I wrote an article about the conversations that have been happening after #MeToo starting appearing on social media.
I haven’t written a blog post since last week. I started writing several times only to discard it. No words seemed right after the events of last week. I will say that my heart breaks for the families, friends, and community of Newtown. I decided to wait until closer to Christmas and share some of the joys of the season and to share the lessons and treasures of this past year.
However, something happened today that made me change my mind. This afternoon I saw a facebook message from a friend offering her prayers and condolences to the mother of a 15-year-old young man. As I read the posts of the past day, I realized the young man was only a couple of weeks older than my grandson. I didn’t know him but he was part of the group of boys that grew up in scouting in our community. I looked at his picture as I read the words from his mother, “The autopsy reports it was an apparent suicide by hanging. No one noticed any signs of depression. It was such a shock to us all.”
I am writing this post because I was once in a place of such darkness, pain, anger, fear, and loneliness that I tried to take my life. I was helpless and hopeless. I couldn’t see a way that my life would ever be anything different. When you are that depressed the world disappears and makes no sense. It is as if you are in a bubble and no one can see you or hear you or get to you.
I made one last phone call that night to a friend.
She said, “I can’t do this. I can’t go down this road with you anymore. I love you, but I will not go any further with you unless you get help.”
She gave me the phone number to the crisis hotline and begged me to call them. The one person I thought would care turned her back on me. After taking moresome pills and downing a half bottle of Southern Comfort, I picked up the phone and called. The woman on the phone that night saved my life.
Things didn’t get better overnight. I became part of a twelve step program. I got therapy. I eventually started on medication. I learned to let people into my life and talk when I was angry, scared or lonely. I made a mess of things from time to time, but I learned how to clean up my messes and not make the same mistakes again.
That was almost 26 years ago. Life still has ups and downs. Life still gets messy from time to time. Life still hurts more that I can bear sometimes, but I know what to do. I have repaired relationships with family and have better relationships than I ever imagined possible. I have friends that I love and cherish. I have support any time I need it. Oh, and that friend who “turned her back on me” that night is still my friend and I thank her from time to time for the gift she gave me.
If you are reading this and you have thoughts of suicide or you live with depression, anxiety, loneliness, etc.(or you know someone who does) PLEASE reach out to someone. I know it is hard. I understand it is one of the most difficult things in the world to do. I realize the phone weights two tons when you think of calling someone. I know that you believe in your heart and soul that no one will care or understand.
Just hear me when I tell you that there is hope. Even if you don’t believe me, do it anyway. There is help. Call a family member; Call a friend; Call your pastor or member from whatever faith group works for you; Call a doctor or therapist; or
Call the National Suicide Prevention LifeLine 1-800-273-TALK(8255) Chat is available. Veterans press #1 http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Online Chat support from To Write Love on Her Arms… www.IMALIVE.org The first online network with 100% of its volunteers trained and certified in crisis intervention.
The truth is, just talking to someone, explaining, sharing, venting, being listened to, can often give you a temporary reprieve. Talking to someone can temporarily change your perspective – Human contact changes the brain chemistry & opens that emotion “pod” of pent up emotions for temporary relief – and it may not be what they say, but just the exchange of emotions like empathy, compassion, & concern.
Will they cure you – no. Will they take the pain away? Maybe ease it for a little while.
Even if you know you may be upset or suicidal again soon, just give it a try.
Even though non-depressive humans won’t really know exactly how you feel — Let them try to help the best they can. Talk to them, let them listen. Most of them are not even getting paid. The only reason they are there is for you. They may not always say the exact right thing, but they are hoping that somehow they can help you make it through a difficult time, to live & fight another day.
I wrote a post about my one of my experiences with Domestic Violence several months ago. I thought it would be appropriate to share it again. Here it is. Walking Down Another Street.
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.
Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound someone.
Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender. It can happen to couples who are married, living together or who are dating. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.
You may be in an emotionally abusive relationship if your partner:
- Calls you names, insults you or continually criticizes you.
- Does not trust you and acts jealous or possessive.
- Tries to isolate you from family or friends.
- Monitors where you go, who you call and who you spend time with.
- Does not want you to work.
- Controls finances or refuses to share money.
- Punishes you by withholding affection.
- Expects you to ask permission.
- Threatens to hurt you, the children, your family or your pets.
- Humiliates you in any way.
