Lost

How could she say no, he loved her and that’s why he gave her the pills, like he told her, if he didn’t care he wouldn’t spend his own hard earned money to buy her what she needs to get through her day. Now all she has to do is cook him and his kids, their kids’ dinner. He works so hard ya know, he was dealt a bad hand so he didn’t get a job making what he’s worth, but he found other ways to make money, and he couldn’t go to school because he wouldn’t be able to work and buy her pills. So when he came home from the bar and she questioned him about where he’d been and he lost his temper again and hit her, well it was her fault for being unfair and making him mad. That’s what she told the police anyway when they questioned her, and that’s when she turned to go to her room and ran into the edge of the door cutting her cheek.

So each day she washed his clothes, the kids clothes, cleaned the house, tried to study but after a while she knew it was unfair for her to take so much time away from his kids to study for some class he said she’d never be able to pass anyway, she wasn’t smart enough but he would take care of her…and like he said, he loved her.

There were parts of her day when she started to crash that she questioned whether or not she doing the right thing, there was a part of her that was struggling, a part somewhere inside of her that opposed him but that scared her and she kept it tucked away. That was dangerous thinking. And after a few years her relationship became one more recognizable as a caretaker than as a mother, she couldn’t play with them because she had to make them dinner, what kind of mother would deny her man and his kids dinner?

When the kids were fed and she’d washed the dishes he gave her what she needed, she swallowed them with some warm Pepsi and went off to her bedroom and sat, she waited with her eyes closed as her body began to slump and feel warmer, then her mind drifted off and she lay back on her bed and floated away to some place better. Some place where the sun shone upon her face, where the wind was sweet and she was free. Some place she could wander off to as he came in and stripped her clothes from her, used her, took advantage of her and then left her by herself afterwards to curl up in the corner and hold herself against the torment that came like a slow burning fire day after day. Night after night, and so on, and so on.

Eventually she was lost touch with the outside world, her support structure had been severed, she was manipulated and abused and her soul was in dire straits. When she saw or interacted with others it was through a sort of mask or body suit she wore that no one could see through to feel sorry for her. They didn’t know what was happening inside the dark, dangerous walls of her home, they didn’t know the rot that had infiltrated her body, her mind. Soon no one saw her and she knew it, she became lonely, not lonely like most people feel when they everyone leaves after the party but lonely like there is no one that knows how you feel, like no one understands the pain you feel, like when you find yourself inside of a nightmare and you try to scream aloud but nothing comes out, you have regressed inside of your own mind and lost your way.

On a sunny Sunday afternoon an aunt and uncle leaving the family cabin happened to pass her as she rolled up the driveway, they saw her, she looked into their eyes and smiled and they smiled back and waved as they drove on, they had someplace to be and couldn’t really stop to visit just then. They thought how she didn’t have the kids with her and she was alone but they’d get hold of her later on and check in with her then. So they continued on their way.

Three days later they called her husband because she wasn’t answering her cellphone. He told them how he was upset with her for just up and leaving her kids at home alone with no dinner, how he’d not heard from her either. They didn’t say anything then, not to him but they wondered about the cabin, maybe she finally ran away, no one in the family liked him, they all suspected that he wasn’t a good man. That was all, they were adults and could handle their own affairs.

So they drove to the cabin, there in the driveway was her car. It was cold and the keys were still in the ignition. They checked the cabin but it was empty, in fact the door was still locked from when they’d left, nothing had been disturbed, it appeared as though no one had even stepped inside. He stepped outside and called out to her, she stayed inside and made a few sandwiches, she probably went for a walk, and she’d be hungry when she came back. He began wandering around the cabin, there were a few trails off from the driveway and he thought he’d just wander a bit and see if he found any trace of her.

In a small clearing underneath a tall Poplar, he saw her from behind, she sat in the leaves, and he called to her. He stated that they’d been looking for her, that people were worried. He paused a few yards behind her because he felt sick in his stomach, he didn’t know why but he knew something was wrong. Then he saw her left hand, it lay palm up on the ground next to her hip, he didn’t need to go any further, next to her hand, in the grass, on top of some leaves was a gun. He saw the other side of her head and her hair was matted and darkened with blood.

What happens to a person when they get so lost, so lonely that there is no way out, that their lifeline cannot reach beyond the place within themselves, that dark place that becomes their only safe place? In what world does God allow a mother to go so adrift so as to go missing within themselves, to drown in such sadness that there is absolutely no other way out. And how do those around them not see her?

