Tag Archives: dysfunction

The Interview

She came for an interview today.  Arrived a proper 5 minutes early, waiting in the car until just the right moment.  She was young.  Very young and slightly awkward socially.  Care had been taken with her outfit; she had done a lot with the little she had, dressing up inexpensive, worn pieces with a scarf, intricately woven and tied neatly around her neck.  Her gratitude over being considered for our open position was obviously heart-felt.  She didn’t have any of the required experience and she knew it.  Nothing to offer but willing hands.  And her hands were shaking.

As we began to talk, it quickly became obvious she was not a typical carefree young person.  Clearly, she was not like her average peers.  I could feel her fear and struggle over what to share.  Over how to share it while still being honest.  How to phrase her thoughts without causing a potential employer to immediately reject her.  Her voice trembled slightly.  Hands held in her lap remained tightly clasp.  Her back, ram-rod straight.  Her feet were placed tightly together and were positioned side-by-side flat on the floor.  Though she tried to make steady eye contact, she faltered.  She would look at me for a moment, after which her expressive eyes fell quickly back to the table sitting between us.

Her only job experience had been accumulated while working for her parents in a string of unrelated business ventures that evidently failed with some degree of regularity.  She had worked hard at those jobs.  Cleaning stadiums.  Cutting down trees with a chainsaw.  Securing the trees by ropes placed to ensure they fell in the right direction.  I found it difficult to imagine her even lifting a chainsaw, much less using one, especially considering her slight build and tiny arms.  But she spoke with knowledge hard won.  The knowledge of someone who had been there, had done the work and survived to tell the tale.

Her family formed a band, a musical group, playing in a small geographic region, disbanding at the point when they were finally being recognized.  She wrote songs for the group and sang them from her heart.  Her dream was to reach someone.  To touch them deeply.  I thought of all the songs I wrote when I was younger.  How we shared the same dream.  Exactly the same dream, her words an echo of my own.

She was unlike me.  So unlike me in many ways.  Yet so very much like me in other glaring and significant ways.

Her father viewed her as his property.  She was not permitted to do anything outside his authority and he didn’t respect her as an individual.  As a person.  She had to obey.  He demanded it.  Demanded she do as she was told.  Work hard.  Contribute.  Submit.  The only time she was heard was when she had an idea that would ultimately save him money.  These kinds of ideas were permissible.  Ideas about what constituted right and wrong or what was fair were not permissible.  She was his to use.

So unlike me.  So unlike me in some ways.  But so very like me in many profound aspects.

She doesn’t know “being loved.”  She doesn’t know what it feels like to be protected.  Cherished.  Simply for who she is; not what she does.  She doesn’t know she matters.

Two months ago, she broke free, flew away, and is now trying to get a foothold so she can begin to work her way forward to the starting line.  The place where “normal” people begin their journey in life.  She’s clawing for something to grab hold of.  Trying to sort through the mess she sees in her mind when she looks inside herself.  She’s trying to understand.  To figure out what to keep and what to toss away.  Trying to put all the pieces together, in hopes her soul will miraculously have prevailed.

Oh, God.  So like me in so many of the terrible details.

As we talked, I felt my eyes growing moist.  I fought the urge, staying focused on business.  The job we were filling.  The requirements.  Her ability to fulfill those requirements.  But, as I walked her to the door, I did something I have never done in my 30-year career.  I encouraged her to seek help and support.  Now, while she is young.  Now.  Because it can change the course of her life.  Because no one can rebuild themselves alone.  No one can do it without love.  Without finding a place and a person of safety.

And then, I gave her the precious words my grandmother gave me when I was a child of six, sharing my very first poem with her.  I told her to never stop writing.  I told her I had also had a rough start.  That writing had saved my life so many times when it was all I had…and I found it to be enough.  Writing pulled me through.  So, I told her to never, never, never stop writing.  To never let that go.

She began to cry quietly, fighting it, as was I.  With tears in our eyes, we hugged, holding each other for a long time.  And as I held her, she repeated over and over again, “You understand.  You know.”

Yes, little bird, you who finally found your wings.  Who survived and now has flown away at last.  I know.  I do know.  With every fiber of my being, I know.  And I will do whatever I can to lift you up so you can eventually fly further and higher than I have ever been able to soar.

