My Red Knee-high Socks

Standard

I hit the ground with a loud thud and smacked my head on the hard dirt under me.  I was out of breath with my heart beating overtime.  I had just flown off the back of a dirt bike and was shaken and in shock.  I felt something heavy and hot on me, and lifted my head to look down at my body.  The muffler of the dirt bike was now directly across my leg.  I screamed out in pain with tears streaming down my face.  My uncle who was driving the bike stood over me and tried to pull it off me.  My eyes became the size of plates when I noticed the muffler had burned my calf and had now melted in my flesh.  If he continued to lift the bike completely off me it would take my skin with it.  I was terrified when I realized what had to happen,  but the pain was intense and there was no other option.

“Close your eyes”  he said and I took a deep breath and quickly closed my eyes tight.  He yanked the bike to a complete standing position, and in the process separated the hot metal from the base of my calf muscle.  Although I could no longer feel the heavy heat I could still feel the pain.  I opened my eyes and saw a bloody mess and could smell burnt flesh.  I began to shake and cry uncontrollably.  My two other cousins that rode on another dirt bike looked scared and stood quietly watching the entire scene.

My uncle scooped me up and began to carry me home.  The entire way he begged me to stop crying and repeatedly told me I was okay.  He expressed he was counting on me not to get him into trouble.  He didn’t mean to hurt me and would fix up my leg when we returned to my house.  I don’t know how but I stopped crying and wiped my face with my shirt.  His fear became my fear.  We stood in the backyard and looked down at my leg.  There was just no disguising something terrible had just happened.  I mean how do you hide the large leg wound and all that blood?

Through the backyard we entered the sliding glass door that opened to the living room.  As casually as we could we made our way down the hall.  He told me to wait in the bathroom and closed the door as he went to my bedroom.  A minute later he opened the door and locked it.  He held a pair of knee-high red wool socks in his hand and looked a little relieved.  The thick socks would be his salvation.  They would somewhat camouflage my injury and no one would know what happened to me.  It was our secret.  It was one of many we kept between us for many years.  It never seemed odd or even wrong – it was natural.  It was also the middle of summer and scorching hot outside.  Who in their right mind would wear wintery warm knee high socks?  Why didn’t my parents question it?  Or anyone for that matter?  But no one did.   I was a child and went along with what was told to me and suffered in silence.

It was painful to walk so I sat quietly on the couch in attempt to keep the blood from seeping through my sock.  I tried to not think about my burned, throbbing leg.  My uncle found the right moment and slipped out of the house without a word to anyone.  A few of my cousins asked me if I was alright and I just nodded my head.  I hadn’t noticed until later that I had a second wound on the bottom of my knee.  So I pulled the sock even higher.  I tried to mentally block out the pain, but I wasn’t successful.

Later that evening after everyone had gone home it was time to take a bath.  I went into the bathroom and began to remove my socks.  It was then I learned that once the blood stopped flowing it dried the sock to the wound.  I sat there for a while not knowing what to do.  Once again I closed my eyes and ripped the sock off the wound.  Tears began to form in the corner of my eyes.  It never occurred to me to go to my parents for help and tell them what happened.  Although I was in misery and afraid I told myself I was okay.  I believed it was my job to protect my uncle, and I never thought twice about it.

I couldn’t wear those red socks forever so the next day my parents discovered my injury. It caught them off guard and instantly became angry that I didn’t tell them sooner.  They cleaned my wounds, applied ointment and wrapped it to keep it clean.  They were upset I had been taken on a motorcycle ride without their permission – especially in light of the accident.  As angry and upset as they appeared to be they never confronted my uncle about it.  Why?  I don’t know.   I didn’t realize that this was one of many other instances that reinforced my value to others and myself.  The lack of confrontation or even outrage for placing their child in danger spoke volumes.  Their silence to my uncle only reinforced my silence about this situation and the years of abuse too.

Other lies were burned into my heart and soul but I was too young to understand it at the time.  Suppressing fear and pain became a regular part of my life and I viewed myself as unimportant.  I wasn’t worth defending and/or my needs didn’t matter.  Even now I catch myself from falling into this trap from time to time.  The physical scars lasted for almost 40 years, but have now almost completely faded away.  The emotional scars I discovered did the most damage to me, and covering things up only brought more pain.  The good news is that each step forward brings truth and healing.  There are times when it is okay to cry and times when you need to speak up.  It is important to surround yourself with people who hurt when you hurt and love and cherish you.

