Every day, something reminds me of how vital it is for us to heal and recover from all trauma and harm and the consequences of subsequent obsessions.
I read something yesterday that said we should treat everyone like they are sacred until they begin to believe they are. That would be the ideal way to live, wouldn’t it? It would certainly solve a lot of problems in our world, individually and collectively. I’d love to commit myself to that. I’m certainly going to try, and, of course, I’ll need to remind myself always. It’s so easy to be impatient with people, but we all could use a little patience from others. We’re trying. We’re doing our best. Breaking the cycle of continuous damage to ourselves is a divine process.
I’m sending love to everyone and wishing you the very best, an abundance of all good things! Stay safe and well. ❤️
A few weeks into the fall ‘87 semester, Robbie finally called. Delighted to hear from him, I sprawled across my bed with the phone and settled in for a long, cozy chat. We talked about school and his new campus life before revisiting his last night at home.
“So, what baby were you dreaming about?” I asked. “You said you killed the baby.”
“No idea,” he responded. “I have a lot of bad dreams. How could I not in that house?” He began venting about my father. “He was always talking about how we should go to college. I got a scholarship for a fucking ABET-accredited aerospace engineering program at Florida State, and now it’s not good. People who graduate from college are dumb. That’s all his bitterness because he didn’t go to college.”
“No, he’s proud of you, Robbie,” I said. “They’re both proud of you and very happy for you. I’m proud of you, too. You’ve come such a long way.”
“Thanks, Dan. Don’t forget, I was supposed to be a doctor—after he failed to make a doctor out of Joey.”
“He was devastated when Joey dropped out of high school.”
“Yep … he wasn’t happy when Joey worked in the bakery either, or the pizza place, or as a trucking company dispatcher. He wasn’t happy when Joey took the firefighter exam and managed to get on the list. That’s the only reason Joe’s doing this elevator technician thing and working with Uncle Dom. Honestly, it would be nice if our father tried to find out what we might actually like. Just do this, do that. Fuck him. At my fucking grade school graduation, he tells me I should work on becoming a doctor. I didn’t even get to high school yet!”
“Yeah, well, I was not even good enough to push along the medical path.” I laughed, but it hurt. “He says to me, ‘Do you know how hard it is to become successful at writing or singing? Are you kidding me, Danielle? You’re better off learning some kind of trade.’” The realization that he didn’t believe in me stung. I would fluctuate between wanting to prove he was wrong and wanting to be gone from the world.
“Right,” Robbie agreed. “He was sure Joey and me could be doctors, and we don’t even wanna be doctors, but he knows you can’t be a writer even though you love to write.”
“It’s okay,” I said. “He has no patience with me, no faith in my ability. Like when he was teaching me how to drive—what a disaster! But he always had so much faith in you and Joey.”
“Not really, and, no, it’s not okay!” he said. “None of this is okay. He split your head open, the crazy fuck.”
It was true. I was twelve at the time. My father had been raging about Robbie breaking curfew and being asleep at one in the afternoon. He called him a goddamn stupid bastard then went into a rant about one of Robbie’s friends being black.
I first defended Robbie.
My father yelled, “What are you, his lawyer?”
I went on to defend the black kid and black people, and he continued to assail me with generalizations.
“You don’t know all the black people, Daddy,” I said. “You probably don’t know any!”
Not that he was alone in his concern about race and ethnicity. I saw it all around me. What I rarely saw was a black person. Neighbors didn’t think we belonged there either. It hadn’t escaped me that people mocked and ridiculed anyone perceived as different in any way. They didn’t know what else to do with people who didn’t fit their perception of what normal should be. I was tired of witnessing all the rejection. Granted, I loved my grandmother, but she would ask people flat out what they were in terms of ethnicity. My mother told me she had wanted my father to marry an Italian girl.
“Who cares how white or dark anyone is, or what part of the world they were born in?” I raged on that day. I rose from the table, making no effort to conceal my vehement disgust.
“Where are you going?” my mother asked. “We’re gonna eat now.”
“Wake up your brother!” my father roared.
I stormed off to my room and locked the door.
I heard the clinking of glasses and utensils downstairs and the plunk of each plate upon the hard surface of the dining room table. My father called me to come and eat, twice. I didn’t budge. Instead, I looked longingly at the jewelry box with the pink flowers on my dresser. My grandmother had given that to me. I opened it, wanting to hear the music and watch the ballerina dance. I was ready to wind it when I heard him yelling. It scared me enough to take my hands off the jewelry box, rise, and head for the door. I hastened down the stairs. We met in a narrow corridor, in the little alcove where the desk used to be before he put it in my room.
He slammed my head against the wall.
I felt nothing. I could see everyone around the dining room table as I walked inches ahead of him. There was the ravioli, the plate of meatballs, beef braciole, artichokes, boned rabbit, and sausages in sauce. I saw salad with black olives, olive oil, and homemade vinegar. There was the red table wine my father made with Uncle Dom. All eyes were upon me—shocked faces.
My mother’s chair swung back, and she sprang to her feet. She screamed at my father. “You beast!” Next thing I knew, she was rushing me over to the sink. I watched it fill with the blood gushing from my head.
My father paced.
“Get a towel!” she hollered at him. “Hurry up!”
He got the towel and wrapped it tightly around my head.
“You have to take her to the hospital!” she yelled.
I felt dizzy going down the outside stairs. “I’m so sorry, Daddy,” I sobbed on the way to the car.
He had a cold, faraway look in his eyes. I couldn’t decide whether it was anger and hatred for me, or his eyes had simply died. I sensed he was angrier with himself, dealing with the torment of his guilt, and I wanted to comfort him.
“I’m so sorry, Daddy,” I said again. “I should have come when you called me.”
He didn’t respond or look at me. He focused on the road with many glimpses into the rearview mirror.
I apologized all the way to the emergency room.
He pulled into the parking lot of Manchester Memorial, took the key from the ignition, and spoke with his eyes on the wheel. “I am the one who is sorry, okay? You have nothing to be sorry about.” I’d never heard him speak in such a shaky, fractured voice.
“I love you, Daddy,” I assured him.
An awkward silence ensued.
“I feel like you don’t love me anymore.”
“Danielle, it has nothing to do with whether I love you or don’t love you. You’re my daughter, okay? What happened should never have happened. You didn’t deserve that. Now, let’s go. We need to get you checked out.” He got out of the car, helped me out, and hurried me along through the entrance.
“I think he told the doctor I walked into a wall,” I said to Robbie now. “I remember him asking how long it would be, and the doctor telling him I was going to need a few stitches, but that I would be fine. He seemed relieved. The doctor said he could come back, that he’d just be outside in the crowded waiting room, and there was no point. It was true; they did have a lot of injured patients. They needed a place to sit. I told Daddy to go eat. I remember he smiled at me and told me to call him when I was done, that he’d come get me.”
“Wow,” was all Robbie managed.
“Yeah, I figured it was easy enough to find a phone booth, but when I was ready to go, I realized I didn’t have the money to call. I didn’t have anything. I went to a phone booth, and I was pressing the receiver up and down to see if I could get the operator, but, for whatever reason, it didn’t work. I was going to ask a nurse or someone to call, then a man from one of the shops at Glast Center recognized me and offered to drive me, so I went. He asked what happened, and I said it was an accident.”
“We were stunned when you came through the door.”
“Yeah, Mommy came over and hugged me. Daddy was asking how I got there, and why I didn’t call. He kept going on that I said I would call, asking why I didn’t, why I didn’t say I had no money, why I didn’t have the doctor get a hold of him.”
“You told him you were fine, and I had to laugh. It was so absurd … that you could be fine after that.”
“He felt bad. He was rushing around, filling my plate and my glass, and Mommy helping him. I saw you and Joey looking at each other like what the hell—?”
“Joey asked them, ‘Aren’t you gonna heat that up?’ He said, ‘It’s probably ice cold by now.’ They insisted it wasn’t. I also remember Joe asking you if you were okay, and you said you were. You told me later you didn’t want to upset Joey.”
“I felt bad for causing all that.”
“He hit my head, and it bounced against the wall.”
“He slammed it against the wall!”
“I know, but he didn’t mean to. He was as shocked as everyone else.”
“He couldn’t even wait for you! He didn’t make sure you had money for the fucking phone. You had to risk accepting a ride from some stranger that nobody knew you were with!”
“That was stupid of me. I could have asked someone at the hospital to call.”
“You were a child, Dan! It didn’t occur to them to warm up your food, when it occurred to Joey and me. I got the blame for all of it, you know. Mommy told me it was my fault, and when I said it wasn’t, she slapped me. I told her, ‘I’m not the one who slammed her head against the wall or the one who was fighting with him.’ I told her, ‘This is sick. Who do you think’s gonna eat all this crap after that?’ I felt physically sick.”
“I’m sorry she blamed you.”
“Will you stop saying you’re sorry? None of that was your fault! He was drinking before it happened. And you were worrying about Joey, too. You were worried about the people in the emergency room not having a place to sit. Stop worrying about everyone but yourself. Stop making excuses for Daddy. You always make excuses for him.”
I couldn’t help it. I felt the profound suffering deep inside him that had started long ago, the little boy heartache along with the pain of a soldier who’d never spoken about the war. I had watched him fight with Robbie, plead with him—desperate to find the underlying cause of Robbie’s troubles. He had no idea what to do. Convinced he was a terrible father, he blamed himself. I had caught him crying one New Year’s Eve when he’d had too much to drink. It was as if I lived in his heart during those moments and could feel what he was feeling—like his pain was my pain. It was hard to fathom at the time that he could never feel mine.
I once took it upon myself to reassure him that he was a wonderful father, writing a poem to that effect, which I wanted to read to him.
“I’m busy,” he had said, focusing on his newspaper at the dining room table.
“It’s not long,” I said.
“Go ahead,” he growled.
Seeing that he was holding his place in the newspaper with his finger and not looking at me, I read with a trembling voice and a lump swelling in my throat.
He said, “Thank you,” when I’d finished and then went on reading his news.
My mother had been smiling the whole time. She looked proud of me, and hopeful that this tribute would move him. “Beautiful,” she’d praised me. “Very nice.”
Yet I felt diminished and dismissed by my father.
I knew, too, that when Robbie broke curfew, as he often did, my mother wouldn’t sit down or go to bed. She continued wiping kitchen countertops long after dinner and dessert. She moved on to the stovetop, to the range, to the hood, to the cabinets, and every one of their knobs. She cleaned the sheathed cloth of the breakfast table. She wiped down the three upholstered chairs, and, every once in a while, wandered into the dining room and stole a glimpse out the window, her dishrag clenched tightly in her fist. With her free hand, she separated the drapes, magnifying the intensity of the darkness. I could see her forlorn gaze as she watched for her son. At times, I went to her and stood helplessly at her side. For what seemed an eternity, there would be nothing but twinkling stars and a beautiful moon over the vast, blackened earth. I felt her weariness and anguish.
“Sit down, Grace,” my father would call to her from the dining room table. He might as well have been invisible. She barely saw him anymore. I bore witness to my father’s dejected expression, and I believe her rejection marked the beginning of their marital woes.
Robbie would come home and apologize profusely to avoid punishment, but my father did beat him once.
Another time, I followed Robbie from the house to confront him about his behavior, and he walked faster to ditch me.
“Leave me alone!” he yelled, turning around. “Go home!”
“You know, Robbie, I idolized you since I was a child,” I shot back. “How dare you do this! You are destroying yourself, and, because of that, Mommy and Daddy are heartbroken. I worshipped you! I wanted to be like you. But now I don’t ever want to be like you. You are the last person on earth I’d want to be like!”
I saw a glimpse of the Robbie I thought I knew in that moment, but he turned from me and took off.
I reminded him of it now.
“That got to me,” he admitted. “It was the moment I’d always remember when I knew I was going down, and it was the moment I remembered when I finally decided to get clean and sober.”
It took a while for that to sink in. “If that’s the case, I’m glad I said it. I never meant to hurt you.”
“I know. I don’t blame you. I blame them. They live in their own little worlds, getting ripped on their wine and martinis.”
It was true they were oblivious to most of the troubles we’d had and knew nothing of the pressures we’d felt. We didn’t tell them. I would ask if I could babysit, and they’d say yes without a thought. They never asked for whom or for a phone number. They had confidence in the way they’d raised me. They wanted me to feel trusted, since, as far as they knew, I’d done nothing to betray their trust. When I thought of all the things they didn’t know I’d done, I felt guilty.
Another thought occurred to me. “Let me ask you something.”
“When we were talking about Daddy snapping and killing the whole family, it surprised you that I thought he was capable of that. After everything, why is it so hard for you and Joey to believe that could happen?”
“Oh, he has snapped plenty of times,” Robbie said. “It’s interesting that you think he would go that far. I never thought of that. My gut says we’ve seen the worst of it.”
“But how do you know?” I asked. “How do you know when somebody’s reached their limit? When they’ve taken all they can take and can’t take anymore?”
It was dark when I turned up Cricket Lane. A thin level of fog had developed with the cooling air. There was nothing to light the wooded path except the sun’s golden gleam reflected by a waxing gibbous moon. I’d been walking fast or running. I kept looking over my shoulder.
Passing the little white church, I could see a group of teenagers inside the cemetery—three standing and one slumped over a tombstone.
I could see it was Robbie. He jerked his head and tried to rise but fell back over the stone. He couldn’t open his eyes.
“What did he take?” I demanded.
No one spoke immediately. They appeared stunned that an eleven-year-old girl would come here alone in search of her brother.
“Tuinals,” the one female answered at last.“Maybe five …”
“Oh, God … Robbie?” I shook him. “Are you guys just going to stand there? Help me get him out of here!”
The two males flanked him and made a bungling attempt to pull him along.
“Danielle?” Robbie called out to me in a faint voice. He stumbled, nearly dropping to the ground.
His hair was in a shaggy style back then that had bangs swept off to the side. Those bangs now hung over his eyes.
I reached for him as his handlers tightened their grip. “I’m taking him home.” There was an authoritative air in my tone, mingled with impatience.
“I don’t think so,” the girl responded. “If your parents see him, he’ll be screwed.”
“My parents are not home yet.”
“We’ll take him somewhere to sleep it off.” It was the guy on Robbie’s left talking.
“You can’t!” I yelled. “If you do that, he’ll die!”
I don’t know where that notion came from, but I believed it and evidently convinced him as well. He offered to help. We anchored Robbie by his arms across our shoulders. All the way home, Robbie kept mumbling, stumbling, and calling my name.
“I’m here,” I answered him.
We dragged him along, passing familiar homes decorated with pumpkins, skeletons, and tombstones. My mom had decorated our house, too, and I could see the lights on when we got there. Joey appeared in the doorway, likely worried about not finding me home, and ready to go looking for me.
“Help him up!” I shouted. “I’m calling 911.”
Joey hastened down the stairs and took my side of Robbie as I ran ahead. They brought Robbie to my grandmother’s room and laid him down to rest on her bed.
I nervously rattled off the details to a dispatcher and hung up the phone.
“Don’t sleep,” I beseeched him upon my return.
“Why can’t I sleep?” Robbie slurred.
I could see the concern in Joey’s eyes. He stood close to the bed now, trusting my instincts.
“Where’d his friend go?” I asked.
“He took off, but he told me about the pills,” Joey said. “Where’d you find him?”
“A bunch of kids … I didn’t recognize them, but they knew him. They knew me. They told me they saw him heading toward the cemetery with two guys holding him up, and he was in bad shape.”
“You went to the cemetery?”
“I was five minutes away, halfway down Angie’s block.”
I normally left Angie’s house before it got dark, but we got busy creating a scrapbook of our teen idols, and I hadn’t noticed the time.
He shook his head disapprovingly. “What’s his problem, man?”
Robbie’s breathing was slow. He seemed oblivious to his surroundings, barely hanging onto consciousness. Rosary beads dangled over one side of the headboard. A nativity scene on a plaque loomed above. I sat on the bed. “Robbie told me a funny story about this one day in church, during Benediction, when he thought he was getting that calling to be a priest. Right, Rob? See, it was the fumes from the incense making your head all fuzzy. They would never call you to be a priest.”
