She asked, “is that from a song, or the name of one?” I smiled and only nodded, but when I said it, I was lost in thought. Confused by my lack of response, she ventured off in the other room, allowing me to be alone with my previous thoughts. There was something to be said for secrecy.
When I was a child, my best friend and I always seemed to have a secret to tell. We made a game out of whispering something in the others ear and then swearing that to secrecy as if someone’s life depended on it. Our pinkies crossed, we spit in our palms and shook as we saw the boys do. There, now we have a solid promise with double insurance.
What on earth did a couple of 8 year old little girls have to keep so private? I guess it was the first act of many that would prove the other trustworthy. It wasn’t that those secrets were so deadly, offensive or of trouble, but there was something in the process of swearing to God, the famous pinky promise and the disgusting exchange of slimy palms that just made it all so pensive.
Did we ever go back on our word? We shared a lot of those so called secrets over the years and I don’t recall any repercussions like my hand falling off, or my skin peeling away and we are still friends to this day, so I guess we shall never know, but can safely assume we did abide by that strict code.
I flash forward back to this present day and forget about the lyrics to that old song as I retrace those memories and wonder where they came from. What ignited the buried remembrances and why? Again I murmured under my breath this time, dirty little secrets, hoping to find the thread and rip it out.
My mind took control and before I knew it, together we were recapturing or more like trapping, the images that were replaying in my head. What do you want, I asked as if they had the ability to answer, but I waited nonetheless. No answer came and I was forced to watch what felt like a movie of my life playing only I wasn’t the star. Suddenly it had become clear what the fuck was going on.
I’ve lived a life this long and the story is so far from over yet for all this time, I have not been the leading lady starring in my own life. I got it, the message was clear. I am beginning to feel the cuffs are loosening, the chains are breaking and the bondage is slowly being freed…
She hides behind her smile, her insides riddled with anxiety, her breath shortens while her chest is tight and yet you can’t fathom how deep her troubles run. She disguises it well from the outside world while she fights to get up and face another day.
This friend of yours shares a story with you, one where you aren’t sure if she’s referring to herself or something she’s read, but suddenly you realize, it is in fact her horrific experience. As you continue to politely listen, the shock and disbelief well up. The pain grows in her heart, the agony dims the light in her eyes and as you watch, her body physically changes. She speaks more words, you become uncomfortable and though you don’t mean to, you interrupt her flow with your concerned opinion. Suddenly she turns the faucet off, chokes back her tears and shuts back down. She is experiencing a trigger from a deep gaping wound. Voiceless again, she shoves that secret back down to where it lives.
You didn’t mean to create this reaction. How could you know that this friend standing in front of you has such inner turmoil erupting inside of her? She took a chance on you, trusting you to just hear her cries and take her seriously without judgement or condemnation. So often when she has a moment of bravery and courage to reach out, she does so with the hope of being heard, believed and understood. She hesitates, even retracts some of the information and begins trivializing it once more.
She didn’t “know better”. She struggles with confusion and retraces her steps over the years of abuse. How could she be so trusting, so naive, as she beats herself up now too, feeling so dumb. Over time, she disappeared, even to herself. The coercion and insidiousness of what had become her life, though a little more behind her, the pain engulfs her and she desperately fights to overcome. Her friends observe from their perspective., “She’s a survivor. She’s resilient. She’s strong”. You think you see her solutions and without meaning to, the accusations fly; “if she would just abc, xyz”. “This again?” “Are you still talking about HIM/that?!” These are the worst things you can say to her. All of your well intended thoughts would cause her to retreat back to her darkness where she resides with those secrets that whittle her away.
Never dismiss her need to keep talking. There’s more that keeps emerging with every passing day as she fights for the freedom of her soul. This isn’t one of those things she can keep ignoring and hope it dissipates on its own. No, the poison has to come out with the fear from her oppression. One day you will notice the light returning to her spirit and you’ll know she is healing. Meanwhile, hear her, hug her, just be there.
They have all loved her through the battles they can see, but can you with the ones invisible to you? Is it unconditional or based on her doing what makes you more at ease? She keeps wrestling with the lies she’s been told and the battles still to overcome, wondering if there’s truth to any of it. She is telling you in her own way of her broken spirit, her beaten body, her shame, her wounds, her hurt and her survival. What she doesn’t realize is, she’s truly revealing that she is a conqueror, but she has no idea, not yet. She is still coming out of the affects of his gas lighting leaving her to think maybe she is crazy, but she’s not.
There are days she believes what you dear friend tell her with your uplifting words, but when she needs to run the thread down to the core of its root, listen compassionately, respond with love, offer the gift of your presence and allow her the dignity to process and time she needs to get to the other side. The only way for her to get through it, is to go through it, one hour, one day at a time.
When she comes to you, her heart in her hands, be the light in her darkness and a dose of love because she is running on empty. In doing this, you have given her a gift she will cherish and it reminds her she has another fight left in her…
Where did you go, she asks herself night after night as the darkness engulfs her every thought with delight.
She reached for him, pulling back an empty sheet. Are you coming home soon, she wonders inside her private, deepest desire. She was sure he’d be here when she woke in the daylight hour.
The sun streamed across her face, kissing her gently and for a moment she smiled thinking it was him, feeling the warmth on her bare skin.
She peeked out of the corner from one eye. A sleepy smile emerging from her lips, it was all but a dream, such a beautiful cry.
He reached over to her side of the bed, wanting desperately to pull her in as he’d done every day for so long, yet when he felt over to the edge pulling back his own empty arm, he awoke more to realize her form truly gone.
