And so death gets in the way of the idyllic life just as expected. A friend all the way back to childhood has died. Though she moved from the area almost 30 years ago, you do not forgot someone so dearly loved.
She owned a small horse ranch up the country road from me as a young girl, horse lover age, about 12 or 13. All summer long I’d bike up to help her train young horses, leading them in their bosal bit-less bridle behind me and the sturdy older horse she had me saddle up.
Eventually she gave me the older horse with the condition of never selling it. That when the horse could no longer stay with me I give him back. What a miracle for a young girl. Miracle upon miracle Marilyn gave me.
Sweating in the summer sun, as hoof falls clopped on the dirt roads, we went around the countryside on horseback. Waking her with scrambled eggs and toast, as she slept late after her night job, we went out to feed the horses and muck out the stalls. Candy, another friend from down the road often was with us.
The scent of straw and horses thrilled me, the work all pleasure as Marilyn’s presence was witty, trustworthy, and loving. We kept in touch, once she came back to visit which was when the above photo was taken, now hanging in my hallway. Though I’ve been overweight since age 8, she never was. But in the photo she towers above me…my strong tree.
Of all my friends, I was the chosen to help her train. For a young girl so severely damaged by what was happening in my home, Marilyn instilled a sense of dignity in my soul, purpose to my life… and hope. Though numb the first 24 hours after hearing of her death, some tears do fall in my quiet moments. My dear friend, my tall tree. I love you Marilyn and you are missed.
Euphoria meets depression, the crash causing several weeks of endured sleeplessness. This happened in fall too when the equilibrium sustained throughout summer tumbled into winter’s lower mood. Now spring’s bursting forth, or the beginnings of it, causing my body’s chemicals to do the same.
It does dampen the joy of it, yet isn’t that life? Taking all of life’s ambiguity in stride? All her ups, downs, and in-betweens? What else can one do but do it, keep trucking, keep trying. And remember, while you’re tossing one way then the other, stop chastising yourself for insomnia because it’s not your fault.
Gentleness, remember? Oh so hard- to experience joyful abandonment and soul ripping sadness all in the space of one breath. Because sadness also threatens with life’s regrets visiting at night, every sound magnified, every wrong turn, or even little mistakes looming like a dark cloud over my bed ready to devour me.
Oh the self-talk kicking in, looking for my center unable to find it, feel it, or go there. Stay. No getting up to watch to TV in the middle of the night. Stay. Suddenly it’s 8AM. Samuel’s gets up, me too popping open the shades. It is his usual wake-up time, but mine was hours before. So some REM’s have been made up from the nighttime musings.
And it’s sunny. Cold, windy and sunny, kind of like my insides.
So much was stolen at such a young age the mourning of a certain life lost goes on, the life that would have been— lived whole, centered, calm, and joyful.
My body performed the motions of living, but not in one piece, not as if feeling what was happening or connected to it. My body performed what my head told it to robotically.
Connecting to others? Not possible. My being moved along frantically, disoriented, always at the ready for sudden danger. Now in later life some pieces discovered have been put back in place. Others gone forever, taken at age eight during the first attack.
But mourning is not my choice any longer, having done it till no tears are left for the past. That takes time, washing the wounds of a traumatic childhood. Going back, looking at just how hard it was, causes an appreciation of what’s inside me.
So it had a purpose, but not to drag me back into that mire staying stuck. Life’s journey opened new horizons, vistas of plenty with peace settling in where the ragged parts were.
The deadliest time of our lives, how does one survive? Physically, mentally, emotionally. The only way for us is total seclusion, but not from the outdoors and all the other creatures in it. Even going into any store right now is more risky than it was now that the deadlier strains are here.
Do you feel for the people seen on the television suffering all alone in ICU’s, melting into a crying mess every time? Or shut the door on emotion becoming stone so that it doesn’t touch you?
Waking in the night a flood of emotion hits unbidden, not about the present hell, but one I came from. Sadness seeps into my core like a tsunami opening the doors wide to my soul. Sadness thought to have been left behind because so many decades had been tasked to heal from it.
