Monday, January 4, 2010

How

As I consider the New Year, I consider the typical responses.

 A fresh start... a better year... putting to bed a bad year... this year will be better.

I have never seen a new year as anything.  Perhaps an excuse to get drunk and maybe not alone.  That is the extent.

A fresh start is a foreign body to me.  To do that would be to erase the memories, the scars, the voices in my head, the shadow people in the corners of nearly every room I enter.  All are impossible.  Especially when there are many, many memories below the frozen surface of my mind.  Frozen in time; so cold that it hurts. 

A perpetual brain freeze.  I wish for just one day without this pain.

No fresh start for me.  What I can do though, is obsess over the how of my life.  I have pretty much given up on the why.  There is just no good answer there; at least not at this point.

How doesn't have to do with other people.  It has to do with me.  How the fuck did I survive?

There are a lot of awful childhood verses sung; a creepy uncle, a leering step-dad, a secret priest, an angry mother, a lost and groping sibling.  Each verse different yet fraught with painful similarities and fragile coping. 

And then there is me.  And others like myself.  I am shattered and still standing yet I have no idea how I got here or how I figured out that this was a life worth surviving. 

How did I not give up?

How did I put one aching foot in front of the other, day after day?  Night after night?  

How did I barely sit down at breakfast each morning believing that our dance in the dark was a household brand?

How did they know just how far to go?  Close enough to fearful pleasure.  Far enough from impersonal death. 

It is a precarious how.

16 comments:

Andrea said...

In my life, I clung to GOD during those times...I know many people say this flippantly, but I am sincere...HE was all I had and HE still is...I would be lying if I said those thoughts don't rear their ugly heads in my life, b/c they do. It is with my Heavenly Father that during those times, I put one foot in front of the other and someone walk slowly out of despair.
Hugs and prayers, andrea

The Pliers said...

It seems to me, ma chère Shattered friend, as if your blog title gives a clue, at the very least, to how you survived:

You shattered.

The way one usually imagines shattering is into smithereens, shards, separate and distinct pieces of what once was whole.

But what if you shattered more in the way a beautiful delicate glaze might when applied to a very sturdy core material–the most durable clay that you could ever imagine, for example, an indestructible clay–and subjected to unfathomably hot temperatures.

The glaze would bubble, wrinkle, fracture, crackle, shatter like nobody's business and the heat would hurt in unimaginable ways, but the clay would only get stronger.

It is possible that the glaze would literally burn away in come areas the clay would be left exposed; the clay vessel might appear to be defective; there might even be some question as to whether the piece should be consigned to the pile of rejects, but someone with discernment would look closely and realize that it was the vessel–the clay and the sacred space within–that were worth saving and perhaps, over time, reglazing.

The new glaze would never cover up the old. The old shattered, scarred glaze would still be there in all its pain and tortured glory but it would be strengthened and beautified, given new life, by the reinforcement from the one who believed in its viability as a vessel–with its positive and negative spaces being accorded equal value.

How is it that out of a family-of-origin of five I am the only one who has not had life-threatening depression, completed suicidal tendencies, deadly drug & alcohol problems, multiple divorces, estranged children, and numberless other distractions from living a productive and personally satisfying life?

Maybe you thought living was the best revenge; maybe you thought they lied and that you were the swan, not the ugly duckling; maybe you have a purpose to fulfill in this lifetime that has not been completed; maybe you were one determined child/adolescent/young adult/mother/wife/woman who did not believe their self-justifying excuses; maybe you sensed that you were trapped in a state of grace...

Perhaps, over time, you will find a way to tell us how you did it?

Ruth said...

In some sort of tightrope pole balance your last question - how did they know how to go just far enough - "Close enough to fearful pleasure. Far enough from impersonal death." - is on one side and your question how did you survive and keep surviving is on the other. There's something in that tension that keeps you going, like yin and yang that produce something new, and well extraordinary.

Deborah said...

Did you ever have glimpses of how life could and should be, when you were young and still in your parents' grip? I wonder if the fact that you may not have had any real idea of what was so dreadfully wrong in your family meant that you simply kept on going, not knowing any better. Surely it is the awareness of what one is missing that makes the reality more difficult.
I don't mean by this that your life and experience was not terrible - just that if you know what else is out there (that is good), it must be harder to hang on.
And you did. Such remarkable resilience, Jennifer. Truly remarkable.

