When obedience looks like Speaking up and Telling becomes an adventure in full disclosure, it isn’t long before the Accuser tells me Lies and I realize I am not very eager to share an experience with Awkward Grace.
But, I do it anyway.
The only thing more awkward than being an early teenager is processing, as an adult, what being an early teenager looked like.
Imagine if that teenager is riddled with the kinds of issues that generally allow therapists to buy new cars and go on expensive vacations.
But, someone needed to listen and somewhere, inside, that girl needs to speak up and be counted as valid. So, I am giving her permission to speak and even telling her to bring her battered suitcase of misunderstandings and scars into the light.
Just between you and me, if she was sitting right here, I think we’d like her. If we could get her to pull her head of a book long enough to engage, that is.
She thinks all the time. And she’s quirky, but, honestly? We like quirky.
She’s not used to talking tho’ and telling this part of the story is just about as awkward as she is.
I can’t even say she means well because, um, she just doesn’t know how to mean well. Beginning to examine the status quo, but black and white are clashing like Titans.
She was at war and didn’t know it.
Covered in grace. Filled with Love. Walking in light. That came so much later.
Nails chewed to the quick. Hair pulled back. Smudged glasses, dark brown and librarian huge, constantly slipping down my nose.
So I began, in fits and starts, to develop a voice. To speak. Kind of.
Excruciatingly, as simple words expressing angst riddled thoughts were laid out with the kind of self-indulgence that exists as a special gift only to the very young and the very broken words flowed through Bic pens and chewed up #2 pencils.
Childish scribbles relentlessly asked “Why?” in a manifesto of obsession applied toward making sense of the mess of life in which I lived. There was no concept of sin and sinner. Only yes and no. Except others had all the yes and I couldn’t find my no.
It was a beginning.
14 and questioning everything I had ever known to be true was a full time occupation, because that is what 14 year olds do.
Yet, the endless wrestling was destined to fail, for there was no one to answer or to point me toward wisdom. Demands for reason were burning holes in cheap journals and college-lined paper only to be tucked away into dark, cobwebby places that were all I had.
No one was allowed to see the things I asked.
The family faith didn’t allow for a lot of testing.
There are some questions which can only be answered by ears willing to hear them. Hearing can only come to those who listen. Listening only happens when you are quiet.
I was too angry to be quiet. I wanted to speak. ______________________________
Her shrill, taunting, voice echoed down the long, empty, hallway and knifed through my mind before settling heavy and sharp in the middle of the self-imposed delusion of belonging. She wouldn’t stop following me. She wouldn’t stop calling me names. Relentlessly pursuing the girl in home made clothes until she got bored and the next person joined in to find something to mock. I wanted them to stop but, frustratingly, inside I was suddenly the little girl sitting on the dollhouse floor while strange arms held me.
I couldn’t move. I couldn’t defend myself.
I was too much noticed and too much exposed and there wasn’t a NO loud enough inside of me to make it stop.
Painstaking years of insulating myself away from the pain of being misunderstood and mis-used were blown away like a puff of smoke. I was all at once naked. All at once vulnerable. All at once…
I wasn’t prepared for the seasons of scorn and every cruel word only emphasized how very brutally cold it can be to the weak when you aren’t the strong one. The one in control. The one with all the power.
I was powerless and despised my victim status.
Would I ever be more than this?
Obsessive introspection won’t win friends and influence people. Just the opposite.
All the naval-gazing in the world can never give strength and definition to an identity and purpose brought by anger and resentment. A bitterness fueled by a dawning realization of injustice, unfairness, and abandonment. Lit on fire and left to burn, the only way out is to self-destruct.
I was looking to others to prove, beyond an Earth-sized doubt, that I am valuable. Worthwhile. Significant. I tried. I really did. But looking outside, squinting through the fog of half-truths and justifications, I was blinded to Love no matter how brightly He would shine.
There is no one, with hands reaching down into that pit, who could be strong enough to remove pillars of broken identity. I believed I was a failure. Worthless. Pointless. Repulsive. Unwanted.
Living and scratching out an existence in houses built on a concrete belief in a lacerated martyrdom which was self-imposed and was shakily supported by immature conclusions and twisted realities.
Weak though they may be, from the viewpoint of years, it was, to my teen aged self, an unshakeable faith in the definitions of me. Of you.
Of the world in which we lived.
Slowly, revelation emerged and back to the journal I went. What I had thought was strength was shackles. Where I’d intended to rise above I’d, instead, blinded myself to an unwavering truth.
The night terrors hadn’t built a fortress. Fear upon fear, assault upon assault, bitterness upon boiling anger, we had built a jail and I was the jailer.
So, now I stood, behind bars with names like cynicism and counterfeit, humiliation and whore. Locked in. Locked up.
