Thursday, January 7, 2016

(seeing)

To think I never saw the light
Alone and perfect in the night,
The force that pulls the tide to shore -
I never knew moon before.

I always knew what was under my feet.
I knew the gutter. I knew the street.
Afraid to look up, afraid to fall,
I never saw the sky at all.

I remember the time when all I could see
Was the howling emptiness inside me,
But I looked one day, and in the hole
Was the secret garden of my soul.

I don't know why I was set free
To see what God had given me...
The universe is vast, and wide,
And I have begun to let it inside.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

For Whom The Bell Tolls (09/05/13)

The elevator bell rang many times in that hour: but I knew when it was them. I knew. All the air went out of the room and a terrible heaviness worked its way down from my stiff frozen face to my tightly contracted stomach. I had no fear. My eyes were dry as old bone. I had no room for anything but the incredible weight of what was coming. It was time to sign the papers that would terminate my natural rights as a mother. I was 17. I was alone. Every cell in my body was screaming, where's the baby? My breasts leaked milk for him. I had not been allowed to touch him him since the moment he was born. And now it was time to do what I had waited these 9 long months for. It was time to do right by my boy.

I knew I would have to wait until 24 hours after his birth, so that I could not later claim that I had been influenced by medications and cause any upheaval in my son's new life. My son's new life: I had given him life by birth, but now it was time for me to really give him life. My parents had offered to help me raise him, but frankly I would have sold my ass on every street corner in hell rather than let them get near my child. They were NOT going to have a chance to hurt him in any of the ways that they had hurt me. I knew I could do better for him than that.

I had watched the clock, and I called the nuns when it had been exactly 23 hours since his birth. I asked them to bring the papers. I added one request: please, hurry.


Sister Janice came promptly, in her habit and her sensible shoes. For the first time since I had met her, she did not make any of her trademark bad jokes. She gently asked me if I wanted to talk, and laid her hand on mine: I said no, please, let's just get this over with, and moved my hand. I could not bear to be comforted. She had to read page after page of legal documents to me, and I tried not to listen but I heard every word. They needed to make sure that I understood exactly what I was giving up. And in spite of the legalese, the words hammered home over and over again what signing these papers would mean. Everything I was giving up. Everything I would never have. Everything. I did not cry. I did not fidget. I nodded when required. I could barely breathe. I listened for almost an hour, and then finally, it was done. I had listened to all the words and signed all the things. I had given my son up for all time.


She asked me if I wanted her to stay, and I said no, I need to be alone for now. She hugged me briefly and she walked away. I heard the elevator bell again, and I knew that she was gone. So I got up and went to the nursery. And there he was, the one with no name on his tag. I had always thought of him as Ian Andrew, but his parents would be the ones to name him. Not me. I watched at the nursery window, and he started crying. The nurses were busy tending to other babies, so I tapped on the glass to get their attention because my baby was crying and I could not touch him. They didn't hear me. I started knocking on the glass and they still couldn't hear me. I started banging on the glass. MY BABY WAS CRYING AND I COULD NOT TOUCH HIM.


They still couldn't hear me.


Finally, I stopped.


I walked back to my room somehow. I could not cry. I could barely breathe. And the true weight of what I had done began to dawn on me, in waves of pain too great to allow for tears. I sat on the bed and just kept breathing. There was no escape, there was no relief. All I had was the knowledge that I had done my best for him. It was small comfort at that moment. I don't know how long I sat there, hours maybe, until they brought me more drugs and I slept. I did not feel 17 anymore. I never felt 17 again.


The pain and the loss were with me every waking minute for so, so long: but as in all things, even pain changes with time, gets made smoother as does any rock tumbling through the turbulent waters of life. 32 years later, there is no pain left, but there will always be something missing, an empty space deep in me that calls quietly for him. Maybe I will meet him one day. The odds are frankly against it, but I choose to believe that I will see him one day, that I will hold him close in a bone-crushing hug and smell his skin and have a chance to tell him how very much I loved him. I have never regretted my decision, but until I can touch him again, I will never be complete. And so I hope. Fuck the odds. I will hope.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

I Am The Warrior

I want to talk about pain in a way that I rarely do. No one wants to be perceived as a whiner, and if I talked about it as much as I think about it, I'm pretty sure no one would want to listen to me anymore. But the truth is that pain is one of the most dominant forces in my life. As in the zen way of all things, it has taught me much, and it has cost me much, too.