To my cousin, may she rest free.

Her Broken Cocoon

The sun, try as it may couldn’t get through the clouds on Saturday morning, so she lay in bed, tucked under the covers, pulled up to her ear and tried to dream of warmer, sunnier days but the imagery was washed away by the pelting rain hitting the windows’ at the foot of her bed. The past week was dreary to say the least, no sun and too many clouds.

Leaving the house meant getting wet; normally this isn’t a huge issue, but day after day with no direct sunlight, no reprieve from the cold, barrage of precipitation makes it difficult to swallow. So she lay under her comforter attempting to fill her mind with thoughts of anything but negativity and her reach for any sort of respite was met with frustration and a growing darkness.

Eventually she slid from her broken cocoon, opened the shades and watched as rain drops rolled down the glass like unending tears. Against the heaviness she tried to breathe in deeply but her lungs felt shallow. She stripped the bed and attempted to push back the impending sadness.

She opened the bedroom door and the house felt empty, lonely and quiet, the floors cold and walls a little too close. Even a glass of water couldn’t rinse away the feelings of melancholy.

She brushed her teeth and searched her reflection in the mirror for comfort but in her dark eyes she saw only gloom. She brushed her hair and even that felt annoying, she was losing the battle, the weight of so many things began to bury her from the floor up, impeding her step, slowing her climb from this wretched valley no light seemed to reach. And her only companions, hiding in the shadows beside her are all the things that scare her, that threaten her well-being, her strength and the warmth of her soul.

Now with her sight skewed, the fog of depression manipulating all around her, making it difficult to see a way out, she swallows hard, reaches in and pulls out from behind her a rope, a heavy, old rope and throws it as far as she can. Hoping for someone to see it, to pull back and find her before its too late. Before her tears make it too difficult to hang on and she loses her grip.

Miss Betty

She was beautiful, her white hair appropriately cut, her large, round, gold framed sunglasses reflecting the few clouds hovering above Parker’s Lake in the otherwise clear blue sky. Her thin, pale hand pulling on the pretty little leash attached to her small Bichon mix. She walked in her comfortable shoes towards me along the asphalt path. I had stopped to photograph a turtle sunning itself on a rock just off shore, and when I turned and saw her she smiled a crooked smile and wished me a sunny day. I responded with “me and the turtle wish you the same miss”.

She paused, she didn’t know me; I wore a blue t-shirt exposing my tattoos and faded jeans and cheap, dark sunglasses. Then she turned full round and stepped back towards me only a single step and threw her tired arms in the air and said “who couldn’t enjoy a day like this”. I introduced myself and said “indeed it’s a beautiful day, almost as much as you miss.” She stepped closer this time and stuck her hand out, I grasped her hand gently and gave her my name, she told me I seemed like a nice guy to which I replied…”my fiancée seems to think so” and she slapped her knee and whipped around and said “oh darn it’s always the nice one aint it!” I laughed and she asked about my fiancée.

Leaning against a rock wall along Parker’s Lake under a strong and warm spring sun we chatted about love and politics and travelling, OCD, addiction and recovery. I was already late getting back to work after lunch but I didn’t care, she was sweet and funny and we quickly became friends. She had spoken about a book she was reading called Switching on Your Brain by Caroline Leaf and how it had transformed how she saw things. She said it showed her how to be happier…by choosing to be happy, she has OCD she said and her husband is a recovering alcoholic and she spoke about how sometimes we just need to decide to be happy and that it doesn’t matter what others believe or whether or not they accept us as we are, it’s up to us whether or not we choose to be happy on our own terms.

She patted me on the arm and said that we were meant to meet today, we saw eye to eye on some things and not so on others but we both enjoyed each other’s company for a little while on what had already been a beautiful day, but now had become much more than that for me. When we allow ourselves to remain open to what’s around us we invite opportunities to be rewarded, sure that means we can be hurt too, there’s always an innate risk there when we make ourselves vulnerable, but I’ll take that risk any day! Thank you Miss Betty.

Faces

Have you ever gone an extended amount of time without seeing someone?  Maybe they live far away and all you do is talk with them on the phone, maybe they are distant relatives and you see them once or twice a year, or maybe you haven’t seen someone because you grew apart, one upset at the other; and your hurt too much by their words and actions, or maybe you both decided it is better to go your separate ways.

