I am no longer standing by.

“I hope your kids don’t judge you like you are judging us”
“You had so much in life that I never had”
“We are hurt that you can show others respect but not us. I was helped over and over by others and I would throw myself under a bus to protect you.”
“I ALWAYS HAD RESPECT FOR MY PARENTS”

 

Today. I finally looked back on the notebook I’ve been avoiding since the end of last year. I had put it away in a dark corner and had chosen not to look at it since I wrote it all down. Since that harrowing evening when I finally confronted my abusers, my parents, for all of the trauma I had endured at their hands as a child until I finally had the courage to run away at age 19.

For a big part of last year I had decided to cut communication with them. I had moved over 2,000 miles away a year and a half before. I blocked their phone numbers on our phones. I stopped calling. I began therapy. I needed to find space for myself so I could decide if I wanted to continue a relationship with them or not. I have always felt so much guilt. Guilt that curls up in my stomach like a winding knot, finding it’s way to my neck and slowly wrapping around my throat until I can no longer breathe. I have felt guilty every single day for the last 12 years of my life. Guilty for ever being angry at my parents for what I have been through. Guilty for ever qualifying it as abuse. Guilty for recognizing how draining their “Relationship” with me was on my well-being. Guilty for talking poorly about them to those around me because I needed to share my story.

After much therapy, in October of last year I decided to confront them about everything. Finally. I picked up the phone. Shaking. Sick. Angry. Terrified. I wrote everything down that I was going to say ahead of time. All the panic and the fear. I wrote it all down so I couldn’t trip over my words.

I’ve been gaslit before. I spent most of my childhood years being told that what I was thinking was wrong and evil and sinful. It only made me confused and believing that my family was simply dysfunctional, not abusive. When I made the call, every. single. point. I tried to make was denied. I was called a liar. I was repetitively told that I made all of it up in my head. I was never threatened to be left on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere with no access to help. I never packed up my bags and waited a week to decide if I was going to be allowed to live in their house or if I was going to be sent to the homeless shelter.

So I wrote it all down. All of it. To look back on when I questioned myself. I put that notebook in a corner and refused to look at it. The memories were too painful. The denial that everything I had been through was verbally burned to ash. It was nothing. All the years of anxiety to the point that I struggled with near-anorexia, the depression that sank me into the darkest places, the PTSD that left me obsessively thinking about my past and what happened to me. All of it felt like it had been for nothing. Like my mind had been so creative it made it all up just to mess with me.

It wasn’t until today that I had decided to take a look at it. To delve into what was said to them and what they tried to convince me of in response. I read it. Slowly and intentionally. Mulled over the conversation in my head. I can’t stop shaking. I’m sick to my stomach. I’m physically ill. The quotes at the top are all things they said to me. And I am reminding myself that just because someone is your parent does not automatically entitle them to being in your life. People don’t get to push themselves into your life because they “raised” you. Being a first time mom, that reality is awful to swallow. But it still remains true. If I treat my daughter like garbage, I expect her to distance herself. She deserves to make decisions that are healthy for HER. Not me. If I did something to damage that, I deal with the consequences. Being my parent DOES NOT entitle you to a lifetime of automatic respect and kindness. It does not automatically entitle you to be in my life until the moment you take your last breath.

After our conversation, I made the brave decision to try again with them once I found out I was pregnant. I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t take the time to try…one last time…for the thousandth time. I have forgiven them so many times it’s a miracle to me. I let them back in my life. I tried. They came to see me a few weeks ago. The visit was awful. It was continuously peppered with racist and classist and ableist comments. I was shamed for the shape of my car, for not knowing what schools my child wants to go to five years down the road. I was questioned about my religion. I decided I would take some time after they left to gather my space and decide then about resuming a relationship with them. After this week I have decided.

I just found out that someone in my extended family is being abused like I was…only worse. This member literally has no out. No one in the family to side with him besides me. My grandparents went to his house the other day and talked garbage about him with him in the other room. Everyone is standing by. Everyone is standing by like they did when I ran away from home. They are silently standing on the sidelines pretending that this behavior isn’t occurring or seeing nothing problematic about it. And I am sick. I am not well. My PTSD this week is horrendous. The flashbacks. The remembering. The remembering. I found out that all the cousins knew why I stayed away. No one blamed me. I spent all these years wondering. I spent all these years curious. And here. This is the answer.

I don’t feel guilty anymore for cutting them out of my life. I cannot feel guilty. I can no longer side with those who refuse to acknowledge abuse. Who demand infinite love regardless of the sickening things they do. No. This is now how this works. Our lives are worth more than this. I am worth more than this. I can no longer be silent. I must protect myself. I must protect my children.