He was fading fast, so I sat him upright, holding onto him.
“Stay awake!” I yelled.
“Stay awake, Rob,” Joey echoed, shaking his shoulders.
“Don’t fall asleep,” I told him. “Talk to me.”
“About what, Dan?”
I heard sirens. It wasn’t long before the emergency technicians descended upon him.
“What did he take?” The paramedic who asked this question was the only black man—a hulking figure with a warm voice and the sweetest, most caring, eyes.
“Tuinals,” I told him, “maybe five.”
“Has he done this before?”
“Not that I know of.”
“Are you all siblings?”
“What’s his name?”
He spoke to my brother. “Robbie? What’s going on? Do you know where you are?”
I watched as they examined him. I saw them shine a light into both of his eyes.
“Yes,” my brother said.
“And where’s that?”
He fell silent, and they hoisted his leaden body onto a stretcher.
“I didn’t think he should sleep,” I told the kind man.
“Well, you did a good job. He took an overdose. If he had gone to sleep, he would not have awakened.”
“You mean …?”
“He could have lapsed into a coma. He could have died. You can’t be messing around like that.”
I looked at Joey, and he shook his head.
“How old is he?” the man asked.
“Thirteen,” I replied.
“Where are your parents?”
Joey answered that. “Some two hundred-year-old lady died, and they all went running off—some friend of my grandmother’s.”
“I think you better get a hold of them.”
Joey wrote a note for my parents and grabbed my mom’s car keys off the dining room table. We left for the hospital. He wasn’t supposed to be driving without supervision, but I knew he’d get us there safely.
“The woman was ninety,” I told him.
“Grandma’s friend who died.”
“What’d you write in the note?”
“That Robbie’s okay but in the hospital.”
“He is going to be okay, right?”
“I hope so.”
He hugged me in the waiting room. I hugged him tight in return, afraid to let go.
My father showed up at the hospital sooner than I had expected.
“Where’s Mommy?” I inquired.
“Where do you think? She’s home, cooking. She was worried sick, your mother. She wanted to come. I told her to stay there. So what happened?” His gaze shifted from Joey to me and then back again.“Is he all right?” My father began walking in circles. “Where is he?” He approached an emergency room physician who’d been walking toward us. “I’m the father,” he said. “What happened?”
The doctor smiled politely. “I’ll fill you in on what happened, but your son is fine. He had his stomach pumped, so he may be feeling some pain. He may be fatigued. Let him rest.”
The ER staff released Robbie in an improved state, but he continued to stumble around with his eyes closed. My father held him by the arm then assisted him into the passenger seat of his car—the Pontiac Bonneville he drove then.
“Geez, I know none of us are saints,” he mused on the way home. “I did a lot of things when I was a kid to make my father mad. He would get so mad at me, he wanted to kill me. My mother would say, ‘Wait until you grow up and have kids of your own. You’ll see.’ She was right.”
“I’m sorry, Dad,” a groggy Robbie replied.
“Well, I hope you learned your lesson.”
My mother was wringing her hands when we helped Robbie through the door. She looked flustered and pale. I couldn’t tell if she wanted to hug Robbie or kill him.
“What the hell is the matter with you?” she screamed.
Robbie said nothing in response. My father and Joey helped him upstairs to bed.
“What’s going on with him?” she asked me.
I told her what had happened.
She clenched her teeth and then went about setting the dining room table.
I helped minimally, distracted by my concerns about Robbie. Did he know he could die? Did he want to die, or did he simply not care if he lived or died?
We sat down to dinner without him. My grandmother asked what had happened, and my father spent the next five minutes talking to her in Italian. She made the sign of the cross, tears streaming.
“And don’t go blabbing to Zuza and everyone else, Mom!” he bellowed. “It’s nobody’s goddamn business.”
Grandma denied she would say anything while nervously grazing her fingers across her forehead. Her hair was up and tightly bound, as always—hair she would say was the color of coffee beans, except for the dusting of silver. I could see her sad little brown eyes behind the lenses of her glasses.
We ate with no further talk about Robbie. Everyone assisted my mother in cleaning up. She prepared demitasse. We all had a piece of Entenmann’s cake.
I checked on Robbie in his blissful sleep and then joined my grandmother in her room.
She was sitting on the bed where Robbie had been earlier, the tufted chenille bedspread in pure ivory pulled up to the headboard, as though nothing had happened. The dimly lit sanctuary was quiet and safe again, a simple place of walnut-crafted furnishings, eggshell walls, and wood floors. All of it had faded away—Robbie, the sirens that had brought heroes to my door, and all the day’s events. For a few moments, we remained silent and in a comforting womb of peace.
I looked around the room at her wooden crosses of Jesus and her pictures of the pope. There were many pictures of the pope. One might have imagined he shared the room with her. He hung amid family wedding photos. She’d tucked another photo of him in one side of the annual calendar she got from our neighborhood dry cleaner. Every year, on Palm Sunday, she brought a palm home from church, shaped it into a crucifix, and tucked it behind the same calendar.
She’d hung two paintings of birds in this room, one a pair of bluebirds perched on a tree branch adorned with large leaves and tiny flowers. The other featured a white heron amid blossoming trees. She loved birds, as I did.
“Oh, Dio…” She was calling to God. She looked at me. “The way you know?” It was how she talked, yet I understood.
I explained how I’d found Robbie and what had happened next.
“The way you know?” she repeated.
“I didn’t know anything. I didn’t think about it.”
“God knows—and the angels.” She reached for my hand and squeezed it. “God bless. God bless … you good girl.”
I could feel her pain profoundly, just as I could with the other members of my family. Every one of them suffered immensely.
I gave her a hug and then stood, making my way over to her lace-lined dresser adorned with resin statues of prayer plaques, angels, and the Blessed Mother. Our Holy Communion portraits were there in gold frames. I opened the musical jewelry box she’d brought from Italy, and, with my fingers, traced the gold satin lining the hardwood. I knew she shared a piece of my joy, taking notice of what I admired. It was the reason she’d made certain I always had a musical jewelry box with a dancing ballerina. I’d notice new things right away, like the bluebird song box in handcrafted porcelain and the floral trinket boxes.
“Here,” she was saying.
I turned to see her reaching for a small tulle pouch on a low wall shelf. Bomboniere is what she called it. Brides gave it as a wedding souvenir. She was untying the ribbons. She would eat the sugared almonds inside when she felt like it, unlike my mother and Zuza, who kept theirs intact. She put two in my hand and popped one in her mouth.
I smiled and began eating the almonds. “These are the only gifts you ever like.”
She smiled back. “Ah! I’m old, honey. I no need anything.”
The woman rarely smiled, but, when she did, it went to my heart.
She did go over to Zuza’s in the morning. She told them everything. I knew, because Angie rushed over and wrapped me in a hug.
My involvement in all the Robbie madness, however, didn’t end there.
Not a week later, I was in the family room recliner watching television. Robbie showed up with some friends. They cranked up the music, since no one was home, then put paper towels inside brown paper bags and soaked the paper with glue. Robbie handed one of the bags to me.
“Hold it up to your nose and then breathe in and out,” he said.
I can’t remember if I even asked why.
The surge to my head was like a magnetic recharge, and all I could hear was AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.” An explosion in my brain unleashed an outpouring of dazed, rapturous sensations. Light prickles and tremors trickled through every fiber of my being. I reveled in the light-headed euphoria. A prevailing illusion of calm and peace washed over me. Everyone, everything, faded away. In that moment, nothing was better than this high. My love for these sensations was more powerful and more enslaving than my love for anything or anyone else I knew.
We inhaled ourselves into oblivion. The pillow top of the recliner felt so soft on my back, and I closed my eyes, drifting off to sleep with the bag on my nose. I awakened with a sense of the paneled walls encasing me. My first vague awareness was of the crouched porcelain tiger lamp resting atop the television set. I could see the fireplace my mother had decorated with sculptures—a cherubic angel with wings and a pair of praying hands. Photos in ornate gold frames, depicting all of us in our younger years, adorned the television top and the end tables. When I looked to my left and to my right, my brother and his friend were still there. I stood, dizzy, nearly losing my balance as I tried to position myself. There was laughter, howling, and cackling, all sounding far off. I felt giddy, uninhibited, and excited. I was unable to say or do anything without laughter and smiles.
Yes, fantasy was better than reality for me, and I welcomed any escape from the latter. I kept trying to bond with Robbie, too—going on “shopping” sprees with him and his friends. We rode the bus to neighborhood department stores and returned with stolen merchandise. I stole plastic bangles in different colors, earrings, T-shirts, and pants.
“You’re good,” a friend of his marveled.“A master thief and con artist.”
“Well, she has the face of an angel,” said another. “Who’d suspect her?”
I had ripped the lining out of my puffer jacket, so I could slide things around to the back.
“Where did you get this?” my mother would ask, regarding our new acquisitions.
We’d say a friend gave them to us, and, though she didn’t seem comfortable with the idea, she never pressed the issue. If it had been Robbie alone, and, possibly Joey, she might have, but she evidently couldn’t fathom her sweet little girl lying or stealing.
It was an unsettling time of strange and constant shifting between the uncorrupted purity of youth and the recklessness of a demoralizing coming-of-age. A choice seemed to continually surface, bittersweet reality or sweet imagination, child or grown-up, right or wrong. I kept searching for the in-between, but I couldn’t find it. I felt a rebellious joy as well as a distant sadness.
I began to see a parallel between life and roller coaster rides at amusement parks, even if I could not have explained it. We went barreling along on the formidable journey, propelled by some overpowering entity. There were uncomfortable moments. In other moments, we would be elated. There’d be mirth and amusement, just as there would be treacherous, spine-chilling turns. We twisted this way, that way, down many paths, and we hung on. We whirled backward, then forward then backward again. The times of gentle rolling on the track made the unexpected dark tunnels an intriguing mystery fraught with peril. We had to hold on, and we laughed a lot. It did seem uncertain, on various declines, that one was truly safe in the midst of it all, but everything was linked together toward the final destination—a higher purpose and greater good. At the same time, I weaved an intricate ball of yarn that would take a lifetime to untangle.
When I went to bed that night, disconcerting thoughts and concerns had led to what seemed a foreboding nightmare.
Though the light was off, my room remained lit in the dream as I slept. Opening my bleary eyes, I noticed water stains on the ceiling. They were ugly stains—the color of urine—and I thought I should see if they were wet, indicating a leak somewhere. A ladder was there for my convenience. As I scaled its rungs, I heard the distant voice of a woman calling my name. I didn’t recognize the voice, but it echoed like we were in a cave. She called again. Her tone seemed neutral, and yet reeked of deception. Disregarding her, I continued my climb, reaching the second highest rung. The water stains I had observed were now splashes of blood. As I turned slightly to climb down, the ceiling began to crack. My heart pounded, and I stumbled, attempting to decline. An unsightly hand reached through the crack and grabbed me. Hard as I tried, I couldn’t shake its tenacious grip on my arm. I told myself it was over. It seemed evident that I’d lost whatever battle this was.
Awake now, I tried to sort out what the dream meant. In my interpretation, confusion prevailed as to what was real and what wasn’t. When the world around me was light, it appeared dark. It was light when I sought to fade into darkness. Something had tarnished me—something ugly. I bled anguish. People reached out, offering the nurturing I craved, but then yanked it away. Locked in this unyielding fear, there was a sense that no one could intervene, and that no one ever would. I felt defeated in my struggle to rise from despair, thwarted at every turn. In that frightful moment of my nightmare, I was alone, same as I felt these days while fully awake.
I managed to drift off to sleep again, only to awaken once more to the sound of Robbie’s voice.
“I killed the baby,” he was saying. “It happened so fast.”
Oh, my dear Robbie … it had only been a few years since that night he’d woke me up, insisting there were naked people climbing all over the walls in his room. He said they were beckoning him.
Joey had lived here at the time and had rushed into Robbie’s room.
“Robbie’s having a bad dream,” I told him.
“It’s not a dream!” Robbie swore to it.
“You think they’re real, but they’re not. Look, you’re gonna wake everyone up.”
“Maybe we should wake everyone up,” Joey said.
“They’re still there,” Robbie maintained.
Joey told him no one was there, but he didn’t believe it, so I offered to lie beside him and talk to him until he fell asleep. We were up most of the night. Joey came in several times to check on us. In the morning, I glimpsed Robbie’s face as he slept. It was the face of pure innocence, as though none of it had ever happened, and as if everything bad had faded with the darkness.
I hurried to his room now, aware that his chatter about killing a baby was not part of my nightmare or any past recollection. His mattress was smoldering, and when I flipped on the light, he was standing there as if in a trance.
“I thought I killed the baby,” he said.
I raced to get a bucket and fill it with water. “Help me,” I beseeched him as I dumped the contents of the bucket onto the mattress. I made several trips back and forth before he snapped out of it and began to assist me.
“What happened?” I asked. “Were you smoking in bed?”
I urged him to help me get the scorched mattress down the stairs and out of the house. How I thought we would manage the situation without my father’s help, I’ll never know, but I feared that man’s wrath.
He came out of his room, my mother trailing, holding her robe closed.
“I smell smoke!” my father bellowed.
I thought of the “fee-fi-fo-fum” giant in “Jack and the Beanstalk” who smelled the Englishman’s blood.
After I explained, my father took charge, dragging the mattress to the woodlot.
“I’ll deal with that thing in the morning,” he said upon his return. He yelled at Robbie. “Where the hell would you get the crazy idea to smoke in bed? Did you ever see anyone here do such a stupid thing? Do you think I’m buying you a new mattress?”
“It’s okay,” Robbie said. “I’m leaving for Florida Sunday.”
“You can go right now and go burn down the whole goddamn state of Florida, for all I care. Robert, you’re eighteen years old. If you don’t know better by now, when will you?”
“I’m sorry,” he said. “When I get a job in Florida, I’ll send you money for the mattress. I can sleep on the couch tonight.”
“No, you will not!” my father shouted. “Go stay at a hotel or sleep in the street or go sleep outside on the mattress you ruined!”
“Come on, it was an accident,” my mother pleaded.
My dad shifted his gaze to her. “And how’s he supposed to learn?” He looked at Robbie again. “All right then, give me the cigarettes and go sleep in the basement. There’s an old sleeping bag in one of the closets there.”
“Are you serious?” Robbie asked. “What is the point of that? That makes no sense.”
I gave him a gentle push toward the curved, carpeted stairway. “I’ll help him find the sleeping bag,” I said.
I had always dreaded going down to that basement alone, and I surely wouldn’t have slept there. Most of the rooms in our house had a refined, almost imperial, look with their dark-paneled walls, vaulted ceilings, and crown moldings. The basement door seemed to bar us from a contrasting world.
The switch at the top of the stairs cast only a dim light upon the stairwell. When I was alone, I’d descend with a frantic urgency to pull the switch near the bottom of the stairs. It would cast only another dim light.
“Don’t worry, I’ll stay with you until we think of something,” I said as we descended.
Robbie clenched his teeth.“He’s out of his fucking mind.”
“You’re lucky,” I told him. “He had his explosion before you got here.” I shivered, as it was cold down there, always, despite the paneled walls. An antique marble fireplace that had all the elaborate gilding my mother loved was the first thing we saw, but it was fake and purely for ambiance.
Robbie’s curious eyes widened. “What are you talking about, Dan? What did he explode about?”
“He got mad at Joey for cutting an apple. He thought he was going to cut the tablecloth, and he went nuts.”
“Yeah, it’s probably why you’re still alive.”
Robbie laughed. “You think he would kill me?”
“I don’t know.” I told him the rest of the story, and he agreed with Joey that my father wouldn’t likely kill anyone.
He evidently had a bigger concern. “Does he really think I’m gonna sleep in this dungeon?”
With its many ominous doors, it did look like a dungeon. “Yeah, I always feel like someone’s watching me here.”
I glanced at the long extension table. My father once told us that my grandfather liked to sit there alone in the dark, drinking wine from a goblet, smoking, and making weird whistling noises. My grandmother maintained he still did.
