July 14

As a child, adolescent and even twenty something I was full of all sorts of passionate beliefs. A clear ideal of right, wrong, justice, and the pursuit of some grand purpose and meaning of “life”…

Now I’m alone with only myself. Which is quite preferable. Because, I was also alone when I was married. It’s a different experience to be alone when you’re at the same time with another human intimately, having the same life wash and crash over you. Everyone knows that. To be alone now is dissimilar altogether.

I feel keenly what an infinitesimal speck in the universe I am. So keenly, that at times I can no longer even see myself. I can see the truth of my existence. That it is small enough to be nothing. There is a searing beauty in this, a perplexing and heart wrenching comfort.

It is to be alive, yet, see that you have barely existed at all. In that, there is freedom, that is because you see this is the truth for everyone. And could it be, that everything is already done, has reached it’s culmination. Yet here are all these specks frantically trying change the course of existence, as if it has some linear scope to it. Easily plotted from beginning to end. A naive and deluded logic to think it can only then be made sense of. There is no beginning. No end. There is this moment. Over and over

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I wrote this

Some memories never lose their ability to break your heart. There are memories that can become even more visceral as time progresses. And when a memory like this is shared by the small, innocent people you have brought into existence it’s hard to describe the wrenching of ones heart.  In the past I felt that there would be a perfect moment in time that would make a hard, painful decision make perfect sense and flood me with peace.  Knowing my children would listen at the door while their dad spewed his lies and twisted reality at me, saying whatever he could to manipulate and hurt.  I know only part of the fear and sadness they felt and still must feel, because part of it is mine. I put this upon them.  Now I see that I missed that perfect moment in time, by miles.

Every time my children were an audience or victim to their dads mental mind games and hatefulness I missed it.  Every painful memory they have, and I share, is now my burden, because I waited.  Because that perfect moment to make a hard decision that you know is right and true is never some ambiguous moment in the future.  I know this well at this point.  I remember things I let happen and my children saw, and heard, and must have felt.  I can’t imagine.  I remember the only safety I felt was laying next to my children at night in their bed, prolonging the goodnights as long as I could, but also dreading the inevitable questions about the state of their lives, hearing my daughter say numerous times “I heard you and daddy” knowing she was waiting for me to make sense of it for her or assuage her worry.

What could I say? I didn’t know, there seemed to be no right way to answer, and parenting books aren’t very helpful in such circumstances.  I’d lay there and hold her, feeling peace for a moment that day and then fear about what would happen when I finally had to leave the safety of that little bed and our embrace.  So many nights I came out to hours of tirades that all I could do was endure.  There was no escaping it anyway.  My kids in bed, hopefully asleep, I wouldn’t consider driving away and leaving them for even a moment. But I didn’t cry. I couldn’t let myself break in that way.  Night after night.   Mostly.  There were times he never came home and for that moment I could breathe. Now I think, what did I do to my kids?  Having peace is my primary goal in life now.

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Just stories

I was born to be a middle child. More specifically I was born the baby of the family and subsequently thrust into the role of middle child at the age of four by the momentous, and to me, tragic arrival of my baby brother. Not tragic because of his arrival, tragic because of the surety that I would now never know the bond of sisterhood. But that is simply the chronology of how my birth order came to be. A story my mother has told us often is of one morning when I was a small infant and my older brother, Andrew, a toddler of two years old.  As an aside, it is my belief that I had the good fortune to live through what many would call an “idyllic” childhood, I grew up in a small, sleepy town;  which, I have come to suspect is part of the twilight zone.  A mother whose sole purpose it seemed was to devote herself to our healthy mental and emotional development, and perhaps mold our character into specimens of such integrity that the family name would be as a beacon, shining into the darkest corners of our small town and perhaps even the world; and our father, who supported our mothers endeavours with serious discussions on the importance of honesty, gratitude, and hard work, and of course spankings. Spankings were, it seemed, an unquestionable assurance that come adolescence our chances of indulging in all types of deleterious and sinful behaviors would be significantly mitigated.  I am quite certain we were all spanked preemptively at regular intervals as my parents were quite confident that we were already determined to initiate teenage rebellions that would shame our family and limit our future career paths to only those which would require name tags.

