I could feel the famine as my tastebuds were tricked into savoring and becoming addicted to the flavor from the essence of meeting my needs. The chains that held me captive, though heavy, kept me trapped in a belief that this was my worth and value.
My survival mode is what told me to remain with my broken pieces for if I broke the lock that was cinched so tightly, how would I be fed the morsels that kept me alive?
There was a point I was so deep within the struggle I couldn’t see another way. This was my comfort food, my nourishment that sustained me for 1 day increments. The rest of my days, I was starving.
The dungeon was dark, cold and despairing, but it felt familiar and safe somehow. The rituals, protocols and rules overtook me. I didn’t know I was in danger, mentally and physically being tormented as my soul cried out.
One day I saw a link that had rusted and became like glue, but looking closer, I noticed another that had cracked. This precious piece had been compromised as I wiggled it a little each day. Days, weeks, months even years had passed and though this once sturdy link, now weakened over time, gave me strength I hadn’t known before.
Could it be that if these restraints were all removed that I could withstand the release and experience freedom, have joy and peace, comfort and feel loved? Terrified I would die, remain lost and starve forever, I found ways to begin to break away.
Consumed with questions, paralyzed by my own answers and fearing the truth, I embraced the idea and took that first leap. What was about to happen I couldn’t know or see and where I was going to end up I couldn’t reach, not yet.
Day 1, I learned to take a big gulp of the new air I had never smelled before. Day 2, I felt new strength as my legs stood taller and walked a little farther down the path. Day 3, I tasted this sweet flavor that was clearing my palette that I’d never experienced before.
Day 150, my appetite has gone from destruction to reconstruction of my spirit. What I craved all those years was never going to be enough to make me feel full. Your fish are not that delicious, but my Fathers fridge is full! I haven’t been eating the wrong things, I’ve been getting them from the wrong source.
He has done for me what I couldn’t consider and by doing so, He created room to receive the truth, the peace, the love, comfort and joy. Welcome to my funeral for the rabble as I enjoy the new feast.
He had cast a spell over me some time ago. I loved him when he was hurting me. I trusted him not to do it again. I believed him when he said he loved me. I questioned him in my mind and answered it to my heart.
It was he who disappointed me. It was he who lied with every word falling from his lips. It was he who deceived me. It was he who took pleasure while I suffered. It was he who tore it all apart.
I can see clearly now that the physical and daily mental pain has gone astray, the kind you inflicted upon me.
I feel clarity washing over me, the kind that allows me to see clearly.
I taste a little freedom now and then since making real choices as decisions are declared over my life by me now.
I smell the fragrance of life since I’ve been unshackled from being devoured whole and fed nonsense by you.
Today I can pause, it’s a must, to pay attention to my breath for this is all I can trust.
Because of you I walked away from all that I knew, believed in, held tight to, counted on and grew.
Thank you for the release from ties that kept me bound, for had you not I wouldn’t have the courage to stand firmly on this ground.
Time under tension increases strength and power, so is it no wonder I’ve come back to my One and only strong tower.
How grateful to you I have a new found peace and revel in the quiet moments to worship, glorify and to hear, the gentle whispers of my God who is always near.
Uncluttered is my heart, open it to receive, let my mind become sharper, it is honestly in You I deeply believe.
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…
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
If this is the only day I have, this 24 hours to make choices, to live and to breathe, I think I better choose wisely because tomorrow I may be in a different place.
Today is my day to do what pleases just me. No one to answer to, no one to selflessly serve, no one to have expectations strictly placed on me. What a freedom to breathe, to feel and be still.
On the 3am hour I awoke, just opened an eye to see the clock. Lying there in the dark, I smelled the fresh air drifting in my open window. I heard the rustling of a critter in the crispy leaves below. There was an occasional car passing by the road down the drive. It made me wonder where they were off to, but only for a moment. Suddenly the hoot owl began talking to me too. I drew my attention back to the stillness, to the quiet, peaceful little haven I call mine. Inhaling easily, I relaxed into my freshly fluffed pillow. With the next exhalation I chose to rise and have coffee in my semi dark room and embrace this alone time.