You may be in a physically abusive relationship if your partner has ever:
- Damaged property when angry (thrown objects, punched walls, kicked doors, etc.).
- Pushed, slapped, bitten, kicked or choked you.
- Abandoned you in a dangerous or unfamiliar place.
- Scared you by driving recklessly.
- Used a weapon to threaten or hurt you.
- Forced you to leave your home.
- Trapped you in your home or kept you from leaving.
- Prevented you from calling police or seeking medical attention.
- Hurt your children.
- Used physical force in sexual situations.
You may be in a sexually abusive relationship if your partner:
- Views women as objects and believes in rigid gender roles.
- Accuses you of cheating or is often jealous of your outside relationships.
- Wants you to dress in a sexual way.
- Insults you in sexual ways or calls you sexual names.
- Has ever forced or manipulated you into to having sex or performing sexual acts.
- Held you down during sex.
- Demanded sex when you were sick, tired or after beating you.
- Hurt you with weapons or objects during sex.
- Involved other people in sexual activities with you.
- Ignored your feelings regarding sex.
If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions you may be in an abusive relationship; please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) or your local domestic violence center to talk with someone about it.
One of the things I love about the Olympics is hearing the incredible stories of some of the athlete’s lives. I have been following the story of Kayla Harrison, who just won the Olympic gold medal for Judo. Here is a small piece of her story.
Yet winning gold has not been the most difficult challenge of Harrison’s life. When she arrived at Pedro’s training center in 2007, she was an emotionally devastated 16-year-old who had suffered years of sexual abuse by a former coach. She lacked self-esteem, had suicidal thoughts, and hated judo because the sport’s small community whispered about the abuse.
Like many survivors of sexual and physical abuse, she found someone to trust and help her heal from the abuse. She found a champion to help her fight. Then she found the courage to share her story. In the article she says, “I wanted to tell my story and I wanted to get it out to victims all over the world,” said Harrison, originally from Middletown, Ohio, who first discussed her sexual abuse publicly last fall. “I wanted people to know it was OK. It was definitely therapeutic. The first time I told the story I cried the whole time. It got a little bit easier every time.”
Social media and the press have shared her story since the Olympics began. Someone made this comment on a site yesterday, “The key word here is: SURVIVOR… She chose to NOT be a VICTIM!” I often hear this type of statement when someone shares a story of healing. It is a statement that while I believe to hold truth, is also a statement of condemnation for someone still struggling with their life.
I had my choices taken away from me the first time someone sexually abused me as a young child. I had no choice when an adult hit, slapped, or threw me down as a little girl. As the abuse continued, my choices disappeared. When I was an adult, I only knew what I learned as a child. I had no defenders. Those who might have made a difference, made their own choice not to interfere. I did not CHOOSE to be a victim. That was a CHOISE someone else made for me as a very little, scared, helpless child.
I didn’t wake up one morning and say, “I think I will be done with this crap and be a survivor.” Like Kayla, someone came into my life and helped me find a way to heal. Yes, I had to make the choice to do the work. I had to find the courage to tell my story. When I was an older child, I tried to tell someone but they didn’t (or chose not to) hear. The biggest fear is sharing my story is the fear of not being believed.
Today I am a “thriver.” I am also a victim of childhood sexual, physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual abuse. For me to say, I am not a victim, is to deny what happened to me. I survived. Surviving means I lived through it and continued to exist; just exist. Then someone reached out, believed me, saw my pain, and helped me tell my story. I became a “thriver”. I started to flourish and grow. I found support and I found a way to reach out and support others in their journey.
This is my truth and this is how it works for me. If you are finding your way or have already become a “thriver”, find what works for you. Most of us will never win an Olympic gold medal, but we can fight to reclaim our right to choices. Today I have the choice to live my life as a “thriver.”
“We can’t control what happened, we can’t control what has been lost. What we can control is how we fight to take that control back, and the voice within us is powerful in doing so….” Cathy Gipson
I have a secret to tell you. It will come as a surprise to most of you, although a few who know me will have discovered it. Shhh, please don’t tell anyone. I work very hard to keep it hidden from the world. In spite of appearing strong, it is a source of weakness. I have fought a battle or two in my life and once the enemy found the place of vulnerability, I nearly didn’t survive.
