Tag Archives: rejection

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.

 

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.

Pivotal Moments

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

Game changers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When I started counseling, so full of hope.

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

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

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

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

When I lost my home.  My dream home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

If I Could

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

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

When the Bough Breaks

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

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

The wind blew without ceasing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mixed Messages

The world is confusing.  It is especially so for a young child.  Antennas are fully extended.  Nothing is understood.  Everything is happening quickly and it’s being assimilated, sorted, processed and classified just as swiftly.  A massive amount of information is being filed away in their vulnerable heart.  In their curious mind.  Coming to conclusions.  They are feeling their way along. Trying to avoid anything that explodes newly laid foundations.  Trying to avoid anything that is too scary or painful.  Trying to chew before swallowing.

They listen to the words adults fling back and forth around them.  The adults who are parenting them.  Who matter the most.  Those words they speak carry much weight.  Much more weight than the words of others…at least while they are young.  They listen.  Catch those words.  Ponder them.  And learn.

Yet, actions speak louder than words.  Which is why confusion descends, wrapping them in a thick, unrelenting fog.

Sometimes, the mixed messages cause so much dissonance, the child fractures.

“We love you so much!”  But in the dead of the night, the daddy sneaks quietly into her room and uses her as a living, breathing sex toy.  Or the mother slaps her and drags her by her long hair because she didn’t complete every chore on a 2-page list between the time she got off school and when her mother arrived home from work.

“We prayed for a little girl just like you!”  But her brother is the one who gets dental care, who is taken to the doctor when he is sick, who doesn’t even have to do chores.

“If only you would…lose weight, make better grades, smile, be more popular, clean the house without being asked, like the clothes I want to wear…”  “If only you had…blonde hair, a better personality, a prettier face, slimmer legs, a smaller butt…”  There are lots of “if only” messages.  If only, then we could love you, accept you, like you, be proud of you, want you.

We love you…if only.  We love you, but oh, you’re not as mature as we thought you were.  You’re not as resourceful as we thought you were.  You’re not as worthwhile, valuable, nice, pretty, smart…as we thought you were, thought you should be, wanted you to be, expected you to be, needed you to be.

We needed you to be so much more.

We love you…you were supposed to fulfill our dreams and meet our every need, make our life wonderful and make us happy.  Instead…you’re too much trouble, too much work, you’re a disappointment, you’re a failure, you’re making things harder for me, you need too much, you aren’t doing everything we want you to do, you’re not acting like we want you to act, you’re not performing up to standard, you’re not living up to our expectations…

We love you.  We hit you because you deserve it.  We abuse you because we own you. Because you owe it to us to make us happy. We reject you.  Your needs don’t matter.  We love you.  Smile, dammit!  Do what I say.  Don’t tell anyone.  Don’t look at me like that!  What do you want from me?  We love you.  Not now.  Leave me alone.  I have too many problems of my own to deal with without having to think about you.  You’re not making my life better.  Or easier.  What’s wrong with you?  You’re so fat!  Clean your plate!  I don’t care what you need.  Or what you think.  Clean the house.  Keep the secrets.  We love you.  Do you know how expensive it is to go to the doctor!  You had better be sick enough to justify all that money being spent on you!  Mow the grass.  Clean out the refrigerator.  Mop the floor.  Dust the paneling.  Clean the kitchen.  Vacuum.  Wash the windows.  Make me whole.  Make me feel good about myself and how I’m doing as a parent.  Fix my life.  Why can’t you be more like her?  You’re making us look bad.  Keep your mouth shut.  We love you.  How dare you!  You’re so disappointing.  We can’t be bothered.  Go to your room.  We love you.

The child tries.  Tries to sort through the words.  Tries to comprehend the meaning of what they are saying.  These very important people who are shaping them. Tries to make sense of their actions.  Tries to get the pieces to fit together.  Tries to find a way to make it make sense.

“Love” is nothing more than rejection hiding behind sweet words.  It is abuse, using, hitting.  It means being tolerated if you remain silent.  If you perform to standard.  Yet the standard is constantly changing for the bar is steadily moved higher when you come close to succeeding. You have to earn it, this thing called love.  And the price is high.

Being loved means being judged and found lacking.  It means having no value or worth.

It is the only way to get the mixed messages to fit into one coherent concept.  It is the only way to resolve the distortion, the startling clash between opposing perspectives.  It is the only way those opposing perspectives can exist together in the same room.  Or be spoken with the same breath.

For the other alternative, the one that CAN’T BE TRUE NO MATTER WHAT is that what they are showing you, what they are doing to you, what they are asking of you and demanding from you…isn’t actually love…at all.