It happens sometimes, just seeing someone walking down the street in front of my house. I think, she is not counting every step she takes. She doesn't feel like she's walking on broken glass. And I am suddenly sick with envy. I was a strong girl. Still am actually: but I was so fucking CAPABLE. For years now it has been a daily struggle to even get clean. IT HURTS WHEN I MOVE, EVERY FUCKING THING I DO, AND IT HURTS PRETTY FUCKING BAD. That is my truth. I want to cry just writing this. I'm not gonna catalog the variety and intensity of the various things that are wrong with me, but they all pretty much suck. I do what I can about it, I exercise when I can, I see doctors and eat well and meditate and listen to music and give back to life every chance I get and other shit, but it is a fucking STRUGGLE and it is brutal at times. I try not to whine, but I certainly do bitch to a few select people. Because if you do it too much you get judged.

I bathe and do my hair every day. I wear red lipstick too, damn it. My pride drives me forward, to work what magic I can, to inspire myself in every small way that I can. I don't wear pj's or yoga pants all day even if I don't leave the house, and most days I don't. I don't have a car. My disability has taught me to be my own best friend. I have to forgive myself for the things that I cannot do. When it comes to my son, and not being able to go for a walk with him, or being too fucking sick to honor plans we have made, well, you can imagine the guilt. He always says, no, Mom, just take care of yourself: that kid, man. That kid. I love that kid. And I have learned to forgive myself even for letting him down, aided by his grace. That is hard beyond any words I have. Have I mentioned today how awesome my son is?

I have lost friendships. I try not to make firm plans with too many people. Going to the grocery store is a huge chore, thank God I have someone to do it for me. I keep my house clean and care for my cats and look for ways to do good and to give back to life. I have come from so many kinds of hell, to be delivered to a relatively good place in life: I feel that when it comes to life, I OWE. So I try to give back. It's what I CAN do.

I don't know why I'm writing this. I know I'm not alone, but I feel like I am screaming into the dark. I just want to say all this for the record. Just this once, I want you to know what it's really like. Because the battlefield is never in my body, it's in my mind, in how I choose to look at things. That has been the hardest part of this journey. And you know what? I do it with a fair amount of grace myself. When a woman I barely know accused me of being full of shit regarding a specific affect of my disability, I ended the conversation pleasantly, immediately, and firmly. And I wanted to hurt her in the worst fucking way for days. This bitch has no fucking idea what I have come from, the abuse, the horror of my childhood, a Styron novel scratched out in the dust of a double-wide...and then my years of wandering in the land of drug addiction, finally finding my way to recovery and then throwing it all away again to suck a crack pipe and discover that there is really no end to how low your soul can go...there are no words. So my life today is actually pretty fucking sweet in comparison to that. Frankly, my perspective does make it easier to accept what I have to deal with now.

But there are days where the pain crushes my soul. Needles me with doubt. Sows the whispering seeds of suicidal despair. I hear them. Anyone with chronic pain, physical or other, hears those whispers. As a recovering addict, my chemical choices are pretty limited. I cannot safely use narcotics to maintain a saner level of pain. There are days I drug myself with TV. With video games. With fantasies, I have an amazingly vivid imagination. Those are the days that all I do is try to escape as best I can. I hide from you. I cocoon myself, and wait for better days. And there are days that I fight. With my hard dark humor, with my silliness, with my love for the world and my red lipstick, I fight. I am a fucking warrior. And even at my lowest, I believe that I will find my way back, because that is just who I am.

Every person who makes me laugh, it is like a prayer to me. Every person who I love, you make my world a bigger place. And for the many amazing and wondrous people who give me so much love, you humble me. Because in the end, it is the love that matters after all.

Word.