Everyone has a bit of insecurity in life, but I have abundance. Yes, I am insecure. It has been part of life since I was very young. It’s something I have worked to change. I hear the questions before you ask them.
I have a job that requires talking to people one on one, speaking to large groups of people, and teaching. I work with people in poverty and those in crisis. I also work with CEO’s from top companies in our community. I am well-known and respected in my profession. Being insecure means that I question everything I say and do in my work. I imagine people talking about my ridiculous comments. I am sure people are asking why they chose me to make that presentation. I write and rewrite emails and letters, etc. I am convinced that in time people will realize I am not smart enough to do this job. If I make a mistake, it is because I am just not good enough.
I have many people in my life. Only a few really know me. The rest know the actress. She is the one that smiles, makes jokes, never speaks her mind, agree with everything you say, lets people push her around, and is just the perfect good girl for the world. If she sends you an email and you don’t answer right away, she is sure you are mad at her. If you are in a bad mood, it is surely her fault. She is a people pleaser. She keeps you from knowing the real me.
There are many reasons for my insecurity. I shared them in other blogs. I wasn’t born insecure. People in my life took away my security. I will share one more secret with you. Those few people who really know me; they are the ones helping me find it again. Things are changing. I am exchanging the lies others told me for truth. I am being more courageous in letting others see me. I am speaking (or blogging) my mind. I am learning to stand up for myself and others. I even believe that God loves me because I am uniquely me.
Once that happens some of you may not like me quite as much. Then again, the person you liked didn’t really exist, did she?
“We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be.”
― Anne Lamott
I follow a group called “People of the Second Change.” It is a global community of activists, imperfectionists and 2nd chancers committed to unleashing radical grace every day, in every moment, for everyone. The message the past few days has been about labels. Here is a small piece from today.
Labels are a violation.
Somewhere, sometime, someone spoke words over you, and their lies and violation cut deep. You believed them, and became painfully labeled and shamed.
Today, it’s time to identify the label maker, the person who we allowed to label us. We are going to stare down that shame until it dissolves into the nothing it is… no label stands a chance in the light of our worth.
We are going to put a name to the wound… we can’t truly heal till we know why it’s there in the first place. Who said it? Who put the label there? Was it once? Over and over again? Either way, it was carved into us. We are going to choose to be free from the lie of the toxic label, we are going to choose truth.
I work with a great life coach, Kathy Murphy PhD and she helped me see that I have continued to believe the lies about myself. I needed to find and live my life from the truth. It is a message I am hearing over and over in my life.
As I child I lived with the labels fat, under-achiever, bad, stupid, scaredy cat, ugly, dummy, and crazy. Some were labels from other kids while the adults in my life used some of them as well. I breathed them in and they became my identity.
As a young wife and mother, I heard the labels stupid, just a woman, lazy, dumb, failure, ignorant, frigid, worthless, and more. I added them to the list of who I was. As I started to change some of the labels changed. Some of the labels held some truth-drunk, alcoholic, druggie, and others that aren’t appropriate for this blog. Interestingly enough, even after I got sober and started a new way of life some of those labels followed me.
As I began to find my courage and my voice, I chose new labels for myself. I became a feminist, courageous, understanding, compassionate, writer, friend, good mother and grandmother, seeker,and wise woman. Some people question those labels. I question them myself as much as others do some days. I surround myself with people who will encourage and nurture my truth. As I grow stronger, the old labels become fragmented and weak. My truth pushes them aside and takes their place. The wounds heal, but the scars always remain.
Do you label others before you know their truth? What labels do you still carry with you? What has helped you overcome your labels?
Jerry Sandusky the monster is held accountable and his sex abuse victims are heroes for testifying.
This was the headline I saw as I opened the internet this morning. If you were on facebook last night you couldn’t miss the news spreading across the posts. People shared anger, pain, applauded the jury, congratulated the victims for their courage, and felt that justice had been served. What you didn’t see where the people who cried out in disbelief. They do exist and they will raise their voice.
They don’t believe a child would remain quiet about something this horrendous. They don’t believe in repressed memories. They will tell you that one or two children misconstrued acts of caring and support for something more. You might hear these one or two children were getting even as adults because they didn’t get the scholarship or award they believe they deserved. The rest just came along for the ride. Why even his adopted son made up allegations. He must have wanted a book deal. Two reporters clearly stated that it must not be true because the defense didn’t call him to testify. He wasn’t called to testify for strategic reasons well stated by defense counsel. But we need that little bit of doubt to be planted by reporters.
