Tag Archives: isolation

Sometimes the Pain Wins

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

Sometimes the pain wins.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Fallen Sky

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

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

‘Where are you going,’ asks the hen.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Paint doesn’t stick to a fallen sky.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shelter Animal

Wanted:  Good, loving, caring home for older female.  Has some idiosyncrasies and anomalous behavior as a result of early abusive treatment, worsened by continued rejection by prior owner.  In spite of the past cruelty, she is  loyal, faithful, and eager to please, though she has trust and fear issues that require consistent love and a strong commitment.  Doesn’t do many tricks, but is grateful for attention and has been housebroken.  Hates baths.  Affectionate.  If interested, please call. 

You may or may not have guessed…the older female in need of rescue is…me.

I remember as a young girl begging my parents for a dog.  I loved animals; dogs in particular.  I was the child with a tender, compassionate heart who brought home all the strays.  Cats, dogs, baby rabbits, even baby mice.  I couldn’t bear to see a defenseless, innocent animal alone, with no one to protect and nurture them.  I couldn’t turn away from their need.

But I never got to keep them.  My father was a hunter.  He didn’t value animals, other than for the food they provided.  I, on the other hand, often revived the fish he caught and brought home for dinner by placing them in the bathtub filled with water. Took sick woodpeckers to the vet.  To me, all animals were worthy of care (except snakes).   I did, however, feel a special connection with dogs. So, after having yet another stray taken away (and likely killed by my father), I started a campaign to win his permission to get a dog I could keep and call my own.

It took a long time to convince my parents.  I had to prove that I would be responsible for caring for a pet and that I wouldn’t tire of it after the novelty wore off.  I had almost given up when they finally and unexpectedly relented.  I was filled with joy and excitement the beautiful Saturday morning we set off for the animal shelter to look at the dogs that were waiting for adoption.  I was wiggling almost as much as they were as I went from pen to pen.  The dogs jumped and danced.  They licked my fingers and stuck their noses through the wire fenced cage gates.  I wanted all of them! 

And then, I saw Lady.

She was curled up in the back of her pen, tail tucked, looking sad and forlorn.  So sure was she of being rejected, she had given up all hope and stopped trying to gain attention.  I almost didn’t see her.

They let me in the pen with her because she wouldn’t come up to the gate.  I sat on the cold concrete floor and coaxed her onto my lap.  And I knew she was the one.  She needed me.  She needed my love, approval, and acceptance.  She was at least part Cairn Terrier, a wheat color with thick, wiry fur.  And she was a smaller dog, sweet, and affectionate, just the right size for cuddling and holding on my lap.  I was sold.  Hooked.  She was mine.

Lady was fairly young when she came home with me…they estimated her to be 1 to 2 years old.  She lived a long life.  I kept my promise and took care of her.  I loved her.  I even got into trouble occasionally because I couldn’t bear to stop petting her before school, which made me late.  She had such a great need for affection and I had a great need for her unconditional love.  Though she was an outside dog, I spent hours playing with her and showering her with attention.  I had to leave her behind when I left home, which broke my heart.  But by then, even my father had accepted her into the family.  She finally found a place where she was loved and wanted.

My story doesn’t have such a happy ending.

I feel very much like a shelter animal, hiding in the corner, no longer able to muster any hope of someone  discovering me and finding value there.  I long for someone to offer me a place in their heart.  To give me love and acceptance.  Make me theirs.  But I know it isn’t going to happen.  Time is no longer on my side.

I want to be able to open my heart to someone.  To feel safe for the first time in my life.  To give them the unconditional love I have coveted.

I have waited a very long time. 

Again and again, I am passed over.  Ignored.  Unnoticed.  Rejected.  Again and again, someone cuter, better, more wonderful, whole, healthier, and “easier,” with far less baggage, is removed from their pitiful cage and set free.  Taken home.  Loved.  I watch it happen.  I’m happy for them.  The others.  But I am so alone it hurts.  I stay in my corner.  I know this thing called love is not for me.  Acceptance is never to be mine.

Lady found love.  A home.  She was cherished, cared for and wanted.  She led a full life, in spite of her harsh, abusive beginning.

