Letter to a Nine-Year-Old Me

Your mother will blurt out a bit of very exciting news soon. Your jerk of a father? He isn’t your father. It explains a lot, I know. Next, she’ll drop you off at your grandmother’s for the afternoon without an explanation. But, really, who needs one? You’re ready to bust out the confetti!

You’ll want that explanation eventually though. Unfortunately, the answers will replace your excitement with anger.

Your mother is going to say it was what she thought was best for you. By the time you’re a teenager, you’ll realize she meant it was the best thing for her. It gave her the make-believe perfect family she always wanted.

It didn’t matter that your step-family treated you differently than your siblings.

It didn’t matter that you had cousins literally around the corner that you missed growing up with. Not even when you lamented how much fun having even one would be. (Surprise! You have six.)

It didn’t matter that you didn’t get to bond with your grandparents, aunts, or uncles. Their family unit was established without you. They spent a decade pretending you didn’t exist and won’t think to include you now. You’ve become an afterthought at best. For that, you’ll blame both your mother AND your entire extended family.

The lie your mother spun deprived you of a lot of love, but at least she had her proverbial picket fence for awhile.

I wish I could tell you that it’ll stop hurting or that you’ll stop wishing your paternal family tried even a little bit. But enough people have lied to you—you don’t need me to do it too.

When you get older, you’ll reach a better place with your mom, but you won’t forget. You won’t really forgive either, even though you try hard. All you’ll want is a sincere apology acknowledging she was wrong. All you’ll get is a flippant, “Sorry you feel that way, but I thought it was best for you”. Always with best for me.

But some good comes from this.

Your real father’s side of the story is sympathetic and sincere. He was forced out of your life for no reason. You’ll never blame him. It’ll be awkward talking to him for awhile, but I promise it gets better. In fact, he’ll be your closest family member and biggest confidant one day. Hang in there. He won’t give up on creating a relationship with you, and it will feel like those nine years apart never happened.

8iEbknAyT

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Letter to a Reflection

Psst! Hey, you…

Who? Me?

Yeah, that’s right, you, little sister extraordinaire, with the curly hair. I see you in the mirror, staring back at me. I need to tell you something important. Please don’t take what I’m about to say the wrong way. It’s from my heart to yours. Oh, and make sure you share what I’m about to tell you with your sister. She needs to hear this too. The both of you drive me insane.

Who are you?

I’m you. Call me your spirit guide or conscience. I don’t care, but please listen.

All right. Fine. I’m listening.

Okay, so about the only thing you have in common with your older sister is a set of parents. You need to get over whatever the hell happened between you as children. I’m sorry she picked on you, called you smelly and ugly. Let me rephrase that, ugly is an overstatement. Your sister once asked you how you had such a beautiful sister. Yeah, I know it hurt. Still does. But stop carrying that around. It’s merely part of the baggage you take everywhere you go. You know the one. It’s where you hide your emotional scars. Where all the pain you’ve endured dwells. Yes, there are times when you’re able to check your Samsonite at the door, but let’s be honest, shit from your past still bothers you.

Oh, and don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about either. You know exactly what I’m saying. Here, I’ll give you some examples:

  1. Kids throwing rocks at you, calling you big nose, threatening to beat you up after school because you were “too ugly to breathe.”
  2. Kids pretending to be nice to you, so you would loan them a pencil or a sheet of paper, or so they could copy off your homework.
  3. Coming home after being emotionally tortured at school and having your sister tear you down more, when all you wanted was for her to be nice. To be your friend unconditionally, not a stranger co-existing with you.

Why does she hate me? Where did things go wrong with my sister?

She doesn’t hate you. And I wish I knew where things went wrong. Believe me. I think it might be a lot easier to repair, fix, or establish a sisterly bond if you did. But you and her never had the kind of relationship other people envied. You’ve always envied sisters who laughed together, cried together, or helped each other figure out life without judgement. You want that closeness. You want to be able to pick up the phone and talk to her whenever you need to hear a friendly voice. Instead, you have been at each other throats most of your lives. And now…

And now. We don’t even know each other. I want to have a sister I can count on. Who has time for me and doesn’t treat me like I’m not important. 

Exactly, and you may never know each other, which is by far the saddest thing about both of you. It’s like a deep, dark secret. Most of your friends don’t even know you have a sister. How pitiful is that? Your parents are the only thing that binds you together, but once their gone, then what? You must fix this before it’s too late.

I know. But we are stuck. I don’t even know where to begin.