Do children lie about sexual or physical abuse? Yes, they do it all the time when they say it NEVER happened. In the testimony of one victim he told why he never came forward. The chance to leave his little town and troubled home for afternoons hanging around the Penn State football program were enough, he testified. “I thought, ‘I didn’t want to lose this. This is something good happening to me,’ ” he said. Someone is going to use that statement as proof the child wasn’t traumatized or hurt by this encounter. You have to understand the nature of predators. They make the child feel special and important or they terrorized the child into believing it is their own fault this is happening. If you tell something bad will happen. Something bad does happen when you tell, whether as a child or as adult.
I wrote about feeling special and loved by my abuser in a blog post. It was the most confusing thing to know in my soul that this thing that was happening was so wrong. He said if I told we would both be in trouble and he would have to go away. The darkness took over my being and I just want to hide or maybe die. And yet, I was so desperate for someone to love me that I was afraid of losing this person. When it happened at the hand of older teenage boys in my neighborhood, it was different. But they used similar tactics. They threatened to hurt me, my dog, my home, and told me we would all go to jail. I never told. I was thirty-five when I did tell my therapist. I didn’t tell anyone else until years later. You see, I was afraid that maybe I was the monster.
Today, I tell my story here and to anyone that needs to hear to it. I don’t wear it as a badge honor. I don’t claim it as being who I am today. I am not what happened to me, but it will always be a part of me. I am going to use a cliché even though I hate them. I am a survivor and thriver, not a victim. I have found healing. But if you ask me, I will tell you this. I still believe in monsters.
It is almost Father’s Day. The themed commercials show the perfect family. They show a loving Daddy playing with his kids. He never fails to hug them, smile at them, and give them a perfect little butterfly kiss. Cards with loving father sentiments are in all the stores. Facebook is filled with saying about wonderful fathers and posts about all the perfect Daddy’s you could imagine. I don’t have that story and I struggle with holidays like this one.
I lived with my grandparents from the time I was four. My grandfather was as far from a loving and caring father as one could be. He was a drunk. He was a loud, mean, scary drunk most of the time. Occasionally, he would do a schizophrenic turn and be a happy drunk.
He was a longshoreman and worked odd hours. He was always gone by the time I woke up. Most nights he didn’t get home until my bedtime because he would go out drinking with the boys. Sometimes we would have to go pick him up and get him home. I never went to sleep until I knew he was home. I didn’t want to be asleep if something bad happened as it often did. During his worst drunks, Grandmother would tell me to go to my room, lock the door, and get in the closet. I learned to “disappear” in my mind during those times.
Grandmother tried to get him sober. She lectured him, begged him, and threatened him to no avail. About once a year, she would have the pastor of our church come and talk to him. Her last-ditch effort would be to send me in to talk to him. She gave me the script before going into the room. I was to sit on his lap and put my arms around his neck. (I refer to them as Grandmother and Grandfather here, but I had to call them Mommy and Daddy.)
“Daddy, do you love me?” He would answer with an affirmative nod or grunt.
“Daddy, if you really loved me you would stop drinking.” I was then to give him a kiss, and my duty was complete. Obviously, he didn’t love me enough because he never stopped drinking.
The first time I remember seeing my “real” father was when I was six years old. Grandmother told me I was going to visit my uncle. I remember going to his house and seeing him and his two very little girls. I only saw them a few times. Grandmother told me that “Uncle Joe” was my father when I was eight, although I didn’t see him again until I was about ten. I imagined what it would be like if I lived with him instead of my grandparents. In truth, things would not have been much different, since my mother left him to protect me from him. He was an abusive drunk, too. I often dreamed about living with him. I imagined him hugging me and being ever so loving and caring. I didn’t have anything to base that on, just wishful thinking.
My father was in the Navy, and he had moved with his family to North Carolina. He had duty in Charleston during that time and would come to visit me. He started staying at our house a couple of weekends a month. Why my grandmother allowed him to visit is still a mystery. He was a very affectionate man. He doted on me while he was there. He told me how much he loved me and how much he missed me after my mother left. He asked me if I remembered a song he used to sing to me. I didn’t remember so, he held me close and sang ‘Daddy’s Little Girl.” I wanted that moment to last forever, but soon those moments would turn into unwanted affection. He took the words of the song to heart… You’re daddy’s little girl to have and to hold. A few months later, he would leave and I would not see him again until I was sixteen years old. He and his family appeared at my house just to say hello. I didn’t see any of them again until I was in my mid-twenties. That, my friends, is a story for another time.
