better things ahead

Please be gentle… this is my soul…

I may never be ready to write this, as the fixer in me may never be ready to right this–but there is this essential piece of me that needs to do so– to breathe, to let go, to exhale, to give away, to “unleash it to the universe”, as my sister, E, would say…

I was blessed to spend an incredible few days with my amazing family.  Amazing–that’s my sister Jen’s word–she uses it so often that I think of her every single time I use it–which makes me use it even more.  Time with my family is a whirlwind of no sleep and intense activity as it is so rare that we are all together.  I know we are all exhausted as we are back to our “normal” routines in our respective places in the nation.  And maybe it’s all of us being together that brought this all about.  Maybe it’s my little talk with my sister, Jen, yesterday afternoon.  Or maybe it’s a few discussions I’ve been seeing floating about Facebook praising the holy grail of this thing we call the “nuclear family” and blaming the demise of our nation on the demise of it.  Good grief.  It’s probably a lot of something’s and nothings.  That’s always the way it is with me.

I’m not a big into specifics sharer when it comes to my family.  My family is so very sacred to me.  And where would one begin?  Jen, we’ve discussed this.  We’ve been through hell together.  Yes, hell.  I am not using that word casually.  We’re survivors of our own Satan.  This much some of you know.  I love these people more than anything in this world.  Sacred — so sacred.  They are all incredible treasures.  The most beautiful on the planet.  Really.  You would all be very lucky to meet any one of them.  And I don’t want to hurt them.  I don’t want to hurt them anymore than we all have been hurt.  I don’t want anyone feeling less than anyone has been made to feel.  And I don’t want to get drug back to that place in my mind–on purpose–to go back there with intention–to go there willingly and with focus.  I fight it with everything in me so very often–so it’s a strange dichotomy.  And–more than anything– I don’t want to hurt my mom, as we’ve come to a very beautiful place of peace, a place where we are coming to understand and appreciate our space in each other’s lives–good, honest, solid ground–where before I was so angry and hurt and mistrusting–and an entirely altogether different insane level of that was reopened after the birth of my first child–when I held my newborn baby boy in my arms and realized that I would never, EVER let any person in the entire world hurt this precious little child.  I don’t want to hurt anyone, and I don’t want to hurt–yet here it sits inside–hurting, and eating at me–immobilizing and consuming my thoughts till I can do little else.  It just sits there–this big, ugly thing–screaming to be recognized.  And me?  I just, selfishly, want it gone…

But I also want to write it for them.  FOR my family, and also for those who have been through this, though not one story is identical, we have similar heart beats in the midst of all this–similar pain and agony.  Suffering, to some extent, is suffering.  When people say ‘everything happens for a reason’ when you’ve gone through and experienced something very bad, what we cling to is maybe that reason, that experience–maybe–just maybe–it may be useful in some way–maybe, just maybe–it may help someone else.  If nothing else, it speaks to the essence–you’re not alone… I remember that feeling of aloneness–because sometimes it still creeps in (siblings, please move closer!).  And then there are those days, of course, when that’s all I want to be…

And then I also tell myself to let go of my ego.  Who’s going to care, really? About me?  About any of this?  It’s a pathetic shout out to be understood.  Maybe, yes, maybe no.  And truthfully, I’m tired of overanalyzing absolutely everything in my life and what people’s reaction will be to me.  I will write for them, I will write for me.  It’s as simple as that.  No one is forcing anyone to read this.

Being with all of my siblings reminds me what a disconnect I have with reality at times.  Or, at least, to the past.  I am my everything.  Sounds very full of hubris, yes?  What I mean is, I have no connection to those words “mother” or “father” in the sense of what they mean or resonate to most people.  I am both of those things, and have always been both of those things, to myself.  In my mind, I was born and then took care of me.  I helped take care of my siblings, and more than that–I survived.  I just was.  That’s just the way I see it — it doesn’t mean it’s right or wrong — that’s just the way it is for me.  I have no sense of family in terms of grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.  I have absolutely no idea about the history of our past in terms of our family tree.  I have small flashes of memories when we were allowed to occasionally see these people, but no deep connections or relationships.  To pair  with that, these people were deemed “crazy” off and on all throughout my life–so those fluxes and scary stories of why they were “crazy” were also added to those on and off changes of what brief roles those people played in my life.  I was my everything, and I took care of me–and did my very, very best to make sure my sisters and my brother survived as well.  My mother and father never really knew me as a person.  They told me who I was–but they never knew me as I was.  They didn’t take the time to.  They had too much of their own insanity going on.  My mom was just doing the best she could to do her own version of surviving.  We were all doing the best we could.  I’m at a place of peace with this now.