My ugly scars also became a reminder to me of just how far I have come.  I am not that same terrified little girl who felt unloved and invisible.  I am a person who is learning to love, accept and embrace every part of herself.  To be honest there are days that I’m tired of the fight and dealing with the past.  My alternative is to just give up but in my heart I know this isn’t an option.  This is just a part of the process in fighting for freedom for your body, mind and spirit.  So I will continue to push forward until every single abuse-printed scar no longer exists.

 

Removing Labels

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One day back in middle school I was taking a test after lunch.  Loud silence in class as we focused on finding the correct answers to the questions.  Our desks were placed in several neat, straight rows facing our teacher who also sat behind his desk.  I was in the middle row directly in the middle of the class.  Not my first choice as I love to be unnoticeable and blend in the background.  Out of the corner of my eye I could tell my teacher was watching me.  I had been looking around at the other students in the class, but not because I was cheating – I was thinking.  I often do this to this very day.  I look around (although I’m not really seeing) while I figure things out in my head.

It must have occurred to me that my glancing around could look suspicious so I nervously turned my head to look at my teacher.  Yep, he was watching me so I immediately looked down at my paper once again.   For the next few minutes I only stared at my test but out of the corner of my eye I could see my teacher had his eyes firmly planted on me.  My fears were confirmed when I heard his voice say “hey stupid” (um okay).  I just sat there staring at my paper.  “Hey stupid” he said again out loud and I just continued to ignore him.  I mean why would I answer him when he was clearly insulting me?  One final time he said louder “HEY STUPID!”  Now he had everyone’s attention because most of the students were looking at him – including myself.  My heart beat loudly because I was the only one who knew he was talking to me! I didn’t know how long this would continue?  Would he finally call me out?  The next thing I knew the boy who sat behind me replied “What?”

The teacher just sat there and didn’t say anything.  I’m sure deciding if it was worth it to continue and let class know he really meant another stupid student.  I sat there just trying to complete my test and block out what was happening.  In the end he chose to move on and let the entire situation go.  I laughed about this memory for years.  I mean why would I acknowledge to him or the class that I was stupid?  If I responded that would show that I was claiming that title.  Even that young I wouldn’t allow someone to label me.

So why do I choose to label myself?
Self-appointed labels are the ones that feel impossible to let go.  Fear, anger and shame are powerful.  It’s almost like looking in a mirror at a carnival – everything is hideously distorted.  You walk away believing what you saw is the truth.

Why does it feel impossible for me to accept a compliment?  It is soooo uncomfortable.  The truth is it has been much easier to embrace the lies.  The negative and destructive whisperings in my mind made much more sense.   Felt familiar and safe.

It also held me captive.  (Read Behind the Walls)

It takes a lot of hard work and determination to remove these labels.  One by one they are starting to disappear.  It is then also my job to keep them off.  Sometimes the lies can be so subtle you don’t even know you’ve been duped.  I honestly believed that although I always wanted a daughter it was a good thing I never had one.  Why?  Because I believed I wouldn’t have bonded with her and even been cruel to her.  That my experiences with my mom would have passed down to my daughter.

On one of my trips to Africa an opportunity presented itself to adopt a little girl.  It happened out of the blue and I was shocked and happily surprised.  I didn’t even have to think about it – I was ready to do it.  The person who spoke to me had connections to get the ball rolling.  I called Robbie back home and he was in complete agreement and excited too.  That night fear gripped me like I never experienced in my life, and the thoughts that overtook my mind were overwhelming.

I spoke to someone (I trusted) that night about the entire situation including my deep-rooted fear.  This person helped me realize that I had swallowed huge lies about myself. Everything pointed to the person and mother I truly was – not the distorted image I had about myself.  Even the reason I traveled so far from home and was in another continent was to help children in need.  This revealed my heart towards children at home and all over the world.  Standing in that guest house that night in Malawi, Africa – I emancipated myself from the false truth I completely owned and embraced.   For the first time in my life I realized I wasn’t the person who could (or would) do those things to a daughter or any child for that matter.  It was liberating and brought me such deep peace.

Although the adoption never took place – the good news is the label never returned either.  Now on to the next…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing but the facts

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The truth is I was sexually abused throughout my childhood.

