say what?

wp-1489623821710.jpg

//

“Don’t let a boy get his hands down your pants!”

That was the extent of my official sex education, and it came from my grandma when I was a tween. She declared it nonchalantly as she sat at her sewing machine working on a project. Alrighty then, thanks for that. My parents were silent on the subject. I learned about my period from a “bad” girl at middle school who came in the bathroom while I was in there and wondering what in the heck was going on with my body. I had heard everything pertaining to sex was taboo and bad from my fundamentalist-go-to-church-every-time-the-doors-were-open religious upbringing. Judy Blume, Harlequin, masturbation, and my uncle’s porn blooper videos and magazines were my best “unofficial” teachers. Yes, you read that correct. Go ahead and chuckle, it’s okay. But here’s the thing, what I thought was horrible and what I thought was pure and right were all mixed up and tossed together, I couldn’t separate it out, and it was information overload from all the “wrong” places. Maybe, maybe not.  I wonder sometimes who I would have grown up to be had I not had such a tight noose around my neck from the purity culture shoved down my throat from day one.

The stage was set very early on for sex and shame to be synonymous and linked irrevocably together. My parents never showed physical affection towards one another in my presence, and frankly didn’t act like they really liked one another all that much, tolerating was more like it. My father was very authoritarian, and I was wise to never step out of line, or else. Experimentation made shame worse, friend rape doubled it, then having my pastor want to be more than friends clinched it as a marriage of shame and blame that would last my entire adult life, until now, because hopefully we are on the verge of much needed divorce, shame and I.

Yes, you heard that right. On a basketball court in Mexico, on a mission trip, I was approached and asked about being more than friends. With my pastor. Who was married. Whose children I had been babysitting. Who had been pastoring my current boyfriend and his family most of his life. For several years, this abuse of power and position was happening. I fell for it hook, line, and sinker. I craved the affection and the love. As the months and years passed he poured into me emotionally what he saw I was lacking. I saw in him what I thought I wanted in a spouse some day, a family of my own, at times I saw the kind of dad I had always thought I needed, other times I saw what I wanted in a partner. I had no one pouring into me and he stepped up to the plate. I was starving and he saw that. My parents had divorced just before we moved to the area with my Mom, I was reeling from the changes, and I was in the middle of highschool and all that goes along with that. The emotional affair began very early on and quickly. I knew our connection was wrong and cried everyday, but couldn’t stop myself from being involved with him it seemed. I remember wishing someone else saw what was happening and hoping they would come talk to me, to us, that someone would make it all stop, make us stop. Things had fallen apart with the boyfriend I thought I was going to marry, he was emotionally and verbally unhealthy and possessive, we had broken up, and this pastor had provided much needed support during all of that mess too. Part of me wanted to reconcile with my old boyfriend, to make things right there, he was the socially acceptable one I could be with anyway, it wouldn’t be so ugly with him. And surely he would grow out of the immature, hurtful stuff right? I did try to patch things up a bit with him and hide the “affair”. The pastor and I had hoped we could simply bury it and stop and noone would ever know. So we tried that, yet the emotional affair continued. The years culminated in a short sexual relationship lasting only a few weeks near the end of it all.

The watershed moment came when he woke up one morning and decided he was telling the church and his wife, but he wanted to know if his wife wouldn’t have him anymore if I would have him. I had been living in a basement apartment of their home for a few months, so he just came downstairs and made the life altering pronouncement, I said yes and fell to the ground. He left me there to babysit and never came back. Two elders from church showed up at the door several hours later telling me they knew everything, and that I needed to pack my things and leave. My heart fell to the tips of my toes, I felt betrayed and hollow inside. The bad one had been found out, I was the enemy. The “A” on my forehead burned into my skin. They asked me to pack my bags and leave, that the pastor and his wife were waiting down the road to come home, but I needed to be gone first. I couldn’t even say goodbye to the older child, she was away at camp. I was so heartbroken as I packed my things and hugged the two young boys. In the following week I met with the board of elders at the church. I was told that someone had to leave, not everyone could stay, and they had decided that since the pastor had been with them nine years, he needed to stay, and I had to leave. I was referred to a counselor where the church was paying for eight sessions, and I was told I could not come back to the church.