I was never set free by the truth

John 8:32 “and you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

Growing up, I was continuously reminded at every opportunity that lying is literally the worst thing I could ever do. This Bible verse was repetitively hammered into my frail bones like it was the answer to every adult problem I could ever face. I will never forget the first time I was caught in a lie. My brother and I had been playing in our backyard and we decided that it might be fun to play our version of Power Rangers, a show we weren’t allowed to watch out of fear that it was too violent. A little while later, our mother appeared on the scene and demanded to know what we were playing. I was too afraid that I would get in trouble for playing an innocent game she disagreed with, so I lied. If I think hard enough, I can still remember the taste of the bar of soap and the way it made me gag as it was shoved in my mouth as punishment for my lie. The scraping of the top layer against my teeth. The bitter taste burning the back of my throat and making me dry heave. The acid that burned my stomach. There was no calm reprimanding. It was threat level midnight on first offense with my mother.

Or the incident a few years later, when Harry Potter became a mainstream obsession. Shortly after the first movie came out, I remember shopping at Target with my mother and brother. They had a television in the kids section that was playing a loop of the movie on silent. Our church had banned Harry Potter out of fear of the presence of witchcraft in the books and movies. As we were shopping, my mother noticed my brother had begun focusing his attention to the movie looping on the screen. She told him several times to stop watching it, and he assured her that he wasn’t. He was caught in his lie. Returning home, he was gifted with a fistful of belt thrashes.

There were endless conversations about the consequences of lying. The reminders that those who lie are hell-bound. The assurance that even white lies count, and yes, there is never a lie that is ever effective to keep anyone safe. Because lies will never keep anyone safe.

The troubling thing for me now, as a survivor, is that lying seems to be the only way to keep myself safe. The only thing that lets me sleep at night some weeks. The troubling thing for me now, as a survivor, is that lying seems to be the only thing keeping my shame at bay enough for me to even perform the act of surviving.

..for me to even perform the act of surviving.

You see, I spent 19 years holed up in a vortex of silence. The echo of truth banging against the walls inside the black hole we called a home. I was told that the life we were living was the truth, but no one else could have a look inside. Those who did not live there were not allowed to have access to the keys. They were shut out–metaphorically and literally.

Indoctrination does a funny thing. It brain washes you. It convinces you that what you are being taught is absolute truth and there is no point in questioning, because it is just the way it is. It makes you feel that the world is actually a warped Picasso painting, and that you are obviously a righteous, stable statue of perfection and purity outsiders are not quite ready to accept. It is an absolute mind-fuck of epic proportions. I watched as my parents told me over and over that I should despise those different from us. “Be not of this world. It surrounds you, but do not let it become you. ” Reminded that I was alien, not born of this world, but of a blessed bloodline I should be terrified others would taint.

Apparently, so blessed that I was not allowed to discuss my problems with other family members with whom I was extremely close with. Once it was discovered that I was having knowledgeable conversation with my cousins about topics other than the Bible, we were discouraged from spending time alone together. We were constantly interrupted, for fear I would be someone who removed the blindfold. I was repetitively wrist-yanked by my mother into the bathroom for harsh scoldings about my behavior. I think they were afraid that I, as the oldest, would be the one to make them all aware of the blindfolds that had been placed on our eyes in the delivery room. That somehow I had figured out their big secret, delved beneath the poison of their indoctrination and found fresh air.

The troubling thing to me, as a survivor, is that the truth has NOT set me free.

This week I have struggled with just making it through the long days. I have fought with sleep overrun with nightmares about the abuse I suffered, waking up in panic attacks that feel like I am being choked from the inside out. I have found my head in a constant cloudy reminder that my shame will always be the strongest chains, binding me to the past. Chains that I currently do not have the tools to break, so I do my best to paint them pretty colors so other people don’t notice their ugly hue clashing with my attempt at a bright exterior. Chains that I try to disguise by pretending their existence isn’t hindering my daily life, yet knowing they are.

There will always be the shame. The first emotion poured into the empty vessel of my soul as a baby, and the warning about not numbing my conscience. I think I will always feel guilty for exposing the truth about my past. I will feel forever consumed with the worry about what my abusers will think, and the inability to come to terms with the remainder of healing I still have yet to accomplish as a result of that denial.

I have always felt like I am being choked by a force far greater than myself.

