I did not think that this post would be so difficult to write when I came back. My original intention was to write it Sunday night, but when I sat down to write, it was impossible. I kept thinking about the relative calm I had over the weekend, albeit because I opted to spend my time somewhere with friends that I have really adopted as family… a place that HE had never been.
Although I was unsettled in my head and did not have as much mental peace as I would have liked, I was finally able to sleep. He intruded and took over my dreams, but this time they were markedly different. I wasn’t being overpowered by him anymore. I wasn’t being controlled and dominated to the nth degree like I was a puppet, a toy for him to break in a tantrum of rage. Ever full of metaphors even in my dreams, he chased me around in the darkness, breathing wildly like a madman behind me as I used my fingertips to feel my way through a maze of tunnels and caves. I felt the rock suddenly give and crack in protest. Fragile and worn, breaking down from my constant fumbling, the wall of rock broke away and flooded the cavern with light. He suddenly lunged back, pressing his back to the wall, clinging close to it trying to avoid being spotted, but it was of no use.
He tried desperately to find a place to hide, and when he realized how futile it was, he began to scream and yell at me in protest. Horrible, unspeakable cruelties. I remembered when I used to shrink away. When I would cower at the mere hiss of his voice hurling itself into my ears. When I would plead with him trying to make him stop. But now I stood there in defiance, looking him directly in the eye and noticed something that I hadn’t before. The more he yelled, the more he protested and threatened, the smaller he became, and the less able he was to project his voice. I moved closer to him, as it had gotten harder to hear him, and as I laughed at him, it boomed through cavern, shaking the rock walls so they began to crack and crumble around him. And I realized that he was losing his voice. That he had lost control over me, and the fury at which he spoke dissipated until it was no more. Silent in the same way I used to be. Desperate with the need to have a voice but incapable none-the-less.
As I turned away from him and redirected my gaze at the dust swirling haphazardly in the rays of sun, I recalled the weeks and months over which I was imprisoned by him. Methodically, patiently, with each evil word he spoke he walled me in brick by brick. Careful to not to leave me room to move or to breathe. Careful not to leave weak spots that I could force myself out in a desperate bid of escape. I remembered how it felt to have each dream ripped away from me like leaves in a windstorm. I lamented how it felt at the end to see myself, my now bare branches warped and splintered. Ugly so no one would give me a second thought. Stripped of my humanity, denied my dignity, and forced to take root in the harshest of environments where nothing good can grow. Where nothing akin to joy can survive.
When everything has been taken away from you and you learn to live without it, you can become accustomed to a certain kind of peace that you will not have to confront and feel loss ever again. By this point, you have lost your independence, your individuality, your freedom, your will, your family and friends, and even have been forbidden access to and permission to act on things that used to bring you any measurable amount of joy. Music, books, studying, museum and gallery trips, theater. Smelling flowers, running through the grass barefoot, lying in the darkness and watching the stars glitter only for you. There’s nothing to worry about being lost or taken away, no family or friends to lament their lack of company. For everything has been throw away, cast aside, locked down, sold, or stolen away in the silence of night while you slept unaware. Loss becomes a non-issue. Abandonment becomes a non-issue. You’re just a shell, entirely devoid of any hope. It’s impossible to lose what you no longer have.
Like the dust swirling in the air around you, you never settle, never become comfortable, and never become attached to anything meaningful. But that warm sunlight beckoning to me beyond the walls that had held me in for so long kindles something, stirring up an expected and unrecognizable emotion within. A memory of life. Slowly I walked up to the opening in the wall, stopping before I dared to step across the threshold. My hand rests on the cold, jagged rock as I stare across the lush landscape stretching out for miles in every direction around me. I pondered the decision that lay before me. Do I stay here in the shadows? Do I venture out? What does this choosing life mean? Can I survive losing this again? What am I even doing here? I have no business chasing after things I cannot have. But still I found myself wanting them anyway.
