The following is a poem and writing that I am working on. It is just a few rambling thoughts to get out.
Can I look through a window of your world
Can I see the love you’ve known
I only want to touch that smile
And feel the happiness inside
I want to walk behind you
And place my feet within the footprints of your life
Can I look through a window of your world
Can I know the joy that you’ve known
I want to run and play
I want to fall and cry
I want to be surrounded by those arms of love
Can I look through a window of your world
Can I feel the understanding that you’ve known
I want to touch the warm beating heart
As it gives life to your eyes
I want to grasp the crayon, which gives color to your world
I want to experience that freedom of security
Can I look through a window of your world
Sometimes I find myself trying to find an object to describe my life so others may see and understand. So far, I see my life as a canvas with many distinguishing strokes upon it. On this canvas the different people in my life have placed each unique detail. My canvas has many colors, some light and some dark. It has different textures and materials, with some rips and some stitching, that have been used to make sure each distinguishing mark has it’s own unique place and importance in telling who I am. As I look at this canvas set before me, I see parts of my past, present, and future I want to be. The past has been separated by who I was cultivated to be and who I really am. The present seems to be trapped between a future that I want and a past I seem to relive day in and day out. The future seems so out of reach as if it were only in my dreams.
With my small sparkling brown eyes, black hair, chubby fingers, stubby toes, fat cheeks, and scarcely developed mind, I began to look at the strange environment called the world around and began to wonder how I would fight the battle I had been placed in. At first I thought nothing could stop me. I was alive and had people around me. But soon I began to feel different about the world and what was in it. I didn’t think the adventure of my life would last this long. I had picked everyday as a good day to meet my maker. It all began at a very young age. As I began to lie out small portions of a future, I had no assurance would even come, I did not realize those around me would place an enormous amount of detail on my canvas.
In the past I was ruled by generational sins and choices of a family stuck within tradition and the walls of confinement. For many years obedience has been confused with gaining respect. Control has been confused with helping. Punishment has been confused with discipline and grace. I began to look in the windows of other’s lives to find the things I wanted and needed. My life to me seemed normal but at the same time I didn’t like it and wanted something else.
When the time came for me to begin school, I was elated. I had watched for four years my brothers and sisters leave the house and go somewhere they learned a lot of new things they brought home to teach me. Yes, not all were good and some got me in trouble when I repeated them; but at times, they seemed to like going there. The night before I started, I couldn’t sleep. I had such eagerness and anticipation of what would happen that I couldn’t stop asking questions. This excitement slowly faded after being at school for a few months. It wasn’t the teachers or the things I learned from them. It was the abuse.
The first experience of abuse outside the home was when I was five years old. Some people may say, well it was just two kids experimenting. No, it wasn’t. The difference is that when kids experiment, they don’t threaten one another. I would dread going to school each morning and at the same time I wanted the attention because even at such a young age I thought this is the only way I got love. It would always begin at naptime. We would take a nap under one of the round tables that he would say was a fort he had made to protect us. There were wooden blocks that he had stacked up all around the table so no one could see in our little fort. Whatever they didn’t cover, the blankets we had would cover.
He would have me lie on my back and say he wanted to hold me. Then he began slowly touching me and pulled my pants down to touch after several times of doing this. I can’t remember how long this went on but it seemed like months.
Then one day he wanted one of his friends to join us in the fort. He had threatened me not to tell anyone. No one would believe he would do something like that at school and I would just get in BIG trouble. He also wouldn’t speak to or play with me anymore. But he told and he had a friend come to the fort saying it was ok for him to do the same.
Not long after this, it was naptime and the kids in the class would not be quiet. They were all giggling. It was a rainy day and we had to stay inside. The next thing I remember is the blocks and covers being jerked away and the teacher pulling me out from under the table yelling at us. She pushed me out into the hallway and then dragged me down the hall to the principal’s office where I sat for the longest time shaking and crying.
The secretary just stared as if she had been told and I was the dirtiest little girl she had seen. She was told to call my mom to come and get me and to explain to her why. That bench and that room were colder and darker than I can remember any room in that school at that time. I waited for what seemed like hours.
My mom arrived and she gave me “the look” that said I was once again no good and couldn’t meet her standards. Once she talked to the principal, she jerked me off the bench and drug me to the car yelling and letting me know how much I had embarrassed her that day. She called me names and yelled the whole ride home.
When we arrived, I didn’t know what to expect as usual. I was trying so hard to figure out how I needed to act to not make things worse and even make things better if I could. I couldn’t. She told me to go and pick a switch off the tree and if it were not thick enough or big enough then she would go and get one that she knew would hurt good enough. I got the switch and after entering the house she proceeded to ask what I let him do to me. She wanted me to explain by telling and showing her. Then she used the switch on me to let me know it was not ok that I let him do this.
All of my life I have been paralyzed by fear, the fear of physical abuse, mental abuse, sexual abuse and abandonment. Around every corner was someone wanting something, needing something. I had been repeatedly raped, molested, abused and threatened by many people in my life and thought this was life for everyone.
Eight different males had raped or molested me by the time I was 17 years old. I felt nowhere was safe anymore. It happened in a church, outside a church, in the home and outside the home. Friends, family, and acquaintances were all involved. I didn’t know whom to trust anymore. All things had strings attached… gifts, love, it didn’t matter what it was. It came with a string.
