Archive for August, 2010

Burning Books

Burning words seems like a sacrilege.  Words are meant to LIVE and breathe long after the one who penned them turns to dust, they’re meant to be a record, a heritage, proof of ones existence… more than that.  Words are tears, and screams, and loneliness and loving.

I went on a journal burning spree today, my eyes skimming hungrily after words quickly disappearing.

I half-thought that maybe the truth would be less true without written evidence, that people re-write history because they never wrote it down as it was happening and can’t remember how it was, really.

No, I never believed that.  I *know* that no matter what we say, the truth is burned into our bones and breath.  Even if we never write it down, we don’t forget.  That means that people willfully misrepresent…

Deep down inside I have always known about that willful misrepresentation.  I’ve even found the courage to speak against it a time or two.   But people wish to hold fast to their illusions.  I lost one side of my family over lies they chose to believe against all evidence to the contrary.  Here’s a truth:  blood doesn’t make a family.

People are imperfect.  People are imperfect.  I am imperfect.  Take a breathe.  Release it.  Now, another truth:  you are imperfect.  Everyone you’ve ever loved is imperfect.  Why all the illusions?  Why all the PRETENDING that black is white and up is down?

Some of my journals make me SO SAD.  I recorded the truth then tried to talk myself into believing lies.  A lot of it was centered around my experiences with organized religion.  A lot of it was centered around my family of origin.  Sometimes the truth is so frightening that you just can’t look at it straight on.

I’m guilty of the same things “they” do.  I pretend that the awful stuff was less awful than it was.  I joke about it, excuse it, try to convince myself that it was deserved…  I paint joy over sorrow.  Yet my life is a raw quest for truth…  Before I die, I just want to know that somebody saw me.

But it won’t happen like that.  I already know.  So, I didn’t burn them all, the journals.  I just burned a few as a test.   Here’s the thing, long after I’m gone, my journals will breath.  Someone who never knew me may see me and subsequently feel more real, may feel me looking back at them.  That’s happened for me many times in books:  John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone: how could they see me with such stark clarity?  If you’re a reader you know exactly what I’m talking about.

What the hell kind of blog is this?  I don’t have an answer.  It’s a fraction of my head turned inside out.  Peek-a-boo…  Let’s look at each other through our fingers;  it’s much less uncomfortable that way.

Let me straighten the dress I’m not wearing, cross my legs, adjust my hair just so, paint on a smile.  How are you?

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Happily Divorced

My divorce is final and it’s time to celebrate!  Got rid of the bastard once and for all, may he rot in hell!

Odds are you’ve heard something like that or even said something like that yourself.  I’m going to go on record and say that no part of me resonates with that sentiment.   There are times when divorce needs to happen, I agree with that, but I cannot imagine celebrating the death of a promise of forever.

Once upon a time, I almost reached right past the real and lasting love that I had; that I still have, thank God.  Is that too personal to share in a blog?  I don’t think so.  Any marriage that has lasted any length of time at all has experienced mountains and valleys.  To pretend otherwise would be disingenuous.  Maybe I was infected by Hollywood.  Maybe it was a midlife crises.  I don’t know and I don’t care to analyze it anymore.

Had I given in to my discontent – I believe my discontent was more about ME than anything – I would have walked away from my anchor.  When life gets hard he holds me steady.  When our daughter was abducted many years ago, when our son suffered a traumatic brain injury last December, it was his stoicism that held me together.   The same stoicism that has often left me feeling lonely.  The thing is, the same thing when viewed from a different angle can look like another thing altogether.

I’ll never celebrate the end of a marriage, not ever.  Don’t ask me to party.  Don’t approach me with glee.  If it had to end and the ending makes you happy, well, okay… I can’t judge the place you’re in and, as I’ve said, I’ve seen marriages that were toxic and needed to end.  Still, I didn’t celebrate.

Whenever possible, I think we should hold onto the people we love.  I didn’t always believe that but I’ve learned from experience.   It’s important to know when it’s time to let go, but I can’t believe that letting go with glee is ever the right thing.