The pastor resigned that following Sunday, naming his sin of “adultery” but not naming me, but everyone knew it was me. I was seen at a local movie theater by a member of the church I had been tossed out of, I was called a whore out loud in the front lobby. I was the other woman, the one who slept with the pastor and almost broke up their family, the one who caused their beloved pastor of nine years to resign. He stayed in the congregation for another year or so and then moved across country to pastor another church, one he is still pastoring to this day, 24 years later. Parting ways was excruciating, the sadness and guilt ate me alive. Depression came into the picture, not surprising, yet shocking in it’s ruthlessness. I had a bottle of tylenol poured out into my hands, a mountain of pills that I almost swallowed. Somehow I looked into the bathroom mirror and into my eyes and I couldn’t go through with it. Now I see there was another realm of reality going on that I didn’t recognize then. I realize now that we never really stood on equal ground, that it really wasn’t an affair as I had always thought. We were not both adults equally consenting to engage in a sexual affair. I have lived under the suffocating shroud of shame for 24 years now, half of my entire life, and all of my adult life. I thought I was used goods and could not be used in ministry and that my chances of finding the kind of husband I hoped for were ultimately gone for good. I have always been treated as though I was more to blame, that I somehow must have seduced him and had plans to ruin his family and his life, as though in the quiet of the night I schemed about how to ruin him. No one told me until just a couple years ago, 21 years after the “relationship”, that what happened to me was really clergy misconduct, clergy abuse, clergy sexual abuse. Until finally someone called it what it was. Someone said, this wasn’t what you have thought it was all your life. Do you see how it is not even truly consensual when the scales of authority are so terribly out of sync?

Everyone pretty much treated me as the disgusting other woman who does not know how to act around married men, and someone to always be suspicious of. My story has been used against me at times. I have been accused where there was no fault, suspected when there was nothing but innocence, had my honesty and integrity questioned because of my history. Why is it that it is I who has seemed to pay the steepest price for what happened? I can’t describe how deep the shame grabbed ahold when I was accused of seducing my pastor, trying to break up a marriage, and soiling my family reputation, being kicked out of the church, having the “affair” used against me later, thinking I had ruined my chances of Christian ministry and a godly husband bc of the “affair”. 

I wake up in the mornings sometimes and in that blurriness before getting up I forget that my life has been marked with shame. For a blissful few moments in the innocence of waking I often forget. I wish my life did not have the story that it does, that my history was not so marred with spaces I want to black out with a permanent marker. But we all know life doesn’t work that way, there is no real way to cross out the stuff we don’t like, it cannot be erased. I am learning though that shame does not have to be my constant companion, that I can choose to be on the last lap of shame in my life and one day I can run across the finish line of that terrible ugly race I entered into. I am learning too that what happened to me was not truly as I thought it to be at the time. That it wasn’t actually something I willfully signed up for and knowingly walked into with a free and informed decision. For all these years I have been made to bear the brunt of what occurred. Everyone rushed to restore the fallen pastor, but the supposed adulterous woman was best left to be stoned and condemned, forever marked as someone untrustworthy. So much untruth in that narrative. Now I am finding hope outside of religion, apart from the God of my childhood, the silent and very absent God I want nothing to do with anymore, whether or not he is even there to begin with. I am healing, slowly but surely.

{zt}

beyond the looking glass

 

{I wrote this in response to a prompt about how we all have different selves that reside inside of us, and sometimes we leave ourselves. So this is me talking to a younger me that left in the midst of personal, spiritual, and relational tragedy.}

//

You left when he did
When they said go because someone must

Only a ghost of you was left

Traces of a girl hollowed out by love

Or what she thought was love but ended up being something entirely different

Reaching back through time to find you, chase you down, where are you

When you left where did you run to, where did you hide?

From them? From him? From me?

I cannot fathom the fractures so deep only the heart can feel

There are no words for the deepest of things

You left and I cannot find you

Then she left

Then he left

Then another one, and another one, and another one

All the leaving left me

Left me altered beyond repair

Broken pieces shattered and scattered so far the winds can never return them all

I get glimpses of you sometimes, as though beyond the looking glass

Through water and fog and beauty

You come to me in whispered words

Caresses by a phantom who loves me

I wonder sometimes if you pass between the worlds to come to me

To tell me one day it will be okay

That you are busy gathering up the pieces

And that you will bring them all to me once you have been completely found

You search far and near, here and there to find every last one

You are convinced it is worth the fight to reunite them all

You work to convince me to convince myself

To get me to believe I am worth the trouble

It is not a journey of impossibility, although quite improbable

All the twists and turns, the new devastations that hurl us canyons apart again

And again and again

With each hurling the layers multiply and the pieces scatter again

But you are convinced

And you are not leaving me again, yet you are and i are still standing on separate islands

Together yet apart

One yet separate

Same yet different

And you won’t give up

And you beg me not to either

 

::words to a silent god, 2016::

{written in response to a prompt about how the different selves that live within us intersect. the prompt came from this lovely writer found here: JENA SCHWARTZ}

bone named faith

Bone named faith

A bone once thought to never break

That bone was the strongest of strong

A life was built around that bone

A composition of dedication and passion

Of fervor and loyalty

Of knowing and knowing and knowing

 

