Tag Archives: worth

Living Proof

I am living proof.  Semi-comatose, numb to the core, exhausted “living” proof that the foundation laid in infancy and reinforced in childhood will forever survive.  Having hardened into place, no amount of effort or labor will dislodge it.  Or mar its surface.  Or change its form.  What is experienced when the personality is unformed will become theory.  Theory proven time and time again becomes belief.   Belief that is unchallenged becomes truth.  Thus tried and tested, it becomes an unshakable foundation upon which the life of that child is built.  Even if it is woven through with lies and inaccuracies, once accepted and adopted, it will stand.

The odd thing in this is, the mind may even realize and acknowledge the conclusions that construct the foundation aren’t logical and must, therefore, not be trusted.  The brain can process and recognize the inaccuracies, but it can’t think away the unshakable beliefs of the heart and soul.  Those matters are so deep and close to the beginning of life, it seems as if they have always been.  And therefore, always will be.  No amount of countering will transform or fracture it.  Once it becomes a part of who we are, it is who we are for the rest of our lives.

Let me give you an example.

Having been told I am nothing, treated as if I am not a person, having been used, unloved and unvalued during my entire childhood, I learned I was worthless, defective, unlovable, existing only to meet the needs of others.  I met and married – twice – men who did not love or value me.  I was never able to please them, an unforgivable failure for one who is required to fulfill desires and dreams.  Nor could I live up to their expectations.  So, the lessons of my childhood became the experiences of my adulthood.  Belief hardened to steel.  It is this belief that lies at the core of my soul to this very day.  Decades later.  In spite of the fact I have attempted to challenge and change it, at great expense and with much effort, it remains.  When I am awake in the middle of the dark night, alone, empty and without hope, I cannot deny I still do not know I am a human being.  And yet I believe with an unshakable certainly I am not one who possesses even one iota of worth.

Living proof that foundations haphazardly laid by uncaring, abusive hands will prevail.  Beyond reason.  Throughout time.  Until death does us part.

Living proof that everything can change, but nothing changes.

The dichotomy that exists is this:  That durable, that unshakable, unmovable bedrock is broken.  Crumbling.   And it fractures all that stands upon it.

It is fragile.  Delicate.  Has been pieced together pebble by pebble, stone by stone.  Imperfect.  Unpredictable.  Fragile, because all that is built upon it is but a house of cards.  Waiting to fall.  Threatening to topple with every shift and shaking from all the cracks that run beneath and throughout.  And every crevice and crater is full to overflowing with crushing pain.

The pain and wounding hold that unstable foundation in place.  This impenetrable, erratic, wobbling foundation, cruelly fashioned by abusive and neglectful parents is immovable.  It is tough.  It is weak.  It is unbending.

I am living proof that what has been laid beneath our feet and put into place within the heart when the heart was vulnerable and needy will shape the course of our life.  We cannot go against the current, walk off the path, nor disregard the direction we have been thrust.  We can try.  But it will pull us back, smacking us back into line.  It reminds us that we are foolish to believe we can rise above, idiotic to hope for a better future, unwise to long for something that wasn’t woven into that unrelenting belief system that was tested and proven and upon which we were shattered time and time again.

I am living proof.  The hands that form us, they form us for life.  We never forget the feel of those harsh hands upon us.  Every slap.  Every touch.  Every time they destroy us and consume more of our fading innocence.  We become what they make us.  Clay on the potter’s wheel.  Created, thrown away and shattered, learning our place, learning who we are and who we are not.  We learn and as we learn, layer upon layer of “reality” is built beneath our feet.  And though we attempt to unmake what has been made, though we put all we have into tearing it apart, this fragile, unbending foundation placed beneath us remains.  Holds us in place; holds us back.  Reminding us from where we have come.

Always reminding us from where we have come.

Living proof.  I bear witness to their unholy craftsmanship.  It prevails.  It will affect me until I finally leave the foundation behind.  And step outside of time.

 

For Edith

This is for my friend Edith.  Because old friends are special.  They just are.

We became friends in junior high and were very close until our 3rd or 4th year of high school.  Best friends.  Best friends of the best kind.

Not that we weren’t friends after we graduated.  We were.  We wrote each other for years (I had moved away; she hadn’t).  We sent each other birthday and Christmas cards.  I was a bridesmaid in her wedding.

We were different.  Very different.  In a lot of ways.  But there was a connection.

She was honest.  Real.  Genuine.  She had a good heart.  She was intelligent.  Loved animals, especially dogs…like I did.  She lived on a farm.  I was a town kid.  She drank unpasteurized milk.  I tried, but I just couldn’t swallow it.  She rode horses bareback.  I fell off the back, literally.  If I could get on in the first place.  They scared me.  She was a horse whisperer.

Different.  But somehow, we connected.