My grandmother watched the “Red Skelton Show” every week. She made me sit with her during her favorite shows. This show was one I liked and remembered. One night during the show, someone (it may have Red, but I don’t remember) started talking about a special song they were going to sing. The song was “Daddy’s Little Girl.” The last lines of the song are:
You were touched by the holy and beautiful light; Like angels that sing, a heavenly thing; And you’re daddy’s little girl
I listened as the music played and thought of my Daddy. I wondered if he really held me and sang to me when I was still such a little girl. I dreamed of having a someone who would cherish me as much as the writer of that song. I wondered why no one loved me that much.
Once in a while, someone will sing that song, usually at a wedding. It never fails to bring tears to my eyes and longing in my heart. I never got the Daddy I wanted. I tried to find something to fill that void in all the wrong ways during my life. In time, I learned that I wasn’t the problem; I wasn’t unlovable. Today, I fill my life with people who love me as I am. I am still learning to love myself and to cherish the little girl who still exists inside. She will never be “Daddy’s little girl” but I hold her and tell her the angels still sing—just for her.
Three weeks ago, Rachel Held Evans posted a blog “What’s Your Church Story?” She suggested that readers answer the question in a blog post. I have been looking at this on my list of suggested blogs to write for the 31 days of Blogathon since May 1st. Each time I see it, I decide to do it another day. Well, today is “another day,” and I am going to attempt to answer the question.
Grandmother told me that my first church experience was when I was christened in an Episcopal Church. My young mother’s best friend convinced her to have me christened. I don’t believe they ever attended the church after that.
After my grandparents adopted me, they sent me to a Presbyterian Church kindergarten. The teacher suggested that Grandmother bring me to church. My grandmother and grandfather would have made things very interesting had they indeed accepted the offer. They spent most of their time drinking, smoking, and cussing. The kindergarten teacher kept working on Grandmother, and when I began first grade, she started taking me to Sunday school and Church. She found religion and gave up most of her “sinful ways”, but she never seemed to have a change of heart and soul.
I loved going at first. Everyone was so nice, and it was the polar opposite of my home. Things were calm, peaceful, and no one was yelling or hitting. I wanted God and Jesus to know I was there and prayed they might come and rescue me if I was good enough. I adored the Minister. He was one of the kindest men I have ever known. I would dream that somehow he and his wife would become my parents. He always took time to talk to me. He would smile, put his arm around me, and would say, “God loves you, little one.” Over the years, the words would change, but the meaning was always the same. He was the Minister at the church until I was 15 years old.
Church, like school, became another place I didn’t fit in. I always did my Sunday school lessons at home and was prepared on Sunday morning. Grandmother made sure of that. I didn’t dress as well as the other children. We went to an upper middle-class church with some very affluent families. The kids all had the best clothes, while I wore clothes that Grandmother made. I could never have kids from church or school come to my house. The kids called me names, talked about me, made fun of me, and ostracized me from the group.
My grandparents decided to send me to a private Baptist high school, and I later attended a private Baptist college. I married during my first year in college, and we moved to Los Angeles, Ca. to live near my biological mother. We didn’t think about church for the next year. God was never out of my mind. However, it was out of fear and not love. When my son was born, we moved back to Charleston, SC.
My husband and his family were Southern Baptist. My father in law was the head deacons, and my mother in law was everything else. Soon my husband and I followed their example. While my husband became a deacon, I was relegated to tasks for women. I taught Sunday school, VBS, Children’s Choir, was Nursery Director, and anything else they could find.
We moved to West Va. Through an odd set of circumstances, we moved to a town in West Va. where our a church from Aiken, South Carolina had planted a mission church. We served as home missionaries at the Wayside Baptist Chapel for almost two years. It was literally a trailer on an acre of land. The pastor drove a big wood on the side station wagon. Every Sunday, he drove the local area bringing children to church. Many times, their families would follow. We held services without a piano, choir, or comfortable seats, but there was joy in that church.