Gary Heller said...

I have never really made much ado about the New Years . It seems like another excuse to throw a party, how we all seem to love to celebrate. nothing wrong with that though, it just never was for me . i alwasy enjoy the solitutude of being alone or watching others enjoy themselves.
I would imagine that for you every New Year could be seen as another step away from the past, and for that could be good reason to cherish the New Year. They say time heals all, and I believe for the most part that is true. I think though with someone like yourself with such a strong past of whose memories and affect have dug deep, it might be a long haul, but still a step away even if so small a step. . . a step nonetheless.
I wish you and your loved ones the best, and thanks for your time and good words on mine.
Sincerely

Friko said...

For me a new year is just that, a new year, i.e. the calendar starts over again, from one to 12 and all the numbers in between. That's just all it is, numbers, a way to keep count of days, a convenient way to allow for the circle of the seasons.
I like to celebrate, but I can celebrate any day of any year.

As for the why and the how? The answer to any why, why me? is always why not, why not me. If it has to happen, it has to happen to somebody, so why not me?

As for the how did your survive? Again, somebody has to survive, so why not you? And it is always the strong who survive. You are strong, you survived.

What I find much more important is THAT you survived. Not why not how but THAT. Remember always, you DID survive, you have a chance to move on; those that didn't, haven't.

I don't know if you will ever learn not to go into those ghost filled rooms, I don't know if you will be strong enough to continue living; but you have brought another life into this world, which means there is a reason, at least, to try.

Good wishes, Friko

Shattered said...

Andrea, how I wish I could have what you have! I'm being nosey but how in the world do you trust God?

Shattered said...

The Pliers, I have never known much about pottery as an art form but what you describe makes a lot of sense. I still feel badly for the scarred piece made somewhat beautiful. That piece will always be different; will always stick out. I guess that is something I will have to learn to live with.

How I did it? I still don't really know. I don't know what kept me going or how I turned out the way I did. I do hope that I am able to figure it out and share it here.

Shattered said...

"There's something in that tension that keeps you going, like yin and yang that produce something new, and well extraordinary."

You know, I have never thought of this the way you put it. What you describe is a huge struggle within for me but it probably is what keeps me going. I just hope you are right and that what is being created will be "extraordinary".

Shattered said...

Deborah, I realized in late elementary school that my family was not "normal". The first time I ever spent the night out I realized that my family was different. But at that point, I was stuck and I guess I put my head down and managed life as best I could. I also remember pretending that my family was normal just to feel better about the situation I was in.

Now as I am typing all of this, I am realizing some of the conscious decisions I made in order to survive. Because you are right, knowing that a better life existed outside of my childhood would have made it much harder to hang on.

Shattered said...

Gary, you are right. A step is a step and a new year is a step further away from the past. Sometimes I lose my perspective; thank you for reminding me so kindly that there are other ways to look at time. :)

BTW, I shared your blog with a dear friend who has a 7 year old daughter with autism. She was so encouraged by your photograph of your son. Keep up the good work...

Shattered said...

Friko, life is certainly worth trying to move through. And you are right, I have a daughter who depends on me and she is certainly worth it. I hope that someday I will be able to look at the "why" and the "how" and find them to be gifts.

Ruth said...

But it is, you are, already extraordinary. Maybe that's hard for you to see, being you. From here, that is all I see. I don't really like saying that though, because my words might put something on you, some pressure. I don't wish to do that.

Cassandra Frear said...

Let it be what works for you. If it doesn't work, toss it.

Everyone is different. I like beginnings and fresh starts. I like to think that Jesus is always giving me, through forgiveness and grace, a fresh start. But I know that image may not work for everyone.

Shattered said...

Ruth, I get glimpses of it every once in a while but I don't usually see anything nice about myself. But don't worry, you aren't putting pressure on me. :)

Shattered said...

Cassandra, I am glad that forgiveness and grace give you a fresh start. I wish I could have that but I'm afraid that I am too bad for that most of the time.