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…
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.
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.
Did you know the child you birthed, may not be whom you thought they were? Can you understand they may be struggling with something more powerful, cunning and baffling than their own imagination? Do you accept what they perceive and actually know to be their truth, yet they’ve suppressed it for so long?
If you are further confused by what is seemingly bizarre and unexplainable behavior from a loved one, especially your own flesh and blood, the offspring you thought you knew, and you find yourself in constant concern, wonder and worry, you’re not alone, but they may feel as if they are.
Has you child come to you with a secret so deep they can’t muster up the words to speak so they stammer and stumble as they try to explain. You look at them perplexed, coaxing them to just say the words, assuring them it’s ok because you love them so much. You take notice the fear consuming them and yet you persuade them to trust you, hoping they feel safe. At last they just vomit the thing they wanted to share because in doing so they know, or at least can imagine, the relief they’ll feel once they open their busting heart.
Finally they blurt it out, the suppression they’ve been hiding behind, the one they could feel, but never knew why. They’ve felt crazy, like their own skin holding them together doesn’t really belong to them. They’re so uncomfortable they wish they could peel it away just to reveal what’s deep down within. Suddenly its out there and you can’t un-know the things you’ve been told and somehow you manage to take a gulp of air and exhale. You have little emotion, no true reaction yet as your heart begins to sing and you smile feeling their relief.
Terrified to tell you, but so desperate to get it out, they wait for you to say something, anything and the only thought to share is how much you love them. What else would a doting parent do? Reject this child or embrace them as you’ve always done? The choice is obviously the latter and so you choose that card and take the gamble. This child of yours is a sure bet so you feel pretty good about this decision.
For the past too many years to count, this child has been tormented inside, but by what? You pray for them and pour love into their souls. You cry over them, fret, worry and obsess over their very well being and still, until this blessed day would come, you continue to lose sleep and suffer for their pain.
They stray and stay away until they come back, wounded and confused, but you love them through it all. Because of you they can venture out to test the water and find their crooked way, but still you love them unconditionally because in a sense, they’re still yours. They face fear and they run, we watch and we wait, but somehow we find our way back to the other to touch home plate and feel that safety net wrap us up until we part another day.
Rest assured this path is their journey. They are never alone as we stand on the sidelines, cheering them along. They’ll find their way in the darkness and the light. Despite all the trials they will triumph in the night. Sleep well and take comfort they will be alright.
A loving, devoted mama bear. I share because I care.
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…
When she was a young girl, before the insidious abuse began, it was just the 3 of them. Her mama would often make her way into the single bathroom they all shared and look in the mirror beside her then 7 year old daughter and smile. “Do you think we look alike?” she would ask. Daughter grinning back at her pretty mama, “yes!” They would giggle and go about their grooming and silliness before the school bell rang and her pretty mama would head off to work. She was learning at a very young age what being a soft, feminine, sweet little girl was by watching and learning from her very young mama. At 26 years old, she was the most beautiful, kind person in this girl’s life. She loved her with all her heart and she knew her mama did too.
They were essentially growing up together, but she also knew that mama was the adult and she had to follow her rules. Her big brother was only 16 months older than her and he loved them both, but somewhere he began growing up faster than she did. Maybe this is what happens to a young man when there isn’t a daddy around. She loved her big brother. They had fun playing outside, riding bikes and skateboards, tossing the football and playing catch. No one ever told her she couldn’t play like the boys and when his friends came over, they didn’t mind having the little sister tag along, much. She had her own friends too, but being with the boys was fun.
As she got a little older, this eventually started to fade. Either way, she was outgrowing them or they quit liking the baby sister hanging around. This is when that new man came into mama’s life and our lives began to turn upside down. Mama gradually stopped visiting her in the bathroom mirror and she was beginning to look elsewhere for validation and approval. She was turning the corner on adolescence when a young lady desperately needed her mama to keep teaching her about being that soft, feminine, young lady she was emerging into. She was losing her, or was mama losing herself?
Her teenage years were approaching and while other girls seemed to struggle with the normal issues of confidence, self esteem and courage, she continued to spiral down in her own self worth and doubt about her appearances. Boys were the topic amongst all these girls she was getting to know in her junior high days and she was becoming more shy with every passing day. Attention she received embarrassed her and she didn’t quite know what to do about it. She secretly had crushes on this boy and that one, but that was all she knew, how to like them, but not talk to them. She was getting good at hiding.
By the time she was in 8th grade, her family had moved to a new area which meant she had to start a brand new school and make new friends. This was especially difficult for the extra quiet and shy girl she had become. He immediately liked the new girl on the block and by that winter had become her first boyfriend. She had gone from admiring boys from afar to holding hands in public and at school with this assertive young man and she liked it. He was well liked and everyone knew him in this tiny little school. She quickly made a handful of new friends and was no longer angry about being uprooted from the only home she had ever known. This didn’t increase her confidence or boost her self esteem, but it did create an addiction to love and affection that would affect her relationships from there on out.
She learned that being with that special someone no matter the cost, was always better than being alone. This was the pattern she had established at the very young age of 15 when they entered their sophomore year in high school still a couple. What can you possibly know at that age? Was being in a committed, long term relationship normal at their age? Apparently to them it was. He told her often of her beauty and built her up the best he could, but she couldn’t receive his words of her external looks when she was fighting an internal battle for so many years now.
This would go on for years to follow, clear into adulthood. Her inner beauty so lacking in the strength and confidence a father typically instills in his little girl early on. Having an absent bio daddy and an abusive, substitute, narcissistic step monster who began objectifying her at age 14, she just wanted to be invisible and she worked hard to succeed at that. Her mama had long since been able to replace any of the hurtful, demeaning words that humiliated her since she herself was suffering most of the abuse from this monster. Her once, beautiful, spirited, lovely mama was just gone. Deep in the pits of despair she was cast and there she remained until her death.
By the time that young lady was married and a mama with 3 babies of her own, she had attempted to follow the beauty regiment she had learned at such a young age. She often recalled those intimate, special moments buried in her memories she shared with her mama. She recoiled at remembering his disturbing leering and twisted innuendos and once again chose to be invisible, rejecting the advances of her own husband and father of her children. Her head was muddled and certainly fucked up as she thought, what sort of woman doesn’t welcome the compliments of her own husband? Surely there is something horribly wrong with me she thought, but still she couldn’t shake off the shivers that haunted her. Don’t look at me, don’t see me and please, whatever you do, just don’t notice me.
It would be years later, five years post divorce that for the first time in her life, there was a man who did in fact, not only notice her and made her tummy flip, she welcomed his advances and wanted him to indeed see her. After the first 6 months or so his love bombing had hooked her so deeply she couldn’t get enough of his attention and longed for more. At some unknown point in time, after all the confidence and uplifting he had poured into her, she had changed her appearance to the point that he took notice of people noticing her and he loved that. As long as she was by his side, protecting her from other men, she felt safe. For the first time in her life, she thought she had been found and actually loved.
A secure sense of belonging overcame her for the first few years. One day she saw something different looking in the mirror at this indescribable image, she no longer recognized the lady looking back at her. The closer she gazed at the reflection, the more distorted and unfamiliar the features became. She had quietly been slipping away and was reverting back to that young girl, desiring nothing more than to be invisible once again. She had become her beautiful, lost mama after all. Fuck.
The compliments and uplifting expressions they keep tossing at her, are words and verbalized observations of her outward appearance. They haven’t matched her inside disturbance since she was that 7 year old, standing next to her mama, staring in the looking glass. Now she says to them…