I’m living proof that the universe never does what you think it should. That no matter how you try to build your life the way you think it should be. No matter the promises you have made to yourself. The universe will always challenge you and move you in ways you never expected.
Not that it is a bad thing mind you. It is what it is. Much of how much you enjoy life depends solely on how you welcome those interruptions, those challenges the universe places in your hands. Do you squash them like a bug or do you embrace them?
I used to walk through life like I owned it. Like there was nothing which could shake the ground beneath my feet while inside I was trembling like a scared rabbit hiding in its rabbit hole from the big bad wolf. I walked around like I was the god of my universe, no one or nothing could take that away. I also believed everyone else was like I was. That they truly wanted to help others. That they truly loved and cared about people and had nothing but good intentions. That the person they presented to the world was exactly who they were. That they would never intentionally deceive.
I was naïve.
I resented my parents, probably like most teenagers do, when they are growing up, wanting supreme control of their lives and their parents wouldn’t allow it, but mine went deeper. I resented them because of the things I never learned from them. Like how to communicate openly. Or how to understand what my emotions were telling me. Or even how to express my emotions. I learned instead how to bury them so deep I hoped I would never see them or feel them again. I had no idea how this would damage me or make my life as an adult so very difficult or leave me empty and alone never able to build a satisfying relationship because when the emotions became too strong, when I couldn’t bury them anymore, I ran.
I ran like I did each spring, summer, winter or fall into the woods behind our home, when things got to be too much, when the emotions overflowed and grew too powerful, I ran. I spoke to the trees, while inside, my mind screamed, and I prayed to God to make it all go away.
At night, I lay in my bed, running the only way I knew how, by escaping into my mind. I created stories. I created fantasies of someone coming to rescue me. Of someone, one day holding me the way I needed to be held. Loving me the way I needed to be loved. Talking to me, coaxing me out of the silence I had built around myself, teaching me to talk, encouraging me to share the awful secrets I held inside. But most of all, magically giving me a voice I don’t remember ever having.
I’m almost 55 years old and none of those fantasies ever came to life, except one.
One night I lay in my bed making up a story. I created a life where my parents divorced and we (my brothers and I) had to go live with our mother. I allowed myself to feel all the sorrow and sadness such a situation would cause and I cried myself to sleep that night allowing myself to feel all the loneliness I felt deep inside.
Months or maybe years later, my dream became a reality. My mother sat us all down at the kitchen table. The only one absent was our father. She spoke to us about how she was miserable in their marriage and had decided to get a divorce. She would try and wait until the end of the school year.
Then one day as I got off the bus, I saw my mother sitting in her car waiting for us. She had never done that before. As I climbed into the front seat, I noticed the car was packed full, so full in fact two of us had to squeeze into the front seat beside our mother and only one could fit in the back.
I asked what was going on. I received no answer, so I asked again. I was told by my next to the oldest brother to shut up. And so I did. Inside I was scared. I didn’t want to believe what was happening when our mother started driving us away from the only home I had ever known.
I sat in that car feeling my insides quivering. I wanted to roll into a ball and pretend it was all a dream. I could feel my world crumbling around me and no one was trying to help me. I remembered the story I had created. I had forgotten other stories I had created but this one I never forgot. This one was now coming to life around me and I couldn’t stop it. I felt as though, if I had only not made up that story, this would not be happening.
I sat in that car. I remained quiet the fifteen or twenty minutes it took my mother to drive us to our new home. A new home in another town. It was no longer in the country but a home just two houses down from the center square. It was old. It had three stories. It smelled odd, like an old world, not moldy but musty, a little like our basement had smelled after our grandfather had moved and stored the things he wanted to keep after moving in with us following the death of our grandmother.
My mother showed us our rooms while I learned my oldest brother had stayed out of school to help with the move. They had moved us out while our father was away all day. I learned later he had no idea my mother was moving us out. I tried to imagine what that was like to come home to an empty house with only a few things left behind and everyone gone. Did he feel worse than I did? I never found out because I never had the nerve to ask him. We never spoke about such important emotional things in our family when I was growing up so talking about them now or even later never seemed possible.
I was in eighth grade. I was no longer a little girl who couldn’t understand things and yet I was treated like I didn’t have a mind or emotions. Comfort wasn’t given except to bandage a scraped knee or a busted finger. Only then and only for the brief moments it took to bandage it or to take us to a doctor to be treated.