We did our algebra homework together over the phone.  We talked about what was in our heart and on our mind.  We understood each other.

I respected her.  I saw a purity and beauty in her that inspired me.

Still does.

One recent Friday night, we got together for the second time since her wedding all those years ago.  The first time, we met in a restaurant and it was awkward.  It was hard to reconcile the older version in front of me with the person I knew in high school.  Probably was for her too.  But when we met at my house, we talked.  And it was easy.  It was fun.  I saw the young girl I knew way back when.  When we were 17.  We still had a connection and it was special.

We’ve gotten together a few times since and each time, I see more of the friend I knew so well.  I see her integrity.  How genuine she is.  How caring.  Giving.  Unique.  We are still different.  She has kids.  I don’t (except for my dogs).  She still lives out in the middle of nowhere on a farm.  I’m a city gal.  I love clothes.  To her, they’re something you need…but they’re not fun.  Yet the differences don’t matter.  They only make our relationship more interesting.

I’ve also discovered some things about her that I didn’t know back then.  Ways in which we aren’t different.

We both love mysteries and we read a lot of the same authors.  We are both Christians.  She was even in high school, though I didn’t know.  Took me longer, but I got there.  So we share quite a few values.  We think a lot alike.   We’re both a little shy and socially awkward, even after all these years.  And we run deep, preferring to talk about things that carry some weight instead of rattling on endlessly about nothing in particular.

I don’t have many friends.  I only have a couple who know anything about the real me.  Edith knew me and loved me back in the day when I was raw, messed up, struggling and pretty close to unlovable.  She believed in me when no one else did.  And I am grateful.

We lost touch.  We missed out on a lot of years.  But still, I feel her acceptance.  She has opened her heart to me again and I am amazed at the treasure she holds within.  Though I am still battered and messy, she sees a person worth knowing.  And she is willing to take the flaws with the good she finds in me.

She enriched my life then. She enriches it now.

So, this is for my friend Edith.  Because old friends are special.  And Edith is one of the most special of all.

A Cautionary Tale

I’m supposed to have most everything figured out by now.  When I was in my 20’s, not having my act together was acceptable, maybe even normal, predictable and somewhat endearing.  But I’ve reached the point in life where it’s no longer adorable.  Not even close.

Not only should I have figured out the mysteries of life by now, I should have implemented what I learned and lived the mystery in style.  I should even have a few words of wisdom to share.  Some insights.  Some nuggets of truth.  Observations that can save others from stepping in a few of the holes I fell in that nearly broke me or that caused me overwhelming despair and consternation.

Instead, I have only examples of what not to do.  I can only tell you a cautionary tale.  I’ve nothing with which to inspire you.  I have not overcome.  So the path I have wandered and the lessons I have learned only concern directions best not taken and decisions one should not make.

My lessons are tainted with regret.  And longing for a second chance.  If only I could try once more, I think I could get a few things right this time.

All I can offer you, since there are no second chances in life, is a warning to not do as I have done.  To not walk the way I have walked.  To not think the way I have thought.

With that in mind, I share what little I have to offer, hoping it will at least cause you to consider some of the things I didn’t consider at the time.

Lesson #1:  I was silent when I should have shouted.

I am probably much like many others.  As a child, I was timid, quiet, frightened of adults for obvious reasons.  I was perhaps even more silent than most, considering I was being abused by those who gave birth to me and who should have protected me from the very things they were themselves doing.  I swallowed the abuse and the resulting pain.  I swallowed it whole until it very nearly choked the life out of me.  I didn’t manage to whisper a word until I gathered my courage and talked to members of a Christian group visiting our town when I was 13 and badly broken.  I didn’t want to make trouble for my parents, but I did hope to get some help for myself because I was drowning in anguish and deconstructing with every punch, slap, penetration and harsh, cutting word of rejection.  I had been raped, forced to participate in the sick sexual fantasies of my father, fondled, molested, kissed, ejaculated in and upon, soaped up in the shower, made to dance nude, had fingers and objects inserted into me and there was nowhere for me to turn for help.  When I finally did reach out to this group from out of town, dared to speak the words I had been holding inside of me, telling them I was being sexually abused, they quickly, to my horror, turned me over to the pastor for follow-up.  I didn’t attend the church…that wasn’t something my family did.  I had gone that night with a neighbor.  So the pastor didn’t know me; not really.  But he knew my parents, particularly their stellar reputation within our community.  So when he closed the door to his office and turned to face me, he told me with unbending force and anger to go home and never tell a lie about my parents ever again.

I was horrified.  Shattered.  I shut my mouth and kept it that way most of my life.  I shut my mouth and swallowed the rancid toxic waste that flowed through me, keeping it to myself lest I infect someone else.