When we moved back home, we started back in our large home church. We began assuming the same roles as we had before. I still struggled with my beliefs. I didn’t struggle with my faith. I always believed and knew God was there. I just didn’t understand all of it. I had so many questions. When my husband walked the aisle one Sunday morning and announced that God had called him to the ministry, I thought it was a joke. Let’s just say I never saw him as minister material.
Once again, we packed up the kids and our house and moved to Wake Forest, N.C. to attend Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. My husband received his Masters of Divinity and Masters of Religious Education. I received a PHT (Putting Hubby Through–Yes–a real certificate), and I became an alcoholic…… (a bit of pause here so you can go back and read that again.) I kept my drinking a secret and led a double life. I asked for a divorce during this time, but he convinced me to stay.
We returned home after months of visiting churches with no call for a position. He went back to work in the real world. We started attending a different church at this time because he was angry at our home church. I once again fell into the dutiful roles assigned to me. I was struggling with my faith and life. I asked some of the questions I had held back for years. They said some of my questions were on the verge of blasphemy. They told my husband to get me back in line.
Two women came to my house one Sunday afternoon. I had missed Sunday school and Church again. I was hung over, but they didn’t know that. I explained that I had questions. There were things I wasn’t sure I understood or believed. Most of them revolved around the role of women in the church and discrimination in the church. We didn’t allow people of other races to be members of the church at that time. The women didn’t take long to pack up their little purses and hightail it out of my house. Perhaps they thought Satan had taken me over and they might be next.
I went back to church a few times after that. No one spoke to me, no one offered to pray with me or see if they could help me. I ran into our music director and a choir member at the mall. They turned and walked the other way. I was already in a spiritual crisis, and that pushed me to the point of no return. I was soon divorced without custody of my children. In the South, ordained minister trumps sinner every time. Yes, I still have some anger. I do believe I have forgiven everyone including myself for those times in my life, but when I talk about it, some bits of pain and anger come through.
I know God directed my life during the next months. I found a therapist who helped me change my life. She was the perfect person to guide me during that time. She had struggled with her faith and became a link back to God for me. I was later diagnosed with some mental health issues. I wrote about that in a blog recently. I attended a twelve-step program and got clean and sober. God became more real to me during my time in the program. The twelve steps took me on a journey to find a personal relationship with God I never had before. The people in my life showed me the love of God instead of telling me about it. I continued to find my faith and build that relationship for a long time before I would be brave enough to go back to church.
I knew in my heart that God was leading me back to church. I didn’t know where to start. I took an Alpha Course at a local church. It is a ten-week course where they do not ask you to come to church unless it is your choice. Shortly after that, my best friend died unexpectedly. I blamed God. I was hurt and angry. It took some time before I was ready to try again.
I visited several churches. I tried a church my husband liked, but I knew I would it wasn’t the place for me. One Sunday, I wanted to attend a Methodist church a friend had recommended, but I couldn’t find it. I did a quick internet search and discovered a Presbyterian Church just a few blocks away.
We visited for a while, and it seemed like the right place to be. It certainly wasn’t the church I imagined I would attend. I liked the pastor and the people. We did eventually join the church, and it is now my church home. I feel safe there. I love the older women. The pastor is now one of my best friends, and she has encouraged me along the way. I have struggled at times, but I think it should be that way. Faith isn’t always easy or pretty.
If you read my blogs, you know my favorite author is Anne Lamott. She says,
“Help” is a prayer that is always answered. It doesn’t matter how you pray–with your head bowed in silence, or crying out in grief, or dancing. Churches are good for prayer, but so are garages and cars and mountains and showers and dance floors. Years ago I wrote an essay that began, “Some people think that God is in the details, but I have come to believe that God is in the bathroom.”― Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith
God heard me when I cried, “HELP.” He heard me not while I was in church, but while I sat on the floor drunk, alone, crying, and listening to an Amy Grant record. He heard my prayers and listened to my ranting. It took a long time, but I finally came to understand that God loves me unconditionally. He may get annoyed and send me to time out occasionally, but He still loves me. I don’t have to go to church. But, now I want to.
My sister in law posted a comment on a facebook post this morning. My brother originally posted a question concerning some plans for summer. There were several posts and at one point, I asked if a comment was for me or my other brother. My sister in law’s comment went something like this, “It is for T—-,B—,G—,B—,B—, (names withheld) or whoever is talking to each other.” I decided to delete the comment because I am ultimately a caretaker and avoider of conflicts. Afterwards I was angry with myself for doing that. So I am going to take a risk today and share what is on my heart and mind.
