I sat there on the couch, feet up, cuddled by the warmth of my favorite blanket watching nothing in particular on the tv, apparently it was for the background noise . The quietness outside competed with the sound of your car as you pulled into the drive. I took a semi deep breath and remained calm, both of which have been difficult to accomplish these days.
Typically you come by, with your usual demeanor, the inability to just be. I feel the energy coming at me before you enter the door, but this time you remained in your car. Curious as to what you were doing, I casually strolled past the window a time or two to take a glance, ah, you’re on the phone. This could be awhile, and it was. I took notice as I confirmed what had your attention. There was something different about you, but I’ll wait I thought. My intuition is pretty strong and my emotional intellect even higher. After all, you are my child, grown or not, I carried you in my body for 9 months. Little gets past me and even less surprises me.
Finally you made your way through the door and I was correct about your person although I wasn’t quite sure what it was, not yet. We got beyond the formalities of hi’s and hugs and found ourselves sitting now, a little awkwardly and I was eager to know why. Clearly you have a heavy heart, a burden you’re struggling to balance and even hold. You’d begin talking incessantly, this is never new to me, but there was a nervousness about you and I just listened. This has become our routine. You talk, I listen and soon it turns into a long threaded rant on nearly every topic from childhood to current time. Whew. Catch a wave pal, you’re drifting. I remain quiet, taking in what I can, paying attention to my own breath, facial expressions arms and body language. This child is working up to something heavy and deep as the words keep flying, but not much is being said.
There’s that moment when someone is trying desperately to unload something, but fear has stymied what is needing to be shared and so the conversation goes in circles and backtracks, then the trickles begin. The questions fly, do you remember when I was such and such and age and this and that happened? I’m trying to keep up, really focus on what’s being said or rather what’s being eluded to but not fully comprehending the message. I’m working on my patience. My unconditional love for this grown child pouring out from me while the fumbling keeps happening. This went on for 4 hours. God have mercy on this child and help the words just flow, please Lord.
At last the personal revelation and truth emerged from this poor child’s lips. I sit silently as I feel my shoulders relax and I grin, hoping my quiet response was loving and supportive. I nodded in agreement or maybe it was acceptance, but either way, I felt a wave of relief wash over me. At last we have a reason, the reason for all the peculiar, relentless, angry behavior that has consumed this child for nearly 25 years.
She remembers standing in the kitchen so many nights, making dinner as she paid attention to every last detail. Striving for the perfection that would go unnoticed yet was required. She smiled to herself feeling proud as she scooped out the portions and served them at the table.
She graciously walked into the office beaming at her finished product and announcing supper was on the table. Without looking up from his computer he replied, be right there girl. Feeling dismissed, she quietly resumed what she was doing as she waited patiently for his arrival to join her. Once he finally made his way to the table, he motioned to her to begin. Uttering not a word he took his first bite, then his second and a third. She sat there in silence as the tv blared some random show he’d chosen. She glanced over at him for a sign of validation, a small grunt of acknowledgement, but nothing came from his lips.
She sunk lower in her seat, taking small bites of the meal she worked hard to prepare just for him. She felt the gloom all around her while the emptiness welled up inside of her and she felt alone once again.
This had become her daily ritual. The girl who once chose her invisibility long before he chose her, now desperately wanted him to see her, but he didn’t. Loneliness crept in her heart day after day. She didn’t know how to speak to him, to explain this feeling, so she remained in her state of existing.
What should she do she wondered. He’ll never understand nor would he care. She kept her secret to herself because to her, any expression of a need would bring such grief from him, silence was a better choice. She continued internalizing her sadness for as long as she could.
The day came when she could no longer suppress the pain she felt for being ignored, with high expectations placed upon her, especially the one to be quiet and keep those undesirable feelings locked up tight. Don’t burden him with her heavy heart so filled with loneliness otherwise he will show her what that feels like again. She couldn’t bear another dismissal, but another did come.
Time passed on and she felt this new strength rising within her and for the first time she opened her mouth. Though barely above a whisper, she heard the words leave her lips and he looked at her in disbelief. She couldn’t stop the flow.
Her voice was polite and firm. His response back was disapproving and then it came, his punishment. The silent treatment, far worse than she imagined, but nothing she hadn’t experienced before with him. It lingered on until she couldn’t bear it any longer. She sweetly said to him, “I love you”. He broke his silence with a gruff, “I know”.
There she was sitting beside him in the car on the ride home when she realized, he is a very cruel and mean man. He really doesn’t love her. Her heart broke once more and the loneliness she’d felt all along had brought her to this place called reality. It was in that moment she felt a wave of panic and calm wash over her at the same time. Something was coming, but she didn’t know what. She was prepared and scared at the same time.
((Close your eyes little one, everything is about to change. You will forever be different and feel more loved than you ever knew possible. Trust in Me and you shall see I will I set you free))
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…