Oh, how I wish I were brave enough to share a photo of my surroundings! My dining room has become an extension of my closet, cluttered with discarded garments, bent wire hangers, and unsuitable handbags with twisted vinyl openings. In one corner stands a box containing an “assistive device” which I ordered and will never use. Lovely and powerful artwork from Jilli Nel, Ruthie Becker, and Robin Thomas Hall rises above me on the walls. My mother-in-law’s secretary full of delicate china resolutely towers over its protruded desktop which groans under the weight of a week’s pile of mail. To my left sits a breakfast plate beside a box of probiotics; to my right, a water glass from two days ago and a coffee cup in which micro-waved coffee cools.
How this sad state of disarray developed defies understanding. I’ve lost all regard for common decency, daily chores, and the niceties of living. By nightfall, though, all of this must vanish. I leave at 5:30 a.m. tomorrow and the house-sitter should not be expected to tip-toe through this shambles. I’ll get it done. I like my house-sitter.
As I sat on the porch a few moments ago, thinking about what to write today, I realized that I started these musings nine years ago this month. I think I’ve told all the warm, fuzzy stories. I’ve given you visuals of the rocks between which I’ve slipped, the crevices in which my feet have lodged, and the glowing countenances upon which I have rested my bleary eyes.
I have only alluded to the shattered glass, the raised hand, the downward thrust, and the endless nights of pain. Those who want to know, to believe, to accept, have stood with me as the frigid wind pushed its way into the cracks and battered down the door. Those who only desire beauty lower their eyes and back away, murmuring their rejection of my truths. I always assumed that none of those stories were real, they stammer, as the carousel takes them around toward their golden ring. They grab their prize, holler to the attendant, Stop! I want to get off! and leap from their mount to the security of solid ground before full stop. Their faces blur as I turn in endless circles.
In the light of today’s sweet dawn, I thought about the grimness that I’ve been releasing these last three years, as I pulled the winding shrouds from my body and prepared for my rebirth.
I’ve told the happy stories. I’ve talked about the dinner cooked in a potbelly stove while the snow swirled around us in the Arkansas Ozarks. I’ve taken you on a tour of the fragile souls who meander through my life. I’ve taken your hand and led you to the grandeur of the Montana Rockies and the stark wonder of the glaciers.
But I have not shown you the terrors which raked across my own soul or the festering scabs in the fabric of my being. I have brought you to my paradise and closed the door to prying eyes on my raging hell.
Would you have it any different? Would you climb down into the scalding depths with me? Would you fight my giants?
As I sipped my leftover coffee today, I let my mind pick through the tales that I could tell. I have enough courage to unbar the armory door now. The moving pictures come to me as stills. Their power has faded.
Here is the policeman who sat me on his lap and asked me to tell him what my daddy did to my mommy.
Here is another police officer who dragged me into an empty apartment and raped me.
Here is the man who raised a shotgun and murdered a doctor walking in the hospital hallway in front of me.
Here is twisted wreckage of my body lying on asphalt rubble.
Here is the tautness of my mother’s face just before death.
Here is the blood on the bathroom floor and in the crimson pool, the fetal tissue of my son’s lifeless twin.
Here is the slash on my stoned neighbor’s head as he grabbed my shaking hands and implored me to plunge a needle into his cracked skull so he could avoid the emergency room.
Here is my mother lying on the kitchen floor in a pile of savagely smashed dishes.
Here are the echoes of the taunts and jeers of children who only understand that I wobble when I walk; that if they holler louder, I stumble more.
Here is my father’s dark face glaring at me as he bends over the kitchen counter waiting for the coffee to perk.
Here are the French doors with shards of glass and splinters of wood where its fragile surface yielded to my mother’s body when my father hurled her across the dining room.
Here are the remnants of the anniversary cake which my sister baked, with its blue icing smeared across the table in one enraged sweep of my father’s arm.
Here are six children huddled under beds waiting for the moment to spring out and shout Happy Anniversary! but staring instead at the stillness of their mother’s body surrounding by glass and fragments of ruined doors.
Here is a sixty-one year old afraid of heights knowing but unable to explain why. She cannot tell you about walking out on the Eads Bridge in St. Louis during the floods and watching the rage of the Mississippi. She cannot capture the temptation she felt, the urge to let go and slip into the water.
Recently, someone told me that I should get therapy. The same person has expressed this belief countless times. A decade ago, he might have made a good case. Three years ago, I tried. One therapist after another, all clueless about the real world where my demons dwell. Healing seemed too elusive; and not for the likes of me. Not for me, the happy life.
But then I remembered the Rule of Oz.
Remember that rule?
You’ve always had the power to take yourself home. Just click your heels together three times and say, There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.
Everybody has ugly stories to tell. From the fierceness of the glimmers which flicker from the gapes in my armor, mine might seem starker than yours. But none of them control me anymore. I used to sit on my porch and rock to soothe myself. Now I rock for the sheer joy of the easy motion. A squirrel sneaks on my porch and I laugh with delight, for I know he’s the imp who stole my beautiful jade plant. I can’t be angry with him. He’s just trying to survive like all the rest of us.
HARLEM LYRIC THEATRE & OPERA CO., ‘GOING HOME’ DVORAK’S LARGO
Powerful stories of pain. As you say, everyone’s got them and learning to give them their proper place, in the past, is also powerful.
I like to think in my own journey that these toxic stories remain, waiting for the proper time to share their lessons with my present and release the damage from cell and soul. I’ve learned some story midwifery along the way. Isn’t that what it means to be human?
“People who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real badasses.”
— Brené Brown