The sad part, to me, is that I have no good memories of my past.  It’s blank–a vacuum of empty, white space.  I hear my sisters talk about little anecdotal stories–cute little memories of them playing this or that together–and I get jealous.  I have nothing.  What I do remember is from hearing these stories from them–so all I have is words–no visuals to go with those words.  Unfortunately, I have very strong, horrible visuals of awful memories.  I would love to have some pleasant ones.  But not at the stake of letting any more dark ones in.  The bank is full on those–no more deposits necessary.

I have therapy to thank for those deposits.  Lots and lots of therapy.  It began in college and continued after.  I have my, now husband, to thank for encouraging me to go.  College was one of those things I wish I had to do all over again as a “normal” person–or as a normal crazy person–as I don’t think anyone is really all that normal, right?  Everyone has their issues–even if you grew up in the Clever household.  But, I didn’t realize how truly broken I was until I got to Simpson.  I didn’t realize how completely broken our family was until I got away and started being able to actually spend time with other people’s families–and then it hit like a hot, mad, suffocating, beautiful, nauseous, awful, deafening, painful, all at once rush — your home life is really not okay.  In fact, it’s a twisted, fucked up mess — and all hell broke loose for me.  My sense of reality was ROCKED.  What my dad did was keep us closed off from the outside world as much as he possibly could.  We didn’t get to spend a whole lot of time with the ‘world’.  The outside was bad.  We were bad.  Essentially, everything was ‘bad’ and ‘crazy’.  The only thing that made sense and was good came from him, and the church–the church and god–and a few people here and there–but again, they were off and on again crazy as well.  Just when you got to like a person–you could never see them again–because they were crazy!  You get the idea.  If any person our age liked us or befriended us–they were either just “using” us or a “lesbian”.  It could only be one of those two things.  And once I got too close to a friend, I had to “break up” with this person as my father would fear that this girl had too much control over my life–and was either one of the two afore mentioned things.  So I would be very careful in engaging my emotions with people and be as controlled as possible.  If I cared too much, he would take them away.  And no one could ever possibly love or like us for us–just us–ever.  Crazy, using, or lesbian.  It was a mad, mad, world, baby.

So I struggled.  With a lot.  I always tried to be perfect.  My entire life I tried so damn hard to be perfect.  Wanting to be loved, wanting to be accepted.  Because there must be something really, really intrinsically wrong with you if your own parents, the people who are supposed to love you the most, without question, don’t even like you and think you are vile.

But I could never be perfect.  I memorized my Bible verses.  I prayed and prayed and prayed.  I loved Jesus with all my heart.  I memorized more Bible verses.  We went to church every Sunday.  Wednesdays too.  Private Christian schools until we moved to Norwalk–and then our crazy ideas were blamed on public education.  I got straight A’s and always listened to my teachers and was so respectful.  I tried to be kind to everyone.  And I loved everyone.  I really, really did.  I super, super did.  But here’s the thing.  I didn’t know myself. I didn’t even know I didn’t know myself. I hadn’t even thought about that.  I didn’t even know my own thoughts.  But, not to worry, my father did.  Because god spoke to him.  Directly to him.  God told him things about me.  He told my dad all the evil and awful things that were stirring and whirling around in my brain, things that I didn’t even know I was thinking or was going to think–and for those things–for those very evil and awful things–I needed to be punished–and would be punished–for the rest of my life.  Such a mind fuck.  And there is no arguing with god.  He is always right.  You can’t be–not when you’re 3, not when you’re 7, not when you’re 13, 18, 23, never.  You will NEVER, EVER be right next to god.  There is no use trying.  You might as well learn this thing called helplessness.  Get good and comfortable with it.  Just settle in and give up.

