Tag Archives: isolation

Don’t Slow Down

When I slow down, when I let the silence linger, turn off the TV and the chatter in my brain, when I stop streaming music or reading an endless flow of nonsensical, sometimes manipulative updates, occasionally deceptive posts and scams that plague Facebook, the pain corners me. Has its way with me.  Forces me to experience the full power of my raw, excruciating emotions.

I am very good at running.  When it comes to plastering on a smile and making it look like everything is wonderful, Facebook has nothing on me.  I am very good at telling myself lies so I don’t have to face reality.  I’m a master at running my brain around in circles, at circumnavigating the truth without touching it.  I’m very good at avoiding the pain and sidestepping the regret.  The disappointment.  The shame.  I’m good at convincing myself my life is worth living.  Until the silence stops me in my tracks and rubs my face in the emptiness of my existence.

In the darkness and silence, everything I’ve dreaded and deftly avoided captures me.  Surrounds me.  Body slams me into a wall and forces me to feel the agony and desolation I’ve strategically evaded.

Quiet is the enemy.  For silence is no fool.

Silence knows how to move in when distractions are at a lull.  It knows how to take advantage of the moment, sneaking up on me, overcoming all defenses.  And it uses its advantage to shine the truth like a laser beam that slices without mercy, taking aim through the smoke, shooting deadly arrows straight into the foundation of my fabricated reality.   It drives those arrows home where they deeply penetrate, massacring the most vulnerable places in my psyche.

The subconscious speaks in the quiet.  It speaks in a voice that can’t be drowned out.  Determined to be heard at last, it screams out, reverberating far into the cavernous regions of the soul.

When surrounded by the laughter of coworkers, the busyness of work and the white noise of life, nothing profound can penetrate those unfathomable regions of my being.  But when all the noise that masked the emptiness suddenly goes deadly still, the thoughts and feelings that were hidden and buried are jolted awake by that scream and then bubble to the surface where they slap me around.  Punch me in the gut until I can no longer stand.  They perforate my heart and pummel my weary mind.

There are no shadows to hide behind in the stillness.  No walls can protect.  No defenses can deflect the blows.  Clarity can be a curse.  Comprehension a lightning bolt that strikes hard and fast, stopping and felling me in my tracks.  Taking me down with one tremendous flash.

Thankfully, the beating doesn’t last.  The emergency protocol is initiated.  Well-oiled defense mechanisms operating on auxiliary power spring into action, numbing and plugging holes.  Turning up the white noise.  The blows become softer.  Clamor is restored.  Eventually, I’m able to get up and move on as if nothing terrible happened.  The pain is quickly returned to the deep grave from which it was aroused, once more carefully buried in the chasm where it can be contained without my heart sustaining further damage.

I do not mark the grave with a tombstone.  No headstone is placed above ground to remind me of what rests beneath the layers of my soul. Remembering is not the goal.  The goal is to forget.

I pick up the pace, running swiftly from the scene in spite of residual soreness, determined to distance myself from the truth Imprisoned within me.  I turn on some music.  Check Facebook as if my life depended on it.  Play a few mind-numbing computer games.  Stay busy.  Running faster and faster now.  Leaving the deafening silence in my dust.

My mind circles are humming once more.  I repeat a mantra as I gain speed.

Don’t slow down.  Keep moving.  Don’t look back.  Don’t slow down…

It Used to be My Sky

It used to be my sky.  I opened my eyes every day in the darkness and watched the sun rise in that sky.  I listened to the noise of traffic that roared continually beneath it.  I basked in the warmth and light that shone from it.  It was my sky.  It was the sky I loved.  The sky beneath which I wanted to live and to die.

The sun in that sky dressed up in the afternoon and went out to party in a magnificent display of glamour.  I enjoyed watching it slowly stroll down the horizon.  I loved the pageantry.

I chose that sky.  I chose the city beneath it as my home.  Chose it for the warmer weather. The mild winters it ushered in when it was frigid to the north and unbearable.  I watched the sky cradle and caress with warm breezes as it blew in short winters, shepherding them out with great haste.  Replacing the barren earth with abundant green. Painting the landscape with flowers of every color.  Watering them with gentle tears.

I loved that it only cried a few times a year.  Just enough times.  I chose this sky; treasured it.  And when I had to leave it behind, I lost my heart.