My questions were only answered by the results I saw before me. I had to use my mind to decipher what was going on around me. We were driving away from our home and brought into a new but old house. I saw our furniture in this old house, in its living room. I was taken to the second floor and shown a room which now had my bed and shown a tiny little closet that now had my clothes. I was then told this was my room.
I stood in that room feeling like a creature from another world plopped down onto an alien planet and told this is now your new home. Though I was not told this in any words, it was implied that I was now supposed to feel no sadness, no feeling of remorse, I was not to mourn my old life. This was now my new life and it was even better than the one before. Except. It wasn’t.
When I had heard my life would eventually be without a father, I was hopeful. Though I was shocked, I secretly knew this would be better than remaining with our father who seemed to always be angry and I could never predict from one day to the next whether he would be angry or affectionate or at least mildly disinterested. Not having to tiptoe around him would be a good thing but instead it wasn’t.
Two days later after moving into our new old home, we tried to keep to our previous routine. I was part of our youth choir and I had practice. I asked if I could go and my mother grudgingly took me. As she drove into the parking lot, I saw my father’s car. She parked at the other end of the church, left me out and departed before I ever got inside the church.
I knew she did so because she didn’t want to talk to my father. Instead she left me there to face him alone. I tried to go in the doors of the church nearest to me to avoid him but they were locked. I had to pass him to get to the other doors. He walked towards me and I prayed he would leave me alone, but he didn’t.
For the first time in my life that I can remember, my father wrapped his arms around me and in my ear he asked me to come back and live with him. I could hear the tears in his voice when he asked.
We were told by our mother the day she had sat us all down at the kitchen table that we could choose who we wanted to live with. I knew without a doubt I would live with my mother. I knew it was the best thing for me.
When my father asked me to come live with him, I knew I couldn’t go back and live under his anger, hatred, and domineering hand. All I could say was ‘No’. And so I did, then I pushed myself away from him and out of his arms and walked into the church. I sat down next to my boyfriend who had saved a chair for me beside him and began to sing since choir practice had already started.
My throat felt as though it was bound in a steel vice. I was surprised my voice didn’t squeak when I tried to sing. I was in fact surprised any words came out at all. I let no tears stream down my face. I sat and buried all my emotions. I must have looked like all those people standing around my grandmother’s graveside service with stoic faces and dry eyes. I had learned my lesson well.
I ran away in my mind. I told no one what happened, not even my boyfriend, not until the day I had to when our bus from our church outing dropped me off in the town square of our new home and even then I ran from the bus telling him I had to go, my parents had divorced and I now lived here, never giving him a chance to say a single word.
I ran like the demons of hell were chasing me.
I’ll never forget, no matter how much I wish I could. When I finally left home to be on my own, I swore I would never blame what was wrong in my life on the events of my childhood or on my parents like so many other people did. Instead, I went through life for years pretending everything was okay. That I could now go on with my life the way I wanted to and live the way I wanted to.
It never dawned on me until years later that I was still burying, still hiding, still running.
It wasn’t until I realized in each relationship I tried to build, no matter how wonderful the relationship was, no matter how good the man was to me, I would reach a point in which something I didn’t understand would bubble to the surface demanding to be felt and understood. Instead I would run. I would run as fast as I could away from the relationship and the person. I would hide until he would give up and leave me alone, while inside I was silently begging, hoping, dreaming, screaming in my head that he would force his way in and demand me to explain or help me to learn what it was I felt and why I felt the need to run and hide.
It was a quiet car ride, in the snow, on a return trip with a man I dearly loved and trusted. A man who seemed to understand what I needed without any words from me. It was in that car, on that long strip of road, covered in snow, as he drove quietly and cautiously, we had been talking when the I felt what I didn’t understand bubble to the surface. I felt the tight enclosure of the car we road in.
I couldn’t make up an excuse to leave. I couldn’t go hide in my apartment. I couldn’t close and lock the door and not answer the phone. The only place I could escape to was in my mind. The car suddenly became quiet. And I disappeared. I slipped quietly into the dark interior of my mind.
Instead of hiding however, I asked myself ‘why’. Why would soon become a tool I would use often in my life. But for now, I asked myself “Why did I feel this way? When was it the first time I remember ever feeling this way?” And it came to me in a flash of memory, as I stood outside that god damn church abandoned by my mother to face my father. I hated her. I hated him. I hated that moment. I hated the fear that scorched its way through everything that had made me feel safe and now gave me no comfort.
