She sat across from me trying to be a million miles away. Hiding her face behind a tissue as if she could just disappear like an infant playing peek-a-boo. Be blissful and innocent-where there’s no pain. No words like death. I grabbed her hand against her will and collapsed it into mine. Allowed it to melt and the world wash away for just a moment. I asked for us both to take a deep breath and talk about IT. Talk about death.
Now who in the hell wants to lay in that pile of shit? And like all smelly things, its messy.
Death means body parts stop working, things breaking down like a salvage junk yard. “Welcome to Pull-A-Part! Where you slowly loose yourself against your will!” Parts fall off along the way to the back door. First the front end. Then a carburetor. Then the whole damn transmission. The rest of us are left standing on the side lines having been invited to a show we did not want admission to. With not one DAMN thing we can do; helplessness is like swallowing a box of rusted nails for dinner with no chaser.
I asked her what she needed. She finally sobbed and shook her head unknowingly. How do we ever really know what the reaper will leave at the feet of the living? Perhaps just more rusted nails to swallow. And although I cannot swallow them for her, I can be the chaser that makes the pain sting a little less. I can SHOW UP. You don’t leave your people to stand in the wasteland on their own. You show the fuck up. Not in the let me toss a casserole at you while I whiz by your house, but the kind where you are there. In IT.
As a friend, I am fierce. It may be intense at times- and it’s not uncommon I get that look of, ‘WHY oh why are you saying this hard-ass thing to me right now?’ But I will. I have made the mistake of letting it pass by and it is one of the few regrets I live with today. I think it’s a regret that at the end of of life, we all think about.
I hear story after story of humans attempting to make another human connection. Craving that rich, deep sense of good love shown in bright eyes staring back at them- smiling, laughing and maybe even crying. What is so painful is how often the moment gets lost in the business of life and soon the friendship is lost because one too many moments have crept on by.
I can’t say I won’t be guilty of some moments- but I refuse to not show up when it matters. It is the sugar of life that makes so much of the bitterness melt away. When moments are difficult, we cannot cut and run. If we do not want to be left in the wasteland lonely, eating our rusted nails of grief and loss, then we are called to do the same. I said to my spouse recently that we are entering into the season of our lives where death is knocking. If we are friends- I will be your fierce warrior. I could also be a little intense and annoying (like I am licking your face non-consentually), but I will be there. And I hope you will too.
I sat across from my now 11 1/2 year old kiddo the other day and she asked me about a struggle I have obviously been grappling with for many months. As she completed a task that I once did for her, she wondered about my fears in the loss. Of course it’s part wonderful, like magic in that some time has been returned that was once lost in the abyss of bathtime and food preparation. But, I am not needed in the same way I once was.
I have never been the mother of the year type. I sometimes lack in the “appropriateness” department and my honest and very open relationship with my daughter puts worried looks on even the Not-moms. My sweet husband would like to curb my language and gives me this look when she repeats a story I have obviously said in her presence….that she remembers word FOR WORD. Perhaps what I lack in rich emotional love I make up for in unprecedented style.
But so it goes. The world changes and I gotta get on the bandwagon of different or I will be left behind. And although I believe there will always be a way to make relationship with my daughter, I really worry even more that I will not always be able to create and re-create a relationship with my truth. Do you ever fear that all the truth will run out? I fear all the words will be used up and there will be no more to say. Not in the scarcity kind of way- like the Meltons and Brown’s of the world have used up all the spaces to speak the truth- but more like, it has been said and now there is nowhere else to go.
It is so difficult to tell our truth in words. And I have done that most of my adult life. I have journals beginning from the age of ten and I have started, wrote and continued to write stories in conjunction with those journals for the past decade along with writing here for the past four and half years. And so I wonder, when all is forgiven, when you tell the world your truth and you make those honest attempts without pushing it into people’s faces, is it over?
I so often feel I have so much more to give, like I literally bleed all over the place with words and feelings and truthyness. But I sometimes ache for a little gratitude and someone to take notice of it. That can already be difficult in my line of work because what is transformed is completely behind closed doors. Sometimes I am left unsure if what I do as a therapist even has the kind of impact on those around me I wish for. I wonder sometimes if all the silent things I do in the name of humility even get noticed. I then begin to wonder if I am just a selfish bratty truth-teller, who cannot get it their way and should really stop acting like a spoiled bitch who has nothing- when in fact, I have so much.
The fear of not being needed is complicated. Showing up and paying attention to my life and yours comes with heaps of joy and consequences. I grow. You grow. Things change. And the words that are so hard to tell get written and I feel free. But are they still needed? Will I ever cross the threshold to a larger path that takes me to a place that wants to hear what I have to say? I grossly deny chasing the platitudes and yet, truth telling gets lonely sometimes. I think its why I hang onto people like Brené and Glennon, as if we are friends-it feels like they speak my complicated and sometimes garbled language.
Today, I am afraid all the truth in me has been used up. I know in part it’s ridiculous, but what happens when we are really not needed any longer? Does anyone pay any attention and does it really matter if anyone is paying attention? Cuz the humility monger in me reminds me that if I am not humble then I am just another yackity girl blabbering away about how I need shiny lights on me…… And that, friend’s, is flattering to No One.
So whether I like it or not- I sit slathered in IT. I have buttered myself into this corner and I am unsure of how to clean the grease away. I always tell a client that my goal is that ‘I am no longer needed.’ Although true, how about a sprinkle of irony coming from a girl who fears at 41 years old becoming obsolete?