All The Tears I Never Cried

Psalm 56:8  New Living Translation (NLT)

You keep track of all my sorrows.
    You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
    You have recorded each one in your book.

The message is clear; touching.  We have heard it repeated and expressed in many different ways.  Through songs, blogs, stories and in inspirational articles.  In sermons and poems. God has our tears.  Every tear we’ve ever cried.  Not a single one is lost.  Not a single one went unnoticed.  He collected them each one.  He recorded them in His book.  God is moved by our weeping.

But what about all the tears never cried?

All those tears I was never able to release.  All the pain still held behind my eyes.

Most of my tears haven’t been cried.  My eyes have stayed disturbingly and resolutely dry.  The dam I built when but a child remains strong.  No water is released, no matter how great the need for relief.  No matter how much the pressure behind it.

It wasn’t safe to let them flow freely; not when I was a preschooler.  Nor when I was in junior high. Not when married to the man who rejected me.  Who didn’t love me.  Never loved me.  It wasn’t smart to release them to form rivers that would drip from my cheeks and drop off the tip of my nose.  It wasn’t safe to feel.   I held them in and kept them sealed tightly inside, carefully hidden in the darkest depths of my soul.  Until I forgot how to open the floodgates.

There they remain.  Tears never cried.  Stagnant.

My heart has been in deep pain most of my life.  My journey hasn’t been easy.  It hasn’t had many ups.  But the major blows have been plentiful.  I’ve encountered too many difficult challenges that beat me to a pulp until I was too numb to respond.  Until it was all I could do to get up off the floor.  Take a step.  Then another.  I’ve had abundant reasons to cry and I’ve longed many times to weep uncontrollably.   But showing vulnerability has never been safe.  Feeling such raw emotions has proven to be foolish.  Letting someone see my heart has always been idiotic.  When I slipped and exposed my weakness, the repercussions were many and they were terrible.  So I have swallowed the pain.  And the tears.

They have remained dammed up behind a massive wall of numbness.  Repressed for years and years.  Every blow has caused the wall to be built higher.  Wider.  Stronger.  The ocean of tears to grow deeper.

What about those tears?  The ones I’ve never cried?

Are they of no significance?   Hidden and unexpressed, have they lost their authenticity?  Is unexpressed pain of no importance?  Do only the tears actually released have meaning?  Are they the only ones that count?  The only ones God collects and treasures?

The tears we cry matter. He sees.  Has compassion.  Wipes them away.  Holds each one.  Knows the reason for them; for every single one.  These are the precious tears that are kept in His bottle and recorded in His book.

Are they the only tears God cherishes?

If so…

I have a million uncried tears rotting in my soul and they will never have significance.  They are worthless. The battle I fought to contain them is meaningless.  The struggle I went through to carry them, to prevent them from inconveniently raining down on others, is inconsequential.   I carried them when sharing them would have been easier…if riskier.  I held them back and pasted a smile on my face to survive.  And when surviving became all I knew how to do, the uncried tears multiplied until they were legion.

They are legion still.

But they are not in His bottle.  They are bottled up in my heart, a painful reminder of all I have suffered alone.  Of how my life has left me with nothing more than regrets and toxic memories.

“He knows your name
Every tear you cry
He knows the pain
How you feel alone”

 (Moriah Peters, “No Shame”)

When I do not cry, is He unable to know my pain?  Does He not discern how alone I feel?  How the nights are empty and silent?  And the days are wrapped in rabid isolation?  Does He continue to absent Himself, uncaring of the hurt that rips me apart and stomps me helplessly into the earth where I am ground again to dust?

When I can’t cry, does He not care?  Is He untouched by my tearless brokenness?

I wish I could cry freely and let God collect the tears in His bottle and record them in His book.  I wish I could believe my pain moved Him, whether I managed to shed the tears or remained too afraid to let my guard down; to open my heart.  To be that vulnerable.  Revealing weaknesses through tears is risky.  It can give those who are intent on hurting you a way in to your most tender places.   Places where they can do the most significant amount of damage.  But I cannot cry.  I am imprisoned behind this wall.  I have waited too long to seek release.  The ocean of tears I have held in for a lifetime know the boundaries set for them so long ago and no longer cross the line.

They are contained in my bottle.  A dead sea.

All the tears I have not cried.  That I’ve held inside trying to survive.  That I’ve choked down while they almost choked me.  The only bottle my tears reside in…is the cavern of my heart.  I am drowning in them.  Their salt stings my eyes.  I taste them in my mouth.  But God doesn’t gather them.  He does not hold them in His hand.  There is no comfort to be had.  Only this ocean of sorrow.  Growing larger, deeper, wider with every passing moment.  And I do not know how to swim in the foul waves any more than I know how to weep until this endless sea of tears is finally drained dry.