Along the way, I’d lost the key and freedom was no longer an option. Death row but I wasn’t strong enough to do more than raise red lines on hidden white skin where no one could see me bleed. I wanted to die but I couldn’t even be strong enough for that, I thought to myself. I never thought I was being held back, restrained from my own self-destructive ways.
Who would care that much? About me?
The inmates were getting restless. The little girl awoke. She stirred and startled the victim. The victim lashed out at the mask maker. The mask maker pushed back against the liar and in all the commotion, I bumped into the mirror and, in the light, realized I’d never really been alone.
There were, others, here. Voices I’d always included in my personal dialogue. Thoughts that rattled outside my life experience and taunted the child in me, found justification for the rebellion, and, ultimately, pointed me toward a spiritual awakening that would consume me.
Gently crossing the threshold, capitalizing on my isolation, an insidious temptation suggested that I seek a path of my own, outside the church walls, beyond the blurred lines of a broken doctrine. A scaly finger crooked and pointed toward an experiment in faith that would, ultimately cost a king’s ransom in nightmares.
The walls between fantasy and reality, insubstantial and too weak for the sudden onslaught of scrutiny, buckled under the pressure and revealed defiance as a pathetic attempt for self-determination. My inner sanctum was breached.
Un-tempered by grace, the light was cold and calculating. Weighing my worth in the balances of social aptitude and desirability, I’d been found wanting and I was defenseless.
Storm clouds gathered.
A crowd sat in the music room as the piano softly played the first bars to “Send In The Clowns”.
It was music festival and my turn to perform had come.
Breathing in deeply, I began to sing, “Isn’t it rich? Are we a pair…”
My voice was clear and confident, filling the room.
The last notes bounced off the tile floor and the room was quiet. The judge blinked a few times and put his pen down.
“100. I have nothing to judge. Well-done.” Applause.
Perfect, said the score. Barely acceptable, he probably felt sorry for me because I’m so awful, said my inner voice.
“Isn’t it rich?
Are we a pair?
Me here at last on the ground,
You in mid-air..
Where are the clowns?
I had learned to survive by being clever and a calculating, methodical, kind of useful, but hidden beneath my funny girl routine where nothing really touched me, was an exquisite and unpredictable ability to fall in love.
Desperate for the smallest tastes of affirmation, even the slightest bits of attention could prick at my shriveled little heart into a breathless, intently focused, adoration.
I hung my hopes on a Hollywood version of “you complete me” that lead, always, to an ever-present sense of rejection that was kept well-fed by the awkwardness and vanity of unattainable affection.
Love was the answer. But I was asking all the wrong questions.
Isn’t it bliss?
Don’t you approve?
One who keeps tearing around,
One who can’t move…
Where are the clowns?
Send in the clowns.
From the heady moments of infatuation to the inevitable dismissal as one more beautiful, more clever, more available was chosen I went from mountain-top to hell over and over again.
It’s a strange world when you go from being pursued and used to overlooked and dismissed.
Obviously, there was something terribly wrong with me.
Just when I’d stopped opening doors,
Finally knowing the one that I wanted was yours.
Making my entrance again with my usual flair
Sure of my lines…
No one is there.
I fell in love…
He was 6’5″, broad shouldered, and blond. His hands were bigger than the span of the small of my back and I didn’t care that he flirted crazy wild with all the pretty girls.
He flirted with me too. Me!?!
Suddenly desired, I had captured the attention of that young man and his arms, draped casually over my shoulders, erupted a flurry of emotion, only slightly tinged with fear. I leaned on that freshly pressed shirt, smelling him, clean and drenched in aftershave.
The farm boy captured my heart.
He moved on.
I was crushed.
Don’t you love farce?
My fault, I fear.
I thought that you’d want what I want…
Sorry, my dear!
And where are the clowns
Send in the clowns
Don’t bother, they’re here.
Moonlight made wavy shadows on the path as we walked side by side and nervous laughter bubbled up from my chest. I wasn’t ready for his attentiveness and didn’t know what to do with his long fingers wrapped around my woman-child hand.
Tall and lean, dark hair fell across a high forehead and slightly crooked teeth in his broad smile hid a demand. I was young, I was silly, I was foolish. We were alone.
He was too strong and the chipped right front tooth that still catches at my tongue reminds me of unwanted sloppy kisses and iron fingers digging into my arms.
I ran. So far. So hard. But, there was no out-running the truth.
I was still hunted.
Quietly, I wept on the bottom bunk while the whispered litany repeated over and over inside my head.
“It’s your fault. How could you be so stupid. So stupid. You deserve it. You are weak. Always so weak.”
Isn’t it rich?
Isn’t it queer?
Losing my timing this late in my career.
And where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns…
Well, maybe next year.
No one was safe. No where was safe.
Obviously, I needed to figure out how to take care of myself.
No one else was going to.