I should have shouted.  I should have screamed at the top of my lungs until someone listened and got me out of that unbearable situation.  I should have talked and kept talking until someone heard what I was saying and did something about it.

Which brings me to…

Lesson #2:  I should have done whatever it took to get the help I needed when I was young and malleable.

I didn’t reach out until I was almost 50 years old.  By then, the damage had not only been done, it had been cemented into place.  It was cemented, nailed down, buried under tons of soil and I had built a massive brick building over it.  I couldn’t even remember what I had buried down there, so far beyond the earth, where light and air didn’t penetrate.

Trying to undo what had been done at that stage was a difficult, hopeless, unproductive battle.  Simply put, it was far too late.  It would have taken a miracle to help me at that point.  But miracles are in short supply.  If they aren’t, in fact, extinct.

Had I thought I had worth, if I’d had a clue I might actually be a “real” person, I might have done more, fought harder, stood up for myself and gotten what I needed to heal.  And that brings me to the next point in my cautionary tale.

Lesson #3:  Don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t worth loving or don’t deserve to be loved.

I was told I was nothing.  An object.  An object who continually failed to live up to expectations.  I listened to what I was told, as most children do.  I believed it.  Swallowed it whole along with everything else I was forced to hold inside and it swallowed me whole in return.  I became invisible.  Nothing.  A non-person.

It took me nearly all my life to even begin to consider I was a “human” just like everyone else.  I felt completely inferior.  So utterly lacking in value, I didn’t realize I was a living being.  I could only see that I was contaminated and worthless, so surely everyone was justified in shunning me and throwing me away.  When it happened — again and again — I thought this was all I deserved.  Being tolerated was all I could ask.  How could I expect more?  I was lucky to get a scrap that fell from the table.  Eating a meal was not in the cards.  I did not deserve nurture.

I let them beat me down and destroy my belief in myself.  Their abuse had the effect of dismantling my confidence, self-worth and demolishing my person hood.

Had I not gone quietly, had I instead done everything in my power to get the help I needed, had I been able to see my own value, I would now be able to be that inspirational example I’ve always longed to be.  I would have stories worth sharing, words worth saying.  I would have wisdom and encouragement to give you.  I could have lived instead of existed.  Thrived instead of survived.  Overcome instead of under-achieved.  I wouldn’t be stuck in the darkness, broken and without hope, still trying frantically to paste the fragments of my soul back together again.

I could have lived a vibrant life.

If you can learn anything from me, if I can inspire you in any way, learn this.  Hear and grab hold of this.

Don’t swallow yourself.  And don’t let yourself be swallowed by emptiness.  Don’t let anyone shut you up.  Don’t choke down your pain and allow the darkness to strangle you…not without a fight.  Shout from the rooftop until someone pays attention and helps you get whatever help you need.  No matter the cost.  Do whatever you have to do to heal, to learn to deal with what has been done to you.   Do it now.  Early on.  Before you are so numb you can’t even remember what it is like to have emotions.  Never allow anyone make you feel that you aren’t important enough.  Don’t let them steal your value or diminish your humanness.  You are worthy of being loved.  You deserve to be cared for.  You have worth.

Don’t follow in my footsteps.  Don’t let life kill you before your body is ready to die.  Live your life.  You deserve to live.  As did I.  A lesson I learned too late.

It Doesn’t Matter What I Want

I have learned this lesson.  Time, experience and life events have conspired to teach me.  They have taught me well.  Very well.

It doesn’t matter what I want.

I wanted love.  To be loved.  To be with someone I loved.  To be with someone who loved me.  To deeply connect.  It doesn’t matter.  Love was obviously not in the plan for me. I don’t know why.  But I know it…all too well.  Love is not within my reach.  The thing I desire the most is not to be mine.

What have I learned from this?  It doesn’t matter what I want.

I wanted security.  A degree of financial security.  Enough.  Enough to make it without having to worry, to panic, to struggle paycheck to paycheck. I worked hard for this.  Had it snatched away again and again, in spite of my diligence and focus; in spite of going above and beyond time and time again.

I also wanted a degree of personal security.  A feeling of safety.  That the world was not against me.  That there is solid ground on which I can stand without fear of everything repeatedly falling out from under me.  But life doesn’t care.  It doesn’t matter what I want.

I wanted to not have to work quite so hard, especially by this point in life.  But even when I was younger, I dreamed of not have to perform so perfectly.  I longed for a degree of mercy…that which is normally extended to most human beings.  Of being accepted even if I didn’t live up to rigid, demanding standards.  I wanted to be acceptable just as I am.  Even if I didn’t do everything just exactly right.  But it doesn’t matter what I want.

