.  I could not hope for more…it seemed frivolous to do so.  For my dreams had perished in the catastrophe and lay buried somewhere in the midst of the ruins.

I have been sitting alone in the darkness now for decade upon decade.  The light has never returned to my broken, fallen sky.

I cannot fix what has been smashed and wrecked.  I am left with nothing but the debris.  Millions of particles that can never again be fit together.  What once was is lost forever.  There is no life remaining in the barren, lightless world that is now spread out before me.  The sky has fallen.  The damage has been done.  Magic has failed.  As have prayers.  The rewind button never functioned, refusing to return to me even one second of that which has passed into oblivion.   I am not who I was, but am instead who I’ve become because of the tragedy that wrecked the planet on which I must somehow live.  A planet with little air to breath.  One that shifts beneath my feet and hides my path in blackness that can’t be penetrated.

I shattered with the traumatized stars as they fell to the earth and died.  My world is blanketed by the cold unending darkness of a moonless, starless, sunless void.  I am but a shadow of the person who once lived.  Who was growing straight and strong.  Who laughed and loved freely.  I am no longer related to the one who existed before masks were ripped away and everything changed.  Before the meteors hit, slashing apart the sky, bringing it and all it sheltered crashing to the ground, annihilating my world and every wonderful thing I erroneously thought it contained.  The meteors stripped away all falsehood, exposing the truth behind the façades.  And that truth was devastating.

The sky has fallen.  It hit me on the head.  Crushed me.  Scattered me.  Left me without remedy.

The sky has fallen.  I cannot pin it back to the heavens.  Nor can I any more pretend that it did not utterly ruin me when it fell.

Braced for Impact

When I manage to pull memories from the black hole in my mind where flashes of my childhood are deeply lodged, those few I can retrieve are not typically painted by the vision of a moment in time.  The details and images of those childhood events are lost, buried deep, sealed away.  I cannot recall most of them with any specificity.  The scenes themselves are shrouded in fog and blurred by the things that were hiding there, waiting to devour me.

No, what I recall with great clarity is the waiting and watching.  Being frozen in petrified silence.  The tension in my neck and shoulders, even as I played, trying to appear to have fun as would a “normal” child.  I may not see much of the memory in my mind, but I feel what I felt.  The terror.  The dread.  Trying to be invisible.  Being unable to breathe.  I remember the feeling of never knowing when the experience would disintegrate into something so ugly, I utterly lacked words to describe what was happening to me.  I have, in fact, spent my life since escaping the claws of that childhood darkness and fog, trying to explain, define, understand and recover from what happened to me in that ominous gloom.

I was ripped apart one mouthful at a time during that period of darkness.  I was the prey.  My parents were the monsters who hid within the fog and shadows.  I knew they were hunting me.  All I could do was brace for the impact as best I could.

My defenses were not born of my ability to intimidate my attackers.  I couldn’t protect myself with my fists.  The shield I constructed about myself was invisible, a trick of the mind.  I blamed myself for the actions of those monsters, shifting my logic and perspectives, distorting my thoughts and feelings, accepting their abuse as what was due me.  Believing it was what I deserved.

As a result of the soil in which I grew, the thing I remember most about that time is my hypervigilant watchfulness.  Anticipating what was sure to come.  Knowing the worst would soon unfold and slam me to the ground at any moment.

I always had one eye ever on my surroundings.  My antenna was continuously extended, listening for the things not said out loud.  For the things brewing inside my parents’ dangerous minds and twisted souls.  Tapping into what they were feeling, trying to prepare for the blast; the eruption.  Nothing was ever as it seemed.  So I listened, adrenaline coursing, always on high alert.  I waited.  But I never had to wait long.

Even though I braced for the impact, the pain, shame and terror still took me by surprise.  Every single time.

I watched.   I tried to anticipate their actions.  Tried to calculate the moment when the mask would be ripped away and my world would fall apart. When they would turn to devour their prey.  But they were unpredictable.  So I remained in a state of fearful anticipation.  As prepared as I could be, with my mind shield working overtime to deflect their obscene attack.

I was braced for impact, but somehow was never prepared.  I felt it coming, but I could not soften the blow.

This is how I have spent my life.  In a state of hypervigilance.   Neck and shoulder muscles taunt and aching.  Always waiting.  Knowing destructive, dreadful, hurtful things were coming, but never knowing when they would hit me or how much damage they would do.