You start by picking up the phone.

 8iEbknAyT

Letter to my Mini-Me

Dearest Mini-Me,

It has been a while since you and I have been in communication.  As I approach another birthday you came to mind.  Without you, I would not be here today.  Without you, I would not have survived.  When I look back in time, I want to thank you for a number of things that helped me to be here today.

Dearest Mini-Me, thank you for realizing so early in life that not all parents are good ones.  Having a baby makes any woman a mother but it does not make them a good parent.  This is the single, most important point you kept in the forefront of your young life.  It is sad that this was the case but it allowed survival mode to kick in early.

You were never really wanted, or at least it never felt like you were.  You were strong in the face of the verbal insults.  Your ears heard daily that you were nothing, worthless and not good enough.  In the sadness of hearing this, most of your elementary years were spent living in the fear that if you did not conform to crazy rules of conduct you would be taken to an orphanage and left there.  Better yet, that harm would be done to you and so satisfied would your parents be with that, they would happily say that afterwards they would call the police and tell them they did it…like it was nothing to hurt a child.

The smallest infraction resulted in the most terrible punishments.  Most of the accusations and things you supposedly did wrong were not based in reality.  It was the reality of the thoughts of a crazy woman.  Most things you were accused of never happened.  Never!  Those imaginary things required punishments.  No one listened to your sane, rational words.  “I did not do that.”  “That never happened.”  “That’s not really what happened.”

Bath times were supposed to be calming and a quiet time before going to bed. Instead it was the whipping place.  You would be washing in the tub when the door would open.  High in the air in a hand fueled by rage, instigated by imaginary things, was that thin, brown extension cord.  Down it would swing and land on wet skin.  Wet skin made the strikes more painful.  The whelps and cuts were that much bigger.   That was the purpose and the plan.

Emotional fear and physical pain were modes of discipline and you learned how to be perfect in a crazy toxic world.  You were a fast learner.  You had to be.  You were living in an unknown cycle of abuse that went back generations. It would be terribly hard for you to survive.  On the outside and to others all things looked normal.  No one really knew what happened once you got home and were with those people called parents.  No one knew and no one could help.

Thank you, Dearest Mini-Me for working really hard to develop friends outside the home.  Granted, no outsiders ever were allowed over to our house; you were able to go to the houses of others and could see how other children lived.  How they were loved.  You realized you were not loved.  Never a beloved child.  Never loved.  Never hugged.  Never kissed.  Never told, “I love you.”  Your birthday was never remembered and you did not get gifts at Christmas.  You just looked on as everyone else opened presents.

You realized something was really wrong with the parents you had.  They each had very different wrong things in their personalities.  Things that went way back and were being manifested toward you.  You did what you could to survive and made it a goal to get out and to get help one day.  Help for you.  You never wanted to be like them as an adult.

As you got older things changed.  The abuse changed but it never stopped. As a teen you were almost without a persona from all the name calling and constant bullying by your mother.  For years when you looked in the mirror you only saw her face.  It was the face of a demon with horrible red eyes.  You stopped looking in mirrors for years because the image of you was so awful to see.   You were not there.  Where were you?

When it was decided that you could not eat any food at home, you got a job in high school so that you could buy food or eat out.  There was no privacy of any kind.  All letters to you were read.  All locks on your room door were dismantled.  Sleep most week nights was disrupted.  At 2AM, the lights would be abruptly flipped on and screaming and yelling of insults would happen until 3:30 or 4AM.  You had to get out of bed and stand up to take the yelling.  Life was exhausting and the days were long and filled with the struggle to stay awake. Then it was decided that you were not good enough to use the furniture so you had to sleep on the floor.

You tried to reach out to an adult for help but no one believed you.  The atrocities you endured. So many more that can be told here in this short letter.   Our family looked too perfect on the outside.  You reached out to a counselor.  When your mother was contacted she convinced the counselor that you were a wayward, ungrateful child.  There was no help from the adults that were supposed to help.  No one believed you.

You could see no future for yourself.  All the years of holding everything inside began to break you down.  You always smiled on the outside but inside you were crying.  All the time crying, wanting a different life.  The life of your friends.  The life of your other relatives.  A life of your own. Just any life that was safe. A life!

Your life was slowly being taken away, ebbing toward the abyss that you were on the brink of falling into or being pushed into.  You saw that there was no way out except by your own hands. A plan was formulated.  It was later put to rest by friends. They listened to you and even saw some of the truths you revealed. They gave you hope.  Hope that you would have a life one day.  A future.  Thank God for friends.  They saved you.

