Archives For wounds

Child of Divorce

randomlychad  —  May 15, 2014 — 2 Comments

You may have seen this video as it made the rounds via social media. Like so many of you, I not only saw it, but lived it. I was that kid. The one wondering if he mattered. The one knowing he didn’t.

I’m almost 45 years old, and I still fight that feeling inside that there’s something wrong with me–that I’m wrong. It doesn’t take much at all to take me back to that place. In so many ways I’m still that little boy…

I know God is my Father; yet I so often relate to him like I would my earthly father. That is to say, there’s a distance there that shouldn’t be. Yet I don’t know how to overcome it.

How could he love me?

I know he does. I’m just not good at feeling it. Faith, and trust, are hard to come by when the scars are still so very real. And God, like a faithful surgeon, often wounds right there in those very places of deepest woundedness… I don’t want to hurt, but I also don’t want to mask the pain.

God, are you listening?

How about you? Do you struggle with knowing, deep down, that you are loved by God?

'Dysfunction Junction: Cold Spring NY Photowalk' photo (c) 2010, Nick Harris - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

I don’t want you getting the wrong idea–I wasn’t beaten as a child. The spankings I got, I earned (helping your buddy try to burn down his grandmother’s garage, anyone?). I wasn’t a battered child, but I’ve got come to the conclusion that abuse is never just physical.

There are psychological, and emotional, abuses, too. And if I was abused, it was in this way:

I was ignored. One of my earliest memories is being told to go away, relax, unwind, watch T.V. And then later, when she checked on me, my mother was aghast to find me drinking a beer in front of Sesame Street. Why? “Because it wat daddy do.”

When I fell, got hurt, got a boo-boo, there was precious little soothing; instead, I was indoctrinated with the mantra “I’m alright.” Even though I most decidedly was not alright. They say the lessons learned earliest go the deepest.
And are hardest to overcome. I’ve been alright far too many times when I shouldn’t have been. Been okay in places I never should have been…

If my mother’s chiefest failing was practiced indifference–emotional diffidence, my dad’s was indifference followed by the bitter wash of sarcastic chasers. I would go from being ignored to verbally masticated, spit out, left to put myself back together…

And I had to be alright.

After their inevitable divorce, the neglect only deepened. My mom, of course, didn’t share her pain; instead, losing herself in work, she hoped (I think) to give others something she couldn’t give herself: an intact family.

And my dad? Our relationship was as defined in the divorce decree: I saw him twice a year. His second wife hated my brother and I…

Divorce touches millions of families. And my life, seen from the outside, may have appeared to be, while perhaps less than ideal, a privileged one. I was white, lived in Scottsdale, had a roof, clothes  food. In short, the basics.

It has taken me years to pin down just exactly what I didn’t have:

A sense of love.

Part and parcel with growing up latchkey was, I guess, a sense of parental guilt. There were precious few boundaries, and even fewer consequences. I was left to my own devices, to indulge in whatever I wanted.

It’s a wonder I just got into smoking, and not drugs. My interest in porn was labelled “healthy curiosity.” If my childhood was defined by anything, it was these three things:

Neglect

Pornography

And Stephen King

I turned inward because there was nowhere else to go, no one to go to. My mom eventually had a live-in boyfriend, who’s example, and idea of culture, consisted of pizza, cigarettes, and “martoonis” in front of the T.V. This was my exemplar of manhood.

I wanted to escape, but had nowhere else to go. My dad didn’t want me, my mom was too busy, and this is “white privilege?”

None of this was talked about. I had to navigate a broken family, adolescence, on my own.

Habits developed then have not always been conducive now to  building healthy attachments. I’m almost 45 years old, and still bitter about what I didn’t have. Why couldn’t I have a normal, loving family? Why don’t I have meaningful relationships with my parents, brother, etc?

For years, as a growing Christian, I thought it was my job to put up, shut up, keep the peace. I allowed so many unhealthy things to happen, so many hurts to go unaddressed. I want to let my parents off the hook, say they did the best they could…

But I don’t believe it.

That’s why I want so much to be done with them. I can’t seem to get past the things which they’ve done, or I’ve done in relation to them. I want to say there’s too much water under the bridge. I don’t feel listened to.

I want to be done, but can’t. Because…

Because God.

He’s the God of second, third, thirty-third, and seventy-times-time chances.

