Tag Archives: destruction

Wishing on Dying Stars

“I wish I may

I wish I might…”

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

Gazing upward, making wishes on dying stars.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mixed Messages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We needed you to be so much more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Hold My Breath

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The One He Loves

I always thought he would be able to love me if I could lose weight.  Be thin.  And trim.  But the one he loves has thunder-thighs and a poochy tummy.  She’s not as heavy as I was toward the end of our marriage, the time of ultimate despair and self-loathing.   But she’s not even close to small.  She has substance and heft.   Casts a shadow you can’t miss.  Certainly isn’t close to ideal societal standards.  She doesn’t puke up what she puts in her mouth.  She eats.

I thought if I could be pretty enough…so he could feel good about people seeing him holding my hand…he could find a way to love me.  I wasn’t pretty, but I did what I could to look nice for him.  Fixed my makeup and hair.  Did what I could to make myself presentable.  Yet she, the one he loves, she is not what one would call pretty.  She’s okay.  Kind of on the plain side.  Normal.  Average.  Not the “arm candy” type.  Not the type who possesses beauty that would inspire such great devotion.  And yet.  He is.  Devoted.  To her.

I thought if I worked hard enough and made enough money to take care of us, he would find value in me.  Appreciate me and what I “brought to the table.”   But the one he loves works for a non-profit.  She’s not a big earner in any sense.  She lets him take care of her.  And he inherited a fortune from his parents.  So he takes care of her in ways he never even thought about with me.  Because he loves her.  And he never loved me.  No matter how hard I tried to give him reasons to love me.  No matter how much I tried to make things easy…or at least easier.

I thought if I dressed well, colored away the gray, looked put together, acted normal and was stylish, he would love me and be proud of me.  Or at the very least, be accepting.  Yet, the one he loves is sloppy.  Her hair is salt and pepper…mostly salt.  Frizzy, unstyled.  She wears no makeup.  Her clothes are haphazard and mismatched.  She looks anything but put together.   But he loves her.  The unfashionable and frumpy.  Because she doesn’t have to act normal.  She doesn’t have to try to have worth.  She just is.  She just does.

I thought if I was successful, he would see that there was more to being a good wife than cooking a meal every night (at which I failed miserably) and cleaning the toilets or dusting (yep, failed at that too).  He was the one with the low paying job and easy hours.  I was the one who was paying our bills and providing opportunities for him to enjoy and indulge.  I was working myself to death in an attempt to make something of myself.  But he left me.  And married her.  The one he loved and loves still.  Because she doesn’t have to do anything to deserve it.  She doesn’t have to earn acceptance.  She is cherished.  She brings a smile to his face.  No matter what she does…or doesn’t do.

That face once looked at me with utter disdain.  It was painted clearly across his disapproving features and reflected in those disappointed eyes.  What I was…it was never enough.  I wasn’t good enough.  Or enough.  Because I wasn’t someone like her.

The one he loves is accepted.  Cared for.  Appreciated.  Wanted.  Valued.  Important.  Beautiful in his eyes.  Everything I always wanted to be, but never could become.

Being thin, successful, hardworking, loyal, intelligent…none of it made a difference.  Because I was me.  And he really didn’t like me at all.

I wasn’t able to live up to his expectations.  I wasn’t able to change who I was inside.  I couldn’t make feelings I felt and thoughts that played endlessly through my weary brain go away.  I couldn’t fix the broken places.  I couldn’t be a different person.  I couldn’t change everything that was shattered and damaged.   I couldn’t stop being…me.

I’m glad he found her.  Truly I am.  But I do so wish he could have found something to love in me.