My thinking was remaining in slow gear. This day belongs to me. I asked myself, how do I want to spend it? With another sip of my delicious hot cup of creamy caffeine, I began to think about my life, as I often do. I picked up my phone for a few minutes and scrolled mindlessly through social media for all of 2 minutes. What am I doing? This is never how I want to start my day and I was reminded of my recent, former life. It startled me going down that memory lane. I was reminded of the disconnect between us. His addiction to devices, that essentially was an accessory to the death of our relationship, or at least that was how the demise initially began.
As I allowed my thoughts to wander down that road, I could feel them in my whole body, the discomfort was ruffling while the anxiety tried to bubble up in my throat. Choices, I have them, use them wisely I told my inner being. I took those thoughts captive. I pushed them aside and proceeded to venture my mind down another path, remembering instantly where I was, right here and now, safe, in the presence of my own company, relaxed and breathing.
Taking my last sip I felt sleepy instead of awake. I think I’ll start my day over again. What a concept and, if want to, I can do this all day long. I’m only as happy as I make up my mind to be. (Abraham Lincoln) And with that, I shimmied down beneath my covers, feeling the cool air upon my face, I rolled over and closed my eyes. My mind floating off to a softness of memories. I hear my own voice talking to God, “it’s been awhile since I prayed about him. Won’t you please take the anger in my heart and make it more gentle? It’s only harming me.” Out loud in my noiseless room, I still hear the faint “who, who” from my feathered friend and I ask again why he hurt me, but no words came back to me, not even a small sense of relief, only more questions. This is not how I wish for my day to go. I began to write again while I took notice of my breath and I drifted off to sleep.
It’s a peculiar thing, the brain, how it can reach far back into the cave of darkness and still find the unwanted mess amongst the wet walls, dead lightbulbs and cobwebs. Who stores these things up so tightly and why? What purpose do they keep serving? I’ve convinced myself I need to remember so I won’t forget the wreckage that caused the defeating pain. Isn’t that how I learn my lessons? I’m beginning to doubt, yet here I am, keep on keeping on.
It’s in all the thinking, the clambering of thoughts wrestling around in my head that stirs up emotions from unresolved, unanswered questions, and so, I continue to ask and I continue to wait, maybe even hope for resolutions. Now the coffee kicks in as I stretch beneath my warm covers. A thought forms, the next part of my day emerges as a visual prop, get to the gym girl. Perhaps something revealing will shine down on me there. At least my focus will change with every rep and round…
Life altering changes, unexpected losses, the painful aftermath and the process, nothing anyone can truly prepare for, ever.
It was my freshman year in high school when my bio dad called mom to let her know his Gramma passed, one of the handful of times he made contact. It seemed odd to me as I’d nearly given up on this man. I don’t recall if I felt happy to hear from him indirectly or sad over the loss of my Great Gramma. Little Gramma, as they all so affectionately referred to her as, was the sweetest tiny lady I’d ever met. Although I had very few moments or memories with her, the ones I do were quaint, brief and loving. This would be the first funeral service of my life. I was nervous, didn’t know what to expect, but we went. This is the extent of my knowledge of that experience. Life was in session before and it continued on long after.
The next sting that struck across my heart was my senior year when a close classmate was killed in a head on collision on her way to school. The somber silence that washed over the school that day was deafening as the news traveled quickly amongst our small student body. This was the first time I truly noticed people’s behavior surrounding death. Granted, we were all teens with different levels of empathy, compassion and even feelings, but to observe the bizarreness from those who were seemingly drawn to grieve over a lovely young girl whom some, just the day before, were less than polite to. How does a person muster up that sort of falsity and keep it going? Me on the other hand, felt that loss deeply. She and I had a short history as friends, 8th grade through most of that year, but a friend she definitely was. She taught me things about boys I couldn’t have heard from anyone else. She seemed genuinely sincere and experienced too. Our last encounter was indeed the day before in ceramics class. Elton John’s, “that’s why they call it the blues” came on the teacher’s radio and she boldly sang out as no one was listening. I’d admired this girl. She had confidence. She had courage. She had life in her and yet, she was gone now and I wept for her, her parents and myself. Her absence was noticed for quite some time. To this day I grin upwards when I hear “our” song.