I still have a part of me that lives in a beautiful fantasyland where I am the fair young maiden living in an ideal world. I have loving parents and many siblings. I am married to my handsome prince and we do many brave and powerful things to help our kingdom. Then the phone rings or another driver blows there horn to remind me to focus on my real life.
Most children find out they are going to be a big brother or sister when their parents sit down and share the exciting news with them. That is not exactly how it worked for me; no, not even close. I have seven brothers and sisters. I am the oldest of all the children and I am an only child. Let me confuse you a bit more. My mother is my sister, my brother is my uncle, and my father is my brother’s brother so I think that makes him my brother.
I was the first-born child of my father and mother. I know that seems obvious but I have to start somewhere. My brother Mike came 18 months later. When I was four and my brother was two my parents split. My maternal grandmother and step grandfather adopted me. My parental grandparents adopted my brother. I stayed in South Carolina and Mike lived in West Va. I soon forgot I had a brother.
At the age of six, they told me Uncle Joe was coming to visit. I soon met Uncle Joe and his wife and two little girls. He would visit our home and I would visit their home from time to time. Uncle Joe was in the Navy and they soon moved away. When I was eight, my grandmother informed me that Uncle Joe was actually my father. She also dropped the big news that I had a brother and we were going to drive to West Va. and visit him. That’s some pretty big news to drop on an eight year old.
When we went to visit, I informed my brother that “Uncle Joe” wasn’t his brother (the lie he had been told) but our daddy. I knew my biological mother because she would call and write me. I also filled him in on that part. Need I say that all hell broke loose in the very small rural farm community in Flat Top, West Va.?
My father and his wife eventually had five children together. I‘ve had on and off again relationships with all of them. I keep up with two of the kids on facebook. I haven’t talked with the youngest since he was teen. One sister I am told, “hates my guts” and wants nothing to do with me. I am very close to one of the brothers. We have always seemed to have a connection. We are very much alike and think that may be what draws us together. As my sister-in-law indicated in her comment, you need a scorecard at times to know who is talking to each other.
When I was 25 years old, I received a call from a young woman. She said she was an old friend of my mother’s and wondered if I knew how to contact her. I was skeptical and didn’t give her any information. A few minutes after the call ended, she called back.
“I lied to you a few minutes ago. I want to tell you the real reason I called. I want to talk to Claudia (my mother) because she is my mother.”
I am not sure how long I stood there before answering her. “I’m sorry. Did you say Claudia was your mother?”
She went on to tell me her story. A family in Chicago had adopted her. Her uncle was a lawyer and handled the adoption. He still had information about her biological mother and she used that information for her search. Claudia had never mentioned having a baby to anyone. Jill and I met a few months later and we still have a relationship today.
I told you about my beautiful fantasy world. As a child, I traveled there quite often but I don’t visit as often as I used. I have learned to accept the reality of life. Buying birthday cards is often a sad reminded of lost relationships. I can’t get a card specific for brothers and sisters. Most come with sentimental statements about shared memories and experiences. I often dream of a big family reunion, but I believe we would need Dr. Phil, Oprah, Jerry Springer, and a swat team to pull it off.
I know that two of my siblings read my blogs. I hope they know I love them and I want to be the big sister they can lean on. We may not share the lifetime of experiences most siblings do, but we are family. I wish I could sit and talk with each of them, hug them, and tell them I love them. I wish I could throw my magic pixie dust and make all the pain and hurt go away.
I have struggled with this post today. I am a writer. I want to tell my story, but I was taught to keep secrets and not to tell. I have started writing my story so many times, but I keep stopping and throwing it away. I am afraid I will hurt someone or make him or her angry. I am afraid of what people will think. I can’t do that anymore. I can’t let the past win.
I am going to follow the wisdom of my favorite author, “Remember that you own what happened to you. If your childhood was less than ideal, you may have been raised thinking that if you told the truth about what really went on in your family, a long bony white finger would emerge from a cloud and point to you, while a chilling voice thundered, “We *told* you not to tell.” But, that was then. Just put down on paper everything you can remember now about your parents and siblings and relatives and neighbors, and we will deal with libel later on.”
― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life