 

Kiss

He moved closer
closer
so close I wanted
to step back
but then he
suddenly pulled me
to himself
holding me fast
in his hungry grip
and he smiled at me
just before
his lips
touched mine

Gently at first
he kissed me
the shock of it
leaving me
paralyzed
and uncertain
frightened
stunned

His hunger grew
as he parted my lips
with his unrelenting tongue
I was so young
I did not understand

Sensing my resistance
he pulled away slightly
for a moment
looked at me with a wicked smile
playing on
those lips
that had just
devoured mine
“I’m teaching you”
he said
before quickly kissing me again
harder
deeper
more insistent
out of control

I wanted to tell him
to stop
I wanted to tell him
I didn’t like it
that it felt wrong
but I could barely catch my breath
barely breathe at all
my brain was frozen
and I could not make
my mouth
form words

Confusion clouded my thoughts
fear kept me from action
I pushed
in a weak attempt
to escape
his iron grip

“Please daddy…
please, no”
It was all I could say
once I was finally able to speak

He only chuckled
and said
“We’ll have more lessons
soon
many more lessons”
“I will teach you”
“I know what is best for you”

And then, he left me
standing alone in my room
unsure of what to do
feeling very lost
empty
and bewildered
feeling dirty
somehow tainted
and degraded
knowing something precious
had just been stolen
that parts of me
had been broken
into pieces
and shattered
from
having just experienced
my first
kiss

 

 

 

Sacrifice

She thanks me for
the sacrifice
I made
so she could live her life
uninterrupted
by the truth
by consequences
or by pain
she’s grateful
that I kept it quiet
and that I do not
blame
her
or my father

It’s redemption
that she seeks –
she longs to know
they did not fail
and I turned out okay;
at least the parts that show
so they could not
have done too badly
after all
and surely
no one does the job
of parenting
the way they thought they would
surely
no one does it
any better

She claims
she’s always loved me
always will
and she prays
the love she has for me
will fill
the cracks
and wounds
unintentionally
inflicted

It’s in the past
she’s quick to state
where it should stay
but surely God
will use it
to bring good about
of that promise
there’s no doubt
so I should cast
my cares on Him
and let it go
these long ago
dark secrets
and get on with life
I did the right thing
when I made
the sacrifice

Yet –

something in
her rhetoric
disturbs me
in some deep
unsettling way
hard to identify
not visible
to the naked eye
it touches something
buried in my mind

What kind of love
thinks of itself
first
using a child
their own child
to fill their needs
or worse
taking
abusing
never noticing
the devastating blows
it is releasing
the devastating
wounds
it is inflicting

The damage
not intended
surely doesn’t count
against them
does it
I could not
hold it
against them –

and while I don’t
while I have worked
long
to forgive them
still I am a prisoner
of their sordid
ugly
“needs”
twisted desires
rejection and neglect
for I am
yet tangled
in the tentacles
of their abhorrent deeds
done in darkness

This “sacrifice”
she claims I made
was just a child
doing what she had to
to survive
their crushing abuse
a vain attempt
to try
to stay
alive

And even now she cannot see
in truth
they’re the ones
who sacrificed
me

 

 

The Tree Remembers

There is much truth in the African proverb, “The ax forgets. The tree remembers.”

 

The ax forgot, if he ever acknowledged, the impact of his hands upon my prepubescent body, probing forbidden places; private, sacred places that fathers should never touch on their daughters.  Not in that way.  Not with lust dripping from his penis.  Lust that caused his voice to tremble, his breath to be short and quick, his hands to move with cold deliberation, his eyes to watch greedily.  The ax forgot, if he ever recognized, what it did to that daughter when he forced his hard, swollen penis inside of her as the pain split her apart.  When he came on her, covering her with his sticky goo.  When he came in her mouth, shooting his seed down her throat, causing her to gag.  The ax forgot, if he ever considered her at all, how it destroyed her when he made her strip and dance before him or forced her into the shower with him.  The ax forgot how it hurt when he hit her. When he knocked her across the room or to the floor.  His memory only lasted as long as the marks, if that long.  The ax forgets.  But the tree remembers.  To this day, she remembers.  I remember.

The ax forgot the pain of her slaps on her daughter’s face and the humiliation of her angry, cutting, degrading words.  The fear of being dragged by the hair as that mother raged and ranted.  The ax forgot how cutting her words of rejection and disappointment were to the ears of her eager child; the child who longed to please her, who wanted to be accepted and held and wanted.  The ax forgot what it meant when she averted her eyes, refusing to see, as that same timid child was being sexually used by her husband.  When the daughter looked to her for help, but found only denial, demands and dismissal.  The ax forgot.  But the tree remembers.  To this day, she remembers.  Yes, I remember.