Friday, August 30, 2013

Tomorrow, He Goes

Tomorrow, my son leaves to go to college in the big city. He wrote a song over a year ago and said that all he could see was the vision of what was to come, the lights of the city that would change him and bring him to his destiny. This child of mine has a sureness in him, a balance: he knows what matters to him and I have always trusted him to find his path. It is just something in him. Did I teach him to believe in his dreams? Yes, but his dreams and his drive are his own.

But that is not the story I want to tell. As he flies away from me into a rising sun, I want to share with you the beautiful soul that is my son.

This night occurred maybe a year into my crack addiction, about 7 years ago. I was still living with my son then, still married to his father: Dan was sleeping in another room by then, and asked me to leave soon after. I do not blame him. I stayed out for another year, and put the pipe down for good.

I had left the prior evening to go to an AA meeting. That's what I said, anyway. I rolled back in around 5:30AM, blind high, shaky, coming down hard. My son was asleep in my bed. I tried to be quiet, but he woke up. He came over and embraced me, and said, I'm so glad you're safe. I stank with the drug and the filth of it: crack is a dirty habit in so many ways. But he hugged me close.

I sat him down next to me on the bed and said, look, honey, I know that you must get really angry sometimes, and really scared. You don't have to be so perfect for me. You can tell me about it. You can get mad. And he said, no, Mom, YOU don't understand. You have a disease, and there's a 99.9% chance that it will kill you: but maybe you just need somebody to believe in you.

Maybe you just need somebody to believe in you.

He was 11. Ladies and gentlemen, my son.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Death of My Father


(This is being offered as a piece of fiction. Although nothing could be proven this 10 years later, I would not publicly admit to the type of felonious conduct that has no statute of limitations. Let this be what I wished I had done, then, if I had possessed enough courage and enough love. And if you know me at all, well, then you know. )

He looked so small then, laying broken on that hospice bed. He weighed well under 100 pounds, and I could tell which lung had collapsed just by looking. The last time he had moved was 2 weeks ago, when I first stepped into his room fresh off the plane: he sat up and hugged me, and laid back down. That was it. The oxygen mask was laid against the hole in his throat: the Dilaudid pump had been turned up until he stopped frowning.

He hadn't frowned for days.

I took the night shift that night. My chest felt so heavy: my heart felt thick and swollen: and I knew. I remembered all the times over the years he had said, if I ever get like that, please just shoot me. Just shoot me.

I looked down at this man who had beaten and tortured me throughout my youth, this man I had plotted to kill so that he couldn't hurt my brother anymore: this man who was dying slowly and hideously, of cancer. His wife had died 3 months ago, and it broke him. He loved her. He died not knowing how little she loved him, and I will always be grateful for that. I loved him. He was my father.

I kissed his forehead, and turned down the oxygen: not off, I couldn't stand the thought that he might struggle. But down, way way down. And I sat next to him and read a book. I refused to watch. If he had moved, I don't know if I could have done it: but he let go easy. I looked up an hour later, turned the oxygen back up, and called a nurse. He was dead.

I knew it was what he wanted: I knew he was never going to get better, and that he was in pain, terrible pain: still, it was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

I loved him so much. He was my father.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Dirt

(This happened during a time in my life when everything seemed hopeless. I had been trying to get sober for 15 years, and had once again thrown my clean time out the window. I had decided that smoking pot would save me: that decision led me to withdraw from everyone who loved me, because I didn't want anyone to know my secret. And there were other secrets, too. I was sleeping with a knife under my side of the mattress, and I wasn't sure whether it was to use on myself or on him. Lance's abuse had gradually gotten worse and we had grown in sickness together, slowly by slowly, inch by inch, blow by blow, until I had become one of the women I had never understood: a woman who allows herself to be beaten and believes it is her fault. So that's where I was at.)

I lived in the rough part of town, but I was too restless to be still so I decided to walk. It was high noon under a Texas summer sun, and I walked and walked, and noticed  all the small things I normally missed on my hurried drive home. The houses were small, the windows were barred, and the front gates were padlocked: but the tiny yards were impeccably groomed and dressed in greens and gardens and benches. The grass was mowed. The houses were painted. There were colorful rocks, small fountains, and of course statues of the Virgin Mary. The pride these people took in their small plots of land touched me deeply. I walked more slowly now, finally able to see something besides my own fear and pain.

