I was surprised when I realized that my memories were wrong, that his hands were not huge, that he would not tower over us.
He died when I was small, and I had spent a lifetime looking up, being lifted, seeing him smiling down.
He was bigger than life (bigger than mine) and he had stories that stretched decades farther than I had been alive. He’d lived through things many people hadn’t; I thought that meant he was invincible.
I grew up and measured myself against those who were bigger, larger, better, more talented, and considered myself small.
Not good enough, not fast enough, too broken, too small.
I’d heard his stories of being the smallest, not growing, lifting weights so he’d have bulk if not height, and I thought I understood. Really, I still thought he was a giant.
His height, I knew. My height, I learned.
It took years for me connect the dots.
I am five foot two.
He was five foot four.
Had he lived while I grew up, we would have stood at nearly equal heights in the end. I would stand and face him and I would not have to look up to meet his eyes.
When I imagine him being on the other end of a phone line: his hair is more gray, his shoulder still bothers him; he’s older, but less stressed with only one child at home.
When I imagine walking down the long drive to the house and he comes out to meet me,
I am small, and I still have to look up to see his face.
Once I couldn’t choose, and I didn’t know there were choices I could make, should make, shouldn’t have had to make.
I tiptoed around doing my best to be perfect, and it was never enough, so I stopped trying, which didn’t help either. The pendulum swung back and forth between desperate enthusiasm to please and total apathy, but nothing helped. The apathy hurt as I emerged from it into self loathing, and the enthusiasm hurt as it splintered into confused betrayal. I didn’t have the words to ask, but my heart cried. Why can’t I be good enough?
Once I believed it was my fault, even when I told myself in whispers and jagged words (I hate mom!), pen ripping through the paper with the force of my lightning emotions, tears refusing to come (emotions just give them power over you).
My eyes were dry and my head held high even as I disassociated from my own thoughts and wants. My dreams faded and turned to quicksilver that dripped between my fingers. I tried to hold them, tried to pin them down with pencil and words that no longer flowed from my mind through my fingers to my notebook. Those quicksilver dreams came slower and harder to recognize until, one day, without my noticing at all, they disappeared, and I was lesser for it.
Once, I saw a man stand tall and declare he had no emotions, and even though he wasn’t real, the state of mind he described seemed so much like peace that I strove to emulate it. I sat under the counter in my bedroom between the boxes and the unfinished concrete walls and blinked hazy cobwebs away and told myself I was like that too. I told myself that the numbness and nothingness I felt was tranquility.
There was no rest. When the world was quiet and noisy and chaotic and happy and there were no angry hands grabbing my hair, I was always waiting for it to happen. Sometimes I was rewarded for normalcy. Sometimes I was an unforgivable crime.
Once I made a choice which was harder than anything I’d ever done before. I admitted my weakness, and asked for help. The help I asked for is not what I got, and unlike in fairytales, it made everything worse. My fleeting plans of escape, forged in tears and silence while I nursed bruises, hurt elbows, aching head missing tufts of hair, all destroyed in by three bad life choices in a row by three separate people, and I despaired.
Life had seemed golden again for just one afternoon. I saw a future that gleamed and glowed and promised good things I hadn’t known to dream about in years. Abruptly, as I was still gazing on the beauty before me, black ichor dripped across it and befouled it until there was nothing left of my vision. My world was plunged into utter, unthinking terror, which faded into a background of misery. All my carefully crafted resistance and hopes were bludgeoned away.
Once, I was made free by circumstance and happenstance. It was raining and I was ill, but never had the black, two am night seemed so glorious. I laughed the next day when a well-meaning man offered to facilitate maternal reconciliation, and I sealed my own fate – one of freedom.
The terror, pain, and uncertainty of the past, however, refused to release its tendrils. I was shocked at my own unhappiness in the face of everything I’d ever wanted, and was horrified at the betrayal of my own mind.
Once, I made a choice that terrified me and walked into a carpeted office carefully decorated in gentle, inoffensive colors. She asked me questions and let me stammer. My words spilled out, broken and inadequate, but she understood. I fell to pieces and she handed me nails and a hammer and showed me where the fragments were supposed to go, and let me put myself back together. The agony was worth it – I knew it in my bones with each painful step.