The tree is forever altered.  Laid to waste.  Barely able, if able at all, to remain standing.  The tree no longer flourishes.  No longer lives.  All of its energy and lifeblood is spent attempting to heal the ghastly, horrific wounds that resulted from the ax as it hacked deep into her soul.  The tree longs to forget.  Longs to overcome.  Longs to be whole again. But the wounds of the ax have done the unspeakable.  Those injuries are unbearable, horrifying and atrocious.  The ax has forgotten.  The ax moves on. The tree cannot forget.  Because the tree is not what it was before and it will never be what it would have been had it not been so dreadfully wounded by the vile ax.

The ax will go on to wound again and again in many abominable and staggering ways.  Over time, the scars in the bark of the tree are so many, the tree is deformed, stunted, disgusting.  The tree cannot forget because the tree cannot escape the effects of the ghastly blows.

The tree tries to survive. Gone are the dreams of thriving.  Of providing shade for the birds and shelter for the squirrels.  The broken, wretched tree is ruined.  Injured beyond repair.  The ax forgets.  But the tree, the tree cannot forget no matter how hard she tries.  She lives with the brokenness.  She carries the stink of her defilement.  She cannot leave it behind her because it is woven into every cell and memory.

So profound.  The ax doesn’t have to live with the damage it created.  Its steps, are not hindered by the crippling blows it meted out.  All that came before.  It’s over.  In the past.  But the tree cannot escape the damage.  It cannot leave the destruction in the shadows of yesterday.  It has been shattered and dismembered.  It will never be what it was meant to be.  The ax doesn’t understand why the tree won’t “get over it.”  Why it doesn’t simply go on. But the tree doesn’t know how.  It doesn’t have that kind of magic in its limbs.

The ax forgets.  The tree remembers.  It longs to forget.  But it can’t.  It remembers everything.  In pieces and fragments, like watching a movie, with memories fading in and out of the darkness, but it remembers. 

Oh, how the tree wishes it could forget.

Switches & Valves

We are complex beings.   A lot of very important things happen in dark places deep in our soul. These things often transpire without us being aware anything is going on and without us realizing we are making life-changing decisions.  We process a certain amount of information and make observations on a conscious level.  But sometimes, the really big, earth-shattering changes that forever alter the core of our being are made in corners of our heart we barely sense and don’t actually know exist.  Sometimes, they take place at such a deep level, the only reason we know we have been analyzing something is because of the outcome.  Because there is a consequence.  Because of the fissure that forms within us.  Because we start doing or thinking or believing or acting certain ways that are out of character for the person we were moments before.  We have a new norm.

Switches are activated.  Valves are turned.  We are suddenly a very different person than we were but a fraction of a second ago.

There have been two crystal clear instances of situations when the valve closed inside of me and I felt it closing.  I tried to stop it because I knew, I knew, I knew the turning of that valve was bringing the death of something that was very important.  I desperately labored to prevent it from shutting off with a permanence that gravely frightened me.  But the valve turned.  And in a blink of an eye, I changed.

The first time I felt this terrible phenomenon, I had been married less than a year.  Within weeks of our wedding, I had an unsettling premonition of doom.  I could feel what my new husband was feeling toward me, even though we drove in separate cars as we relocated halfway across the United States.  And I knew in my gut he didn’t love me.

That night, I tried to talk with him about what I had sensed, but he verbally denied it.  I was certain he was lying…or deceiving himself.  I wanted to be reassured by his words, so I let them be.  But the knowing and the doubt never left me.

Time revealed the truth.

One afternoon several months later as we worked in the yard of our tiny rental house, I saw him watch a beautiful girl as she rode by on her bicycle.  It hurt.  I started crying and he became extremely angry, denying he had been longingly watching her.  As I cried, I asked him what he wanted me to do because the fear that he didn’t love me was ever present and his actions weren’t reassuring.  I told him I knew I was damaged because of the years of abuse I had experienced growing up with my unstable parents.  I explained that, as a result, trust was difficult for me.   I told him I realized my brokenness made me challenging to love at times.  And I asked him if he would bear with me as I tried to work through the damage and put my soul back together again.

His response?  “I don’t want to hear it.  Keep it to yourself.  You’re right, I don’t love you. I don’t want to be bothered with all this.”

