Tag Archives: emotional problems

Someone Has to Pay

Someone has to pay…and the price is high.

It costs all the years when children innocently dance the days away, safe and secure, chasing after fireflies.  Chasing after dreams.  Laughing from the belly; giggling with a carefree heart.  Running with the wind as it blows through their hair.  Jumping, leaping, straining to touch stars.  Twirling beneath a warm blue sky and falling into the soft green grass.  Life is magic.  Nothing is impossible.  Worries are for another day.

It costs the years when young teens take their first tentative steps into the future, full of a sense of adventure mixed with trepidation, looking forward while still looking back, because “back” isn’t all that long ago.  Reaching for a parent’s hand even as they struggle to let go completely.  Whirling in the midst of all they have been taught, the foundations that have been constructed, carefully and lovingly.  Testing them.  Finding their own way.

It costs all the years of young adulthood, when tentative steps solidify into ever more confident strides. When life begins to come into focus.  When dreams start to mature, decisions are made, hopes are stored into tomorrow’s treasure chest.  Ideas become plans.  Goals come into focus.  True friendships deepen and childish things are put aside, though not forgotten, for old memories are still to be enjoyed as new ones are made.  Meaning and purpose is sought and slowly found.  Life is being built a step at a time.

It costs the years of middle life, times of growing, achieving, gaining wisdom and understanding.  Times of learning what is actually important.  Connections.  The giving of your heart to others.  Commitment to a spouse.  Transparency and joy, raw vulnerability and finding a place of safety within the heart of others.  The birth of children ushers in pain beyond imagining.  And love beyond anything and everything that has ever been before.  Love so deep, your heart aches with it, throbs with it, cries with it, laughs with it, prays with it, embraces it, cherishes it.  You tremble with wonder and the fear of it as you hold it gently inside like a rare and delicate butterfly.  The world is no longer only about you.  It expands.  And the happiness of others becomes even more important to you than your own.

Such a high price.  It costs every hope.  Every dream.  Every joy. Every bit of meaning and all trust. It exacts a price every moment, stealing your soul, infusing your heart with anguish, stripping you of normality.  It purloins all sense of worth.  Damages so deeply, nothing can grow in the wasteland within.  Nothing can thrive or live in that shadowland where all has died.  The wounds and scars will mark the graves forever. The land is left toxic, poisoned and desolate.

When parents take from their children, rape their children, make their children objects to be used and abused, it costs the child everything.  All of this and more.  Though the parents refuse to acknowledge what they have destroyed, what they have stolen away, the child is the one who loses the world.  The child is the one who pays.  They pay with their life, with all they should have had but never knew and all they could have been but will never be.  They pay the price.  They pay with their heart and their soul.

They pay an exorbitant price every day until the day they finally die.

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.

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.

Heartbeat

I do not feel.  Not now.  Not for a long time.  I numbed myself years ago.  To survive the volcanic pain I held in the depths of my heart.  The raging torrent that threatened to overwhelm and drown me.  I intentionally twisted the massive valve inside my soul until the flow of caustic emotions stopped.  Until only a trickle escaped.  Until I was no longer being ripped apart by its sharp talons.  Until the agony no longer crushed me with its unbearable weight.

Once closed, that valve is impossible to reopen.  I did not know this when I shut it tight.  Had I understood, I would have chosen to let the pain take me down and rip out my throat.

I have lived my life in this state of suspension, neither dead or alive.  I have talked about all the things that will never matter and none of those that did.  Or do.  I’ve worn my poker face carefully, as if my existence depended on it.   Said what was proper in each situation.  Laughed when it was appropriate.  Cried only in secret, if at all.  Told everyone I was “fine” and “great” while turning the spotlight away from myself because I feared what it would revel if anyone looked too closely.  I performed.  Kept walking.  Went through the motions.  Amazed by the lack of a heartbeat as I took one step and then another.   And another.

I absorbed each shockwave, each loss and trauma, without reacting.  Took the next step.  Feeling nothing.  Kept moving because that was what I was supposed to do.  What I had to do.  Because it’s what “normal” people do.

No heartbeat.

Empty.  Broken.  Shattered.  My only choice was to keep going somehow.  Or die trying.

But when I am alone, when the darkness of night swaddles me tightly, pinning me in its cocoon, when the silence screams in my ears until I fear I will go deaf or insane or both, when I have nothing to hang on to and hope is a distant planet, I write.  I search for words to tell my story because I have no voice with which to speak.  Nor do I have anyone waiting by my side who will listen.  I search for the perfect words to express all the things I would feel, if only I could turn that massive handle backward, reopening the rusted valve I closed so long ago.  I vent my emotions through vowels and consonants.  I use my pen to exorcize the decaying,  pent up, blunted, deadened feelings.  The words on the page are the only way I know I am still alive.  They speak.  Quietly and falteringly.  They attempt to make sense of the repulsive tale.  They are my tapestry.