When I would have let go my husband held tight to me.  I’m beyond thankful for his tenacity and hope.  I pray that for all of you: that you find someone who loves you truly and won’t let go, even when you’re being unlovable.  Now, that’s  a reason to party!

With Arms Wide Open

She had to sit facing the corner at the head of the classroom because she shook her head no during “safety instruction.”  She was in the second grade and the teacher’s name was Mrs. Phillips.   Mrs. Phillips was talking about who children should and should not trust.  She said that parents, teachers, clergy, aunts, and uncles – people like that, were trustworthy and strangers were not.

The little girl’s blond pig-tails bounced as she shook her head, an involuntary disagreement.   She didn’t mean to be disrespectful or rebellious.  It’s just that she was finding it hard to breathe and her heart was beating so fast, and she wanted to say something but there’s no way she could.  You see, she knew that sometimes the people they tell you are safe really aren’t and if you talk about them, if you say that they did this or that thing, nobody will believe you, so you don’t say anything to anyone.

The world adults talked about was way different from the world she lived in.  She learned to look at things sideways, trying to find truth between unwritten lines.  Was her experience less true than the things she was taught?  What was real and what wasn’t?  Those were very serious questions weighing on her mind, when she was growing up.

As a parent, she tries to balance hard truths with softer ones.  The truth is that anyone can hurt you.  The truth is that anyone can love you, too.  There are no rules about love and pain, just the certainty that both will come and the best way to meet them is with arms wide open.

She doesn’t want to give her children an illusion of safety nor does she want them to live in fear.  In the end, she gives up on “the safety talk” and decides to listen, answer their questions honestly, and never ever try to make them believe in fairy tales.  They’re just lovely stories, wishes, dreams, but they’re not reality.  Reality is far more gritty.

People often say that it’s best to focus on the positive.  She generally agrees, except when “focus on the positive” is a euphemism for not telling the truth, for laughing while you bleed, for saying that black is white and up is down, anything just so other people aren’t made to feel uncomfortable.

When she was little she was molested by her great uncle.  It went on for years and years.  She doesn’t try to tell anyone until she is all grown up.   When she finally works up the courage to say it she is dismissed:  It never happened; focus on the positive; well, he didn’t molest your cousin, so why would he have molested YOU;  I’m sure it was just a misunderstanding; you’ve always been prone to exaggeration; and worst of all:  He’s FAMILY, don’t say that!

The truth is that blood doesn’t protect you.  Your Blood can make you bleed.  It happens every day, every second, somewhere.

A person she was taught not to trust, a man, not her great-uncle but the same age as him, showed her such kindness when she was young.  He rode horses with her and spoke kindly.  He was her best friend.  Teachers whispered concern about the the elderly neighbor man, but she didn’t listen.

What a horrible thing to be warned away from love.

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So, how to be safe?  How to make sure that nobody gets hurt, that our children will know when to hug back and when to scream?  I hate the answer.  The answer is there is no way.  Pain happens.  Love happens.  We do our best.  Ignore the formulas, just throw them out the window.  Trust your heart, your gut.  Keep your arms open.  Don’t get stuck in the pain, learn from it, move forward, but don’t ever let anybody tell you to smile when you hurt.  Only smile when it feels right that’s how I know to trust you, because you’re REAL…

In my mind, I hold that little girl’s hand when she’s told to walk to the front of the class and sit on a high stool in the corner.  I hold her hand, stand with her, and I speak with her so she’s not alone and say, “I know you’re trying to help but you’re wrong.  Anyone can love you and anyone can hurt you.”  And then I walk with her to the principals office, without waiting to hear the teacher tell her to go there.   We skip a little bit as we walk down the hall, because we can, because it’s what we feel.  We’re not appropriately somber when we talk to the principal.  We’re polite but adamant.

I will her not to give up, to stay strong, to keep her arms wide open.  And she does.