I wanted meaning.  Purpose.  The ability to touch the heart of another and to be touched by their heart.  Closeness with others; vibrant relationships.  Fulfillment.  The ability to contribute in a meaningful way. Contentment.  I wanted a reason to be alive.  To stay alive.  But. But.  It doesn’t matter what I want.

I don’t know why.  I only know the truth of it.  What I want, no matter how desperately I want or need it, simply doesn’t count.  Not in the least. Not even when I give it every ounce of my strength and work diligently to make it come to pass.

I wanted someone to stand up for me.  To fight for me.  Defend me.  Both as a child when I was being terribly abused by my parents, as well as in adulthood when I wasn’t being appreciated or treated well by employers.   I wanted someone to be by my side and say, “Wait a minute…this isn’t right!  No more!”  Or, “Let me help you.”

I also wanted a partner who would have my back and who would look out for me.  But I have ever and always been alone without a hand to hold onto or an arm to encircle me. 

It doesn’t matter what I want.  What I need.  My desires don’t carry any weight.  Life does what life does.  It goes however it goes.  Sometimes it gives.  Sometimes it give a great deal to certain individuals.  But that has not been my experience.  Mostly, it takes.  It demands.   It goes on.  One tormented voice, one heart-rending cry, does not distract it or cause it to deviate from its predetermined course.

I pray for something good to come my way.  For doors to open.  I beg God.  I plead for mercy and blessing.  But my need doesn’t matter.  My heart doesn’t matter.  My pleas don’t matter.  It doesn’t matter what I want. 

Honestly, there are times when I don’t always know what I want.  I don’t always know what is best for me.  Often, I’m open and I am rarely demanding.  But when it comes to the things that feel like basic necessities, I find it disturbing that so many of my needs and deep desires have gone unmet.  This makes me feel inconsequential.  Worthless.  Less than everyone else around me.

I want to matter.  But even that doesn’t matter.  Even that.

Life is not a place where dreams come true.  Not for me.  It is not a place of happiness.  It is a place of toil and struggle.  If anything good comes to you, you have been blessed indeed.   What we want…all the goodness that can be had if you are somehow fortunate enough to find the golden path…is of no consequence.  For God has some bigger, more important plan.  A divine plan.  The goal is not for us to be happy and fulfilled.  We are to learn.  Supposedly, we are being shaped and refined by all of our trials.  Supposedly, they will make us better.

I am tired of being shaped and refined.

What I have come to know is this:  In God’s eyes, it seems that everyone matters.  Yet no one matters.  And without question, I don’t matter.  It doesn’t matter what I want.   What I long and hunger for.  I’m supposed to be content to be a nothing and a nobody.  Forever seeking.  Never finding.  Broken and alone.  Unwanted and unloved.

Own Worst Enemy

I’ve heard that saying all my life.  “He’s his own worst enemy!”  “Can you believe what they did (or said)?  They’re their own worst enemy!”

The meaning is pretty clear.  The person being discussed keeps screwing up, making the wrong choices, doing exactly the opposite of what they should be doing if they were actually trying to move forward in a positive direction.  If they wanted to do the smart thing and succeed.  Exactly the opposite of what they presumably would do if they were trying to clean up the mess of their life.

I never really gave it much thought.  To me, it has always meant making stupid choices.  God knows, I made enough of them myself.  I have far too much firsthand experience.

But then, I somehow saw beyond the surface definition and caught a glimpse of a bigger picture.

It happened like this.

Life has always been a battle for me.  In every way and on every front.  I read a few scriptures each day in my effort to connect with God as I try to convince myself I can trust Him.  And I pray to be protected and delivered from my “enemies.”

“Rescue from the mire, do not let me sink; deliver me from those who hate me…”

“Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me.”

“Rescue me from my enemies, for I hide myself in You…In your unfailing love, silence my enemies, destroy all my foes…”

“My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and those who pursue me.”

As I was reading and praying, it slowly dawned on me.

I am my own worst enemy.  I am basically praying against myself.  I’m praying for God to destroy me.

I get so angry with myself for not being perfect.  For not even being close to being perfect or acceptable.   For not being able to live up to “normal” standards.  For being weird.  I disgust myself when I make a dumb mistake or overlook something I should have seen that was right in front of me.  I judge myself harshly, both at work and personally.  I judge my body, my appearance, my lack of social skills and lack of financial success.  I reject myself because I have become old, and therefore “less than” those who are young and beautiful.  I hate myself because I never found a way to go to college, so I feel inferior to those who have a degree, in spite of all I have learned through experience and through hard lessons or personal study.  I hate myself because I’ve never been able to overcome the abuse of my childhood.  I’m still messed up and I know it.  I judge myself and chide myself for being unlovable, broken, defective.  I tell myself it’s unrealistic to expect anyone to want or care for me.  I see my imperfections as glaring and those imperfections have sentenced me to a life of emptiness.  I am appalled at my many failings and utter unworthiness.

