Tag Archives: physical abuse

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.

 

Walking on My Hands

“Sometimes your world turns upside down and you need somebody to show you how to walk on your hands before you can find your feet again.”  Karin Slaughter

 

I don’t know if it happens to everyone, but it happened to me.  My world inverted in an instant.  “Normal” vanished in one startling moment.  I lost my balance in a frightening flash.  Was never able to regain my footing.  Never experienced solid ground beneath my feet at any time during the years that followed.  The rug was pulled out from under me, sending me cascading unceremoniously onto my butt.

People laughed.  No one reached out with a helping hand.  They turned away instead, chuckling to themselves about how odd I was.  How pathetic.  How lost.  How unworthy of attention.  Or love.

Being a bit of a klutz, walking on my hands didn’t come naturally.  And since I never found my feet again, I’ve spent years navigating life while trying to do handstands, to get up while falling, crawling, sometimes even rolling, but never gracefully moving forward nor even progressing clumsily in a straight line.  Progress has been haphazard.  I’ve half-cartwheeled, flinging my limbs in an uncoordinated spastic seizure in a terrifying attempt to find my way forward.  Out of the mess.  Back to land.  I’ve rolled backwards instead of forwards.  At best, I’ve done a bang-up impersonation of a drunk who is so far gone, they can no longer stand at all…but they keep trying.  It’s not the least bit pretty.  Only the very mean can enjoy watching.  Only they find something so pathetic to be entertaining.

I’m trying to find my feet again.  I’ve been trying to find my feet again since childhood.

Before my age had reached double-digits, the abuse was well underway.  My world was a place of darkness, terror, pain, rejection and chaos.  I never knew when the bottom would drop out.  But even at that young age, I knew it would.  Probably when I lest expected it.  Laughter turned to anguish with the flip of a switch.  Daylight to terrifying darkness in the blink of an eye.  Normal to abnormal in a breath.  Reality melted in an instant and revealed the horror hiding behind the gilded facade.  There was nothing to cling to.  Nothing to stand upon.  Life was a free-fall and there was no parachute.  You knew it wouldn’t end well.

I prayed for someone to save me.  Someone to see what was happening to me behind closed doors.  To see the truth that lay hidden behind the bright smiles plastered on my parent’s faces.  They were good monsters.  Good at disguising themselves.  At hiding in plain sight.  No one ever suspected.  Or if they did, they didn’t care enough to show me how to walk on my hands.  Certainly not enough to rescue me.  Thus, my ungraceful, ineffective efforts to keep going when I couldn’t do anything more than tremble and watch in dread.  Limbs numb and asleep.  Frozen by panic and shock.

I needed someone to see.  To realize my world had been turned upside down and to show me how to walk on my hands until I could finally find my feet.  But I was alone in the nightmare.  Alone in my struggle.  Alone, without air to breathe.  A horrid earthquake was rumbling wildly beneath me, throwing me here and there and upside down again and again and again until I was too dizzy to take a single faltering step.

The earth yet trembles.  Not as crazily now as it did then.  But I am still dizzy.  I still cannot find my feet.  I stagger on my knee, my palm, one shoulder to the ground, trying to find stability.  Trying to turn the world back over.  To right it. To make sense of the senseless.

To no avail.

How can one make sense out of a father who sexually abuses his pre-school, elementary school, middle school aged daughter?  How do you make sense out of parents who strike their child with fists and slaps that knock them to the ground or into the wall across the room?  How do you make sense of parent’s words telling that child they are a disappointment, are letting them down, are a failure, could do better, had better do better? That they are too much trouble, cost too much money, are supposed to make them happy and make their life better, were born to fulfill them, to meet their every need.  How do you make sense of any of it, especially when they tell you this is love?

When your world turns upside down, when your toes can no longer find even a small patch of shifting sand on which to stand, you’re going to go down.

Whether you ever get up again depends on whether anyone notices your fall.  Whether they think you’re worth the time.  The time to show you how to get through the earthquake; to survive until the ground stops shaking.  It depends on whether anyone reaches out a hand to steady you. Whether they believe in you.  Believe you have value.  Believe you matter, even if you’re shaking and can’t stand.  If they show you how to brace yourself with your hands until you can get back up on your feet, your chances are good.  You’ll likely walk again.

But if you are forced to stumble alone, to roll, crash, crawl and careen forward on your own, especially if you are shamed because you can’t find your feet and move like you are inebriated, you may never again find solid ground.  You may never walk another step.