And I never knew when it was going to happen–this all authorative voice from god.  The only sure thing was that it would.  One of my most vivid memories is my dad sitting in his burnt orange, fuzzy chair that nestled in the corner of our apartment in Mankato and me walking out of my bedroom that I shared with my sisters, down that little hallway into the living room where he would sternly sit reading the Bible– and him telling me to go back into the bedroom to pull down my pants because I was going to get a spanking.  Now there were some days that I would argue and some days that I would not.  It depended on how emotionally spent I was and on what level of pain I was willing to tolerate that day.  I ventured to ask why, but I always knew the answer.  Because god had told him what I was thinking, and I was thinking bad thoughts about him.  I was thinking that he was a bad dad and I didn’t love him enough, I needed to love him more, so I needed to be spanked.  The thoughts varied, but it was always the voice of god telling him my thoughts–and I was a child–and he was my dad– so I believed him.  I knew I hadn’t been thinking any such thing, I was just playing with my sisters–but somewhere, at some point–deep down in my brainthat thought MUST have processed–so I deserved to be punished.  I was such an awful person that I didn’t even have control or KNOW when I was thinking bad things.  This continued throughout my entire life with this person I called my father.  And this all seemed so completely normal to me.  Until therapy–until I started saying these things out loud, in a quiet room, with just my voice–and someone who would listen to it.

And I wasn’t able to say these things out loud for awhile.  It was so scary.  And I wasn’t able to get help for awhile.  That too was scary.  Because I had carried so much on my own for so long.  I was my own comfort, my own provider, my own protector for so long–that damn wall was built pretty tall and pretty thick.  Who could I possibly trust with all of this mess?  I was already such a pathetic, disgusting excuse for a human being.  Did I really need to mar the image further?

We worked so hard as kids.  I worked so hard all my little life.  Every summer we had to have a full time job.  That was of the upmost importance at our house and I remember stressing so much over it.  I completely dreaded summers.  In fifth grade I paid for all of my own clothes, any toiletries, anything I needed–because that’s what being a family was all about.  I did this by babysitting for two little boys full time–every day but Saturday and Sunday–cooking and cleaning and taking care of Chris and Alex from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.–I remember this only from my diary.  That $600 and some dollars I saved up from all my babysitting jobs was then sometimes ‘borrowed’ from my dad.  My sister, Jen, and I also worked in a bindery–not the most suitable place for kids.  Glad I still have my fingers.  Ha.  We have some great stories from that place.  I thought that would be the scariest boss I ever had in my life.  We mostly babysat, stuffed envelopes, tried our hand at telemarketing, retail, grocery store stuff–from little tikes to high school.  It’s good to work hard.  Yes.  But it’s good to be able to be kids too.  On top of outside jobs, we also cleaned the house, we cooked, we cared for each other.  It completely blows my mind what we did at such young ages–what we were responsible for.  Maybe because we had to be.  This did not translate over to my father.  After work he would sit.  Sit at the computer.  Sit and read.  Sit and judge.  Sit and watch TV.  Sit and judge some more.  And he would bounce from job to job to job.  We moved all the time.  It was never explained to us.  We were just suddenly — “moving”.  Living in one house to the next — some having gaping holes in the floors, rotting windows, bugs, questionable structure — but we used our imaginations — made fantastic adventures out of it– and we survived.  There was one beautiful home (a real house!)–the L’Abri house — Swiss for, ‘the shelter’–I believe–in Rochester, Minnesota–three schools in one year for me — sixth grade — but we had to leave that place — all those Christian Swiss Schaffer people were crazy too.  We finally settled in Norwalk, which is where I lived the longest part of my life.  We did manage to move three times while living in Norwalk, however.  One move was while I was nannying for a family over the summer on the east coast.  Life was always chaos.

From constant spankings for bad thoughts and taking up too much air and space in a world meant for holier and better people, to being thrown into and barred against walls, to being thrown onto couches and chairs and sat on for what ever period of time my father deemed appropriate –not being able to move, to breathe– he moved on to another form of complete humiliation.  Women were less then.  The Bible pointed this out countless times, to my father.  He treated my mother this way.  ‘Submission’, ‘submit’–these were never words used in love or reverence–they were used to instill fear and to remind someone that they were made to serve and do all things for men–however demeaning.  Women were afterthoughts of God created to serve.   I hated seeing my mother being treated like this.