I gave that sky the best years of my life.  My youth departed below it.   Precious periods of my limited time that can’t be recaptured were squandered there, under its watchful eye.

I am jealous of those who remain, enjoying the sunrises and sunsets, the beauty, the gentle breezes.  I am jealous that everything in their life worked in their favor, allowing them to stay and live beneath my sky.

I’m jealous of the lives they have built in the city I selected.  A city big enough to get lost within, but not so big it overwhelmed and drained the soul.  There were always many great things to do under the clouds that float lazily across the deep blue dome above the streets and parks.  I walked in those parks.  Smelled the frilly, multi-colored flowers.   Ran the trails.  Felt the grass beneath my bare feet.  Rode my bike on those streets.  Worked there.  Shopped in the malls and quaint boutiques.  Fought the sometimes frustrating, but mostly navigable, flowing ribbons of traffic.

For a while, I had a life there.  A hard life.  But a life.

It was a life of struggle.  But there was hope. Because I believed anything could happen beneath that sky.  I believed a day would come when all the struggle would be worth the pain.

I fought to carve out a life.  I fought to shape hard, sharp stones into building blocks.  To create a existence of worth; one that had value.  The kind of life those around me live and still enjoy.  Those who still look up at my sky.

I had to leave it all behind.  Because I fought, but I lost.  I believed, but I believed in vain.

I lost the person I was going to grow old with.  I lost my job, my money, my home.  My friends, for the most part, faded away.  Like fog over a lake in the morning, when the sun rises and is gone without a trace.  I lost the belief that I could have a better future…or any kind of future.  I lost my hope.  And so, I lost my sky.  I had to leave it all behind me.

When I left, there was nothing much left of me beneath that sky.  Not much left with which to move forward.

My life sits within me, a massive ruin.  A pile of rubble and crumbs.  I will never be able to rebuild, to create something healthy or good  or beautiful from this wreckage.  The sky now above me is cold and steely.  Stormy, it cries often.  Massive tears fall out of the gray-blue.  They turn to icy snow when the temperature dips.  And it dips often.

I rent a tiny box of a house beneath this unfriendly sky and fight idiotic traffic, drivers that don’t know how to merge or turn corners or accelerate onto an expressway.  The streets are narrow and flow is inefficient.  There are few parks.  No trails.  It costs more to live in this place where I do not want to live under this sky that is not my sky.  There are fewer jobs and they all pay less.  It is a harsh existence here under this brutal firmament.  Harsh and painful.

I stand alone below this steely unyielding sky.  I have no partner.  No one carries my heart with them and I have not been honored with the opportunity to carry theirs.  The one thing I wanted beyond all things in this life is that:  to love and be loved.

But it was an unrealistic dream; one that will never become a reality.  Not under this, or any sky.  Not even beneath the one I reluctantly left behind.

 

Brain Damage

I waited a very long time to get help.  This was partially because it took me forever to get to a point in life where I could afford professional therapy.  It was certainly delayed by the pressure  my (then) husband used to avoid involvement, unpleasantness or difficulty.  He told I needed to act “normal” and “keep it to yourself” because he didn’t want to be bothered with the darkness and brokenness inside of me.  It was also somewhat attributable to the heavy sense of shame I carried within me.  Shame for being defective and dirty.  For being repulsive and unsightly by simply being.  Because I wasn’t like everyone else.  And since I was working 10 or 11 hours a day as I tried to prove my worth to various employers, it was also partially due to exhaustion and an inability to make time for myself.

I learned early I was undeserving of space, care and acceptance.  Abuse, particularly when you’re a child, drives that point deep.

In truth, I didn’t make a serious, “all in” attempt at healing until a few months after my father died.  Suddenly, it felt as though the time had come to deal with the festering wounds I continually attempted to hide beneath layers and layers of makeup and masks.

At the time, I didn’t realize there was any need to rush.  I didn’t understand healing might not be attainable if the wounds were left unattended for a long period.  I didn’t know coping mechanisms, shattered perceptions of worth and self were being cemented more permanently into place as I aged.  I thought healing would happen “someday” when the stars aligned and someone finally valued me.  I certainly didn’t know my brain might actually be working against me as I slogged through all the ruin.

Did you know that child sexual abuse actually causes brain damage?

