Tag Archives: shame

Teacher, Teacher

My father was a teacher.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My father the teacher taught me many things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have been perfectly obedient.

 

Broken Body, Broken Mind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Broken body.

Broken mind.

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

Shame is a very heavy burden to carry alone.

 

 

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.

Father

How could you look at me
shivering child
naked
pleading
shamed
and frightened
and not see
and not care
and not
stop

How could you touch me
foul caresses
playing out your perverted fantasies
using me
while I cried
while I begged you to stop
while I trembled
in terror
and humiliation
imploring and beseeching you
for mercy
for release

How could you become engorged
aroused
inflamed
spewing your sperm
on me
in me
as I whimpered
while I shuddered
while I shivered
broken
into a million pieces
beneath your repulsive touch
my air fouled
by your fetid breath
your sickness
controlling you
annihilating me

You used me
taking
until you got what you wanted
until your lust
was quieted
finally withdrawing
as the beat of your
uncaring heart
slowed
no longer thudding
your hideous penis
shrinking
shriveling at last
to nothing
no longer a weapon
your seed
spent
momentarily

How could you simply walk away
and leave me
shattered
destroyed
defiled
alone
to pick up the pieces
to try
to fit
the fragments
of my soul
back together
putting my emotions
in a deep, dark dungeon
because that was the only way
I could collect myself
painting a mask upon my disillusioned face
so I could leave the room
and not give you away

I struggled
to not feel
to not think
to not believe
to not question
until I could leave that room
while keeping your secret
until I could leave the room
and act as though
nothing
vile
had been done to me
nothing
deplorable
had happened
nothing unspeakable
had fatally wounded me

I was frozen in pain
for a very long time
each time
you came
into my room
into me
until you cast me aside
temporarily
sated

I was unable to move
afterward
for a very long time
each time you abused me
I worked so hard
to turn the world back right-side up
trying to find my feet
to stand
to walk from my bedroom
without turning
into dust

I struggled hard
to convince myself
you had not just
shot me through the heart
with your revolting
coagulating sperm
while expecting me to clean up your mess
then smugly walked away
leaving me lifeless and shattered
leaving me
for dead
without so much as
a backward glance

 

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.
 
 

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.

To the Left of Me

She lives just out of sight
to the left of me
I catch glimpses of her
from time to time
her battered wounded body
bruised and broken
a quivering mass
helpless
repugnant

My eyes do not linger long
not wanting to look too closely
not wanting to see too clearly
not wanting to know
what has been done to her
to make her appear
so horribly ruined
She is little more
than a pulpy mass of torn and beaten flesh
So grave are her injuries
she cannot escape the moment
where she is frozen
forever
in time

I’m not sure of her age
don’t know
her features
for I never look too attentively
Yet, even if I could bear to study her
I doubt I could describe her
in any detail
she is too badly fractured
she is too deeply wounded
she is too hideous to carefully observe

I do not acknowledge her
in those rare moments
when I catch sight of her
out of the corner of my eye
there to the left of me
I do not give her
even the slightest
friendly sign
Instead
I look away
turning from her
quickly
telling myself she is not my concern
not someone I want to get to know
or spend time with

Sometimes thoughts of her prick my mind
and I wonder about her
what she is like
why she is there
what happened to her
who she is
But I sense the answers are intensely painful
causing apprehension to shoot through me
like liquid ice
causing me to squirm inside
to sweat fear from my pores
So I quench the questions
before I can finish the thought
swiftly close the door
turn the key
in the lock
and I walk away

Yet when I am alone
in the deep darkness of the night
I can’t help but ponder
her
I can’t help but
contemplate her fate

I sense she is a child
with unruly golden hair
one who used to love to run with the wind
whose limbs were strong and growing
I believe she danced in the sunshine
twirled in the cool green grass
caught snowflakes on her tongue
breathed deeply the crisp fresh air
I believe she was alive once
inquisitive
sensitive
I think she must have laughed with delight
at the beauty she saw
in rocks
and leaves
in stars
and trees
in clouds
and fields
She was a child
who was fully alive
like the wriggly trusting puppy
she loves
with all of her heart

She was animated
and knew the joy of life
until
abuse stole her spark
left her dark
and pulverized
She could no longer dance
or laugh
and she watched the wind
run
without her

I think she withdrew
deep within herself
in a vain attempt to protect herself
from the crippling blows
the horrible physical
emotional
sexual abuse
the violent environment
the nightmare of her world
The lack of love and nurture
broke her
into a zillion pieces
annihilated her
mutilated her
decimated her
crushed her
and left her as she is
today

She is bloody
trapped
isolated behind her walls
She is deathly quiet
shunning oxygen
existing on emptiness
surviving
but not thriving
not living
not alive

What does she want from me?
Why is she there?
I feel her watching me
feel her pleading eyes follow me
as I go about my day
She is like a scratchy sweater
too warm and too tight
pricking, itching, scraping me
binding, squeezing, restricting me
I am so uncomfortable with her
uneasy
wary
wanting her to go away
wanting her to leave me alone
to release me from her prickly
painful touch