My mind and behavior were described to me as normal for the first time in my life. My self-loathing diminished as I was promised that I was not to blame. Every appointment I left the quiet, safe room with red eyes and head held high and refused to feel ashamed and refused to feel weak, because she promised me with all the weight of titles and training that I was worth it, that I survived, and would thrive.
Once, I found the words and they did not blame me. She asked me a question as I, blind to the world, caught in the throes of a violent flashback, gripped the couch with both hands to anchor myself in reality as my mind was lost to the worst of memories.
“What would you say to your mother if you could?” she referred to the maelstrom of past recollection swirling around in my mind, a damp curtain hanging over my face like tears plastering my long, long hair to my face as in my memories I wept and begged for mercy. Her voice penetrated the veil and brought me back to the present, and I found the words. They came back to me: the words I had lost the misery and fear of my childhood. Quicksilver words dripping through my fingers, but becoming more tangible and more real with each second.
“Why? Why are you doing this?” I spoke aloud to her: to the miasma of my mother, in response to the therapist, my mother’s face began to dissipate and something terrible and icy broke and melted behind my sternum and the realization came to me like a bucket of water to the face.
I was not accepting blame.
Her actions were not my fault.
Why she did what she did was now a mystery I didn’t have to solve.
She was fully culpable for her own actions.
She was the one in the wrong.
“Why?” I asked again brokenly, and suddenly I was back in reality, in the safe office where I was never judged and never pitied: only made new.
Once, I lay my face on my knees and wept.
Today was frustrating, interesting, annoying, and education. I must start at the beginning.
After heading off to bed at the respectable hour of midnight―melatonin supplement consumed, teeth brushed, maximum sleepiness level achieved―I discovered to my dismay upon laying my head on my pillow and closing my happy, sleepy eyes, that I was no longer tired in the slightest. Naturally, I attempted to change this by putting on my eye mask, lying perfectly still, and daydreaming (nightdreaming?). It did not help.
Fast forward five and a half hours of frustration and lying still and attempting to be sleepy. It was at this point that I fell asleep mid-thought that went something like this: “Well at this point I almost might as well stay awake….zzzzzzzz.”
You may not be surprised to hear that I overslept and then overslept some more and finally woke up at half one in the afternoon. I lay on the bed in a fit of pique and snuggled my newly-home-from-work partner which went a long way in alleviating my annoyance at my poor, insomniac brain. After he departed for work, however, I realized that one of our housemates was in the living room, and quite suddenly I developed a paralyzing anxiety that if I left my room, he would think I was a lazy lay-a-bed.
There was only one possible solution. I got dressed for outside, February weather, grabbed my purse, climbed out the window, walked around the house, and re-entered by the front door.
My ruse worked perfectly. He wasn’t even curious as to where I’d been! Not that he usually is, it’s just that my guilty, anxious, anti-lazy perception brain was concerned that he’d question me as to my whereabouts.
Thus began my day. Food was consumed, French was studied, resumé and cover letter was, sadly, not updated whatsoever, but hey! I studied French!
It was then, as I beat my brain upon grammar and syntax as I tried my best to understand the unsubtitled French movie which composed the latter half of my self-study that the idea came to me.
I should learn Vulcan.
Because if torturing my brain with learning one language at a time isn’t enough, it’s a brilliant plan to learn another, fictional language with a totally foreign grammatical structure, almost nonexistent pronouns, and compound nouns that would put German to shame.
I immediately started looking for resources.
That’s when I discovered to my unparalleled delight that James Doohan did the original Vulcan translating for Star Trek: The Original Series!
To understand why I was so excited, you have to understand something about James Doohan; namely, his entire life.
James Doohan was a WWII veteran. He was at the invasion of Normandy on D-Day where he personally took out two enemy snipers and took six bullets from friendly fire. One of those bullets ought to have killed him, but was stopped by a silver cigarette case (and they say cigarettes kill! Pffft.). It was also in the aftermath of that day when he had a finger amputated, which he successfully concealed during his acting career. Much of the shrapnel with which he was hit on that beach was never removed.