Once

I was her once.

She is young; no more than 25, and she sits across the table from her mate, staring into his eyes.  Her eyes are filled with love and adoration.  She is happy.  Hopeful.  They are having a date night, taking advantage of the cheap prices at the “all you can eat” buffet.  It’s a big deal.  They don’t have the money to go out often.  They are celebrating.  Laughing at each other’s jokes.  Enjoying the moment.

It doesn’t have to be fancy.  They are together.  That’s all that matters.

Newlyweds, they barely have enough to pay their bills or buy essentials.  They count the days until payday, hoping they can get by until they can deposit their next checks at the end of the week.  They worry about how they’re going to afford a pair of retread tires for their car.  What they’ll do if anything unexpected happens.  Praying it doesn’t.  But they’re in it together.  They will make each other strong.  They believe in each other.  They will get through it, whatever comes.  Somehow.

I was there once.  I remember.

Tomorrow will come with its worries and challenges.  But tonight, all worries are set aside.  Tonight, they are enjoying each other’s company and are content in their love for one another.  Tonight is all about having a good time, talking, dreaming about the future.  A future when they don’t have to worry about how they will afford tires.  When they can buy them new, four at a time.

They work 8 to 5 with a little overtime thrown in when they’re lucky.  They brown bag their lunch, eating bologna sandwiches on week old stale bread with a bag of chips and a glass of water.  Their clothes come from the resale shop and shoes are purchased at Wal-Mart.  When they’re on sale.  They buy gas $5 at a time.  Clip coupons.  Plan carefully.

They save up for their date nights at the all-you-can-eat buffet.

It’s them against the world.  United.  Together.  Strong.  Moving forward together.  They have nothing and no one but each other to cling to.  And that is enough.  For now, it is enough.  More than enough.

This was me once.    They are a reflection of my past.

Full of excitement.  Just starting out, believing the best was yet to come and that it was coming soon.  Young.  Filled with energy and hope.  Newly married.  In love.

Back when I was her age, an entire world lay before me, ripe for the picking, waiting for me to finally begin to live my dreams. Waiting for me to step into a brand new and beautiful future.  I knew everything was going to be wonderful.

And I was so completely in love; head over heels.  I looked at him the way she is looking at her young man.  Her new spouse.  I was that giddy once.  I believed we would build a good life together and that our love would allow us to overcome all obstacles.  Even though there were a lot of obstacles.

Back then, I still believed in love. In the power of love to transform me.  I still believed someone could love me.  Even me.

Time passed swiftly.  Far too quickly.

Then I was 33.  A young professional.  So excited when I was finally promoted to management.  Went to Service Merchandise and carefully selected my very first briefcase.  Maybe I was less hopeful about my marriage.  Okay, I was pretty much out of hope. I now knew beyond any doubt the love I had for him wasn’t returned.  That he didn’t love me and never had.  But I still believed things would eventually work out.  I thought if I worked hard enough, made enough money, did the right things and was a good person, he would eventually see there was something about me that made me worth loving.  I might have to go through unpleasant times, but he would come around.  He would begin to love and appreciate me the way I thought he did when we married.  I just had to prove my worth.  I just had to do everything perfectly.  I had to BE perfect.

I didn’t notice right away…though we had the funds to go to a better restaurant, it had been a long time since we’d had a date night.  It had been a long time since we had openly talked.  I was no longer the young woman at the buffet.

I watch her, remembering.  Wishing for another chance.  Oh, if only…

I hope she doesn’t someday sit where I am sitting now, watching another young woman the way I am watching her.  I hope by the time she is my age, she is still holding the hand of her adoring spouse.  That they still talk about their dreams and deep feelings.  That it’s still them against the world.  I hope they are together and that being together is all that matters.  That being together is enough.  More than enough.  And I pray they are still going out for date nights.

 

 

My Normal

When I was a child, I didn’t have any clear plans for my future.  I had the kinds of immature dreams (being a famous mega-star) that most kids do.  No magic path seemed to appear before me and there was no clear direction.  But I did believe my life would go well.  I just had to survive my childhood first and then I could get on with it, whatever “it” might entail.

Part of that “it” was to experience some kind of normal.  I wanted to fall in love and give my heart to a partner I could walk with through life.  I longed for love and a deep, significant connection.  One where I could be vulnerable without fear.  Where we would take care of each other, both emotionally and physically.  Where we shared burdens and rejoiced together during the good times.  I wanted to make a difference in the world, as well as in the life of that person I was joined to.  I wanted to matter.  To touch hearts and change lives.  To touch his heart and be a major part of his world.

