There’s a book inside me trying to get out. It’s called I was beaten more days than not. It’s called the beatings are still with me. It’s called I love you and I’m smiling but my heart is crying inside. Screaming in pain. The book is fighting with fear. Fear was my best friend. Fear kept me alive. But now fear is keeping the book inside and it’s going to kill me if it doesn’t get out. It’s going to grow and eat me like cancer. Or give me actual cancer. The book wants to be heard. The book is me. It’s all the ages I was when Fear was keeping me alive. Or hope. Because I think Hope might be Fear’s cousin. Not that I understand family or anything. Family, after all, is what Fear and Hope tried to save me from for all those years. In all those dark moments. You know, the moments when you’re told by the people who brought you into this world that you are disgusting to your core. That they never actually wanted you. That you’re always on the verge of wrath and judgement. God is looking at you and He wants to vomit. All that lovely, nurturing honesty that builds loving and confident members of society. I lived in the dark for years after I left the darkness. I took it with me. It lived on in my barely breathing soul. I pretended to be a living person. I even fooled myself for a time. But a living darkness like mine cannot be tricked into dying. It knows it’s alive. And when my careful charade of life was struck a blow by another version of what first tried to end me, the darkness began to weep. It made myself heard. All the me’s had found their voice. And gave it to the pain. The vibrations cracked my shell and I hatched. I was reborn. As a newborn, yet less helpless than before. The metamorphosis startled me. It knocked my back off my feet. I tentatively thanked the fear for keeping me alive, and handed the keys to hope instead with trembling hands. I can see colors I didn’t before. I can hear sounds I was deaf to. I can feel the life. I can see it teeming all around me. In its glory and agony. Sometimes I break again from the weight of it. The darkness is still with me. Some days it rides shotgun. Some days I can call it an Uber. Other days it stuffs me in a trunk and I’m not sure where we’re going. But then I hatch again. Another part of me is born and freed to begin again. Quivering with possibility and apprehension. Most do not welcome my darkness. Very few can accept the constant rebirth. I am too much for many and not enough for nearly all. But there is a book inside me, fighting with fear to get out. And maybe when Fear and Hope and Me can walk into the light together, I will feel heard. And the pain will settle to a dull roar. Which is preferable to the constant ringing in my head.
Personing is hard. At any given moment an infinite variation of life is coming at you.
Mothering is hard. It’s complicated. Consuming. 4 people’s perfect souls are in my care. They are all 4 so vastly unique. They each need something different from the others. And possibly even different than what they needed 3 hours ago.
Being a wife is beautiful. Amazing. Rewarding. And hard. It demands that your ever evolving humanity hyphenates wholeheartedly with another person’s ever evolving humanity.
PTSD is hard. Actually, it sucks balls. It is vicious. Unpredictable. Parasitic. It is about 5 full-time jobs rolled into one that you can’t clock out of. Your body is constantly picking up the slack for your brain. Your brain is all, “Bye, Felicia” when you need it most and your body is left to pick up the fragments. Flashbacks are always at the most inconvenient times and inappropriate situations. Scratch that. When is it ever a convenient time for your brain to unload out-of-context horror?
My soul is tired. My body is exhausted. My mind is weary.
Yesterday, I threw an adventure/pirate party for my 7-year-old daughter. Including my 3 oldest, there were 14 kids here. I think. Lucky for me, my 2-year-old was napping. A few parents stayed. A friend and her husband came to help. My husband’s participation was on fleek. My house was full.
I love my children fiercely. So I asked my anxiety to hold it together while I facilitated the fun.
But I am tired.
I’m getting better at knowing when I’m going to need to recharge. I’m more mindful of how decimated an interaction is going to leave me. I’m learning to plan self-care into my life.
A few years ago I read The Shack. My heart wept with recognition. When the movie was announced, my heart exploded with anticipation. As soon as I was able, I purchased a ticket to see it. For a showing immediately following church. The day after my daughter’s birthday party.