I have had the lofty goal of surviving the next ghastly event.  And I have survived, for the most part, but not without losing some key and critical parts of my heart.  Yes, I have survived, but there has been an enormous price to pay.  For to survive, I have had to forego living.  And though I have survived, I have never escaped the darkness.   I have never learned how to relax, to let go, to believe something good could happen.  I have never been able to believe I deserved more than the pain and rejection, the abuse and disdain.

I have never been able to let down my guard.  My antenna remains extended and probing.  I am clenched tight and hardened, waiting for the next cruel clash, muscles constricted and painful, no matter how weary my soul has become.

Braced for impact.  Praying I can survive yet another blow.

 

Clouds & Shadows

We all come from a place of utter darkness.  A womb, warm and nurturing, but black as the blackest night.  We are born into the light.   A world of brightness, noise and chaos.  Confusion.  And cold.  It is a shocking experience, one we aren’t equipped to comprehend.  Suddenly, we are alone in a strange and frightening place, no longer embraced, required to exist on our own, though without the skill to survive unless we are provided with care and sustenance.

Care and sustenance are rare commodities.

I was born at 10:03 a.m. on a cloudy day beneath a sky that was normally clear and deep blue.  I was born into the light, but it was filled with shadows. Thrust into that murky daylight where sound was no longer muffled and all nurturing abruptly ended.

I cried.

My parents said they wanted me, or thought they did.  But their reasons centered around themselves and their needs.  They wanted the experience of having a child, for they had been told it would bring them fulfillment and great joy.  It was what married people did back then.  They fantasized that a tiny baby would suddenly give meaning to their life and fill every void they had ever felt in their heart and soul.  I was intended to be the rainbow after the storm.  I was meant to make all their dreams come true, like a magic wand in a fairy tale with a happy ending.

Thus, they didn’t know what to do with me when reality and I finally arrived.  I wasn’t supposed to be a burden.  I was created to lighten their load, to make them blissful and content.  But they didn’t feel bliss, or even happiness as they held me that first day shortly after birth.  They felt overwhelmed.  I was tiny and demanding and they didn’t even know how to pick me up or hold me without my head flopping about.  They quickly put me back in the incubator and stood staring at me, wondering what they had gotten themselves into.  As I lay helplessly screaming and kicking tiny fists and feet, they began to consider that they had made a mistake.  I needed them.  Needed things from them.  This was not at all what they had expected.  This was not what they had planned.

No wonder it took a couple of weeks for them to name me.  They were probably trying to decide if they wanted to give me back.

In a flash, with my birth, the shadows came.  Shadows and clouds covering the light.  They blamed me for the clouds.  For not chasing them away.  For not bringing sunshine and rainbows.  And perhaps they were right to hold me responsible.  For shadows have certainly followed and haunted me throughout my life.  They have trailed me wherever I have traveled.  I have never been able to leave myself…or them…behind.

I was born to be used, and use me they did, again and again, in every way and in every form possible.  By the time I was in grade school, the shadows no longer wrapped themselves around me.  They covered me like skin.  They were inside of me.  Part of me.  Cells and molecules.   My DNA.

They ate me for breakfast.  Became one with the air I breathed.  The inky, obscure blackness I lived in became the blood that pulsed through my veins.  It was all I knew.  It became who I was.

I grew in the darkness; was raised in the shadows.  Not the darkness of a loving womb.  Not even that of a womb done with its job, spitting me out because this is how life begins.  This darkness left me cold, empty and defenseless, having to find my way as best I could.  This darkness damaged me deeply.  Hid the sun and stole all of my hope.  I lived very small.  Cloaked in silence, wrapped in gloom.  Doing my best to survive in a hostile, lonely and dangerous world.

I was born into the arms of the shadows, suckled at their inky breast.  They fed me emptiness, pain and sadness.  Laughed when I was abused.  I have lived in their gloom and there I remain.  Still longing for warmth, for light, for love, but lost in the darkness waiting for a happy ending, just as my parents foolishly did.  A happy ending that, like me, will never come to see the light of day.

 

Don’t Blink

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The days are long.  The years are short.

Life is but a second long. 

Don’t blink.

Pawn

I am a pawn on a chess board.

The game is heated, complex and heavy, for there is much at stake. I have no idea what is going on. I don’t know which direction to move. Or if I should move at all.  I am but a pawn. A lowly pawn.  Expendable.