My entire life was lived in fear.  Just waiting to see what my father would take from me next.  He had my thoughts, my confidence, my freedom–next came any dignity I had left.

As desperately as I continued to try to be perfect, I still constantly had bad thoughts and was so very stupid, despite incredible grades and all the books I devoured and the religious dogma I would vomit to attempt to appease my father.  If I agreed with everything he said, he’d be happy, right?  When it came down to it,  I still really wanted him to love me.  However, very occasionally, I began to have these really annoying things called my own opinions–especially when it came to how he treated my mother.  I worried for her.  I prayed for her.  And ever so often, if I got brave enough, I stood up for her.  Sixth grade.  I only remember how old I was because of the house we lived in–standing on the hard wood floors, trying to cover my body with my hands–cold and crying–completely naked.  He would make me strip down to absolutely nothing and scream at me–just stand there screaming at me and staring at me–and when I would try to cover myself, he would make me put my hands to my side.  Despite this newest form of punishment, I would still stand up for her.  I wanted her to be happy and find her voice.  If I couldn’t have one, I really wanted her to have one of her own.  She deserved that.  God would probably tell him that bad thought too.  He also timed my showers–and by this I mean, he would stand in the bathroom and watch me take a shower to make sure I wasn’t using too much water–because I was also heinously awful at doing this (I couldn’t even take a shower the “right” way).  Wasting anything was just gluttony.  This began my freshman year of high school.  I would take every opportunity to shower when he wasn’t home.  And, oddly enough, this all seemed so very normal to me.  Completely humiliating, but just another average day at our house.  And I could go on and on and on about what that all does to a young girl and her body image and sexuality and so on and so forth, but really,  I just can’t go there…

These things I remember, these things and other things that there is absolutely no reason to go into.   Many times I wish my mind was still blank.  I understand the repression business for survival–the pushing back to move on–and my therapists all feeling the need to bring things to light to move forward–I just wish some good things had come out of all the dark things–because those dark memories are so vivid–I can smell the air, feel the carpet, and often wake up vomiting or drenched in sweat.  One happy memory would be lovely.  My sisters are welcome to share.  I love listening to them and their giggles.  I want to giggle with memories.

The word “perception” was used quite often in our house by my father.  When ever we would dare to question anything, he would tell us that that was only our “perception” of reality.  What we “perceived” to be happening wasn’t really happening, that was just what we were feeling and our feelings could not be trusted.  With one fancy word–our feelings were completely invalidated.  I hate that word.  Hate it.  Yes, you have your perceptions–but verbs, actions done TO you ARE what they ARE and continue to BE what they ARE regardless of how you feel–or anyone else feels–about them.  It was a world of constant manipulation.  I was forever fighting for my sanity–and some days, I still feel this way.

Because even though I am not living “in” it anymore, I am still living “with” it–and sometimes that line can get a little blurry…  Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am an adult, that this is my house, and that he can’t hurt me anymore.  For REAL.  I have to REMIND myself–say it out loud–and remind myself that it’s over.

And I question many of the decisions I’ve made in my life, as everyone does, I suppose.  I’ve made lots of mistakes and wished I could do so many things over again.  Wished I had been a stronger person, a different person.  I don’t feel like I ever had the chance to truly be a child–yet I always feel like one in a grown up body (and that infuriates me so often)–I’m a big mix of all these extremes that don’t make any sense–but make perfect sense to me.  Some days, I just want someone to “get” me.  Some days that really, really matters.

And while it’s so very scary to share your soul tattoos and vulnerability, there’s also a part of me that has no shame in it as well.  I’m extremely proud of all of us.  ALL of us.  Because we clung to this thing inside us that rang out “you are divine” despite that madness that tried to beat it out of us.  We clung like hell. And so I get a little defensive when the world tries to tell me or any of us that we are less than. Because we are all SO much more than–so much MORE.  I have amazing siblings and one incredible momma that have fought through a war and come out the other side with such incredible grace.  You don’t mess with us.  You just DON’T.  I may look all fragile, honey, but I will not back down if you touch any one of them.