I didn’t hear about the results of this body of research or its implications until I was years into the healing journey.  I was in weekly “talk therapy” sessions with a gifted psychologist, giving the process everything I had to give.  I journaled, prayed, attended workshops, went through a few abuse and sex abuse recovery groups, completed 2 different yearlong Celebrate Recovery groups and allowed a couple of different psychiatrists to experiment on me by prescribing every different antidepressant on the market in various combinations and in ever higher dosages. Nothing worked.

The most frustrating part for me was expending so much effort when I had little energy to spare, yet it changed nothing, in spite of all I put into it.  In spite of the time and money spent.  I became dejected  and deeply dismayed, occasionally shedding a few tears because of the lack of progress or results.  I knew I wasn’t a stupid person, so why couldn’t I grasp the information I was being given and bring it to life in my soul?  Why wasn’t I being transformed?

I’ve always felt damaged.  Like I’m faking it, hoping to someday make it.  But it never occurred to me my brain was the part of me that had probably sustained the most damage because of my abusive childhood.

I was told by my counselor that I needed to reprogram my thought processes.  I tried.  For years.  But I slowly began to realize, what I needed was more encompassing than this.  In actuality, the sexual abuse, in particular, overwhelmed and fried the circuitry in my brain.  What I need is not to be reprogramed.  I can load new thoughts all day long and run them through my head again and again, but it’s never going to make a difference if the program can’t run properly.  And it can’t.  Because the problem isn’t so much the program as it is the wiring.  It’s been incinerated.   Nothing is going to process and transmit the way it should with smoldering, shattered and scorched wiring.

It was a small relief to learn I wasn’t a failure for failing to reprogram my thinking.  Though hard to believe and comprehend, I started to glimpse the real problem.  It was deeper than poorly written and executed programming.  I had experienced a circuitry overload that burned my brain, creating a philological barrier, changing how I process data and interpret experiences.  The two hemispheres of my brain aren’t as integrated as the brains of people who haven’t gone through the trauma I survived as a child.  Perhaps this is due to an engulfing need to compartmentalize and isolate.  Or maybe it’s simply the way brain development is affected by continual trauma, abuse and intense stress during childhood.  Regardless, I have begun to realize I’m not merely fighting old, wrong programming.  I’m fighting a brain that has been singed, seared and annihilated by severe, horrific child abuse.  It’s no longer capable of making the connections I’ve long tried to make as I’ve sought to be healed.

Trauma is biologically encoded in the brain in a variety of ways. Considerable and often negative changes in structures like the hippocampus, and the coordination and integration of neural network functioning have been identified. The nervous systems of children who are abused runs on a constant high because of the continual anticipation of further danger. There are documented alterations in cortisol production in children with histories of abuse and neglect. And this state of chronic ‘hyper-arousal’ persists throughout adulthood, so even when the abuse and violence has ceased and the environment is “safe,” adults who experienced childhood abuse perceive the threat to be present; their fear is maintained and becomes pathological.

The brain is so damaged, it begins to dismantle us.

The experiences of childhood abuse cause changes that are reflected in physiological, psychological and interpersonal experiences.  Adaptation to trauma, especially early in life, becomes a “state of mind, brain, and body” around which subsequent experience organizes. Research has even documented significant changes on a genetic level.  Every function of mind, body, heart, soul, emotions, logic and even cell structure is altered by the abuse experienced in childhood.

The brain governs everything.  And when the brain is damaged, certain functions become impossible.

When I say I was forever changed by the abuse I survived during childhood, or explain that my path was eternally altered, I’m not speaking metaphorically.  The damage is comprehensive, large-scale and wide-ranging.

Who I was and who I was meant to be was obliterated before I entered grade school.  That destruction changed every fiber of my being and shaped me into someone far different than the person I was created to be and become.  My life and an ability to truly live and enjoy life was massacred by abuse.  My brain has been extensively damaged on a physical, as well as mental and emotional level, just as surely as if I had experienced a horrendous car crash that fractured my skull, leaving me barely alive and unbearably traumatized.

Brains don’t bounce back.  Once damaged, the consequences will be noted in various aspects, both minor and momentous.  The entire personality is altered.  Health, both emotional and physical, is compromised as various bodily and cognitive functions are short-circuited.  This is the gift my parents gave to me.  This is what I have been fighting against and attempting to overcome.

