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Monday, September 26, 2016

A Modern Conversation between Mother and Daughter

 15 years ago I laid on the cheap shag carpet floor of a shitty apartment  in a drugged induced haze while a man whose name and face I can still recall in detail, stole what little self respect I had escaped puberty with.  After he had done the same to my friend.

15 years ago my shot guzzling, drug addled teen self who was barely legal decided to down a handful of Ecstasy with a beer at a party only to wake 48 hours later with a slight recollection of that night and an acidic aftertaste of the GHB I was duped into consuming.

15 years ago my cold ass cheeks clung to a scratchy table following a long and spotty ER visit, a slew of blood tests, two disgusted and bored police officers' questions and 24 hours on a friend's couch sleeping away the ugliness and shame of that moment.

15 years later I can still recall this man's name, face and carpet in detail.

Before the age of 19 I had experienced sexual assault at the hands of no less than 3 people, but nothing stays with me today like that night.  Perhaps it was the guilt and responsibility I take for putting myself in that kind of situation.

Or perhaps it's the fact that night pales in comparison to other brutal tales I have that didn't involve a drunken and stoned state of mind.  And somehow that is what bothers me. The not remembering everything, the fear of the parts that are unknown.

Most of the time. Until it comes to the surface.

Because the trauma of that encounter and night were delayed for months to come...the heightened need to snort, fuck and drink my way to an early death might have been a residual side effect, but the resulting conclusion is still the same.

I never wanted to experience that again. And I was fortunate I haven't.

The only reason I am reminded of that night 15 years ago is the silence filling my home and the fact that it's cause is slowly eating its way into our lives causing irrevocable damage.  The same way that man's face and name did.

Only the face and name that haunts me now is my daughter's father.

As today blurs into tomorrow amid the humid scorching heat of September, the lull in noise and humming in the normal whirlwind of my home has me frightened....because it means my daughter is slipping further and further away from me.

For the last 6 years we've trooped through a revolving door of doctors', psychiatrists, mental health professionals and specialists for a slew of behaviors that we attributed to everything from mercury in the water to a messy divorce and ensuing custody battle to bad genetics and latent bipolar disorder.

Rage that left our walls filled with holes and our hearts filled with despair.  Raw and furious slits and fingernail picked holes crisscrossing their way down her arms, her restless nights spent tossing and turning, my questions met with resounding doors slamming in protest.

The endless pills and therapy sessions pushed her further and further into an soul sucking abyss and I floundered to find the cause of her anger, depression and self loathing.

Perhaps it was her lack of snorting, fucking or drinking her way into an early death, but the signs were there and somehow I missed them.

When she finally broke her silence all these years later,  17 months ago to be exact, the world as we knew it imploded, she imploded and the wreckage left behind isn't any closer to helping her heal.

Huddled on a couch, the truth spilled out of her to the only person she truly trusted at the time-her therapist.   And that knowledge is a burden I will carry with me to the day I die.  That we had reached such a point in our relationship that she couldn't trust me...didn't want to....that I allowed her to shut me out until we didn't have a relationship at all.

The aftermath included spontaneous CAC visits, countless interviews, exams and more and more space building between us.

While the stress of harboring this secret for so long was now gone, the relief I thought she would feel was short lived.

What followed was the CPS letter confirming their belief that the crime had occurred as well as the division and alienation of extended family, the whispers and stares and resentment and misunderstanding that she was forced to relive over and over.

He had the opportunity to violate her over and over through the legal process and I couldn't stop him.

Just like I failed to the first time.

And then the phone call informing us that there would be no end. No closure, no responsibility, no justice would be found.

To say it was and has been horrific is an understatement.

And while he sleeps comfortably in his bed, in his new home with his new wife, his new children, she lays in the dark, the wave of fear, anxiety and panic pulling her under, making it unbearable and impossible for her to breathe.

17 months ago I made her a promise that she would have closure, that the day would come when she no longer had trouble sleeping, that this one thing didn't define her and the day would come when she could reclaim herself, that the shame is his, not hers, that she would never have to think of him again.

