This is me, Christmas--what must it be? 1985 maybe? That would put me at around 7 years old. As you can see, I was holding my new Cabbage Patch doll, which I adored. Although I don't remember that particular holiday, I do remember that doll.
The concept of childhood is somewhat bittersweet to me. That's why this picture strikes me so, I think; even though my expression in it is likely because I was sleepy (we wait until midnight on Christmas Eve to open gifts), it seems like an appropriate metaphor for my childhood. Outwardly, things looked normal--as with this, holding my new toy. Yet the "smile" I wear never seems to make it to my eyes. It seems, to me, like a guarded smile--cautious. That element was already there inside of me, of that I am sure.
Growing up, I felt a lot of loneliness, pain, and low self-esteem. Even as a kid, I can recall thinking so lowly of myself. I felt outside the "normal realm" of things and people. The world was scary. I feared elevators and the dark. Later on, in my teens, I began experiencing panic attacks and anxiety. My phobias grew. "What's wrong with me?" is a refrain I've been asking myself since I was very young. I was also very, very shy, in large part because of my low self-esteem. Fearing what others would think of me, especially because of my shyness, I turned inward. Books were a nice diversion, and I took to them with ferociousness. That's where my love of reading, writing, and poetry were born.
For the majority of my life, I've been dealing with the after-effects of being sexually abused by a close relative. At times I've made a good effort of pushing it all as far back as possible. I think as I grew up, and became older, I learned to live with it in some ways...and in some ways, with the help of a trusted therapist, I was able to conquer some of that hurt inside of me. But eventually I stopped going, because it was just too hard, too scary, to face what was done to me.
I feel like my soul has been longing for something in some way for a long time. I suppose it's like that tired-but-true cliche: the truth shall set you free. I've been hard on myself for a long time now, and the truth is, I'm a little weary. Life has shown me that, despite the things that hurt us most, there are so many incredible gifts available to those that look for them. My kids--they are the most important things in my life. I'm still amazed that I have them sometimes, that they're really here--my three little babies. I feel like I owe it to the kids somehow to try and do this. I want them to know by example that they are worth certain things. My one hope in life is that they don't ever experience the level of anxiety, depression, and ill-ease in the world I have at times. I want them to know that the spirit can soar despite the heavy things that life can bring.
Recently, I had my first counseling session in about a year, after giving up yet again. My wonderful therapist, Richard, has a book we are to work through, called "The Courage to Heal." It seems a lot of people he works with just eventually give up on it. One person left the book outside his office door one day, and never came back. He showed me the stack of abandoned workbooks he had, and it made me incredibly sad, thinking of those people who for whatever reason couldn't face it--and the fact that their lives would undoubtedly suffer for it.
This year, I resolve to get through the workbook. I'll call it my New Year's resolution, partly in jest...but truly, it's time. I think of Anais Nin's beautiful phrase "and the day came when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." It's been something I've been carrying with me for far too long.
I've never shared anything this personal on my blog, but I wanted to hold myself accountable in a way. I can't give up this time. Anything less is unacceptable.
I know the nature of life, and that we all carry our burdens. May this new year be a time of dreams and hopes and magic for you. May your burden become a little easier. May the things that have been lost to you long, if any, come back to you again.
"Love after Love" (by Derek Walcott)
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other's welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.