No wonder I am weary.  No wonder the results have been limited and the path too difficult to traverse.  No wonder I feel as if I’m damaged goods.   A failure.  My heart knows, even if my brain can no longer comprehend the extend of the mutilation.

My wiring has been short-circuited.  I’m trying to change what has already been radically, fatally altered.  I’m attempting to transform myself into a normal, healthy person, but I am not normal and my health has been broadly compromised.  My brain has been unspeakably damaged.  And it’s quite likely healing isn’t a reasonable expectation or probable outcome.

 

Child of Pain

The world that I was born into was a dark and lonely place.  I figured it out pretty early.  My life wasn’t like that of other kids.  My parents weren’t like their parents.  The things that happened behind closed, locked doors, out of sight of those my parents sought to fool and impress, were very unlike those experienced by most other children.

 

I was a child of pain.

 

The very first thing my eyes were able to see, blurry though the image might have been, were the faces of my parents.  The people who created me, so to speak.  They claimed they wanted me.  But these people who struggled to name me, who never really adjusted to having me, who were supposed to love and protect me, introduced me to a hostile, chaotic, dark world.  A planet where pain ruled and thrived.

 

Pain claimed me at birth and never let me go.

 

It became a way of life for me and it wore my canyons deep.  When I awoke, it greeted me.  And it held me as I would weep.  As my life went on, it became my song.  It was all I knew.  It was the way I grew.  It penetrated my bones and as my soul grew numb and cold, it wrote on my heart of stone. Marked me forever.

 

From the womb that bore me, that grew, ripped and tore me, to the abuse, the out-of-control screaming and hitting, the demands and expectations that I could never meet or fulfill, through all the ugly and despicable things I endured, I became pain.  Pain became me.

 

There was no safe place of laughter, no nurturing, no dinner conversations about my dreams…or my day.  My world was lists of chores, front and back, 30 items or more long that were supposed to be completed every evening before my parents got home.  It was straight A’s, or else, smiling on demand, keeping my mouth shut, and hiding from their violent outbursts whenever I could see them coming.  I didn’t laugh together with my parents or act silly and have fun with them.  Instead, I learned about secrets and how to keep them.  I learned about monsters who hide in plain sight, who wore masks of respectability, but who snuck into my room at night to rape and abuse me.  I learned about double standards, surviving the darkness and nightmares all alone, keeping my head down, and trying to do as many of those chores on the never-ending lists my mother made for me without complaint.  But nothing I was or did was good enough.

 

I learned slapping leaves a big red welt, but it fades pretty quickly.  I learned that you can be knocked across the room with one punch, but you can still get up, go to your room and do your homework.  I learned that being alone, totally and utterly alone, was crushing, but being with people who trampled and molested you was even worse.   I learned about the power of words to cut you to your core.  To leave you bleeding and deeply wounded.  I learned about pain.  Pain provided the only air I was allowed to breathe; to take into my lungs.  It was the blood that flowed through my veins.  It was my skin.  And my eyes.  For everywhere I looked, pain was there, waiting to take me down.

 

I stumbled through endless days, trying to avoid land mines.  Trying to stay alive…physically and emotionally.  I succeeded to a degree.  I physically endured.  But my body was the only part of me that made it out alive.

 

Child of pain.  It ate my soul and devoured my heart.  It permeated every fiber of my existence.

 

Fate spun her web made of poisoned thread.  I have a multitude of scars to show for it.

 

Once you are wounded and marked, once you have been saturated by pain, it doesn’t go away when finally you physically escape your abusers.  Abusers who gave you life, then sucked it right back out of you.  It stays with you.  Sometimes forever.  Once a child of pain, always a child of pain.  The scars don’t fade easily, if at all.  Pain enjoys torturing and destroying. Playing with you.   It finds you wherever you go, delighting in the chase.  There is no escape.

 

Some things cannot be repaired.  Some wounds can never be fully healed.  Some pain is so deep, you drown in it.  You are absorbed into it.  It changes you.  And once you know pain this intimately, you are joined with it forever until you become one with the agony and anguish.

 

Born into pain.  Living with the shame, sorrow and heartache, trying to build a life in spite of massive damage and debilitating brokenness.  Living with the emotional encumbrance, longing for escape, until death ultimately marks you, claims you and carries you away.

 

Child of pain.  Until death do us part.

 

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.