Oil & Vinegar

When we were kids, my brother and I ate a lot of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup.  Our mother seemed to think she was providing us with a healthy meal, with something that was especially good for us.  But neither one of us liked the soup.  Specifically, my brother liked the broth, but not the noodles.  I, on the other hand, liked the noodles, but not the broth.  So, when our mother wasn’t looking, he gave me his noodles, I gave him my broth, and we were both satisfied.

He was oil.  I was vinegar.

He was the child who would not clean his plate, no matter what, unless he was hungry.  I was the child who cleaned my plate as quickly as possible so I wouldn’t have to sit at the table for a second longer than was absolutely necessary.  To me, it was punishment, having to sit.  My brother frequently fell asleep with his head laying in his food long after I was gone.  He never gave in.

From as far back as I can remember, he liked to wear dress shirts, ties, nice slacks and dress shoes.  I was the bell-bottom, peace-bead-wearing hippie child.  To this day, he wears dress shirts, suits, a tie and nice shoes…that’s his “casual” look.  He owns one pair of jeans.  I, on the other hand, have an eclectic “freaky” style.  I own one pair of dress pants.

He loves cats.  I love dogs.

I was a straight A student.  He bumped along making C’s.  Or even an occasional D.  If I made a B, I felt like a complete failure.   He simply wasn’t interested in most of the topics offered in high school and therefore, didn’t care enough to try to succeed.  When he was interested, he did well, which he proved in college, graduating magna cum laud.  I was driven to excel on general principle, to justify my existence.

I was the rebel.  He was the perfect child.

He drank Orange Soda.  I drank Grape.

He loved lemon drops and orange slices.  I adored chocolate covered cherries.  Or butterscotch candy.

I was badly abused.  He was coddled and protected.  But the “dysfunction stew” in which we grew had a significant impact on both of us.

Oil.  Vinegar.  So different.  But somehow, inseparable.

We were both imaginative children who created fantasy worlds and immersed ourselves in them.  So, though we were very different, we connected through our wildly active imaginations.  We even made our own board games because the “store bought” kind weren’t complex enough for us.  We retreated into our fantasies to survive.  For different reasons.

We did everything together. Riding bikes, playing with Lego, drawing intricate spy maps and then shooting our way through enemy territory to complete our missions.    Hitting the beach ball back and forth over the house, sitting in the tree house, pretending we were different people, climbing the cherry tree and devouring cherries, eating rhubarb and cucumbers from the garden.  Together.  We even shared a bedroom until I was nine and he was seven.

He is a cold weather person.  I hate cold weather.  He loves the snow.  I despise it.  He loves mountains.  My dream is to live by the beach in some warm or tropical locale where I can listen to the ocean all day long.

He’s spontaneous.  I like to have a plan.  For me, it’s survival.  He doesn’t need to survive because he’s living life fully.  And he’s fully alive.  I’m a walking dead person.  I have to make sure I have time in my schedule to recharge.  Alone.  Some time with no demands and with plenty of room to breathe.  I’m an introvert.  He is an extrovert. Never met a stranger.

He deeply enjoys classical music.  I’m rock and roll, baby!

My brother is the saver.  Me, not so much.  Even as a child, he kept whatever money he got for his birthday or Christmas.  Hiding it away so he would have it when he needed it.  I, on the other hand, didn’t see as much value in having money. It’s always been about what I could do with it.  Save a little, but enjoy what has been earned.  Not that he doesn’t treat himself, but he is very careful and only spends after he has more than enough set back to handle any emergency.  So, even though he’s younger, he was the first to buy a car.  A house.  And he paid it off.  But he is also generous with those in need.  He has a tender heart.  Mine started out tender, but I learned how to encase it in a hard shell.  I learned to numb my emotions to stay alive, if only minimally.

He is more liberal politically, even though I was always the rebel.  He has relationships and a plethora of connections.  I connect with my dogs.  And I love him with all of my heart, grateful for what time he can spare for me from his busy life.

I left my childhood “home” at 17.  He lived at home until he was 23.  I couldn’t get out fast enough.  He didn’t want to leave when he did.  Had to be nudged out of the nest.

Different.  But connected.

When my world fell apart…again…when it crashed, smashed and burned, he was there.  He made sure I had somewhere to turn.  That I wasn’t alone.  That I had at least one person who wasn’t going to walk away when I had nowhere else to go and nothing to offer.  My tenderhearted little brother.  Who owed me nothing, but who gave me everything.

He is a child of the light.  I am a child of the darkness.

He is oil.  I am vinegar.