Problem was, I couldn’t reach my own heart or change my own life.  I couldn’t make me different

I struggled to build some kind of a future that held purpose and meaning.  I worked hard at jobs, sacrificing many long hours and weekends to meet the demands of greedy employers who didn’t even believe women should be in the workforce.  But I didn’t have a choice.  My ex didn’t want to work hard and he didn’t much care about building a future together.  He thought I was overly materialistic to want a savings account and a 401(k).  He didn’t understand my need for some security and stability.  And he rejected me because I wasn’t the ideal woman; the kind of person he desired.  I wasn’t the perfect wife. The woman of his dreams.  So, he never loved me.  And since I didn’t live up to his expectations, he didn’t feel bad about it.  He pretty much thought I was getting what I deserved.  What I earned.

I pretty much thought that too.

My normal became one of trying to justify my existence.  Of trying to be good enough.  Good enough to be accepted and loved.

That dream, like my childhood dream of being a mega-star, never became reality.  In fact, it turned out to be pure fantasy.  Laced with a hefty dose of deception.

Years later, he finally walked away, leaving me to try to put the pieces of my world back together.

When that happened, I didn’t just lose him.  I lost all hope of being special to someone.  Of being wanted and adored.  Or of even being tolerated.

And I lost all the things I had worked so hard for or thought I would someday achieve.  I lost my job, money, my retirement fund.  As a result, I lost the ability to retire at a point when I was young enough to enjoy living…along with the ability to perhaps volunteer instead and do something I loved.  Maybe work with a ministry that reached out to kids who had been abused the way I had been abused.  To give them the support I never had.

Maybe then, with that kind of freedom, I could finally do something that truly mattered.  Make a difference the way I had always hoped.

Since he left and my dreams died, since I lost my savings, my home and my belief in a positive future, I find myself living in a dead and dark place, unable to see any end to the drudgery.  I get up only because I must.  I must go to work.  I will have to keep a paying job for the rest of my life, however long that might be, because I have nothing.  And it’s far too late to rebuild, be it a relationship, a 401(k), a career, or a tiny stable place to stand on this earth until I die.  I do the things I do because I have to do them simply to minimally meet my basic needs.

My dogs are my only source of joy.  I have no deep connections, other than the bond I share with them.  I am not a significant person in anyone’s life.  I haven’t made a difference in even the smallest of ways.  In fact, I have little to offer and am far too broken to be desirable to anyone who is in their right mind.

My normal is a place of darkness and emptiness.  Of hard labor that provides little return.  Of love that has been trampled and lost, having sold myself too cheaply, believing I didn’t deserve more.  It is a place of shattered dreams.  It is a norm that I can’t comfortably sink in or adjust to.  It is a place of existing and surviving instead of thriving.  Existing because I am still breathing and I don’t know how to stop.  Not yet.

I am grateful when my dogs are healthy and I can pay my bills.  I live in shadows and beneath a sunless sky.  I give thanks for any little kindness.  A warm breeze and a safe journey to work.  For clothes that fit comfortably and make me feel a tiny bit less worthless.  I try to not think of tomorrow because tomorrow is filled with considerable risk and comes with a big price tag and little hope of redemption.  My norm is filled to overflowing with isolation, disappointment, despair and pain.  And no option of ever getting better.

I grew as a child in this dark place to which I have returned.  I was born in darkness and I exist there once again.  I attempted to escape because I believed I could.  But I have come full circle.  Back to that place of desperation and desolation.  Back to the beginning where I was nothing…where I am nothing still.

This is my normal.    My fate.   I was a fool to have believed I could escape.  I was a fool to have thought I could have something more.  I have traveled long and journeyed far only to end up where I started.  I have survived, but it has cost me everything and gained me nothing.  The joke is clearly on me.

I no longer attempt to attain.  I pray I will somehow be able to at least sustain.  Get up each day, dress and drive to work.  Do what I must.  Come home to dogs who are happy to see me.  Care for them.  Have a little food.  Sit outside where I can hear the birds sing as I read a book.  Sit at my computer typing words that can never convey the extent of the numbness that has frozen my soul.  The emptiness that surrounds me.  Sleep, maybe even peacefully at times.  Run errands on the weekend.  Pay my bills.  Take a walk.  A nap.

This is all I have to look forward to.  This is my normal.  I am trying to tell myself it is enough.  Though I know it isn’t.