And for this I blame my oldest brother.  If any child could strike fear into the hearts of a parent for their offspring’s future success and perhaps even survival, it was he. Which brings us in a roundabout way back to my mothers story.  One morning my mother is sitting in the living room breastfeeding me as my father leaves the house for work. Minutes pass and she calls my brothers name, no answer (take note, this will be a recurring theme throughout our childhood).  In a panic my mother sets me on the floor and runs outside, once on the driveway she sees, pedaling furiously down the street after my father is my two year old brother (without training wheels no less, precocious coordination and athleticism being a hallmark of my first born sibling), she proceeded to chase him down the street while still in her nightgown, which in her telling was quite indecent, not that my mom was a prude.  Except that, yes, she was.  As a child I was always comforted to hear my mother add to this story that she felt guilty for leaving me at home on the floor all alone, I was left to fend for myself yes, but not forgotten. She obviously retrieved him without incident that day and a number of different days after that as well. It’s a simple story really. No great suspense or hilarity. Yet, I believe it was so often told because of how it so accurately portrayed our roles at the time and through the years to come…my older brother, fearless, determined, undeterred by the cautions and consequences doled out by his wizened elders. And I, content and compliant, observing the sometimes tense interactions punctuated by my parents feelings of frustration and alarm while trying to contain and direct my older brothers endless energy and willfulness.

What I am is the amalgamation of these briefest of stories, a quick snapshot of seeming innocuous moments that made up my formative years. Inexplicably, some of the clearest, sharpest memories of childhood seem trivial and mundane, yet so true to my being that I can see that is me, without the unfortunate results of the attempts to mold and teach by mostly well-intentioned authority figures. What these are really, are attempts to prevent you from becoming something they are, or the hope you will become something they are not. Who I am. I am the four year old girl who lost track of time, mesmerized, looking at the water droplets on the roses in our front yard. The same girl would sit for hours under the oak trees imagining that acorns and sticks were people. A girl who was and still is captivated by the sight of those same oaks trees and rolling hills that she has passed by a thousand times. This girl, could not understand why her mother loved her and the knowledge of that mothers love, which asked for nothing, would move her to tears. A girl who believed she could be anything and do everything. She wanted to cry, but didn’t.  And that made her proud.  She could never adequately explain how much she loved being alive and how deep and wide the feelings inside of her were. She sang, everything. Because saying it wasn’t enough. She believed no one would ever know her, because how can you be known when what you are, are these moments coalescing with feelings, that wait for another moment with another person, when it will feel right.

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On life

Were I the type of person for whom decisions were quickly made and finalized, or conclusions rapidly formed, perhaps much of the sorrow and misery I have known could simply be a shadow of another life narrowly escaped.  Antithetically,  it could be that is why making decisions is such a weighty undertaking for me, they are a parallel life of choices that came up wanting in some way and because of their wanting, discarded. But they still keep pace beside me.  Somehow I see who I would be. Less complicated, more free, easily confident that life was something I had willed into submission, and without question more selfish.

How I have changed, or rather, how life has changed me has been interesting, perplexing, and a sometimes startling progression for me to observe.   I may have been born in love with living. Not the primal drive for survival which is woven into the dna of all animals, but of letting life envelop you. Even as a small child the most basic awareness of being alive has been enough to feel my heart catch in my throat.  I think, I am here and that is enough.  The simplicity of it can move me so that I can barely contain it within myself.  I have sometimes thought it was simply childlike naiveté, the sense that life was not just full of, but rather was itself endless possibilities.

For an individual whose obsession with living bordered on hedonism it is perplexing that I so readily and determinedly made choices which had me clinging to the beauty I knew of life through a brokenness and misery that seemed inescapable at the time.  The barely contained exuberance I once had, which still would be, is now tempered by the quiet knowledge of the sweetness of life even in sorrow and pain of which you cannot see the end of.  I had the unknowing boasting of the young, so confident in their knowledge of themselves and the ability of that knowledge to quickly and decisively weigh out life, the innocent, yet arrogant belief that life can be understood and then manipulated through that knowledge and experience.  My hunger to learn cannot be satiated, there is almost nothing of life I don’t seek to know more of;  yet the truth which I have learned from religion, philosophy, psychology, and academia is that life is not to be understood.

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