I can’t imagine vinegar without oil.

 

Dominoes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out of options.

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

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

Kilroy Was Here

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

Incest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

When the Bough Breaks

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

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

The wind blew without ceasing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

The Invisible

We walk beside you.  Work with you.  Go to the same class you attend.  Watch the same shows.  Cheer for the same teams.  Drive the same roads.  But you don’t see us.  Don’t notice us.  We are the invisible.

The abused.  Trying to blend in.  To look and act “normal.” To deflect attention. To be noticed is to be scrutinized and judged.  Rejected.  Mocked.  Because no matter how hard we try to be normal, we are different.  We have seen, experienced and felt things that we weren’t designed to see or experience.  We aren’t equipped to handle the gut-ripping emotions; the overwhelming and intense pain of the soul.  Fractured, we become the walking wounded.  One of those pathetic, disturbing creatures who should surely be avoided at all costs.

We try to fit in.  We laugh when you laugh, hoping you won’t notice that it took us a split second longer to react.  The computer in our brain is always analyzing as it seeks to produce the correct response. To find the proper words.  The correct facial expression for the occasion.

If we are good actors, you will never notice us beyond a passing glance.  We won’t stand out.  We will remain invisible.

The old.  We’ve nothing to flaunt.  We can’t shake our head of shiny, thick hair in the sun to demand attention because we no longer have a lush mane.  Our shorts are longer so as to hide skin that has lost elasticity.  Our tops have sleeves to camouflage our flaccid arms.  Parts of us resemble a Sharpei.  Mid-drift tops are shunned and low necklines have long ago been abandoned.  We may still wear fashionable clothing and have a spring in our step.  But your eye will not be drawn to firm buns or toned calves because we don’t possess them.  In fact, it is likely your eye won’t be drawn to us at all.

We move through the grocery store unnoticed.  At best, we do our shopping without leaving a trace of ourselves behind.  At our worst, we are sometimes in the way.  A pest.  Quickly assessed and then disregarded.

The un-pretty.  We don’t fit the proper mold.  Our features are not perfectly symmetrical.  Our eyes may be too close together or too far apart.  They aren’t blue and our hair isn’t full and blonde.  Our legs are too short.  Our feet too big. Our smiles crooked or too generous.  Our ankles too fat.  Our thighs rub together and our stomach protrudes.  We turn heads…in the other direction.  No one smiles when they see us coming.  If they notice us at all, they look away, avert their eyes, find someone more pleasing to watch until we have passed by.  Someone who is impressive.  Who is worthy of adulation.

The abused who are also older and who don’t meet…and likely never have met…our societal standards for pretty – well, it’s a triple whammy.

Silent.  Invisible.  Here and gone without leaving a ripple behind.  We don’t even imprint on your retina.

I’m sure there are others who feel this way.  Refugees.  The poor.  Who can’t afford a cool car or trendy clothing.  The obese.  The unintelligent.  Those who never had an opportunity to go to college.  There is an army of marginalized members of society lurking in the peripheral vision of the masses.  Those who failed the test because of factors that were and that remain far beyond their control.

The invisible sea of individuals who don’t measure up.  Who are odd.  Who have no hope of acceptance because of how they look, what has been done to them and a pathetic lack of resources.

I am adrift in this sea.

I am one of the abused.  Badly abused.  Rejected.  I am older.  Old by the standards of youth.  I have never been one of the beautiful people.

Not only has the outside of me failed to measure up, no one has been able to find beauty in my soul.  Or in my heart.  No one has been able to accept me for who I am.  My warts are somehow far, far worse than those of most others.  My flaws too horrible.  So, I go through my day without acceptance.  Without touch.  Mostly without notice.  Without anyone to care or to assure me the difficulties and hurts I’ve encountered will somehow work out.  That I can and will get through them.  In reality, they probably won’t work out and I’ll only get through them if I can find the strength within me to keep walking in spite of the agony.

You don’t see me, but that slight breeze you felt on your cheek may have been the air I stirred as I walked past you.

We are the invisible.  Imperfect creatures.  Broken.  Not as successful as is expected or required.  Certainly, not as glamorous or physically pleasing.  Our deficiencies are often hard to mask.  And so, people block us from their mind and gush over the more perfect among us instead.  Worshiping youth.  And “hotness.”