You, also saved you.  You saved your money and got out.  Eventually you got counseling to try to undo all the damage that was done to you.  Lots and lots of laying on a couch. Years even.  It worked.  Dearest Mini-me, you broke the cycle of abuse. You learned how to protect yourself and to recognize that toxic people have no place in your life.  You learned how to not take on the crazy.  You gave me, me!

I found myself and saw myself in mirrors. I could actually look at pictures of me and see me. Beautiful me!  I could actually imagine a life that actually went years into the future.  I found my life. I found me! I try to live each day to the fullest now.  I embrace the idea of “carpe diem” and “yolo” to the fullest.  I try not to look back on those very sad times early in my life.  I do not want them to ever define me.

I know you are always with me.  You are my Dearest Mini-me.  Rest now.  You protected me for a very long time.  I now have the strength to protect you.  You will always be a part of me.  Thank you! Know that I will always love you, my Dearest Mini-me.

Love,

Me

8iEbknAyT

Letter to the Silence Still Too Loud

It was the silence that was the loudest!

I guess I knew deep down. In hindsight I could feel something wasn’t right. I was feeling uneasy all year but the months went on we became closer, the phone calls, the Facetime, the visit but that day you came over for lunch just before it happened the balance had shifted, I was so angry with you. I didn’t want to speak to you. I had no idea why I was feeling that way I just was. That later shifted to being upset that you never turned up.  I waited all day to see you so I could hear you praise my Cheese and Onion Pasties as you always did, so I could watch you savour that first bite, it would have made me feel better and not as angry as I was. But you never came. And then I wanted to see you later that night to hear the reason for why you never came, no phone call no message. But you weren’t there either. Just a body.  Lifeless. No energy. No spirit.  No love. No you. Nothing.  Nothing but silence drowning out the sorrow that washed over us all. Nothing but silence within myself. It’s been over 3 years now. Sometimes I think if I had felt or done things differently would that time have changed? Doubtful. You were ready. I could feel your energy. I could physically see the change in your entire being. I could see you had found some peace within so of course it was your time. You were ready for the transition. But for us…I’ve had another child. Life has carried on but there’s still silence.

And that silence is still too loud.

8iEbknAyT

Letter to a Shy Girl

There you are, sitting in a classroom, surrounded by other children who are nothing like yourself. They speak out loudly and confidently, they seem fearless in the face of danger, you envy their every move. Their effortless banter taunts you, it questions your twisted and tormented mind. Why is it so difficult for you and so easy for the rest of them? You wish the floor would swallow you up, you crave the comfort of dark and hidden spaces where you are invisible and have no need to justify your existence. Wouldn’t it all be so much easier if the world was like that? But it isn’t. You spend your days in a constant torment – wanting to blend into the background and then, at times, wanting to scream at the top of your lungs so they would all turn and acknowledge that you are actually still there.

There are lists with your name missing because you didn’t have the courage to raise your hand. There are punishments from teachers who get you and the naughty girl with a similar name mixed up (It took all of your depleted energy to speak up about that one, but once more you were ignored) There are days spent alone creating imaginary worlds in your mind because the reality of the real world was too painful to bear. You didn’t understand why you were like this, what made you retreat from society and disappear entirely. This feeling will never leave you as you get older, it will simply manifest itself in different ways. You will find ways to cope with this monster inside that destroys your self-worth.

There will be solace in pretending you are someone else and playing this out. Like a kind of euphoric release because at last they see you and appreciate you. You will try and find validation in the arms of men, men that will never give you what you need. You will try and drown out feelings of loss and betrayal by turning to the bottle – staring at your reflection in the dawn light and wondering where it all went so wrong. There will be days when you are unable to leave your room, when the thought of going out and facing people is a sickening and impossible dream.

You will once more become the Shy Girl in the classroom, afraid to take her place and speak her mind…

But the light spills through the clouds just enough to keep you going. You find beauty and peace within the chaos of your mind. Then you realise that all those years of quiet and shame were a training ground and now it is time to step up because you have so many things to say and do and time is ticking by.

You will always be that Shy Girl, you will always have this Monster in your Mind, but you must live with it, it is part of who you are and will always be.

“It’s all in your mind” they say…Yes, don’t I know that.