I made a promise I broke the moment the words left my mouth because while she has no contact with him, she still sees his face over and over....and what's worse in when she screams at me in anguish because she can't escape it because it's staring back at her in the mirror.

I made a promise I haven't been able to keep because the judicial system feels that due to the lack of witnesses and cloud of doubt brought on by the tumultuous court history he and I have due to the numerous court filings I pursued to ensure her safety and well-being due to his failure as a parent and human being nothing can be done.

How do I tell her that the court failed her?

That I failed her?

How do I tell her that the scars may never heal and her heart and mind might be forever broken?  Especially in a society when rapists receive 3 month jail sentences due to the color of their skin and the wad of bills lining their parents pockets.  When there is an overwhelming burden of evidence you get a slap on the wrist and when time has passed and it isn't blatantly  glaring back at them, no one deems it worth pursuing.

While the court and her father can act like it never happened, the reality that it did will continue to resonate in every aspect of her life.

That will haunt her for the rest of her life.

Always close to the surface. Always in detail.  Always his face.

The thought that I have to go home and have this discussion with my daughter sickens me and leaves me hoping I don't fail her again.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Spreading my Wings-Maxi Sized

Life has caught up with me again....and this time she hit me right in the feels. I'd say in the vagina, but since my surgery, I'm left wondering if I even have one of those.  All joking aside with the roller coaster of estrogen patches, binders/girdles and no sex for a total of 8 months, I still feel broken.

Broken in a don't-touch-me sort of way. Broken in a I-don't-know-what-I-am-doing sort of way. Broken in a everything-I-touch-turns-to-shit sort of way.  Broken in a I-cry-for-no-reason-and-yet-those-reasons-crush-me sort of way.

All the things I thought I could fix...well, they're still lingering. sort of.

There is the lingering regret of babies which is at the forefront of everything at the moment.

But not in the way that makes me run down the street to Texas Women's Pavilion, receipt in one hand, and a jar in the other.  Or vacuum pack and Igloo to make sure my uterus gets packed on ice.

No, it is more of a quiet, solemn flutter in my chest, like a bird or butterfly's wings flitting across my heart, and that deep, crippling sadness is no longer so unbearable.  I don't know if it's because I will it away because the thought of another prescription for Lexapro, Zoloft, Wellbutrin or whatever sour pill isn't crowding my medicine cabinet making its way into my hands is repulsive.

Or maybe it's the futility in lamenting the extinction of the what-if's with the big H.

Or maybe it's the closure I gained in the past month on my hiatus of conscious grieving.   I'd like to think it's this that keeps me sleeping more than 2 hours a night for the first time in over two years.

Said closure came in the form of one of the most defining moments of my life by far.  Save from childbirth, seeing my name in print for the first time, the day Hubs No. 2  grabbed my hand in public during our courtship and the day I realized my mother was one of my best friends.

Save for those few instances, I have never felt more alive, more aware, more present than the following moment.

That moment. The moment.  It came in the form of Listen To Your Mother: Southeast Texas (LTYM SETX) 2016.  For those of you who aren't familiar it's a national production of performances on the topic of motherhood. Think Vagina Monologues, but moms being the center of the pieces.

An email sent via my critique group with information piqued my attention shortly before the H when I was in a whirlwind of grandiose posturing, acting brave and hopeful busily filling my days with things to distract from the approaching final day. To-Do's (and Don't's), life plans and weight goals followed as I planned the "new beginning" I was certain would come.

And so on a lark I hit submit and added my name to a list of people auditioning.   I put it in the far recesses of my mind because I had 5 weeks before auditioning day to determine what I had to say.

Can you imagine ME not having anything to say? Nah, neither did I.  Honestly, it was more a matter of deciding what can I read that doesn't drop the F bomb too many times? Or if sexual dysfunction was an American phenomena or just my own private Hell?

Besides-it left me more than enough time to decide whether I was too chicken shit to make the drive.

With a slew of last minute appointments, the agonizing task of picking which less elastic blown granny panties to pack and the trek to the hospital, I forgot about that day. That drive.