In old home movies and photographs, my grandfather was a silver-haired, clean-shaven image of my father with a broader face, deeper lines, and wrinkles. Joey told me he’d been a dockworker in Brooklyn who’d had a bunch of mob friends in New York. Joey always believed he’d gotten involved in some of their shady dealings, come into some money, and then bought the house in Glastonbury. He died weeks before I was born.
“Grandma hears footsteps when she’s down here,” Robbie said now, “and they don’t come from upstairs. She thinks they’re Grandpa’s footsteps. She hears floors creaking when she’s alone in the house, and all this rapping and banging. She says she hears music, too, and Grandpa calling her.”
“I think she just misses him.”
“Are you kidding? Who would miss that monster?”
“Shush!” I hushed him.
“Why? Do you think he’ll hear?” He laughed.
“How come it’s not happening while we’re down here?”
He shrugged. “Maybe he’s waiting until you’re all by yourself like he waits for Grandma to be by herself. I heard he was really mean. He abused Grandma. He was always yelling at her, making fun of her, calling her names. The old geezer was even locked up in Cedarcrest for a while.”
I shook my head. I had never been sure what the deal was with Cedarcrest. It was in Newington, an old place in the woods left in ruins. Robbie insisted it was an insane asylum. I read that it had been a psychiatric facility, but not until years after my grandfather died. My father told us it was initially a sanatorium for treating patients with tuberculosis and other incurable illnesses.
“Remember the spookhouse events we held in this creepy cellar?” Robbie asked.
“Yeah, the ones we’d set up down here with no adult permission or supervision.”
“I was always hoping that ghoulish fiend would make an appearance.”
“Oh yeah, I bet you were.” I rolled my eyes.
It was odd, since we’d had parties down here for the first several years of my life. There was a paneled bar across from the table that had seemed alive with guests on the New Year’s Eves of my early childhood. Left dark now, it looked like an abandoned old relic.
Robbie wandered into the small basement kitchen now, and I followed. He sat on top of the retro dining table, and though there were three folding chairs around it, I sat in the spindle rocking chair with the puffy back cushion and held one of its fringe throw pillows in my arms as I rocked. It reminded me of Robbie’s bizarre childhood game, where one person would sit in the chair, and another would get behind the chair and rock it, singing “Rock-a-bye Baby,” drawing the chair farther back until he or she let it drop to the floor. I suppose, if there had been a bed of nails somewhere, we’d have been on it.
Uncle Dom had walked in on us one afternoon. He was on his way to the wine cellar to take home a bottle of wine. Robbie had let go of the chair in that instant, and I plummeted to the wood floor.
“Whoa!” Uncle Dom had hollered. “What the hell’s the matter with you?” He was looking at Robbie, and then shifted his gaze to me, clearly disconcerted. “Are you okay?”
His genuine concern had melted me. He didn’t have my father’s screen idol looks, but he was this old world gent with cheerful brown eyes and a sweet, handsome face. Despite a few gray hairs, he hadn’t changed much over the years.
“I’m okay,” I’d assured him. “It didn’t hurt.”
The entrance to the wine cellar was a few feet away, and he had gone in there. It was a separate room, where rows of jugs filled with wine lined the stone walls. There was a pull light for the front section, but all you could see beyond the barrels was darkness. My dad made the wine in that cellar with Uncle Dom, but when they were around, the place was somehow cheery.
“Good thing you didn’t crack your skull,” Uncle Dom had said when he came back with his wine. He looked at Robbie. “Don’t do that anymore! I’m going to talk to your father, and you’re gonna get it.” He motioned a spanking with his hand. “This is not the way for kids to play. Let’s go upstairs.”
My parents had given us a stern lecture, mostly directed at Robbie.
I never knew whether to feel happy or sad about these memories. I recalled them with giddy delight and underlying disbelief.
I reminded Robbie of the game now.
“How would you know if I’m responsible for anything that happens in this house of horrors?” he asked.
“Are you gonna tell me it’s Grandpa?”
“I saw Mommy walking around just before I went to bed tonight.”
“She did not start that fire.”
“I’m not saying she did, but I never told you this. It started a couple of years ago. She came in my room and asked for a lock of my hair. Then she told me to put these coins under my pillow.”
“Uh … yeah?”
“You say that so casually, like you’re not even shocked.”
“I read a little about it.”
“She goes to see a psychic, Dan. She told me not to tell anyone about it. She asked the psychic for help straightening me out.”
“She’s desperate to help you and is getting taken for her money.”
“She’s also desperate to save her marriage.”
I knew what he was talking about, since Robbie and I had listened with cups to the wall whenever my parents fought.
“You were there,” I’d heard my mother say to my dad. “I hired a detective to follow you. Your car was there. He saw everything.”
“Look who’s talking,” my father had replied.
“You’re a liar,” she’d shot back. “There’s never been anyone.”
“No, I’m not a liar. Someone saw you come out of a car a block away.”
“Who saw me?”
“I’m not gonna say.”
“Because you’re making it up.”
“I’m not making it up. This has been going on for years. You want this guy or you want me? You better decide.”
She’d begun to cry. “If you’re going to make up stories and not believe what I say, I might as well get a divorce.”
I could hear a breaking down in his voice as well. “If you want a divorce, we’ll get a divorce.”
“She said the psychic doesn’t charge her anything,” Robbie continued. “She can make a donation if she wants, but it’s all free. Don’t tell her I told you.”
“I won’t, but I have to get upstairs before they come down here looking for me.”
“Fuck this,” he said. “I’m not staying here.”
“Why don’t you go to Joey’s?”
“And drive all the way to New Haven? I don’t want to do that. I have a friend I can call. Let’s go up, and I’ll get some of the things I need. I can come back for the rest.”
My father had gone to bed. My mother asked Robbie questions about where he would go, what he would do, and he assured her he would be fine.
He did come back the next day to say goodbye to my parents. They were kind to him. My father wanted to feed him, advise him, help him. My mother had tears.
I walked him to the door and cried when I hugged him. “You know, I’m really going to miss you.”
“I’ll miss you, too, Dan,” he said, “but this is the best thing for me. I don’t feel safe in this house. I never did.”
“I understand.” I kind of did, and I kind of didn’t. I found the house strangely soothing despite many moments of fear.
Our house was an antique colonial nestled in the hills—all muted gray and charcoal, even the brickwork. It was a marvel of rusticated stonework. We had a spacious garden, a well on our expansive lawn, and a private wooded lot. The steep staircase had the look of stone and slate, and only those of us under the age of twenty-one managed to hear the bell by the arched gray door. My grandmother would embroider pillows for the seat of the wrought iron bench on the porch, where she liked to sit. She would cut flowers from the perennial gardens and arrange them in vases on the windowsill.
“Tsk,” I heard now. “Get away from the window.”
I turned as my mother approached. There was no need to ask whether her concern was about me putting smudges on the glass or what the neighbors might think. I’m sure it was both, although I couldn’t imagine what she thought the neighbors would think: A girl is looking out the window—oh, no! Something is not right in that house. Surely, her mother is to blame.
Friends told us she had an exotic accent—northeast Brazilian; I’d suppose—but we didn’t hear it any more than we heard our father’s Italian accent.
I relinquished my hold on the drapery and turned from the window. “You look nice.”
She did, indeed. No one would believe the woman was forty. Nor, in my estimation, could anyone sufficiently praise her beauty. Her dark chocolate hair reached her shoulders. Long mascara-laden lashes enhanced her dark eyes. I noted the familiar beauty mark next to her round, pouty lips, the red lipstick, and the hint of blush on her fair skin. The dainty summer dress she was wearing for another day of work at my Aunt Zuza’s dress shop complemented her well-proportioned figure. Pearls glistened around her neck, and tiny diamonds sparkled from the bracelet on her wrist. She had elevated her five-foot frame with high heel sandals.
It was hard to fathom that this delicate creature was the same woman who became enraged during her Saturday cleaning, as I had witnessed throughout my childhood. She would go on and on about “these people.”
“All these people do is make a mess. These people don’t give a damn about nobody.”
Like she was referring to people we didn’t know, or who weren’t there, and she hated these people.
The anger seemed to consume her. She would say she wished she’d never had kids, and that we had ruined her life.
I thought I should help at the time, but the energy flowing around us had an incapacitating effect. We sat on the couch, watching cartoons and movies, while she cleaned around us like a robotic toy gone mad.
Back then, she frightened me. Not that she harmed anyone physically. Aside from tossing her tiny slippers at us from a distance, she merely scolded or resigned us to sitting in separate corners of the dining room.
She grilled me now. “What are you going to do? It’s a beautiful day. You should go out, take a walk somewhere.” What a paradox she was—loving one minute, and then preoccupied and oblivious the next. I didn’t feel as connected to her as I once had.
“Maybe later,” I said. “I’m just going to write.”
She smiled, and, of course, to me, there was nothing in the world prettier than or as gracious as my mother’s dimpled smile. It soothed me now, and then she was gone.
I went upstairs to my room. My father had recently furnished it with an old wooden desk and a six-foot-tall bookcase to accommodate my collection of books. When I was eight, he bought me a journal to write in. Five years later, he’d allowed me to take a home correspondence course for writing. We bought a series of books, which I read cover to cover. Now he seemed to think I was wasting my time.
It made little difference that I’d completed a novel, or that I had gone ahead and contacted a literary agent. Given a rare opportunity, I traveled to Westport, hours on the bus with my five-hundred-page manuscript bound in a three-ring binder, holding it close to my heart, as if it were everything in the world I owned and as precious as a child from my womb. I was excited, full of confidence. The agent I had spoken with on the phone seemed eager to introduce me to her colleagues, all of whom were in awe. They must have thought it was cute, me traveling all that way, novel in hand—a novel about everything I had witnessed in my sixteen years of existence. They saw my passion and hope and wanted only to do right by me. I thought we needed people like that in the world, and happily left that copy of my book with them.
While awaiting their response, I dusted and polished my office furniture daily with a pitiful Cinderella kind of hope. The bookcase, like the desk, was solid wood with a mahogany finish, and displayed volumes of classic literature, poetry, and philosophy books, as well as books on writing. More recently, I’d begun collecting books on astrology, occult history, and witchcraft, in part due to my thirst for knowledge and my boundless curiosity. Perhaps I needed to believe, as many do, that there were other miraculous realms beyond our comprehension providing infinite hope, and that anything was possible. I needed to believe that now more than ever.
Anyway, I was alone—something I’d come to dislike intensely, despite my tendency to isolate myself. Working at my desk, every noise distracted me, compelling me to rise and investigate. I don’t know if I expected the two men who’d been circling my house or some unknown intruder, but I was afraid. That fear had to coexist unnaturally with my passion and drive, which it did, right up until I heard the vigorous thunder of a motorcycle. Certain it was Joey, I went downstairs and ventured out the door.
He was in the driveway, perched on his black Harley, wearing no helmet. The sun was blinding after a day of symbolically dark isolation, and I struggled to transition from my fictional world to reality.
I knew why Joey had foregone the helmet. He used plenty of mousse and pomade on that cropped blondish hair of his, perfecting the textured, tousled style.
“Daddy didn’t want you to get that bike because you have no protection, if you get hit,” I said. “If he sees you riding without a helmet, you’re going to get another lecture. He doesn’t know why you had to sell the Camaro.”
Joey’s prominent green eyes glared. “Do I ask him why he insists on driving a Buick Regal that seats more people than he’ll ever like in his lifetime?” He pursed the lips Farran gushed about—the lush “Mick Jagger lips,” as she would say, proclaiming they could tempt her to the fires of hell. She would lavish praise upon him. Joey was so cute. Joey was adorable. Joey was a hunk. I got it. His devotion to hitting the gym on a regular basis had rewarded his five-foot-ten-inch frame with a ripped body. He looked like a rebel these days—tight denim jeans, a cutoff jean jacket with an American flag emblem on the back, a new tattoo covering his left bicep, and a tiny hoop earring in his pierced left ear.
I laughed at his remark about my dad. “Nobody’s here yet,” I told him, “but since Robbie’s leaving for Florida Sunday morning, Mommy’s going to make his favorite tonight.”
“Yeah, spaghetti,” he said. “She told me when she invited me.”
My mom drove up now in her taupe-colored Toyota Corolla, flashing a sweet smile before hugging Joey and then me. We went inside. She was quick to change and get down to the business of dinner, while Joey and I sat at the square kitchen table she had draped in a dainty floral tablecloth. The sun continued to brighten the room through ruffled Priscilla curtains.
My father arrived next, earlier than usual, in what seemed a good mood. Considering how handsome he was, he could have been a movie star. He stood five-foot-ten with a solid build and a wavy batch of chestnut brown hair. He wore it slightly longer than average, while sporting a painter’s brush moustache and goatee. His thick eyebrows curved inward toward the bridge of his nose, framing his compelling green eyes.
Joey grabbed an apple and a knife to cut it. We moved to the dining room table, where my father eventually sat to read his newspaper.
Despite the elegant beauty of the baroque furnishings and a crystal chandelier, the dining room had always come across as spiritless to me. Nothing was to be imperfect or out of place. Under the relentless overhead lighting, things had a tendency to become tense without warning.
“Why are you eating that now?” my father asked Joey. “We’re gonna eat.”
“It’s an apple,” Joey said, “not a three-course meal.”
“Be careful with that knife.”
“I’m just cutting the apple.”
“You could have used the apple slicer in the kitchen and brought it here in a dish.”
Joey ignored him. We kept talking.
My father looked up from his paper again. “Joe, you’re gonna cut the tablecloth.”
“I’m not cutting the tablecloth!” he bellowed. “I’m cutting the apple.”
We resumed our conversation. Another moment or two passed before my father jumped up. “Joey, goddamn it! You’re gonna cut the tablecloth, and I’m gonna kill you!” He was livid, screaming at the top of his lungs. I noted the clenched fists and saw his cheeks flush with the increased flow of blood. His eyes were terrifying! Perhaps it was attributable to the bulging blue veins, but from my perspective, they seemed to have turned purple, transforming him into a creature I barely recognized.
He lunged at Joey, who remained calm and seated. I sprang up and got behind my father, ready to jump on his back to restrain him, as if I could. In that instant, I believed he might kill Joey if I didn’t intercede.
He turned around so fast that he startled me. “What do you want?” he yelled.
Joey laughed. “I told you I wasn’t cutting the tablecloth. I’m not an idiot.”
They argued, and I ran to the bathroom. In a state of panic, I locked myself in. I believed my heart would continue to pound at this furious pace until it exploded and killed me.
Moments later, Joey came knocking on the door. “Dan?”
I came out, and he hugged me.
“Don’t be scared.”
“When he gets like that, I think he fits the profile of one of those guys who snaps one day and kills his whole family,” I said.
“Nah, he’s just barking. What did you think you were gonna do, anyway, sneaking up on ‘im?” He laughed.
“I don’t know. I just wanted to keep him from hurting you.”
“He ain’t gonna hurt me. I could take ‘im.”
“But if he went and got his guns …”
“Oh, come on, don’t worry. He’s not gonna kill anybody.”
It seemed odd to have these feelings about my dad. For the most part, he was the kind father who would pay us fifty cents to eat a dinner we didn’t like. When Robbie and Joey said they could eat an entire box of chocolate-coated ice-cream bars, he dared them to do it for five dollars. A couple of times, he brought all three of us to work with him. There, I had seen how the name Luca DeCorso had garnered respect. He was gone by 7:30 a.m. six days a week and returned twelve hours later. He never called in sick and rarely took a vacation.
He had come to the U.S., learned English, and taken a minimum wage job. Shortly afterward, he went to aviation maintenance training school, earned his licenses, and became a successful avionics/electrical technician with a high level of expertise. Now he held a senior-level position at Gulfstream in Westfield, Massachusetts. I couldn’t make heads or tails of the blueprints and schematic diagrams in his briefcase, but seeing them made me proud. In my eyes, he was a responsible and reliable role model who never left home without his trusty Omega watch or the three-stone band of gold with faceted diamonds around his ring finger.