And that's when I saw her. In between a few of these sweet little homes, there was a small sad structure. It looked like a shack, windows open to the stifling heat, rough paint badly applied: and the yard! There was a tree, and nothing else. Not even grass. All she had was dirt. And she was sweeping her dirt. She picked up sticks and rocks and put them in her pockets as she worked. In the white-hot afternoon, she tended her garden of nothing and made it as beautiful as she could. I slowed my pace, but did not want to be caught staring: we nodded at each other as I passed, and I walked on with sudden tears pricking the corners of my eyes. I had seen nothing but hopelessness in her yard, but she saw her home, and she was going to do her best to tend it. What she was doing looked like love to me, a careful and patient love that would eventually lead her to the vision she had in her heart, of grass and new paint and a bench or two. She simply bowed her head and went forward. I knew that she would get there.

The beauty and courage of her gesture set my heart on fire. I wanted to be like her.


And in that moment I knew that I could. All I had to do was believe that it was possible, and take a tiny step forward, no matter how futile it seemed. And then another. What she could do, maybe I could too.

(My tiny steps gained momentum rapidly. I left Lance within the month and never looked back. I barely remember the girl I used to be: that was 20 years and many lifetimes ago. I was never again in a physically abusive relationship. I still think about that woman sometimes. She will never know that she changed my life.)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Healing the Broken Bits

(There was an article being passed around on Facebook recently, about how children should behave and how parents let their kids run wild. this was also the day of the Casey Anthony verdict: and I don't know exactly why, but it brought back a memory, maybe the idea of children being inconvenient. Don't read this if you're prone to getting triggered, 'cause it ain't pretty.)

I don't remember what she was mad about. I had done something I wasn't supposed to do, again, and I would pay the price. She was so calm when she delivered her punishments: my father would get crazy angry, but her stern steady verdicts were somehow more terrifying.

She told me to put out my hand, flat on the table, so I did. I didn't know what was coming, maybe the flyswatter again, or maybe a slap or two without my hands to involuntarily interfere. But she smashed down on my fingers, hard, with nothing but her closed fist, powered by muscle that had pushed a wheelchair for decades. I started screaming. I couldn't stop. The shock of the pain was breathtaking: nothing else existed right then. She told me to calm down but I couldn't. She finally looked, and her lips pressed together in annoyance. She came back with emery boards and tape, and splinted my two broken fingers. I was quiet by then, shaking and breathing erratically: but I could still hear just fine. She told me that we couldn't run to the doctor for every little foolish thing I did, and told me how I would explain my injuries this time. I absorbed my cover story and nodded numbly. I knew that somehow this was my fault: and the anger that should have been settled into a sick leaden lump in my stomach. I believed everything she told me back then: that I was everything that was wrong in our family, that I was fat and graceless, that it was my job to take care of everyone. I don't believe now, but I remember how it felt. I wanted to earn her love with my silent acceptance of her abuse, by taking her place in ways I never should have so that she would be off the hook, by absorbing all the abuse for myself to protect my brother and sister: but I failed utterly. I wanted to keep them safe. I could not. Of course I couldn't, I was a kid, but I still feel the indescribable weight of my failure. I loved them all so much: and my brother loved me back. Without him, I don't know if I could have survived any of it.

The worst part of those moments was never the physical pain: it was the belief that life was horror, and the knowledge that I was utterly powerless to save any of us. I left home at 16. It has taken me years of wandering through the land of addiction to finally come to the other side and put the horror to bed. It does not control my life anymore, because I have the power today that I didn't have then. I no longer expect bad things to happen. I have discover a sense of outrage that was lost to me for so many years.

...but the weight of my past, the sorrow, the fact that I couldn't protect them, and most of all the hunger to be loved - these things persist. Healing is a slow and painful process. With every tear I shed, I get a little more free. With every memory I share, I am less ashamed. And with every bit of love that comes my way, I am healed. It feels like having my heart pried open with a crowbar: but I am finally learning how to let people love me. And I am grateful for every kind word, every gesture of affection, every little bit. I know how to treasure it. That is my silver lining: I never take it for granted. Not any of it.