I inject all of my buried emotion into those words.  Into each one of them…each word and phrase.  I don’t feel, so much as I write it out, then read what I should or would be feeling if only I could.  I write about what I might be experiencing somewhere deep beneath the surface of my frozen soul.   I pack the sentences and paragraphs full of descriptors, hoping to attain a reaction upon impact.   I long for a response from my destroyed soul.  Any response at all.  But no matter how well I capture the moment or paint the picture or weave the tapestry, my words do not cause so much as a tiny ripple in my heart.

And so, I continue to write.  Trying in vain to uncover even a microscopic sign of life.

I long for seismic activity.  For the volcano to spew forth the hot lava that burns my insides and eats me from within.  But there is no activity to detect.  Nor even so much as a bit of steam escaping from the throat of the volcano.   The fissure does not vomit out its contents.   There is no relief.  Only enduring silence.

I search for words I cannot find.  Attempting finally to release the noxious toxic gasses into the atmosphere.  But the crater is cold, sealed by too many thick layers and far too many years.

No heartbeat.  The valve can’t be reopened.  Time can’t be unspent.  There is no going back to do it differently.  All the paths not taken will never be traveled because I did not choose to walk them.  I did not take the risks I should have taken, nor did I dare to explore uncharted territory.

There is a crater where once was housed a soul.  There is a stone where I once nurtured a heart.  There is numbness and death where once there was breath and life.  And there are now only inadequate, insufficient, unmoving words scattered across the page where once there was a heartbeat.

My heartbeat.  Silent forevermore.

Childless

I don’t have  children.  It was a choice…one I often regret at this stage in my life.  It was a painful choice.  It is more painful now, looking back.  Now that I understand with more clarity why I did what I did.  Life is like that.  It’s often easier to see the truth when looking in the rear-view mirror.  It is easier to see paths you should have taken instead of the ones you did.

I made the decision to remain childless when I was 16 years old while sitting in American History Class one afternoon.  I hated history.  My mind often wandered to more profound topics.  Which is what happened on this particular day.  The memory is extremely clear.  I was daydreaming, writing out a list of names I liked, potential names for the daughter I hoped to have someday.  Madison, Zoe, Heather, Hannah, Michaela, Addison, Maddie, Mackenzie…I had a long list.  I was imagining what she would be like, this child I vowed to love with all of my heart.  Would she adore words the way I did?  Would she have any of my features?  Would she have the same kind of intuition and insight I often had; a maturity beyond her years?  Would she love the water?  Love to run?  Enjoy learning?  Love dogs?

As I wrote, some nasty persistent thoughts kept interrupting my pleasant musings. And I couldn’t quite banish them to the back of my mind.

I began to think about something I had recently read, a story about how abused children often grew up to be abusers themselves.  Finally, the thought captured my full attention.  I stopped writing.  Contemplated the implications of the research.  Looked over the names I had written.  Thought some more, as everything began to come together.  It was an important moment, one that is indelibly etched in my mind.  Frozen in time, sharp and clear.  It was one of those moments when reality is revealed and something very deep and significant results.  A shift takes place.  In an instant, the course of one’s life forever altered.

I knew in my heart I wouldn’t abuse a child.  I could never hurt anyone the way I had been hurt.  But in that moment, I became acutely aware of the big holes in my soul.  And I feared what I lacked and the ways I had been damaged might prevent me from being able to give a child all the things they would need to grow into a happy, healthy, normal adult.

Sydney, Whitney, Madison, Holly, Lexie, Jillian, Sadie…

The more I thought about the risk, the sadder and emptier I felt.

Marne, Haley, Willow, Quinn, Jordan, Quincy…

I stared at the list, rereading each name until the sadness was overwhelming.  And I began to grieve.

I remember feeling hollowed out.  I pushed my pen aside.   Finally resigned, I quietly but firmly folded up the paper that contained my list of special names.  I placed it between the pages of my notebook.  Tucking it away.  And I knew, with an understanding that defied logic, I would never use any of those names because I would never have a child.  I couldn’t take the chance.  I couldn’t risk it.

And just like that, the decision was made.

I never really looked back.  There was a time in my early 30’s when I gave God permission to change my mind.  I didn’t think I had made a mistake, but I wanted to make sure I had been thinking clearly when I originally made my choice as a daydreaming 16-year-old girl in American History class.  He was silent. My heart did not condemn me.  I took that as agreement.

But sometimes it really hurts.

I have never been pregnant.  Never felt a child move inside of me.  Never held my baby in my arms.  Never been able to pour myself out for another being I loved more than life itself.  Never had the chance to protect a little one, to guide them, to help them learn and grow.  And nothing of myself will be left upon this earth when I am gone.  No one will remember me.  Or care that I once was.

I never got to go through the ups and downs, rediscovering the beauty of life, enjoying their innocence, their puzzlement, seeing them experience the world.  Never got to observe those first steps, their first love, their first kiss, graduation, marriage, jobs.  Never held them when they cried.  Never bandaged scraped knees.  Watched the stars and the moon with them.  Taught them to drive.  Helped them to be strong and confident and secure.

I never received a Mother’s Day card.

I never got to see their face or look into their eyes.