The truth is that I was told that I liked it and never to tell.

It forever changed my views on relationships and love.

I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t important enough to rescue and defend.

One day the thick wall of lies slowly started to crack.

The truth is shame and pain held me captive and in chains.

The treacherous path leading to freedom and wholeness appeared impossible.

The truth is the remains are difficult to completely overcome.

But what happens to you if you stop trying?

Not long ago a voice said to me “you know you can still press charges against your uncle”.  I took a deep breath and said “I know”.  I had created a million logical reasons in my head why I couldn’t or shouldn’t do it.   When I finally said it out loud to another person I realized it no longer made sense.

The truth is I was afraid.

According to the Department of Justice NSOPW (National Sex Offender Public Website): About 30% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are family members.

Sex offenses represent under 1% of all arrests (cosm.org)

Less than 1%…

Almost a year ago I walked into the police station and spoke the truth.  Not my truth, or a version of the truth, but the pure truth.  Through trembling and tears I reported the uncounted illegal and immoral offenses forced upon me.

The truth is I honestly didn’t know if I’d survive that day.

But I did.

The fate of my case now lies in the hands of the district attorney, and I await the decision.  Will it move forward or die?  It’s been over 40 years and is now he said vs. she said. 

And he said he doesn’t remember anything.

I fear my case will become just another forgotten statistic.

Lies will never become the truth just like sweeping it under the rug will make it go away.

Almost a year has passed since I found the courage to stand up for myself and make a formal legal complaint.

Will anyone believe me?

Am I wasting my time?

Will my family judge me?

Will this just open old wounds?

The truth is the wounds have always been open.  I just learned how to live around them.  I’ve tried to anticipate how I will feel if the case doesn’t move forward.  Will I be crushed or devastated?  Would the entire process been worth a disappointing outcome?

My heart skipped a beat when it dawned on me we both would be notified if the case was dropped.  It was painful to know he would feel relief.  For a second I regretted my decision, but only because I didn’t want him to think he won.  Through tears I knew (no matter the outcome) I made the right decision.

A champion finally appeared and plead the case against my abuse.  Did the fact it happened such a long time ago make it any less wicked?  Any less criminal?  Lack of accountability in my family was a era that was about to come to an end.

The morning the official police report was filed against my uncle I caught a glimpse of my champion.  I was a ball of nerves and my stomach was in knots.  I walked into the bathroom of the police station as I waited for the detective, and there she was.

So many thoughts raced through my head and it was hard to keep up with them all.  I’ve always told my children the right thing to do is usually the hard thing to do.  I was living these words right now.  Tears filled my eyes and I looked directly in the mirror at myself.  The woman looking back at me looked worn out and tired.  Years of holding secrets and pain had done it.  Living through rejection after rejection by her parents and others did it.  Fear of what could or wouldn’t happen did it.

She just reached the point where she just had to leave this burden somewhere.  She couldn’t hold onto it one more day.  The journey to wholeness had brought her to this place but it couldn’t make her take the next step.  She had to do it.  As she stood there in fear and felt her haggard soul she knew the truth.  She was right where she needed to be.  Even if the district attorney didn’t move the case forward – she will.

I will continue to speak out and share my story.

I will continue to take steps to wash away the pain and shame.

I will ferociously pursue healing even when the path seems impossible.  (As it frequently does).

As I looked at myself in the mirror that day courage washed over my tired body.  I don’t know where it came from but it was long overdue.  My champion was there to help make it possible.  I finally understood she had never abandoned or betrayed me.  Yes,  today she didn’t look and feel her best and on the verge of tears but together we believed we would survive that day.

The truth is we did.

Is There More?

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The alarm sounds almost every morning and disappointment immediately washes over my tranquil and comfortable state of hibernation.  I have to accept the fact that my feet will soon touch the ground and my day will officially begin.  Just the whole production of showering, blow drying my hair, applying makeup and then finding something to wear is exhausting in itself.  I usually don’t like how my hair is fighting against my plan for the day or how the clothes I’ve chosen somehow don’t seem to fit quite like they did the last time.  It’s a constant battle in my mind where I struggle to accept who I am.

