I am beginning to realize that the true mark of adulthood is being faced with your own regrets. I used to say that I didn’t have regrets, but I think that perhaps as an adult you learn to live with your failures and forgive yourself for not seeing clearly at the time.
I have had multiple successes this year, but realizing how hollow accomplishments can be on their own has also made me dive deeper into my soul. These also give me the courage to face my failures. Because I realize that in life we all make mistakes. Sometimes we make promises we never intended on keeping and sometimes we make promises we just couldn’t fulfill, and then in the dark center are the places where we actually, secretly, wanted to inflict pain. But if we can’t face our regrets and mistakes then we miss out on real growth. And forgiveness and light are easier to give if we realize forgiveness isn’t ours to begin with. After all, how can I cause more harm than murdering the son of god.
Trauma therapy really is a beast. It breaks down everything you thought was secure and it takes time to absorb the shock. It takes time to release the pain. But if I’m being honest, my two great regrets in life are 1) Not starting trauma therapy early enough and, 2) Not letting love in because I was afraid.
I hate weakness. I hate people who lack courage, who can’t just go all in after realizing its the right decision. But I think I hate it because I saw it as a death sentence in childhood. I couldn’t be weak or show emotion because I would have been punished or I would have completely cracked. I hated my mom for crying fake tears and for being weak and staying in an abusive relationship even when she could have left. Now, I am working to hate it in myself less, to recognize it more, so I can be kinder to others who have hurt me. It’s a work in progress, and I fail constantly. But now, at least I can see it.
On the humorous side, I really hate my therapist. He’s really an ass sometimes. But he’s a really good clinician and I know part of my trauma is just me being straight up anti-man. So I’m trying. I really wish it was easier. For an hour every Wednesday (I have it on my planner as ‘torture time’) it just churns more up and sometimes post session I involuntarily vomit but that’s life. I would much rather have my fingernails taken out slowly because it’s equally ugly but that’s life.
Maybe I see demons
Where only there are shadows
Then again maybe
I only see you
Haunting my dreams
Waking my sleep
Trying desperately to run, as you curse me
And I lay down
Heaviness weighing me down
Fighting to hold myself back
Fighting to remember and at once to forget
Find me in this bottle
As I lay down
Maybe I see letters in the sky
Where you once used to write, evaporated
Maybe I see claw marks where you eviscerated (me)
Then again maybe I’ll slam the door and never see you again
Bruising my knees
Haunting my sleep
Fighting the screaming I hear in my dreams
As I lay down
Maybe I see sunlight
Maybe there’s only anger
Maybe past the blindness
I find hope lifting
As I lay down
There’s nothing quite like trips through Europe. I’ve been twice this year, once to Madrid and Barcelona this August to settle my little sis in for a study abroad program, and am now completing a birthday tour of London and Paris. I love wandering down half deserted streets, with the smell of cigar smoke and strong wine and the glittering city lights.
I’m love traveling, and I’m a born wanderer, but I love home. With twinkle lights and candles and soft blankets and familiar tastes and those I love the most in all the world. Travel is exhilarating, exhausting, enriching. Work has been a burn out drive and I’ve been so grateful for the break. I was recently promoted and with this promotion comes a very small raise and a very large increase of responsibility, and I’ve just needed to madly wander and find the magic and romance in life again after everything was turning various shades of brown and grey.
As an idealist, I get burned out easily. It’s something I find, that I am both crushed down and lifted up on winds that are entirely fickle. I’m sensitive to harshness and anger and I tend to be brought entirely down by it, just as I am brought up by the lightest feather of hope or love or beauty. It’s the reason I love art museums and hate confrontation (Although, I mean, who really likes it?) And in all of that brutal sensitivity to the pains of life, both in myself and in others, I find it necessary that I have to find balance and advocate balance for myself in my life, just as I need to find limits and advocate limits as a giver. Otherwise I become sulky and stagnant in giving, and the gifts are no longer life giving. I need to find balance and harmony within myself before I can help others find balance and harmony. I’ve been knees deep in the muck of counseling for six months now, facing the monsters that haunt me, and now I needed to wander the sunset streets of paris and the halls of the Louvre and experience life anew.