I will never know the joy of having a grandchild.

It hurts because that child who might have been will never be.  The first time I was on the maternity ward of the hospital, it was to recover after having a hysterectomy.  I did not experience giving birth to a new life.  I let that opportunity slip through my fingers because I was afraid I would not be the kind of parent I needed to be.

When I die, no one will cherish my belongings, holding some worthless trinket tenderly in their hand as they remember me.  No one will want the poems and songs I have written or care about the struggles of my life; my victories and defeats.  No one will miss me.  My passing will not impact a single soul.

To the child of my heart, the child of my dreams and imagination, I can only say this:  I loved you enough not to have you.  I was afraid, I admit it.  Afraid I couldn’t be a good enough mother to give you all that you would need to grow strong and whole.  There were so many things I didn’t have that I needed.  So many things I experienced that damaged me.  I didn’t know if I could overcome the damage and still equip you to be a resilient and confident individual.  I was afraid my lack would cause me to fail you.  I was fearful of deeply hurting you.  Injuring you.  So even though I dreamed about you, longed for you and wrote out lists of names that I thought would express how special you were, I realized I needed to think of you first.  It wasn’t about me and what I wanted.  It was about your heart, your life, your wholeness, your soul.

When it came down to it, it was all about not taking the chance of hurting you irreparably.  It meant not having a baby, a child for my satisfaction and fulfillment.  It meant thinking about you, your needs, what I could give you, what I might not be able to give you, and making a decision that was best for you.

I would have rather died than hurt you.  And I was terrified I would severely wound you the way I had been wounded.

Oh, I felt certain I wouldn’t do the things to you that had been done to me.  But did I have what you would need?  Could I give you a stable, healthy, loving foundation?  I was afraid I would fail you too many times and in too many important ways.  Destroy you unintentionally.  Shatter you.  Break your spirit.  So, I gave you up.  I gave up the hope of having a little girl.  I tucked my dreams away in my notebook along with the list of special names I had written.  And I never looked at either of them again.

I suppose in the end I failed you, regardless of the choice I made.  But I did what I did because I felt it was the right thing.  For you.  I was trying to be unselfish.  Even though it hurt.  I wasn’t confident I could give you strong wings that would carry you high and far and allow you to soar, especially considering I had never flown myself.

It seems we both paid the price of the childhood abuse I suffered…abuse that resulted in my shattered soul and broken wings.  Because of this, we both lost our life.  And neither one of us will ever fly.

 

Teacher, Teacher

My father was a teacher.

He first wanted to be a pastor, a revelation that was quite surprising, considering neither of my parents attended church and only spoke of God when they wanted to restrict my behavior or forbid me from participating in some activity.  Everything fun was a sin.  So, at best, I learned of a rejecting and small-minded God.

Drinking was a sin.  Getting drunk was a dire and unforgivable sin. Cursing was a sin.  Disobeying my parents was a sin.  Selfishness was a sin if I was guilty, but oddly enough, it wasn’t a sin when my parents were guilty. Lying, particularly to my parents, was a sin.  As was dancing, skating, smoking, going to movies, hanging out with friends.  Wanting cool clothes and caring about how one looked was also a sin…vanity.  Sin was not permitted.  It was very, very bad. God hated sinners.  He sent them to hell.  He only accepted the perfectly obedient.

Sex before marriage would send you to hell.  But somehow adultery never made the list, perhaps because it was my father’s specialty.  That and a few other sexual sins.

Considering these shaming conversations were the only ones “about” God that were heard in my house as I was growing up, the thought of my earthly father leading a church service was incongruous, to say the least.  Thankfully, the pastor gig didn’t pan out.  And when it fell apart, he moved toward what he considered to be the next best option.  He became a teacher.  Of 7th and 8th grade English.   And when he received his Master’s degree, he added Reading Specialist to his title.

This “next best” option still gave him power and access to fairly young children.

He was a Sergeant in the Air Force and for the rest of his life, everyone who knew him called him “Sarge.”  He earned the nickname.  Wore it with pride.  My father was a man who demanded absolute obedience.  Like God.

Though I am unsure of my age when he first started sexually abusing me (childhood trauma can play havoc with memory…and the soul), by the time I entered elementary school, I was already showing signs of long term abuse.  Torturing my dolls.  Sexual awareness far beyond what was normal for a 6-year-old.  Fear of adults.  Withdrawal.  I carried secrets no little girl should ever have to carry.

My father the teacher taught me many things.

He taught me to fear.  To disregard my own intuition and perceptions. To hate myself.  To despair.  To distrust.  To expect the bad.  For you could always depend on terrible things happening.

He taught me to disassociate.  To hurt.  Feel agony beyond what I could bear.  To hold in my tears, even as they ripped me into pieces.  To numb my emotions. To live in a vacuum void of any life-giving elements.

And he taught me about sex.  He told me he was doing it for my own good.  To help me.

My father the teacher was very, very helpful.  When he wanted something from me.

My greatest fear is that he also taught other little girls.  And if I had found my voice when he was alive, I might have been able to prevent him from taking on other “students.”