Out the door and in my car it roughly takes 24 minutes to get to work.  Once I arrive a whole new set of challenges meet me throughout the day.  I have to speak to clients, manage deadlines and ensure the daily operations function smoothly.   My job isn’t difficult there are just many moving parts and I have to make sure I don’t lose or break them.  On the exterior I am calm and wear a smile.  On the inside I can be governed by the stress of last minute developments.  Or urgent changes required of me when others repeatedly make the same mistakes.  My role then changes to “fixer” and immediately figure out a way to make the impossible possible.  If I had to display my internal dialogue during these times let me tell you it wouldn’t be pretty.

Once I’m home then a whole new process begins.  Take-out or cook dinner?  My youngest son still lives at home but it’s almost like living with a ghost.   Every once in a while there is a rare sighting and I’m reminded of his presence in our home.   It’s a new era in my life that allows much more time of self-reflection.  What I’ve discovered is that my internal thought process and self-dialogue isn’t positive.  It affects my emotions, my speech and my actions.  I would like to remove it like a jacket and throw it in our large black trash can.  I just haven’t figured out how to do it.  The truth is that I struggle with who I am.

“I’m not pretty enough”

“I’m too fat”

“I’m not smart enough”

“I’m not funny enough”

“I don’t deserve love”

“I’m a terrible person”

“I’m not capable”

And on and on and on in my mind it goes.  I know these things aren’t true but many times my thoughts and actions respond differently.  I also know I’m not the only one who struggles this way.  In my case years of abuse are to blame.   I was shown time and time again that my mind and body were only worth the pleasure of others.  Then it was reinforced by my parents response that showed what others did was okay.   Then my truth became I was worthless and insignificant.

I’ve tried for years to shed myself of these lies but they continue to cling to me like leeches that suck the life out of me.  Counseling, prayer and support of others have been my lifeline this past year.  I deeply desire to rip away each lie and painful memory inside me.  So I sit by the flames of fear and face the past and distorted truth of me.  It’s excruciating but at the same time it burns the particles away bit by bit.  In doing so, the truth has begun to slowly appear.  Like hidden images found under works of art.  Michelangelo, da Vinci, and van Gogh were masters of paintbrush and canvas.  In da Vinci’s painting of the Mona Lisa – a French scientist Pascal Cotte discovered another painting lurking beneath the surface, likely an earlier version and a real-to-life portrait of Lisa del Giocondo, his subject. Why she was then painted over is anyone’s guess.

It’s taken a deep commitment to the healing process, but I’m now at the stage of finding the right methods to scrub the oil and lacquer others painted over me.  First of all even knowing the real me is underneath brings encouragement.  Then searching ways to remove the top dried layer without destroying what is underneath is tiring and overwhelming.  Never give up because once the processes are in place it’s miraculous!  I’m still wiping away layers but I catch a glimpse occasionally of me and my heart swells with joy.

It’s sort of embarrassing to say but the other day I was out running errands and I didn’t feel good about myself.  More specifically how I looked.  I just desired to blend in with my surroundings and avoided eye contact at all cost.  I was just about to walk into another store when I heard the words in my head “walk in with your head held high.”  I stopped and thought “wait, what just happened”.  The words popped back into my brain “you walk into this store like you own it and smile at everyone who looks you in the eye.”  Okay so this meant I had to look at other people too!  I was scared and reluctant but I did it.  I forgot about all the noise in my head – and I just did it.  Even though it felt like I was faking the motions – I did it.  Do you know what I learned? I left that store different than how I entered it.  My mind and my thoughts completely changed – I was happy, content and at peace.

I shed the lies that day and in that moment and it helped fortify the truth which allowed healing.  I made the impossible possible and more of my true painting came to the surface.  If you are reading this and have been through terrible injustice in your life (or know someone who did) – then my message is please don’t ever give up finding your authentic self.  There is more to life just waking up and going through the same motions day after day.  There is more to hiding how you truly feel inside and acting like everything is okay.   There is more to you than what was done to you (or not done for you).  I encourage you to find ways to wipe away the alternative and distorted painting that was placed on top of your true masterpiece.  Your true hidden self deserves to come to the surface to be recognized, appreciated and loved.  It is so very possible and only you can find it.

Please don’t misunderstand I have a very good life – my abuse didn’t completely win.  A husband, sons, daughter-in-law, grandson and others who love me and I completely adore.  I look forward to the day that their love stops surprising me.  I’ve been given many opportunities and blessings in life that enlarges my grateful heart.  I share this because under the surface of it all lurks insecurities and deep pain.  A constant questioning of my abilities and worth.  My internal voice sometimes sways my emotions, decisions and possibly steps in my future.  I just don’t want it to continue to control my life (or yours).  There is a way out that brings wholeness, peace and much much more.