As I stood, numbed and frozen, brokenhearted, I felt the switch flip and the valve begin to turn.  It wasn’t a conscious decision.  It happened before I fully realized my life was forever to be changed.  But I had a bad feeling.  And I knew I needed to stop that valve because my future surely depended on it.

I tried.  I pushed back.  Mentally I fought it with every ounce of strength I could muster and with all of my being.  To no avail.

His rejection lodged in the innermost part of me.  And froze me solid.  The numbness started in that dark and secret place and penetrated every cell, every thought and every hope.

The light within me grew darker than the darkest night.

The second time was less dramatic.  I realized what was taking place and though I also tried to keep the valve from turning, all my strength and struggling didn’t change the outcome.

I had a friend I had come to love.  Perhaps the friend was more important to me than they should have been.  But living in a loveless marriage where I was constantly rejected and where my husband never wanted to be bothered with my heart, their friendship was a lifeboat on a stormy, lonely sea.

But they were dying.

They needed an organ transplant and it was, at that time, considered to be experimental.  This meant insurance wouldn’t pay for the operation.  A group of those of us who were his friends were doing everything possible to raise the money, but the odds weren’t good.  And as we sat talking at a gathering of these friends, the realization that I was losing the one person who accepted me to any degree overwhelmed me.  The switch was flicked and all my emotions began to shut down, just as they had when my husband told me he didn’t love me and wanted me to me keep my mess to myself.

I didn’t shut down as slowly as I had previously.  The battle was short.  The damage done in a millisecond.

My soul became a frozen tundra.

Since that day, I haven’t been able to connect with another human being.

I’ve tried.  Fighting to undo the damage that resulted from the turning of the valve that shut off the flow of life in me.  I’ve prayed.  I’ve been left only with the option to pretend.  To pretend to feel.

It’s not that people don’t matter.  It’s not that I am not lonely or that I don’t want to connect.  It’s simply that I no longer know how.  Something vital was lost and I can’t get it back.  And in losing the life-giving flow that was throttled when the valve was shut off, I’ve lost the ability to truly live.

We are complex beings.  Things happen in places we can’t control and they can destroy us in the time it takes us to breathe a single breath.  There is no going back.  The valve, just like time, only moves in one direction.  Carrying us ever closer to death with each revolution.

 