I do know my place. 

I am apprehensive.   I fear the other players.  They have confidence and authority.  They know how to play the game and move with purpose.  They have options.  I have none.  I am lost, confused and afraid.

I didn’t expect to be the queen.  But I certainly didn’t want to be a nobody pawn.  I would have liked to be a rook or a bishop. A knight, perhaps. Maybe if I were of greater importance, someone who had more strength, power and value, I would have a small chance of winning.  Perhaps if I knew the meaning, the reasoning behind each move, I could survive the competition. But as it is, powerful people are vigorously playing the game with great intensity and focus.  They are waltzing all about me while I stand motionless on my tile, fearing their next move, waiting to be eliminated.  And crushed.

I am of no consequence.

Others flourish, make daring exchanges, taking opponent’s pieces as they move onward triumphantly.  They lunge forward with purpose and conviction.  Some easily gain important ground.  The queen, the powerful, mighty queen, flaunts her authority, tossing irrelevant players from the board.  Caring not.  She is the queen, after all.  How dare lesser men defy her!  How dare they try to restrict and defeat her!  Or block her. God help me if I find myself in her way.  She will sacrifice me without a thought.  Barely noticing my demise, should she in any way register my defeat and sudden death. She is all about the plan.  And winning.  I am nothing to her.  Nothing.

I am nothing to anyone.

Players move in predictable patterns, but in ways and at times that can’t be predicted.  I am frozen on my small square, watching them stride with assurance and composure.  They know where they are going.  They understand their purpose.  They demonstrate self-confidence, strength, and power.  They understand the game and know how to play it.  They play well.

I pray they do not see me.  I am fairly certain they are the predators and I am their prey.

They only want to use me.

While they travel precisely about the board, their movements a dance of daring, authority, and certainty, I stumble, stagnate, and stall.  It is only a matter of moments until I will be taken completely out of the game.  I, who have no power.  I, who can offer nothing worthwhile.  Who is of no significance.  I have no meaning.  I add nothing.  I exist to be sacrificed.

I look up to them.  They look down on me.  They push me around and brush me aside.  They determine how to best position me to their advantage.

This is my life.  Complex.  Frightening.  Intimidating.  Overwhelming.  Terrifying.  I am powerless and unneeded.  Unwanted.   I do not know the rules.  I do not have the moves.  I am not able to take the leaps they take.  Not even when they manipulate me into a corner.  Not even when my life depends on it.

Pawns always lose.  I am a good pawn.  I lose often.

 

Monsters

Years ago, in small town USA, where locking your doors was optional and leaving your keys in the car as you ran into the tiny grocery mart that served the community was common practice, people never once gave monsters a thought.  They didn’t dream they existed in real life.  You didn’t read about them in the weekly 6-page newspaper; nor in the paper from the small city 30 minutes to the east.  They were the things of a young child’s imagination, of story books and badly done horror movies.  Good for a thrill or a scare, but they had no substance, nor were they something to be feared.

The monsters of that day wore a mask and walked among us.  They went to church and served as volunteers for popular worthy causes.  They held down respectable jobs, bought nice homes, laughed with their coworkers and prayed before meals.  They hunted and fished and bowled.  Sat in the bleachers at neighborhood baseball games while child after child struck out amid giggles and chants, not worried about winning while having a great time playing.  They blended in, vigilantly hiding their true character and motives beneath carefully crafted facades that wholly concealed their ugliness.  Their selfishness.  Their lust.

So, it makes sense that the monsters in my house didn’t hide under the beds, disguise themselves in dark corners or conceal themselves behind closet doors.  They weren’t afraid of the daylight; didn’t worry about needing to stick to the shadows to remain undetected.  Nor were they worried about being exposed by someone who thought they caught a hint of something nightmarish behind their broad smile.  Why fear detection when no one believes you exist?

My monsters sat with me at the dinner table.   But no one else saw them for who they were.

I did try to rip the mask from their faces a couple of times, in hopes of saving myself.

I told the pastor of the local Baptist church, only to be chastised, humiliated and sent home with a stern warning to never lie about them again.  He would not listen to my pleas or hear the description of what I knew from experience truly reclined behind their disguise.  They were, after all, respected members of the community.  I was nothing more than a troubled child.  Sullen and sensitive.  Shy and strange.

