Grace

Utterly gutted
My brain is flooded
Drowning in blood and emotions
Liquid chemicals straining
Against solid flesh remaining
Doused in prayers and devotions

I won’t come to this again
Back from then to when and been
I am not my past
I am sufficiently stronger
Able to convincingly conjure
Armor to withstand this blast

Strength does not lie in hate
Patience does not lie in wait
Peace lies in the discipline of love
Resolve comes from compromise
Insight from understanding eyes
Grace feathers down like a dove

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pathways

from 2013:

Okay, so here’s an interesting breakthrough. My brain, the well-worn pathways in my brain, tell me I’m stupid if I don’t get food. I was sitting here after denying myself junk food and feeling like I hated myself.

“Why do I feel this way? Why do I feel overwhelmingly like I hate myself right now?”

My brain is feeling bad because I am choosing not to give it the food it wants. To make a new pathway is very difficult for the brain. If I give it the food it’s asking for (that I trained it to ask for) then it’s happy. If I deny it that food, it gets mad and sad.

When I was very young, when my parents would fight, I rewarded my pleasure centers with food and that made my chaotic world seem okay. I have worn a path to my pleasure center with food. You may do it with sex or drugs or alcohol. I am making new pathways and this is the most difficult thing I have ever done. And one day my brain will thank me for good food choices.

Your brain works the exact same way. Trust me.


A friend explained pathways to me after she went through an intense therapy group for eating disorders. Still thankful for that. It has been one of the most significant pieces of the puzzle in terms of changing eating habits and emotional eating.

Eye to Eye

Most of the time, on my medical courier route, I notice that many people avoid eye contact. When I walk into the hospital to deliver my labs, most of the doctors and nurses coming and going have their heads down and pointed at the ground, straight ahead, or usually, more often than not, pointed at a device.

They walk and talk, walk and swipe, or walk and text. I worry about some because they pay more attention to the screen than the pavement underneath them. Good thing they are very near a hospital.

I have started looking at my phone, too. Not as intently as most, but I’m still distracted. Plus, I enjoy not making eye contact. I have to force myself to look at people. And I typically find flaws when I really look at other people. Why don’t I look for the good? It’s just so easy to see the bad.

I struggle with trust. With past issues. With hating others. Always have. I look for the bad because I feel comfortable with that. I’ve seen so much bad, I’m kind of an expert on spotting f’d-up behavior. I’m not an emotional genius, more of a savant. I am intuitive, sensitive and have a keen sense of character. I’m a people watcher when they aren’t looking directly at me. I’m a watcher, not an engager. I became a student of behavior out of necessity, rather than innate talent. I mainly wanted to defend myself and understand my situation. For free. LOL

Today, I will smile. I have to reboot my thinking every once in a while. I will search out smiles and give them away for free. Willingly. Heartily. Sincerely. I will love others today. Even if they don’t return the favor. It’s a choice to see someone. Sometimes, a hard choice. And I will see the good.

Back the F up.

My favorite saying is:

E’erbody bettah back the *F* up off me. Except I don’t use *F*. Well. I use the F and 3 more letters immediately following. 😀

I say it jokingly. Except when I don’t. Or I like this phrase as well. Check yourself, before you wreck yourself. I say it sassy with a few snaps and head whips. Followed by an “MM-hm!” It’s a power move. Sometimes it’s funny.

But. It’s offensive. It can be ugly. I can be ugly. Depends on the mood and reception of the audience.

I do it to protect myself. I do many things to protect myself. I lose my temper from time to time when I can’t cope with life in general any more. Tuesday night, I snapped. And not just my fingers.


I served at Tuesday’s special election in my county. It was interesting, humbling and an incredibly long day. I was at the poll for 14 hours and change.

I got up at 4 am (not something I normally do) to be at the poll at 6 am sharp. I had to drive for 30 minutes just to get to the location. Hopefully, the next election will be closer, in my own precinct or near it. Administration said it would be.

I served all day, had a small break for lunch, and 2-3 shorter breaks here and there. The steady flow of voters didn’t allow much downtime. By the time I finished, I was exhausted. Plus, I spent the day with older women who had all the time in the world to complain, moan and lecture me about the way voting should change or how I was not properly allocating ballots.