I hated the memory I would never be able to forget for the rest of my life. I hated that moment which would ruin this wonderful relationship I had with a man who made me feel like I was the best thing that ever happened to him. I knew I would destroy it. I knew it and I hated myself for it.
But in that moment, in that car, I kept the hate buried. I didn’t allow it to surface. All I looked at was the fear. I finally knew what it was that came bubbling to the surface. It was fear. Raw and searing fear. I knew I would have to face my fear. I would have to step through those searing flames or I would never be able to get past it and move into a deeper longer lasting relationship with a man. I would never be able to have what I wished for most in my whole life.
In my mind, I took those steps. I passed through the fire and came out whole without a single burn upon my flesh. Inside though I knew I was scorched. Whether this meant I could now heal, I had no idea. I only knew I had to try.
I returned to the dark interior of that silent car. Only seconds upon my return, this man I loved, who had remained silent the whole time, spoke. He asked me where I had disappeared to. So, for the first time in my life, I told him. I told him about my past relationships and how something would bubble up inside of me, overwhelm me, something I didn’t understand, and how I would run and hide but this time I had been unable to do so. How being stuck in the car with him had made me face what was happening instead of running away. I told him about my fear and where it came from. His understanding and acceptance was like a balm on an open sore. I began to heal. I knew we could make it. I knew I would finally have the life I wished and hoped for.
But the universe has a way of stepping in and making us look at things we refuse to look at under normal circumstances. This is my life. It is still this way. The universe steps in. Where we once thought we knew where we were headed, thought we knew what we wanted, thought the dreams we had were what we were driven to create, were in fact nothing close to what we really needed or what was really going on.
The path I have traveled in my life has often been interrupted by the universe. Sometimes giving me many options, other times giving me such a restricted choice of options, there really was only one path I could take.
I would like to think I’m not hiding any more. That I’m not running any more. But in truth I often find I have fallen back on old habits without realizing it. Life is messy. At least for those of us who are still struggling with understanding who we have become from the mess of our past.
I often find myself waking up from dreams that disappear the moment I become aware that I am awake. Last night I woke, hearing my daughter calling me. It was so clear. Like she was standing right next to me. In reality, she was asleep in her bed.
Other times I have awakened from dreams which held me captive creating a world so real from all the turmoil that was on my mind that I was logically trying to figure out, evaporating like steam from boiling water the moment my mind became aware that I was returning to my waking world. No matter how hard I would try, I could never recall what those dreams contained other than I knew they contained answers I needed if only I could call them back. Once awakened from those dreams I knew I was not going back to sleep.
Then there are other dreams in which I would wake just briefly, long enough to acknowledge the dream and my desire to return to it, then sink back down into the dark which welcomed me, my desire so strong to return to that world, I would find myself there again right where I left off.
I don’t feel so lost any more but I do still struggle every day. Sometimes my dreams give me answers. Sometimes the ones I can’t remember come back to me in real life, months, or years later when something happens in which I know I have lived this before, so clear and strong I have no doubt I have. Those moments amaze me.
I am learning, if life throws me a curve ball it is because I need to either learn to catch it or take a step in another direction. If life challenges my decisions or the promises I made to myself, it is to remind me that nothing in life can be set in stone. That I must be willing to be flexible and allow myself the freedom to make choices. That a person never knows when putting up a wall will keep them from being able to experience joy.
I have heard other people, so many other people, when faced with something difficult, something they perceive as an attack on them by fate or interference of hardship, asking “why me? Why me?” I don’t ask. I don’t remember ever asking that question. Instead, I ask, “What do I need to do? Can I make this go away? If so, how?” Sometimes I will ask in the midst of it, or sometimes I’ll wait until after I have done whatever I need to do but eventually I’ll ask “What am I to learn from this?”
I will admit for my early adult years, I just did what I needed to do and then moved on. I reacted. I didn’t ask why, it was just a fact that thing happen and therefore I would have to take care of it and then move on.
When I think about who I am now compared to who I was as a child and who I was as a teen and who I was in my twenties and thirties, in some ways I am still the same. In other ways, I am so vastly different, I barely recognize myself. Inside there will always be that little girl who had sought the love of a father and a mother who never took the time to understand her or gift her with the power of her own voice. While at the same time, I have become this grown up who holds her and comforts her and tells her she has survived and has always been someone special. That one day someone will see her true value and show her the respect and love she deserves.