From there, this doughty Canadian went on to act in many things, including Star Trek where he played the incredible Montgomery “Scotty” Scott. That character had a terrible accent, was a scotsman who drank Scotch and had the nickname “Scotty”. It should have been terrible. He was magnificent.
Not only that, but James Doohan inspired generations of young people to become engineers. Neil Armstrong once told him: “From one engineer to another…thank you.” He also convinced a young fan to not commit suicide; she later became an electrical engineer. This guy was awesome.
So with this backstory, you will understand why my starry eyes got even wider and more adoring when I discovered that James fucking Doohan basically invented the language of Vulcan. And Klingon. Because on top of all these achievements, his wonderful personality, his vocal talents, his bravery and his acting talent, he was also (of course) a cunning linguist (heh).
So that was a highlight of my day.
From there I found out that some people are actually fluent in Vulcan. And that professional linguists have contributed their time – free of charge – to help flesh out the Vulcan language using their professional skills. And, in a moment of pure rapture, I found a recording of an original song written in Vulcan, and sung by an incredibly talented woman.
Not sure if I passed out from pure joy at this point, but it’s totally possible.
(You may be deducing from this post that I am a giant nerd and a total Trekkie with nothing but pure adoration for the Original Series and indeed all other series and movies barring Deep Space Nine (which I detest) and the 2009 reboot which I regard as an amusing fanfiction. You would be correct.)
I may have listened to this gorgeous song on repeat for the next hour while studying Vulcan grammar. OK: I definitely did.
Not long after alternately cursing compound words for their complexity and blessing compound words for their ease of translation, I found a dictionary. My joy was complete.
But then! I became confused. You see, as a giant nerd, I knew quite a few random Vulcan words already, such as Minshara (the basis for “M-class” planets, aka “Minshara class”, aka, a Vulcan word for the planet Vulcan.), T’Khasi (another Vulcan name for the planet), Ti-Valka’ain (another word for the planet)….ok, there are a lot of different names for the planet Vulcan. Those are the three that are used by Vulcans in their native language, however. Other words I already knew ranged from mal-kom (serenity) to savensu (teacher) and osavensu (honored teacher).
Alas, I had mistaken osu (sir or saint) for osavensu (honored teacher) and spent at least half an hour scouring the internet looking for the source of my confusion. Saint?! Sir?! Could there be a third homonym I wasn’t finding yet to explain why my brain was convinced that osu meant “teacher?”
Finally, I found my answer, quite by accident, by looking through the Vulcan/English dictionary carefully, although, alas, this dictionary didn’t actually have the word osavensu in it, possibly due to it being a compound word, possibly due to the fact that there are multiple dictionaries floating around and none of them completely agree on translations.
I won’t bore you with my excitement over the logical and sometimes illogical structure of the Vulcan language. I won’t wax rhapsodical over their regular and irregular verbs, nor over the influence of Surak on the evolution of the language. I won’t explain to you how delighted I was to find out about the existence of Vulcan epithets, nor that there are a few which are actually used by our logical Vulcans, although most are totally anathema to those are are not v’tosh ka’tur (without logic: those who reject the teaching of Surak).
I will only inflict upon you this knowledge which I have already shared. Bask in the nerdery. Watch some Star Trek. Adore James Doohan with me. And Nichelle Nichols. And Leonard Nimoy. And George Takei. Not Shatner, though. That guy basically didn’t like or get along with a single one of his costars, despite the fact that they all get along with each other.
Dif-tor heh smusma, t’hai’lu. (Live long and prosper, my friends.)
When nothing seems right, everything seems insurmountably difficult, and nothing can motivate me to so much as eat…is it life, or is it me?
When I can’t make myself move, when there seem to be no options, when no one is hiring…is that the circumstances, or am I lacking?
When sleeping for days sounds easiest, when my bank account is low, when I’m afraid to ask for help…is the situation to blame or my own lack of gumption?
It’s absurdly easy to blame the circumstances around me than it is to take responsibility for my own actions. The dichotomy of “Oh, if I could re-do the last year I’d do things differently.” while simultaneously believing my own lack of resources is somehow’s life’s fault, well, everyone’s a hypocrite sometimes.
It’s strange to believe both that I am in control and that I am rudderless.
Or maybe I’m just bad at adulting.