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving Normal

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Everything looks normal…

That’s perfectly normal…

The warranty covers normal wear and tear…

Bring things back to normal…

I just want a normal life….or do I?  What does that mean?  According to the dictionary normal is: conforming to the standard, common type, usual, regular or natural.  Who sets the standard?  I’m sure that it changes from place-to-place and person-to-person.  The picture of a normal family in India looks different from one in the United States.  In India arranged marriages still remain the majorly preferred way for Indians to enter into matrimony.  There was a study done a few years ago that showed 74% of young Indians between 17-34 said that they would rather let their parents choose their life partners, than choosing themselves.

Most young people in the United States don’t prefer for their parents to pick their spouse.  Although as a parent to 3 sons I would have jumped at the chance!  Hence our fascination with television shows like Arranged or Married at First Sight.  In our country this just isn’t our normal.

There were many people who abused me sexually and emotionally as a child.   There aren’t enough words to accurately describe what that did to me.  I’m still trying to figure that out.  As much as I don’t like to think about those days – I know how important it is to share my story.  If this never happened to you then I bet it did to someone you know and possibly love.  I also bet you know someone who has done this to others (you just may not know it).  Yep it’s true.

We all have an idea of what monsters look like in our head.   What if their faces looked like your uncle, brother or friend?  How does your mind wrap around that truth?  I’ve shared stories about my uncle and grandfather but never really about my aunt.   Painful memories that I’ve avoided at all cost.  Even as agonizing and unbearable it is to recall the interactions with my uncle – I’ve dreaded to even step near the ones with my aunt.

As far back as I can remember she was always around my family.  Her grotesque and miserable actions matched her outward appearance and personality.  She had a physique and countenance that intimidated and scared me.  There was also this loud boisterous laugh that flowed out of her core which shot daggers into my soul.  When she spoke to me it felt as if I was a punchline to her secret joke.  If a question was asked I began tiptoeing around landmines, and never knew how to give a safe answer.  Maybe I would escape the explosion in that moment, but it would always come back to get me later.  She was the master of twisting and using my words against me.  She seemed to relish the moments when I was scolded or punished.  Mission accomplished.

Then one day for reasons never told to me she moved into our home, and into my room. 

I already knew she was a mean, nasty human being but I soon learned I really didn’t know anything at all.  It was exhausting to maneuver and tolerate her when she would visit.  Now I had to live with her day AND night!  The things she said and did to me (along with that horrendous laugh) continues to haunt me even now.  Something I so very desperately desire to overcome.  No one – not my husband, my counselor, my closest confidant know the depth I suffered because of this woman.   As I type these words I’m reminded of a cousin I later learned also endured her abuse.  We have both severely struggled different ways in life and I pray one day we will both find our way to peace and wholeness.

The abuse I was subjected to in my room at home became my normal.  Keep in mind my uncle (her brother) would also abuse me there too.  This reinforced my normal and for many years I never told a single soul.  Such torment, damage and destruction took place while things on the surface looked perfectly normal.

Even the way I shoved the painful memories inside me as a form of survival felt normal.  For decades I became the walking dead going through life, and wondering why I struggled to find peace.  One day I understood to heal I needed to get far away from normal as possible.

The uncle who also abused me recently fathered another child.  It was a little girl.  I was shocked and saddened when I found out.  I stumbled across a picture on Facebook and tried to not look, but I did.  I saw this beautiful, sweet, innocent little girl who has zero clue what life could bring her.  Her father is a Level 3 Sex Offender who still refuses to take complete accountability for his actions and his life.  This baby was born into a situation that will soon become her normal.  There are family members who continue to help him when in reality isn’t help.  That is their normal.

Normal doesn’t always equal healthy, safe or proper.

Sometimes in life you can be made to feel like something is wrong with you if you don’t act normal.  Taking a stand against things that are harmful, destructive and some cases illegal might not be understood. Others have gossiped and judged me for not keeping quiet and refusing to pretend everything is okay.  This just shows how long and deep and wide and wrong this normal has existed in my family.

