Healing

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.

 

xo.

Amanda

home.

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.

 

 

Defiance

“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.

Defiance.

 

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.

 

xx.

 

-A

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.

 

 

 

Ringing in the New Year

I recently found, in a dusty attic, buried behind remnants of long forgotten sweaters and children’s toys, the massive journals I kept through the echoes of childhood.  The scribbles of a sixteen year old trying to find life in those lines.

I find myself needy for words. Constant, addicted to how words form themselves magically on a page and speak out their own truth. Like smoke rings in a white winter sky. I think, perhaps, I always have had a love affair with words.

Words are easy to hide behind. To bandage. To create a space of beauty and comfort. To hide behind them until we find ourselves, until we find healing.

To say words are powerful are an understatement. The problem is not that they are powerful, but how easily they can smash us into a tiny thousand crystal pieces.  To build us into superman. To make us perceive ourselves as small or to see ourselves as changing the world.

Words are fast.  They move faster than an outbound train. And they cost less than grains of sand. But we invest our very being into words.  We give ourselves reasons for the framework for our lives based on the words we’re given. We strip ourselves down to define ourselves by the fires of other people’s opinions.  Until we destroy ourselves by believing that that’s all we are: the smallest words.

But that’s just it. Words are just words. You’ve been given thousands upon thousands of glittering words in your lifetime. But here’s the deal, and the danger.  You’re not measured by the sum total of the words you’ve been given. And if you define yourself by all the words you receive, you’ll end up becoming defined by a fleeting perception. Working towards a goal which in no way contributes to your greater purpose. And the problem is, often it’s a perception in which that someone who is now defining you wasn’t thinking about you at all.

It’s a new year, and time for new year’s resolutions.  But instead of planning resolutions to change ourselves based on the words of others, let’s try to redefine ourselves based on what we are.  On speaking words to ourselves that are true.  And doing ourselves the favor of the doubt that we are beyond worthy of love. If it’s anything I can emphasize to you today it’s this simple truth. You are, beyond a doubt, worthy of love.  Not in the cliché way that means that we will stay the same, but that we will be changed by our knowledge that’s grounded on an inherent knowledge of the idea that you are precious. Not floundering on the changing of someone’s perception. Not changed by new looks, but changed by the stark confidence of our hearts. Let’s celebrate the gift of words.  Words like bells, that ring clearly, and true.