Out of the blinding sun, a hand reaches out and gently motions me to come near. In a moment of doubt, I begin to shrink back. Just before I step back into the shelter of the cave, he reaches forward and stops me with a gentle touch on the wrist. And I am his. He leads me down into the meadow, and I turn behind to look at the rocky outcrop that has been my home for so many years. It has vanished, taking with it the futility and emptiness that held me back. Chuckling and shaking his head, he turned to me and said, “What took you so long? All I wanted was for you to leave him behind. He can’t take from you what you refuse to give up to him. No one is going to take anything from you ever again. That is one promise I am going to keep.”
And that is precisely the point I woke up. Standing on the hillside with Kerwyn, remembering how it felt that first moment I reached out to rebuild my life. Fearful of it being ripped away. I survived that once, but I am not at the point where I can say that I would be able to endure it again. I have found that my attachments to things and people now are more exaggerated than in the past. Surely you can see the dilemma in this. Without a doubt you can see all I stand to lose.
As far as I have come, I still cannot figure out a way to shed that nagging, persistent fear banging around in my head. I still cannot figure out how to trust enough in my own value and abilities enough to believe that others won’t shed me as callously as did Kevin. I fear that those horrible things he said about me will be true and that as a result, I will be left behind.
What do I really mean when that obnoxious little imp I call neurosis goads me to tell Kerwyn that I am not expendable, that I am not invisible, that I am not a convenience? Most certainly not because he treats me like I am. I say it because I have baggage, so much so that I would need a dozen or better bellhops trudging behind me, towing it along on as many flat beds. I say it because perhaps I still think that I am. Because a circumstance, wholly innocent in nature and devoid of ill intent, flips a switch of association, and a million experiences I endured at the devil’s hand rush back. And I lose my sense of time.
I am overcome by the same feeling I would find myself drowning in as I stood waiting from Kevin to pick me up from work. Unable to get ahold of anyone to bring me home. Feeling humiliated and rejected as I stood looking through endless panes of plate-glass waiting for him to keep his word, just once. Telling myself I was being unfair and judging him prematurely as I leaned against the cold metal frame, fruitlessly studying the darkness for the headlights of the car. The minutes stretching into hours, co-workers making jokes about how he always forgets me. Making up excuses to avoid having to reduce myself to nothing and tell them the truth: that he was running around the streets an hour away in my car, without a license, ever-willing loose women in tow smoking up my paycheck. Making up lies or brushing it off so they, too, wouldn’t see that I was trivial, unimportant, and expendable. That I was so worthless to another human being that I could be left stranded for hours without so much as a phone call. The feeling of dejection and anger I felt when he would call out of the blue and run me through the wringer for still being there. Waiting on him. Always waiting and doing my best to not show that I was crushed. That a glowing stem and copper screen had dislodged me and thrown me on the back burner.
That my worst nightmare was constantly playing over and again in my head every time this happened. I learned early that everyone always leaves. When it’s a parent teaching this lesson, it leaves behind a special kind of heartbreak that few can understand. It urges you to chase after attention and sets you up for devastating things. Why should I expect different as an adult? No matter what, everyone leaves. Right?
If that were true, after everything I have been through the past year working to bring myself to some kind of stability, after the neurotic outbursts, would Kerwyn still be here? I have unintentionally thrown just about everything I can think of his way, and there he is, patiently waiting me out. If it were indeed true that everyone always leaves, wouldn’t he have been gone by now? And this fear has absolutely nothing to do with Kerwyn not seeing my worth. It’s a fear of ME not recognizing my own value and lacking confidence that whatever good he sees in me is worth enough for him to stay.
I spent a good deal of time this past weekend mulling these things over in my mind. Can it be as easy as reaching out to him and leaving the rest behind? What good can come from what’s behind anyway? What does he see in me that I don’t? What’s so good about me that he stays? Why do I still not trust or believe that I am worth more that I think? Why, as Kerwyn puts it, do I turn on myself? (You’re right, Kerwyn, I really do. With about as much ferocity as an angry pit bull.) And where can I ever find the switch to just shut it off?