26 feels old. I hate that I’m closer to 30 than 21. But I’m also grateful that many large milestones are past and that I can finally hunker down and taste the meat of life, dreg the depths; I can finally figure out what I’m really about and what my life actually should become. I’ve had several sweet friends speak words of life that clarify things that I’m already passionate about. But people can be wrong. And so I look to the giver of gifts to give me the gift of purpose and passion for that purpose. I used to have a step by step plan for my life that I informed the universe of at eighteen. And I think that’s the beauty of twenty six, you’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel of the very confusing twenties, where everything you thought of for your life would be planned out and you have the hope and energy to get them all done; you suddenly find that things change and you’re frustrated and crushed, so you grieve the death of many dreams but a few beautiful, bright, sparkling hopes remain. So you move forward into the tunnel in hope and purified by light and moments of joy and suffering. You learn balance and wisdom and forgiveness. And I’m sure there’s a better way to state that in prose (and fewer run on sentences) but humor me on my birthday week. So, to quote CS Lewis, “Onward and upward.” Always onward and upward..
L and I were sitting at our favorite pub by a fire with pints (And yes, I’m a nerd and quote LOTR every time I order a pint) and I penned a little clumsy verse. I hope it brings a bit of beauty to your corner this morning.
I wish that we could put feelings into bottles
Open them in times of war and suffering
Send warmth and peace to those who are cold
Bring light to those who are dark
When there’s a long fight ahead and you’re weary
I wish for you that you could savor the breath of this moment
Smell the summer rain and crackling firelight
Open it for autumn leaves and blazing beauty
For quiet firelight and warm winter chill
I wish for you that the road is short and that friendship is long
I wish that you always have the joy of that first snowfall
To open and drink in the pint along with the summer wind-
I wish that you would always see the face of beauty
and feel the warmth of grace
I read once that Maya Angelou, when writing her autobiography, locked herself in a hotel room with her bible and a bottle of sherry. I love that picture, a brave woman facing herself with only a bible and a bottle. I find myself doing that when the anger or pain gets too much-finding comfort in old texts and the occasional sip of vodka to steady my hand. Sometimes that’s all you can do when fighting demons off. Brandish your glass and say “To hell with you, death. I’ve faced you before and I’ll face you again.” And when the tears come remember that you were strong enough to face it then; you’ll make it through today.
Reading through Caitlyn Siehl’s “Crybaby” today and relishing each word. She has such an ability to put tenderness and thought into each sentence. Here is an excerpt from her book.
“A God Eats -By Caitlyn Siehl
Dreaming, now, of God eating
He unhinges his jaw, swallows it whole like a serpent.
There is no light. Not a single fire to be seen on any stretch of grass
God eats the flames, too. Wishing
to be bigger than any of the stories.
If I were a story, I’d be the one that saves you when God comes to eat the yellow star
from your throat.
I’d be the
torch that sends him back to the blackness
that he wants to put inside of you.
I’d tell the darkness to keep its hands off you. Not because I own you
But because nothing does.”
And here is my own thought for the day.
“I still remember what it felt like
To be taught that my sadness is more beautiful than my anger
I am a power to be reckoned with and you were afraid of me burning
You were afraid that when I burned the fire would like your darkness
Would light your darkness
And seething we would pull your skeleton hand out of the wreckage
And you would still be holding on
Your face to cover your lies
Money is a poor excuse for love mother
You withheld it when you were angry
Now I burn it to cover your holes
Your wedding dress is dipped in the anguish of the children you buried in your emptiness
The blood of the heart and soul you could never have
I want to shed my skin
But really I want to shed you
Layer by layer
Cell by cell
Until your ravaging no longer deforms my face into a permanent wall of tears
Until I am fire
And you are ash”
Healing is not linear. Sometimes the old darkness drop kicks you in the face and you still have to deal with the hurt.
I’ve been going through this with my mom lately. I’m going to be brutally honest here, so if you can’t stomach it, scroll past. As an abuse survivor at the hand of both my parents, trying to maintain healthy boundaries with either of them as an adult is a very real struggle. Trying to maintain a relationship is near impossible. But sometimes we achieve this kind of forced functionality where we step back and can take a tenuous breath. It’s never for long, it’s never sweet, but sometimes it’s calm. Sometimes there is a laugh or two. Sometimes there’s a birthday to be celebrated. And then we all step back.