How was it then that I could see a monster in him as easily as I could see his dignity, his integrity, and his charm? I had learned over the years that he held everything in for as long as he could. When he reached his limit, unrelated incidents could unleash that pent-up anger to an unprecedented degree. My mother once complained, at the wrong moment, about my grandmother putting one of her pots back in the wrong place so she couldn’t find it. My father got so mad he broke the handles off every one of her pots. He was in a blind rage. My mother had gone to her room and shut the door. When she returned, I could see she’d been crying. It wasn’t long before he apologized and bought her a new set of pots.
I returned to the dining room with Joey.
My father was still reading the newspaper, and Robbie was there after working his last day as a cashier at the local market.
Robbie was handsome, too, of course—a slim five-foot-eleven with sparkling hazel eyes. He wore his wavy, dark brown hair in a traditional medium-length cut, and his defined cheekbones were identical to mine. I had often seen that smile of his light a room with its brilliance, although that was a rare sight while he was under this roof.
He took a seat and made small talk before introducing the topic of college. I announced that I wanted to go to NYU or to Amherst in Massachusetts.
“Forget about New York,” my father said. “When I was young, you could walk around there any time of day or night, but not now. You can’t even go to Central Park anymore. And Amherst is too far.”
“I would live in a dorm,” I told him. “Those are great schools for an English major, and I would love to be in New York. It’s where I belong. You can’t believe everything you read in the paper, Dad.”
“You don’t have to live in no dorm,” he said.“I told you—apply for a scholarship to Yale. It’s right here, and it’s a better school.”
Robbie looked both stunned and annoyed. “She won’t get into Yale! And if she’s not allowed to live in a dorm, she’ll still have to drive an hour back and forth every day!”
My father chugged down some wine. After setting the glass down, he took a different approach. “You know, everybody’s talking about college, but the best thing to do is join the military. I’ll tell you, it was wonderful.”
“Oh yeah, wonderful,” Robbie quipped.
“I’m not talking about what goes on in combat,” my father said. “What I’m saying is, it’s a good experience for anyone. They teach you to grow up. All of you should go. It’s an honor and a privilege, if you want to know, and if your country needs you …”
“I’m not good at killing things,” I said. “If they made me go, I wouldn’t shoot anyone.”
“And you’ll be killed.”
Joey laughed but kept mum.
“I don’t care.”
“You’ll care.” He nodded. “You would not only shoot to protect yourself, but to protect your comrades.” He went back to reading his paper, but he had piqued my curiosity.
“You were in Vietnam, Daddy, right?”
He didn’t look up. “Mm-hmm … frontline infantry battalion.”
“I remember the day we found your old army uniform in the drawers of the china cabinet,” I said. “Did you have to go?”
He held his place in the newspaper with an index finger, but his eyes didn’t shift from the page. “I didn’t have to, no. I enlisted.”
“Why?” I asked. “Weren’t you scared?”
His eyes began to deviate from the page, but he kept the finger there, marking his place. “Danielle, when you’re that young, you’re not scared of much.”
“But why did you go if you didn’t have to?”
“Hah! Why?” He released the paper and looked up without meeting my gaze. “I came here to become a citizen. I wanted to learn the language. I wanted to work. It was an honor to serve.”
My mother entered, drying her hands with a dishtowel. “He was a sergeant,” she stated with obvious pride. “Sergeant, First Class.”
“They move you up quickly when you’re on the frontline,” he interjected.“Anyway, that was almost twenty years ago.”
“He came home with a Purple Heart,” she said. “It’s something to be proud of, but he never wants to talk about it.”
He dismissed it with a wave of his hand. “I told you I got it, didn’t I? You get it in the line of duty. I’m not the only one who ever got it.”
She shook her head. “You did something to deserve that honor.”
“And that’s why I got an honorable discharge. Grace, you don’t go over there to get praise or a pat on the back. You go to serve your country and do your duty. Anyway, I’m sure your pasta’s been boiling for ten minutes over there. We gonna take the spaghetti out or what?”
He got up to drain the pasta for her. My grandmother shuffled out of her room. I removed the faux fruit from the long rectangular table and wiped the plastic shielding of the tablecloth. My dad poured the wine. Ordinarily, he’d wash everything down with beer in his favorite mug while he watched the news on the dining room television set, silencing us whenever we spoke. Now, he resumed the discussion about college.
“If you want to know the truth, all they teach you about in college is sex.” He was drinking his wine. “I got college people working for me that are dumber than a box of rocks. I don’t know what they teach them, but they can’t figure out the simplest things.”
Robbie clenched his teeth and got up from the table.
“Where you go?” my grandmother asked in her broken English. “Stay. Eat.”
“I’m done eating,” he said.
“Have more,” my mother urged. “You like this.”
“I had two bowls.”
“Your mother’s got cake,” my father said.
“Yeah, shut up and have cake!” Joey bellowed.
The two of them left not long after dessert.
I helped my mother and grandmother clean up until Farran called. We talked a while, but I didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything. By the time I returned to the kitchen, my father and grandmother had retreated to the family room.
“Where did you go before dinner?” my mother asked. “When your father was upset?”
I told her I hid in the bathroom.
“Ah …” She looked sympathetic. “That Joey likes to push and push. You don’t do that with your father.”
“Do you ever feel afraid of him?”
“No. I know how to handle him,” she said. “I know when to keep my mouth shut and when to walk away.”
I was glad, because, despite all my fear, he had easily become my hero. I loved him desperately and had worried about him throughout my childhood—mostly that he wouldn’t come home. Out of the blue, I would fear someone might hurt or kill him, and I prayed to keep him safe. The obsession went on for years, though he was a strong man who could take care of himself. He always turned up smiling, and whenever he arrived, all was well with the world.
The seeds of loyalty to my family, planted long ago, had created a blind and unlimited devotion. I became increasingly willing to go to great lengths to protect them from harm. Thus, telling any one of them what had happened to Angie and me wasn’t an option. Aside from the shame, I could never have added to their burdens or caused further disappointment.
It might have been a glorious beach day. Horned larks looked happy among the plum and bayberry shrubs, yellow sunflowers, and purple roses. The blue waters of the Long Island Sound were as beguiling as the landscape. Young men were perched on railings that glistened under the glare of the sun—ogling, whistling, and confessing their undying love. I witnessed this phenomenon whenever I walked to and from the bus stop in my school uniform, and came to realize I could easily disrupt traffic and possibly cause a collision.
I had never achieved a placid familiarity with the horn-honking and people clamoring for my attention. I had spent many years feeling like the ugly duckling muddling haplessly through the dark green marsh. If I had advanced from there at all, it was to become the tiniest winged critter, never able to keep up with the flock, and never certain I wanted to.
My metamorphosis was magical. I had the same golden brown hair—by then almost waist length—the same hazel eyes, coveted high cheekbones, enviable skin, and ravishing lips as before, but it had all become relevant! I believed I had willed and constructed this change. More accurately, I’d grown into my beauty, and my painstaking efforts to straighten my thick, wavy tresses made no difference. People looked mostly at my chest. I was a busty girl of five-foot-four who kept herself trim and toned with exercise.
Pain hindered my walking that day.
“We should rent a summer beach house here—or a cabin,” Farran said. “You met those two older guys here the other day, didn’t you? The ones you made a date with?”
“Yeah, one of them was thirty,” my cousin Angie chimed in. “The other guy was twenty-nine.” Her angelic voice was a touch above a whisper.
“Well, they knew you were both sixteen, didn’t they?”
“Yes, they knew,” I replied.
Mental images intruded—gold crucifix chains upon masculine chests. I had noticed those chains from the moment the men approached us on the beach. Perhaps I had an ingrained trust in that sacred symbol. I shouldn’t have. People wore things for different reasons. We adorned our arms with plastic jelly bracelets in neon colors because Madonna wore them, and she was the most fussed-about pop star. She also wore crucifix chains, which Angie and I had displayed with devotion since childhood.
We spread out our blankets in the middle of the beach. All eyes were on me when I stripped down to my halter-style swim top. In light of the ensuing commotion, I decided to keep the shorts on.
“With you around, I get no respect for my B-cup,” Farran complained. I saw the twinkle in her electric blue eyes when she smiled. Her high-cut one-piece elongated her pretty legs and flattered her figure. She was taller than me, with a nice head of light brown, shoulder-length hair that she often wore in a ponytail or chignon.
“What about me? I have nothing,” Angie lamented. She left her shorts on as well, with a skimpy bandeau top.
Angie and I had grown up together in Glastonbury. We’d been in the same classes since kindergarten. In a couple of weeks, we’d be seniors at the same high school. She was an inch shorter than I was, and always in sneakers, jellies, or flip-flops. Her dark hair was past shoulder length, framing a heart-shaped face and prominent brown eyes.
All three of us wanted admiration and, yes, adoration—from males, especially. When it became uncomfortable, I figured I wasn’t used to it. At the same time, I preferred being uncomfortable to being ridiculed and shamed.
I don’t recall which of the two men that day had asked what country I was from, insisting he detected a trace of European, and possibly Latin, in my New England accent. This extravagant attention to every detail did more than flatter me—I felt like it validated my existence. I’m certain I had blushed when I assured him I was a Connecticut native from Glastonbury.
“The whole thing was a nightmare,” I blurted out, as if Farran and Angie had been following my thoughts.
“A nightmare! Why?” Farran looked at Angie, probably to gauge her reaction. “Wait, I thought it was a date you all went on yesterday? I mean, you were both there, right? Angie said she liked the guy.”
Yes, Angie had liked Phil, the muscular, tattooed one with the mustache and short blond curls. When she’d unexpectedly begun kissing him, I had wanted to pull her away and shout, “What the hell has gotten into you?” She had always been painfully shy, but while surrendering to Phil’s embrace, there were moans coming out of that girl that she would not likely have emitted in private, let alone in a room with three other people.
I remembered how horrified we’d both been in seventh grade when a group of boys from our class began following girls to the bus stop. They would wait for an opportunity to grab a girl, and then pull her into the bushes or woods. They did whatever they could get away with before she broke free. Angie and I had had to walk, sometimes run, in a different direction, and wait until they were gone before we could return to our bus stop. They never caught us. When I told my brothers, they made it stop.
Angie and I had clung to our perception of that sacrosanct bequest—being “saved” for the right person. Our parents had never talked to us about defiled reputations or unwanted pregnancies, but in school, there were proclamations that only bad girls welcomed attention from boys. I didn’t think Angie had intended to go beyond kissing, but these men could not have known that. She had this tranquilizing humility, and though she kept her composure now, I could see a trace of fear in her large, haunted eyes. Could Farran not see it, or was I wrong about that, too?
“It was supposed to be a date, just to Pleasure Beach,” I explained. We sat on the blanket. I used some of Angie’s lotion on my already bronzed skin.
Farran applied sunblock. “Pleasure Beach … my parents used to go there back in the fifties.”
Things came to me in shadowy flashes. Phil had carried Angie away, and I was alone with the other guy. Sergio was his name. Though I did think he was cute with his close-cropped brown hair, brown eyes, and pencil-thin mustache, I was not attracted to him. I had felt dizzy trying to stand. The room spun, and I fell back on the sofa with only a blurred impression of the room. Sergio’s voice sounded like it was a distance away. I couldn’t see his face.
“They told us they’d forgotten their camera and wanted to stop and get it, since it wasn’t far,” I explained. “It might have been one of the beach cottages on Long Beach West. I had to fight them …”
Yet I remembered them driving us home. Angie was in the front seat, talking to Phil, who was driving. She appeared to be okay. Sergio was in the back with me. I had slept most of the time, with my head resting on his shoulder. We’d gone over that rickety bridge.
“Come on, Dani!” Farran’s smile was ingenuous. “Sounds like you had some wild experience that maybe got out of control, and you’re feeling guilty. You shouldn’t. Guys would be celebrating! I mean, you can’t take it back. It sounds like that’s what you’re trying to do. Maybe it’s time you grew up. I’m serious! Don’t be such a baby!” She laughed.
Farran was generous with smiles and laughter, right down to the wrinkling of her nose and an occasional wink. I imagined those eyes would shine until her dying day, and she would forever be as lovable and sweet as she was. I adored her. With her self-deprecating humor, people liked her in an instant. I expected boys to be falling all over her. What I didn’t understand was their interest in me. My assets were merely the luck of the draw.
“It was horrible,” I insisted. “I thought about going to the police.”
She looked dumbfounded, and that solidified for me the idea that going to the police would be futile.
I looked to Angie, and she didn’t avert her eyes. Those dark pools were now an ocean, with depths I couldn’t fathom. I saw her concern for me. Farran seemed to latch onto how Angie hadn’t confirmed any of it, but she ignored that Angie never denied it. Still, I backed down. My sense of reality had been undermined, but I didn’t doubt what I’d recalled, not for a moment.
Farran grabbed her radio, reminding me of how she and I would sing at the beach. When she turned up the volume, I looked away.
I thought about my family.
My dad had liked this beach when we were kids. It was Hammonasset in Madison, a two-mile stretch from Tom Creek on the western end to the Hammonasset River and Clinton Harbor on the east. He used to take us to West Beach. We were on East Beach now, which we preferred. It was quieter, with fewer kids.
The waves were no more than one or two feet, and I liked the gentle breeze. I loved watching the birds—osprey, piping plovers, sandpipers, willets, snowy egrets, and all the amazing herons. Birds resonated with me.
Innocent singing on the beach was a pleasant memory, as were family days when we searched for shells and copper scraps, marveling at starfish. Joey liked big-clawed hermit crabs and breaking rocks on the pier to find garnets. Uncle Dom usually brought a kite to fly—Angie’s favorite thing. Joey and Robbie played Frisbee. There were coolers with food and drinks. When the adults had had enough sun, we packed up and moved over to a picnic table in the shade. We could spend hours at the beach and still not want to go home—until Robbie had about had it with the stinging black flies that came up from the marshes. By his reaction, you would have thought they targeted him alone.
“Are you okay, Dani?” Angie was searching my eyes.
“She’s fine,” Farran assured her.
I held back tears. “They keep calling me. They called me five times when I got back from the so-called date and a few more times this morning.”
“Well, tell ‘em to call me,” Farran quipped.
“I don’t want them calling!”
“Dani?” Angie called out.
“I’m okay.” I didn’t know what else to say.
Her wide-stretched lips eased into a smile, endearing her to me, as always.
Farran, however, was off on another tangent. “Hey, we’re not far from Marauders Cove. It’s about twenty minutes from here. Isn’t that where your brother, Joey, hangs out? And doesn’t he live only two blocks from there?”
“He hangs out with bikers,” I reminded her.
“I know.” She beamed.
“Besides, you have to be twenty-one.”
“Well, Joey’s not twenty-one.”
“He will be in a couple of months.”
She waved if off, flashing an ear-to-ear grin. “Danielle, Marauders Cove is an old-fashioned pub owned by the McGrath family. I practically grew up with them.”
Yes, and the McGrath family included Mike McGrath, my first and only love—someone I had always been able to trust. The mention of his name now evoked a twinge of melancholia that fanned the flames of my anguish.
“I’m sure your brother will be looking after you anyway, and so will his friends,” she went on. “I can get us phony proof. Hey, I’m starting college in the fall! It’s a rite of passage!”
This behavior was typical of Farran. She thought nothing of suggesting we hitchhike to the beach if we didn’t have a ride. Thankfully, a neighbor of hers had given us a ride that day. The plan was to meet up with the woman by three-thirty at Joshua Rock, just to the east of the park entrance.
“I’m not sure we should be barhopping,” I said.
“Oh, please.” She lit a cigarette, took a long drag, and exhaled. “You are always so uptight, Dani. You have to live a little.”
I wanted to address the absurdity of that second statement, but I didn’t know where to begin.
“School starts in a couple of weeks. It’s probably our last beach day. We gotta do something for excitement—like meet up with people. Maybe if I were a total knockout, I could sit home and wait for them to beat down my door, but that ain’t gonna happen.” She laughed. “Hey, I’m surprised you didn’t bring one of your car magazines. Still looking for a Nissan?” She was making nice, I could see, piling on the sugar.