And in the mix of all this is my husband.  And I often wonder, when I’m in that mood, if I would have gotten married if I had been in a different place.  I love my husband, and I loved my husband then–but it wasn’t from a place of romantic love, and I’m not even sure I know what that is or that I have ever experienced that.  And while fear and trying to escape isn’t a very romantic or even an incredibly laudable reason to get married, it sure is a convenient, and for some of us, seemingly necessary one.  I also had this absolutely insane notion that if I told my father that I was engaged it would make everything okay in my family — that my getting married was the magical antidote that this crazy mess needed to normalize itself.  I had the entire scenario playing in my head–peace would enfold–and all would be right with the world–when I proved to my father–when I had actual physical PROOF to show my father in the form of a ring–a real ring on my finger–that someone LOVED me, someone WANTED me, someone was WILLING to spend the REST of their LIFE with me–SEE, I WAS WORTH something!!!  This made me worth something, right? Someone LOVES me, DAD!!!  I’m a valid human being!!!  So, this makes it okay that I am breathing and existing, so it’s okay for everyone else to breathe and exist too!!!  The universe can carry on!!!!!!  That was my plan.  THEY plan, in fact, to make all things new.  It seriously back fired into a kind of crazy that even I didn’t see coming (and I had seen a lot of crazy)…

They weren’t happy for me.  I’m not sure about my mom. She wasn’t entitled to her own feelings.  But, happiness was never truly happiness at our house.  A person was never really happy, even when one thought they were happy.  So, what was happiness, really?  My dad said he wanted no part of the wedding–then proceeded to call me a whore and a bunch of other things while standing in front of the door as I tried to leave the house–as I was wondering why I had ever decided to even TRY to share this moment with these people–why I had ever thought something precious or beautiful wouldn’t be trampled on and broken to pieces–and proceeded to try to push me down to my knees and tell me that I needed to beg for his forgiveness for not coming to him and asking for his permission and then telling my fiancé and I that we needed to spend the next six months living with them under his instruction in the word of god.  Marty said, ‘no thanks’ and told my dad he’d call the police if he didn’t move away from the door and let us leave.  NO ONE had ever stood up for me like that to my dad.  NO ONE.  NO ONE had EVER put up with my family’s crap and total insanity like this man I was about to marry–NO ONE.  Marty didn’t flinch, didn’t show fear, didn’t waver–he just said–move, or else…  and that was that.  I needed thatI needed out of crazy and I needed that–so desperately.  The rest of our wedding was just hard–to put it mildly.  Some day we will do that day over.  And my sisters and my brother and my mom will all be a beautiful part of it and it will be amazing, Jen (that is such a fun word).  Yes, someday, we will have a re-do, for me and for my mom (love you so much, Mom).

And no one put up with my crazy like Marty did.  Oh my Lord I was insecure–and I think I always may be to some extent–and I’ve come to accept that about myself–kind of as part of my me-ness–although it is something I am always trying to improve on–one of the oh so many things.  I am a constant work in progress.  My mind was never my own, my body was never my own, and from the moment I could understand words, I was told I was not okay.  That equation does not add up to strong confidence muscles for most people.  I lived in fear my entire life–of this large man–that heard the voice of god–and never knowing what that voice was going to say or how that voice would effect me or my family–where we were going to live–if I should make attachments to friends that would more than likely be taken away–and I just so desperately wanted everyone to be okay.  This constant fear made me a pretty sickly little thing.  My body internalized everything–because I most certainly couldn’t talk to anyone about it–those bad, bad people that made up the outside and couldn’t be trusted.  The stress made me sick.  My body was just wearing itself out.  I’m still dealing with this after math.

I can’t say I dealt with everything perfectly in my life.  I made bad choices.  I’m pretty lucky to be here.  It could have been a lot worse, I suppose.  I think most of us can say that too, sigh.  I messed around with not eating and eating too much–and then running and running and running.  I just wanted the hurt to stop–and running until I was completely and physically spent seemed to do the trick.  I don’t want to get into the other.  It’s too much right now.  I was too controlled to become an alcoholic or abuse drugs.  I won’t say that I didn’t try.  It just didn’t work.  But anorexia, bulimia, and becoming an exercise fanatic suited me just fine.  For once in my freaking life, I had some fucking control over something–and it felt really, really good.  Of course, I developed heart issues and this weird thing called neurally mediated syncope.  God held me.  He always held me.  He never let go.  I came to understand that voice in my father’s ear was never His.  It was never, EVER His.