I pray I am wrong.  I pray I was the only one.  But the odds are against my prayer being answered.  I wonder often if the day will come when I encounter another child he personally tutored the way he groomed and tutored me.

He was such a “good” teacher, the lessons he taught me have been difficult to unlearn.  The numbness persists.  As does fear and despair.  My memory is full of black holes and brief flashes.  I cannot put the few memories I do have into any kind of order.  They pop into my head and play behind my eyes randomly, then fade away just as quickly.  I struggle to believe I have value unless I prove myself to be useful again and again.  I must earn the right to live and breathe, unsure I am even a person. I see my Heavenly Father through the same lens as I view my earthly father.  I fear Him as I feared him.  I don’t know how to trust Him, just as I knew I could not trust him.  I feel His rejection and displeasure just as I felt his rejection and displeasure.  I feel used by Him much in the same way I felt used by him.  My earthy father broke me, smashed me to pieces, shattered my soul.  My Heavenly Father allowed it…and He has not bothered to put me back together.

Could be the healing I have sought hasn’t come because of the lessons my father taught me.  Such a very “good” teacher.  I can’t seem to change the way I see my Father and I think this hinders me in my pursuit of wholeness.  Not only did my father shatter me with his lessons, he shattered my ability to trust the One who might be able to help me.

He stole my hope.  Derailed my future.  Defiled me.

The problem with being defiled is that I am the one who got dirty.  He walked away unscathed.  Unlabeled.   He got away without enduring a single consequence.

What he taught me did not help me.  It did not prepare me for life.  Instead, it crippled me.  His lessons have been something I must constantly struggle to overcome, not something I can build and stand upon.

But he taught me. Teacher, teacher.  He taught me lasting lessons.  Written indelibly on my heart.  Infused into every cell.   And I walk this dark and empty path he set before me though I have tried desperately to leave it behind.  I walk this torturous, desolate, poisoned path every single moment of each and every day.

I have been perfectly obedient.

 

Broken Body, Broken Mind

Broken bodies are easier to heal than broken minds.  For the most part.

There is a point of no return for both.  Obviously.

But bodies can be horribly broken, yet still heal.  Scars will write the painful story across once torn skin, once broken bones, once mangled ligaments.  But pushed too far, ripped too badly, the pieces can’t be knitted back together.  Loose too much blood, the heart will have nothing to pump.  Lungs will cease to infuse the cells with air. The brain will begin to die without oxygen.  Life will end.

Minds can be terribly broken and sometimes heal.  Sometimes.  But not as often.  Bones are programmed to repair.  From a molecular level, cells are programmed to rush to the sight of wounds like tiny nano-robots, providing whatever is needed to stop bleeding, fill in burnt and missing skin, seal over gouged, ravaged flesh.  Bodies are worth healing.  We will go to great expense and take incredible risks to get our bodies back to a functional state.  Billions of dollars are spent on researching ways to replace limbs, make people walk again, heal brain injuries, replace organs and create artificial skin.

Broken bodies are nothing to be ashamed of.  People may look the other direction because they are afraid if they look too closely, something similar might maim them.  They fear being mugged by fate or bad luck.  But the person isn’t blamed for their injuries or resulting struggle.  It is seen as something that happened to them, something hard to think about, but that certainly isn’t their fault.

But when what is broken isn’t related to the body…it’s a different story.

Broken things.  We throw them away.  We even get angry with them for letting us down.

We view broken things as being unworthy of repair.  Not worth the money.  Not worth the energy.  If our phone is damaged, we get a new one.  If our TV stops working, we head to best Buy or some other electronics store and pick up another.  If our computer crashed too many times, we replace it with the latest, greatest model.  The only things we fix are those big ticket items.  Cars.  Houses.  And even then, they reach a point when it isn’t worth it to us to shell out the funds to fix the damage.

The only things we try to repair, regardless of the damage, are bodies.  If we break a bone, we get it set by a doctor who has spent many years learning how to heal us.  If we have cancer, we undergo extensive treatment to destroy the cancerous cells or have an operation to remove the malignant tumor…or both.  If we are cut, we tend to the wound, be it a large gaping one that requires massive surgery to patch us back together or a minor cut that only needs to be cleaned and protected with a Band-Aid.  We disinfect and tend our wounds to create a healing environment.  We take heroic measures to restore badly damaged flesh.  Sometimes, we don’t know when to let go.

Like old appliances, we throw emotionally damaged people out with the trash.  They are nothing but a ripped shirt.  A broken calculator.  A microwave oven that no longer heats or defrosts.  If the wound is to the psyche, the person is discarded.  They are expected to repair themselves or stay out of sight.

The emotional wound may even have been obtained in an honorable pursuit.  Think of the war hero struggling with PTSD.  Had he lost his legs while serving his country, he would have been labeled a hero.  People would say it was tragic, but they wouldn’t have doubted he was a worthy warrior deserving of a medal; deserving of acceptance and assistance.  But since he “lost his mind”…and his direction…he is considered defective and deformed in a way that simply can’t be tolerated.