“I’m going to work the floor!” A job that most of the older women loathed. Standing (I had a chair to sit in if there were no voters on the floor), addressing the parting voters, checking the booths for left items, and repetitively explaining the tabulator/ballot box procedure (Slide your ballot over the green arrow, over the gray, under the black, wait for the waving American flag to tell you “Thank you for voting!” and then I would say, “Yay! You voted! Yay democracy!” and that would illicit usually a laugh, smile or a thank you.) But I gladly worked my tiny corner of isolation to get away from the bitching bitties.

“Oy! My back!”
“Why do you have to stay 5 feet away from the ballot box?”
“Don’t forget…!”
“OH! You did that wrong!”
“Martha, do this…”
“Martha, do that…”

Most of the older women were racist. Or bigoted. Or just clueless to etiquette, correct terminology, or considerate behavior.

“That guy who came in with the two Oriental kids.”

WTF??

“You mean Asian?” is what I wanted to say, but I just let it go.

Finally, before I left, one of the women was bossing me around, biting my neck (she had been hateful most of the day and specifically to me at times) and I finally bit back.

“Martha, put these away! You know where they go.”

My 5 o’clock whistle blew. Except it was 6:57 pm. “(Bitch), I will put them away when we close the poll!” (Her name has been changed to Bitch to protect the guilty.)

She thought the poll had closed, but we were still a few minutes from shutting the doors. “Oh, I thought we had closed. Sorry.” But Bitch said “sorry” like your husband on your period. “Saw-ree!” Like the inflective (not a word!) equivalent of “Sheesh!”

I was silent. Everyone should worry when I’m silent.

After the poll closed, I turned to Bitch and said, “I’ve never put this away before, I don’t know where they go, but I assume they go in this envelope. Is that correct, (Bitch)?” And I said it firmly, politely, but with that edge of “I will cut a Bitch.” One raised eyebrow.

One quiet, schooled, submissive “Yes.”

“Thank you!”

I heard no more from Bitch.

Needless to say, I was on edge after my husband picked me up.

On the way home, we got into an argument. It doesn’t matter why, but he did something that always triggers me. Always. We’ve had many discussions about the behavior, but he continues to do said shenanigans. After being triggered by the horrible woman at the poll for 14!!! hours, I was weak, vulnerable, tired, hungry, in a really bad place. I was not grumpy. I was not taking out my frustration on my family. I was talking about the day and my frustration with the woman, but I don’t think I was berating my family. I wasn’t. My husband and daughter had asked about my day and I had simply told them all the various good and bad aspects of working an election. Procedures, attitudes, expectations. They were interested because none of us had ever worked an election before. Overall, it was gratifying. But any 14-hour day doing anything is going to be taxing. Gratifying or not.

So, the inevitability of the situation was obvious. My husband spent most of the day pursuing a low-priority goal and neglected some crucial chores. He needed to find a power cord for an item we need to sell, he needed to follow up about a temp job for IT, and he needed to feed our daughter dinner. Or at least communicate with me about dinner coordination. Unfortunately, he waited to pick me up at 8:00 pm in hopes that we could all grab a bite together.

Okay. Not horrible. Mildly thoughtful. I say mildly because we both will use any excuse to eat out at any time and the benefit to our partner is secondary to satisfying our eat-out lust. But our daughter eating dinner after 8 on a school night is a digestive juggernaut. Not unheard of, but normally highly-questioned by my husband. It’s just not ideal. But it’s okay if he says so.

And then, on top of all of that, triggered from 14-hour Bitch, chores neglected and now, engage the boosters on trigger-happy hubby with his self-proclaimed “productive” morning routine of dragging home stereo equipment from a thrift store to transfer old tapes to digital storage and cleaning the stereo equipment on my dining room table! with alcohol.

You may not know this, and I’m not sure that he did either, but alcohol would probably eat the finish off my cheap, not-solid wood table. It would probably at least dull the surface. I would like that not to happen. I just bought the damn thing 3 years ago.

We just can’t have nice things. Sigh. LOL
That, and “I can’t take you anywhere.” LOL

Thankfully, it was fine. He put a towel down, but if it had spilled? No towel is going to help.

My husband trying to clean something is like a 5 yo shouting, “Mommie, look! I washed all your sweaters in the toilet!” LOL Just kidding. It’s not that bad. But close.