Then these weird black out moments started happening to me my senior year of college.  Short periods of time would lapse that I couldn’t remember.  It would typically be later in the evening, thankfully, when I was very tired–after some time of duress–finals, some kind of intense stress–and Marty started telling me these strange stories that I didn’t ever quite believe (he was kind of a jokester, so I thought he was just being funny and pulling my leg–where in the world does that weird expression come from?).  So he started tape recording them (remember those things?–man, I feel old).  As he played the cassette tapes back to me, I would get chills.  That voice wasn’t mine, but it was mine.  He would ask me questions, and I would answer–as a child–talking to him like I didn’t know him.  It was creepy and utterly freaked me out.  I told myself–screamed at myself–it was a fluke.  It would go away.  I was just stressed and tired (as a psychology minor, then major, then minor again, I was horrified–I was THAT person).  Then I’d wake up the next morning and he’d tell me, “you were seven again”.  I needed help.  Dear God, I was certifiably insane…

And that’s when all the years of therapy began.  Neutrally colored offices and couches–safe places.  Is that why I like to decorate in neutrals so much?  Hmmmmm… I had really never had anyone listen to all of my crazy.  I had never really been able to share without fear.  Occasionally I had tried to reach out–but there was always someone listening–always–whether it be on the other end of the phone, on the top of the stairs, going through my diaries–and I could never shake that fear of that presence being there.  And so it took a long time for me to talk.  To KNOW I was SAFE.  This was a safe place.  He wasn’t going to get me here.  I could breathe, exhale, I could speak–and I would not die.  Marty even came with me a few times.  A pretty incredible guy.

And once I got comfortable, the words would not come so easily.  So much had been pushed back so very far–in order for me to function, to put one foot in front of the other, to breathe, to get up each day, to exist, for it to be OKAY to exist–so all kinds of different therapy began, medications, exercises–and it was such hard work, friends, many, many years of hard, uncomfortable work–and often times I felt very alone–because this wasn’t just my journey–but I was the only one sitting on these couches sharing it.  But I knew I had to–if I wanted any kind of life for myself–I knew I had to.

And I couldn’t go back there for awhile–to that place that I called home.  I had to heal.  And that process was muddled and messy and involved and all I wanted to do was reach out and save my sisters and a very little sister and brother and I just wanted to buy a big, big house and take them all with me–and I couldn’t do that–so I would just cry and pray and cling to some day, and cry and cling and pray some more to God that someday it would all be better–God, please help us all make it to “some day”.  And, as most of you know, He did.  Let’s pause for a moment.  That’s pretty freaking fabulous and incredible, isn’t it?

But my father would still try his best to intimidate — by leaving his business card in the door of my apartment or home when we moved–just to let me know that he knew where I lived, sending strange birthday cards with awful letters letting me know that he forgave me and would continue to forgive me for being such a terrible person and daughter — and his own mother even got on board with this one for a few years — he would also show up to my place of work — which I didn’t know until later — I just thought my boss was being super sweet when he spontaneously took me out to lunch or for ice cream (he was a super sweet boss-what an incredible family I had at Meredith).  Then there was the call I received from my father’s ex-wife’s lawyer about a year after we moved into our new home in Carlisle (my mother divorced my father when my oldest son was three months old)–they had been married all of a year–and she wanted me to help her with her divorce.  Really???  I fell to a ball on the floor and just started trembling in fear and rocking back and forth with tears streaming down my face.  How did you get this number?  Does he have this number?  Leave me alone!  When will this shit ever end?  I felt for this woman, a little, but honestly not a whole lot, I got myself together and kindly told her lawyer to please lose my number and never, ever call me again.  You were married to this man for a year.  Your children, whom I’m sure are quite lovely, had him as a step father for a year.  I have carried this for a life time and am dealing with my own pain.  I am done.  It may sound incredibly selfish, but I don’t care.  I don’t owe you anything.  I was a child and barely able to help myself — as an adult, I think you will be just fine.  And that was the day my oldest son found out that my African American step father was not his real grandpa or my real dad.  So, there is a smile in that little story and memory.  He never saw grandpa Homer’s skin.  He just saw him as my real dad and never, ever questioned it.  He’s simply grandpa and Mommy’s dad to my boys.  And that’s just perfect to me.  God, I love my boys!