We will do what we can to heal the damaged body.  But we shame those who struggle with depression or any of the many other mental and emotional illnesses.  They are too heavy a burden.

I don’t understand this.  But I see it and feel it every single day.  If you have a mental illness, you are shamed into hiding it.  You are told not to talk about it, to snap out of it, to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, to get on with your life and to stop feeling sorry for yourself.

Why, if the damage is physical, is it considered a disease or an injury?  Yet if the damage is emotional, it’s considered a defect.

Why is the physically damaged individual not required to hide their wounds, but the emotionally damaged is expected to function normally in spite of theirs?   We adapt the environment to the needs of the physically disabled, but we expect the emotionally disabled to think themselves into being another person altogether.  We expect them to walk without legs.

The abused and broken have had their brains turned into mush.  They suffered a debilitating wound that has changed them forever.  Are they worth less because it is their mind that is broken instead of their physical body?

Broken body.

Broken mind.

One we nurture and embrace.  The other, we shame.

Shame is a very heavy burden to carry alone.

 

 

No Sanctuary

Years ago, I watched a movie called “Logan’s Run.” The message continues to cause a significant amount of introspection and reflection.
I like science fiction and the movie falls into this category.   It has been years since I watched it, but the way I remember the plot, a remnant of civilization exists in a utopian society within a massive dome.  Their enclosed world is experiencing a terrible shortage of food and what is left to them of the planet can no longer sustain life long term.  For this reason, the computer that controls their lives has everyone fitted with a computerized clock to monitor their age.  A police-like military group oversees the city where these people live, enforcing the computer’s rulesand demands.  When a person’s life-clock reaches 30, they are taken to a large chamber where they undergo a ritual called “Carousel.”  During this ritual, they begin to float upward and disappear upon reaching the top of the chamber.  Everyone is told these people are being reincarnated and that they will never have to grow old.  The citizens are told they will all be renewed in this manner when their life-clock runs out. 
What the average citizen doesn’t know is that everyone who reaches 30 is being killed in the rooms above the chamber and their remains are being converted into food.  And this is the food that is being supplied to the remaining people within the dome.  It is keeping them alive.
Logan is one of the soldiers who keeps order in the city and who has terminated those who have tried to escape this fate.  To force him to go on a secret mission, his life-clock is moved forward from age 28 to 30 by the computer.  And he will be required to participate in Carousel with a group of suspected rebels who form a secret society.  They are being monitored and are expected to attempt to escape, as more than 1000 have reportedly successfully done over the years.  This group wears a symbol to identify them and some have been overheard talking about a place called “Sanctuary.”  They are planning to try to find this place of purported safety.  For they do not believe in the ritual of renewal and rebirth.  They are certain they will not be reincarnated, but will instead be destroyed.  So, they are going to run and Logan is to run with them.  Hence the title, Logan’s Run. 
Logan is to go with the group as they attempt to find the mythical Sanctuary. Once found, he is to report back and provide the computer with the location so their rebel fortress can be destroyed.
During his “run,” Logan learns the truth.  He sees what is happening to the people who reach age 30 and who are swept aloft in the massive chamber during the ritual.  Clever propaganda has been used to hide what is being done, but Logan now sees proof that it is nothing but terrible lies.  He realizes everyone is being killed, their remains processed and stored to provide sustenance to the remaining residents.   Disillusioned, frightened, his escape becomes much more than an undercover mission he was forced to accept.  It is now a genuine attempt to flee with the group of rebels upon which he is supposed to spy. 
What he discovers outside the dome is deeply surprising.  In unexpected ways.
Eventually, as he returns to let others know about his startling discoveries, he is recaptured by a fellow “sandman.”  His fellow soldiers, who have become his enemies.  They hook him up to the massive computer that runs all life within the dome and maintains compliance, balance and order.   He is interrogated.  They show him no mercy.  They spare him no pain. 
He is asked if he has completed his mission.  Then the question, “What is Sanctuary?”   Logan responds honestly.  Without deceit.  He has discovered the truth while outside the dome.
“There is no Sanctuary.” 
The answer is unacceptable, so the computer asks again.  Again, Logan responds, “There is no Sanctuary.” 
Again.  “There is no Sanctuary.” 
Yet again, and again, and again, the computer prods.  Logan can only tell the truth.  He can only report what he has come to know…there is life outside the dome, but there is no Sanctuary.  And this response, given while he is tortured, is the computer’s undoing.  It can’t process what it is being told.  Things begin to come unraveled within its circuitry.  Within the dome.  Things stop working.  Vital processes cease.  Things explode.  Seals release.  Cracks eventually develop in thick walls and finally the dome is split apart and crumbles.  Their world is forever altered as life within the confines of that sphere fail and come to a catastrophic end.  Because there is no Sanctuary.
I think I have finally learned this lesson.  And it’s a hard lesson. Not that there is no sanctuary, specifically.  But there is no place of being okay.  No safe haven.  No space where healing is accomplished.  Where all the wounds of the past are finally made well and health is restored.  Where things are put right.  Where the chains that bind are broken and one is set free.  There is no Sanctuary.  No magical spot or time where wrongs are righted and happy endings begin.  Not on earth, anyway.
Life is hard.  It does things to you.  It is harder for some than for others. 
My life has been a hard one.  Abuse…physical, emotional, sexual…riddled my childhood.  I didn’t learn many of the foundational lessons that others learn, so things that come easily to others are very difficult for me.  And the damage that was done to me at an early age goes deep.  It messed me up.  Changed me forever.
No one gets through this journey unscathed.  Or at least most don’t.  We are all walking wounded.  Some of our wounds are ghastly.  Others are relatively minor.  But we all get hurt.  There is no Sanctuary.  No safety.  No place of freedom.  No guarantees.
And once the damage has been done, nothing is going to undo it.
Looking back, it seems so simple.  There is no sanctuary.  There is no healing.  We are left with a cracked, demolished life that will never be what it could have been.  All we can hope to do is go from where we are and learn to live outside the dome.
It’s taken me a lifetime to realize I have spent years seeking something that doesn’t exist.  It’s terrifying to suddenly comprehend that life, the way it is, is what it is and that this is all it will ever be.  It isn’t going to get better.  There will be no sanctuary.  There is no better place, no better day, no moment of freedom, no time of healing. No putting the pieces back together.  No restoration.
I am what my life, what those who raised me, made me and there is to be no unmaking.  The damage resides within my cells.  It’s part of me.  I can only try my best to go on from here as I am.  There is no Sanctuary.  And finding meaning in this wild, terrifying world, a world where we grow old and are not renewed or restored, is no easy journey.