Oh, I work hard.  I try to succeed.  I try to be a “good” person and do the right things.  I try to redeem myself as best I can.  But underneath all of that, I know I’m nothing and I hate myself for being nothing.

And it is in hating myself, in rejecting myself, that I have become my own worst enemy.

I have read before that the difference between people who are loved and those who aren’t is simply that those who are loved believe they are worthy of being loved.  I’ve read that the difference between people who are valued and those who are not is that those who are valued believe they have value and should be valued by others.  This has always made me angry.  Because how can you understand that you are worth loving if you have never been loved?  If all you have known is rejection and being weighed and found wanting, how can you find it in yourself to believe that everyone is wrong about you and that you actually deserve to be treasured?  How can you know you have worth if all you have known is being told and shown in a million different ways that you are worthless?

The concept is the same no matter how it is applied.  If you don’t believe you are worth loving, you will never be loved.  And because you have never been loved, you will never believe that you are in any way lovable or worth loving.  In the same way, when you hate yourself, you are working against yourself and continually tearing yourself down.  You will never believe you are worth accepting because you genuinely hate and reject yourself and believe you are deserving of being hated and rejected.   As a result, when you pray your enemies will be defeated, you are actually praying for God to destroy you, because you are the biggest enemy of your own soul.

I want to be loved.  I want to be found lovable.  I want to experience life fully; a life that is worth living.  I want to be able to find something worth loving within myself so I can have a life that is worth living.  But all my efforts have failed.

I am my own worst enemy.   I am destroying myself from within.  And I don’t know how to change my belief, my viewpoint, my destiny.  And so, every prayer I pray is an arrow that pierces me directly through my heart.

I don’t know how to stop the destruction because I don’t know how to change what I believe.  I don’t know how to see myself differently.  I don’t know how to believe I have value.  And so I don’t.

I want to stop undermining and destroying myself.  But in my heart of hearts, I believe I am worthy of nothing but destruction.  Therefore, I continue to shred myself to pieces and lay myself to waste, just as any enemy would do.  I take advantage of my vulnerable places; I know where all the tender spots reside.   I despise myself because that is all I have known; all I have been shown.  I carry on where others left off.

I am my own worst enemy.  A relentless, bitter enemy…to the core.

 

What I Would Not Give

Graduation DayWhat I would not give to be graduating from high school this year.

It wasn’t that long ago that I did.  Graduate.

(Okay, it was a long time ago.  I just can’t comprehend the passage of time.  I still feel 17.)

I worked hard to get there.  To make it to that moment.  To graduation.  I believed.   I believed I could change the course of my life.  I had so much hope.  My life was there in front of me.  Beautiful.  Exciting.  Wonderful.  I believed the right things would happen because my heart was in the right place.  I believed I could change the ending, even though the beginning had been set in stone.

What I wouldn’t give to have the opportunity to go to college.  To walk the campus of a university I would call home for the next four years.  Not knowing where my steps would take me.  But believing they would take me somewhere that was incredible.   Somewhere with endless possibilities.

Somewhere good.

What I would not give to be graduating from that college, having proven myself, having attained something others would recognize as being worthwhile.  Something that would give me a sense of validation, even though it really didn’t make me a legitimate human being.

What I would not give to have a purpose and direction.  Meaning.

What I would not give to be able to start over.  To go back to that place where I totally screwed up. Where all of life was before me and to be able to return to that point where very, very little lay behind.  Where possibilities stretched in front of me endlessly.  That place where hope and excitement prevailed.   In spite of the difficulties I needed to overcome.  In spite of the horrors of my childhood and all the damage it had done.  In spite of those terrible things that had wounded and shaped me thus far.  In spite of those things that had broken me.  And decimated me.  In spite of what my parents had done to me.  What they had made of me.

What I would not give for a chance to start over.  To do things differently.  To be wiser.  To make better choices.  To approach things differently.  To take care of myself and treat myself as if I mattered.  Or even as if I might possibly matter.  To someone.  To me.  Somehow. Some day.

What I would not give to be able to recognize I at least had a small amount of value, even though I was terribly imperfect. Even though I was terribly flawed. Even though I was horribly wounded.  Even though I was a mess.  Even though I was challenging to love.

Or impossible to love.  Even though I might be unlovable. Because of the damage.

I spent most of my life sleepwalking through the days.  I spent most of my life completely numb and sound asleep.  To get by.  To make it through.   I spent all of my life simply trying to survive the moment.  Sacrificing who I was.  Sacrificing all of my dreams.  Sacrificing my desires.  Because I thought I was nothing.  I thought I was worthless.  And it cost me everything.  I lost all the important moments.  I lost almost every single thing that mattered to me.  I lost my life, even though I am still technically alive.  I sacrificed myself, not knowing the cost.  Not understanding the price.  Not understanding what was going on.