It’s just, after the day I had, and one of the first things my husband tells me on the way to dinner is, “I did a thing that we have talked about not to do. I did that and only that while you’ve been gone for 14 hours working for our family to make ends meet because I don’t make enough money any more.”

He didn’t say that. That’s what I heard.

So. I lost it. I got super upset. I was PTSD-ing all over the car. I was shrill. Screamy. Angry. We had a bad fight. But we made it through. It took a while. Lots of talking. (He hates that.) Lots of emotion. (He hates that.) Lots of stress. (We both hate that.)

I don’t like being sassy, but I tend to get that way when I feel attacked. As with Bitch. I tend to get that way with my husband, too. Sassy. Mean. Sarcastic. Hateful. It’s mainly when I feel he isn’t listening. Or understanding. Or trying.

You know, it’s like, what’s the point in behaving if I’m talking to a brick wall? Right? And then out comes the mud.

I don’t want this though. I struggle with changing my approach. I struggle with being sweet or polite or even-tempered when I feel neglected. And my family has just not been paying attention lately. Our Christian approach to life is care for each other. This is what God has intended. That’s our thinking. Except, I care for others, put myself last, and then everyone else cares only for themselves. So I get the poopie end of that stick! Feel me, Ladies? I know I’m not alone.

But. Still. I have to do right, no matter what. I have to control myself. I have to follow God. I have to ask for help not from my husband, family or friends, I have to rely on God’s Holy Spirit. No one, not me, not my husband, not my daughter, not Bitch can give me the fruits of the Spirit. That can only come from God. So I have to remember. Ask. Receive. It’s hard to remember when sin and evil are right on top of you. Biting your neck. I need help to remember to ask for help! LOL

I want to be better. Trigger free. I just know that’s not realistic. So I need to call on God. Pray. Submit. Remember. Practice.

Everyone will let you down. Eventually. I’m not perfect. I let my family, friends and co-workers down every day. We just have to reach for grace. For ourselves. For others. For the people we have vowed to love. As a Christian, that’s a vow with everyone.


God, help me. Fill me with your Spirit today and every day. Help me back that *F* train up. Help me be beautiful on the inside. Let your face be the face that others see when they look at me. Help me show your love to the whole world. Help me be an example of your grace with the help of your Spirit. I can’t do it alone. I will fail. I need you. Without you, I am not whole. I am ugly and weak and imperfect. I need you to complete your work in me: your intention, your purpose, my heart transformation, my life dedication through your providence of the Spirit. Amen.

Girl

when i was 14 or 15. i can’t remember exactly. but i was with my friend. Girl (i will call her). she was cool. she accepted me for whatever i was and i think she just appreciated me for being nice and understanding. most people looked at her as poor, white trash. or a slut. she was friendly, outgoing and immediately liked by boys. she had a slim figure and a pleasant smile. she knew how to flirt, but probably because she had been sexually abused. she had a boyfriend, and as far as i knew, was never unfaithful to him. he protected her. and she loved him for that.

my sister, my own sister…told me to stay away from Girl. “Why???” I asked. there was only a shoulder shrug and another head shake of no, telling me to stay away from her. funny, i would rather hang out with Girl than my own sister, that’s for sure. and i wasn’t going to take any advice from my sister who had her own questionable relationships with people of ill repute. whatever! can you say whatever and repute together? that sounds stupid, huh?

whatever.

so, Girl and i hung out. those were fun times.

i never knew though. i never knew in all the time that we hung out that she was being abused. i was being abused too. physically. verbally. but i didn’t tell anyone. i guess she was the same.

when i tried to kill myself, she was there for me. she comforted me as much as another teen can. and when she had problems, i tried to be there for her. at least to listen. but there were things that she didn’t tell me. those were the real things that mattered. and she didn’t share them. there was too much shame in what she had to tell me. i might have seen her in a different light. that’s what she feared. but i wouldn’t have. i really wouldn’t have. i would have fiercely protected her, as her boyfriend did. and i would have gotten her the hell out. Boyfriend must have known. and he loved her anyway. something in him loved her brokenness. he had probably seen it before in his own family.

but we did get her the hell out. eventually.