Speaking of my boys, they are playing Wii, very loudly, downstairs.  I’ve tried to bribe their decibel level down with ice cream.  It’s so hard to think and type all this emotion out.  This has taken me all day.   It’s also so very hard to be quiet when you’re playing  a competitive Wii tournament against your brother. I open my eyes and look around me and am blown away by my blessings–and there it is again–that disconnect between what was and what is.  It just seems so unreal.  I praise Jesus every day–every single night and day–and many hours in-between…

I can’t imagine my life without these two treasures and miracles that call me Mom.  Yet, I never thought I wanted kids.  I felt I had raised kids already and I was SO AFRAID (there’s that fear again) that I would be the most HORRIFIC parent.  SO afraid.  Let me hone that in a bit–I was so afraid I would be my parents.  We learn in all these psychology classes that abuse is cyclical.  It’s presented to us as almost inescapable.  I didn’t want that for me.  I didn’t want that for any human being that came from me.  That’s lazy garbage.  We are capable of MORE.  We are capable of BETTER.  We can rise above how we were treated.  We are not slaves to what was put upon us, dealt us–we can want more for ourselves and for our future.  It makes me angry that this crap is even put in our heads.  It’s an excuse to easily slide in– to easily continue–an easy cop out (‘well, my Dad did it to me’–and trust me, I heard that–we were often told what terrible parents my father had–unless he wanted money from them– and were often told how fortunate we were to have such great ones).  It’s saying–well, that’s all they know, so that’s what they do.  Hell no, you know BETTER–because you know that it felt like absolute hell and you know that you want no human being to EVER feel that way–so you do everything–yes EVERYTHING in your power to do your best to make your little corner of the world a safe, nurturing and loving place for your kids to grow.  That’s how it works.  Know better, do better, and rise above.  Why on earth would you want to perpetuate the pain?

There are many things I will remember my husband’s mom saying to me while we were dating–but this one often sticks out–and it relates to the above.  When I began to question a few family things that arose, as all families have family things that arise, she told Marty that I didn’t understand how real families work because mine was so dysfunctional.  I don’t fault her for that.  I understood where she was coming from.  She thought that I didn’t get what being a family was all about because mine was so bad–so I didn’t understand real family dynamics, essentially.  And I’m sure many people believe that people like me don’t get what it means to be family, what it means to have a family — but here’s the thing — we “get it” even better…

Because here’s the thing about truth–when you’ve been in the darkness for so long, submerged, struggling just to see a glimmer of hope, to catch just a glimpse of sunshine–once you see that light–holy holiness!!!!!!!!–that light shines SO BRIGHT–and you hold on tight!  And by being forced to live everything we don’t want for ourselves for so long, by not being allowed to have choices or voices for so long, oh my goodness–we are MORE than able to hone in on what we DO want for ourselves and for our families–and we are willing to work so hard for it–to fight for it– and we are far less likely to put up with any inauthenticity, dishonesty, or bullshit, for lack of a better word.  Because we’ve been there–and we don’t want our kids going through that–and frankly–we’ve done OUR time–and we don’t need to go through any of that again.  Oh, we so GET IT, honey.  And we are bringing the truth with us!  This little light of mine?  I’m gonna let it shine! 

I find it so easy for people to judge and to have all the answers–standing up on high places–where those deep waters of life’s knock out, drag out circumstances, those test your faith and your tomorrows circumstances, haven’t had to rush over you.  Where you’re neck deep on a good day.  I’m not saying you have to go through diresville to be kind and compassionate.  No.  That’s what empathy is for.  I’m just trying to pull some positive out of the mire for those of us that have lived it and maybe gotten a few too many of it’s fumes stuck in our lungs and nostrils.  We’re less likely to judge you and more likely to hold your hand.  You are my sister.  You are my brother.  And I know, by grace and by God’s mercy, we are all just really, trying to do the best we can.  And if we can just let go of pretenses, our egos, our if only’s, our what ifs, and all of our made up structures of what it means to be “good” people–and just LOVE the living crap out of each other, and help each other be brave when we are scared, I really think this world has the makings to be a decent place.  Because it’s how we live, how we love, and how we take care of each other that makes us who we are.  And that’s it.