“Yeah. I’m hoping by my birthday I will finally pass the road test.”
“Third time’s the charm, right?”
Angie laughed, a gentle laughter, but I saw the change in her. She looked more fragile to me.
There was no blood. I was dead inside, but not bleeding. Zipping my shorts in a daze, I focused on the brown and gold hues of the wall tiles. I washed my hands over the sink, avoiding my reflection. The hexagon-shaped mirror was antique and gilded. I now felt debased in its presence as well as in these familiar surroundings. After turning off the faucet, I stood there for a moment, and then hastened to my room.
The brass bed, dressed in white eyelet sheets and frilly pink bedding, was an update of my choosing. The nativity scene plaque on the wall above it had been there throughout my childhood—Mother Mary in a protective stance over Baby Jesus. I suppose the intention was to comfort and protect me. Still, I lined the bed with stuffed teddy bears and kept a sixteen-inch porcelain doll with golden hair and dark blue eyes on my white dresser. She wore a pink Victorian dress with lace trim and glimmering beads and a hat to match. I picked her up now and held her tightly to my chest. A tear fell as I snuggled her to me for as long as I could. After setting her down, I approached the window.
I could see far from these foothills. A woodlot of mixed forest surrounded our home. In one direction, I saw the Hartford skyline—in another, steep, rolling hills in their divine and blissful glory. My room faced the direction of Old Buckingham, not half a mile away. The ancient cemetery was set back from the road, just beyond a fortress of trees. We heard stories of weeping spirits, distant cries of agony, and diaphanous circles of white light floating above and between the tombstones. I never knew whether people convinced themselves of these things or merely embellished the truth. One thing I knew did happen: Fierce hurricane winds had nearly destroyed the little church on its grounds.
Much as I loved this house, it was an eerie place to grow up. That had little to do with ghost stories. I would lie awake in my bed at night, listening to the sounds of darkness—imagining that the hoarse caw of the crows warned of impending doom. I got this sense of urgency from yapping dogs, yelping coyotes, and the ear-piercing whistles of the woodchucks. Some nights, even the benign chirping of crickets grew louder and more intense with each moment.
I prayed, always.
Watching from the window now, I felt like some reclusive old person who got all the neighbors whispering. I watched for a dusty black Cutlass Supreme, needing to make certain it was nowhere in sight.
The phone rang, and I panicked. My father had mounted it to the wall between my room and the master bedroom, so I had to leave the room to answer it.
“Hello, Danielle,” the voice cooed.
Sickened to my core, I hung up.
It rang again, the innocuous ivory phone that seemed suddenly possessed. I wanted to rip it off the wall.
I lifted the receiver.
“Don’t hang up.” It was the other guy.
“Stop calling here!” I ended the call with a slam.
They had the gall to utter my name! They sounded so casual, so elated—as if the atrocity I had endured earlier that day had been mutually rewarding. Granted, it could have been worse, and yet a part of me had died. More unsettling still, they knew where to find me.
Starting on Saturday, December 5th, I will be posting a free serialized version of my debut novel, Deadly Veils Book One: Shattering Truths. A new chapter will appear right here on my blog every week, always on Saturday morning.
Winter is on the way, and, while we’re spending more time at home, it’s a great time to cozy up with a new book! Right?
Follow my blog and read along. For book discussion, feel free to leave comments and questions for each chapter.
Missed chapters will still be available on this site for catching up.
So, what is Shattering Truths about?
Imagine, for a moment, being able to go anywhere on the earth at any time with absolutely no threat of danger lurking and luxuriating in that comfort of being safe. We felt it as children if we were lucky, and it’s sad to think many of us experience harsh reality and betrayal and then never feel safe again. Yes, that is life—the world we live in—but it’s often a rocky road to recovery.
Let’s start with the assumptions—the “one size fits all” solutions, the one-size process of healing, and things others decide for us, like how we should behave and react, the determinations regarding what we should be doing.
Many form conclusions with a lack of understanding and empathy. They try to justify what is unjustifiable, doling out additional punishment and shame. These reactions often discourage people from disclosing what has happened to them. As a result, recovery can be a much longer process if it happens at all.
So, while not for the faint of heart, Shattering Truths is about one young woman’s path to healing from trauma.
Since the main character and her friends are underage and living with their parents, some readers felt it was a story for young adults and didn’t read it. While Shattering Truths does fit young adult fiction criteria, it is chock full of weighty adult themes. It was the adults, in fact, who, in reading the book until the end, seemed to appreciate and enjoy it the most.
Here are some of the things they had to say about it:
Ken Scott – 5.0 out of 5 stars
Shattering Truths is a most compelling story that weaves family and peer relationships into a fabric of great strength and fragility at the same time. The main character and her cousin are teenage girls on the cusp of adulthood who seem to be over their heads relationally in some ways and who, unwittingly, become engaged in activities that have subsequent emotional repercussions. Family dynamics and interactions between the girls and other characters, many of whom are somewhat older and more mature, are brilliantly presented to the reader by this author. I’m sure my comments thus far regarding the story line of the novel are “preaching to the choir” but I must also praise the author’s writing prowess. I find it difficult to express the depth to which she pierces emotional barriers in order to share the struggles the characters in the book were required to face. I was literally brought to tears on a couple of occasions. I really believe I felt the writer’s extreme range of emotion that she must have had as she was writing this novel. Her profound understanding of human emotion and spirituality are evident in her poetry as well. Basically, a brilliantly written novel by a brilliant writer. I can’t wait to read more from her.
C.L. Cannon – 5.0 out of 5 stars
This coming of age story is eloquently written and will transport you back in time to 1987 to witness the journey of 16-year-old Dani as she comes to terms with the horrors, joys, and often the shattering realities of growing up. This book has well-rounded characters that are multifaceted, genuine, and believable. It also deals with feelings of self-worth, loyalty, family, and friendship. I would recommend this to every person I know and even those I don’t. It truly is a compelling book that you will not be able to put down after you begin. It flows effortlessly along and leaves you aching for more. I am looking forward to reading more titles from this talented author!
Chelsea Girard – 5.0 out of 5 stars
A confused teen with a rough past has her conflicts conveying more than it may seem. Love Triangles, teases and mysterious character’s leave the story with your mind wandering.
There is some comic relief that shows she is still young and learning about who she is and what she wants to do with her future.
Her dreams left fears in my mind and I certainly could not get some of her thoughts out of my head. The novel was fast paced and had a great couple twists that kept me reading.
Love Books – 5.0 out of 5 stars
Kyrian Lyndon has the ability to turn words in beautiful mosaics of description. This gift shines throughout this emotional story of a girl trying to dig her way out of heartbreak and turmoil while growing up in teenage life. She does a wonderful job developing all of the characters and you become attached to their fates, their losses, their victories.
One can sympathize with the main characters as they try to find their place in this often chaotic world, struggling with inner and natural desires, looking to set up boundaries to live life with dignity. It’s a harsh lesson for Danielle. Society is ready to devour her, and she’s confused in how she should respond.
The vulnerability of the characters makes this a terrific first book in the series.
Final note – Though some of the book’s characters allude to a supernatural existence, this is not a paranormal romance or adventure. It depicts the harshness of life’s rude awakenings, and I believe it will resonate not only with women but also with the men who genuinely love and care about them.
I dedicated the book to trauma survivors—
“May you become free to love and be loved in return.
May happiness never elude you.”
I believe that until we fully heal from whatever it is we need to recover from, we remain in bondage to something or another and prone to all kinds of obsession. Disentangling from all that is a painful process, and that’s where the path to healing begins.
I’ve recently created a site at https://culture-cave.spruz.net/ that allows members to share work, blogs, photos, videos, memes, etc. We also have groups, discussions, and chat rooms.
This social network is for everyone involved in the arts (literature/art/music, etc.). It is also for people who appreciate these contributions (book lovers, music lovers, etc.) All are welcome to share, educate, and learn in a supportive space. Recovery from anything is another welcome topic. We strive to heal, evolve, and succeed!
Our “events” feature allows members to post about online or real-life events, including book launches, signings, and promos.
Our “links” feature will enable members to post their websites for interested readers/clients, etc.
The chat rooms can be utilized by members to host events, meetings, demonstrations—whatever helps them in self-promotion, and we will assist with the invites. They also exist to just chat. 🙂
We can continue to build this site together, so if you think you and anyone you know might enjoy this opportunity, please join us.
Once you join, I ask that you read the “IMPORTANT” note on the left side of our landing page and then “How To Use” this site on our “DISCUSSION” board so that you can achieve the maximum benefits of membership.
Fantasy often bests reality. Sentimentality can provide us with an illusion of innocence in a safe and familiar world. That’s fine, and it’s not hard to understand why people, in their everyday lives, cling to illusions and delusions that comfort and protect.
That said, most of us would say we are honest. We believe that we are. The trouble is, we can’t be honest with others until we are honest with ourselves. And we can’t be honest with ourselves until we know what is true—until we confront it, accept it, and deal with it however we must.
So, why would we not know?
Many of us grow up indoctrinated with a built-in belief system. The beliefs we hold may lead to harsh judgments—to the point of shunning, oppressing, and hating others. There is often an unwillingness to understand people who are different. And these core ideologies can simultaneously result in self-loathing and a feeling of being unworthy or never quite good enough. It’s the inferiority complex turned inside out—a desperate need to feel superior.
Along the lines of needing to be perceived a certain way, I’ve seen debates on how honest to be with children and whether they have a right to hit us with their perception of the truth if it isn’t favorable to us. The ancient rule that you respect all adults no matter what.
I believe children have the right to call out parents on their behavior, and that parents should address their concerns about any relative, family friend, or person in authority. If we care about people (and sometimes even if we don’t) but especially when we care about people, we need to listen to them when they tell us how we’ve hurt them even in the smallest of ways. We can’t be accountable while in denial, can’t grow and evolve, can’t set the example for the children who look to us for guidance.
Pretending we are perfect doesn’t serve anyone. It’s painful to acknowledge when we caused pain where we wanted only to love and protect, but we must. There are many hard lessons in life, just as there are other ways the truth may elude us.
A fair amount of clarity is essential in sorting out what is biased and what is factual. Specific characteristics and predicaments diminish that clarity. Here are a few:
Addiction/obsession (clouds perception, impairs judgment) – For example, I have found that people in recovery continue to gain clarity as they remain sober and clean.
A self-centered existence (usually correlates with substance abuse including alcohol and certain personality disorders)
Lack of self-care (sleep, healthy lifestyle, etc.)
Our agenda (of which we may or may not be aware)
Misinformation (I think being an avid reader of books, especially those that introduce you to different cultures and perspectives helps tremendously.)
Taking ourselves too seriously (also may correlate with substance abuse and certain personality disorders)
CAN WE HANDLE THE TRUTH?
Some of us fearlessly plunge into that seemingly endless abyss where we face painful truths and endure the grueling process of healing. Others deliberately avoid it or scatter a little bit of dirt to the side and then dart off in another direction, taking cover until they feel grounded enough to dig a little deeper. They don’t want to uncover the truth because they have an inner sense that it won’t serve them well. Indeed, at the moment, it won’t, but it definitely will in the long run.
Ten years ago, I’d assume people could handle whatever I could. It never seemed to sink in that they were as vulnerable and fragile as I was once. My idea of being characteristically direct may have been someone else’s idea of being attacked.
At times, we feel an urgent need to resolve things, and, if we’re not patient, we can end up doing more damage than we intended . The goal is not to “hurt” people, and like any conflict, resolution can happen only when both sides are mentally prepared and open to that— willing to go where it leads. There must be a mutual willingness to get to the truth. When you come from a place of caring and love, you see that they are human and vulnerable, and you approach them that way. Besides, even with the vast amounts of knowledge, wisdom, and insight we acquire, we are all still vulnerable to one degree or another.
THE PRICE OF DENIAL
In January of 2002, Psychology Today published an article by Bill Sullivan, Ph.D., about the devastating consequences lying has on our brain. “Dishonesty puts the brain in a state of heightened alert, and this stress increases with the magnitude of the lie,” he wrote. (It doesn’t apply to sociopaths lacking empathy, but most of us care about our trustworthiness and integrity.) “Symptoms of anxiety arise because lying activates the limbic system in the brain,” he explained. “When people are being honest, this area of the brain shows minimal activity. But when telling a lie, it lights up like a fireworks display. An honest brain is relaxed, while a dishonest brain is frantic.”
Denial has a price, as well, and it’s often quite steep. We see its cost while it continues to happen all around us. Don’t for a moment underestimate its power to destroy lives, institutions, countries, and ultimately civilizations.
While in denial:
We don’t know why we want what we want or need what we need.
We don’t know what our vulnerabilities are.
We hurt people or put them in harm’s way.
We obsess over certain people and things, oblivious to why or the fact that it isn’t normal.
We’re unable to see our part in anything.
We don’t see ourselves or others with clarity, so we mischaracterize our behavior and theirs.
We take dangerous risks and put ourselves or keep ourselves in situations that have serious consequences.
We lie to ourselves and others.
With highly unrealistic expectations, we set ourselves up for disappointment and devastation.
We can’t take the right action because we make decisions without the correct information.
We lack empathy.
We have a constant need to do damage control.
We don’t learn from our mistakes, and so we miss life lessons that can empower us.
Being honest is not about unnecessary disclosure. It’s about separating fact from fiction, opinion, and popular belief—notions that cause egos out of bounds, discrimination, exclusion, judgment, and condemnation. We pull the curtain on delusion and denial to let the light in. We choose clarity over confusion. It leads to more empathy, less vulnerability, and decisions based on expanded horizons and a more substantial knowledge base as we surpass our self-imposed limitations and embrace a wider world.
YEAH, THE TRUTH DOES SET YOU FREE
We can wear masks for a lifetime, not knowing who we are or what is real. Or we can begin to peel off one layer of untruth at a time, just as if we were peeling an onion or discarding a myriad of veils.
In the process of uncovering and accepting the truth, the shame that drove us to compete and control begins to dissipate. We learn to love with our whole hearts—not just others but ourselves. We know we are vulnerable. We understand how vulnerable we are, so we walk away from people whose goal is to exploit our vulnerabilities. And we keep getting better at it. That’s good because before we understood, it was easy to lead us, fool us, and enslave us.
Blessed with clearer vision, we can routinely examine our motives and expectations. We won’t always trust our egos, and that’s a good thing. People without clarity of conscience don’t question themselves. They won’t say, “I’m glad I caught that. I can refrain. I can resist. I can do the right thing.” They’ll keep doing what they’re doing, often not understanding what they’re doing or why.
Those of us searching for the truth are tired of being terrified of it. Denial has ceased to be our sole comfort and our only way to survive. The payoff in protecting our hearts, our image, and our secrets is no longer worth it. We came to fully accept that we are all struggling humans, equal in importance.
We continue striving to become more and more authentic. We continue to replace false with real. It’s not as easy as living in denial, but we know we have to get better. We know we have to do better, and it’s important to share what we learn. We are all teachers on this earth, just as we are all students. Sometimes people don’t mean to teach us anything, but they do. Learning doesn’t make you inferior any more than teaching makes you superior.
I love that we continually evolve, and we know better than we did in the past. We are worthy of the truth. We deserve that much.
Smear campaigns. Some of you are familiar with them. It’s when someone is desperately trying to destroy another person’s reputation, beginning with his or her credibility. It’s not a situation where one caring person is confiding in another out of concern. It’s a hateful mission where the motives are insecurity and a need to do damage control.
I often speak out on this subject because I’ve seen it happen between friends (really frenemies), coworkers, lovers, and family members. The saddest thing is when it goes on in a recovery group where everyone is there to work on themselves and help each other. Why would you isolate and destroy vulnerable people who have likely suffered from narcissistic abuse and are working to correct learned behaviors?
It happens a lot. A friend of mine is a target of this right now. I’ve been a target myself in the past.
For some, including me, the obvious solution is to get out of this person’s circle —abruptly, if necessary. If it’s impossible to avoid them entirely, I’d have as little contact as I can manage and refuse to participate. It’s easy to let them charm you when you’re hoping to resolve things, but confiding in them or pouring your heart out is usually a mistake. Just protect yourself. Let them say you abandoned them, rejected them, whatever they need to tell themselves. You don’t owe them a damn thing.
