Words: On Trump, but Mostly My Dad

Politics are not my thing, but a little nagging voice inspired me to write about Trump’s disparaging comments about women. Saturday night, with my laptop on my lap and a glass of wine (from France, of course), I sat down and let my fingers type their way through the messiness to find meaning in the words.

What Trump said out loud wasn’t shocking to me. Nor had I placed him on a pedestal high enough to induce feverish anger. To me, the news was as blasé as hot dogs for dinner.

But I was unhinged about something. The words poured out Helter Skelter crazy with no sensibility to them. The slant finally began to drift toward my father.

Ah yes, my father.

He had been in town last week. Knowledge of his proximity had rendered me into a weak-kneed, vulnerable scaredy cat. My heart raced at the first phone call. I did not answer.

My dad, father to three girls, was known for the opposite of exquisite praise. Fed up with bickering, he would say, “Good God I wish I had boys. One punch and it’s over.” Then he’d shove a triple decker of Saltines with cheese in his mouth.

His method of parenting: insult. He swallowed food. I swallowed anger. As I grew, the words inside me built from Shut up to I hate you! Of course, I never said any of these out loud. Well, maybe I did. Yes, I did. But nothing answered the eternal burn of his influence: What’s wrong with me?CircleRocks

As it is, I love my father. I recognize the gap left by unmet needs that made him violent and explosive, drunk and unpredictable. Still, in his presence I waver between the woman who deserves respect and the daughter who yearns to make her father proud.

I have no say in the latter. I never did. Growing up, my sisters and I were present and vulnerable to his needs—the needs we should never have had to shore up with our innocence. His words diced us into shards just as a fist punches. The pain wasn’t visible, but the scars will last a lifetime.

My father’s words speak of the culture that raised him. He had no say over it. It is forgivable.

But I couldn’t summon the strength to answer the phone the second time he called. I was afraid he would avoid the conversation I need with him. I was afraid I would cave in to his needs and avoid it too. My love for my father is courageous and raw, wild and stray. I no longer want to feed it, but I can let it run.

I know this hurts him. People are wild, we hurt each other. But we can stop hurting with words.

Words make all the difference.

Words: My Top Ten Realizations After One Year of Awareness

I’ll never forget Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014. My eyes bolted open from sleep. The words My God, they are against me, cycled through my brain. Memories played out in a backwards reel: Christmas 2013, France 2005, wedding day 1996, 16th birthday 1987, a broken collarbone 1975.

I had THE AWAKENING I needed, the one I feared most: My family is against me. From this perspective, my life suddenly made sense. Emotional abuse. Neglect. Why hadn’t I seen the collective significance of these events sooner? Each experience was a pearl on the necklace of emotional corrosion. Through the years, the more I resisted its presence, the tighter the necklace squeezed life from me.

I know now that denial and dignity have a very tight grasp on each other. I’ve learned other things as well. Whether or not you’ve experienced abuse in your life, the universal elements of my experience transcend to every person on the planet. I’m happy to share with you:

MY TOP TEN REALIZATIONS AFTER ONE YEAR OF AWARENESS

  1. The power of voice is a gift you give yourself.
  2. Fear is a four-letter word that can go %$#* itself.
  3. Most people are wounded. Most people aren’t doctors. Nobody is required to heal anyone.
  4. Believe in yourself. Believe in yourself. Believe in yourself. Even if no one else does.
  5. God empowers. He lets you scream at the ones who’ve hurt you. Then, you forgive them. (Forgiveness does not mean tolerance.)
  6. Awareness is like mercury, it forms into small balls and rolls all over.
  7. Ignorance is like mercury, it forms into small balls and rolls all over.
  8. Ego is best served like chilled Jell-O: jiggly and resilient to tremors. Otherwise, it stains your shirt.
  9. Mirrors work best when clean.
  10. Life is too short for pain. Don’t take it. Just don’t take it.

Sincerely and with love,

Barbie

Words: The Scar on My Face

A one inch scar sweeps out from my lower lip. It is a solitary line of residue from a mountain bike wreck, a scurry to the E.R., a thick, deep pain, a bag of frozen peas pressed to my face. It is a permanent mark of one failed attempt, a dash from one moment to the next, a crash course in physics, an alteration.

One year passed before the wound tempered without a peppered assault of tingling nerves. One year of sag-stitched smiles before necessary muscles regained proper composure. One year for the trench to deepen. One year for a repaired version of myself.

To me, the scar is not a reminder of what occurred, rather it is evidence of what didn’t: a minor concussion-not brain injury, a temporary setback-not debilitation, a chance- not closure.

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Life is a series of dashes, failed attempts, and alterations. Deep, meaningful lines carve into our blood, bones, and soul. Temporary numbness masks the compositions we are ill prepared to see, and time, our fairest friend, reveals everything we are meant to be.

Am I Worthy?