Yesterday I went to my dad’s shop.  I drove into the parking lot and his truck was parked in the back.  The previous three times I had gone there in the past 9 months, he wasn’t there.  His lot was empty, his shop closed, and my heart still broken.  We haven’t seen eye to eye for quite some time.  My decisions don’t exactly measure up to his plans for me.  He couldn’t understand my logic or my life’s path.  So, there was silence.  A long silence.  And a distance grew between us even though we were only 20 miles apart.  So I would take out a piece of paper, write a note on it, “Dad, I miss you. I love you. Wish you were here so I could say hi.”  I taped it to his front door, sat in my car for a few minutes, cried, and then drove away.

During those months of silence my heart ached.  It ached out of loneliness and sadness.  It ached for losing my father, for thinking I wouldn’t hear his voice again and see his face, or feel his skin on my skin.  It’s a devastating thing, to have family torn apart, ripped at the seams that once were sewn in place so  carefully.  With my little sister across the world and speaking badly about me, my older sister second guessing my decisions, and my dad upset with me, it left my mom in the middle.  By no means was she happy with my decisions, but nonetheless we tried to remain somewhat in touch, somewhat civil.  I’m sure some will ask why?  Well, because, we are family and there is love between us, and when nobody else talked to me, I tried to mend things with my mom.

I remember there were times I cried, I sobbed, I couldn’t control my emotions, and the tears just poured out of my eyes.  I couldn’t stop the pain and hurt that I felt inside and I wondered how could I go on without speaking to my parents.

But on this day, my dad’s truck was there.  Part of me was nervous, and excited, and part of me fearful.  It had been 9 months since I saw him and now was the moment I had been hoping and waiting for.  I knocked on the front door of his shop, my heart pounding.  I put my forehead onto the glass and peered in, I saw him walking towards me.  He unlocked the door and opened it.  We both smiled at each other.  Father and daughter face to face.  I looked at him, his face old, tired, thin, his hair gray, he seemed to have shrunk, I was just about as tall as he was now, his back hunched over slightly, and his belt seemed to hug his body tighter.  I was certain he had lost weight. Time doesn’t stop when you grow distant, it keeps going, people get older. Faces change and age is more easily seen. He will be 68 next month and after months of not seeing him, he is looking like an old man.

I said, it’s good to see you.  He said it’s good to see you too.  As he started to talk about his work and walk into the shop, I asked, can I give you a hug?  He paused, turned to me and we embraced.  It was short hug, he patted my back and let go, that sort of hug was not unusual for him.  But then I said, a longer hug, please.  I held on tightly to him, my arms wrapped around his body, not wanting him to go.  After a moment, he softened, and we hugged, for real.  He started to tear up, as did I.  I whispered I love you and I have missed you in his ear, and he said I love you too.  As the hug finished we stepped back from each other, I looked at him, and couldn’t believe how much time I have lost because of not seeing him.  But on this day, I was grateful for him, for the time together, and for being near him.

Can’t See the Happiness through the Pain

It rained today as I walked along the shoreline of a pond; I stopped to watch the drops sink below the surface of the water strewn with dark red leaves, and studied the shallow ripples as they rolled together, slowly dying out.

The air was quiet, dull, thick and moist and as I walked the fallen leaves made no sound below my feet.

I didn’t mind the rain, it was light and the drops seemed to float to the ground in no big hurry.

I wasn’t really cold nor was I warm, and the rain on my neck didn’t bother me much.

I didn’t care that I had to go back to work soon and I didn’t care that the trees were bare and the sun was away.

In fact the only thing that seemed to matter was the lack of everything; I felt no connection to the Earth, the trees or the sky.

But pain is always there to welcome me, there is a sense of sadness, a feeling hidden somewhere beyond the colors of the fall and the reflections of me in the raindrops.

It’s there always, rising from the ground like humidity in the desert brilliantly reflecting everything back at me, making everything appear real, but I know it’s just a vision, a transparent image that hides the hurt until I need it again.

Sometimes though, the reflection hides even the good, the happiness, and then I can’t see it through the pain.

contemplation

Don’t let people that don’t matter, matter too much.

