To write about the things that I do not want to write about. That is one of the many things that Glennon said that hit a target inside me, listening to The Beautiful Writers Podcast with Glennon Doyle Melton last night.
For me that means... write about sexual and physical abuse. Write about psychological and emotional abuse. Write about addiction. Write about confusion and doubt. Write about my family. Write about how it actually feels to be me. Now. And then.
It was heartening to hear that writing a book feels impossible for everyone. Even after it is written and published there seems to remain a pervading feeling of disbelief.
I just realized that I can write until 7am if I want to. And that feels exciting and only a little daunting.
I don’t have to rush anything. I don’t have to “achieve” anything. I don’t have to hunker down and avoid thinking. I just need to be here, and let it flow and know that that is all and everything that needs to happen here. It doesn’t need to become a book or a song or anything at all. If I show up here, God will come. And I will be here. Me, showing up for myself. Every day.
I always loved to write. I was never encouraged to do more of it or rewarded with any kind of praise. I just wanted to do it. I wrote poems. I wrote songs. There was always this pervading feeling, deeper than a feeling, that I was not smart enough to write anything of value. That is why this feels so important. The showing up anyway.
I have stopped, this very morning. this very moment - I have stopped caring whether I am “enough” of anything to be allowed to show up for myself. This very moment I have decided that showing up is my right, my privilege, my gift and my honor.
So... the things that I don’t want to write about...
Yesterday was my sister Jessica's birthday. She turned 45. Which means that I have not seen her since she was 35.
I have been thinking about her a lot lately. Which is something I have not been able to do for a really long time. Not in any depth. Just enough to remind myself why I walked away. Why I had to say that I just couldn’t do it anymore.
I want to protect her. I want to save her but I can’t. I never could. It was never my job. It was never going to work no matter how much I tried. No matter how much I prayed and begged and wanted her to see that she could save herself, that she was worth saving. She couldn’t see. She was broken by the one person who can truly break another human being - her mother.
I have been thinking about Jessi lately with a lot of compassion and sorrow. I have been thinking about her sons, my beloved nephews. They are both old enough now that it is entirely possible that I could cross paths with them here. I hear a lot of Australian accents around the streets of Berlin these days.
I have been preparing our spare room the past few weeks. Bit by bit creating a space where they can come so that maybe, some day, they will. And I'll be ready to shelter them. I'll be ready to care for them and answer all of their questions. I will be able to offer them a safe place in my home where they can rest.
I could not bare the pain of leaving them with her and I could not take them away. I could not bare the shame of not being able to save them. To save her. To save her enough so that they would not have to suffer her tyranny, bullying, high drama, fear, anger, blame, overbearing, suffocating, take-take-taking love.
I have been thinking back to our childhood and all the ways that Eileen systematically broke my sisters spirit. When I look back, she was the canary in the coal mine. She was the only one saying “what the fuck?” Jessi was the only one brave enough, strong enough and smart enough to stand up to our mother. She was physically and mentally strong. Eileen crushed her. Pulled the rug out from under her methodically, insidiously, consistently. She told stories about her so that any other adults around us who may have been able to help her, distrusted her. They treated her like a bully, a bad apple.
A close friend of my mothers told her once that she could not allow one bad apple to spoil the barrel. My mother told and retold that story for years afterwards, to anyone and everyone with ears. She used it to prove her suffering, her martyrdom and to justify her coldness towards my sister. She used it to exonerate herself from decisions like having her locked up in a girls home and then later allowing her to be released to go live with our alcoholic, gambling addicted, unemployed, criminal father in the house he shared with his best friend, the pimp.
She told anyone who would listen that she had been afraid of Jessi since she was a baby. As if that was somehow proof that my sister was evil.
My beautiful sister had a deep scar across her face which my mother gave her when she was a toddler. The way Eileen told it, it was (of course) Jessi's fault. She again told anyone with ears that Jessi had been “teaching” me to poke a wire coat hanger into and electric heater. Recounting her story with high drama, she said that she had been out hanging clothes on the washing line, having just left us alone in the house for a few minutes. She said that she walked in just the second before I was about to be electrocuted to death - watched over by my “bad” sister who was just one year older than me - yanked the heater out of the wall causing the pronged end of the cord to whip across my sisters face, leaving her permanently scared. Just think about the logistics of that. That a cord flying out of the socket with such velocity could hit my sister in her face so hard, so accurately and cut so deep that she still wears the scar? Even if that were true, how could it have possibly been her fault? How could a three year old possibly be to blame for that? My fathers sister told Jessi years later that he had told her that everything in the story the way our mother told it was true, except for the fact that my mother had beaten Jessi with that cord in punishment, not by accident.
No wonder my sister hated me as much as she loved me. The trauma of being beaten so savagely and told that it was her own fault. Living with the shame and humiliation of hearing your own mother telling the story over and over again when people asked what had happened to her beautiful face. Having no actual memory of that day but a deep trauma that was connected to something that I had done, not her. She must have been triggered every time she looked in the mirror with no idea what was going on, only that she was deeply, ferociously angry. With me.