Tag Archives: fear

My Story, My Truth, My Art

Me in 1st Grade

Me in 1st Grade

TRIGGER WARNING: This content deals with one person’s story of child abuse and may trigger some people.

I’m finally ready to share something really important with you. I was an abused child. In some ways, I’m still that scared little girl, still hiding in the corner of the closet, terrified of people in power. Still afraid to speak, make the abuse worse, disgrace myself, or disgrace those who abused me. But, today, I’m feeling stronger and I’m ready to share my story.

When I was a little girl, my mom hit me with those big thick leather belts with huge metal buckles. She would use both the belt and, intentionally or not, the buckle, leaving welts on my legs, back, butt, and arms. If I got away from her and ran, she’d throw the belt after me. It felt like a war zone. I never knew what would set her off or when it was safe. It never felt safe.

I wasn’t safe at church, either. The preacher’s hellfire and brimstone reached us, through speakers, in the nursery and toddler rooms. I remember hearing that if I didn’t get saved, I might die in a car wreck on the way home and burn in hell for eternity. Even as the preacher called, with “Softly and Tenderly” playing in the background, I never did hear Jesus calling me. Instead, I feared Jesus, the devil, and the preacher. Sure, I did get “saved” when I was six, soon after another young girl, my peer, accepted Jesus Christ in front of the entire congregation. I had to keep up appearances. I hoped it would keep me safe from the preacher and maybe my mom. But not Jesus and not the devil. That was hoping too much. Jesus and the devil knew my thoughts, so I could never feel safe from them.

That fear went to school with me. At the end of each day, my first grade teacher would spank all the students that had not finished their work. I felt so threatened and so completely undone, that I had to be taken out of school. I wouldn’t get off the toilet because I always felt like I had to pee. Staying at my mamaw’s house, I’d sit on a tiny white pot in front of the TV watching Mister Rogers. Mamaw was always kind, always loving — thank goodness for her! Eventually, I got over my pee pot issues and went back to school. But, even now, when I smell my first grade teacher’s perfume or elementary school cleaning products, I feel sick, afraid, and unsafe.

As I got older, my mom stopped using the belt on me, using only her hand. The last time she hit me was when I was a teenager in the car. I said something she didn’t like and she backhanded me. We were on the way to see a therapist to figure out why I was so angry at my mom. I already knew why I was angry. I just couldn’t express it.

I carry my fear with me each and every day, a backpack full of emotion. I’ve felt decades of hurt, guilt, and shame. A little over a year ago, I finally started EMDR therapy to help the traumatized little girl in me. And it really has helped, a lot. I’m getting better, gradually, gratefully.

It has been a painful and powerful journey going from trauma to love. As I recently shared with my therapist, I take care of the little girl Dana by creating my art with tiny fragile beads. It’s peaceful time with her, with little Dana, showing her that it’s ok, safe. It’s quiet, calm, and really gentle in that space, that place of art. She likes it there very much.

As I become stronger, that little girl inside of me is coming out of the darkness, leaving behind the guilt and shame of abuse. I’m shining my light for her as I share my story, my truth, my art.

I want to dedicate this post to my dear friend. It’s safe and I love you. For you, and all of those like us, there is hope, help, and happiness after all. 

Uncomfortably Authentic

Uncomfortably authentic. It’s how I find myself each day. I set out rubbing up against the thorns, vines, and overgrown brush on the path that is my life, trying to reach deep, to get home, to my authentic self.

As I venture out each day, I find my center and try to stay in the moment. It seems easy. At the start, I can remember the way, while appreciating the tiny purple flowers, nature’s jewelry, that line my path. I effortlessly move along.

But then, sometimes, I lose my compass in the thick, traumatic kudzu as it works to choke out life. I spend too much time tangled up there, forgetting that I can rely on the sun, moon, and wind to get where I need to go. Remembering that navigation need not come from anything more, I free myself. Then, back on my path, I move on.

I find my balance walking on that narrow beam over the rushing river that flows between my past and present. I could easily fall into that river of what could have been and get carried away. More than once, it pulled me so far downstream that I spent a good long while trying to find my way back. Frail and on the brink of giving up, I barely recognized my path. But then, something about it felt natural and good. I trusted my instincts and continued moving forward. Knowing that it will all work out if I just keep trying. I move on.

I get near the dark, covered place that once was my home, the home I feared. I find it desperately compelling and nervously look over. It seems to tug on me. Days when I’m strong, I’ll walk up to it and look in. I never can quite see what’s inside. Whatever it is, I scares me. I tell myself that, over time, I’ve become less drawn to shadowy places. I get back on my path. I move on.

It can be a lonely journey, but, invariably, the clouds give way to bright sunshine. I welcome those moments of clarity. Today, as the sun peeks out, I see a red fox in the distance. Is she looking back at me? She’s beautiful. Proud. She’s fully aware of what I don’t yet know. Unafraid of her, I keep walking on my path. I move on.

The forest closes behind me. All things known and unknown, that entangled me, I leave behind. I can just stay on this path, this sure one, and move forward, move on.

I’ve made it home just as the sun starts to go down. The screen door closes behind me, I stand here looking out. I breathe in the sweet, sticky air. Do I reflect on the day? No. I’m just thankful to be here, now, to feel tired, worn, while knowing I’ve made it home. In my bed, uncomfortably authentic, I’ll sleep well tonight.

Above, Awake

Above

I dream of hovering above, then flying,

while comfortable with the fear.

Steady up here,

it’s all in and of me.

The world looks so beautiful.

Only a faded blue hue between us.

I breathe it in then soar.

Higher, faster, and then slowly,

just barely still in the air, holding here above it all.

Before I touch the earth and awake.

Biscuits and Buckshot (At Her Front Door)

Mamaw Mamie

Mamaw Mamie

A chain gang was at her front door and the men were hungry. Mamaw Mamie was at home alone with her young children and she couldn’t ignore the men in need. Gathering her children together, she went to the kitchen for biscuits. Mamaw Mamie, in her apron, went to the door with the children lined up behind her. She offered a plate of biscuits with one hand while holding a shotgun, behind her back, in the other.

When my aunt shared this story with me a few years back, it really stuck with me, not exactly as she told it (cornbread and courage), but as I remember it (biscuits and buckshot). I’ve come to realize that these types of biscuits and buckshot choices are with me every day. In making these decisions, I would hope to be as generous as my mamaw Mamie. My dad and aunt certainly are.  Growing up, my dad and aunt were so good at taking care of mamaw Mamie, returning kindness and generosity that she showed them and so many others. With those examples you might think it would be easy for me, but I often let fear keep me from being open to give.

What choice I would have made? I don’t have children and I’ve never experienced a chain gang asking for help, but I do see people in need each day. I fear what I see. I don’t fear the people in need, but I fear the situations I see them in. I’ve been hungry with little food. I’ve felt homeless at times. I’ve often been in need with few people I could call on. Seeing anyone going without makes me sad and it scares me. I know where I’ve been and I fear that I will someday be right where they are.

Recently, I signed up to volunteer at the local homeless shelter. I thought about it carefully. This was a mindful decision and I feel that I’m ready. Still, I am a little afraid. I don’t want to break down and cry in front of the people I’m trying to help. With a few prayers, I’ll face my fear and try to help like mamaw Mamie did. I have to.