Tag Archives: worth

The Interview

She came for an interview today.  Arrived a proper 5 minutes early, waiting in the car until just the right moment.  She was young.  Very young and slightly awkward socially.  Care had been taken with her outfit; she had done a lot with the little she had, dressing up inexpensive, worn pieces with a scarf, intricately woven and tied neatly around her neck.  Her gratitude over being considered for our open position was obviously heart-felt.  She didn’t have any of the required experience and she knew it.  Nothing to offer but willing hands.  And her hands were shaking.

As we began to talk, it quickly became obvious she was not a typical carefree young person.  Clearly, she was not like her average peers.  I could feel her fear and struggle over what to share.  Over how to share it while still being honest.  How to phrase her thoughts without causing a potential employer to immediately reject her.  Her voice trembled slightly.  Hands held in her lap remained tightly clasp.  Her back, ram-rod straight.  Her feet were placed tightly together and were positioned side-by-side flat on the floor.  Though she tried to make steady eye contact, she faltered.  She would look at me for a moment, after which her expressive eyes fell quickly back to the table sitting between us.

Her only job experience had been accumulated while working for her parents in a string of unrelated business ventures that evidently failed with some degree of regularity.  She had worked hard at those jobs.  Cleaning stadiums.  Cutting down trees with a chainsaw.  Securing the trees by ropes placed to ensure they fell in the right direction.  I found it difficult to imagine her even lifting a chainsaw, much less using one, especially considering her slight build and tiny arms.  But she spoke with knowledge hard won.  The knowledge of someone who had been there, had done the work and survived to tell the tale.

Her family formed a band, a musical group, playing in a small geographic region, disbanding at the point when they were finally being recognized.  She wrote songs for the group and sang them from her heart.  Her dream was to reach someone.  To touch them deeply.  I thought of all the songs I wrote when I was younger.  How we shared the same dream.  Exactly the same dream, her words an echo of my own.

She was unlike me.  So unlike me in many ways.  Yet so very much like me in other glaring and significant ways.

Her father viewed her as his property.  She was not permitted to do anything outside his authority and he didn’t respect her as an individual.  As a person.  She had to obey.  He demanded it.  Demanded she do as she was told.  Work hard.  Contribute.  Submit.  The only time she was heard was when she had an idea that would ultimately save him money.  These kinds of ideas were permissible.  Ideas about what constituted right and wrong or what was fair were not permissible.  She was his to use.

So unlike me.  So unlike me in some ways.  But so very like me in many profound aspects.

She doesn’t know “being loved.”  She doesn’t know what it feels like to be protected.  Cherished.  Simply for who she is; not what she does.  She doesn’t know she matters.

Two months ago, she broke free, flew away, and is now trying to get a foothold so she can begin to work her way forward to the starting line.  The place where “normal” people begin their journey in life.  She’s clawing for something to grab hold of.  Trying to sort through the mess she sees in her mind when she looks inside herself.  She’s trying to understand.  To figure out what to keep and what to toss away.  Trying to put all the pieces together, in hopes her soul will miraculously have prevailed.

Oh, God.  So like me in so many of the terrible details.

As we talked, I felt my eyes growing moist.  I fought the urge, staying focused on business.  The job we were filling.  The requirements.  Her ability to fulfill those requirements.  But, as I walked her to the door, I did something I have never done in my 30-year career.  I encouraged her to seek help and support.  Now, while she is young.  Now.  Because it can change the course of her life.  Because no one can rebuild themselves alone.  No one can do it without love.  Without finding a place and a person of safety.

And then, I gave her the precious words my grandmother gave me when I was a child of six, sharing my very first poem with her.  I told her to never stop writing.  I told her I had also had a rough start.  That writing had saved my life so many times when it was all I had…and I found it to be enough.  Writing pulled me through.  So, I told her to never, never, never stop writing.  To never let that go.

She began to cry quietly, fighting it, as was I.  With tears in our eyes, we hugged, holding each other for a long time.  And as I held her, she repeated over and over again, “You understand.  You know.”

Yes, little bird, you who finally found your wings.  Who survived and now has flown away at last.  I know.  I do know.  With every fiber of my being, I know.  And I will do whatever I can to lift you up so you can eventually fly further and higher than I have ever been able to soar.

Mistake

A little over halfway through my stay in my mother’s womb, I almost made an unexpected and early appearance.  It was, of course, considerably too soon for me to be born.  I was far too unformed.  My lungs couldn’t inhale.  Exhale.  I would not have been able to survive without that silent sac of amniotic fluid to sustain me.

The doctors gave my mother some kind of drugs to stop her contractions.  She was monitored, given even more drugs and put on bed rest for a while.  Eventually, the contractions stopped.  I survived.  She carried me full term, or close to it.  I made my appearance at the whopping weight of 6 lbs. 4 oz. somewhere slightly before my due date.

The doctors had predicted it was possible I would have a significant birth defect, their explanation for why she almost lost me.  They were as prepared as possible for such an emergency all those many years ago.  As prepared as possible for whatever horror emerged from her womb.  I disappointed them, much to the relief of my parents.  Parents who were unprepared to deal with a normal crying baby and poopy diapers.  Parents who couldn’t handle the ordinary needs of an average infant.  Because even normal, average, standard babies have a lot of needs.  And the only needs they were prepared to fulfill were their own.

At whatever cost to me.

No birth defects.  No reason for the early near-catastrophe.  I had a heart murmur.  The kind you outgrow.  No other physical issues noted.  No physical reason for me to have almost been spontaneously aborted.

Yet, it could be argued that I shouldn’t have been born.  For many reasons.

They should have never had a child.  Probably don’t need to go on.  That pretty much says it all.

I was told the story of how they nearly lost me when they were trying to convince me they truly did want a little girl.  I was told the story when I was very young.  They continued telling it until they died.  It was supposed to prove their love for me.  Their supposed gratefulness for my survival.  Survival.

But what I heard, because of the abuse I suffered while in their “care,” was that I should have never been born.  I was a mistake.  From the very first moment I took a breath of air.

What they did spoke so much more loudly than what they said.  What they did was deafening.

A mistake.  I was a mistake.  I cost them too much.

That feeling has remained with me my entire life.  It’s a big part of the reason I feel as though I have to do more, be more, perform better, give more, and justify being alive.  A mistake.  A disappointment.  A failure.  By birth.  Nothing can change the terrible thing that was wrong with me from the very beginning.

I have felt it in every relationship I’ve ever had…until I have almost stopped having them.  I can no longer get past the fact that I am defective.  That nothing will ever make up for my deficit.

I’ve felt it with every employer in every job I’ve held.  And I’ve worked harder, longer, faster, more diligently, burning out and nearly destroying myself as a result.  Trying to make up for the fact that I’m never going to be as good as the next guy.  I’m always going to disappoint, regardless of how hard I try.  I’m never going to win because losers never do.  Failures fail.  I will never have value the way everyone else intrinsically has value.  I can never be, do or contribute enough to have worth.

I should never have been born.  I can’t make up for that fact.  There has always been something so wrong with me, even my mother’s womb tried to reject me and thrust me out into the void.  Nature tried to cull me for a reason.  Not a reason that is visible to the naked eye.  But the flaw is so great and deep and terrible, my cells should have never come together.  I should not have been created.

A mistake.  That can never be corrected or redeemed.  Such a terrible mistake, the only way to right the world is to go back in time and erase me totally.

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.

 

 

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.