Ghost of Christmas Past

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…
For some.
For others, it’s a lonely, painful time.   A haunted time.
It’s a time of unfulfilled expectations.  Of laughter that never reaches your heart.  Happiness that never makes it to your soul.  Because it’s supposed to be a time of families and close friends getting together, celebrating, sharing love, magic, joy.  Perhaps for a lot of people, that’s what happens.  But for many of us, it’s just another empty, disappointing day.  One that feels even more empty than normal because it’s supposed to be full.
 And then, there is the dark side.
I have a memory from when I was a young child.  It’s Christmas break.  My father was a teacher, so he was home with my brother and me.  It was a few days before Christmas and it had snowed…a big, deep, delightful (when you’re a child) snow that turned the world into a wonderland.  My father was born and raised in Michigan.  It snowed a lot there.  And while this wasn’t a major snow by Michigan standards, it was pretty significant for Missouri.  The snow was thigh deep in the shallowest of places.  It was almost waist deep in the drifts.  My brother and I could barely contain ourselves, we were so excited.  We bundled up and rushed outside to enjoy the miracle.
 My father didn’t often play with us.  But even he seemed enchanted by the beautiful snow that shrouded the world in clean, frigid white, like icing on a cake.  Being from a state where snow in the winter was an everyday affair, he knew lots of outside winter games.  He asked us if we knew how to play fox and geese.  We both shook our heads no, shivering with anticipation as well as with the cold.  And so the fun began! He instructed us to clear a big circular path in the snow in an open area of our yard.  We kicked and dug and packed and tramped, working up a sweat.  Once the circle was complete, he had us make an “x” path through the circle, dividing it into 4 equal quadrants. 
 He was the fox first.  We were the geese being chased around and through the pathways we had created in the snow.  The goal of the fox was to catch a goose.  Once tagged, the goose would then become the fox. We ran for our lives!  Laughing.  Falling.  Laughing some more.  It was so much fun!  We played until we were soaking wet and freezing cold and totally exhausted.  Then we all tumbled back into the house to change into dry clothes and warm our runny noses, red ears, and stiff, numb fingers and toes.
 This is where the memory changes for me.  This is where the darkness made itself known.
I was in my room, having just opened the drawer to my dresser.  I was trying to decide what sweater I wanted to wear.  As I poked through the 4 or 5 sweaters I owned, I was startled when the door to my room opened and closed.  My father entered and he was acting strangely.  Playful daddy had turned into what I later came to know and label as “sick daddy.”  He sucked the air out of the room as he entered, breathing heavily.  Quivering with anticipation.  I was enveloped by an overwhelming sense of dread that I didn’t understand.
 “Let me make you warm,” he said quietly but firmly in his new odd voice.
He removed my clothes as I hopelessly pleaded with him.  Begged him not to.  Kissing, fondling, groping, invading me.  And when he was finished, he said, “There, now isn’t that better?  Don’t you feel warm now?  Get dressed and come on out to the kitchen.  I’ll make us all some hot chocolate.”
And he was gone.
I remember standing in my room, unable to move for a time.  Then picking up my discarded clothes and placing them in a pile.  I dressed quickly.  Quietly.  I felt numb.  Frozen by ice that was colder than the snow that covered the ground.  Once dressed, I picked up my wet things to put them in the laundry and cast a glance back into the room before walking out the door.  I wanted to make sure everything was in order.  But what I most remember…vividly remember…is seeing myself still there in my room, hopelessly broken, barely breathing, laying on the floor.  I remember leaving that shattered little girl behind.  I left her there, a pile of gore and broken bones, shattered spirit and heart, where my wet clothes had been laying, hideously destroyed, fractured beyond recognition.  She wasn’t able to walk out of that room.  She wasn’t capable of facing the monster that waited down the hall with hot chocolate and marshmallows.  She couldn’t pick herself up and go on; couldn’t stop screaming.  She was in a million pieces and I left her there to fend for herself, half angry with her for leaving me, for making me go out into the ugly world alone.  I saw her body, ripped, torn, decimated.  And instead of rushing to her side and comforting her, I turned away.  I walked out of the room.  Closed the door.  And joined my brother and father as we sipped steaming mugs of freshly made cocoa.  As if nothing had happened.  As if nothing had changed.
Why do I remember this particular memory so clearly; so vividly?  It wasn’t the first time my father sexually abused me.  Nor was it the last.  It wasn’t one of the worst memories I have.  Certainly there are far more horrible memories of perverted things he did to me. So why is this one day, this one event, etched so deeply and perfectly in my mind?  Why can I still see it as if it happened only yesterday?
Several things seem pertinent.  For one thing, when my father started sexually abusing me, I was probably around 4 or 5 years old.  The memories I have of that time are shrouded in fantasy.  I didn’t have the maturity to understand what was happening.  I didn’t like it.  It scared me.  It felt wrong.  But I didn’t have the ability to grasp or process what he was doing.  Because of this, I created a fantasy world and escaped into it.  As an older child, this was becoming more difficult to execute.  And I believe I had finally reached an age and a point of understanding where it was no longer possible to ignore, warp, or wrap what he was doing to me in a make-believe world. Secondly, having come to an age where I could no longer deny or shroud in fantasy what my father was doing to me, I shattered. Completely shattered.  I believe the memory I have is of the day, the moment in time, when that horrible shattering took place.  So even though what he did to me that day was not the vilest thing my father would ever do, it was a significant moment in time because of the internal impact.  It was the moment he utterly obliterated my soul.
I didn’t stop loving Christmas.  Though I hate snow.  But Christmas was never a carefree or magical time for me afterwards.  I was always looking over my shoulder.  Waiting for everything to morph into that other unspeakable reality.  It was never again wonderful.  There was a hidden razor’s edge, cutting into my deepest and most vulnerable parts and places.  There was always pain mixed with the happiness.  Fear mixed with the laughter.  Terror mixed in with the carols that were sung.  And I stopped expecting it to be special.  Because everything that was special had been taken away from me.
Guarded, posing in front of the Christmas tree at age 12.
Me in front of the Christmas tree at age 12.
Magic no longer existed.  The lights were not as bright, the ornaments weren’t as shiny.  A hideous monster hid behind the bows and colorful paper that covered the gifts under the tree.  I knew the monster.  The monster watched me, waiting, pouncing, taking.  Christmas that year was when I finally understood what he was.  And then, I closed the lid of the brightly wrapped box in which he hid and smiled, carried on, acting as if everything was as it seemed.
He is long dead now, this ghost of Christmas past.  But he haunts me still.