You may say, it isn’t right to have to sacrifice other relationships in a group by removing yourself. I think of it this way. Anyone successfully recruited in some war against you has never been in your corner. Your real friends will come to you. They will have your back and likely sever ties with the character-assassinating troublemaker. Sometimes people will go along with the narcissist to remain part of the crowd (like high school), but that’s not your problem. People believe what they want to believe.
I know it seems unfair, having to surrender without a fight. This person gets to win, and you don’t get to set the record straight. Let me repeat, TOXIC, as in detrimental to your health and well-being. Not worth it. If you’re dealing with the kind of person I’m talking about, you can’t fix it. The more you try, the worse it will get. Think “troll.” Yes, it’s like dealing with some internet troll. You’ll never get them to see things your way or empathize because they don’t really care about you. They’re not able to put themselves in your place. They’ll even take pleasure in your pain.
Humility is your friend here. Let your ego take the hit and move on. You trusted the wrong person. Cut your losses. You’re going to get good at this, and you’ll soon know to avoid these people like the plague, so you’re never in that predicament again.
Experiences like this are traumatic, but they help you learn and grow. They force you to look at whatever part you played in the whole mess, even if it was merely taking the bait from time to time. When we do that, we can easily say and do things that are ordinarily beneath us and, in doing so, strengthen the narcissist’s case. That’s why I say, drop the ball and run. It’s a trap, where you’ll always be damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
You’re dealing with dangerously fragile egos here. Because of what they experienced in life, they consciously or subconsciously, came to believe there is not enough love to go around. They see attention and admiration as a limited commodity. They need to feel they are more worthy and deserving of those things than you are, and second to none. They have to tell themselves they are the favorite, numero uno, the chosen one in every scenario. There are many reasons you may pose a threat. It can be anything. The damage control they do is to convince themselves and others that you are not better or more worthy because if you were, they couldn’t handle that. Underneath it all is an inner child seething with rage.
I’ll share a little story that explains, on a much lighter note, about taking the bait. My mother-in-law used to criticize me on unimportant things. She’d say something like, “She has everything in that diaper bag except the kitchen sink.” That would upset me because, like all new mothers, I wanted to believe I was handling things well. Instead of getting upset, I could have said something like, “Oh, no, the sink’s there. Check the zipper pocket.”
Here’s the key. It’s no fun for them if they can’t bring out the worst in you.
I’ve found it helpful, too, to figure out how I might have handled things better and how I can come out a better person. That’s not to say you weren’t a nice person before, or that I wasn’t, just that we are always striving to get better. What I’m saying is, when people tell you, “don’t lose the lesson,” that’s the critical part. That’s how you win. Continue to do the next right thing, one foot in front of the other, one day at a time. Live your best life and strive for greater understanding. What’s going to happen is, people will eventually know not to mess with you.
As someone in quarantine who thrives on isolation, I had to reflect on that recently, and I was inspired to divulge what I concluded, partly to see if anyone could relate.
For the longest time in my life, I believed writing was my destiny or my calling, and that there was never any choice about it. It made sense because I started doing it when I was eight years old and kept on no matter who or what happened in life. It was automatic and the equivalent of breathing (almost ). Romantic relationships were usually complicated since I gave so much to writing and didn’t want to make that same type of investment in potential partners.
My marriage was different because I had a child to raise, and my maternal instinct took over, allowing me to devote myself to my husband and my son. That became a permanent bond. With others, it was most likely I’d eventually back away. Real friends were the only exception to that, and even with my nearest and dearest, I can shut down in the moments I need to and remain in my little bubble until one or the other calls upon me. (This COVID lockdown has me in shutdown mode more than usual.)
So, what I realized is, there is a high probability that I started writing for one simple reason. It allowed me to escape to a world far removed from reality. And that was where I wanted to be. It was never that I didn’t care—more like I cared too much, and I knew it, and it hurt.
As a child, like so many children, I was blown away by The Wizard of Oz. I grew to love role-playing and parallel universe fiction. When role-playing games became on online obsession, combining these two elements, I was among the obsessed. What more could I ask for than the opportunity to vanish into a fake world of my own choosing and explore it fearlessly without ever having to face any consequences?
It’s a weird thing to explain because, from the moment I could fully experience it, the real world has thoroughly fascinated me. I immensely enjoy being out there whenever I am. But, yes, in the general sense, I prefer fantasy to reality. I always have, and I know I’m not alone in that. It’s not a sad thing, not to me. You can be happy and sad, laughing or crying, talking up a storm or perfectly still, and it’s all good. I love and embrace it all, but when I can’t deal at that particular moment, I don’t. I thought it was the poet in me who felt that way, but maybe it’s just me.
I’m not sure if any of it is normal, but becoming aware of it did make me feel selfish. At the very least, it made me realize I have been selfish at times. (Ironically, I had to get in touch with reality enough to understand how deeply flawed I am, and to begin working on it.) That work began years ago and continues to this day.
Still, I had to ask myself this question. If what I had wanted all along was to escape reality, why did I base some of my work on things I’d witnessed or experienced?
Well, for one thing, I compartmentalized my feelings and traumas. The people on the page were not real because I’d turned reality into fiction. I was playing God, and, most importantly, I was in control. I needed to be in control. (The focus of my work, by the way, has now shifted to 90% fiction.)
The good news here is, everything is all about learning and growing. It never stops, and because of that, I’ve become increasingly grateful and so incredibly appreciative of the people in my life.
It’s much easier to be “present in the moment” when you know to cherish it! I find that these days, I genuinely care without needing anything in return. So, I’m not all bad.
I suppose the need for self-protection will override progress when necessary, mostly out of habit, but in this life, if you’re committed to improvement, you will achieve it!
One day at a time? I used to wonder why people with thirty years of sobriety or more would say “recovery” was one day at a time. For a newbie, yes. I got that. But those of us with more than five years? I’d say, “Well, I’m committed to my recovery. I’m grounded, and I’m not going back, I promise you.”
So, I have twenty-four consecutive years of “abstaining.”
I often forget exactly how long it’s been because it truly is one day at a time.
A Disease of the Attitudes
It’s never been so much about the physical compulsion for me. I never had a hangover, let alone a blackout. I didn’t do rehab or detox or spend time in jail.
Addiction, however, is a disease of mind, body, and spirit. I came across that explanation on Hazeldon.org, the other day, and I wholeheartedly believe that.
Before his death in 2016, educator/counselor/motivational speaker John Bradshaw authored many books on what he believed to be the root of all addictions—codependency. Codependency, in his view, was toxic shame. I’d also heard it referred to as the “Disease of the Attitudes.” It is trauma induced, but there is also a lot of learned behavior, as many people grow up in dysfunctional families.
The disease has many manifestations. In short, something or someone has control over us to the extent that it clouds our perception and impairs our judgment, making life on life’s terms unmanageable.
Under these circumstances, we begin to exhibit narcissistic behavior, something that is common in our society to varying degrees, and more common, it seems, in addicts/alcoholics. 12-steps programs seek to correct that very behavior, along with the self-centeredness and self-obsession. It is not to be confused with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, although there are people in recovery who have that affliction. More so, addicts are people who have been abused by narcissists, including those with NPD. How narcissistic we become likely depends on the amount of time we’ve spent putting up with our narcissistic abusers. We catch their “fleas,” so to speak.
Sadly, we emerge with feelings of unworthiness. Down deep, we feel inferior, so we tell ourselves whatever we need to say to ourselves to maintain the delusion that we’re not only worthy, we’re better. We don’t even realize we think we are better, and yet we communicate that to others. We act as if we are unique and more important than everyone else, and we’re oblivious to all of it because we take ourselves way more seriously than we should.
We don’t know who we are, so we choose a mask, and we wear it. Denial can be such a comfort.
On a subconscious level, we are fiercely determined to preserve our delusions and denials and protect all of our “secrets.” We may become bullies with an eye out for any perceived threat. There is a constant need for damage control.
We use people. They help provide the attention, admiration, and validation we need, and they help support and promote our altered perceptions of what’s real.
We become con artists who can convince anyone of anything, turn things on and off as needed, and find a million different ways to seduce people. We learn that sex is not the only way to do that.
Often, too, we lack empathy. We are self-obsessed and so unable to put ourselves in someone else’s place. We’ve lost the connection where we feel what others are feeling. Our agendas keep us busy, along with trying to control everything, including how we are perceived by others. Maintaining the delusions and denial is nothing short of exhausting.
And we don’t hold ourselves accountable for our actions. Instead of learning from our mistakes, we make excuses. We get tangled in a web of lies we’ve created.
So, when we finally arrive at that place of surrender, we are broken. We’re needy and vulnerable. We crave attention from others. It’s a drug, and whenever someone complies, it’s a temporary fix. It doesn’t work because, like any other drug, the euphoria fades, and you remember the pain and torture of what you truly fear. Hence, we need fix after fix.
Why There is More Danger Than We Realize
As an addicted person, we have, at least, some awareness of the danger we pose to ourselves. We may, at some point, realize the harm we cause others. We take risks we would not ordinarily take. However, there are some more insidious pitfalls that we never see coming.
Our “needs” will lead us to toxic codependent relationships that can put us or keep us in dangerous situations with severe consequences. People inclined to use our fragility against us will instinctively take advantage, and we will unintentionally draw them to us. Sometimes, they suffer from the same affliction, except they are true narcissists who will apply what they’ve learned to get what they want. Their desperation is so great, they can’t see past it, and neither can we.
These are predators who will love bomb the shit out of you and play to all your vulnerabilities by telling you precisely what you want to hear. They’ll idealize you, place you on a pedestal, and you’ll let them do it because what they offer is what you want. And the moment you’re not doing what they want you to do, they’ll begin to devalue you. It can be a frenemy, a lover, a co-worker, a family member, or even another person in recovery. When they can no longer control you, they’ll insult you in passive-aggressive ways, threaten to abandon you or lash out with cruel vindictiveness you’ve never seen the likes of throughout your wretched existence.
So, why is this important to mention?
It is unfortunately common. I’ve witnessed it. I’ve lived it and I’ve blogged about it, It’s also madness. It will leave you traumatized and shocked, feeling emotionally raped. For the most fragile people, it’s caused mental breakdowns, even suicide. It’s hard to explain how this sort of bondage messes with your head, but all rational thinking goes right out the window.
The good news is, once you become aware of what’s going on inside of you, your needs will begin to change. You’ll get better and better at spotting the red flags, and your boundaries can protect you.
You Can Do It
It may take a bit of perilous soul-searching and coming face-to-face with the terrifying darkness lurking within, but we can fix this. Real narcissistic abusers (NPDs), however, cannot.
At the same time, not everyone is ready to plunge into that seemingly endless abyss where we face painful truths about ourselves and endure the grueling process of healing. We deliberately avoid it, or we scatter a little bit of dirt to the side and then dart off in another direction, taking cover until we feel grounded enough to dig a little deeper. Some people, sadly, will never be ready.
As for the rest of us, damn the lies! We got sick and tired of the drama and the feeling of dread whenever the phone rang. We were ready to love with our whole hearts, leaving the agendas behind. Hey, it’s not as easy as living in denial, but we knew we had to get better, that we had to do better. We can only be honest with others if we’re honest with ourselves. For that reason, we have to know what’s real, and, over time, we’ll peel off layer after layer of untruth. We want to make life decisions as informed individuals with ever-increasing clarity.
Sooner, rather than later, we come to learn how to stop taking ourselves so seriously, which I’ve discussed at length in another blog. I talk about embracing your vulnerability, but, the truth is, we have to know what those vulnerabilities are, so we can protect ourselves when itreally is necessary. When we fully accept that we are all just struggling humans, equal in importance, the shame that drove us to desperation will begin to dissipate.
I’ve come to notice that most people don’t like it when I say we are equal in importance and that no one is superior to anyone else. For sure, it’s not a popular thing to go babbling on about, but I do it because it’s part of a huge problem in this world — the less who contribute to it, the better.
We’ll get rid of that all or nothing mentality, too—winner takes all. We must have flexibility and balance in our lives.
In this process of recovery, we come to understand the importance of examining our motives and expectations in every situation. We may find they are not reasonable or realistic, and that we can’t trust our egos. People without clarity of conscience don’t question themselves. They won’t say, “I’m glad I caught that. I can refrain. I can resist. I can do the right thing.” They’ll keep doing what they’re doing, often not understanding what they’re doing or why.
We’ll be able to put ourselves in someone else’s place and take care with our words. For example, I’m always wary of leading anyone in the wrong direction, so I’m very direct. Sometimes because we’re kind to people, they think a romance is possible. In the past, that wouldn’t have bothered me because, hell, I had another fan to add to my collection. It fed my ego. Today, I am sincere in not wanting to hurt anyone. I’ve become interested in people for who they are and not for how they validate me.
I’ve also found that the maturity and wisdom we gain in “doing the work” allows us to resolve conflicts like adults because we are open, and we genuinely care about others. I don’t mean engaging with those that have no concern or regard for us and who will only do us harm. Nope, we’ll be avoiding people like that. In the past, it was too easy to lead us, to fool us, to enslave us, and that’s just not happening anymore. It’s essential to continue strengthening our boundaries and to pay attention! Know how to differentiate between genuine compliments and someone who is love bombing you because they have a fast-lane agenda. Shut down the love bombing. It’s a trap. We must hold on to our serenity and our peace. Newsflash: Love bombing doesn’t only happen in romance.
Anyway, we won’t be wasting time and energy on damage control. Instead, we’ll be acknowledging our mistakes and learning from them, not making excuses.
Of course, we don’t always have it down to the point where we’re invincible. It’s a constant effort that gets more automatic with time, but we never stop being vulnerable. We have to be patient with ourselves and our healing process and also with the healing journeys of others. (That’s a lot harder than it sounds. 😉 )
So, what’s in the way of our surrender?
I’ve often heard, “But I can’t go to those 12-step meetings. I’m not comfortable.” Another deterrent for some is what they’ve referred to as “the God thing.” Someone in recovery suggested they are egotistical if they don’t subscribe to the most popular concept of God. Others seemed to invalidate a person’s sobriety and solid footing, claiming he or she was on the wrong path.
Let’s talk about the religious part first. Those who have other perceptions of God are fully aware that greatness surrounds and exceeds us all. We are in awe. Aside from that, I personally believe all the good around us and within us is God, and that God can also be conceived as “Good Orderly Direction.”
As so eloquently stated by Louisa Peck in her blog, A Spiritual Evolution, “Good Orderly Direction is more than the antithesis of fuck it; it’s the antithesis of ego. It is a form of caring, of knowing that your choices matter and seeking those that will feel right in the long run.”
Regardless of where that “good orderly direction” comes from, it keeps you on the right path. It’s there if you want it to be, and it’s where I direct my infinite gratitude. We can’t fall into the trap of trying to impress the masses. Let them do what works for them. You do you.
As for the social anxiety. I have it, too. We don’t like it when we’re not comfortable. That’s why we’ve turned to other methods of coping with reality—using drugs, alcohol, and other things to the point where we know something’s not right with us. It’s good to push through; yes, we won’t ever get comfortable by avoiding the problem. But if you can’t do it, you can still get with the program or benefit from its wisdom.
You can read the literature, work the steps, and learn a better design for living, and you can do it in the way that is best for you. What we don’t want moving forward are obstacles to our healing. Nothing and no one should prevent us from taking back our lives and restoring our sanity.
Recovery is an ongoing, permanent pursuit requiring a day-by-day commitment to better choices, requiring continuous reminders of, that’s not the way we do things anymore. We are never beyond reproach or incapable of making mistakes or bad judgments and reverting to old patterns. You can be physically sober for decades and still be an ass.
The learning, growing, and healing never ends. I love that we know better than we did in the past.
What I believe is; we should be consistently evolving. And every person we know has something to teach us whether they have no time in recovery or fifty years.