What I would not give or sacrifice now to be able to start over again.  To make different choices.  To walk a different path.  To undertake a different journey.  To choose a different road.  To see things differently.

Oh, God, what I wouldn’t do to be able to have another chance.  One.  More.  Chance.

Can you really turn all these curses into blessings?  Can you really give me a future?  A good future?  Filled with hope?  Even though I’m old and my life is almost over?  Do You really want to bless me?  Can you truly turn all the horrible nightmares of my life into good?

Do you love me?  Me?  Worthless me?  Unlovable me?

What I would not give for that chance.  That chance to change the course of my life.  I have nothing much to give, truth be told.  But I would give everything…everything…everything to have that chance.

I have grown old.  I have frittered away all of my days.  All of my opportunities.  All of my possibilities.  I didn’t mean to be so stupid.  I didn’t mean to be so screwed up.  I tried hard to succeed and to avoid failure.  But it was not enough.   All my effort was not enough.  Everything I had to give was not enough.  I was never enough.

What I would not give to have the chance to begin again.

I’ve been around for quite awhile now.  For more years than I can comprehend.  More years than I want to admit.

I have nothing to show for all that time.

I would give anything to roll back the time.  To that time when there was time.

What I wouldn’t give to be able to start over again.

I would probably still screw it up.  But I would like to believe I could change my destiny.

I would like to believe things could have turned out differently.  Better. Much better.

What I would not give to have the chance to try again.  Just one more chance…

One.  More.

 

Labels

I attended a women’s conference a several weekends ago.  Not my normal thing.  Don’t exactly know why, but I don’t generally like women’s events.  And I usually do whatever I have to do to avoid them because they tend to be fake, surface-level pep rallies that make me feel shameful about not being the perfect Christian.  Which makes them absolutely not my thing.  Since I don’t need more reasons to feel shame.  But my aunt.  My 80 year old aunt who probably won’t be around all that much longer…well, she invited me. 

Yep, guilted into attending.

Thing is, it was awesome.  Really.  Awesome. Much to my surprise.

The speakers were incredible.  They were quality, so real, so genuine.  I was amazed.  Because they actually touched my heart.

One of them talked about labels.  Labels others place on us.  And those we place on ourselves.

Got me to thinking.  About the labels others have placed on me, but mostly about the labels I have placed on myself.

I’ve placed a lot of labels on myself.  And they aren’t very pretty.

The labels I believe apply to me are those that experience has given me.  Rightfully given me.  Experience with parents.  Who abused me.  Who never loved me.  With my first husband who also never loved me….a man I wasn’t with all that long, but who I deeply loved.  Another husband who never loved me.  The man/husband I loved with all of my heart. The man I stayed with for 22 years, in spite of the pain and rejection.  In spite of his disdain and disgust.  These two important and influential men.  Plus  my parents. They taught me to see and evaluate myself in certain ways. And various “friends” and employers only reinforced the message.

Yes, they all taught me to see and evaluate myself in certain ways.  Certain unflattering and negative ways.

Unworthy.

Unlovable.

Unwanted.

Valueless object.

Worthless.

Disgusting.

Deficient.

Defiled.

Weird.

Not normal.

Lacking.

Strange.

Labels that remind me of my place.  Labels that remind me I’m only an object meant to be used and discarded.  They explain I am someone who must justify my existence by performing at maximum capacity without failing and without flaw.  All the time.  Every time.  They tell me I can, at best, expect to be tolerated.  Labels that remind me I have no value.  And that I’m never, ever, ever going to be good enough.  For anyone.  In any way.

I label myself harshly.  Because of my personal experience.  Because of what I have experienced during my life.  Because of the way I have been viewed by the important people in my world.

I have learned the lesson.  I have learned it well.

The people who have been the most significant players in my life have let me know I am nothing.  They have let me know I don’t and never will matter.  I have listened to them.  I have assumed the labels they placed on me were accurate and well deserved.

I have labeled myself with the labels they have given me.  I have believed them.  I believe I was worthless.  This is what they have taught me. 

The lessons went deep. 

In evaluating these labels now, it’s very difficult for me to gain enough perspective to challenge them.  They seem so solid.  They make me question if I have anything of value within me.  I question whether I have even a grain of sand of worth in my soul.

Labels have come to define me.  They have become who I am.  I have become who they told me I am.

I long to be free.  Free from labels.  Free to find out who I really am.  Who I was supposed to be.  Maybe still can be? 

I don’t know.  I may be doomed.  Because of the labels.  Because of the message they have placed deep in my heart.  It may be too late to escape.  They may have created a monster.

Me.  The monster they created may be…me.  That’s my label.

Monster.

