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.

 

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.

This could be someone you know

Has anyone ever told you
what it feels like 
to be two parts of one whole? 
To not be sure 
of which half you’ll wake up as
in the morning? 
to feel your heart
constantly wedged in your throat
for fear of saying
what’s on the mind 
of the sad half of you? 

There are some days
I never touch down to reality
some days I feel the clouds
of my ancestors
begging me to be brave
and stand strong
but it’s so hard 
when you’re weak 
from wanting 
to wear the paths 
of your prayers
like circles 
around your fingers
because then there’d be proof
that you’d been searching
for the map all along 
and people might stop thinking 
that maybe 
your just listening 
to the beating 
of your own 
misunderstandings. 

I’ve spent so much time 
becoming acquainted 
with the hole in my pillow 
my head leaves 
when I just want to be left alone.
I’m so afraid 
that if I share the riverbeds
beneath my eyes ,
reveal all the joy 
the darkness
has stolen from me 
that someone 
will start seeing false cracks
in my smile
the way the moon 
saw my tongue 
and tried to fill it with it 
with visions of the fields
so I could run
away with my depression
and build a home for us 
beneath the weeping willows. 

I find it’s better 
if I stay home 
beneath the covers
because then 
I don’t have to explain 
to broken faces
why I can’t find the beauty 
anymore. 

I can’t wake up 
another morning 
with lead in my bones. 

I guess this is my cry for help

 
 

Beauty–the ugly truth

I’m not a big fan of the title. It needs some adjustment. For now, I’m very excited to have the first draft of a concept that snuck up and took my soul by surprise last night–society’s standards of beauty. I’ve gotten in a lot of deep conversations regarding the idea of beauty and how it’s applicable to that person’s ideology about women and men’s designs and nature. Here’s a little rhetorical piece about my feelings towards that concept. 

 

Too often I’ve been told,

between worn out words

and conversations stuck

to the bottom of too many regrets:

“a little paint

on the old barn

 never hurt anyone.”

But I’m telling you, I’m am not

weathered,

though this ship

has wrestled enough

hurricanes,

twisted itself free

from the rocks along the shore

enough times to know

it no longer wants to see

the inside of the barrel

of a sawed off shotgun,

no longer wants to feel the poison

of revenge

pulsing in the space

between soul and spine.

 

I know what the inside

of a concentration camp looks like

for  I have been aprisoner

inside my own tower of bitterness

for far too long.

My mind has fought off scarlet fever—

infectious to the crewmembers

trying so hard to breathe—

long enough to try to dig holes

in the spaces where good memories

should live;

and clearing it out

took every ounce of strength,

took the backhand

of a machete

in the deep woods of anger

to knock down the walls

that asphyxiated freedom

from bursting in my heart,

exploding as a rose

growing through the rocks

in the desert.

 

So I pulse this prayer,

clinging close to some-day hope

that this world will comprehend

that beauty’s definition

is expansive,

it does not run with fear,

it cannot be expelled by naysayers,

and that only when we add “I”

to beauty

do we find freedom,

for we cannot be free

when this oppressive world chooses

so desperately to callous our hearts

with ill-chosen ideologies that revolve

around the correct curvature of the spine,

the proper part of the lips ,

or the sly way in which a smile

creeps along the face

after low blows to the intellect.

 

Sometimes true magnificence

is found marginalized,

marketed by few,

for society’s standards

spell implosion,

suffocation,

and does not comprehend

the definition

of redemption,

and the beauty that comes

from battling our demons,

not hiding them beneath

layers of makeup,

and false advertising

to make the barn pretty.

 

Our souls slither

between the space

of soul and intellect,

initiating realization

that fairytales

do not always come

pre-packaged,

they burst forth beaming

from circumstance.

Rise forth, queens of pain

summon your strength

for you are strikingly stunning–

surreal–

and society only serves

to suck

self-esteem

from the ones who know not

that their beauty is deeper

than any critic

could ever tell them otherwise

so let’s become a pandemic,

and strike this world confused

with our hearts heaving,

beating beauty, with every breath. 

 

WeLove Movement

I have recently felt a desperate longing to come up with a page to help reach women and make them feel powerful, loved, beautiful again. To help combat the garbage that we encounter every day, and the lies that we are told like “you aren’t a good enough wife if you don’t do x” and “you’ll never be good enough.” They just keep building up. I’m sick of seeing broken women lining the streets. To see downtrodden, abused members of society because no one took the time to tell them they are worth someone. So, I assembled a group of powerful women to impact this world. 