Today I made myself sit and stare at it. Just sit and look- see it more closely. Normally, I would flip past it, hide it and even become angry about it. Why did I have to see this? Why am I being tortured with the notion of having a seemingly mindless moment to only be flooded with memories of his face- HIS FACE!
But today, I just examined without judgement of myself or him.
I took a moment to wonder about the lives of those that did care about him, those that suffer because he is gone and remember that his (possible) children lost him for so long because of what I did.
Just a year ago my brother and perpetrator took his own life. My sweet sweet sister told me, I suppose knowing that I would want to know- but not exactly why. I looked at the message and slumped down onto the bedroom floor and began to shake with grief-relief. Maybe we call that griefalief? All my life I have been attached to this person whether it was in my heartache and rage as an adolescent to the rebirth out of the ashes of his abuse as an adult. I have learned how to carry him with me inside the story I tell, one of pain and loss; one of redemption and passion. Like my very own tiny tale of life and it’s my story- my ending.
Since that time, my sister, who shared a relationship with him ongoing over the years, has posted pictures of him on social media. The devil that it is, Facebook too offers us growth if we decide to accept it. And at first, I said, “FUCK THIS!”, had my verbal tantrums and avoided seeing his face like it would some how burn mine off. Like really Alicia- you give no one your power, why would a photograph get yours now? But his face……. Burned in my brain like the scar on my forehead. I thought I had done all the embracing of my story in his, but like all of life….there is always more to learn.
And as I cried on the floor, my daughter and husband sat on the floor to comfort me. They were confused as to why I would cry and frankly, so was I. And yet I realized his time of potentially haunting me at some future family gathering was over. I would not have to discern between my mental health and making my family happy. But I was also so very sad for him- unlike some- it was a shitty and fucked up existence from what I could see from a distance. Life had never really let up and he had no relief or redemption. And although I will never stop saying that the best revenge in this life has been my happiness, for him, it would have been a nice ending to hear he had gotten help or maybe just some relief.
All this may sound crazy, but I have learned more about his life. My mother told me about how he had come to live with her and my stepfather at a young age after being left in cars for hours as a toddler so his mother could party and gamble. He was locked in closets and hurt by other people…..abandoned by his own mother. He came into this world broken and the only thing he knew to do was break others. He often drank, smoked marijuana and did terribly in school. I was just another thing on his path of destruction.
I have grown so bold with my mother that I told her about how much it hurt to see his face invading my phone screen and how others’ kind and sweet sentiments about his life were like puke in my mouth. She was understanding and I was able to ask about him further. She gave me a gift in that moment. I asked her why she did not think to recognize his potential to hurt others? She told me of stories of how she knew to look for adults- she knew to be weary of the sweaty conniving men who may hurt and abuse little children, but no one talked about the cycle of sexual violence occurring from one child to another.
And that’s just it. Here we are once again crossing paths with the three-headed Dragon of Shame. It seems I am doomed to the role of broken record, pleading with people to see how our silence shreds through the option of healthy existence. And here with him and his face glaring at me through my phone, I am reminded of how we have the capacity to destroy one another. We pick one another off like ticks on mangy dogs inflicting as much pain as we can muster in the hopes that we can squeeze out our shame onto another human and rid ourselves of ours. Or worse yet, we cannot bear witness to the happiness and innocence of another human and instead whittle our way through their bodies until we successfully excavate their soul.
I suppose all that truth is a little harsh. We are not all by nature mean or cruel and I remain well aware of the fact that most of us would crash our cars before hurting that squirrel hurling himself onto the highway. And yet I demand answers. This is one of the reasons I say ‘WTF!’ to myself twenty times a day! When are we going to catch onto the idea that when we see ourselves as unworthy humans, it is not a play option to physically, emotionally, spiritually or sexually violate another? At what point in my lifetime are we going to stop failing ourselves? When are we going to get together as a collective and do whatever it takes to nurture, grow and create a sustainable world that promotes the FACT that there is NOTHING that removes us from our worthiness of love and belonging. NOTHING and NO ONE- not even my stepbrother.
Sure, there was an incredibly long time I would have rather stabbed his eyes out and there is no doubt justice was never served. But then again, who am I to actually be angry at? Can it really just be him? For myself, the answer is the Dragons of Shame. I am not bad and neither was he. The people in my life who did nothing were responsible, but who gave them a sword of vulnerability to be the Dragon Slayer? How far back in the generations do I go seeking a courageous people? It is so risky to show up in our lives and even more risky to turn up the volume on vulnerability. I can only imagine what it would have been like for my brother to have had the freedom to say that he was ashamed of his existence. Perhaps he would have not made me feel ashamed of mine.
So just for today, I stared at his picture. I stared without judgement of myself or him. And for the first time, I realized there was a time he was somebody’s baby. Maybe he earned being a shell of a human for all he did, but since our stories will never be separated, perhaps he can finally live in peace in my story.
I will never forget. But I forgive you brother. I forgive my people for passing up the swords of vulnerability lodged in the stones of life. As Maya Angelou said in her most dignified God like voice, “We do what we know until we know better”. I know better and I will do better. I will not be silent and no matter how heavy the words of vulnerability, I will practice taking the risk as often as I am able.
I AM ENOUGH. Broken but Whole–glued back together with the sticky, messy words of vulnerability. And this is MY Story- I get to decide how this will end. I do not have to live inside generations of shame before me. And guess what? Neither do you.