 

Betrayals of the Heart

Betrayals.  Little betrayals.  Wedges.  Things that make trust impossible.

At least for me.

Many of the betrayals I’ve experienced have been major.  Things like being told I was nothing by the people who said they loved me.  That I wasn’t worth knowing or loving.  Things like abuse.  Sexual.  Physical.  Emotional. Things like infidelity.  Falling in love with another woman (or other women in general) and leaving me because I wasn’t them.  Wasn’t as good as them.  As beautiful as them.  As amazing as them.  As worthy as them.

As normal as them.

It has happened over and over again.  In big ways.  In small ways.  Betrayal has been a frequent occurrence. A repetitive theme.  A painful, repetitive theme.  With people I thought were my friends.  With people I believed to be soul mates. Partners.  Parents. Friends.

Big betrayals.  Small betrayals.  Betrayals that added up.  That made me wary.  And closed.  And broken.

Most recently, a person I have just recently come to trust in a fairly minimal way, a person I have come to feel closer to than anyone I’ve been close to in the last 20 years, betrayed me.  Not in a huge way.  But in a way that reminded me what a fool I am to trust. Anyone.

I thought she was a friend.  Of sorts.  But I’ve come to realize she is only a friend to my face.  Behind my back, she talks about me in less than glowing terms.  She questions my worth.  Behind my back, she is disappointed in me.  And she doesn’t believe I have value.  Not really. 

She is very determined that I will pay my way.  In everything.  In every way.

Which I’m trying to do.  But I can never pay enough.  I can’t buy my way to acceptance.  I can never be good enough.

She is careful when she is with me.  She is careful about what she says to my face.  It is others who tell me of her doubt.  It is others who let me know she has been talking about me and that the things she has been saying are not positive.  That the things she has been saying are actually very negative, rejecting and cutting. That she is disgusted with me.  That she doesn’t feel I’m worthy. 

Of love.  Of acceptance.  Of being valued.  Of knowing.

As betrayals go, hers are small.  But I was enjoying her.  Her company.  A small connection.  The only connection I’ve forged in the last 20 years.  And now…now I must once again guard my heart.  Hide behind walls.  Because she is not really the friend she pretends to be.  She doesn’t really like me.  Or accept me. Or value me.

I want to trust.  I want to be able to relax and know that despite my imperfections, I’m still a person who is worth knowing.  Worth spending time with.  Or maybe even liking.  But that is not reality.

That is not my reality.  Not even close.

What is reality?  Reality is…I’m not normal.  I’m not worth knowing.  I’m not worth spending time with.  I’m not.  Not.  Worth.  Anything.  And reality?  Reality is that I can’t trust.  Anyone.

I’ve got to keep my guard up.

I’ve got to keep the walls high.  Intact.  Strong.

I’ve got to stay disconnected.  From everyone.

Behind my back, she says I’m not doing what I should be doing.   Not fulfilling my obligations.  Not doing the right things.

She’s probably right. 

I’m a failure.  I’m so imperfect, it’s painful.  Disgusting.  I try.  I try very, very hard.  But…

I thought she cared about me in spite of my obvious imperfections.  Those glaring, horrible imperfections.  I thought she accepted me.  But I was wrong. 

I’ve been judged and found lacking.  Again.

Judged and found worthless.  Again.

I shouldn’t have let my guard down.  Not even a little bit.  I should have know better.  But I wanted to believe she was my friend.

I wanted to believe.  I wanted to trust. I wanted to believe someone could like me for who I was, in spite of all my deficiencies.

I was wrong.  To trust.  Again.

I knew better.  I should have known.  Better.  When you’re worthless, you will never be wanted or accepted.  You will never be valued.  Or cared for.

I opened my heart a crack. 

Stupid.

 

 

Eye of the Beholder

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone can see.” —Confucius

I have a tendency to focus on my deficiencies.   I am well aware of all the roadblocks that have lain in my path as I have sought to love and be loved.  I know I have quirks, holes, and dark and badly broken places that cause me to be less than desirable.  Because I am aware, I do not ask to be loved.  I do not expect to be accepted.  I do not believe I can be cherished.  I have settled for emptiness and isolation, believing this was all I could hope for.

And yet…

I have seen other badly broken people find love.  Their mates found them to be beautiful in spite of their flaws, failings, and  blemishes.  Their lack of wholeness didn’t diminish their worth.  In fact, if anything, their vulnerability caused greater tenderness and connectedness.

They were perceived as being a richer, more desirable treasure because of their imperfections.  Those imperfections were what makes them so unique.  And beautiful.  And worth loving.

I have seen these loved and wanted people everywhere.  They come from all career paths.  They are both rich and poor, thin and fat, belligerent and kind.  Some are intelligent; some have marginal intelligence, at best.  Some are ugly, or simply plain, while some are outwardly beautiful.  Some are educated; others aren’t.  Economic status, beauty, background, intellect, success, achievement…none of this appears to matter. 