On another occasion when depression and fear sought to eat me whole, I confided in an admired teacher at my high school.  But she also didn’t believe me and rejected my desperate disclosure, acting thereafter as if I weren’t even in her classroom, refusing to acknowledge my presence, much less my suffering.   I’m not sure what I expected, considering my father was also a teacher.  And he taught in that small city to the east of my tiny township.  The city where all the small-town teachers longed to for a classroom.  Where resources were plentiful and the pay was superior, though not yet enough to provide a livable wage.  In retrospect, it was rather foolish of me to expect to be rescued by someone who secretly envied and related to him.

Experience and rejection taught me to stay silent.  I learned not to tell.  To keep my mouth tightly shut and my heart numbed to the pain.  I learned to walk silently, to ask for nothing and to fear everyone.

I learned that no one else could see the monsters.

But they were (and are) there.  Hiding in plain sight.  Smiling at the neighbors.  Tipping the waitress.  Picking up their mail from the post office.  Raking leaves.  Washing the car.  Pretending to be nothing more than the disguise they have carefully constructed and religiously maintained.

I couldn’t escape them.  At best, I hoped only to survive.

Abuse exacts a toll.  Survival comes at a cost.  They stole almost everything of importance from me.  My trust.  My innocence.  My hope.  My value.  My dreams.  My soul.  My heart.  They twisted my thinking and broke me down into jagged, shattered, hurting pieces.  Hitting me.  Rejecting.  Demanding more.  They were selfish and judging.  Withholding acceptance, medical care, touch.  Except to touch me in places they shouldn’t.  In ways I shouldn’t have been touched, especially by a father.  At ages when I was too young to even begin to understand what was being done to me.

That’s when the facade failed.  That’s when I saw them for who they were.  When they dripped with evil passion and allowed lust and self-centeredness to control them.  That’s when I realized monsters were real.  And far more frightening than any horror movie had ever portrayed.

I still feel them lurking.  Watching.  Not the monster parents who gave birth to me, for they are long dead.  But others.  I catch their reflection in a window glass.  Out of the corner of my eye as I walk by.  I see it in the way they look at a child.  In unguarded seconds.  I see it in their expression.  In their eyes.  Monstrous wickedness.  Painstakingly veiled.

You will see them too, if you dare to look.

The only way to stop them is to expose them.  But to expose them, you have to be willing to see the unthinkable instead of turning away.  You have to be able to acknowledge their existence rather than writing them off as an illusion while telling yourself they only live in the realm of twisted imagination.

There are monsters among us.  Monsters who are worse than your wildest nightmare or most hideous fictitious devil.  Lurking.  Plotting and planning.  Preying.  You still don’t read about them all that often.  But they are there.  Shopping for groceries.  Mowing their lawn.  Stopping at red traffic lights.  Singing in the choir.  Biding their time.  Waiting for the perfect moment to pounce.

Adrift At Sea

I am adrift.  Floating upon an empty sea.  Beneath my head, a pillow of silence cradles my weary brain.  I lay still, covered by a thick blanket of darkness.

I feel nothing.  See nothing.  Am nothing.

I lost sight of land such a long time ago.  I can barely remember what it was like to walk on solid ground.  Perhaps it was but a dream, a creation of sleep and imagination.  A sweet fantasy I can no longer adequately recall.

I used to feel desire, but now, I have only a gnawing sense of shame.  And devouring regret eating away at my soul.  I used to believe I would write myself a happy ending.  By working hard to overcome.  I believed I could change my path.  I believed all the pain would be worth suffering because of the outcome.  Today, I long for nothing beyond release.  For an end to my story. To be untied from this harsh, ruthless world.

Isolation is a brutal master.  It forces one to build massive walls, cracking its whip to impel you to move faster.  To do more.  To work harder.  To place stone upon stone.  Until you are utterly alone and completely disconnected.  Imprisoned by the very work of your own hands, with no hope of escape.  Defeated.

I am adrift and I have been adrift for a very long time.   Cannot get my bearings.  Left without the strength or will to stand or the hope to swim.  The current takes me where it will and I no longer fight it.  Weakness and defeat tie my wrists tightly, leaving me defenseless and broken.

It used to matter to me.  But now, I can’t even summon the will to care.  I fought long and hard, but I have lost the battle.  There is nothing left to do at this point but to surrender.  And float.  In this empty void, wrapped in darkness, tortured by regret, waiting for the end.  Praying it will come soon.