Keep Walking

You would think by now, after all these years of trying to understand and find my way, to fit the shards back together, I would be able to find the right words to describe what happened and how it affected me.  You would think I would be able to easily pull the memories out of the distant past, touch the emotions, paint the picture of my life and make sense of it all.

Yet, more often than not, I find myself without words.  Unable to speak.  To verbalize a single thought.  Unable to write.  Unable to adequately explain why my world is so shattered.

I find myself without a reason to continue the journey.

This endless void where I reside in a place of numbness and isolation is an inescapable prison.  I cannot connect.  I cannot breathe.  I cannot connect because I can’t even begin to identify the real me standing in the lineup.  I’ve hidden within roles for so long, I’ve lost who I truly am.  If, indeed, there is enough left of me behind the mast to count as still being human.  If existing counts.

The masks I wear are not worn to deceive, but rather to deflect.  There is a difference.  They’ve been worn to protect others, to deflect their eyes away from the ugliness so they won’t be horrified or offended.  To protect others from me…and maybe to protect me from myself.

I try to pretend that I am someone I clearly am not because I can’t get beyond the fact that who I am is not acceptable.  Not normal.  Not good enough.   Of little or no value.  So I pretend I am someone who is worth of hanging out with.  Worthy of being hired by a good employer.  Worthy of talking to and getting to know.  Someone who isn’t a broken, empty, utterly shattered shell of a person.

I leave the abused part of me at home.  The unacceptable and toxic prat.  The part that can’t function.  Just as I left the little girl who shattered into a million gazillion pieces behind in my bedroom when she could no longer endure the sexual abuse and unnatural demands of her sick father.  The child who endured the demeaning, destructive words both parents were so often known to spew.  I walk out the door now, just as I walked out of my bedroom door when I was a child.  I go on.  Even if it’s without my heart and soul.  I keep walking.  Even if I don’t have anything to walk toward.  Or anyone to walk beside me.  I walk.  I do.  I function.  Simply because I don’t know what else to do.

Really…how does one give up?  What would that look like?  Would I stay in bed and refuse to talk?  What good would that do?  No one is going to take care of me.   No one is going to lend a shoulder for me to lean on.    They have their own burdens.

So if I stop walking, I won’t have food.  I won’t have money to pay for a house.  No clothes, no car.  I won’t be able to take care of my dogs or get my teeth fixed or go to the doctor when needed.  I don’t know how to give up, even as I don’t know what to do next.  Or if there is anything to do next.   I’m not sure there is a next step.  But I take it anyway.

Collapsing is only going to make things worse.  And so, I keep getting up.  I keep going to work.  I pay my bills.  I adore my dogs.  I take the trash out.  I pick up around the house and even clean occasionally.  Including the toilets.

It requires that I ignore my soul.  I’ve gotten good at it.

Yet, over time, continually denying who you really are, pretending to be a “normal” and functional person, corrodes your identity until there is little left of one’s person-hood.  I no longer know what I hope for or if I have any dreams left.  It becomes impossible to determine if there is anything left ahead to make it worthwhile, much less wondrous.  I’ve strangled myself and now, I can’t imagine there is anything good.  I no longer know what matters because I’ve left too many little pieces of my heart behind.

All I know to do is to keep walking.  Keep putting one foot in front of the other.  There is no viable alternative.  I’m letting my feet take me wherever they will because I don’t know what direction I should go.  I keep taking one step at a time up this mountain that stands before me because there is nothing else to do.  I don’t know how to stop.

I will keep walking until my body simply won’t go any further.  Not because I believe in the grand ending or that there will be roses along the road.  Not because of any glorious view I expect to see from the mountain top, should I ever reach it.  But simply because quitting is not an option.

And so I take a step.  I get out of bed.  I go to work.  I do what needs to be done.

A step.  And then I take another.  And then another.  Even if I’m not going anywhere.