So I’ve been enjoying this tenuous calm for about a week now. And tonight, it broke again over my head. And I asked, why? Why am I putting myself through this? What am I trying to recover? And it broke my heart because I realized, yet again, that there is no end to this. And there is no relationship to recover. It will never get better. It’s an abuse cycle. The only way for me to get better is to let go.
Which means never having the family that I wasted birthday wishes on as a five year old. Which means facing the dark. Which means so many painful and poignant things that I can’t even, at this moment, list them.
So, in the very heart of Madrid, I made this choice. My little sister and I are supposed to be enjoying a summer holiday and my mom is trying to control the situation, to take the joy and spontaneity out of it, and to guilt trip us because she wasn’t allowed to come because we put her and her claws away. I closed the door. Because this relationship is more hurt than anything else. Because I’ve never had a mother, one who actually cared enough to nurture instead of wreak havoc on my heart.
And I’m writing it here because I need help. Because I can’t do this alone. Because it’s all I know, and someday I’ll try and go back. Because healing is not linear. Most of the time, it just hurts like bloody fucking hell. And it’s hard.
So here’s my declaration. I’m not going back.
Because my mom stood by and watched, because she was silent all those years ago.
Because a child shouldn’t be hit when they don’t complete math problems quickly enough.
Because a child shouldn’t be beaten and dragged up stairs for not wanting to go to bible study.
Because we were children. And the adults in our lives are demons.
And oh, how painful it is.
People talk about forgiving the abuser as painful. I don’t think it’s as painful as forgiving the people who should have said something and didn’t. Who should have stood for innocence and childhood and didn’t.
I have a little sister who is not so little anymore. But she still watches everything I do. I hope that she will watch me walk away and have the courage to walk away too.
I love being home.
The peonies that I picked up with french bread and cheese at the market are in vases and their sweet fragrance is coating the apartment in a kind of mist that mixes with the lavender in our kitchen. The twinkle lights in my kitchen light up pictures of my wedding (oh, happy day!) on the shelves that my husband put up for my precious trinkets, and my little dog is cuddled with me on our rug as I sip coffee and listen to NPR’s tiny desk concerts waiting for C to get home. (C is my husband, by the way. It’s still so strange for me to say that, even after three years of marriage it makes me blush a bit. Sorry for the mushy side note but there it is.)
Three years ago, a newlywed in a strange city far from home, I got a call from home that made my blood run cold. I rushed to the airport. But as soon as I landed, I found it was too late, and I started weeping on the plane. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. I didn’t think it would ever get better. I still, to this day, think about those moments and shudder. And I don’t write this to be dramatic, only that all of us have at least one such moment in our life. Maybe it’s the loss of a friend or a parent or a sibling. Maybe it’s the boy who broke your heart. Maybe it’s a phone call asking you to come quickly, echoed with the word hospital. Maybe it’s the moment after you wake up in a stranger’s bed, violated. And we want to give up because we stare trauma in its ugly face and it hisses at us that it’s over. There’s nothing left for us. The things that gave our life meaning and purpose and light are gone. The things that define us are stripped away, that we are irrevocably lost.
There’s this thing about trauma. It lies.
It lies that it will never get better. It lies that this is all there is. It gives you this skewed black view of the world, this hostile sense that everything and everyone is against you that you are irretrievable. Your pain lies to you. And I need you to know, right now, wherever you are, that it will get better. Maybe not in the way you want it to. You certainly won’t come out the same person. But it will get better. You will get better. You will be found.
I’m a survivor of abuse. I lived in it for fifteen plus years. And I’m here to tell you, if you’re in the dark right now, here’s a light. Here’s my hand. It will get better. So dear heart, don’t give up. Don’t listen to it. Conquer it. Allow yourself to be human, and realize that this experience of humanity, this pain, is only temporary. And home is never far away. But until then, stay here in this corner. I’ve placed these pillows on the sofa for you, and here’s some tea. Stay a while. You are safe, and home is near.
“I make no apologies for how I choose to repair what you broke.” -Meredith Grey
I refuse to apologize to you for being too harsh, too cruel, too outspoken. With you, there is no such thing. There are no words harsh enough for what you did.
I will not apologize for not becoming what you tried to beat into me, what you tried to beat into us. I refuse to let your icy handprints on my face infiltrate my soul.
I will not apologize for not fixing my defiant face to a more palatable one in the face of your cruelty. I am proud of what I did as a child. I am proud of who I am in spite of my parents.