When your parents are your abusers, you wonder if you will ever be able to untangle the complicated weaving mess of your relationship. If you will ever be able to dissect the shame and decide if you want to have a real relationship with them despite all those feelings or as a result of them. You will spend what feels like centuries, wading through old conversations in your head trying to pick apart the moment you realized that you were drowning in a sea of shame so deep you worried you would never be able to breathe again.

As a survivor, the truth never set me free. The truth only tangled things.

 

Rage blog: Or, why it’s hard to love myself right now.

Depression is an evil monster. It is a thief, feeding off your happy memories and turning you dark. It slowly works at swallowing you whole, at tainting everything around you bitter bourbon black; enveloping you with long, dripping fingers that slowly wrap around your throat, working themselves tighter and tighter until one day you wake up and can’t understand why you can’t breathe. Why the entire world feels like it is collapsing around your naked feet. Why everything you touch is slowly crumbling underneath your fingertips. It convinces you to be bitter so that those around you keep their distance, because it is easier to say that no one ever could get through your grizzly exterior than to love you. The pain of losing someone else in your life is greater than it is to not be loved, so you let it swallow you. You drink the poison, let it settle in all nice and warm underneath your skin like the way vodka goes down when you are angry. It burns you, rips you, breaks you in parts and devours you until you are bite-sized, manageable. It consumes you, one moment at a time until you don’t know who really cares and who is faking it long enough to be in your life so they, too, can steal something from you just like everyone else.

Anxiety is no better. Anxiety tells you that if depression thinks you aren’t worth anyone’s time, you certainly aren’t when you say stuff like that. When you think that way. It tells you that you will be nothing more than a failure when you are so sad. No one wants to be around someone so sad. People see enough failure at work, at home, they don’t want to see it in your eyes, too—defeat. Anxiety says that you will always be this way.

And sometimes you won’t know, who is talking. You won’t know who is tricking you, but you will know, that you don’t know who you are beneath it all. And maybe getting better isn’t worth it, because there’s just so much anger. You are knee-deep in a shit pile of anger. And God only knows, that the religious people want to tell you the only way to heal is to go to their church. Join their commune. Sip their drugs. Drink their blood. As if I hadn’t already tried that kind of healing. As if my lungs aren’t full of enough toxic words floating around in my lungs to remind me all the lies my mother told me. All the times she told me I wasn’t good enough flogging my heart into submission. Another blocked message clotting up my heart. Another person trying to convince me that religion is the only way, pretending I’m not “saved”. That I can’t be wounded and holy. That I can’t be so close to fire and still grow. Their eyes full of pretend. Broken. Gasping.

I’ve been told that I should just get rid of all the bitterness I carry around. Obvious problem solver. Just, dump it out. Fill the earth with it. Send it into space. But rid your body of the negativity. Yet some wounds are so deep, there will never be any scarring over. And you cannot tell me that I should pretend these things never happened for the sake of my peace. I’m fucking sick of being the better person. I’m sick of pretending that I am okay. I’m sick of smiling and parading around like my life is wonderful, when I’ve spent a whole year swallowed whole by crippling pains that leave me wracked in grief and emptiness. I’m sick of people loving me because I’m nice. Fuck nice. I’m intricate. I’m painful. I’m hard to be around. I’m beautiful. I’m ugly. I’m weird and quirky. And underdeveloped. I am empty. I am weak. I am diamonds. And brittle. And I don’t know where I am.

Help me.

Tell me.

Where the fuck am I?

It is okay to not be okay. I am not okay. But I am fighting. (A process)

In my head it feels like maybe I’ve written this letter a thousand times.
I’ve reminded myself over and over in the darkest of moments of these truths, yet still find them buried underneath a pile of rubble I am too terrified to unearth. I just keep staring down at these filthy hands, unsure of where to begin in all the mess.
I’m writing to tell you that right now, I’m struggling to be okay. I’m struggling to not get so lost in the constant clog and cloud of my anxiety and depression, of the apathy that rolls over my body in waves and tries to convince me that I will never be good enough to love. That I will never be a good mother because I never had the example growing up. The lies that tell me that even though I have spent months working towards certain goals, that maybe I don’t really want this bad enough anymore. I won’t ever want it bad enough.
The thoughts and the fears will not stop.
I don’t know how to make them stop.
I keep finding myself at night barely able to catch my breath with the thoughts that just keep slamming into my brain like meteorites. I will finally find myself comfortable. The pillow in the right fluffed position. My body perfectly wedged against my husband. And then the first thought kerplunks its way into my atmosphere and it is over. I try to slow my breathing. Imagine something sweeter. Happier. Put on music that makes me happy or calm. But the thoughts keep tumbling in like the sky is falling and I’m scared my world will shatter.
I have been on this healing journey for seven long years. I have pushed myself to find answers to things I never knew even were problems in the first place.
I’ve looked my terrors in the face and screamed “FUCK YOU!” over and over and over until all the breath in my lungs has dissipated and I am nothing but an empty vessel.
I have slowly found strength in the crushed bones of my enemies, watching them grind slowly into ash as I rise up into a new formed being.
I have wrestled with demons with faces like my own. Demons that wear my smile proudly. Try to convince me I am one of them.
Yet I just can’t get over the missing
The missing is so much some days I am not entirely sure how I am expected to piece myself back together.
My depression has made the apathy so strong that some days I see the glue on the other side of the room and I know it is there, yet I do not care enough to walk there and get the bottle. Some days I don’t know how to get up and get the bottle. I just find myself floating in the atmosphere wondering how I am expected to get enough oxygen to come down and live with this human existence.