I need to tell you about church and me. A majority of the abuse I endured as a child was religious in nature. Clarification: it wore a Jesus hat. “Christianity” was the tool that 2 broken and hurting people used on their offspring to make themselves feel less out of control. They discharged their anguish onto their children in the name of God.
I struggle with church. I struggle with the Bible. Hear me out before you burn me at the stake. The words, the phrases, the settings… Triggers. A lot of the concepts, though far removed from how I grew up knowing them, look very similar outwardly to their rightful essence. This is the danger. While I am rewriting the real version in my heart and mind, there is an incredible amount of scar tissue there. My mind is rejecting the transplant as it looks eerily familiar. I’m constantly looking for new versions of the Bible. Versions that I can read and hear God’s healing love pour over my soul like a soothing balm. As of now, my all time favorite is The Jesus Storybook Bible. I am not embarrassed to say that I own it in hardcover and audio forms. And that when the crazy gets heavy, I hide in my minivan and listen.
So I stayed home by myself this morning. While the rest of my heart drove away in my van. They went to church without me because my soul needs some rest. Church is hard for me. Church is work. I pray it is not always this way. I hope some day to be edified without the complication of very conscious mindfulness exercises throughout the duration. I long for the day when I can join in with the worship and the teaching without fighting a panic attack. Someday maybe I will be able to hang after church to fellowship without being acutely aware of the crowd and scanning for exits.
Today is not that day. Today I am where I am. Jesus loves this me. Jesus is fully invested in this me.
So I am going on a date with Jesus to see a movie. That is my church today. I am so looking forward to it.
But first I have to find a box of tissues.
I am a phoenix.
I regularly burst into flame. And am reborn.
Hurts like hell to burn but I come back fiercer, stronger, more loving every time. I will burn this mother down as many times as it takes to come out the person that I am, under all of the shit that obscures the beauty of who I was meant to be.
I will burn. With the fierce passion of knowing that I was made for Love. I will die a little every time that I may come forth in new and new and new life. And all of the me that isn’t truly me will burn up little by little as I become.
It is terrifying to stand on a new truth, or a more refined truth. What if I am wrong? Well, chances are I am and will be wrong many times and many ways yet to come. Hence the burning down. And rising forth. A baptism of fire. A rebirth of anguish and glory.
I will burn this mother down. I will burn this sister down. This friend. This wife. This citizen. I will be wrong. And I will be new.
I said yes to life and health and all of the magic and pain that will bring me alive. I will face the difficult. I will trod forward in weariness. I will triumph over the victories and so often weep for the failures. Because all these things ignite me. They consume the false and reveal the authentic. The genuine. The truly precious. My soul.
I will burn this mother down.
I am a phoenix.
I feel the fire coming on.
I was invisible.
To the world. But most importantly, to myself.
I was raised in an environment that eroded the knowledge that I had value. My therapist said once that the last place I probably felt safe was the womb. I think we come into the world demanding to be cared for because we have an innate sense that we are helpless and that it’s our right as living, breathing, precious humans to be nurtured by the people who brought us here. The fact of being alive comes with it the appraised value of immeasurable worth. And then life… Usually it is the simple fact of living that erodes our known value incrementally. In my case, and in the cases of so many who have been treated as less than, the increments are staggering and crippling. The once secure infant, squalling for acknowledgment, becomes a shrinking, ever-fading wisp of apologetic humanity, becomes a hustling, boundary handicapped adult.
So I became equal parts hidden and flaunting. Validation was nectar of life to my soul. I couldn’t move to the right or left without a strong sense that my decision would be met with acceptance. I was crippled by having only the possibilities that I could see in my immediate now. I struggled to see beyond. To imagine more. I wore a flashy disguise to cover the shame of my stunted resilience.
I couldn’t see me. No one else could see me. So I yelled and screamed above the crowd, hoping, praying, dying for a shred of recognition.