Pivotal Moments

Pivotal moments.  They don’t announce themselves.  Most of the time they are gone in virtually the same second you become conscious of them.  Precisely when you become aware of the fact they hold extraordinary significance.  Every life holds a few  “lightning bolt” revelations; some experience more than others.  It is only in looking back we are allowed to see their weight, importance, impact.  Only when looking back do we see them for what they truly are.

Game changers.

The first time I can remember my father sexually abusing me.  Not the first time he actually did sexually abuse me.  That, I don’t remember.  I was too young to process what was happening, so I turned it all into a weird fantasy. Wrapped it in a blanket to hide it from sight.  To mask it.  Because I was too little to comprehend.  But as I grew older, hiding it didn’t work.  Making it into something different altogether became impossible. The first time I remember, really remember, when the band-aid was ripped off and I saw what he was doing for what it was, time stood still.

The moment when I grasped it was over.  That he was done with me sexually.  I was 14.  I walked from my bedroom into the living room and noticed specks of dust dancing in the air in the sunbeams shining through the glass window of the front door.  I stopped.  Suddenly unable to walk.  Or move.  Watched the particles rise and fall in the dappled light.  And just like that, I knew.  I don’t know how I knew, but I knew.   And I took my first breath of air in years.

Standing on the edge of the playground in 6th grade, watching all the other children laugh and play, running and chasing each other, swinging, playing on the merry-go-round while I stood to the side, taking it all in.  In a panic. Desperately trying to figure out what had caused the world I had known to completely change.  Overnight. What had turned the familiar into something foreign and terrifying and unrecognizable.

Realizing in my late 30’s…it wasn’t the world that changed.  It was me.  I had been changed.  Forever altered by abuse.  Unable to ever see life in the way I had only seconds before.  I had been tainted.  Shattered.

Falling in love and getting married.  Finally, a dream come true, or so I thought.  Briefly.

Two weeks later, newly married, driving to the city where my husband grew up with all of our worldly possessions, abruptly and unexpectedly realizing he regretted having married me. Didn’t love me and never had.  Destroyed because I was unwanted and not cherished.  I had been judged, found to be defective and rejected yet again.   He was ashamed to introduce me to his friends.  He was ashamed of me and didn’t want to take me “home.”

At 14, in Civics class, learning about the dangers of drug abuse, but seeing them as a way to survive the nightmare of my home life.  Maybe the only way.  A way to survive the abuse.  A way to run away without running away.  A way to numb the raw pain and agony.

Meeting God for the first time at age 23.  Everything changed.   Me included.  Yet, too many things stayed the same, even as the world shifted and morphed.

The time I begged my husband to be patient with me and asked him to give me a little time to recover when the hurt that was stored in my soul beat me down and chewed me up. I knew I was a mess and I was trying to fix myself, but it was hard.  I begged.  Only to be told he didn’t want to hear anything about my thoughts or feelings.  Only to be told to keep it to myself.  That he didn’t want to be bothered.  And the way he turned from me in disgust.  We had been married less than a year and his rejection broke something deep within me.  Drove the pain even further inward.

Graduating from high school.  Realizing I made it.  I survived.  And two weeks later, diploma in hand I left my parents behind.

When I started counseling, so full of hope.

When I finally gave up on counseling.  After 13 years of arduous work.  Still damaged.  Still wounded.  Unhealed.

When I tried to kill myself.  And failed, even at that.