Until I received the email reminder.  As I laid enveloped in my scratchy hospital issued sheets, food court Jell-O jiggling on the tray and my morphine drip filling the silence with its double time ploop, I panicked.

But not fast enough to delete said email before my mother reached over and snatched my phone away.

A dozen questions proceeded to make their way, garbled and fuzzy, into my brain.  After much buzzing and one more pump of the morphine via my trigger finger, I answered.   Brushing it off, I informed her I wasn't making the drive because no one wanted to hear what I had to say.

I believe if it weren't for the IV's, nurse and cannulas she would have slapped me silly.  However, given how medically high I already was I found that to be an impossible feat. Mustering a bravery I can only attribute to the Class C narcotics coursing through my veins, I informed her that there was no way I was showing up for that audition. Especially brave enough to wave my rainbow Popsicle in her face to emphasize my point.

I don't recall everything she said because she is a woman of many words, and most colorful at that, but I did catch how special she believed I was. And she insisted others would too.

And how achingly disappointed she would be in me if I failed to follow-through. In a quiet voice while looking down at her lap.  She might have even mustered a tear.

You know how moms are. And damned if it didn't work.

Well...long after the Popsicle melted, cannulas came out, and I was home with the nagging fear of disappointing my mother, I stood on the lawn, keys in hand and I took a deep breath.

 I was you know... Chicken shit.  But not enough to prevent me from climbing behind the wheel.

Even with stopping twice due to my impressive gastro pyrotechnics.

So I mustered all my strength and wrapped my girdle tight, and off I was to Beaumont and what I thought for sure would be my doom.  Or shameful rejection. Complete with sneers, eye rolling and slamming door. wasn't.  What started as soft spoken words trailing into a brightly lit room with four strangers turned into the strong baritone bellowing from my gut to an audience alongside this little extension of a family.

Following my piece, and subsequent bawling in front of four kind and patient people, I had a whole 24 hours to breath in relief and laugh that at the absurdity of it all.

Until I heard that familiar ding come the next afternoon, and there I was officially a member of the 2016 cast.

The following weeks brought about meetings, rehearsals peppered with salty tears and cracking laughter.   I met some of the most extraordinary people, and listened , enthralled at every word as they shared pieces of their souls with me.

Wounded, some mended, others still healing, and for the first time in months I felt...something other than anger, grief or pity.  Something other than hate, spite and envy.  I felt...I felt something I cannot describe even now.

Except closure.  As I stood this past Saturday night and looked down to see my husband patiently and eagerly waiting to hear my words, I knew no matter the outcome that the flutter across my heart was just that.  A flutter. No crushing weight. No suffocating gasps, no undertow of grief pulling me further and further away from everyone else.

That this stop on my journey was divine destiny.  These people, this moment was needed for me to quiet that lingering regret.  To remind me of the possibilities I have ignored of living life.

Most of all it reminded me of two things:

I am still broken.  I will probably always be broken. Maybe not in a thousand pieces like before, but maybe precariously held together with Super Glue, zip ties and duct tape, praying it stands the test of time.

Mending.  And I don't know how long it will take. And I don't know if the flutter may one day turn into a beating so forceful I am thrown down that spiraling hole I have managed to crawl out of.

But today I can silence it. Today my soul isn't scattered into pieces on the floor.

Today is enough.

That I am not alone.  This part is crucial. This part right here is what has allowed me to sleep peacefully since the day I stepped into a room with those twelve others.  It's what sustained me to make the drive back and forth.  And this gives me hope.

It gives me strength.   That many of us remain broken, many of us are in various states of "repair" as we attempt to navigate past moments filled with anger, heartache, trauma, loss and regret.

And most of us never recover.

I don't know if next week, year or tomorrow the floor will drop out and I'll be back to square one.

What I do know is the flutter I once felt in my womb I now feel in my breast.

Tiny wings beating and fluttering in my ribs, I like to think it's hope. Or sanity. Struggling to burst free, but content to stay for just one more day.

All because of twelve strangers and the courage to make that drive.