Are you ever disappointed in yourself and you get down and just feel like crap, like mush, and like a loser. do you ever feel like whenever you seem to get one step ahead, you get pushed back about ten steps and then you have to start climbing again.  How about those thoughts in your head, the voices saying you’re not enough, you don’t compare to other people, what you’re doing is sub-par, you’re not making an impact, you’re wasting your time and your talents. Do you ever lie in bed at night, tossing and turning wondering what tomorrow will bring.  Will you be disappointed or will you be elated, will you be singing praises or melancholy.  This life is so unpredictable. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on it all, you are quickly washed away and taken out to sea, amongst the rubble, the waves, and the storms.  There is never a break.  There is never a moment that is 100% stillness and rest.  The world keeps on moving, keeps on keeping on, and it doesn’t get easier.  It is a hard realization that life is not a piece of cake.  That is why you have to savor the good moments and know or hope that the sad moments won’t last forever. You have to find the good in yourself and others and not become too bitter about the idiotic people around you.  You have to know that you’re doing the best that you can and give yourself credit for all that you are going through and all that you have been through, and where you are in this moment.  I guess it’s never to late to make a comeback, or to find yourself smiling for no reason.  The best moments are when you’re laughing, the real type of laughing that makes your belly hurt, and then you ask yourself why was I laughing in the first place.  It’s about surrounding yourself with people you love, and people that love you.  It’s about finding solace and inner peace.  It’s about losing yourself in the moment and then coming up for air and saying today isn’t so bad after all.  It’s about being grateful and thankful, finding time to be generous with yourself and giving yourself a break to just breathe.  Today might be dark, rainy, and dreary, but the sun still shines overhead and will one day come out to light up the world and your inner soul.

A Wretched Tone

The morning started out wrong right from the beginning; I had no coffee, and it seemed as though everyone on the road had it out for me, a narcissistic notion I know. But I was determined to turn it around. And I did.

The power of the musical note is amazing to me and it always has been, I knew early on as a young child that music did something to me; it got under my skin and made me feel things. I have never really had a particular distaste of a certain style, if the notes that rung out and the beat and the harmony struck my soul and made me feel good I accepted it, I absorbed it and let it wash over me like a cool spring rain.

My mother loved listening to Helen Reddy and Buffalo Springfield and all those bands from the 60’s and 70’s like Iron Butterfly and Led Zeppelin. Later when I was in high school she and I would share some smoke, the kind that whirls around inside your head and takes you to another place, a far off place and then we would crank the old wood box speakers up and lay vinyl on the Panasonic record player and jump around the room to Joe Walsh’s Life’s Been Good and Funk #49 until we collapsed on the beige pit couch in the late afternoon sun.

When I was out of school for the summer I would climb up into the cab of my dad’s rumbling Mack truck and watch him manhandle that old manual transmission as we lurched forward down the road with Kenny Rogers’ smooth raspy voice spilling out of the cab’s speakers.

I loved music, I awoke for school to it and even had one of those giant portable tape cassettes attached to my belt and enjoyed that sharp plastic snapping sound when I changed out the tape for another. As I grew older my affection for music grew larger and more eccentric. It comforted me when I was alone and scared, and it pumped me up when I would crawl out and lie on the roof of the old house and bask in the sun and smoke a joint. The sounds of steel guitars and pulsating drums and the rich, heartfelt stories of pained artists crying out from somewhere deep inside themselves turned me on.

Sometimes I felt like the singer was telling my story and sometimes I fantasized I was the character they crooned about. When my father was killed I listened to music to quell the pain and celebrate him at the same time. When I started working I found a way to listen to music every chance I could, even now I play it all day at my desk, all kinds, Hank Williams, Hank Jr and his kid too, Heart, Green Day, Pure Prairie League and Wheezer. My kids have grown up with me singing to my favorite songs every time we climb into my car, and they have learned the words and enjoy hollering them out along with me on the way to the dentist.

I have a deep appreciation for music, it has a place in my heart and my life, always has, always will. We all have certain songs that mean something to each of us, the words are echoes of our own pains or celebrations or feelings we didn’t even know we had. Who knew “When the words are said, baby, I lose my head” from Andy Gibb’s Shadow Dancing would be my first love song to a girl in sixth grade.

But as much as I yearn every day to hear songs of old and discover new ones along the way that capture my changing spirit, I detest the times a treasured song strikes me deep where it hurts and continues to wrap it’s sharp claws around my bleeding heart. There are songs I couldn’t wait to hear that now I struggle to breathe to when it plays and flows like a strange icy breeze around my ears in the middle of an August heat. I hear the very first notes, and feel the rhythm and know my heart will break, but I can’t stop it, I need to hear it again and again even though it feels as though all of the blood has been drained from my body already, and I drift away once more with its wretched tone, because it holds a specific and intense paralyzing affect on me.

Music has its place in my world and it always will, it has become an enveloping, organic being that both comforts and destroys me repeatedly.