a day like any other day that i got to hang out with Girl, we went to the mall. i think. i can’t remember now. we went somewhere to hang out. mall, movies, something. and then we came home. we went with Boyfriend. someone other than our parents took us because when we came back, we stayed at Boyfriend’s house. hung out, ate snacks, smoked cigarettes (not me), and drank pop. Boyfriend’s mom was not home and that was the holy grail of hangouts. no parents! there was another boy there. someone from school who would never speak to me at school, but was willing to be kind in this environment. it was a fun time. just talking and being cool teenagers. but then things went bad really quickly.

as the evening came and darkness rose, Girl started talking about leaving. leaving and running away from home. i had heard this before from other friends, so i figured it was because her mother did not approve of Boyfriend. i didn’t realize it was to escape the abuse. she knew all day that today would be the day that she ran away, but she didn’t let on til now. she started talking about how her stepdad had sexually abused her. she said these things in front of the other boy.

my mind was exploding in anger, shock and repulsion. this is a man that i sat at a breakfast table with, that i was polite to, a man that i respected because he was the head of the house. had i known, i would have told someone, hounded someone, punched this worthless human being in the nose. i was bigger than him at 15 and 5’9″. and he was a puny, little pervert. or i could have just hit him over the head with a frying pan in his sleep. a girl can dream.

or i could have simply stood up for my friend when her mother wouldn’t stop contacting him. i could have NOT encouraged Girl to see and reconcile with her stepdad after he had to leave the house because he was abusing the other girls too. i actually encouraged her to see him. being a Xian and knowing the power of forgiveness, i told her to see her stepdad when he tried to make amends. she really didn’t want to. but i didn’t know about the abuse. NOW i understand! i thought she was just being stubborn. if i had known what he was doing, i would never have told her to see him, speak to him, ever have contact with him.

but i didn’t say a word in Boyfriend’s living room when she told me about the abuse. and when she asked me, “you knew didn’t you?” i just nodded my head yes. i couldn’t speak. why??? why didn’t i scream, “NO! you never told me! how could i know??!” but i nodded yes. that must have broken her heart. because now she thought i was another person who knew and didn’t do anything. but i was too afraid to make her say any more about the abuse. i could tell that she wanted to stop talking about this subject that she brought up. she was simply trying to justify to us and the other boy why she was leaving and why we should help her. no justification needed.

we stopped talking altogether. we started preparing for her to leave. our good time came to a close. we started helping her get things together, we all understood, there was no going back. we were all in. the other boy left.

finally, after talking about a plan and believable lies, we were downstairs and ready to leave. then. there was a knock at the door. Girl panicked. she thought it might be her stepdad looking for her. she was right.

Boyfriend went to the door. to make up another lie about Girl and where she might be. Girl and i hid downstairs in the garage behind a car. she was that scared. she knew if she was discovered, that would mean going back to this hell of a life and not making it out. we hid in silence and i prayed that this horrible man would believe the lie and go away without further incident. i prayed for a lie. that feels weird to type. but he did go away. without further incident.

Girl and Boyfriend got in his truck, i said my goodbyes and they drove away. then i walked down to her house, just 2 houses away. the plan was to tell Stepdad and Mom, Girl ran away. that Girl and another person that wasn’t Boyfriend had dropped me off. that i walked home by myself. that they didn’t tell me where they were going and that i didn’t see where they headed other than out of the neighborhood. half truth, half lie. i lied. to protect her. and they believed me.

i was in tears when i said these words. so the tears made it seem like truth. but i was crying for the whole mess. being in the presence of this monster. looking at him and pretending that i didn’t know what he did. how he touched all the girls. crying because i lied to my mother. she was there when i told Girl’s parents the lie.

Girl and I had been missing for hours and my mother was very worried. i told her the truth later that night, after we left Girl’s house. she didn’t rat us out.

i cried for not knowing. for not protecting my friend. for living a day of lies. i never saw that house again. or those people.

i never saw Girl again. she never came back to school. she made it out. i hope.

UR in Ruin

You’re in ruin.
Not from your doing.
Rejected, brokenhearted, beaten, betrayed
By brutal behavior–reckless and unstaid.

You don’t deserve that.

Rise from your ash.
Emerge from the crash.
Carefully remove the plunged-in knife.
Take control of your internal life.

No one else can.

Dig out the buried artifact
What was your heart, not just an act.
Discover the soul of who you are.
Soon you’ll erase that fading scar.