At an early age I learned that things had strings attached and I had to wear a mask to accommodate them all. I was told to never speak unless spoken to, so I also learned quickly to express anything real about me in hidden messages of art and writing. I began drawing and painting at an early age. I would hide in an old oak tree after school to draw or read or write whatever I could. My hiding became an internal and external way of life for me. I could trust me and I could find a way of life I liked inside my books and inside the stories I would write or draw out in my art.
The only problem with writing was when it was a journal and it was an attempt to express what I really felt or saw. You see, others in my house liked to read my journals when I was not around or had gone to school. I hid them but it never seemed to keep them from getting to them. They would find them and I would be reminded of why it was not good to write or try to be the real me. I would also be reminded of how I told too many lies by telling what I really saw go on in the house or in our family.
When you are abused life seems to stop in some ways. You don’t know how to go beyond the point something important to life is taken from you. Those around you become enemies no matter who they may be simply because they may carry a characteristic of the abuser. The environment around you also becomes something you tend to question because you look at it from the prospective of whether you can be hurt there or not. The past is never allowed to be left behind because it wants to never lay its head down and never wants to slow down to be worked through so that it can be understood and become in anyway intimate with the present world.
When I was away from my family I tried to break free of the bars surrounding me through the activities I chose. I hungered and thirsted for more energy, excitement, and peace. I took in every moment I had each summer at camp. I loved to camp, hike, go horseback riding, and go on nature walks and stop to have a picnic. I would do anything to be outside where there were no walls.
But I continued to walk in the same worn out path given to me. I refused to take inner leaps that would allow for new permanent chances and changes. I couldn’t make myself talk about things I felt and things I had experienced. I wanted someone to blame and instead drove myself deeper into insanity. Even though I wanted to go forward, my body and mind had stopped in the past and didn’t want to allow me to catch up because this meant in some way I would need to begin a path I didn’t know or understand. My life was complete conflictions and contradictions.
I constantly looked for love in other people’s actions and facial expressions. I wanted some visual to place with that word, Love. I never got the same one twice. I was told “I love ya”, by friends. I was told “I love you” by those who called themselves friends or even family but instead only wanted to touch me in some way or take something from me.
Elementary school was a constant torture especially after the abuse in kindergarten. We moved in after second grade and I thought many things about going to a new school. It could be good to meet new people who didn’t know me. Or it could be more of the same. In many ways things didn’t change. I made a lot of new friends but I still thought all the little boys wanted the same things and in a lot of the cases they did.
My first real boyfriend use to live down the street from me. Our parents were friends so you know you have to make nice. We liked to play outside and get dirty. I loved this cause I didn’t have to stay inside a lot and no one was right in my business most of the time. We made ourselves a little fort in this odd shaped tree outside. Then one day it came. He wanted to kiss. It was okay at first until he also wanted to go a little further and I said no. He didn’t push it but boy did he get mad. He said all boys and girls did that cause he had seen it done before. I still wouldn’t let him put his hand up my shirt so he didn’t want to be my boyfriend anymore.
I don’t know what he told the others but soon after that another new boy at school approached me to be my boyfriend. He was the best looking boy in class so I thought this was Great. He liked to come over to my house at times but he acted a lot more grown up (or as much as you can in 5th grade) than the first boy did. He taught me how to French kiss and was always real affectionate and polite. Then one day he came to my house to play board games and began trying to go a little further also. I let him touch me on the outside of my clothes as he had threatened to get any girl in school to let him do this. I didn’t want to loose what I thought was his love. I did anyway the next week when the new girl came into school and was just his type. She was beautiful and very popular.
This same pattern went on for the whole year with a few more boys. It isn’t just a pattern I see now though. It is a perception and a way of living in a lot of ways.
The next year I would start at a whole new school. It was the sixth grade and our teachers had repeatedly told us what we could and couldn’t do in our behavior once we got to the middle school. They reminded us that once again we would be the youngest ones in town and we had to curb some of our behaviors so we wouldn’t get hurt but be more responsible acting.
That summer I went to camp as usual. I always went to two of them. One was right on the river. I can still smell the air and hear the crickets at night. The water was always cold cause we swam right there in the Catawba river in the middle of July. We would get up each morning with breakfast and regular chores that was set to the tune of the outside bell that would be rung each time it was time to change an activity. I thought it was the coolest to have a camp counselor. They were older but not old enough to be my parent. They also were nice even though they were the age of my brothers and sister.
My river of peace came from a bottle that always had an end. It constantly needed to start over so it never allowed me a place to lay my head.
Today I see myself struggling with determination to find a way out of the prison of the past. The doors are open, the chains are off but I feel trapped somewhere between the past and a future I want to be. My mind continues not to find a place to lay my head a lot of nights. My thoughts bounce from past, to present, to future, and back again. I can’t stop it. I become worn out chasing it. I continue to be ruled at times by the walls built by tradition and confinement. I can’t find my way around them, over them, or a path through them.
The future I want is calm, engaged, stabilized, energetic, and filled with love. The future I want seems to be created only in my dreams. It is as if it vanishes when I wake to the reality around me. It becomes something that slowly fades as the hours of the present day fade and walk into the past. Then the cycle and struggles begin again to lay my head down and find the dream again.