Lately I don’t want to do things that I don’t want to do. It isn’t just a casual “no’, but a stamp my feet, dig my heels in, try to make me if you dare kind of no. I simply don’t want to do much of what is waiting for me when I show up to work, or even when I open my eyes and take my first conscious breath of the morning. The child in me is pitching a fit with all of it. All those days and years of having to do so many things I didn’t want to do, and had no choice or voice about, have caught up with me. I don’t want to is a common thought, powered by a willful child tired of having no voice.
It’s a common theme, picking at scabs attached to my heart. In my latter years I’ve learned to leave them alone, knowing that even untouched and unscratched, they will never heal. For years I would pick at them, hoping that underneath I would find warmth and a sense of healing, but that never happened. A picked at scab only ever revealed fresh, unhealed flesh. Pink and raw, ready to begin the process of growing a new scab. It’s a literal thing – the heart beats, blood flows, but the scabs remain.
I’ve often thought of a healing heart as something warm and pink, beating loud, blood rushing in through one side and out through another. The truth though for me is my heart will always beat in spite of the pain it feels. It will always endure any cuts that are made, it will always defend itself by forming hard crusty scabs. It’s a survival thing, a way to make it through a long life of hard blows and jubilant rebounds. The scabs are actually a fortress, made of sponge, absorbing all the tenderness and washing away all the debris ….
Where to go from here? Stuck in mud. Feels at times like sinking sand, knee-deep and nothing to latch on to. I miss the ones who knew me well, who loved me in spite of myself, who I could reach out to when I was at odds with some item in life. I miss feeling them on the earth, that feeling of knowing they are there, like a blanket, invisible, yet warm, cozy and welcoming, washed and dried and ever ready to embrace me whatever my need might be. They still loved me the day after a fight, no grudges were held, just acceptance of me and of them and whatever we might have been to each other. It’s lonely, many times without them. I feel the need for that smile, that voice, that wink, that arm around my shoulder, that knowing look, that resting place that I could take for granted because it would always be there, open and inviting with a large welcome sign on the doormat. Their absence is loud and cold. I can’t feel them out there in the world. My last memory was a cold dead face with purple lips that used to offer warm kisses. I can’t erase those realities, those definite moments, those deep etchings in my mind, but I miss them and I ache for that knowing of me, that shelter that was always safe and absolute … where to go from here …
I know shame well. It held my hand and comforted me for years. It kept its arm around my shoulder whispering its daunting and controlling words of shameful self-doubt. I listened hard to shame, afraid to stand up to it, fearful of its wrath. I sought freedom from its grip only to find myself weighted down by a ball and chain, heavy in weight, unable to move, unable to escape its tightly woven links.
I danced with shame as I dated boys and let them touch me in places that were too soon to be touched. I let their fingers shamefully search my womanhood, though I was still not much more than a girl – I wanted them to like me, to approve of me; instead I shamed away as they laughed and gossiped to each other of how big my tits were, how well endowed I was for an almost twelve-year-old girl. I thought they wanted me, the me who feels and cares and cries and hurts and laughs, but they wanted the shell of me, the external, the flesh – just like he, my father did. How I felt was irrelevant to him, myself was invisible. It was my flesh he sought and in doing so he controlled all that I felt, my every move, as I learned to barter sexual acts for my freedom, a blow job so my friend could spend the night; my friends presence a shield from his nightly visits to my room. I learned to barter for my friendships and learned the shame of a blow job in the kitchen while my friends waited on a cup of tea in the living room. I learned how to look shameless when shame riddled my body and how to hide shame in the core of my soul.
We were friends, good friends, shame and I, for many years, all through my teens and into my late twenties, until a random phone call prompted a long hoped for conversation – an apology, ownership of his wrongful acts. I was brave enough to speak my truth, to show my pain, to ask the simple question, “why?” and with his response of, “I’m sorry, I was the adult.” came my unexpected divorce from shame. It wasn’t dirty, or difficult, it was clean and easy. I took my freedom from shame with a deep sense of pride. I fought for my freedom, I suffered for my freedom and I thank my dear departed father for taking my shame with him to his grave.