I fear her
for I am afraid
she is not simply an elusive ghost
haunting and unsettling me
dwelling where I can’t quite see her
to the left of me
I am afraid
if I look too closely
I will find
she wears my face
shares my heart
sees with my eyes
cries my tears
tastes my fear
and that it is my blood
she is bleeding
my blood
running through her veins
spilling from her wounds

I can’t bear to look at her too closely
because I fear
this broken
horribly disfigured child
is me

The One He Loves

I always thought he would be able to love me if I could lose weight.  Be thin.  And trim.  But the one he loves has thunder-thighs and a poochy tummy.  She’s not as heavy as I was toward the end of our marriage, the time of ultimate despair and self-loathing.   But she’s not even close to small.  She has substance and heft.   Casts a shadow you can’t miss.  Certainly isn’t close to ideal societal standards.  She doesn’t puke up what she puts in her mouth.  She eats.

I thought if I could be pretty enough…so he could feel good about people seeing him holding my hand…he could find a way to love me.  I wasn’t pretty, but I did what I could to look nice for him.  Fixed my makeup and hair.  Did what I could to make myself presentable.  Yet she, the one he loves, she is not what one would call pretty.  She’s okay.  Kind of on the plain side.  Normal.  Average.  Not the “arm candy” type.  Not the type who possesses beauty that would inspire such great devotion.  And yet.  He is.  Devoted.  To her.

I thought if I worked hard enough and made enough money to take care of us, he would find value in me.  Appreciate me and what I “brought to the table.”   But the one he loves works for a non-profit.  She’s not a big earner in any sense.  She lets him take care of her.  And he inherited a fortune from his parents.  So he takes care of her in ways he never even thought about with me.  Because he loves her.  And he never loved me.  No matter how hard I tried to give him reasons to love me.  No matter how much I tried to make things easy…or at least easier.

I thought if I dressed well, colored away the gray, looked put together, acted normal and was stylish, he would love me and be proud of me.  Or at the very least, be accepting.  Yet, the one he loves is sloppy.  Her hair is salt and pepper…mostly salt.  Frizzy, unstyled.  She wears no makeup.  Her clothes are haphazard and mismatched.  She looks anything but put together.   But he loves her.  The unfashionable and frumpy.  Because she doesn’t have to act normal.  She doesn’t have to try to have worth.  She just is.  She just does.

I thought if I was successful, he would see that there was more to being a good wife than cooking a meal every night (at which I failed miserably) and cleaning the toilets or dusting (yep, failed at that too).  He was the one with the low paying job and easy hours.  I was the one who was paying our bills and providing opportunities for him to enjoy and indulge.  I was working myself to death in an attempt to make something of myself.  But he left me.  And married her.  The one he loved and loves still.  Because she doesn’t have to do anything to deserve it.  She doesn’t have to earn acceptance.  She is cherished.  She brings a smile to his face.  No matter what she does…or doesn’t do.

That face once looked at me with utter disdain.  It was painted clearly across his disapproving features and reflected in those disappointed eyes.  What I was…it was never enough.  I wasn’t good enough.  Or enough.  Because I wasn’t someone like her.

The one he loves is accepted.  Cared for.  Appreciated.  Wanted.  Valued.  Important.  Beautiful in his eyes.  Everything I always wanted to be, but never could become.

Being thin, successful, hardworking, loyal, intelligent…none of it made a difference.  Because I was me.  And he really didn’t like me at all.

I wasn’t able to live up to his expectations.  I wasn’t able to change who I was inside.  I couldn’t make feelings I felt and thoughts that played endlessly through my weary brain go away.  I couldn’t fix the broken places.  I couldn’t be a different person.  I couldn’t change everything that was shattered and damaged.   I couldn’t stop being…me.

I’m glad he found her.  Truly I am.  But I do so wish he could have found something to love in me.

 

Kiss

He moved closer
closer
so close I wanted
to step back
but then he
suddenly pulled me
to himself
holding me fast
in his hungry grip
and he smiled at me
just before
his lips
touched mine

Gently at first
he kissed me
the shock of it
leaving me
paralyzed
and uncertain
frightened
stunned

His hunger grew
as he parted my lips
with his unrelenting tongue
I was so young
I did not understand

Sensing my resistance
he pulled away slightly
for a moment
looked at me with a wicked smile
playing on
those lips
that had just
devoured mine
“I’m teaching you”
he said
before quickly kissing me again
harder
deeper
more insistent
out of control

I wanted to tell him
to stop
I wanted to tell him
I didn’t like it
that it felt wrong
but I could barely catch my breath
barely breathe at all
my brain was frozen
and I could not make
my mouth
form words

Confusion clouded my thoughts
fear kept me from action
I pushed
in a weak attempt
to escape
his iron grip

“Please daddy…
please, no”
It was all I could say
once I was finally able to speak

He only chuckled
and said
“We’ll have more lessons
soon
many more lessons”
“I will teach you”
“I know what is best for you”

And then, he left me
standing alone in my room
unsure of what to do
feeling very lost
empty
and bewildered
feeling dirty
somehow tainted
and degraded
knowing something precious
had just been stolen
that parts of me
had been broken
into pieces
and shattered
from
having just experienced
my first
kiss