A broken bone now

A valley of dry and dead ones

Mountain of dedication now dead and buried

Life of single-minded purpose for a higher being

Now a life of shards and sharp points where the breaking made her fall into herself

Cut herself

Bleeding into the collasped canyon of a soul bruised and battered beyond recognition

Of a god whose tongue got cut out

Of a god who hung up the phone

Of a god who pulled the rug out from under her

Of a god who threw the broken pieces like darts on a dart board

Bone after bone after bone

What good are they now

 

That bone named faith

Put back together like needles glued together from her haystack of a life

That bone renamed

Freedom it cries

Freedom is its name

 

{words to a silent god, c. 2016}

::written as part of #diveintopoetry found here::

silent roar

Processed with VSCO with 7 preset

 

“fleeing the self
running from the life i thought i would have
chasing ghosts
drinking tea and wiping tears
throwing angry words to the wind
i don’t know me anymore
and now i will never know you

 

coughing up regrets
and choking on unforgiveness of the self
bitter towards a body that failed me and you
closing my eyes and listening to the sounds of a life stalled in its tracks
knowing the unknown will always haunt me
and the known will chase me in my dreams

 

ignoring the irreverent words offered up on a silver platter
they are meant to bring healing yet they only smash into my wounds
and make me feel even smaller and you even less real

 

i am running away from myself
i am running away from you
i cannot catch up with the life i was meant to live
yet i cannot stop trying to find my way back
i have fallen down the hole and everything is altered
my throat burns and my stomach churns
there is no turning back, no bypass or shortcut”

 

{me}

Here and now I am stuck between darkness and light. What I thought was light has become dark, and the darkness is becoming illuminated as I walk into it. What a place to be in, what a journey it has been. Words cannot carry the weight fully of the truth that weighs them down and curls them around themselves. What is coming up ahead at the next bend in the road, no one can ever know. Who I thought I could count on I cannot. The who-what-where-and why have all changed. Like chicken little the sky fell, it fell more than once.

Silent woman, silent peers, silent parents, silent friends, silent him, silent elders, silent child, another silent child, silent god. Silent me.

My words come in nose-burning, watery-eyed, throat-tightening sobs, in waves. I am dry and then it rains. Do I really even have something to say? Will I be taken seriously? Believed? Does what I have to say even matter? Yes, yes, and yes. Let the tears fall, let my nose burn, let my throat tighten. Here is my roar.

It’s been 23 years since then. 23 years for me to realize what really happened. 23 years to call it what it was, to call it what it is.

23 years since they said this. You can’t come back. Someone has to leave and they’ve been here longer and he is our pastor, so you have to leave. But hey, we are paying for eight counseling sessions for you and we wish you all the best, now leave, please, but let us pray for you before you go, and we really hope you will be okay. We feel so very sorry for you, and you really need help, but we can’t be the ones to help you because we have others who are more important than you to help. Go on now, troubled young woman. Leave. Let us get on with the Lord’s work, we don’t need women like you in our midst. You might rub off on us. And besides, didn’t you know it is really all your fault?

23 years of having the “A” on my forehead.
23 years of silence.
23 years of shame.
23 years of blame.
23 years of taking it all on.

I was 21 when it all hit the proverbial fan. What had been happening had been happening for several years prior. Building up to the watershed moment when it all came crashing down all around me, and the water rushed down a different path for us all, a path I never wanted to go down, but yet I was on a path at that present time I had never really wanted to go down anyway, so surely this couldn’t be worse, right?

The knock on the door. They knew. He had decided to spill the beans. Confess to the sin of his choosing versus what he had really done to me. Severed from a family, from a life, from a man I thought I loved. How would I ever really be okay again? Life felt over. The pills called to me, to take them, take them all and end this. It just needed to be ended because this was a nightmare that there was no waking from.

I believed the well-mannered lies, the shame-filled accusations, the dirty looks, the letters of well-intentioned yet empty advice for a girl gone supposedly bad, one who lost her way and couldn’t get what they thought she apparently wanted, her pastor. Oh please. What I wanted was trust, love, acceptance, attention. What do most high school girls want who are in a new town after her parents divorced and she is tired of an emotionally and verbally abusive boyfriend? Did I fall for it all hook, line, and sinker? Yes, I did. Did I pursue him? No I did not. Abuse of power and position. Clergy sexual abuse. Ugly terms for exponentially uglier truths. These words cannot carry their weight either, just a dim reflected shadow of the inescapable brutal truth. The wasteland of a life stomped down and out, no longer recognizable. Shredded, beat down to the bone.