Appreciating who and where you are while also understanding who and what you’ve been is a good thing. We deserve the truth, don’t you think? And we’re worthy of it. We don’t have to be who others taught us to be when we came into this world. The people we looked to for guidance did what they could with the best of intentions and whatever awareness they had. It simply wasn’t enough.
So, here is the story of what happened this weekend.
I had a stereotactic guided core needle biopsy scheduled for Friday, August 16th. The place where I was having the procedure is affiliated with a good hospital.
Before the procedure, a nurse told me they would be using a local anesthetic called Lidocaine to numb the biopsy area. They cautioned me about driving. I live, maybe, four blocks away from this place and said I would walk. She thought that was a long walk! I don’t know, but I am from Queens, and we walked all over the damn place—nearly a mile, no sweat. Some people out here on Long Island are the same, but others think even two blocks is too far to walk. 😲
For the biopsy procedure, they had me sit in a chair, so they could take tissue samples to test. I didn’t feel a thing. It took a while and then even longer for them to come back and tell me they had biopsied the wrong area and had to do it all over again. I was reluctant because, at that point, I didn’t even know if I wanted to use their facility again. They told me my insurance would cover the second procedure. That was ridiculous because my out of pocket for that procedure was $600. I told them that wasn’t happening, and they suddenly decided I wouldn’t have to pay the second time.
I left then, and no one asked if I was okay. I’d forgotten all about the Lidocaine myself, to be honest. I made it about ¾ of the way home and then just fell like I was sliding into home plate. A woman came along and helped me to stand, but I couldn’t without her assistance. Then a second woman and two men came over and tried to get me to sit. They called an ambulance for me. I heard the EMTs talking in the back, and one said, “She was given Lidocaine for a biopsy. That could have made her dizzy.”
Once in the hospital, they took a bunch of x-rays. That was almost the worst of it, getting slung from bed to table and back again a bunch of times, but you hear people saying all this nice stuff about you. They were like, “Oh, this one’s easy, she’s light.” And, “You’re young.” Don’t know how many times I heard that, but okay. My son is thirty-four, but if you think I’m young, I’m not going to argue with you.
According to the x-rays, I fractured my left hip and also have something they called an impacted, nondisplaced left transcervical femoral neck fracture. The for-sure worst thing had to be the spasms that would shoot from my thigh down the leg, making me want to jump out of my body. The doctor said the nerve does that when the bone is broken. They did a hip pin where they placed a screw in there to hold it together. That stops the nerve from spasming like that. The surgeon did a fantastic job.
By now, however, I am an old hand at this fracture stuff. I sprained my arm at 15 when my friends and I got drunk once. I sprained my ankle twice as an adult and fractured my foot a couple of years ago. Maybe I am just too preoccupied with everything around me, always processing. HA! That’s probably not the reason, but life seems to fascinate me, no matter what is going on. I’m in the ambulance, I’m fascinated. Being wheeled into the OR, I’m fascinated. Giving birth, talking to people, eating, walking, listening to what happened to the patient next to me, I’m fascinated. It’s all so fantastic when you think about it. I know I can’t be the only one. There must be kindred spirits out there who feel the same way.
And things just amuse me so much.. Nurse: “When you go from walker to chair, just make sure the chair is under you.” Don’t know why I should find that so funny after what just happened to me, but she said, “You’d be surprised!”
I was thinking then; now I will be picturing that all day and laughing.
One of the doctors told me it could take almost a year for my hip to be 100% back to normal. When my physical therapist was here, I asked him about that, and he was shaking his head. He said, “I know you only five minutes, and I can already tell you’ll heal a lot faster than that. It isn’t going to take anywhere near that long.”
He is super kind, and the home care nurse was, too. She was at the door, all nervous, saying, “I’m the nurse.” I was like, “Well, hello, the nurse.” She laughed then. They must always be apprehensive about what they’re walking into because they deal with a lot of nastiness, people who are upset, angry, and scared. I’ve witnessed that with other people receiving care. I’m sure the home care team has to cut those people a lot of slack because they are patients and they’re sick, but these empathetic healers deserve way more appreciation and respect than they get.
Anyway, every experience, whether I want it or need it or deserve it or not has taught me so much about myself and others. And also, what to do, what not to do. It reinforces for me, too, in a divine way, really, that there are angels out there with beautiful hearts, and that most people do tend to have kind hearts.
What helps me, too, is everything I learned in recovery. Like the idea that you must accept the things you can’t control, control whatever is in your power to control. And then, there’s the part I added where you step up and embrace the challenge. If I hadn’t been able to do that in my life, I wouldn’t be here today.
Oh yes, and I have since looked up whether it’s common for a doctor or radiologist to biopsy the wrong area, and the truth seems to depend on who you ask. I found this cancer forum where laypeople thought it was unacceptable and would never go to that facility again. Medical professionals seemed to have more of an understanding of how that kind of thing can happen. One thing for sure is; you always get a second opinion, especially with biopsies. I knew a woman who thought she had ovarian cancer. I told her to get a second opinion and then a third if the second was different from the first. She did not have cancer.
From the time I was a child, I’d heard that people born under the sign of Scorpio couldn’t forgive others. They held grudges forever, and these diabolical creatures, when wronged, were never satisfied with sticking the knife to their enemy (figuratively speaking, of course). They had to twist it from side to side.
Yikes! I happen to be a Scorpio (as if it matters), and this isn’t a blog about astrology. It’s about what I’ve learned about forgiveness, Pluto be damned. (Yes, Scorpio is ruled by a rock that is no longer considered a planet, so that tells you how much stock you should put into these things.)
Further, believing such a thing about yourself and committing to it is demoralizing, self-sabotaging, and self-destructive— not just for people born in the latter part of October and earlier part of November but for anyone.
The good news is, I was never doomed to be an unforgiving Scorpio or anything else I didn’t want to be, and neither are you! Nobody can tell you who you are, and you alone define your limitations. Our wills are more powerful than our experiences if we want them to be, and it’s a safe bet they’re more powerful than any effect the sun may have had on us at the time of our birth. The whole idea that we can’t help being who or what we are and have no control over it is utter nonsense. We can do whatever the hell we want, and we alone are responsible for what it is we decide to do.
Besides that, if we want to recover from our afflictions and tragedies, we need to heal and learn and grow and continue to evolve until our dying day. For this reason, we must come to understand forgiveness and the vital part it plays in our lives.
Those of us who’ve been in twelve-step programs for one affliction or another have likely come upon literature that explains the whole forgiveness thing better than I can. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous states that, “Resentment destroys more alcoholics than anything else because deep resentment leads to futility and unhappiness and shuts us off from the Sunlight of the Spirit.” Addiction Treatment magazine notes that “Harboring anger can encourage you to be in a constant state of anxiety, which then can cause numerous physical health problems. Too much stress and anxiety can lead to cardiovascular issues, a weakened immune system, high blood pressure, and other potential ailments.”
Now, if you ask me … (You are asking me, right?) Forgiveness involves coming to terms with the truth.
For trauma survivors, like me, that’s not as simple as it sounds. All our lives, survival instincts had kicked in when necessary, leading us to strategize, justify, deny, etc.—whatever we had to do to cope. We may have even learned to deceive others with or without realizing, because we were deluding ourselves. That’s quite the dilemma when coming to terms with the truth is the only way to determine our level of responsibility for what happens in life.
Bear with me now because the first time someone told me I needed to own my part in everything that happened to me, I was royally pissed. If that included some horrific thing I surely didn’t deserve, it seemed downright cruel.
Well, when it comes to trauma survival, the idea of ‘owning our part’ is indeed cringeworthy, but it’s about addressing the issue of what we might do differently going forward. It’s the same question we’d ask in any other life-altering experience that leaves us shaken. The wording is appropriate when applied to the more typical betrayals or arguments—people hurting and rejecting one another in the way imperfect humans do. Either way, if we are the victim of someone else’s bad behavior, self-evaluation doesn’t mean the culprit is absolved of wrongdoing or that he or she is any less vile. It’s not to say that you or anyone else is okay with what happened, or that you are required to understand the reprehensible motivation behind what this person did.
The things that happen to us in life, good or bad, are learning opportunities that can increase our awareness about the world we live in, about others, and ourselves. No one says it’s fair or easy. Children can learn it from loving adults, what to do, what not to do, going forward, understanding that what happened wasn’t their fault. The acquired knowledge does not guarantee anything, I know, but it certainly helps. That’s what we’re owning.
You may have heard it a million times, and it’s still true: forgiveness is, first and foremost, for the one who suffers. It takes place so that whatever or whoever has hurt you no longer owns you or has control over your life. It’s a letting go that allows you to live and breathe and move on, survive and thrive by not allowing the perpetrator to cause you more suffering than you’ve already endured.
Excluding any justice sought in a criminal act, it didn’t take me long to see (even as an evil, menacing Scorpio) that retribution happens to abusive people without any help from me. They are their own worst enemies, and, sooner or later, the piper catches up to collect what he is owed. Some people balk at me when I say this, but I’ve learned to send love whenever these damaged souls come to mind. They surely need it. When I was at my absolute worst, I needed it, too. I still do. In fact, we all do.
However, despite all I’ve said here, nobody can tell you how to handle your feelings. We can talk about what works for us, with the hope that it might help someone else find the peace and joy that we’ve found, but that’s as far as it goes.
There were many times I’d witnessed a person expressing anger and grief over a traumatic experience, and others got upset about it. The others, in response, would say things like, “Well, I have a friend who went through that, and she had counseling, bla bla bla. She’s fine now, and maybe if so and so did that, he or she wouldn’t have to dwell on it and could move on.”
Well, no, people don’t necessarily react to trauma in the same fashion, so expectations of how people should behave are absurd. As for therapists, there are some who make it worse by revictimizing, or re-traumatizing because they don’t deal effectively with the repercussions of trauma. If you’re lucky enough to find the right counselor, therapy is excruciating work that leaves you raw and vulnerable to your very core. You have to be ready for it and strong enough to see it through.
So, yeah, no one has the right to decide for another person when it’s time to stop being angry, and to forgive and let go. Anger, like every other stage in the grieving process, must run its course.
If a person is never ready to stop being angry or forgive, it’s not for me or anyone else to judge. Healing is an ongoing process that, for all we know, may continue beyond this lifetime.
As I see it, we don’t forgive for the sole purpose of appeasing others. We do it when we’re prepared to rescue ourselves from the onslaught of continual suffering. And that’s where, in situations that are not so cut and dried as to who did what to whom, coming to terms with the truth helps determine our level of responsibility.
In any case, we cannot allow people to deny our reality of what we experienced or accept their spin on it if it has no basis in truth. We don’t want justification for what cannot be justified or for others to minimize the damage. We may be guilted and shamed into keeping quiet or making concessions, but to do so would impede our progress. Deciphering what is true and what is not is more important than appeasing others who need to deal with their own wounds. Their place in the healing process is different from ours, and we can’t wait there with them. We have work to do.
For us, the secrets and lies must end. It’s a fight for our well-being and our sanity. We’ve already endured the pain of silence. We’ve suffered too much already from the consequences of denial. We went through years of being protectively dishonest. We told ourselves we were okay when we weren’t yet. We said we’d survived while our brokenness continued and thought we were thriving when we were hanging on by the seat of our pants. We can’t afford more delusions about any of it. We have a right to be well and whole again.
It is critical that we stand up for ourselves and find out who we are as opposed to what other people want or believe us to be. It is crucial that we slowly and continually peel off every layer of the false self we present to the world, that we become more and more honest with ourselves and others.
After that, forgiveness exists at different levels, all of which amount to some form of healing and resolution. Perhaps it is forgiveness for resolving differences, where two people have worked through it, allowing the truth to sort things, and their relationship to resume with a clean slate. Maybe it’s forgiveness for peace, where you don’t have to trust this person again or have what you once had, but you’ve relinquished the hard feelings. And maybe it is purely for self-love and healing, and it doesn’t involve having to deal with that person again.
No matter how it plays out, we’ve taken our power back. It doesn’t mean we won’t be triggered when we see the same thing happening to us or to someone else in the future, especially when those people are silenced or dismissed. But we will be whole again.
All I can say is, if I’d bought into that nonsense of being unable to forgive, I’d be permanently screwed. It would have kept me from rising in my power and from the ability to summon my courage and my strength whenever I need it.
My brilliant beta readers are the best that I could hope for, as a writer. I have the utmost respect and appreciation for them!
You see, they’re not afraid to tell me what they do or don’t like and what does or doesn’t work in my story. Thankfully, they don’t mind having to answer more questions once their work is complete. They see it as an ongoing project they’re helping to shape. They not only provide feedback, but they’ll also catch the occasional typo or inconsistency, and let me know when a transition didn’t go as smoothly as it should have. And, believe it or not, they do this for free!
What I’ve gotten in the way of beta readers has been ideal, I’ll admit, but there are guidelines that help in choosing the right beta readers. And while most of them don’t charge, you’re entitled to have higher expectations if they do.
What’s important to note is, you’re not hiring a beta reader simply to proofread. You can hire an actual proofreader for that. I have several people look over the work for that purpose, including my editor.
You’re not hiring a beta reader to edit your work either. You absolutely need a professional editor for that, no matter how good of an editor you are or how qualified your beta reader may be in suggesting edits.
You don’t want a beta reader who will come back with, “I like it. Everything’s good.” A sentence or a small paragraph of feedback is not going to help much.
Writers are sometimes to blame for that. Many of them get pissed at beta readers for giving their honest opinions, but if you think you can do no wrong, you will get nowhere. We’re not perfect. Mastering our craft is an ongoing thing, and if we’re doing it right, then we continue to grow as writers. Some may say, “But I am the writer, and they are just readers.” Forget that word “just.” Readers are everything! It is the reader you want to appeal to, and it’s their feedback you are requesting. We always benefit by listening and learning. There are a lot of great writers out there. We can’t kid ourselves, thinking we are beyond any competition.
Yeah, we can get a little stubborn about certain things. I’ve found that I can be stubborn, too, so it helps if I give myself time to process what my beta reader is saying. Ultimately, I’ll be able to see their point and let go of what I’d been holding onto so tenaciously. We can be biased, and, no matter what, it’s personal, and so we can have tunnel vision. We need to ask ourselves, “Why is this so important to me? What’s going on here?” Sometimes I engage in a debate with the beta reader, and he or she will convince me that it needs to be a certain way. It may turn out that they see my point, or that it results in a compromise, but we have to be open to omitting or changing things. It’s good to have people who are not going to get upset with you or you with them. It takes a level of maturity on both parts and an ability to set ego aside.
On the other hand, if you’re hiring someone just to validate that you wrote a perfect book, that’s a different thing entirely.
As for me, in searching for the right beta, I also look for people who may be particularly helpful for what I’m writing. I do a ton of research (probably too much), but for my current work-in-progress, I’m interested in cops, detectives, veterans, people who’ve lived in or traveled to Spain, and people who grew up in the Bronx. I like to have both male and female readers because I love appealing to both audiences. I have three beta readers now and can take on one or two more.
Your beta readers are part of your team. At the very least, I like to thank them in the published book’s acknowledgements section and provide them a free signed copy.
My beta readers help me write a better story, and that’s what you always want—a better story.
People run from life in many ways. We can want a hug so desperately and yet recoil from it. We can crave love more than anything and build fortresses to keep it away. There’s this idea that the more bridges we burn, the harder it will be to go back to the things that caused us pain. Sometimes, that is true, but, at the same time, we keep looking for that place where we belong, and, in some situations, trying almost too hard to fit in, until we accept, with a great deal of shame, that we need to move on. Reaching out to people is overwhelming and terrifying, but we try it, and when we feel unheard, we vanish again. So many goodbyes––until we don’t want to do the relationship thing anymore or the intimacy thing or ask anyone for help or love or whatever the hell we need. Intimacy doesn’t seem worth any of that, and we lose interest. We shut down, close our doors for business, and thrive in our safe, predictable worlds.
We wonder if we are crazy, but people tell us only sane people question their sanity. Sometimes we think we’re monsters, but we come to learn that monsters feel no guilt, no shame, and no love. We do love, from a distance and we absorb the world’s pain.