When my husband left me for another woman. A woman I had called “friend.”  The man I had given my heart to.  Left it laying, vulnerable before him, even though he didn’t want anything to do with me.  The man I believed I would grow old with.  A marriage forever lost, though I had prayed, waiting for a miracle.  Waiting for him to see me.  To want me.  The man who walked away because he didn’t love me.  Because he didn’t believe in miracles.  Or wanted no part of a miracle that involved me.

When I lost my job.  Having no other income.  Having no one to turn to.  No options.

When I lost my home.  My dream home.

When I was forced to move back to the place where I grew up.  A place I hated, filled with horrible memories that ambushed me at every turn.

There are more.  Moments when the fabric of my world was ripped apart, cast aside, trampled.  Those times when I shattered, despite my frantic effort to hold all the pieces together.  Times that mortally wounded me, altered me, left me for dead.

Pivotal moments.  When everything shifted. When the ground gave way and I fell into a black hole.  Moments when time stood still, freezing me, trapping me, gutting me.  When the impact went extra deep and hit extra hard.  Changing me forever.

When time moved forward once again, I was no longer who I had been.  In each instance, something precious was lost.  Some important piece of me became extinct.  ‘Til only the fossil of a life that once was remained, buried under layers of dirt and anguish.

When nothing goes as planned.  When the paradigm shifts.  And you can never see the universe in the same way ever again.  No matter how hard you squint.  No matter how strong your glasses…or your desire…or your denial.   Moments that change the picture the puzzle would have made.  Equilibrium lost, the fall is hard and harsh and hurtful.  Nothing is as it seems. Nor will it ever be.

Pivotal moments.  When silence embraces you, then chucks  you down the rabbit hole.  When emptiness slaps you into unconsciousness.  Isolation mocks you.  For all that was is no more and all that might have been will never be.  All you knew and experienced as reality has vanished into the air.  And what you see before you, your “new” truth, is tinged with insanity.  Those crazy moments. They take your breath away.  Holding the pillow tight over your face until your heart, mercifully, stops beating.

If I Could

“If I could turn back time…”  So goes the song.  So sings my heart.  So cries my soul.