Yet, life did go on somehow, some way, the way life often does as it flows forward onto everything in its path, determined to create anew. Changed denominations, changed towns. Ruined reputation. Past used against me time after time. The secrets had to stay secret. There was no way to air them out, to get away from them, except to stay quiet and move on. Years passed. Good things, beautiful things, wonderful things. Life felt like life again and not a prison sentence I was serving out.

Then tragedy struck and our second child was not alive anymore. It was as though the shores of my life split in two and crashed up against each other in a thunderous explosion that left everything shredded and in disarray, unrecognizable, broken beyond repair. Years of darkness and grief upon grief followed.

“the white was everywhere, sterile, as if everything was pure, untouchable, clean, crisp, to the point, yet understated, barely any colors, devoid of emotion, shhhh be quiet because noise and white don’t go together, no blood no screams, be quiet, be white, be colorless, be empty, feel empty. so i bled and she was pink and i screamed and color burst onto the scene and the air was electric with emotion and there was no more white anywhere anymore. she is just beyond my reach always, just beyond my voice, just beyond the edges of my days. in between the ordinary and the sacred, between the old and the new, between the past and the future, she is here yet she is not.”

 

{me}

Then tragedy struck again. Another one dead and this time we didn’t even get to hold her.

Then tragedy struck yet again. The slow death of god. He wasn’t who I had always believed him to be. I felt like I was living in a world of trick mirrors, like it was a big fairground of harsh lights, illusions, and exaggerated clown faces mocking me with angry laughter, all waiting to trick me again once I began to get used to things or know my way around a tiny bit. I became someone I didn’t recognize. I died a million tiny little deaths over and over again. will the bleeding ever stop?

“found
revealed
nurtured
loved
trusted
built my life around
dedicated
believed
integrated
but then…
the miracle didn’t happen
faith unraveled
prayers unanswered
screaming silence
born into death
devastated
manipulated
brutality
nothingness
darkness
bleeding revealed truth
stillborn jesus
yet you were never alive to begin with”

 

{me}

So here I am and I am finding my voice, the voice that has been a scream stuck in the back of my throat, in the back of my life, for so many long silent years. A silent roar will become a roar that is heard. I will be heard. I am being heard now. There is such joy in that.

{words to a silent god, c. 2016}

::::this post was originally a guest post shared HERE at The Roar Sessions::::

drowning

image

grief came too soon

when i noticed they weren’t happy together

no kisses, embraces, affection

the fallout of a marriage bruised and battered and killing itself softly over and over again

the day he gathered us all and asked for the divorce, so quietly and violently

gone were the innocent days

my hero and heroine washed ashore like seaweed and castaways the sea just gave up on and returned to shore, lifeless on the beach of humanity

navigating a crooked chasm ever since

then came the uncharmed love, the great devouring of an unknown and unloved soul who naively opened herself to the mad magic of a lonely soul who belonged to someone else

the giver became the taker, the wise one the senseless, the prophet the pimp, the leader the proverbial bait and switch, the answers for the questions, the goodness for the blame at the cost of her redemption, the truthteller became the liar, she became the lost one, damned to roam in the netherlands of shame because he still had a job to do and she was old news, used and abused and tossed aside

then came marriage and the baby carriage, then came the one born without breath.

the great sadness to unleash all sadnesses was upon me. what was thought to be unconnected was now all mercilessly intertwined. shame had many tethers and many masters now.

hope crashed out of my chest and ran away, wandering, burning into a pile of ashes nowhere to be found.

and so the slow death of god continued, now i knew it was happening, now i could no longer deny the silence, the empty chair, the unanswered cries. In her death all other deaths came to me and i could see them with eyes uncovered and a heart unbound.

the watershed moment when i knew deep down i was in this all by myself, there was no salvation coming for me.

for years i sunk into denial and sadness, i hid in the tears, swimming in the grief and demands of mothering, it wasn’t hard to slip into the shadows unseen, i had help in the bruising and cutting, assistance in the smothering, the drowning had many hands upon it, the pressure building year after year after year

another one came like a thief in the night to prick my heart and then left me bleeding again. this time I was no stranger to the blackness.

now i fight the acceptance, i beat against myself, i don’t want to be where i am, without who i am without, alone in a world not as i thought it was.

what i thought was the greatest has now been trumped, hope continues lost and elusive and i have no idea how to find myself under all the years, all the sizes, all the tightness, all the breaths.

i’m going under. is the answer to keep fighting, stop looking for my ship to come in, to give in and fall under, let the waters cover me and take my breath, what then? what about them, what about me, about us, about him, how will this all play out. will hope meet me at the bottom of the sea?

i’m drowning in a sea of my own tears.

{words to a silent god, c.2015}

>>written as an anthology of grief in response to #inherskin, an online class<<