Until I was recognized falsely. Having worked to the bone to put my heart on display in an aching need to be known, how was I so unknown? How had no one heard me? Did I even know me? What if I wasn’t? What if I didn’t? What if I couldn’t?
The questions drove me to retreat into myself.
Shockingly, what I saw in there was me. The real me. The valuable me. The worthy, precious, wildly loved me. The me that hadn’t been seen in decades. The me that was screaming and weeping and dancing invisibly with little hope of notice.
My world got quieter. Because I didn’t have to shout to be heard. Because I didn’t need to be heard. I could hear me. I could see me. I made it quieter so I could hear myself be.
The superfluous had to go so that the genuine could shine. The excess was shed so the authentic had space to flourish.
I’m thriving on less these days. I’m giving myself space to see so that I’m not consumed with the need to be seen. I listen so that I am heard by my own self. I’m getting acquainted with me. I like her. I’m not so worried about other people’s acceptance of me. I’m not perfect but I don’t require myself to be so that’s ok. It’s messy. It makes very little sense some days. But it is so much more peaceful here in my new existence of acceptance. So much happier. So much less fearful. And so many more possibilities ahead. Once I’m ready for them. I don’t need to have it all.
I am. I am loved. That is all.
It’s ok to be broken.
It’s okay to be incomplete.
It’s ok to not be there yet.
It’s really ok to look and be and feel and everything with you-ness. Your worth is not wrapped up in meeting some invisible, arbitrary standard set by the nebulous ‘them’. Often insults come in the form of “you’re so _____!” Fill in the blank with anything that isn’t your strength. Or some quality you are working on improving but have as yet not attained. Or something you’re good at that doesn’t appear acceptable to the populace. Take the power out of it by agreeing.
I am messy. And sensitive. And contradictory. I have trouble with any number of things.
I already know that about myself.
But guess what?
I am a lot of other things too. I am creative. And sensitive. And open to so many things.
I used to think that I could achieve perfection. I used to think I should achieve perfection. That until I made it, until I made the bell ring at the top by swinging the mallet with enough strength, I could not claim the love and acceptance from the ‘them’ and from myself that I so desperately crave. I long for connection, but connection comes with so many rules, it seems. And I am not in the box. The rules don’t make sense to me. The box dims my gifts and abilities and me-ness.
No one person possesses the elusive perfection that so many of us believe to be the goal. Find out you. You were perfectly and wonderfully crafted. That truth can coexist with the flaws and imperfections you also contain.
Embrace your individually scarred body.
Befriend your one-of-a-kind mind.
Cherish your beautiful weird heart.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
See that hook? Let yourself off. You are not letting yourself down.
Simplify your perfection.
Because broken isn’t trash.
Incomplete isn’t worth less.
Not there yet means you’re on your way. You’re in the middle of the process. You’re living. Being. Experiencing. Loving. Growing.
Welcome 2017 with your beautiful, wonderful, exquisitely mosaic you.
Go talk to someone.
I mean it.
Someone who’s been educated to understand the spaghetti noodles in your head. It’s terrifying as hell. I know. Been there. Doing that.
It doesn’t toggle a cosmic switch that puts you in “that category”.
But if you are a warrior fighting against the demons in your mind, get some backup. Enlist some troops. I promise you are not lesser for acknowledging that the thing you battle is bigger than you. In fact, just the opposite is true. One of your very best and strongest weapons is acknowledgement.
Like, o, yeah. I see you. I know what you are. Now what?
Owning your struggle is powerful and empowering.
Because, guess what? We are all victims of Planet Earth. Of Life. Of Existing. And if you are reading this then you are also a survivor. Add warrior to your resume. I’m sure you are already a warrior. But put it on your card.
I am Victim. I am Survivor. I am Warrior.
Own your worth. Own your place. Own your value.
And go to the armory for tools. For weapons. For power-ups.
You were never meant to fight alone.