NaNoWriMo! An entire month of gnashing one’s teeth, cursing the very muses, and weeping late at night over one’s laptop.
National Novel Writing Month. A yearly challenge where many insane people attempt to write fifty thousand words over the course of thirty days.
It’s not even that hard to do. I’ve written ten thousand words in one day before, but something about the structure…something about the hard and fast limit of 1,667 words every day just drives me to madness. And sometimes tears.
So! Today, I am starting a novel. A very narcissistic novel, based on a dream I had about my own life. I may post excerpt from time to time, but that day is not today!
Something else that’s amusing me is to make covers for my friends’ NaNo novels. Currently I’ve done three, and while they’re very (very) amateur, it’s also quite fun and a palate cleanser from all the angst that I’m jotting down.
I’m off to write more. Cheers!
Let’s talk about Jesus
the King of Kings is he
the Lord of Lords supreme
Through all eternity
The great I Am, the Way
the Truth, the Life, the Door
Let’s talk about Jesus more and more
I can move on. I can be angry. I can be sad. I can go to therapy. I can change my beliefs. But I can’t forget.
My mind and my thoughts are still pervaded by the religious themes of my youth. Songs jump into my head and bring with them all the assorted memories, fears, and associations of my childhood. These songs, prayers, and bible verses float through my relaxed mind and instantly bring with them anxiety, annoyance, and old/new/always pain.
Once upon a time, the only way I could stop my night terrors was to force myself slightly more awake, then sing hymns in my mind until the visions and sleep paralysis gave way to true sleep and blessed nothingness. Once, I found peace in the traditional words and sounds. They brought a sense of peace and meaning to my otherwise frightened life.
Then, I discovered what a bludgeoning tool religion had been in my life. It was as though I had been hit over the head with and with the blow came an understanding. Religion had never done anything good for me. Yes, I know and knew some very kind religious people, but always, forever, endlessly, religion was something that was used to create intense guilt, shame, fear, and sorrow in me whenever I made any choices that were counter to my fundamentalist upbringing.
“I will be ashamed of you if you hold hands with a man before you are married.” Was linked directly to memories of sermons including verses such as Galatians 5:16 and 17 – “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”
Thus, the idiosyncratic and often contradictory strictures of my church and mother were backed up by infallible scripture, inspiring terror of hellfire for each of my unsanctioned decisions.
I often felt a sort of lassitude when my mother would threaten to kill me. We would be working together, or she would sit by the tub while I bathed, and in a casual, almost tender tone, she would tell me what a demon-possessed, rebellious child I was. She would quote Leviticus verses that instructed parents to stone their rebellious children, or verses that talked about rebellion being “as the sin of witchcraft”. She rarely condemned me for witchcraft and rebellion, but it was always one or the other that spelled my death sentence.
Religion was used as a psychological weapon, and its results were devastatingly effective. I grew from an outgoing, social-butterfly of a child to being an anxious, socially inept teenager. I could not interact with those of my age group without high anxiety, verging on a panic attack for hours at a time.
I begged to be allowed to go to a youth group – any youth group! And on the vanishingly rare occasion I was permitted to attend, I spent the entire time silent, alone in my unusual, “modest” clothes, afraid to even move, lest their attention be drawn to me.
The threats slowly lost their potency. I suppose one can only be handed a death sentence so many times before one stops to believe in its eventual occurrence. And yet – there was still reason to fear it. My mother would fly into rages so profound and deep that all of us children would end the night weeping, bruised, terrified, and cowering. We hid from her, and we were unsuccessful. Lamps were flung at our heads, we were flung, dragged, draped, thrashed, screamed at, and threatened.
The night would end with shaking, shivering, sobbing children trying to put themselves to sleep while our mother soothed her own wrath with bible readings and prayer. The morning would come and we, shaken and subdued, would creep into the kitchen, hungry and afraid, and mother would either completely ignore the happenings of the night before, or take us into her arms, gently, and apologize. I remember her typical words well.
“I’m sorry you were so bad that I had to do that to you.”
“I can’t believe that my mom doesn’t want me listening to Alicia Keys.”
“Who’s Alicia Keys?”
“…Do you live under a rock? Everyone knows who Alicia Keys is!”