One day I mustered enough courage, packed my bags and left normal far behind.  I hope and pray someday many others will follow, and the outcome will break the cycle that ushers healing and lasting change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Art in Life: (Choices)

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Sometimes in life there are times when it seems like you don’t have a choice.  Usually you feel that way when the option right in front of you isn’t the one you want.  To maneuver to a different one would require great effort or even sacrifice.

The truth is you always have a choice.   It’s just that sometimes you’ve earned consequences that must be paid in full until you can change your direction.  Believe me I know this to be personally true.

I struggle with the fact that I never got to speak to my dad before he died.  So I imagine what I would’ve said if I had been given the chance.  Would our conversation ended the way it had for years?  If so, that means I would be in the same place I am today.  Or would a switch have turned on inside him and his response finally be different?  I will never know.

It’s difficult to make sense of it because I don’t believe he hated me.  It just sometimes felt like it. There were a lot of beautiful memories between us – they just got lost in our choices.

My dad always told me I could do anything I wanted in life and become anything I desired.  For a time I believed him.  I danced ballet for many years, became a cheerleader, auditioned and had parts in a local theatre company, played sports, learned how to make stained glass, raised money for charities etc..  All because he told me it was possible.

My father was a dreamer and I am too.

I always tell my boys if their dreams don’t scare them then they aren’t dreaming big enough.  To never listen to nay-sayers – that anything is possible.  I think that is something my dad instilled in me.

The truth is he also shunned me and left a lot of hurt and pain behind.  So what do I do with it now?  It’s much too heavy to carry around all the time.  How do you hold a grudge against a dead person without feeling like an ass?  It’s a conflicted web of emotions.

I can’t tell you why my dad couldn’t or wouldn’t choose to fight for our relationship.  Maybe it was due to pride or embarrassment or anger?  In the end it all comes down to a choice.  Was it more important to be right or be in relationship?  The decision he made in some ways pierces my soul deeper than all the other abuse combined.

I never loved the relatives who abused me – not one single day in my life.  I did, however, loved, adored and trusted my dad.  So his words and actions cut me deep.  My head tells me he was a flawed human who probably lived a life that drove him to the choices he made.

So now in the end it comes down to my choice.  What will I do?  Will I decide to stay mad at him because I have so many raw and valid reasons?  What will this accomplish?  I am at total peace knowing I said everything I ever needed to say to him.  Especially the words “I love you and I will never give up hope things will one day work out between us.”  I just didn’t know that day would take place in heaven.

He was known by many names here on earth:

Hijo (son)

Hermano (brother)

Morro (hammerhead)

Compadre (godfather/friend)

Carnal (full; blood, brother/buddy)

Arturo (legal name)

Thudo (nick name)

Arthur (English version)

Pastor

Tata (grandfather)

Art (shortened name)

…..

The Art in Life was many things to many people.  I listened at the memorial services as friends and relatives described their experiences with him.  The stories were all beautiful and kind and sometimes made me laugh.

He was my dad and sometimes a stranger, and I choose to forgive the ending he left me.  I also choose to not miss the lesson he taught me about relationships and reconciliation.  I choose to not let the bad overtake the good.   I choose freedom and peace.

 

 

 

The Art of Life: Spending Chances

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“You think behind every chance there’s another one, and then another one?  It’s the worst kind of extravagance – spending chances.”  Movie quote from Hope Floats


Less than 24 hours after receiving the phone call my sister and I were sitting on a plane bound for Austin, Texas.  I felt empty and hollow and could barely process a thought.  Earlier I pulled a suitcase out of my closet and although I’ve packed a thousand times before – in this moment my brain was foggy and confused.  I stood over the open suitcase trying to figure out what was supposed to happen next.  Robbie literally had to walk me through the steps.

A few hours later my sister and I were up in the air with our hearts in our throats and on the verge of tears.  Instead of allowing our minds take complete control over us we decided to take turns sharing happy memories of our dad.   Our flight was a little over three hours so there was nothing else to preoccupy us.  It was the elephant in the room (aka cabin) so we choose to deal with it the best way we knew how.  I was surprised to learn she didn’t remember many of the stories I shared of our childhood.  She was the baby and was either evidently too young to remember or simply wasn’t there.

I knew her relationship with my dad was different from mine – I just didn’t realize how much.  I’m a parent to 3 sons and unfortunately the truth is your firstborn is typically the guinea pig.  Lots of trial and error and learning though mistakes. I’m the oldest sibling and my experiences with my dad was vastly dissimilar in so many ways.