It’s actually not too terrible…not be recognized as being a person or of having value.  I’m certainly left alone.  And though no one speaks to me beyond what is necessary, though they cut me off in line and seem surprised to see me standing behind them if I have the courage to speak up, for the most part, life’s transactions can be conducted in the shadows with a certain amount of efficiency.  And without too much hassle.

There was a time when I wanted someone to see me because I prayed there was someone special in the world who would love and accept me despite my flaws and brokenness.  I have learned.  Reality has replaced fantasy.  And reality is empty of most everything, though it is filled to overflowing with isolation.

Now, I am content if people don’t bump into me and knock me down.  If they don’t cut me off.  If they lower their eyes as I walk by.  I am content when no one is hurting me.  No, not content.  But grateful.  Grateful no further damage has been done.  That I have returned safely home.  Have made it through the day without additional wounds and scars.

There is something to be said for being left alone.  There are worse things than being invisible.  I am trying to find the good in it.  Or to at least ignore the bad.

I’m trying to embrace invisibility.  To hold it close, even as I have always longed to be held.

 

Two Worlds

There are two worlds.  Two worlds that exist side by side here on this planet that revolves endlessly around the sun as it hurtles through space.  A planet that is but a pinpoint of light in a deep and endless darkness.  A galaxy filled with light year after light year of eternal night.

This is where our lives play out.  On this speck of a planet surrounded by a deep airless void.

Two worlds.

One where love is.

One where love is not.

Two worlds.  They exist side-by-side.  But they’re worlds apart. Touching shoulders with each other.  As different as night is from day.  Neighbors.  But not friendly neighbors.  Distant cousins who have never met.  Who don’t want to meet.

I come from the 2nd world.  The really dark one.

In my house, on the side of the street where I grew up, there was a lot of yelling, hitting, anger, pain and rejection.  There were so many expectations, I couldn’t keep up with them.  Fix my parent’s life.  Fix my parents.  Make all A’s.  Be popular.  Be silent.  Don’t cause trouble.  Have blonde hair.  Be cute and petite.  Don’t be a bother.  Don’t ask for anything.  Don’t need.  Do the dishes.  And homework.  Keep the secrets.  The many secrets our house held.  The secrets the curtains cloaked, shielded and guarded.  Don’t tell.  Don’t call attention to yourself.  Act normal.  Do what you’re told.  Make everyone happy.  Make everyone feel better.  Make the hard stuff go away.  Solve all my mother’s problems.  Be her confidant.  Affirm her.  Take care of my little brother.  Shut up.  Smile.  Don’t ask questions.  Don’t stir anything up.

An endless list.  Nothing was ever removed from the list.  Much was added…often daily.  Much was expected without being spoken or defined.

In my world, the world where love wasn’t, acceptance was never achieved.  If I made all A’s, I should have made A+’s.  If I got all the housework done and done well, it was never good enough.  I was  always at fault and deficient.  Because I was defective.  I was a failure.  Flaws could easily be thrown in my face.  And of course, I couldn’t solve their problems, fix their lives or make them feel better.  Nor could I make the darkness go away.  Instead, the darkness swallowed me whole.  And refused to spit me out.

I was fat, ash blonde and getting darker by the minute.  I wasn’t popular or petite.  I didn’t have answers.

I saw the kids who came from and lived in the other world.  I saw them daily at school.  They were foreign to me.  I couldn’t begin to imagine all of the ways in which we were different, but we were very, very different.  They were better.  I was inferior.  I was worthless.

They laughed without restraint.  They had confidence.  A voice.  They mattered.  They were special.  Wanted.  Worth caring for.

I was not.

I did keep the secrets.  That’s one thing I did extremely well.  One area where I exceeded expectations.  The people from the other world never suspected what I endured behind the closed and locked doors of my parent’s house.

Abuse.  Constant.  Abuse.

Where there is abuse, love is absent.  And there was always abuse.  There wasn’t much, if any, love.

They told me they loved me.  Then hit me.  Slapped me.  Knocked me down.

They told me they loved me.  Then demeaned and used me.

They told me they loved me.  Then rejected me.

They told me they loved me.  Then ignored me.

They told me they loved me.  Then neglected me.

They told me they loved me.  Then my loving father sexually abused me.  Raped me.

They told me they loved me.  Then detailed all the many different ways I disappointed them.  How I let them down.

In my world, winning was no more of an option than was being loved.

Two worlds.  Worlds apart.  Vastly different.  Day and night.