Because He’s given me chance after chance, though I’ve blown it time and time again, I can do no less. I have to try.

If there’s a lesson I’ve learned in life, it’s this: the things we like least in others are usually the things which dislike about ourselves. That hurts to admit.

I’m not perfect (far from it), and neither are they. They dealt with their own demons, as I’ve dealt with mine.

God help me, I’m willing to try.

That’s the best I can do.

'Fagor Pressure Cooker Lid' photo (c) 2010, Julie Magro - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Not all family tragedies erupt with sudden explosions of violence. Some tragedies are far quieter, silently simmering for years like a pressure cooker. The children never hear a cross word exchanged between their parents, but even if they lack the ability to articulate just what it is, they know. Children are notoriously perceptive creatures, and even if they lack the words, they feel the tension.

And then one day something is different. The pressure, the tension, has unexpectedly been relieved. The valve has been turned, the lid is off the cooker, and the steam evaporated into the air.

'@ Steam' photo (c) 2009, Pete Birkinshaw - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Likewise has their family dissipated into the ether like steam. It has ended not with a bang, but a hissing whisper. Quietly swept away like gossamer on the wind…

Not all tragedies are loud things. Instead of an explosion of emotion, there is an implosion of the soul. “Why did this happen,” the child asks (perhaps not in so many words)? “Am I to blame?” There are no words, no navigator, to traverse this inner landscape. One parent is gone, and the other working desperately to hold on, provide a semblance of stability.

'Atomic Bomb Test' photo (c) 2012, SDASM Archives - license: http://www.flickr.com/commons/usage/

Too late.

The bomb has quietly gone off. Where before the child was whole, he is now a fractured soul. Unsteady, unstuck, unanchored, he is a ship in the long, dark night headed, like Titanic, for a berg. Collision is inevitable when one has no concrete sense of place, no place that feels like home. Untethered, the child wanders rootless, without purpose.

'Tom Riddle's Diary' photo (c) 2012, Sarah_Ackerman - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Life becomes something merely to be survived. Like Voldemort split amongst his horcruxes, it is a fragmented existence–a half life. Like Harry, the child will spend the better part of his life trying to find the pieces; unlike, he is not trying to destroy them, but piece them back together into a meaningful whole. Yet so often this is akin to placing square pegs into round holes: things may indeed be forced into place, but they are not a good fit.

And they slip, or cannot be dislodged–except by force.

This child? He is a child of divorce.

I am the child, and this is my story.

What is yours?

Time, Wounds, & Healing

randomlychad  —  October 15, 2013 — 13 Comments

Time itself does nothing to heal us. Work is required.

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Today’s post is an excerpt from my work-in-progress, tentatively title Monty & Me: From Fractured to Free, a Memoir. I am posting today as part of a larger synchroblog started by the wonderful Jim Woods. Jim issued a challenge at the beginning of the month to focus on writing that matters. What follows is my attempt to show that I’ve been doing just that. In doing so I’m uniting in solidarity with other writers from around the country, and indeed the world, who have similarly taken up Jim’s challenge.

——————

Suburban white boy tragedy is still tragedy all the same. Look beneath
the facade of the nicely painted house, the bushes trimmed just so,
and you’ll find suburbia’s dirty little secret: despite their best efforts, not
even the Joneses can keep up. They never could. There is a crumbling
marriage, two boys to corral, a mountain of bills, and a man who wants
out.

But nobody on the outside knows any of that; all they see is what they
want to see: a happy family.

How did people live next to John Wayne Gacy all those years and not
know the truth of him? Because he looked like such a nice man. And he
was a clown for goodness’ sake! A clown! Everyone knows that clowns
love children. But some clowns are scary, and like the whitewashed
tombs Jesus spoke of, beneath the facade of the happy clown were
dead men’s bones.

Unlike Gacy, there are wounds which do no seeming harm, but rather
seek to kill the soul. Just because I grew up in suburbia, doesn’t
mean–despite having a roof, clothes, food–that I grew up happy,
well-adjusted, whole.

Suburbia is full of whitewashed tombs: the people living in them
appearing alive, but dying inside. I know because I lived in one.

Let us look beneath to the fractured bones of my soul.

Because you see broken men beget broken boys–boys who grow to be broken
men, further begetting brokenness of their own.

This is the story of Monty and me–of how I went from fractured to free.

——————–
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