My little sister wasn’t shy in expressing her love and affection towards our father.  I on the other hand rarely outwardly showed it.  Not because I didn’t feel it or want to – I absolutely did.  The truth is I was afraid.  Family members took advantage of my lack of power and naiveté and forced their sexually assaults and emotional abuse on me.  It took place when I expected it and least expected it.  So I was continually on guard.  In my mind IF my dad’s relatives could do this to me then maybe he would too?  There were never any signs he would do anything inappropriate, but I was always frightened and tense.  I stayed away from him during what I considered opportune times.  Like when my mom went to the grocery store, or when my brother and sister played outside.  I would either go outside and find something to do or lock myself in my bedroom.

I watched from the sidelines as my sister showered him with hugs, kisses and cuddled on his lap.  I just couldn’t bring myself to do these things.  It was a rare moment when I’d kiss my dad on his cheek.  Even then it was internally painful for me.  The abuse I’d been subjected to ruined all forms of appropriate touch for me.  I believed if my dad ever crossed the line with me – I would be like humpty-dumpty and never be whole again.  So at a very young age I decided to keep my distance.  Maybe my lack of affection when I was a child played a factor in our life long bumpy road of a relationship – I really don’t know.

Just thinking about it creates a new level of anger towards my abusers.  Not only did they steal my sanity, innocence and peace, but they unknowingly left me without years of precious moments between my dad and I.  Listening to my sister share these types of special memories of him is bittersweet because I realize I have none.  I desperately want to reminisce about sweet and loving exchanges between us, but I struggle to locate those memories.  Nothing to now help soothe the fact he is now gone.  This realization ushers feelings that could easily spiral out of control and ultimately stonewall my healing.

Pedophiles spent my chances as a young child with showing affection with my dad.   I must take solace in knowing that from the time I was born until the age of 4 it probably looked different.  I imagine as an infant and toddler I was uninhibited in expressing love and emotion towards him.  I just can’t remember it and now hurts to know that I can’t ever ask him to confirm it.

Before the plane landed I thought about how we both spent so many chances to fix our broken relationship.  It was the one thing I truly desired to happen before one of us left this earth.  He would hurt me and I would retreat from our relationship.  Then he’d take offense when I set a boundary and stop talking to me altogether.  It went on and on.  I kept the door of reconciliation open for decades hoping to one day see him standing there.  One day I was driving down a major street and I saw him walking on the sidewalk.  My thoughts immediately went back to when he asked to come see me before moving to Texas.

During our conversation I asked why he couldn’t love me.  With tears in his eyes he said “I want to feel joy when I look at your face but I can’t”.  Even after this happened I tried once more to reconcile but he became angry and defensive and blamed me once again for the abuse that took place in my life.  More wasted chances.  I cried as I treated my dad as a stranger and drove past him that day.  It was hard to accept that we had actually reached this place.

The last time I ever saw him he looked me in the eyes but we never spoke.  This final wasted chance will forever hurt the most.  My sister informed me the following day he had left Arizona and returned to Texas.  I told her I had a gut feeling that one of our parents would die soon.  I don’t know why I felt this way but it wouldn’t go away.   Exactly 7 weeks later I received the horrible phone call from my mother about my father’s death.  Even though he couldn’t tell me he loved me I just didn’t believe it was true.   I honestly think that pride held his tongue from saying those three words.   He taught me the importance of not spending chances.  When my time on earth is over I want my loved ones to know how exactly how I feel about them.   I never want them to wonder about it or feel cheated.

I do want to end this by saying that no matter what happened or didn’t happen between us that I love my dad very much.  I always will.  Did he have to endure spent chances growing up?  Did he (like me) hope that the significant people in his life loved him even when they didn’t show it?  I hope not.   It is through my faith in God that I know one day we will see each other again.  Disappointment, pride, pain and wasted chances will no longer exist.  The relationship God always intended for both of us will finally begin.

Will we remember the details of what happened here on earth?  Will our hearts explode with love for one other – so much so – that we’ll embrace each other for hours?  Will apologies be necessary or do they even exist in heaven?  I’m not sure.  What I do know is our chances will no longer be stolen, hindered or squandered, and I can’t tell you how much I anticipate that marvelous day.