I know I did the right thing–cutting my parents out of my life.
I know that one cannot be in a toxic relationship and expect to not also get poisoned.

People often talk about things being black or white.
Over the years I’ve learned that things are far more grey than we will ever give them credit for. Sometimes the right answers hurt just as much as the wrong ones. There is no “good feeling” answer at first. But, over time, I have felt the weight slowly lift off of my shoulders. I know that putting an end to the unattainable expectations, to the heartache, to the fights over the phone 2,000 miles away while I just try to convince them that I have my life under control is the right decision. Right now, it still hurts like a fresh wound. Right now, it still aches like it was just scraped yesterday. But I know the more that I focus on healing myself by working on me, I can heal because I am not drinking the poison daily and still wondering why I am so set back in the process of learning how to love myself.

I’m writing this letter to remind you, that maybe not right now and maybe not tomorrow, but some day, things can be okay.
I can be okay.
Right now, I am trying to find enough courage and strength to find the right person to talk to about all of this.
Growing up in a society that claims that this is weakness, that this openness and vulnerability is not acceptable, that all of this should be drowned out by the clamoring to convince you that I am okay. But I’m not going to try to convince you. I’m not going to try to run to you and tell you that my life is perfect. That the happy things I post are the equivalent to me of all that I am. I am not going to try to tell you that it is unacceptable to be anything other than okay and bright and bold.
It is not weakness to struggle.

I am writing this letter to tell you. I am fighting.
I have been fighting my whole life.
I have fought SO HARD to be here right now.
And I am.
I have fought so hard this year to keep myself together.
But I am fighting to continue to be here. Not just physically. Mentally. Here. Enjoying the sunshine and the rain and the moments spent in the darkness.
Because in the end I will rise.
A queen covered in ashes.
And I can tell you, how I rode the storm through the fear. And made it out alive.

I finally finished my book and it’s for sale!

I’m not kidding. I’ve been working on this puppy for months. And it’s so absolutely incredible that this is finally happening. I wish I could tell you how long I’ve been dreaming of this, and now, it’s finally here. It’s an incredible book. It’s divided into three sections and talks about my journey through my past, coming to my own, and how I have used coming to terms with this abuse to want to help other people. I want so badly to share my knowledge with other people. I feel like it really has the potential to help those I encounter on a daily basis. If you are interested, here is the link. They are only $12. If you do purchase the book, it would mean the whole world to me if you also gave me a review on the page. Thank you, friends. Thank you for being so incredible. All of you.

http://www.lulu.com/shop/rose-kendall/beauty-from-ashes/paperback/product-22110115.html

A long overdue update in the “new year”

Well, it’s most definitely not the “new year” anymore. Tomorrow is April and I’m honestly not sure how we are already so far into 2015. I remember moving here just like yesterday; remember chasing a blizzard over 2,000+ miles through corn fields and mountains–alone–not sure of what laid ahead. I trusted, with every single cell in my bones I trusted that the truth that had been presented to my husband one day during the dawn was the right answer. Because let me tell you, when you have spent your whole life living in burning ashes, in darkness, wanting so badly to see the light but knowing your eyes are far more attuned to the black than the sun, when an answer seemingly falls out of the sky, you will take the time to suck all of the sweet nectar from it’s fruit that is there to be had. And you will be grateful to have found the fruit. Finally. After all these years.