My world lacked air.  Warmth.  Light.  The laughter that existed was forced, guarded, cautious.  Required.  No belly laughs.  No joy.  Not even a little sliver of happiness.

Lots of caution.  Silence.  Darkness.  Cold.  Anger.  Disappointment.  Fear.  Anguish.  No one to turn to and no safe harbor.  Danger lurked.  Lunged.  Ripped me to pieces with razor sharp claws.

There was no escape.

I endured.  Survived.

When I left home at the age of 17, I tried to leave that shadow world behind.  But growing up there had damaged me on a cellular level.  There was no leaving it.  I left the slaps, but not the rejection.  I left the sexual abuse, but not the lack of love.  I left the darkness, but the darkness grew inside of me.  It stunted me.  Left me broken and empty.

Two worlds.  I drew the low card.  The short straw.  I came from the wrong one.  I could see the other world, but I couldn’t touch it.  It is and has remained forever out of my reach.

Two worlds.

One where love is.

One where love is not.

My world is the one where love is not.

Carpenter

I am a carpenter.  It is my hobby.  My creative outlet.  How I express myself.  Building something out of nothing.  It is the way I survive.

Words are my wood.  Punctuation the nails.  They are the tools of my trade.

I take a single word and place it carefully…just so.  I make sure it is true.  Level.  That it fits perfectly.  At least to the best of my ability.  And then I add another.  And another.  Carefully fashioning them into the piece I see in my heart. Bringing my inner world to life.

Sometimes everything flows easily.  Sometimes it simply “works” as I envision and desire.  But not every time.  I probably fail in my role as a carpenter more than I succeed.  And yet I keep trying.  I keep building.  Word upon word.  Nailed together with great attention to detail.

I sand and lovingly finish each piece.  I try to create something meaningful and lasting out of the ashes of my life.  Something of beauty.  Of interest.  Something worthwhile.

Ever so slowly, my words build a window into my soul.  I give you limited access to sneak a peek through that window, knowing you probably don’t really care to see the poorly-crafted and broken down rooms of my heart.  I am, you see, not the best carpenter.  The things I see and have experienced are not necessarily pretty.  So what I create is not often pretty.  The things I have to share are not awe-inspiring.  And some are downright ugly.

I will never win any awards.

Though I long to build beautiful pictures and hope connect in spite of the ugliness of the wood I use, I don’t often succeed.   I place each word specifically to resonate and to promote a closeness I fear I can’t sustain.  In reality, I struggle to share the results of my carpentry “skills.”  It is frightening to open up.  The small windows I build are probably as close as I can come to letting someone walk through my world.  It is risky sharing my creations.  To allow others to read the words I have crafted, plank after plank, until the piece is finished, is to risk rejection and ridicule.  Sometimes, I question the sanity of my hobby.  Always I question my abilities.  I wonder why I am so driven to build and to share.  To work so diligently to bridge the chasm between us.  I keep sanding the wood, fitting the pieces together until my heart has said what it longed to say, even if I say it poorly.

I dare not place a doorway.  Too risky.  Someone might actually turn the knob and come in.  And vulnerability can be deadly.

Oh, how I wish someone would turn the knob and come in.

This house I have built and furnished, that I have so diligently created in spite of my many faults,  it is all I have to give.  Words.  Words I have tried to make smooth and acceptable, even though they tell a repulsive story.  The story of abuse, rejection, depression.  Of struggles, failings, self-hate.   Of defeat.

I have built with the material that is available to me.  I have written what I have lived.  Word upon word.  Chapter after chapter.  Telling the story of this place where I dwell, this place my hands have made with what I had to work with.

A lowly carpenter.  Sharing my story one hewn and carefully selected word at a time.  All in hopes that someone will see some beauty in my ragged creations.  Maybe even come in and sit down with me for a while.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

I loved them.  Loved them as only a little girl can love.

Especially Illya Kuryakin.  Napoleon Solo was too cocky and full of himself for me.  Too egotistical  Too suave.  He was the guy who always won.  I loved the underdog.  Kuryakin.

I spent my meager allowance to buy posters, pictures and books.  Man From U.N.C.L.E. posters, pictures and books.  Books that I read again and again.  Pictures that I looked at, soaked in and memorized.  Huge posters that I adored and hung on my wall.  The show was a happy place in my otherwise unhappy world.

Robert Vaughn.  David McCallum.  Leo G. Carroll.  Especially David McCallum.  Illya Kuryakin.