Things from the outside can look so perfect.  So Bible-icious even–  and be the darkest, crumbliest, evilest mess you ever saw.  That’s how my family was.  Some of the worst and most disgusting people I have ever known went to church every single Sunday and devoutly read their Bibles.  They did a stupendous job of telling everyone else how rotten they were and how to live their lives by the letter of the law.

But love, that amazing (love you, Jen) “l” word–that word is a verb–a DOING word–so we have to live it.  We have to live it because people need us to.  People like me.  That’s how we show Jesus.  We love them.  And I truly believe that THAT–yes THAT–is what heals everything.  One moment and many, many moments that make up years at a time–as we walk this little journey — this little life of ours–that is but a little blip on God’s radar of eternity.  We just keep loving.

And every night I pray for all of you that have survived abuse.  I pray for those of you that are in it.  I pray that you may find safety.  I pray that you may find peace.  I pray that you may find hope.  I pray that you can breathe and be and know your preciousness, your value, your worth, you beautiful divinity.  Our journey is never over–soul tattoos are forever–but when you surround yourself with the love of people who nourish your spirit and soul and honor your divine and take one day, sometimes one breath at a time–you can be.  And sometimes just being–well, it’s enough.  Much love to all of you.  Know you are so much more than.  Oh dear God, you are so much more than any of your pain…  and in one of my favorite quotes from Joe from the movie “Super 8” — “I know bad things happen, but you can still live…” 

 

I want to dedicate this to my sister, Erin, who is an awesome nanny to one of the cutest little flowers, Rose, and an incredibly talented artist of the canvas–who sees things that I could never see–and translates them into beautiful colors and images for the entire world to see.  She is brave, she is thoughtful, she is kind, she is sassy, she is gorgeous.  She is an incredible listener.  She has awesome tattoos.   She is everything I want to be when I grow up.  She is married to an incredible man named Harold.  She is one rocking aunt.

My sister, Jennifer, who is amazing, and loves to use the word amazing–who has one of the most expansive hearts that spreads so wide and so far it may just eat the whole world up.  She is an actress, a deep thinker, a listener of body language, a teacher, a helper of humanity.  She is gentle, reverent, beautiful, brave, kind, and thoughtful.  She has an easy spirit and makes you feel like you are home anywhere you are.  She is also everything I want to be when I grow up.  She is also one rocking aunt.

My sister, Molly, who is saving all of God’s living creatures–be it animal or vegetation.  She will cuddle and risk her life for both.  She is lovely in spirit and visage, so gentle and caring, and has a grace about her that one can feel as well as see.  She doesn’t talk much, but when she does, you better listen.  It will be funny or relevant or both.  She is very wise. She has a four legged son named Kai who is all Husky.  She is also everything I want to be when I grow up.  She is also one rocking aunt.

My brother, Tim, who’s sarcastic, quick wit should really be making him big bucks–but he’s far too humble.  He is a talented musician, singer, songwriter, guitarist, and more than likely the master of many more instruments I am not aware of.    His knowledge of brews and beers is enviable.  It’s really a shame I loathe beer.  He is intelligent, he is kind, he is thoughtful, he is handsome, he is talented, and generally one of the most amazing men I know.  He is married to a beautiful woman named Jenna.  He is one rocking uncle.  He is also everything I want to be when I grow up.

And my mother, Marlou,  is so many things.  A gifted musician, singer, writer, teacher, gardener, nutritionist, reader, and “knower of yots of fings”, as Griffyn says.  I’d like to add, as the years have gone by, an incredible friend, who has taken care of me and shown me so innately what that feels like.  It feels really, really good.  She is so very thoughtful, kind, generous, beautiful, caring, and one amazing grandma to my boys.  I am really enjoying getting to know this woman.  I am finding pieces of myself in her.  She is also everything I want to be when I grow up.

And all of these amazing people, truly, truly amazing people, I am blessed to call my family–are so much MORE THAN–ever so much more than–I could ever put into words or expression.  I love them with all my heart and am so incredibly blessed by their light and presence on this earth.  They are my story, my journey–little pieces of all of them carried inside of this person that makes up me–and the gift of who they are, the gift of getting to know those people, these miracles of people, that is the most amazing and precious miracle of all…

Peace, dear ones…

peace…

 

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