And the shame will make sure you stay down…down where you belong.  Down below eye level, so others are not continually confronted by your hideous, disturbing spasms.  Down and out of sight, so you won’t be a bother.  So you won’t disturb.  So the rest of the world won’t have to acknowledge that monsters roam the earth wearing masks, holding down good jobs and covered in nice clothing.  And that the damage they do to their child may be irreparable.

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.

Dominoes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out of options.

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

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

Somebody

I thought I would be somebody.  Eventually.

Perhaps not in a big, fabulous and famous way.  But from some perspective.  In someone’s estimation.  In someone’s eyes.

I thought I would have an impact.  I felt I could make a difference.  I believed I had something to say.  Something worth saying.  I thought speaking out would, if only in a trivial way, leave a permanent mark within a few hearts.  I supposed I would come to matter, even if only slightly and insignificantly.

I started writing when I was six.  As soon as I learned about words and how to put them together; to arrange them on a page, I fell in love with them.  They saved me.

My first poem?

My pencil went over the ocean.
My pencil went over the sea.
My pencil went everywhere I wanted to go,
But it always went without me.

It was written on the kind of lined paper that also provided a dotted guide so a child learning to write could gauge the height of upper and lower-case letters.  The printing was crude.  But I used some big words (relatively speaking) for a six-year-old child.  And even then, my struggle with aloneness was evident.  My pencil left me behind.

I was already being abused.  Had a couple of years under my belt by that point.

By the time I turned eleven, I was writing songs.  Pouring my wounded heart out in poetry set to music.  This was around the time I started to think I had something to say.  All those years ago, I saw beyond my childhood.  I focused on the day I could leave.  When I could begin to recover.  Then, finally, I would be able to tell my story.  And surely, telling my story was going to have an impact.  On someone.  Some shadowy unknown person out there in the big new world that awaited me.

I genuinely wanted to touch hearts.  Deeply.  I longed to connect in meaningful and poignant ways on a level that went beyond the ordinary.  Until then, I created poems.  I wrote songs.  I used words in an attempt to expose the indelible damage and crippling pain within my soul.

But the abuse and agony weren’t to be my whole message.  I fully expected I would overcome the destruction.  Find healing.  My journey would be worth listening to because of the positive outcome.  That’s when I would become someone.  Somebody who was whole.

I did survive.  I endured the sick sexual abuse of my father.  I accepted their slaps and strikes and punches.  They knocked me down, but I got back up.  I endured being dragged across the room by my hair.  Being thrown into walls.  They were artists…hitting me hard enough to leave big red welts, but not hard enough to leave suspicious bruises or broken bones.  I internalized their angry, cutting, degrading words.  Words that they used as weapons and fists.  Telling me I was nothing.  That I was a disappointment.  That I had let them down.  I was supposed to fulfill their dreams and rectify the wrongs in their world.  I failed them time and time again.  They repeated their disdain and the message of their displeasure to me with grating consistency.  My anti-vitamin.  Infused in my brain year after year.  I sucked it up, enduring their rejection.  The isolation.  The neglect.  Their unreasonable demands and ridiculous expectations.  I believed every word they said.

But I also survived.  And then, I escaped.  Two weeks after graduating from high school, diploma finally in hand, I fled.

Now came my opportunity to pick up the pieces; put myself back together.  My time to become somebody.

It didn’t take long to find out no one cared about a battered and abused child fighting to win despite starting far behind the pack.  No one wanted to hear my story.

My heart was too disfigured and horridly crushed.  Even though I patched the pieces of my soul together as best I could, instead of a butterfly, I created a Frankenstein.  A monster.

Dreams die hard.  They die slowly and painfully with time.

Trying to be somebody who was loved, trying to build deep connections, led me down dark paths.  Lonely paths.  Desiring meaningful relationships with people who could see the good and bad in me without turning away took me to ugly places.  Because there was no acceptance.  No matter how hard I worked or how much I gave, I wasn’t adequate.  I was intrinsically defective.

I thought I could be a “real” person.  A person who had something to say and give that mattered.  But my message was unpalatable.  I was undesirable.  Deplorable.  Disgusting.  An aberration.

I shut myself up within high walls. Wrote my words and filed them away in folders and drawers.  I pretended to be normal and whole, wearing the mask to spare others from having to look at me.  I denied my brokenness and emptiness, even during the dead of sleepless nights when the truth was hard to ignore.  Being lonely was far better than being utterly alone.