It seems that I am not so fortunate.  I fear I will die a shelter animal.  In my cage.   Alone.   Waiting for tenderness and affection.  Waiting for someone to see me, yet still want me.  Waiting for their love to rescue me.  To set me free.

 

Braced for Impact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Clouds & Shadows

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

Care and sustenance are rare commodities.

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

I cried.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Fantasy

My fantasies sleep with me,
keep me company,
whisper lies to me.
They tell me my meaningless world is profound
and complete.
They fill me up and warm me with imaginary heat.

They walk beside me,
hold my hand,
but they cannot set me free
from this empty, endless, all-consuming drudgery.
I let them deceive me
because I do not want to see
the depth of my loneliness;
my bleak reality.

Smoke and mirrors
reflecting eternally.

I create worlds.
Populate those worlds with people to interact with me.
Pretend we are connected
because I am starving for intimacy.

I created a man who is a fantasy.
Who wraps his arms around me
tenderly
and holds me through the darkness;
through my pain.
It doesn’t matter that I lack the words
to explain.
His arms are strong;
he holds me in his powerful embrace.
I’m secure and safe within this magic place.
For this man who is a fantasy of mine
believes that I am worth his love;
his time.
He wraps me in his heart
and watches over me;
this man who is nothing but a fantasy.

He gets me through another empty night.
Then fades away in the harsh, cruel morning light.

My fantasies sleep with me,
keep me company,
whisper lies to me.
They tell me my meaningless world is profound
and complete
and I am deeply grateful for
their soft whispers of deceit.

Monsters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I learned that no one else could see the monsters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adrift At Sea

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

I feel nothing.  See nothing.  Am nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Scarface

In spite of the massive spiderwebs of scars splashed across her face, you could still tell she had been exceptionally beautiful.  Now, misshapen bones formed bulges in inappropriate places.  Even the thickest foundation couldn’t cover the mass of crisscrossed red lines where skin had been sliced to the bone.  Multiple surgeries had pieced her back together as best as they could, successfully returning her appearance to something less hideous than Frankenstein.  But they left her far from her previous beauty queen status.  And though the wreck was her fault, she was angry over the damage.   The unfairness of it.

Years ago, she drank too much, then drove.  She and her little sister in her new Corvette, T-top open, unrestrained by seatbelts.  Typical youth; fearing nothing.  She was driving ridiculously fast, over 100, when she lost control in the sharp S-curve.  Went over the embankment.  Her sister was thrown from her seat and the car rolled over her, killing her instantly.  Beauty queen went through the windshield, then the trees, brambles and rocks, shredding her face and much of her body while breaking almost every bone.  Much later, when she regained consciousness in the hospital, she had no memory of the wild drive or the accident.  They had to tell her she had killed her sister the night she destroyed her face.

Years later, she is still furious over her lost beauty.  Lost supremacy.  Her looks now represent everything that’s wrong with her life.  Before the “accident,” she knew who she was.  Beautiful.  In control.  Powerful. Triumphant.  Confident.  People worshiped her.  Wanted to be close to her inner circle. Wanted to be her!  She was a daughter, sister, graduate about to head to college, life at her feet, waiting to step into a perfect future.  She knew where she was going.  She knew who she was.  She knew how to use her smile.

Now, she is nothing of who she was.  She is nothing like the worry-free “before” person.  And she hates everyone who looks at her, then quickly looks away.  Their glances speak of her losses.

Or perhaps she is the one who cannot bear to look.  Perhaps she is the one who turns away…before anyone else has the opportunity.

The young never believe bad things will happen until they do.  They aren’t wired to believe life will let them down.  Bad happens to others.  To those who are flawed, unlucky and lacking.  Bad doesn’t happen to ruling beauty queens who are adored and worshiped by the world.

Yet, her scars are visible for all to see.  Her tragedy is written on her face.  Plainly telling the story.

I am also scarred.  But mine don’t show in lines across my face.  They are just as red and ragged, but instead, they mar my heart.  My soul.  I have been changed by the wreck that occurred in my childhood every bit as much as the beauty queen was changed by the wreck she had that dark night when she missed the curve and crashed in a ravine.  People seeing her feel sorry for her.  They understand her anger and her loss.  But they do not understand my pain or brokenness.  Because the scars aren’t visible.  They are not physical, so are not an acceptable excuse for my shattered state.