What matters is that they have been seen.  And in being seen, truly, deeply seen, they have been found to have beauty and worth. 

This explains why the obese, rather ugly, unbathed, and uneducated woman screaming at her children at Wal-Mart is flanked by a nice-looking, kind, adoring man who reaches out to hold her hand and who places a kiss upon her cheek to calm her.

It explains why the veteran with no legs is cherished by the gorgeous supermodel wife he married 13 years ago, only a few years after returning from war.  Why she looks at him with love dripping from her eyes and a small sappy smile on her face, the connection between them palpable.

It explains why the brain-damaged husband is still treasured by his young wife who could rightly mourn what was lost, but instead rejoices in what remains, tenderly caring for the man to whom she gave her heart, thankful for each day they share together.

It explains why the badly abused woman who is now an inspirational speaker met a man who saw her; not just her imperfections, but her soul.  And in seeing, he decided she was worth protecting and tenderly nurturing, in spite of her anger, wretchedness, and inability to trust.  Why he tried a little harder than anyone could ever expect to show her how beautiful she really was.  And in doing so, healed her.  As she now brings healing to others.

It explains why the angry young man from the wrong part of town falls for the straight A student with a bright future.  Why she falls for him in return.  Why she becomes his wife; a wife who believes in him, in spite of his drinking and irresponsible behavior.  In believing in him, he learns to believe in himself.  He learns to value himself…and her.  He changes because of her.  Because he wants to be the person she sees.  And he is redeemed by her trust and love.

I don’t know if I have not been seen because I have done such a good job of hiding or if no one has bothered to look – really look – in my direction. 

The people I have loved have been rejecting.  They have taken a quick glance at my raw edges and have asked me to wear a mask to hide anything that was uncomfortable for them.  Anything that wasn’t perfect.  Little, if anything, is perfect, so almost everything inside of me remained concealed.  I came to believe my imperfections were so grievous, it was my duty to keep them there, hidden away.  I felt it was my duty to stuff them deeply into a place where they could do no damage to others; only to me. 

But now, I wonder.  Perhaps it was their deficiency, not mine.  Not seeing.  Perhaps I should have turned and walked away from them rather than to tuck myself so far inside myself I lost track of who I truly was.  Perhaps, had they looked, they would have seen, though my garden was filled with dirt and manure, there were also flowers and lovely bushes growing.  Flowers that needed only a little love and nurture to flourish.  Bushes that would have provided them with shelter from the winds and storms. 

Perhaps my tender heart and loyal and trustworthy soul is beautiful even if I am scarred and maimed.  All they had to do was look.  But they could not see.  They could only see my glaring flaws.  They mirrored those flaws to me for so long, they became all I could see as well.  I let them tell me who I was and what I was worth.  I let them tell me I was ugly and without value.   I let them blind me.

I forgot that everything has beauty.   Even me.

Shelter Animal

Wanted:  Good, loving, caring home for older female.  Has some idiosyncrasies and anomalous behavior as a result of early abusive treatment and rejection by prior owners.  She is, however, loyal, faithful, and eager to please, in spite of trust and fear issues.  Doesn’t do many tricks, but is housebroken.  Hates baths.  Affectionate.  If interested, please call.  Please.  Call.

I guess I should mention one more little detail about the female who needs a home.  It’s me.

I remember as a young girl begging my parents for a dog.  I loved animals; dogs in particular.  I was the child who brought home all the strays.  Cats, dogs, baby rabbits, even baby mice. But I never got to keep them.  My father was a hunter.  He didn’t really value animals, other than for the food they provided.  I, on the other hand, often revived the fish he caught in the bathtub once he got home. Took sick woodpeckers to the vet.  All animals were worthy (except snakes).   I felt a special connection with dogs, however, so after having yet another stray taken away (and likely killed by my father), I started a campaign to gain permission to get a dog. 

It took a long time to convince my parents that I would be responsible for caring for a pet.  I had almost given up when they finally relented.  I was filled with joy and excitement when, one beautiful Saturday morning, we set off for the animal shelter to look at the dogs that were waiting for adoption.  I was wiggling almost as much as they were as I went from pen to pen.  The dogs jumped and danced.  They licked my fingers and stuck their noses through the wire fenced cage gates.  I wanted all of them! 

And then, I saw Lady.

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

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

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

I feel very much like a shelter animal, hiding in the corner, no longer able to hope someone will discover me and see value in me.  I long for someone to offer me a place in their heart.  Give me love.  Make me theirs.  

I have waited a long time.

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

Lady found love.  A home.   

I am not so fortunate.  I fear I will die a shelter animal.  In my cage.  Alone.