Four years later, I would get that dreaded phone call while I was at work. The one that came from the step monster on the other end telling me my mom was killed in a terrible car accident. The one where all I could do was stand there, listening to his words and not hearing what he was saying as I began to slump to the ground, holding the corded phone as the tears began to flood my eyes. This can’t be happening, she just called me yesterday to tell me she loved me and that she was leaving for the long drive down south. It was true though and all I could repeatedly ask him was, “was mom drinking… was she?” It took 2 mind numbing weeks between the autopsy, the coroner’s report, the police investigation and transferring “her”, my mom, who was no longer my mom, from the south to the north where she would be “laid to rest”. Nothing was real. My older brother and I stood in disbelief at her closed casket for what felt like an eternity until someone had us sit down. The next thing I knew we were watching them lower this beautiful, shiny pearl box into the ground. What the fuck was happening? My life was turned upside down in an instant and no one was comforting anyone. Everyone divided after that week and went about their own lives, separately mourning and grieving and not talking about any of it. Was this normal? Are we supposed to keep our sadness a secret? Feel, but don’t share? I went along life like a zombie for a year. I couldn’t understand anything.
A year and half after mom’s death I would be getting married. I went through the motions up until the month before the wedding day when my Grampa passed away. I won’t have mom or Grampa at my wedding now? Fuck this. Grampa had been sick, but he was a trooper. He said if they tell him he needed anymore surgeries, he was going to say no. They did and he did. While I visited Grampa on what would be his last birthday, we had this beautiful exchange between us. Somehow he knew that he was saying goodbye to his little missy girl. I didn’t know it at the time, but I definitely paused before I left his side like I hadn’t before. I drank in his kindness that poured from his eyes. His love I felt bursting from his heart for me. My Grampa, my first protector and crush, my rock, my only true love of a man that loved me for me. He was gone.
I was empty…
It was homecoming night at my same high school. My sons were all in grammar school, ages 14, 11 and 9 when I got the call the next morning at 7am from a close friend. She didn’t want me to find out any other way. I had this special friendship with another parent from our kid’s elementary school. We were both going through tough times in our marriages and found comfort in talking to one another. As she spoke the words, I listened in disbelief, “…she was killed in a terrible accident late last night, I’m so sorry honey”. My heart sank. I didn’t know what to do. He lost his daughter. His light in his darkness. His precious, oldest child. I paced, do I call him, just go to him? What? I’d known tragic and sudden death, but I’d never faced someone who lost their child before. Finally, I couldn’t take it, I had to find him. I had my youngest in the car with me and as I drove around wondering where to look, it occurred to me where I would be. Down the twisting country road we went where earlier that morning I was told of the horrific accident. I saw him there, sitting on the side of the road, just off the edge a bit, picking weeds and staring at the big oak tree, the one that ultimately took her life. I parked the car and asked my son if he’d be ok to sit in the car for a bit. Of course mom. I approached him slowly and without saying a word, I just sat beside him there, in the dirt and we quietly cried.