If I could…oh, if only I could. 
If I could turn back time, I would not keep secrets.  I would tell someone.  And I would tell someone else.  And I would tell another person and another and another until someone listened.  Until someone believed me and realized I existed within a tortured reality while attempting to act as if everything was normal and safe.  I would shout if I had to and tell the truth until someone heard, reacted and removed me from my parent’s home.  I would tell them about the sexual abuse.  The physical abuse.  The neglect.  The rejection and constant deriding.  The emotional abuse.  I would speak up and keep speaking until someone understood.  Until they took me seriously.  Until someone reached into the darkness where I was trapped and helped me escape.
If I could turn back time, I would do whatever it took to get help a lot earlier.  I would allow myself to believe I was worth the time and the money.  I didn’t believe it then.  I started so late.  So late, it was too late.  The brokenness had calcified.  Cemented into place; impossible to dislodge.  Instead of trying to figure it out on my own, I would find someone who could help me untangle the knots, put the broken pieces back together and mend me.  A gifted professional who could wade with me into the depths of pain flowing from the wounds created by my destructive childhood.  I would let them show me a different reality and how to wade out of that vicious current to the other side.  I wouldn’t put it off, thinking there was time…later.  I would pursue healing relentlessly, with extreme urgency, doing whatever I had to do to make it happen.  Because being healed would have completely changed the course of my life.  In a wonderful way.  It would have taken me into a new and healthy dimension where robust, genuine life was possible.  I would have sacrificed whatever I had to sacrifice early in life to pursue wholeness and not given up until I found it.
 If I could turn back time, I would never have gotten married when I was 17.  I was so young.  I felt old.  I felt like I had already lived a lifetime, battling to survive.  Going back, I would whisper in my own ear, “You have time…let yourself be young!”  I wouldn’t have given my heart to an 18-year-old boy who would ask me for a divorce a mere two weeks after our wedding. 
And I wouldn’t have married again at 25.  At least not the person I married back then.  I let him convince me he loved me and wanted to be with me.  I wanted so badly to be loved!  I took the bait, longing to be filled.  So, if I did again foolishly believe and marry him, when he told me a few months after we wed that he didn’t love me, I would have filed for divorce right away.  I wouldn’t have wasted a lifetime hoping he would someday, somehow come to love and want me.  I wouldn’t have hung on, believing he was the best life had to offer.  I wouldn’t have given him 22 years of my time.  I wouldn’t have allowed him to move into my soul, breaking my heart in the process.
If I could turn back time, I would have gone to college.  When I was young and just out of high school.  Lived on campus.  Had the whole experience.  Taken interesting classes and hung out with friends until I could discern a path that excited me.  I would have worked hard too.  I was always good at making the grades.  But I also would have torn down my walls, raised my expectations, explored, learned, laughed, figured out who I was and moved forward into the light of a promising future.
I would also relocate to one of the places I dreamed of living.  I would move there when I was young.  When it was easier.  When I wasn’t so encumbered with the burdensome responsibilities and debts of life.   I would have made my way closer to the ocean.  And started building my life there.  Not wasting time living where things seemed to fall into place, taking the path of least resistance.  I would move to a desirable location and find ways to stay as I created the existence I yearned for and dreamed about. Even if it was hard initially.  I would carve out a home in that space and finally find a sliver of joy.  I would spend time on the beach, listening to the soothing and calming voice of the waves.  Basking beneath glorious sunrises and sunsets.  Rejoicing in the warmth.  Greeting the day with gratefulness instead of reluctantly waking while bound by heavy disappointment and despair.
I wouldn’t have worked jobs that demeaned and demoralized me.  Not if I could turn back time.  I wouldn’t slave for bosses who didn’t appreciate me.  Who used me all the more because I was too unsure of my value to protest.  I would have pursued fulfilling work instead.  Pursued my dreams. While I still had dreams.  And hope.  And a future ahead of me. 
If I could turn back time, I would save more money and spend more on the things that create memories with those I love. 
If I could turn back time,  I would surround myself with those people…the ones who live in my heart and bring joy into my life by simply being.  I would work harder at staying real – even vulnerable – so I could truly connect with others in a deep and significant way.  I would take the risk instead of hiding and pretending and trying to fit in with the crowd.  I wouldn’t close myself away in darkness or shroud myself with shame that I wore like skin.  A skin I grew into while still very young.  Because of the abuse.  I would seek help.  I would tell myself over and over again that it wasn’t my fault.  I would tell myself until I believed it.  Until I knew without doubt that what was done to me didn’t mean I should be ashamed.  Didn’t mean I was disgusting and tainted.  My past wouldn’t be something to hide.  It’s my reality.  My history.  So, I would stop denying where I came from and what it had done to me.  I would acknowledge that past, embrace the possibilities of the future and begin to connect deeply with special people when I encountered them.  Meaningfully.  I would be transparent, unmasked, open and do what it took to build deep relationships.  Those connections would be my priority.  If I had another chance.  Another chance to do it over.
If I could turn back time, I would listen more to my heart and less to my brain.
I would try more things, even if I was afraid of failing, looking stupid and making mistakes.  I would kayak and kick-box and learn a martial art.    I would dance often.   I would visit the ocean frequently and let it sooth my wounds.  I would live where there was lots of sunshine.  I would ride in a hot air balloon, even if I had to save up for a long time to afford the pleasure.  I would take classes on subjects that were of interest to me.  I would sing more.  Write that book.  Publish those poems.  I would risk and not let fear rule my choices.
If I could turn back time, I would hold on to each moment.  Live it.  Fully experience each day.  The pain and the joy.  The fun and the difficulties.  I would be present in the present and tattoo each experience on my brain for later enjoyment.  For later contemplation.  I would fill my memory bag with experiences so when I looked back, the years would not have disappeared in an unending chain of monotony.  There would be more happy memories and less regrets.  More to recall.  More worth remembering.
I’m sure I would still make mistakes.  But I think I would make smaller ones, less costly ones, having learned some hard lessons the hard way.  I wouldn’t make so many of the huge, monumental errors that erode quality of life until there is no life left.  I wouldn’t let life…or the people in my life…tell me I didn’t matter.  I wouldn’t accept being a worthless object to be used and cast aside when inconvenient or if not operating up to user expectations.  No, having worked hard early on to find a place of wholeness, I would believe in myself and in my own worth.   I wouldn’t be beaten down, settling for simply being tolerated.  I would move on.  Cut my losses.  Find a healthier path.
If I could turn back time, I would understand the value of the minutes that were sifting silently through my hand and I would cling to each one.  I wouldn’t live for a blurry tomorrow.  I would live for today.  Milking each moment for every drop of happiness and meaning I could find.  I would dance in the rain and soak up the sunshine.  I would follow my dreams.  I would refuse to be numbed by the blows.  I would feel each emotion: deep, small, hurtful, joyful.  I would face the damage, tear it apart and rebuild when I was young, strong, more pliable.  And continue to rebuild throughout my existence, repairing, refinishing, refurbishing, restoring.  I would not settle.  I would not sleepwalk through the days.
I would give my heart only to those who also gave their heart to me.  Never casting my pearls before swine.  Understanding that even my broken heart was a pearl.  That life is a treasure.  And I need to spend this treasure carefully.  I would savor each one of those seconds while I was standing within them.
If I could turn back time, I wouldn’t now be sitting in a dark room alone but for my dogs, surrounded by regrets and loss and pain.  I would be a different person in a different place living a very different life.  Silence wouldn’t accompany me throughout my days.  Numbness would not cripple me.  There would be laughter and tears and conversation.  My world would not be empty.  It would be messy and full of all that results from a life well lived.   I believe I would understand so much more clearly what was at stake and would act accordingly.  I would discover the person I was meant to be…before the wounding, abuse, rejection and destruction.  I would be fully alive.  Finally. 
If only I could turn back time.  If only there was such a thing as a second chance.