I want to stop time! Life is too fast. Years are rolling by so much faster than I care to embrace. There is no time to feel, to heal, to reflect, to ponder, to regret, to abhor, to adore. Time is intangible. I can’t grasp it, or twist it, or taste it. Instead, I let go, I give up, I surrender that life is passing me by, that time has left me behind, that I will never catch up or catch a breath, or sit and listen to the birds singing or the waves crashing, or a thunder rolling and lightning flashing, rather I catch glimpses of a far away feeling, a memory just out of reach, a love I used to know, a pet I called my friend. I gather sadness as though I am picking daisies in a field, I chase rainbows only to find at the end there is no pot of gold, I follow paths that lead to nowhere and search for a stop watch so I can stare as the hands pass by the numbers, all the while ticking and taking away time.
I was probably 6 or 7 when I first rescued a living thing. It was a fly. My brother John and I were walking to school and as we passed by the small grass lot at the bottom of our street, there on the ground was a fly, wobbling, falling and struggling to fly (no pun intended.) One of its wings was missing. I remember the feeling of sadness that washed over me and the strong urge to help and to save. I could make it better and I could save it, I just knew I could. Out on the road was a matchbox. I picked it up and looked inside to find several used matches. I threw all but one of them on the ground so I could use it to poke holes in the matchbox which would allow the fly to breathe. I gathered some grass, half-filling the matchbox and gently picked the fly up from the pavement and placed him in the matchbox. I placed the matchbox up under some grass wanting to keep it safely hidden until I could check on him when we got out of school later that afternoon. For now the fly was safe and he was warm and he could breathe. When the home time bell rang at school I couldn’t wait to get to our street. I ran all the way down St. George’s Road, my heart happy, the sun beating down on my face, my hair falling about my shoulders, the joy of knowing I had saved the little fly, but I didn’t … when I opened the matchbox he was dead, and I cried. I held him in my hand and cried, telling him I was sorry that he died. I don’t know what I thought would happen to him in that matchbox, maybe a new wing would grow, maybe Jesus could heal him, maybe love could have saved him … but it didn’t and Jesus didn’t and I didn’t. What did happen though was that I became aware of all creatures great and small , I became aware that everything that lives has a place in my heart, that all living things are equal and they are subject to suffering and struggling, just like the fly without its wing. It’s why I don’t eat animals, it’s why I don’t kill insects and it’s why I step over ants …
When I’m afraid I typically appear that I am angry. Not so much now, but certainly up until my early 40’s. I can’t say I fully understand how that translates from my childhood, but it’s a coping mechanism that I was first busted on by a late and precious girlfriend I had.
I hadn’t been in America too terribly long, I don’t even fully recall what the event was that triggered my fear, my sense of security felt threatened, and she was there with me when it happened. I started speaking out loud, protesting and arguing against whatever the incident was. I remember my heart was pounding and I was fearful of being able to stay in America. My mind was racing and in turn my body responded by getting busy. I went into the kitchen and started washing the dishes. I was talking incessantly (always an outward sign that I am feeling fear) and she came up behind me and put her arms around me and rested her head on my shoulder. At first it irritated me; I wanted to push her away. I felt my insides squirming, wanting to wrestle away from the warmth of her comforting arms. My eyes stayed focused on the soapy bubbles in the sink, I was physically uncomfortable. I felt restrained, not so much by her arms, but more her tenderness. What was I to do with gentleness? How do I embrace such a stranger to my soul? Why isn’t she responding to me with angry words and demands to calm down? Rather she started to cry and asked, “what are you so afraid of?” Those were the first words in so many years that were able to penetrate my solid steel defenses. She saw “ME.” She wasn’t afraid of, or turned off by my apparent anger, rather she moved herself toward me with tender arms and soft-spoken words. I clearly and emotionally recall how that felt to my twenty-something year old self. I remember how my body came to rest, how my heart stopped pounding, how my chest eased from its tightened stance. I felt “seen” and I started to cry. The relief was immense, the freedom to drop my guard and to feel safe with a human being was unrecognizable to me, I’m still unable to articulate those feelings and a place inside me still longs for how that felt.