I believe in you.

Exorcism

I’ve got many demons.

Food addiction. PTSD. Depression. Self-esteem issues. Trust issues. Pride. Over-blown sense of fairness. Fear of people. Fear of intimacy.

These are all residuals from abuse, triggers or coping mechanisms. Haunting ghosts. My demons were born of circumstance and pain. Called upon before the age of 5. Schooled in my weakness. Summoned as experts of how to tempt, specifically, me. These are the things that will cause me to stumble and hold me back from fulfilling my purpose and destiny.

I imagine each demon:
black, faceless, with their name written across their chest, written across my existence, swirling, whispering, flowing around my body.

Floating me down some river of negativity. Holding me under from God’s intention for my life. Drowning me in doubt.

Or will they drive me to my purpose? Will I kick and spit and fight until I fly?


To my demons: Yes. I will overcome you. And in doing so, fulfill prophecy and promise. You have no idea who you’re dealing with–God.

Black Stove, Purple Lamp

More from Vol. 2 of Present Tense


We are standing in the living room. We are moving our belongings out of the house because my parents are fighting again. My brother is now married and lives in a nearby town with his wife. He is helping us move.

My father confronts my brother in the living room with a baseball bat and threatens to hurt each of us if we do not leave the house immediately.
My father swings the bat to show his intention. Lands a blow on the free-standing wood-burning stove. He leaves quite a dent in the black sheet metal exterior. A dent that will live with us for all time.
He then swings again to assert his presence and smashes my mother’s favorite lamp. It was a beautiful purple lamp. Two lights, beautiful hand-painted designs on the glass shades and delicate gold filigree edging. Gone with one blow.
He smashes the lamp, I imagine, to see the pained look of surprise on her face. He wants to see her hurt.

Tiny little shards embedded in the carpet. Gouges torn in the wood of the end table. Hearts shattered at the violence, but not for things. Splinters of feelings scattered and strewn.


This would not be the last time I would see this house. It should have been.
The house is gone now. Swallowed up in time. Rotted with weather and neglect and turmoil. But it housed our violent, chaotic family for nearly 20 years. It existed and so did we. A new house stands in its place.
So long now. But the violence persists in my mind.
Sometimes, I wish my mind or memories would rot, but they are rock solid. The negativity built on unshaken cliffs of time-battered trauma.

Memories can be swept away like sand on the shore, but this bedrock is immovable. Formed in liquid lava and cooled to stone for all time.


We moved back very soon after this incident. Perhaps 1-2 months later. We left several times, but never for very long. Unfortunately.

’66 Chevelle

More from Vol. 2 of Present Tense.


I am 14 or 15 years old. Saturday morning. I’m lying down, but awake. I am in my bedroom with the door closed. There is one loud voice and one scared voice in the next room.
“Where is she?”
He is choking my sister. He is pulling her hair. He is threatening her. He is hurting my sister because my mother isn’t there to hurt.
He leaves her bedroom. I stop moving, thinking, inhaling in the hope that I will not be next. Not quickly enough, I hear the back door bang.
I hear my sister stir. I hear her muffled, wet breaths. She is crying.
I hear my father opening the hood of my sister’s car, the car that she shares with my mother.


’66 Chevelle Malibu. The one with the rusted-out hole in the floor board. The one with white paint and blue vinyl seats. The one with jagged rear window posts that cut your hand when you’re not careful. The one that an old lady drove to church and the store and only had several thousand miles when we bought it almost 20 years after it was made. The classic. The sweet-ass sportster. The muscle car from Malibu. The one that will take a beating.


I look out the window of my bedroom and see my father ripping wires out of the engine. He slams the hood closed and now takes a hammer he must have grabbed on the way out. He pounds the metal repeatedly with quick, powerful blasts and leaves at least two dozen or more marks.
These are not dings. These are not dimples. These are deep, hate-filled holes.
“Get out of here.”
My sister calls my brother and we leave. We wait at the end of our driveway for my brother to pick us up. We don’t speak to one another. I am powerless to change what is happening. I can only follow, obey and relinquish any hope of being normal.


Every time I tell this story, it makes me afraid all over again. But. I lived. So I am thankful for this story. It reminds me that I can survive. And that I never have to live that way again.