I often pretended to be an U.N.C.L.E. agent.  I had an army green messenger pouch I bought from the Army Surplus Store and I filled it with secret documents I was tasked to deliver to fellow agents in enemy territory.  I had a gun, made from a carved wooden stock with a piece of pipe for a barrel.  I carried out my missions, barely escaping T.H.R.U.S.H.

I loved Illya Kuryakin.  I loved  The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

They watched me.    I pinned their pictures to the walls of my bedroom because they made me happy.  They watched over me from there.  From the walls of my room.  They saw everything that happened in that room.  Everything.

I grew up in a small town outside a small city.   We…my dysfunctional, abusive family and I…would often go to that small city to shop and eat on the afternoon before The Man From U.N.C.L.E. would air.  I would go on one condition.  One condition only.  That we would be home in time for me to see my show.   My special show; the highlight of my week.

Back in those days, when I was 9, 10, 11, you couldn’t record a t.v. show and watch it later.  That technology didn’t exist.   If you missed it, you missed it.  I couldn’t bear to miss it.  I loved The Man From U.N.C.L.E.  Loved. Them.

The black and white posters watched over me and made me feel a little safer. 

The show was the one positive thing in my life.

I liked it, mostly.  That they watched over me.  Except.

Except when.

When my father tip-toed into my room at night.  Breathing heavily. When he abused me.  Sexually abused me.  While they were watching.

I was so ashamed.  So ashamed.

I wanted to marry David McCallum.  I was disappointed when I found out he was married.  But I was 10.  I was 11.  That’s the way it is when you are a kid.  Reality is relative.  Reality can be hidden in fantasy and they can easily intertwine.  Especially when reality is too painful.  When you’re a kid.  When the truth can’t be faced.

Most recently he’s called “Ducky.”  He is so old.  As am I, though he is even older.  It was a long time ago.  A long, long time ago.  I can’t believe how long ago it was. But even now, I remember.

I still like him.  In spite of the fact he saw the ugly things; the shameful things.  He saw my father abuse me., hanging there on my wall with his open, staring eyes .  He watched it all.  All of the abuse; the sexual abuse.  He saw.  Everything.

The posters all watched, unblinking ,while it happened. The posters I bought with my allowance and hung with care.  They saw.

I was so ashamed, as time passed, I couldn’t look them in the eye.  Because I knew they knew my terrible secret.  I knew they could see.  They could see him do those sick and awful things to me.

I felt as if it was all my fault.  All my fault.  Somehow.

The shame was overwhelming.  It was so overwhelming, I escaped.  Into nothingness.  I turned over and retreated into darkness.  I faded into a place of total numbness and emptiness.  I couldn’t bear the shame.

I didn’t want them to see; my heroes.  I hated it that they saw my nakedness.  It was too much, knowing they were watching and that they could see him penetrate me.  And so, I blotted out the room and their faces.  I blotted out the universe.

I didn’t want him, my father, to do those things to me.  I begged him.  Begged him not to.  But he did them anyway.  He didn’t hear my pleas, nor did he consider the pain in my voice.  He didn’t know the posters of my heroes witnessed the abuse.  He hid in the night and thought no one knew. He thought no one was watching.

But they saw everything.

I still have good feelings about that show.  I still have a soft place in my heart for Illyan Kuryakin.  For David McCallum. 

I still feel the shame of the abuse.  The sexual abuse that destroyed my soul.  My father was the perpetrator.    And they saw.  They watched.  They knew the truth.  The Man From U.N.C.L.E. agents knew the truth.

Silent witnesses. 

They’re doing a remake of the show.

Wish I could remake my life.

And change what they saw.  Change what was.  Change what happened.

But reality can’t be changed.  It can be disguised.  But it can’t be changed.

In the end, my heroes couldn’t save me.  They could only observe in silence in the middle of the night as the one who should be protecting me raped and  abused me.  They could defeat T.H.R.U.S.H., but they couldn’t deter my father’s lust.

I wish they hadn’t seen.

But if someone had to see, I’m glad it was them.  My heroes.  Heroes who will always have a special place in my heart.  Heroes who watched a little girl being destroyed.

I like to think they wept as they watched.  I like to think they wanted to protect me.  That’s what they did.  The Man From U.N.C.L.E.  They saved the world.  They would have saved me if they could have. 

But they were only posters tacked to my wall. In the end, they were as powerless as I was.  There’s only so much posters, even posters of heroes, can do.