But there it is, and it won’t be changed. The choice whether to go there or not is easier taken in daylight when activities keep me focused. The knowledge that a family of 8 kids were left stranded by a father who had the audacity to die, and a mother devastated by trying to cope with the loss of her husband. (and his income)
That sadness goes back far before his death, but the painful recognition of parental choices wasn’t fathomed until well into adulthood. Peeling back layers of trauma to heal from what my siblings (my attackers) had done took most of my adult life. Thus enlightened more understanding arose to what they also endured.
And that might make some sense of why they acted out their rage on me by sexually attacking their young sister. But not much as no reason makes sense. Yet there it is. They too did not receive what was desperately needed besides shelter and food… love, security, and feeling cherished.
A father who drank, a mother overwhelmed by so many babies conceived in the night after an evening of partying too drunk to put on a prophylactic. Funny and fun at the time, not so funny when the babies came then grew, one by one, piling up like lists to do that never get done.
There are some families that might handle a large amount children with love and the special attention needed while also encouraging sibling love and interaction. That wasn’t the case with mine.
We grew together alone, estranged, licking our wounds as they continued to bleed throughout life. Most unable to engage closely with each other because so much energy was needed to attend to separate shocks of their own.
A family divided in every way. Some are now making efforts at family, but getting close must be scary, especially getting close to me. Wanting to include me, but not enough for comfort because I hold truths not wanting to be heard.
That shield can hurt. Daytime logic looked for desperately in the dead of night whispers to me after a prayer into my pillow—stick with now, look forward, don’t go back. Quite impossible in the quiet darkness. So the whirling painful thoughts take time to spin out before sleep returns.
My mother was noted for saying, “Look back, but don’t stare.”
I stared for a long time, I had to in order to barf up the black of what was survived, but was still stuck inside me like viscous tar. After years of cleansing work it became possible to be here now, smile, and move forward. But in the dark of night the cave collapses, and the empty well of sadness sucks me in. Sadness for all those born into that family, if you can call it that.
Be open? Or close the door… to the past, but now too because the present holds horrors unimaginable. Prayers to those suffering, as I lock away emotions to save my sanity.
My path includes remembering that self-esteem and anxiety are issues that need working on, and are here to stay. When experiencing some success at either, the thought is that the work is done. The work continues, some days more than others. Who I was at age eight is a shadow arising time to time with a memory of what was, who ‘she’ was, and could be.
All that changed with the first attack, and severed almost completely as each brother came and went, my true self going further and further away until she hardly exists. She because I could never become her, she because she is there, a misty ghost of who I could have been. And I mourn her.
Who I am now is not her, though wisps remain. What I have instead is anxiety in every day because of the trauma’s, but more so, because family and society insists not to hear. These traumas still going on at a deadly rate need airing. And it seems to be coming to the light, though more sensational ones; coaches, priests, teachers… but what about the brother, father, uncle?
The anxiety is here to stay. It must be faced every day. The damage internally broke my being. It takes my life to put back the pieces, shards that sometimes cut, smoothing them together anyway to make a whole— bumpy, solid and beautiful.
A deep sadness has invaded along with the usual chronic tiredness. A sadness of how I am and why. The deepening sadness makes movement cumbersome. Present issues mimic the manipulations of abusers, and the rest of the family. During and after the sexual attacks 60 years ago they all stood in solidarity against me to shun me into submission and silence.
Wanting their cleanliness meant washing off what was done to me as if it hadn’t been done… manufacturing a little girl mute. A shell of girl whose body grew, but all other components were left behind.
A child born lighthearted, speaking outright about injustice, made voiceless. No rights. Nothing. A body separated from my mind, from emotions, and most life threatening, my very own spirit or soul. It is a tenuous workload just hanging on.
I no longer existed. I am trying so hard to put the pieces together, but nothing fits, each part sliding away from the other as if sliced in half, more so shattered.