Sometimes there’s nothing to say…
Gramma was placed in a luxurious senior care home years later after Grampa passed. It seemed premature to me, given her seemingly healthy self and the independent woman she still was, but her other daughter thought it would be best. It was the holidays and each of her 3 grandchildren took turns visiting her with their own kids that day. We went in shifts so not to overwhelm her. Gramma was thrilled to see us, all of us. Much later the brothers and I would share our experiences as we all said our goodbyes. I can recall something similar in her vacant eyes as with Grampa. She laid there on her bed, eyes closed, asking God to take her home to be with Daddy. That’s what she always called Grampa, “Daddy”. She was in a daze, but when she opened her eyes for a moment to say goodbye to the 5 of us, she looked at him and said, you take good care of our girl, won’t you? He smiled and nodded in agreement. It would be 4 weeks later that I got the call about Gramma’s passing. I cried so much it hurt. The boys, how was I going to tell the boys?! They adored their Great Gramma. I gathered my strength, held onto them and listened as they cried and asked questions. We got through it, together. I learned.
He was a young man all my sons knew from school. It hit my oldest the hardest. They were in the high school band together and he was a huge fan of my sons punk rock band. This young man was so full of life and love and he spread it all around. He had a tragic accident that took him instantly. Another dark cloud loomed over their young lives. Devastating to all who knew him. We all attended his service together, saying our final goodbyes to another young person. It hurt. We were all in shock. What a loving young man and now he was gone too.
Tragedy would strike us again the day we got that call. This time it was my brother sobbing on the other end of the line, “He’s gone sis, he’s gone.” I was in my car with my middle son and immediately pulled over bursting into tears, his oldest son, my nephew, their cousin and my oldest son’s best friend in the world. Cousins are our first best friend, if you’re blessed to have them. They were 6 months apart and inseparable since they could walk. His life cut short at 20 years old. As we entered the room where he was laid to rest for us to “visit” with him, it was the most painful time of their lives, the cousins who were missing one now, the father who tried to protect him from himself is without his first born son, the mother who carried this child and loved him more than her own, his existence was over and none of us could let him go. This beautiful child, gone. Nothing made sense. The agony.
18 months later to the day, my youngest son was frantically texting me from school one morning. He finally called after his first class and I said, “honey, just leave and come home.” We lived across the street from school and I ran down the stairs to meet him on the street. When he saw me, he started running and crying out, “he’s dead, he’s dead” as tears steamed down his face. What? Who? Fuck!! “Mom, my best friend, he’s dead!” My heart broke as he cried and couldn’t speak, only sob. I stood there and held him as he melted. Shortly after, the gang began to rally around as they always did. They knew instinctively where to go, how to comfort and soothe one another. They huddled up and cried, they told the ones that weren’t there the devastating night before the truth of the events and how it was a stupid accident… they could barely contain themselves with their sadness, anger and shock. I hugged them all, told them I loved them and cried right there with them.
What the fuck? Enough already!!
She told me don’t judge people around death. No one can possibly know what’s in their heart, just tend to yours sweet child.
I always remember her words…
I’ve watched and noticed the varied ways of which this was true. Some close the valve to that part of their heart so they can’t feel as they once had because the pain is too great. Others vow to live for today and appreciate each moment, remembering to say I love you… until time fades those well intended promises and life resumes as it once was, back to status quo.
For me, my capacity to receive and pour out seems to have increased a little more with every experience, boosting my gratitude and granting more patience and tolerance for you, but especially for me. Before, I didn’t possess the ability to separate mom’s suffering from my own. I couldn’t see how much pain my nephew was in, only that he was lost. As for the other great ones, I’ll never know why your walk was shortened, but as I reflect now, I am able to slow down and remember with less pain and more joy what each of you brought to my life and how I may have enhanced yours. I appreciate each of you. I love you all. The biggest gift I am receiving through all these losses is the ability to discern my journey from yours. I am left here to be without your physical being, to mourn and grieve for your absence and the void I feel, but I keep your spirit alive every time I think of you. I catch my breath and smile when I feel your presence brush by.
God bless the broken hearted and empty spaces that no other can fill, but I will continue to celebrate each, irreplaceable you. Let us embrace this one life.
Through tragedy, gratitude is gained Through loss, fullness is obtained Through voids, love is changed