In my twenties and beyond, I kept changing my name, my hair color, my address, my phone number, my job–you name it. It was as if I couldn’t run fast enough, couldn’t hide in a safe enough place. Without realizing it, I was running away from the trauma of childhood and teen years.
At some point in the healing process, something tells you that you don’t need to hide anymore. You don’t need to run, so you try not to. What’s unsettling is how far you can come in your healing and still get thrown back there in a heartbeat.
Progress can seem slow, but it keeps happening. I’m not a patient person, but I’ve learned to be patient about healing. I’ve had to, and I love healing because I’ve reaped its rewards. Often, I look back and ask myself, “How did I survive, being such an idiot for most of my life?” That may seem harsh, but in light of how far I’ve come, it makes sense. We can’t fix what we don’t know is broken. We can’t benefit from learning the truth about ourselves until we feel safe in rejecting the lies.
As survivors, we want this healing for everyone while needing to learn, too, that people are only ready when they’re ready. And it’s painful when we love people who need desperately to heal but remain trapped in their fear. Sometimes we wish we could absorb every bit of their agony; even it means holding on to all of it ourselves because we know we can handle it. We have.
We can’t get stuck in that inability to forgive either. It’s understandable because we witness so much unnecessary cruelty toward ourselves and others, and we don’t know what to do with that. For instance, how do you come to terms with the fact that someone willfully tried to destroy another person, or that person’s reputation, or his or her life, that they did everything in their power to annihilate another human being?
What I realized, quite a long time ago, is that revenge and punishment are not up to me. Divine retribution happens without the least bit of my help—no matter how we interpret divinity and even if we are divinity in the sense that we represent it in the universe. It works that way because we can’t destroy people without destroying ourselves. If it’s destruction we want, it’s destruction we’ll get, and it’s never one-sided.
A better solution is to keep following our path and goals and let go of the burdens people give us to hold. The weight comes from feelings of not belonging or being worthy and accepted as we are. It comes from others mischaracterizing us or our actions to suit their agendas and punishing us for not being who they need us to be, not wanting what they require us to want.
We have to find our own happily ever after. It’s undoubtedly not the same for everyone, and that’s another place we can get stuck—wanting what we don’t have and realizing it’s not even what we want but what we think we’re supposed to want and have. Most people want to find that special someone, get that dream house and job. From the time I was eight years old, what I wanted was different—maybe, in some ways, the opposite of what everyone else wanted. It took me a while to realize that I have everything I’d ever wanted or needed in my life and, while I may have moments of feeling sad for another or sad for the world, I am happy.
One thing I’ve always known is to never give up. It does get better, a little at a time, but it gets so much better. Our survival not only gives hope to others but sharing our experiences allows us to help in their healing. We help each other, yes, and we give each other the love that’s been so hard for us to ask for or accept.
I’m not a religious type, but the prayer below has always been my favorite. It can certainly get you through it. ❤️
Brave Wings is a new online magazine that focuses on the human condition—whatever we experience in life that helps us learn, grow, and evolve. Sharing perspectives about healing and empowerment can be exciting and helpful, but we also want to provide entertainment and fun while sharing the beauty of creativity.
For entertainment, we are interested in short stories and book series (all genres). We’re interested in humor.
For creativity, we may be interested in photos, handmade products, something that showcases your talent.
Content for submission will include blogs, videos, audios, slideshows, and photographs. Please see the submissions page for instructions on how to submit!
We will not pay for submissions at this time. However, we will always share your work on our social media sites, and we encourage all contributors to share magazine contents submitted by others on their social media sites. Helping one another with exposure is what will make this site work.
In addition, we will provide the following for all contributors to the magazine:
A listing in the contributor section, where more information (links, etc.) will be added with each contribution. The most frequent contributors may also have a few of their books, products, or recommendations in the listing.
The opportunity by contributors to submit news that provides opportunities for artistic communities, as well as their own business events and significant personal news, all of which we will share on our social media sites.
Access to the chat room (as a moderator, if they prefer), and the ability to hold monitored topic meetings to promote their talent/business.
For those privileges, you must be a regulator contributor. There are no deadlines. However, you must have contributed at least twice with acceptance and publication.
We do intend to have a community that includes a discussion forum and chat room where we can present topics hosted by contributors.
Our Announcement page will provide news of available opportunities within the artistic communities, including contests and contributor events.
We will post book reviews that are submitted by contributors, but we don’t assign books for review.
We will post interviews by our contributors if they are relative to our platform. If you feel you are a good candidate for an interview, contact us at email@example.com.
If this venture is a success, we may eventually monetize and pay for content.
For those interested in getting involved, we may also need editors, site moderators, group moderators, page moderators, etc. who will have contributor status. Those most involved will be given domain e-mail addresses for the magazine. We have four more available, so if you love this idea, the opportunity is there to get as involved as you’d like.
Another thing I’m tossing around is whether we’ll have a group or newsletter for interested parties, so please, please, weigh in with your thoughts about everything! All suggestions are welcome!
You made me laugh,
And I forgot all the tears.
You helped me up,
And I forgot the times
You let me down.
You were hatred,
Just as surely as
You were love.
You were everything right
And everything wrong—
You were everything
I had to let you go,
And it freed me.
Still, I’m sad,
For I know
Who you might have been.
I know you so well…
But you do not know me. – Kyrian Lyndon
from Remnants of Severed Chains
Not everyone likes to plunge into that seemingly endless abyss where we face painful truths and endure the grueling process of healing.
Some deliberately avoid it, or they scatter a little bit of dirt to the side and then dart off in another direction, taking cover until they feel grounded enough to dig a little deeper.
People like us, though, we want to keep digging.
We’ve already been traumatized and shattered, you see, and, in those moments, we learned some of the best lessons of our lives. So, we know we’ll be okay. We know, too, that we are learning to love with our whole hearts.
Amazingly enough, we’ve been walking away from people that have exploited our vulnerabilities. We’ve been doing it for a while now, and we’re getting better at it. Maybe we were condemned for it, too, at one time or another, but we’d do it again in a heartbeat. You see, we know we are vulnerable. We know how vulnerable we are. That is good because before we understood this, it was easy to lead us, to fool us, and to enslave us.
We’ve become patient with our healing process, and we’re trying hard to become more patient with the healing processes of others. We’ve been around long enough to wonder what is worse— dealing with our own fears or the fear that motivates the masses.
It often seems that people don’t truly want to understand each another, or they simply want people who are different or feel differently to go away.
Letting go is easy for some; I know. For us, it is painful and confusing. Maybe the energy needed to explain isn’t there, or we’re tired of explaining, tired of the world, tired of ourselves. We examine our motives, our expectations. We don’t always like our motives. We don’t always trust our egos, and that’s a good thing. People without clarity of conscience don’t question themselves. They won’t say, “I’m glad I caught that. I can refrain. I can resist. I can do the right thing.” They’ll just keep doing what they’re doing, often not understanding what they’re doing or why.
So, yes, the world can overwhelm. It makes some of us want to keep our worlds a little smaller, and, in our broken moments, we need time to fix things in our hearts.
We will work through the sadness. In a poet’s heart, anyway, it has its honored place. We’ll embrace it, feel all of its intense beauty, and we’ll let it run its magnificent course.
Those of us who do this work and this digging do it because we’ve had it with being terrified, with trying to protect our hearts and our secrets—the image, the illusions, the payoff. We’re tired of the denial that was our sole comfort, our only way to survive. When we came to fully accept that we are all just struggling humans, equal in importance, the shame that drove us to compete and control began to dissipate.
We kept replacing false with real, and we’ve hung on to hope. It’s not as easy as living in denial, but we know we have to get better. We know we have to do better.
For what it’s worth, as I see it, the truth is never one extreme or the other. There’s a lot of gray, and we always need balance.
But just so you know? When we shut down, when we distance, when we go deep or even go away, we don’t hate you. We don’t want to hurt you. We’re grateful that you have been part of our experience. We’re grateful for what you’ve taught us. We’re grateful for every blessing we have. Our hearts are bursting with love and often joy, and we still care. We continue to root for you, no matter what, and we’re always ready to listen, ready to resolve, and ready to heal.
Years ago, I thought I had accepted that life was unfair. Coming to terms with that somehow unburdened me. It cured me forever of the “why me’s.” What it didn’t seem to cure me of, however, is the “why anyone?” With countless people suffering all over the world, I have spent the past couple of years feeling anxious, feeling frustrated.
I’ve come to realize that no matter how much I hurt for the world, I must acknowledge that I really am one of the luckiest people alive. I love my life. I love what I do. I have everything I need and more than enough of what I want.
I have to remember that, no matter what is going on.
So here is a just a short list of reasons I am grateful. I decided to share it because so many of us are trying to find some peace in this challenging time.
I am grateful to everyone I have ever known, and what they have taught me.
I am grateful for the forgiveness that brings peace and second chances.
I am grateful for solutions.
I am grateful for change.
I am grateful for truth.
I am grateful for freedom.
I am grateful for all our heroes, warriors, and survivors.
I give thanks for everyday pleasures.
I am grateful for all the beauty that surrounds me.
I am grateful for home.
I am grateful for people to cherish in my life.
I am grateful for this moment.
I am grateful for imperfection, silliness, and madness.
I am grateful for fantasy and imagination.
I am grateful for kindness, for hugs, and for all the love and light in the universe.
I am grateful because there is something beautiful in everyone.
I am grateful to be alive, to have this day.
I am grateful for fond memories of childhood that overshadow the painful ones.
I am grateful for increasing clarity and for having been ready to heal.
I am grateful for all I have been able to resolve internally, for the darkest moments, and rising from every fall.
I am grateful for the realization that my ego was my worst enemy and distorted my perception.
I am grateful for learning from my mistakes, for being able to work through the tough stuff.
I am grateful that I am not bitter.
I am grateful for not giving up, for hanging in there until it was okay.
I am grateful for laughter.
I am grateful for all the learning and evolving.
I am grateful for the beaten dragons.
I am grateful for finding my truth and my voice.
I am grateful for letting go of unworthiness, for self-respect, and learning to stand up for myself.
I am grateful for learning how to be strong, how to share joy, for having learned to trust my instincts and myself.
I am grateful for defying limitations.
I am grateful for the desire to grow finally exceeding my desire to hold on, for the strength and courage to let go of the things that weighed me down.
I am grateful for the doors that opened for me and the doors that, after teaching me what I needed to learn, closed behind me.
I am grateful for the shedding of masks and my embracing of authenticity.
I am grateful for the ability to see people and things as they are, including myself.
I am grateful for being able to see things from another’s point of view.
I am grateful for the ability to feel empathy and witness the empathy of others.
I am grateful for the amazing struggle that is life.
I am grateful for the ability to keep learning, for all the opportunities to be better and do better, and for all these reasons to smile.
Lastly, I am thankful to those who care about my journey and what I have to say. Thank you for reading and for listening to me.
To those who are struggling, I walked through fire to get here, and I am still walking. Don’t you give up!
Sometimes people are not getting whatever it is they want from you, and they’re not fully aware, or embarrassed to say. They want love, sex, friendship, attention, admiration, approval, money, an acknowledgement, an apology—whatever. Other times they are making assumptions and, for whatever reason, they would prefer to stick with their assumptions rather than get to the truth. They may say, if you confront them, “Oh, no, nothing’s wrong,” or “it’s not you,” thinking that will keep you on the hook. Or they try to shame or silence you, maybe even become passive-aggressive instead of seeking a solution.
What I take from that is, “I can’t risk feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable, or possibly having to admit any wrongdoing or, gasp, apologize. You’re not worth that to me.”
Reaching out to people when we’re feeling something’s wrong can be difficult. In doing that, we’re putting something on the line. We’re willing to be vulnerable and take the risk because that person means something to us. I keep that in mind whenever anyone reaches out to me because I honestly don’t know if, in the past, I’ve ever made a person feel they’re not worth a genuine resolution. If I have, I’d never want to make someone feel like that again.
In any relationship, you need two people to give a shit. At the very least, it’s a matter of mutual respect. If someone can’t be honest with you, if they can’t take your concerns seriously, if they can’t deal with your anger if that should come up or your frustration, then this is not a person who is invested in or committed to the relationship. Nothing about the relationship can be authentic when things don’t get resolved. It merely allows for a superficial connection that will always have some tension, even when we try to focus only on the good and having a nice time or a nice conversation.
Close relationships don’t become what they are by silent treatments, grudges, hoping to punish, or wanting the other person to suffer. They become that way because of genuine caring and a willingness to resolve and forgive on both sides. I believe you have to give each other the chance to make it right or clear up any misunderstanding.
In truth, the people who genuinely care will care about what makes you happy, what makes you angry, what frustrates you, and what hurts you.
And, at some point, it’s time to let go of the others—stop fighting for them because hanging on can be heartbreaking, and it hurts your self-esteem.
The sad thing is, and I see it all the time, the day will come when it’s too late to resolve things with someone. The person is gone forever and sadder still, they’ll just be hoisted up on a pedestal and history will be rewritten. The one who chose not to resolve will remember only the good and times when they were close, but that’s isn’t love. That’s creating the person they are comfortable with, not the one who is human and flawed— maybe even a little broken, but worth so much more than they realized.
Through forests of emerald-green bliss,
Embracing the colors of endless play—
The rainbows of summer.
She was a child of the earth.
Her tiny voice sang,
And she danced!
No danger lurked in her twinkling eyes.
Everything in her fearless laughter
Was colored with mirth.
She built castles on the shore
By a peaceful and provident sea
That was never foreboding.
She skipped beneath the golden clouds
Like the world belonged to her,
As if there were no cares
And all who loved her
Would keep her safe.
“Do not lose her,” I said.
“Do not lose that child.
She needs you so desperately.”
And then she had this grave fear of the sea,
This somber foreboding.
It seemed so vast and so deep
From the shore,
A leviathan-green, hellish monstrosity
Full of strange creatures that devoured things.
It was all that lay between her
And some faraway place
On the other side of the globe.
Somehow, it was not so frightening now.
Neither was the past,
Or all the future obscurities—
Not even those people she once had cherished.
The peace of the waters subdued her now,
As she listened to the thrash of the waves.
She was just playing with a stick in the sand.
There was a noted ambiguity
Whenever she spoke of this place.
Certain moments when she embraced the glorious light
And gazed intently into the darkness.
There were moments, too,
When she felt it creep and crawl around her,
When she ached and trembled,
Longing to free herself from its grip.
While seething within,
She wore the mask of kindness,
Harmless and alluring,
With resentment like hemlock,
Beautiful yet wilting,
Glowing yet tarnished,
Toxic to all
In her flowering beauty.
The sun was setting,
Salmon clouds under a sky of dodger blue,
Flocks of geese
On a sprawling lawn.
A waxing gibbous moon
Like she needed a guide,
A divine light.
“Come forth,” it said.
And some of the fear waned
As she went forth,
But nothing really changed.
She stood alone on the edge,
A faint silhouette
Gazing at the night sky.
A sprinkler to the trees
Thrashing in the wind.
She would flee,
Suddenly unrecognizable faces.
The glowing sun of Helios
Was a beacon
For eternal bliss,
The caves beckoned.
Held its own mystery,
Still the perilous journey
Pretty colors and then
It seemed to have no end.
She heard a child crying,
A child from long ago,
A prisoner of her soul.
Stone walls around her,
Deep, treacherous waters—
Her mind was a fractured maze.
No one could see.
No one could hear.
No safe place to run,
She had to find the way
Every stone that healed
Brought her closer to
The climb was steep,
But she held on,
Clawing her way
Raindrops glistened on the rocks.
Flower petals littered
The wet grass.
She saw vibrant orchids
In the fading light of the moon,
Tranquil waters glistened
Like the ancient alchemical goddess,
She was crowned—
A newborn only beginning
Beginning to see,
Her soul bursting
The beauty within
Became the beauty
Eyes could see,
She was free.
No jewel could sparkle with
And the years could not tarnish its shine.
From Remnants of Severed Chains Copyright October 17, 2015 by Kyrian Lyndon at kyrianlyndon.com.