Saturday, October 20, 2007

Blowing My Coat

Every now and then, there is a moment of such clarity that it helps sustain me for weeks. Sometimes it helps me find gratitude, other times it is empowering and yet other times it simply helps me find my smile. And sometimes when I am struggling -- when those moments of clarity are too few and far between, I can go back and dip into the well.

I am frustrated that my perp has had such a hold on me lately. I thought it might help to focus on a moment when I felt stronger and more powerful.

Most of what is written in the letter that follows is not empowering. But the moment I dropped it in the mailbox anticipating it would make its way to his prison cell 18 years after I met him on my way home from school was truly a moment of clarity. I took the opportunity to confront him, however indirectly, and let him know how he hurt me and how it affected me.

I have high hopes it will help me to focus the blame where it belongs.

I just noticed that one of my dogs is 'blowing her coat' -- she is shedding all over the place to make room for new growth.
Maybe this post will help me shed some of blame I am holding lately and make room for new growth too.


I carry you with me in pockets sewn deep inside my dark places. Graffiti on walls surrounding the humiliation I cannot name, you left your mark boldly, indelibly.

Were you so evil that you planned the attack or was it spontaneous? How come it was me? Did you know I had big dreams to chase? Was it because I bounced when I walked? Sang out loud? Laughed too much? Or was it just because I was the first little kid who dared to cross your path on a bad day? Did I do something to make you mad?

You exploited my innocence, denying me the gift of simplicity. I harbored images of danger, hatred and terror, silently cradling them in my tiny heart.I remember the place where you grabbed me. I remember when you put the gun at my back. Or was it a knife. Wait. Was it really a fork? That's the place I knew I was in trouble. I haven't gone back. Have you?

You scared the life from my eyes, quietly telling me how easily you could kill.I believed you. And eyes tightly shut, bravely waited for the moment. But you kept driving. Weary -- and dizzy from moving with eyes so tightly shut, my bravery gave way to resignation.

Did you know how brave I was? Is that why you drove so far? Could you tell when I gave up? Is that what you were waiting for? Is that where you stopped the car?I wish my eyes were open. That way I could see the place where I gave up and write my name with yellow chalk on the sidewalk. Then I would write this is where you stole my courage.

Have you ever been beside someone who could kill you? Do you know what it's like to know you could die because you saw too much? Said too little? Let your tears show? Or just because?

I will tell you.Your body is not right. You're raw and numb at the same time. In your mind you can see yourself -- but not up close. And it's not like looking in a mirror. More like treading in water at slow motion. You can hear but the sounds are muffled. You can speak but your words come from a faraway place you don't know -- and sometimes they surprise you. You can feel but your body is numb. I don't know what you see when you think you're going to get killed because you made me shut my eyes. When your eyes are closed and you think you're going to die you see snow. And you can talk to God. But he doesn't talk back.

You robbed me of my faith, leaving me to beg rather than pray for life. How could you tell I didn't know any prayers? Inarticulate when it came time to pray, I tried bargaining with God instead, making promises of temperance even the most gifted and patient angels might fail to keep.Where were we when I knew in my heart I was really alone?

You took my dignity, groping, forcing, thrusting with intimidation. Could you feel my fragile child's frame crumbling? Did I scream, cry out or whimper? Or did I carry the burden for both of us silently, stoically? I can't remember.Where were we when you raped me?

Nourishing the degradation you planted, I skillfully deflect praise directed my way. I confuse compliments with kindness, refusing to allow that they may be genuine.

I listened as your quiet, unsteady voice reminded me daily that I was worthless, defective and responsible for your actions. It wasn't long before I learned to perform this service for myself, negotiating adolescence and adulthood with the mathematical symbol for less than attached.

You punished my tenderness, rewarding each tear with violence. Your brutality is with me still as I cry inside tears for the children who have met you and others like you. I cry for them because I know their fears and their futures. But I do not cry for myself.

You beat the warmth from my smile, twisting my concept of childhood. How old were you when you died inside?

I saw the dirty, soiled, damaged child I had become reflected in my mother's troubled eyes. The sadness passed between us but never any words. I learned to avert my eyes from hers because it hurt too much to look. Still, it's a challenge to meet the eyes of people I care about directly, honestly, deeply.

My father's eyes reflected the shame of what I had said, what I had seen, what I had done. I made it my own, feeling ashamed not only of what I had done but what I had not. We made a silent pact to bury my secret. We didn't need words. We both understood I knew too much.
I wear the shame like a scent I can't wash or weaken. I can smell the shame of events I no longer recall.

But my body remembers. I know my body remembers when even a gentle touch makes me recoil. I know my body remembers when I wake up stunned -- without any words -- moving with the numbness -- here, but not really. I know my body remembers when I hurt in private places for no reason.

You numbed my senses so that I feel with my intellect rather than my gut, heart, body. Your fingerprints stain my spirit, strangling the joy of discovery that once reigned so freely and powerfully. I stopped counting the lost opportunities when I ran out of fingers and toes.

You are with me as I navigate a sea of relationships absent the tools of confidence and worth, absent the capacity for intimacy, absent the virtue of integrity.

You wounded me deeply in places I cannot reach.

You vioilated my soul, stealing my ability to trust. And then told me, 'Don't talk to strangers.'

I carry you with me because expelling you may betray an emptiness secretly lurking in my evaporated self, a desolation that frightens me even more than you.

I hope you find the place where you buried your humanity and dig it up so that no more children pay for the anger and hatred in your heart.

And I want you to travel the route we traveled together the day you took my future. I want you to stop at the places, marking the ground, acknowledging that here, you stole my dreams; here, my courage; here, my faith; here, my dignity; here, my tenderness; here, my warmth; here, my feelings; here, my spirit; here, my confidence; here, my worth; here, my inegrity; here, my joy of discovery; here, my ability to trust; here, my capacity for intimacy; here, my soul.

Then I too can go back to the marked places you didn't let me see and reclaim the lost pieces of me.

2 comments:

Victoria said...

This post always amazes me. I get shivers everytime I read it. You are a brave woman.

Blackbird Whistling said...

Your letter is heart-shatteringly brave. As you post about your struggles and your journey you help countless others who also struggle. No matter how much you can know intellectually, it's hard to not feel alone. I've wondered if it's because when something is happening to you, you're so alone in each moment of it, and then afterwards such silence. Anyway, thank you for your writing. You bravery helps me to be brave.