I will not apologize for not letting you touch me at all. For refusing to play pretend with a childish grown up. Your games are beneath me.
I refuse to apologize for refusing to darken the doors of that dank slimy place with a steeple. You don’t deserve to be offended. You don’t deserve me.
I refuse to apologize for who I am anymore. You don’t get to critique the way I heal from the way you tried to shatter me. I belong deeply to myself. I am fire and you are dust.
That exhausted feeling of being washed by another wave of propaganda and judgement infiltrated my pores as I saw yet another post about “modesty” in my feed. I’m not one to bare all, although I’m all for it if that’s you. You do you, girl. But I’m also not one to care about skin showing. You have a body. You are a soul. But don’t be afraid of your body. Embrace it.
I’m tired of being modest. I’m tired of being told to be small because your world can’t accommodate me.
I’m a nurse with an artist soul. Which means that even though I see the broken human body in a variety of forms of anguish, I appreciate beauty when it is present. I appreciate the microcosm that is the human form, the strings of DNA that hold together a universe far more vast than the stars, that are knit together cell by cell to form an intricate tapestry of movement.
Here’s the thing the human form-your form-is beautiful. Stop sticking it in corsets, stop hiding it behind baggy sweaters. You are beautiful. Don’t be afraid to show your form. Stop striving and rest, darling. You are a tapestry of color. The world needs your true colors. Let them show.
This last week was Pride weekend here in NYC. I’m so grateful that despite living within a time period where our authorities try to take over our bodies, our minds, and rewrite our stories by calling them fake news, we are in a culture that is more progressive than our mother’s. That we can show our colors instead of living in a gray and white haze of conformity. I’m so grateful for all of my beautiful friends who have broken any stereotype in my mind that confined the human tapestry to black and white. And I will continue to support them for the valuable, beautiful, humans that they are.
So let’s stop talking about modest and talk about wearing our tapestry, bare skin to sunlight and let our souls loose to dance in the rhythm. Let’s show our true colors.
Sometimes I have so much to say and no way to say it.
The words echoed in the room, bouncing off walls, reinforcing the loneliness I already felt deep in my heart but was too afraid to speak into life. I was always taught that words were cheap. That talk was cheap. That my words could mean absolutely nothing so it was better to stay silent.
My therapist readjusted her chair and absorbed the silence comfortably. I squirmed. A few choice words came to mind but I tried to hold her gaze steadily. I hate being on the spot. I am incredibly good at being unreadable, I thought. It’s my strength. That session, in my head, was over, and I never wanted to go back.
She waited, I waited. The silence was getting unbearable.
What if you could speak? I thought. The words would be too ugly, too false, too accusative.
Then she said a word that I haven’t heard spoken by another soul in a long time.
Abuse. Abuse is why you feel like you have to be impenetrable. Unreadable.
It’s an ugly word. It’s a dirty word. It’s an accusation of the profoundest sense because it implies the trashing of character. And she had just brought this into a safe place.
And then the tears came. And they wouldn’t stop. Sometimes our hearts know more than our head.
And sometimes realizations almost kill us.
I went to the grocery after the session and I dropped everything on the floor. I was so shaken that I couldn’t control my movements. The poor clerk stocking everything was so nice and polite and asked if I was ok, if there was anyone he could call. I managed to pay for the things and run out.
People ask why hurting people don’t ask for help.
This is why: Because we’ve learned to live with the pain. We’ve learned to stuff it under the rug and let it out when no one is around. We’ve learned to whisper it into the night. But asking for help is an admission of the weakness that caused our hurt to begin with. Much like an addict, we refuse to run back to the things that broke us and start again, we only use the coping mechanisms we’ve learned since then. We refuse to be broken again, and it’s the key to our undoing.
I’m still in therapy. It’s the brutally hardest thing I’ve ever chosen in my life. I (forgive the language) fucking hate it. But I choose it because I refuse to be this person anymore, and I have this hope that someday there is a light on the other side of the tunnel, even if it means that I have to leave the safety of the darkness.
I don’t have any wise words, but I have these hands with scars, and I’m more than willing to show you them. To hold your hand and walk with you together into the path of healing, if that’s what you’re interested in. And if not, say a little prayer for me to whatever god you believe in as I walk through the darkness.