writing has been sparse lately.
thinking has been full bore.
so many beginnings unfinished…stillborn.
and tears. plenty of tears – at least for me who doesn’t typically “do” crying.
I even played a few rounds of solitaire the other morning…and flashed back…to last year at this time when all I could do was play solitaire, sleep sprawled on the floor, and read myself back to health.
last year at this time, I had just moved into a ridiculously expensive tiny apartment- with gates and fences and security- in an attempt to be safe.
but i get ahead of myself.
let’s go back-to the beginning.
a long time ago, i was the youngest of four kids born to a military man and his wife. we moved a lot as soldiers often do. as kids, we were vulnerable.
perhaps if we had been born in this era, someone would have more than just noticed us – four flinching furtive straggly kids – they would have rescued us. we, modern Pips, would have had a chance at great expectations.
and here is the story that has not been fully told without vagueness and shadows.
we were four. i was the last. i acted a lot like a first trying to make it right, mediate, and work in an almost “arbeit macht frei” fearfulness.
scrawny. smelly. feral.
super de-dooper smart.
i could tell that we were not normal – that something was wrong. as most terrorized kids do – i thought it was our…my fault that we were so world weary so young.
none of the books that i read resembled this band of brokenness, my sisters, brother, and i. hungry. bullied. cowed. cajoled…by our mother while we worked hard to protect our war-brave father – to shield him.
i remember once – singing “here we go a wassailing” with my elementary german teacher, herr wolf, and suddenly…finally recognizing myself in the song:
We are not daily beggars
That beg from door to door;
But we are neighbours’ children,
Whom you have seen before…
Good master and good mistress,
While you’re sitting by the fire,
Pray think of us poor children
Who are wandering in the mire.
we were mired. trapped.
it would have been terrifying enough without her boyfriends and their straying into our own “persons”.
and still we protected him, my dad.
and she left and returned (rinse and repeat) and berated and screamed and accused and yelled and was well clothed and bitter and jealous and fermenting with her own grandiose visions of self.
we were a burden – competition in her world.
my oldest sister got the worst of it, I think. though any of it is destroying and my middle sister and i are still dislodging the dead bodies – the stink from our skin and souls.
my middle sister is brave and true. she is imperfect. i love her very much.
in essence- she is the only family-of-origin that i have.
soon, i learned that in school i could matter and measure up. if i worked hard and stayed out of the way of the beautiful kids, i could survive.
in fifth grade, i learned from carrie glideswell that i probably needed to shower and brush my teeth. that my clothes (floods) were godawful and that nobody liked me and my bucked-teeth.
i was a smart kid – smart enough to know that she meant it and others agreed with her.
bathing? hmmm. instruct me in this.
and that was the day i became a sociologist – watching the people in their movements and learning to take my cues from them. i couldn’t dress like most people, but at least i could become clean, read the books they read, and keep watch for what was acceptable-normal. that was the plan. the execution was more, I understood what I wanted to become, but it was – like gatsby’s green lantern – always in the distance.
by twelve, we had moved back to kansas. i remember one day in particular walking to the red cross where my mother worked. while crossing the unusued football field, i was terrified by the catcalls of men driving by. terrified. i had spent so much time trying to be invisible and this was too too much. i stopped wearing dresses soon after.
and though i desperately wanted to be friends and loved and engaged in the Archie and Betty world I assumed everyone else inhabited, i just couldn’t. too smart. too goofy. those bucked teeth, freckles, clothes, and general weirdness.
it could be argued that it was the sexual abuse by those extramarital paramours that brought on the weirdness. but i’d say it only exacerbated the sense that everyone knew the social “inside jokes” and i was on the outside looking hungrily in.
or the adhd.
or the overparentification and living in such soul-sucking control and withering abuse…we were feral kids.
anyhoo, i made it through several schools in a few countries and signed up for every extracurricular activity possible – as a justifiable means to be anywhere, but that house. unsafe. lonely. crushing. prey.
debate and swimming; writing and editing newspapers and yearbooks; service clubs, French club…I would have cleaned the commons area if it meant possible acceptance and safe passage.
i made it to college. though my sheared hair and funky clothes did not endear me to the south georgia people. i began to become my own person – not anyone’s daughter, sister, or day-to-day scapegoat. not “normal”, but me.
studying is not my strength, but learning is. i did well in that humid campus.
and somehow, in the soon-to-be-demolished Anderson Hall, i met a collection of jesus believers and soaked up the love of his kids like a thirsty thirsty sponge. i ate chinese food for the first time, moogoo gai pan. it was a school quarter of revelation.
i had a crush on the georgia southern curly-headed baseball pitcher with blue eyes who later pitched for the A’s minor leagues. i managed the men’s soccer team, made stupid freshman mistakes, and began to breathe freely for the first time.
a few days into my freshman winter quarter, i learned that my brother was dying. i ended up working three jobs, taking a foolish amount of hours, and attempting to earn a swim scholarship. i tried to work my pain away. it was exhausting. i gained 30 pounds in a month or so. it was ridiculous.
i ran. and eventually began working out and not eating to the point that my cheeks were as hollow as my desperate empty little heart.
mostly on the pay-as-you-go plan, i worked and attended college – a total of three-years of school over a five year span.
and i met him, my childrens’ dad. he was charming, bigger than life, and woo’d me well.