He flicked the light on as he’d so often do, read for awhile just to get him through.
Off goes the light with a toss of the tablet and glasses too, sighing a deep groan from his chest, pounding so slow, he lies there and wonders why, trying to rest.
Now separated by his very own hand, she’s nowhere near, lying there without her, both left trying to understand.
Could he have opened himself up to her? Would she have welcomed his heart, he isn’t sure.
So much time has passed them by. Somehow they let it all fade away or wouldn’t continue to try.
Her balance was wobbly, but she didn’t know how to shake it all out. His forceful ways made her afraid, kept her living in fear with so much doubt.
She wouldn’t talk, living in the darkest room, not telling him any truths how deep the loneliness loomed.
Where had he gone, so far out of reach, she imagined he’d grown weary of his baby girl that he’d wanted to teach.
She was so good, exquisite and bright, she knows what the magic 8 ball said in all her glory that night.
He loves her more than he knows. He told her now and then. She sparkles and shines and is light on her toes.
She weeps not for him while she sleeps anymore, but dreams of him nightly, his breath on her neck as he gently grazes her lightly.
His love for her grows a little each day as he figures out what makes him happy and choosing to stay.
The words come freely and rhyme now and then. Love doesn’t cost a thing just to remember when. An easier time has arrived to be who she is. Closing his eyes until he feels her again.
They deserved a better ending after such an epic tale, so she raised her white flag and began to set sail…
Losing sight of that thing that made me smile. Forgetting what it feels like to laugh without explaining the punchline. Stopping to remember how the littlest of things brought a smile to my lips. Quitting on myself when everything I wanted out of life became out of my reach.
Ignoring the words that cut deep inside my heart. Dismissing the aggressive passivity when actions hurt my flesh. Denying the truth when it flashed directly passed my eyes. Lying to myself when I said I wasn’t hurting.
Picking myself back up after the seventh time. Learning that I cannot love too much. Deciding to stop going back to something that remains broken. Choosing me over all else for the very first time.
Mattering more than anything Being exceptional Never being perfect Being exactly who I am
There’s this thing I do when I feel afraid or alone and I can’t or won’t cope with what’s happening all around. I disappear. Not in the physical sense of the word, but into a place of secret hiding where I feel safe. It’s simplistic and calm, but especially it’s quiet. So quiet that I really can hear myself think and there isn’t anyone else there to rearrange those thoughts or disregard them. It’s just me and me.
I guess I started visiting this magical place when I was a young girl. I could walk along the cement pathway Grampa poured to connect my front door to theirs, walk through the front door and make myself at home. This became the space where I could just be. Where everything was in its place and everything had a place. You know, that sense of belonging? I was always welcome anytime I wanted. I knew I didn’t have to ask, but I did just to be polite. Once inside the only rule was, if Mama said no, just ask Gramma.
Their home was always a comfort of warmth, like a big cozy blanket I could cuddle up with. There were cookies in the Oreo cookie jar, usually sugar ones, but sometimes actual Oreos. The gum was double mint and waited for me on the second shelf of the pantry cupboard. Then my favorite and always just for me, was vanilla ice cream in the kitchen freezer with a backup in the deep freeze, with my own can of Hershey’s chocolate syrup waiting for me in the fridge. I’d grab my lap tray from behind the back porch door where it lived and settled in next to Grampa’s chair in the living room to watch whatever it was he had on tv. It didn’t matter to me, so long as I was next to him.
Some nights Gramma and I had our own special “shows” we liked to watch together and we’d spend time on the back porch laughing and having a snack together. Me with my ice cream and her with some popcorn and a pop. I cherished these times and often dreaded having to walk back across that long, cement pathway to the other house, but I got to keep this ritual until I was about 10 years old.
Midway through 5th grade, I was uprooted and moved clear to the other side of town. It may have well been in another state. Grampa couldn’t pour a path that big. My heart was crushed. My safe haven was out of my reach. This is when I learned to retreat inside of my own world where nothing bad could reach me or touch me. It became my new escape. My fantasy world.
I became a different girl when I’d visit there. That girl was fearless. She said what she wanted to say and sang at the top of her lungs. She was bold. She spoke words no one had heard leave her lips and she was loud enough to be heard. She was courageous. She tried things that frightened her out there, but in here, she conquered it all. She was confident. She walked with her head up high and carried herself tall and proud. She was fierce. She was strong. Then one day, she just slipped away. She didn’t know where she had gone or how to get back and she was alone.
Her safety net was shredded. Her life was unstable. She felt uncertain for the first time in this life and she stumbled and fell, forgetting how to get back up, she stayed down. Her light had begun to dim. Her tenacity had slipped through her fingertips. She was becoming invisible and slowly, she disappeared. Where had she gone? This bright light, exuberant young lady, with sparks in her eyes and fire in her soul, what happened to her she had asked, but she had no answer. She had become a shell of herself, the kind that’s kept upon a shelf.
Years passed by and she grew weaker in her heart that once was explosive with desire and hunger for love and for life. She evolved into some version of someone else to keep peace and harmony for others. She realized that the world told her she couldn’t, so she didn’t. She believed them when they struck her down, leveling her to their limitations of her. They put her in a box that they designed and there she would remain, unable to grow and be that little girl who once had everything in her possession.
Gramma and Grampa never knew of her disappearance or maybe they would’ve come looking for her. Rescuing her and brought her back to where she first knew of her capabilities, her worth and her sense of belonging. How she longed for the safety of her home with them. The smells of comfort of joy of connection of acceptance of love and that familiar sense of knowing where she belongs.