I spent the evening nestled on the couch drinking a Leffe beer as I typed beautiful words of my life story. They streamed without effort and I relished the occasion as a gift. The ability to find beauty in my words has been adrift as of late, and the agony of capturing them has resulted in empty nets. I allowed myself to savor the meat of the hunt.

Frustration is normal in new endeavors. I committed to writing my story, acknowledging moments of brain-wrenching attempts were not only likely, but certain. I’ll power through, I thought, ignore the struggle and just write. 

If only! I wish I could power through but a voice inside my head tells me “That’s not good enough“, and, “That’s terrible”. I have a Critic and he (yes, it’s a he) has very high standards. I wonder if I am capable of ever meeting the expectations of this guy. He is relentless.

I put myself in control, told the Critic to make a paper airplane and ride it to Crash and Burn. Unfortunately, the Critic is a phoenix and can rise from ashes. If anyone knows how to eliminate the Critic, will you please share the secret?

Fishing Net

He is not the only power to stab a screwdriver into my Solar Plexus. Barriers in my life stem from a greater force that weighs heavy on the Self. I remain stuck in the mentality that I must prove my worth to the world. My creativity is marred by the Quest to Prove…my intelligence, goodness, worth, purpose. I struggle to believe these qualities define me. 

As a child, I failed to hear I was precious and unique. I sought to prove my worth  a multitude of ways, only to pull out an empty net. Crippled by repetition, my muscles still pull the same direction.

Incomplete childhood pursuits that exist into adulthood waste valuable energy and are toxic to authenticity. Tears fall for the fullness and simplicity I’ve missed. I write this as a testament of shedding the long-held belief I must prove my worth. Inspiration surrounds me every day with imperfect beauty and human connection. I am worthy simply by finding value in life’s gifts. You are one of them. 

Lemon Drops

On Abuse and Terrorism

I have found similarities between abuse and terrorism-one is just a private version of the other.

Since naming my family’s undesirable treatment of me, I’ve searched for meaning and understanding of its presence. Abuse is a difficult word to use with the people you love, but accepting the term allowed me to identify the truth of the role I played in the family system. As the scapegoat, I was expected to carry the blame of the family’s dysfunction, and as long as I accepted this task, we could pretend everything was just fine.

Adapting to the role was never a choice I declared, nor was it a haphazard choice of my parents. At a very young age, indeed before memory serves me, one of my parents, most likely my mother, selected me as the one to carry the burden. My father, then, remained the silent enabler. I exhibited scapegoat qualities: strength and empathy, innate characteristics that any dysfunctional family would seek to excuse them from self-blame, because after all, she can take it and she will love them, even if it hurts.

The scapegoat’s duty is not to question or to argue the situation, for if that happened (and it did), she is quickly shut down with a guilt-inducing, abusive response. The parents need her to oblige to the responsibilities of the role, because by confronting the situation, she confronts the parents’ inadequacies-the inadequacies they are unwilling to accept of themselves. These shortcomings stem from a wounded childhood and any variety of lack that is present in their life: financial, educational, emotional, spiritual, health, societal. Often unresolved grief (from childhood abuse, a divorce, or a death, or any combination thereof) shoulders the dysfunctional family with a cocktail of deficiencies that exacerbate and perpetuate the abusive situation.

The child is a vessel into which the parents pour their pain, and she is denied liberty to express the injustice. So far, the scapegoat has lost two freedoms that are rightfully hers: the right to a healthy childhood and the right to speak her mind. She has also lost much more: trust.

My search for understanding and meaning has caused me to hunt for human connection, found in other unspeakable scenarios. The violence in Paris has uprooted a flurry of woes in me. As a teenager, learning to speak French was a path away from my pain to a land of never-hurt. French gave me hope when I was hopeless. French gave me freedom from my entrapment. French gave me a goal when I was talentless.

To see France hurt pains me. I feel the injustice because I, too, have felt injustice. I feel the slam of silenced voice because I also have been silenced. I feel the fear, because I have felt the fear one experiences when one loses trust.

Despite the pain, I triumphed. I awoke each day with a new hope that it might be less bleak than the day before. The days fell into months which fell into years, and eventually I regained my ability to trust. More than 20 years after the childhood days of pain, I remain a strong and empathetic human. After decades, my voice is allowed freedom.

While I speak out for France, I also speak out for the injustice of abuse. Terrorism is rampant in our world and it’s rampant in our homes. To understand violence is pointless-evil has no explanation that logically excuses its existence. To understand abuse brings the same result.

But I find meaning in the aftermath. Traumatic experiences build trust through our shared vulnerabilities. Communal pain tightens the circle of humanity, uniting us with tears, cuts, and scars. We all have a different story, a different experience, but no matter how badly we hurt, we always hurt less when we are with others. 

The survivors of abuse, as with terrorism, would be wise to forgive the wrong-doers. Forgiveness allows healing. Healing allows voice. Voice allows sharing. Sharing allows living. Let’s not live in pain and silence.