 

Seasons

Seasons come.  Seasons go.  Time passes so quickly, speeding by at a frenzied pace toward the cliff in its haste to carry us to our final end.

When I was a child in the spring of my life, seasons held no meaning beyond the climate associated with each of them.  Days became warmer as we moved toward summer.  Leaves unfurled, beautifully adorning once barren trees.  Flowers blossomed, proudly showing off their magnificent colors.  The sky was blue more often than it was gray.  Once brown grass slowly turned a lush green.  Gentle breezes and sweet air caressed my skin deliciously.  And the sun reigned, banishing the consuming darkness of winter to a shorter, more bearable time span, allowing just enough time for refreshing sleep.

Even during the summer years of my life, I didn’t see the seasons as painting my story, echoing the doomed trajectory of my life.  I didn’t see the parallel.  I had an abundance of time stretching out before me.  There was no need to worry if a year seemed to slip away unobserved or barely experienced.  Or that all I managed to accomplish was to survive. I basked in the sunshine, in my youth, in the possibilities of tomorrow.

It was as I approached and moved into the fall of life that I began to sit up and take notice.  It was at this point I began to panic.

It dawned on me suddenly that my time was now limited and supply was dwindling.  I was utterly stunned to realize there were far more years behind me than probably remained ahead.  My skin began to sag, no longer firm and smooth.  Wrinkles appeared beneath my eyes, around my mouth, as if time was using my face as a canvas with the intention to mar and mock.  I woke tired after a night of sleep.  The days turned colder, unwelcoming and short.  All the things I believed I would accomplish by this point in life were yet undone.  Not achieved.  The damage from years of childhood abuse crippled me and I was left struggling to overcome the destruction in hopes of someday thriving.  I had to work harder to get to the line where others started their journey and I was never able to catch up.  Fall was not friendly.  But it whispered of even worse days to come.

In the summertime, everything is alive, growing.  Fruit hangs from the vine and weighs down the branches of lush trees.  Flowers dance in the warmth.  Trees and shrubs and plants put out new shoots and increase in stature.

I experienced summer as a season, but I never lived during the summer of my life.  I never emerged from the darkness.  I never reached a point where I was fully alive, much less flourishing.

I blinked and summer was gone.  Just.  Like.  That.

Now, each year I survive comes with the understanding it could be my last.  Though I am not bent and ancient, if I continue to breathe, I am not as far removed from that coming stage of life as I am from my youth.  The end is clearly in sight.  And it’s terrifying.

I have walked.  Oh, my, how I have walked.  Many steps.  Many years, putting one tired foot before another.  I have left footprints in the dust where I longed to leave them in stone.  In cement.  I wanted to leave something lasting behind me.  But the wind has swept away the dust as quickly as I have passed through, leaving no trace of my coming and going.  Even the air that once caressed my youthful skin does not recognize or remember me.

I have walked.  But I have gone nowhere.  Looking back over the years and seasons, though I know the path taken, I cannot see any sign of my ever having existed.

Someday, winter will arrive, harsh and uncaring.  My home will be left empty.  The contents will be given or thrown away.  Every word I have written will be discarded, for no one will care to hear what I had to say.   Winter will strip me of the few leaves I managed to produce and will bury me under mounds of icy snow.  I will be wiped from the face of the earth.

Winter is coming, hard and fast and frigid.  All that I am and all that I have hoped to become will vanish without a trace beneath the cold hands of time.   The harsh touch of the darkness will erase me completely. Nothing I leave behind will make a difference to anyone who comes after.

I can feel the chill.  I was plunged into eternal darkness by my parents as they abused me and I never escaped the impact, nor got to enjoy the light of long summer days.  I was too numb.  Working too hard to persevere.

A time is coming when I will not see another season unfold.  When spring will blow in like a lion, but I will no longer breathe the fresh air…or any air at all.  The summer sun will not warm me or my dry, brittle bones.  Fall will have nothing else to take from me, for I will not be required to die yet again.  Only winter will want me.  The icy winter will hold me in frosty arms.  My eyes will not see, my heart will no longer cry in pain or be torn by unbearable regret.  I will be frozen in that final moment.  And in that moment, I will begin to return to dust.  Dust that someone else will walk through as they leave their footprints trailing behind them.  Hoping, as I once did, to leave their mark.