we married. welcomed two fun, amazing children, and then he left. i had been groomed to assume it was all my fault. it wasn’t. i was devastated and cried out to the god I had so faithfully pursued and loved with every bit of love i had. loving the kids and their dad was loving him.
i gave him my kids, my time, my life again and again- a daily pledge…a daily plea for help.
the kids grew. beautifully.
they make me want to live well and heal.
it was hard. we had walked through a helluva grief and the anger that tries to embitter.
friends made assumptions after he left. some told me that i was supposed to have kept “us” together. i couldn’t tell them the truth and learned later to not try. one of the greatest accomplishments in my life is in forgiving and sincerely wishing him and his 2nd wife the very best. i liked her. we had been friends once.
the kids and i bumbled through and blazed new trails. for the first time in my life, i learned that people would love me for me. the isotopes, mayeses, m3, gil and trish, the queens, rhonda, jo, and tracy…
i didn’t have to be perfect.
i didn’t have to stay “pretty and sweet.”
i could be disheveled. i could be afraid. snarky. repentant. Christian.
i could dance on a table with my friend, cam, because we knew we were the only ones who would remember the tabletop jig as we were as dry as Sundays in the deep south.
eventually, i worked really long hard hours trying to make the best of what i was given to do. it was exhausting. i see now that i was doing what i had done when my brother died, escaping into the busyness and foolishness of perfection. trying to earn acceptance.
i just got cranky.
and was successful.
after both kids graduated to college, we sold our home and i moved on to serve as a missionary. i was a “hobbit holding a ring”. i was not the message, but i carried it to some of the most inspiring weary world changers.
i had found fresh water in this jesus and wanted to offer the same to a thirsty world.
so many good people.
and then there was one who fooled many of us. we were married.
within 4.5 months, i’d endured a baker’s dozen of rapes – all initiated while asleep – one while i was sedated after getting my wisdom teeth removed and being treated for dry socket. all lasting a few short terrifying minutes.
i quickly grew terrified. foggy. jumpy. servile.
i’d sleep through the day and try to stay awake at night.
my brain could not make sense of why. why rape when my love was full and the invitation extended. what was so vile in me that i was better as prey than loved wife?
control. humiliation. terror.
the great lie i had believed began to unravel during our wedding and within a few short days, the assaults began. it was all control, terror. humiliation.
and – i think – a way to ensure that the sexual greatest impact could be experienced for one with the least amount of effort on his part.
finally, i awoke from the fog and ran. he followed and chided me as a condescending patriarch chides a disobedient child.
“you’re not the only one.”
from him came the lonely dive back into despair and already-diagnosed PTSD. from him came the words that woke me up from the fog, “you’re not the only one.”
it has been a long walk through the terrible wastelands of despair, shame, guilt for what the truth can do to a family and for not being able to make it all better. quietly.
my faith has been a casualty.
this rape story started when i was a small tow-headed blue-eyed imp in a blue plaid dress with white knit stockings…that first assault in the temporary housing above our stairwell.
arco, the big dog.
the mover hired to pack our goods from Altbach back to Fort Riley who cornered me (I was 10) and kissed me- i stayed hidden in the dark crawl space until he left.
the shame and humiliation of gossip told – stories to protect image.
the guilt and shame of the victim while the predator swings free in his hammock.
what was i wearing during those assaults? my wedding ring.
and long before that? the sweet innocence of a 5/6 year-old child living in a brittle war zone. does it matter?
so this week, when i played solitaire – a game my dad taught me – i flashed back to a year ago when it took me a few weeks to gather the courage to sit on the balcony in daylight. tears. sweat. shaking. fear.
last summer, i knew that i was getting better when i finally had clothes to wash and dishes in the sink.
when my prayers became so wearied and wandering that i’d fall asleep in the middle of the day and wake – not hiding in the closet – but wherever the prayers began.
when my heart would race if i had to leave the apartment during the day.
when being brave meant that i ran to the grocery before midnight as i worked hard to hide during the day.
there has been a lot of hiding and shame in my life.
i have been brave-fearless in many things.
faulty and imperfect.
hope-filled and tear-filled.
now, i have joy when we run or sit around a table.
except for the first time in my life, i have no target – no goal to reach – no hope that the existential umpire is soon going to yell, “she’s safe!”
it is too simple to say that i am adrift. i have family and friends who i love and return that love in such measure that i cannot again claim to be unloved. ever.
i have a job and the hobbit house.
the vibe still motors around the prairie.
what is missing?
hope. the knowledge that i can work to change this story for the good and the better.
will i always live in a tiny place serving to step and fetch it when my skills are waiting to be utilized?
will i know the sweet assurance that this god i loved so is real and true and in his omniscience – has a plan that is for my good and not evil.
i’m really tired – weary of the evil. my own dumbassery included.
this is not a life to be endured.
this is a life to be lived fully
and in good company.
and wouldn’t it be sweet to share my life
Restoration Team: and the photo above is from K’s “space camp” years. one year, he was elected as commander despite a rocky beginning.
One last thing: JJ Heller’s, What Love Really Means, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgGUKWiw7Wk .
Look around. There might be a child, a man or woman who needs to know that they are seen and known and loved – safely- in a healthy non-transactional way.
Still searching for the North Star.