“At the end of the summer we’re going to Six Flags and…”
“What’s Six Flags?”
“…Everyone know what Six Flags is!”
“I’m binge watching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Throwback!”
“Is that…a TV show?”
“It’s the show of our generation! How have you never heard of it!? You must really have lived under a rock.”
“El Oh El, I saw a girl the other day who was wearing a demin skirt. SO 1990’s-Cult-Member.”
“So that’s was my first relationship. Haha, I was such a dumb sixth grader. What was your first boyfriend like?”
“I haven’t dated anyone.”
“No. I wasn’t allowed and now I just haven’t met anyone who appealed.”
“Not allowed to date?! That’s so weird. Were you like, mormon or something?”
“My mom’s wanted me to be an MD since I was born. She’s gonna flip that I’m changing my major to Philosophy.”
“My mom told me when I was 15 it was time to get married to a godly man, then refused to let me get my highschool diploma.”
“How have you never heard of the Beatles?”
“Why do you have so many scars on your knees?”
“If you’re in college, why are you taking highschool level math classes?”
“Um, I think you were taught recidivist history. That’s not at all what happened during that election.”
“What was your favorite show when you were little?”
“We didn’t have a TV.”
“Wow. Were you Luddites or something?”
“Five siblings? Either you’re Catholic or Jehovah’s Witness!”
“What rock did you crawl out from under? hahaha.”
Every day I struggle against the lack of common culture between myself and my peers. They grew up on the Simpsons. I grew up on the Moody Bible Institude educational films. They went to concerts. I went to Ken Ham lectures. They kissed their first partner at thirteen. I was afraid to look at boys lest I be beaten and interrogated. They were in band and drama club. I begged for permission to try out for community plays to no avail. They had sleepovers. I wasn’t allowed to talk to the neighbor kids – even if they talked to me first. They know all the lyrics to Billie Jean. I hadn’t even heard of Michael Jackson until I was 17. Their biggest concern was getting to go to the mall that weekend. My biggest concern was that my mom had – once again – threatened to stone me in accordance with Leviticus. They were mad that their mom wouldn’t let them wear a bikini. I was mad that mom made me swim in a skirt.
I have trouble maintaining friendships; understanding social cues; figuring out body language; flinching when people raise their voices; internalized sexism; avoiding old church families who tell me when they see me that they’ll pray that god reveals himself to me again.
My upbringing robbed me of many things, from socialization to friendships to opportunities. I am still crippled from it. My PTSD means it’s difficult for me to get my pilot’s license. My anxiety makes it hard for me to go to class every day. My stress over social situations makes me reticent to accept invitations. My childhood abuse makes me have anxiety attacks when I’m playfully swatted.
What my parents did not understand was that their desire for us to be protected led to us becoming vulnerable. Their insistence on our outward appearance of happiness led to my inability to properly process emotions. Their emphasis on friendliness and acceptance of everyone made it impossible for me to learn how to set healthy boundaries in my life.
Just because you want the best for your children does not mean you are giving it to them.
God blesses people who follow the steps XYZ. Do exactly what Michael and Debi Pearl say and you’ll have a family of obedient, happy, godly children.
(And the children will be scarred, beaten, fearful, and angry.”
Let god plan your family size and he will bless you.
(And your older children will raise the younger. You will have no time to spend with them. Making your older children parent the younger ones makes the little ones be abused, as the elder kids have not the maturity to know how to do it.)
Send your children to volunteer at ATI and they will be soldiers for god!
(And they may possibly be raped by church elders there. And since women are all untrustworthy, it was probably your daughters’ faults anyway.)
Don’t socialize with nonbelievers lest you become like them.
(And so your kids will never be allowed to have friends.)
Girls only need to learn to be wives and mothers.
(So they’ll not learn any life skills and be incapable of living on their own or getting a job.)
Boys need to learn to be men.
(So they’ll end up angry, repressed, and confused when their true self doesn’t match up with “appropriate” masculine behavior.)
So much pain. So much sorrow. So much anger. So much heartache. So much abuse. So many suicides. So many wounded, weeping children-at-heart wondering why their parents did these things to them. Thus is the cry of the part of myself that is still a crying,, confused child.