Life isn’t easy. There are places we all go to inside which no one will understand unless we open up those doors and let them in. It takes trust. It takes guts. It takes sometimes a supreme will to overcome our natural instincts to protect. But most of all it takes willingness. It takes us wanting to shatter the glass walls we have erected around ourselves and sometimes it takes encouragement from those we love and trust.
I may not always understand what I’m feeling inside. But as long as I don’t bury it or run from it, that is okay. I may flounder around like a fish out of water but that too is okay. I may look all around at my surroundings and wonder how the hell I ever got here but as long as I find joy in my life that too is okay.
For me, life will always be a mystery worth exploring, worth trying to understand, but most of all worth experiencing. Even the challenges thrown in my path which steer me in different directions than I ever thought I would take.
It is a wonderful thing, this thing called life.
I realize, I owe you a completion to that story, for those who have read my blog and know I am single without a man in my life, will wonder what happened to the man in that car and our relationship. It ended. It ended because he had lied to me about his situation. I began to see the signs that something wasn’t right, that he was hiding something and in fact I found out later, that instead of being divorced as he had told me, he was actually married. But before I knew that, I had begun to feel as though I was not high on his list of priorities so I asked him. He admitted to it but wouldn’t explain why. I told him until he could explain it to where I understood or things changed I couldn’t be someone he just dropped in to see when it was convenient for him and so our relationship ended. Finding out the truth from someone else had given me the closure I needed in understanding why he had been so secretive in parts of his life. I was then able to walk away without any remorse. I saw him one time after that in which he asked me to come back. I asked him if anything in his life had changed. He said ‘no’, not realizing I knew the truth. I told him ‘then no’, I would never come back and he was not to ask again unless things in his life changed. It never did.
This morning was one of those mornings in which I woke rather early, far earlier than I wanted to. I tossed back and forth, hoping to get back to sleep but instead I ended up waking up, letting my dog outside, used the restroom, came back to let our dog back in, watch him make a detour to my daughter’s room instead of lying back down with me and then picked up my computer to check on emails. No emails of importance to distract me from the urge to write, so I opened up a blank word document and began.
I never know where my writing will take me. It begins with a single thought. In this case it was the very first sentence in this post and it expanded from there. And here is where I have arrived. I work many things out when I write. Sometimes, quite frequently in fact, I discover things about myself which I didn’t know before, especially when I write about my past. The anger I felt at my parents and at myself in the events that transpired on the road to their divorce, had not been admitted or acknowledged by me until this very writing.
Some of us are good, so terribly good at hiding our feelings, so damnably good we don’t know we are even doing it. I dislike this about myself. I do however understand it. I know it was a valuable coping mechanism I had to learn in order to survive my childhood. It has also served me well as an adult through difficult situations that if I had allowed my emotions to surface all at once it would have been too overwhelming.
So writing serves its purpose. It helps me to discover what I need to know in bits and pieces so I can handle it and not hide from it any more. I can’t go to my parents and talk to them about how I felt as a child, how the events which transpired during the divorce made me feel or any other thing which would help me understand a lot of what happened. They are both dead now. I did however get some answers from my mother a few years before my choices and her obstinance ended up with us not speaking until the day before she passed away. Those answers are for another time. Another time when I am driven to write in which they bubble to the surface to be investigated like a crime scene.
The one thing I do know is my parents did the best they knew how. They are human like the rest of us. They made mistakes. We all make mistakes. We also have to make our own choices in life as to what to do with what transpires and what we have learned. My writing about my past does not come with the intention to lay blame on others. It is only my way of learning more about it and how it has molded me into the person I am today.
I have learned much about myself these past few years since I started using writing as a tool to help me explore, not only my past but what is on my mind. Many of you have read my thoughts on buying a townhouse and how my thoughts have progressed through the various roadblocks I have had to think my way through to what was really best for me and my daughter. I think clearer when I write or at least it seems as though I do. Putting it down like this, I can go back and read through my thoughts again which is something I cannot recreate when I just let them fly through my mind. They disappear like a leaf in the breeze to land in some unknown location to decompose and be forever forgotten.
The time has come to close this for now. To release my mind from its enforced focus which writing creates and requires. It is time to let it meander into the shadowy depths and restless whirl ways of the universe.