Interestingly, because her story is written across her face with bold red lines and unnatural lumps where once were smooth surfaces, no one dares expect her to put her horrid past behind her.  She wears her tragedy.  It has become part of who she is today.  It is accepted.

But since they cannot see my scars, hidden away deep in my traumatized soul, I am not extended the same courtesy.  My scars are every bit as much a part of me today as are those caused by her night of terror.  That one night that changed her world.  Yet they do not provide an adequate explanation.

My childhood nights were filled with nightmares that couldn’t be escaped.  They did not happen once, but a hundred times, over and over again.  I couldn’t flee the wreckage of twisted metal and begin to heal.  I went off into the ravine night after night after night.  I was broken and ravished and used and tossed into the dirt and stones time and time again.  Healing wasn’t an option.  Yet, I am supposed to get up, dust myself off and walk away as if nothing ever happened.

She is trying to find herself again.  She, the ex-beauty queen.  She had a certain impact, left a certain fantasy in her wake as she walked the halls of her high school.  She knew how to get what she wanted.  And she misses catching her lovely reflection in the glass as she passes windows and mirrors.  She lost her magic wand.  The person she is inside doesn’t know how to respond without her fancy outer wrapping.  So, she wears anger and rejection like a blanket, layering on the foundation, as she struggles to adjust to her new reality.  It is understood.  She has lost much.

But I too have lost.  Much.  Everything.  The world where I lived before is gone.  My childhood, vanished.  My innocence, stolen.  My trust, broken.  My heart, shattered…more shattered than her once-lovely face.  I have died, yet not been reborn.  I was not provided with any restorative surgery.   I’ve not healed.  My pain has not even been acknowledged.   I am the walking dead.  No one will accept my wounds because no one sees them.  I hide them away, fully knowing they are horrifying.  Fully understanding I am to keep them covered beneath layers of smiles and empty, placating words.

We both cover our scars and hide away in shame.  Alone behind the mask.

Tears

The sky is crying and so am I.  It’s that kind of a day.  Cold, rainy, gloomy, depressing.  The hint of spring we were beginning to catch glimpses of last week has been swept away, now hidden beneath freezing fog, pellets of “snow cone” snow and branches encased in clear thick layers of ice.  Agonizing frigid air lashes out aggressively, stabbing relentlessly.  Movement is treacherous across slippery surfaces.  Even the hardiest don their heaviest winter coats, scarves and boots in a futile attempt to generate an artificial warmth so as to stave off involuntary shivering.  The sky drips disapproval.  Tears.  Frozen tears.

I’m so ready for spring…but spring is not yet ready to come.

I discover in the darkness of this day, in the unrelenting freezing rain, thick, impenetrable flurries of snow, in the bone-chilling wet and piercing, raw cold, I am struggling to summon enough will to propel myself from bed.  To dress.  Even to eat or brush my teeth.  The iciness has sapped all my strength.  My voice is gone.  I cannot articulate my pain.  I feel broken, cracked like shattered ice.  And utterly empty.

My teardrops join those glacial raindrops the clouds cry, spit and sling upon the earth.  Words are often inadequate vessels and today they leave me especially bitter and alone.  I seek hope in the gloom, a flower where there is none.  A green blade of grass where only dry, lifeless remnants of foliage lay buried beneath the ever-deepening ice and snow.  In this wintry, lonely place, I am swallowed by the emptiness, without voice or expression.  In the absence of words, my teardrops speak, even as they freeze upon my cheek.

Winters are grueling.  Exhausting.  Punishing.  They make survival so much harder.

Life is harsh, biting and lonely, even in the best of times.  During the prevailing darkness, when every inch of the terrain is carpeted beneath too many inches of endless white, trying to stand is hazardous.  Trying to move, to make headway, to walk a path or cautiously creep toward a destination, is foolish and ill-advised.  And pointless.  It is best to hunker down.  To burrow beneath layers of denial.  To wait for the sun…praying it will come to provide much needed thawing and relief.

I cry with the sky as I lift my eyes in search of a reprieve.  Then hunker into my shell.  Hunting in vain for warmth where there is none to be found.