It has officially been a year. And what a year it has been. I was looking back today on this blog and realized that I had posted about my fear of money when I moved here. My human brain could not calculate how we were going to manage to make it work, only the second year we had ever been on our own in our six years of being together, so far away from home, and in a city that upon first look seemed more expensive when it came to the cost of living. We both got minimum wage jobs, and I honestly couldn’t imagine how this was ever going to work out. But we have not had one single late bill in the entire time we’ve been here and we have had room to spare. The only way to explain it all is to know that this has to be a work of faith, living and active in my life. It doesn’t add up. Like when I had to have emergency appendix surgery in July 2014 and we were still getting settled financially. Or the time my car broke down on the side of the highway around the same time and the bill was astronomical but we needed her still.

And I’m still here. I’m not drowning.

Some days, the sadness wraps around my wrists like rope, dragging me down into the ocean. But I’ve been treading water every day, pulling my way slowly up to the top to catch air again, even if that means tomorrow I sink back. But I am still here. The end is so very much worth the means.

I’m still working at a coffee shop. I’ve gotten more hours over the last few months so that has been a wonderful blessing.

And I’ve been working so very hard in the slam realm. When I moved here I wanted so badly to be able to get connected to my poetry/art community. I had no idea what I was in for. I started liking the slam page on Facebook and asked how and when I could get involved and then I showed up one week and kicked ass and took names. And I’ve been killing it ever since. I had no idea that I would get this far. In two weeks I compete in the grand slam, which is my attempt to make it to nationals this summer. They happen in Oakland, CA, and I would get the chance to compete with people from all over the country. This has been one of my biggest dreams since as long as I can remember–to be able to get somewhere with my dreams for poetry. And now it’s here. I keep imaging someone is going to pull the rug out from under me, so I am definitely having mixed feelings of the fear that I will fail because everyone else is so good, and the knowledge that I will probably be able to make it because it’s a good mix of people. Because I’ve pushed and grown and damn it, this is my year.

So yes, this year has been a year full of growing and spreading my wings. And it’s only going to get better. I know it. And I promise to try to blog more. Seriously.

Letter to My Future Children

When I decided I was finally ready to give my body over

to the creation of another human being ,

to devote my temple to the formulation

of a heartbeat between my hipbones

a new soul placed carefully inside of me;

to become one with their making

it was then that I realized my body is not a temple

it is, instead, a pile of garbage

a consuming vacuum of fast food and too much television

and how could I ever expect to be anything better than the sum of my parts

than the pathway the generations before me had carved into the gravel

my toes sunk into while walking

You see, we birthed the idea of the existence of our daughters

of our sons

of a future full of our kind of legacy,

of exactly the kind of religion we hoped would permeate this earth like dandelion seeds

twisting itself around the hearts of those we loved the most

so that someday we might be able to look back and say: “Here is a family

that knew how to love God over all other people”
Yet somehow, while mapping out the future of our unborn children,

we started assigning their names to jobs and schools,

began giving them characteristics and personalities

before they even came out of the womb

before they were even placed in our arms in the delivery room

cold and hungry and needy for our love

for our unabashed open arms

ready to accept them as they are,

as they were created to be

We spent so much time attempting to show them

a mirror image of who we imagined them to be

tried to tell them not to color outside of the lines

not to see how it felt for the lines on our hands to be open to receiving anything

but what was already given to us.

It was then that fear became the only oxygen in my lungs,

terrified that maybe I would never be able to raise a child

that broke the cycle of abuse,

that no matter how much we wanted to create another creature

capable of loving and giving and sprouting wings like hope,

maybe I didn’t have all the tools yet;

maybe I needed another decade or two

to see how I would eventually measure up

to see who I am beneath all those layers of expectations

piled on me as a child, all those fears and dreams I still can’t decide

if they are my own, or some predestination placed on me when my parent’s signed my birth certificate with the name of a child

they had spent years imagining would be just like them.

And don’t we always do this? Don’t we always imagine what our children will be like

decades before we actually have them,

practicing with our baby dolls scenarios in which they grow up to be strong like trees

unbendable, unbreakable, able to weather all storms.

Yet I look at my mother, and I look at my grandmother

and see that both were so wrapped up in trying to find inner peace

that they forgot the sanctity of their own bones

sprawled out like a cradle,

ready to hold the heart of the one they spent nine months creating

with their own flesh and blood,

a creation birthed out of the desire to make something better

than what they had as a child,

but forgetting that expectations often curl the same as a noose:

tight, and unforgiving

and often so familiar it feels like home

a second away from taking your breath.

So, little one, I vow that I will love you

more than I ever have learned to love myself

to give you every part of me that goes beyond any dreams those before me told me I should have for you

and I will carry you so that every day my heart beats stronger

until one day you are able to rise up and see

that it was your heart beating all along

it was always you

my heart will always beat for you.