8iEbknAyT

Letter to the Homebound

I have prayed for you to die. No, that’s not exactly true. I don’t dare pray that because every time I start to think it, I’m overwhelmed with guilt. I pray for you to live: to actually try and get better, to listen to the doctors who tell you you could be doing x, y, or z instead of lying to them and saying you’re actually doing it. I pray for you to have less pain so that you can see hope in your life and have the optimism to make change happen.

And yes, I have wanted you to die, because you are not living. You used to be the hardest worker I know. Now it’s too much work for you to leave the room to use the toilet. I used to think you could do anything, and now you prefer to do nothing.

When I was a child, we sat in the shade of beautiful tall trees and you told me you would never live like I see you right now– you would never want to be stuck in a chair. And here you are. I am frustrated by the life you are missing by being imprisoned in your four walls: playing with your grandchildren, supervising home improvements, visiting new restaurants, seeing my new house. Sitting in the shade of beautiful tall trees.

It would be difficult if you died. I love you so deeply and have wonderful memories of you. I would be flooded with guilt, missing all those moments we could have had together. To give you just one more hug. To laugh over a bad pun. To play you just one more song on the piano. To ask your advice about my house. For now, I can still do all those things. Why would I wish you weren’t here?

I might not be so negative if it weren’t for your caregiver. You see, my heart breaks for your spouse, who is similarly hindered from taking on new adventures because you need so much care. Your spouse, who worked beside you all these many years, would love to travel, would love to move to a smaller apartment, perhaps to play weekly games of cards with friends, or just to stay overnight with relatives. But you need someone to get you your food, to change the dressing on your sores, to bathe you, to monitor your medications, and listen to your angry rants. These things take their toll.

So many things would be easier if you died. We would not have to see you this way. You would be free of pain. Your spouse would be free to use the remaining years and enjoy life.

But I can’t say this out loud. The mist of these words hangs unspoken in the air when I talk with my family and friends, and I can only suppose they have had similar thoughts– thoughts none of us dare to put into words. So I will just say I love you. And my wish for you is never to forget that.

8iEbknAyT

Letter to my Bald Head

We’ve been together almost two years now, though these days you’re not as naked as you used to be.

When my world fell apart, I thought I would beat the odds and get to keep your coat of armour. I was wrong. When my world fell apart, it smashed your armour into a million pieces and left you bare. Vulnerable. Weak.

Your dark brown dress flowed over my shoulders and tumbled down my back. For as long as I can remember, your armour was the part of me that made me feel the most feminine. When the rest of my body went through tumultuous changes – my skin paling and yellowing, losing all elasticity and natural shape – and I felt like I was quite literally losing my mind to the medication-induced brain fog, I was certain that somehow your armour would stay and help me feel like myself.

That’s all I wanted. Through all of this. The last two years. I just wanted to feel like myself.

I was so afraid to see you stripped. I put it off as long as possible and when I finally had the courage to see you, it felt like I was meeting you for the first time. I was both exhaustingly sad and incredibly delighted. I didn’t want you this way, but I had always thought my skull was oddly shaped. You proved that theory wrong. You weren’t so bad; even with that scar from the ice hockey puck that hit me half a decade ago. That was a story I had never shared with my mom but, in light of the scar’s exposure, I can now laugh about it with her. You allowed me to let her in on a part of my life that she hadn’t known before.

You remind me, every moment of every day, that I’ve been ill. That I’ve stared Death in the eyes and told her ‘Hell No!’ That I’ve found a way to continue my life despite Her efforts to stop me.

You remind me, every moment of every day, that no one’s recovery is the same. Forget the aches, the nausea, and the disintegration of my stomach lining. Forget the days of sleeping nearly twenty hours and the fact that I may never fully recover from all the side effects.

That was then.

This is now.

You and here and now you show the world a false representation of me.

I am no longer ill. I’m cured. I’m moving on with my life.

Sure, there are days when depression consumes me. There are days when I feel like I can’t move on. There are days when I am so afraid that I will get a phone call from my medical team telling me that we have to start over. There are days when I wonder if you will ever be dressed again. If your armour will ever be returned to you. If you’ll ever reclaim your former glory. There are days when I wonder if I’ll ever look healthy again… Be normal again…

But there are also days when I love you without your armour. When I relish in the ability to wear cute hats the way I never could when you were dressed. Days where it’s ungodly hot and I can expose you to the world without shame, allowing a slight breeze to cool me down, without you being bogged down by the weight of your armour.

I love you.

I hate you.

It doesn’t matter which or when. You are part of me now. I am alive and you better be sure that I will live this life to the fullest. Despite your nakedness.

8iEbknAyT