I wanted to be somebody.  I thought I could.  Be someone who had a worthy story to tell.  A story of abuse survived.  Of a life being born from the ashes.  Ultimate victory.  I believed I could provide inspiration and light to others; to those coming along after me.  I wanted to help them find the way.  Point them to a path of healing and love.

But I never made it out of the darkness.  My story is but another sordid tale of failure and anguish.  I never found healing.  Never found love.  I am nothing more than a cautionary narrative that lacks a satisfactory ending.  There is no inspiration in my saga.

I am not somebody.  Even the little I was able to attain is fading away into nothingness.  Drowning in the emptiness of my hollow, fragmented life.  Dust returning to dust.

Still, I arrange words on pages.  Casting them into the cosmos, though they are void of meaning.  Though I am nothing more than a nobody with nothing left to say.

 

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.
 
 

Kilroy Was Here

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

Incest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

When the Bough Breaks

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

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

The wind blew without ceasing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Wonder Years

I missed them.  The “Wonder Years.”  The years of innocent, frivolous childhood.  The carefree days.  Believing in goodness and happy endings.  The time before fear.  The time before enlightenment.  Before darkness.

There is pain even then.  And though it seems big and awful, aging provides us with a perspective that allows us to see how trivial were our worries and betrayals.  A best friend plays with an “enemy.”  Someone we have a crush on develops a crush on someone else.  The popular kids seem to have it all together and they always appear to win.  But things are not as they appear.  We are learning life lessons as we play out our dramas on a small screen in our small, but expanding world.  The Wonder Years don’t require those massive, life-changing consequences.  Everything is softer.   We take small steps.  Eat small bites.  Figure things out slowly.  But without the weight of concern.  Without crushing responsibility.  Our course is still pliable.  Anything can happen.  And whatever happens…we believe it will be good.  We believe our course will eventually lead us to the pot of gold.

I missed it…that time of magic and excitement others experienced routinely.  That time before intimately comprehending the dark side of life.  I was born on the dark side.  I lived there.  Knew the streets.  The shadows.  I grew up under the curse.

It is not a place of security or wholesomeness.  Or beauty.

I watched classmates with parents who adored and encouraged them.  I saw the nurturing they received.  The attention.  The care.  And it baffled me.  I saw them make mistakes, yet survive.  They were not beaten or reduced to nothingness for taking a wrong step.  They were not made to pay with their soul.  Maybe with their allowance.  But the mistakes they made didn’t mean they WERE a mistake.  They cried their tears, dried their eyes and laughed again as their parents lovingly watched over them.

I learned very early that those wonder years were just a facade.  A fantasy.  I peeled away the tissue, but there was no gift within the wrapping.   I saw behind the curtain.   And there were monsters there.

I was tightly swathed in darkness and rejection.  I was surrounded by abuse of every kind that came from every direction and I had nowhere to run nor any way of escape.  I walked through the day quiet as a mouse, hiding and running from those who gave me physical life.  Avoiding contact, for they were the ones who sucked dry my emotional and mental life while draining the hope and innocence right out of me.   I lived in fear of things that went bump in the night because in my house, those monsters were real, alive and hungry. They ate my heart and soul and enjoyed the meal.  In my house, the worst did happen.  And in my house, I bore all the blame.  All the responsibility.  The emptiness and dysfunction was somehow my fault because I could never fill them up.

I didn’t feel cherished or wanted.  I never recall a time when I was without heavy weights on my shoulders.  There are no memories of feeling light and unburdened.  Free and unrestricted and alive.  I died young, there alone in the terrible darkness.  Old beyond my years.  Broken before I even got a chance to take my first faltering steps.  Never flying.

I missed the Wonder Years, though I longed for that feeling of lightness and joy.  I wanted to taste it.  I wanted to soar…just for a little while.  To feel weightless and safe and ecstatic simply to be alive with the sunshine warming my head while the wind carried me.

But once you have lost your innocence, once you have had your trust ripped violently away, once you have been violated, there is no turning back the page.  No going backward in time.  Once you have had a bite from the apple, a new, horrible reality is revealed.  Once you have been thrust into the unending darkness and seen the face of evil, the only wonder you know is that of wondering if you will survive.

And mostly, you don’t.  Because life without wonder is just marking time.