 

Let’s make this a MOVEMENT. Not a dream. Stand with me today. Share this page with those who need it. And let’s get to changing the world. I’m ready. Are you? 

 

https://www.facebook.com/WeloveMovement?skip_nax_wizard=true

Ruptured

can I kiss you with my scars,

make love to the littlepieces

you leave tucked in your

missingletter crosswords?

would it make for a better story

when our souls go out at night

and you are left with nothing

but the pale shadow form

of your sweat left behind

in the shape of your heartless body

from the night before?

 

and when I make sense

of all these tribulations

will you extinguish them,

or will you peel back

the exoskeleton

and add me

as another slash mark

splayed in your wallet,

as another discovery

conquered,

nothing more?

 

I want to be what moves you

when the world is full

of languid desire,

a restless form

sprawled neatly

across the pillowcase

as time ticks,

disintegrating our heartbeats

in brilliant unison. 

 

There’s still so much youth

that needs to be aired out of my bones

and right now

it’s lying smothered beneath my frailty

finding itself

in the rings left behind

after shots

taken alone in the kitchen

after emptiness

is wept out in the wind

and whispered

in broken book ends.

 

world,

I’m ready to puncture

every imaginative impulse

you’ve attached my name to

branded on pieces of rocks

to weigh me down,

leaving me to wonder

why pride

was my bedpartner

taking half the covers

and more than that

of my heart.

 

I shouldn’t have to explain

what fragments

of my past

lie on the path of destruction

for today.

What moments replay

–monumental against

the grain of the sunrise

I’m swiftly running towards.   

 

so tonight

is it okay if I just sweat out

the pain

and breathe in the mist

of your frantic longing

until the cradle

of this bottle

exhales me

as a full blown woman

and no longer

a frightened need,

a mist on the seas of change

hoping one day

to blow like the lilacs

and change the tide of the world. 

Poetic Fragmentations

Today I sat down to write. Not unlike every day of my life. I sit there straining and tugging at some mysterious heartstring, hoping to find something that connects to something real, and to be able to pull on it until it bursts, breaking forth from the abyss of my memories.

It’s been like this for too damn long. I’m sick of struggling to come up with anything that is inspiring. Or earth-rattling. Or explosive. I just write snippets and segments of ideas and than the drains in my brain get clogged. And I give up. I close the document. Slam the lid on the computer. It’s time to stop thinking I’ll get somewhere. Sometimes.

This afternoon. I shuffled though the documents section on my computer. Ya’ll should see this disaster. Seriously, it’s pathetic. You’d think after a year of not being able to push anything out of my mind but journal entries, I’d be ready to push forth into the great divide. It’s just not happening. Believe me. I’m sick of talking about all of this nearly as much as you are about hearing it. Promise.

So, in commemoration of my non-ability-to-write year, here are some snippets I found on my computer of poems. Which ones do you think I should pursue. What do you like better?

#1

spent themorning

writing

until myveins

could nolonger bleed

ink

#2

you speak asthough

beauty only belongs

to those willing

to weigh their intentions

against their actions

making sure they

hash out

to an even number

zero

#3

and for that second

in time

i was totally

and positively

helpless

to your love

#4

like a lit cigarette

thrown out

of a moving vehicle

at top speeds,

you hit the ground

burst

into a showof flames

and extinguish

smoke rising

towards the clouds

a moment of judgment

gone awry

#5

sometimes words

don’t make sense,

wrapped around

our tongues like

brillo pads,

scraping at

our intellect,

eating away

our last chance

of ever transforming

from an ugly insect

to a rainbow of color

waiting to delve

into the flowers

and blossom.

…and this is the current poem I was working on today:

#6

can I kiss you with my scars?

would it make for a better story

when our souls go out at night

and you are left with nothing

but the pale shadow form

of your sweat left behind

in the shape of your heartless body

from the night before?

and when I make sense

of all these tribulations

will you extinguish them,

or will you peel back

the exoskeleton

and add me

as another slash mark

splayed in your wallet,

as another discovery

conquered,

nothing more?

I want to be what moves you

when the world is full

of languid desire,

a restless form

sprawled neatly

across the pillowcase

as time ticks ,

disintegrating our heartbeats

in brilliant unison.