Tiny Little Ghosts…

The smell of smoke is potent and it draws me out of my sleep, I pull myself out of bed, every time, fearing the house is burning down, but can never find where the fire is. The doorbell rings and startles me out of my sleep or my thoughts, in that moment I freeze, never brave enough to go see who might be there. I’m numb, and my body is stiff, I cannot move but my mind races a million miles a minute and my heart pounds out of my chest. Sometimes, I’ll wait hours before regaining a sense of peace that there is no one standing on the other side, waiting for me to answer.

I screamed and cried out in my sleep the other night “STOP!” “I don’t like doing this…” “no, no, NO!” and “Can we please just go home..?” I try to wake up and speak again as he pulls on my arm but I fight and push and pull away. I’m silenced and scared and no words can come out. They violently try to push and punch their way to freedom but they are too tangled in the web of excruciating fear. My body panics and my mind shouts and screams yet no words or sounds ever escape.

When I drive out of my neighborhood, there are two ways I can go. One way leads me to drive past the restaurant where he began his last affair. The other direction leads me down a path he walked with her hand in hand one night while I was waiting for him in our bed. I automatically dart my eyes but my body knows the hurt is still there. I’m trapped in the middle. I can never get away. I cry. I sigh. I wonder. I get sick. I push it all away. I’ll never be good enough anyway.

I can hear the whimpers and crying in pain. I feel the shards of glass all over my body, in my clothes and hair, and the cold dampness from my pants on my skin. I see his bloody, contorted face and his twisted, mangled body when I close my eyes. I hear my Dad’s laugh and my sister’s voice of casual indifference. When hot tears roll down my cheeks they look at me and roll their eyes…telling me I’m overdramatic once again. I feel shame and fear and guilt because it was me that wanted to go there in the first place.

The taste and smell of alcohol transports me to a weird emotional world of anger, frustration, and disgust. The smell of cigarette smoke makes me want to throw up. The shrill, shrieking sound of a referee’s whistle blowing sends chills up my spine and I can feel his hand on my head, through my hair, around my neck, and his thumb touching my cheek. My face gets warm, my legs tense up, my mouth feels dry.

When I drift off to sleep I startle and panic when I feel his touch. I wait in frozen silence as I wonder what is coming next. This time it’s only a gentle kiss goodnight. But sometimes, that’s where it all begins. It’s the beginnings and middles and sometimes the ends that trail around behind me, following me, shaming me, guilting me, scaring me…floating in and out of my consciousness unsuspectingly, tormenting and haunting me…like tiny little ghosts.

Dear Baby Sister…

Two weeks ago your baby turned three. We had such a fun day celebrating her. She beamed when she awoke and found her playroom covered in streamers and balloons. She belly laughed with excitement when we sang “Happy Birthday to you…” She squealed with delight repeating over and over “for me..??” with each little gift she opened. We told her about birthdays and she had imagined in her head what hers would be like. We knew we had high expectations to fill for her. I think we did well and met every single one her little heart desired.

I was sad on that day too, though. I thought about you often. I wondered what you were thinking and knew I could not even imagine the heartache you must have been feeling knowing you could not enjoy her day with her. My heart ached for you too. I thought a lot about your last words to me…“you are not her mother, you will never be her mother!!” I thought about the countless times you have blamed me for your failures and accused me of stealing your only child. I felt guilty beyond measure and I hurt for you and your loss.

I miss you, baby sister. You were my best friend. I’ve missed you since the day you ran away from home 22 years ago. I cried for you in my bed when no one knew where you were for weeks on end. I cried again a year later when I visited you for the first time in rehab. Our conversation was awkward. I didn’t know what to say or how to help you, I was hurting too. I just didn’t know what we had gone through wasn’t normal. I didn’t know what we did together ourselves was wrong. We were just little girls. I didn’t know I was supposed to protect you. All I knew for sure was that I wanted you back.

Throughout the years you also broke my heart. You made promises and didn’t keep them. I tried to let you know how special you were to me and how much I wanted you in my life. I was disappointed when you ran away again and bailed on attending my first daughter’s baptism. I had chosen you to be her Godmother. I had to find someone else to stand in at the very last second when you never came. Why did you do that? I eventually became used to you not showing up, though. I expected it. I even empathized with you and was proud of your self awareness to not be around my family when you were in no condition to be an example to my children. It still made me sad, though. I always thought you’d be the perfect “cool Aunt.”

Your addictions have taken you over. Drugs and alcohol have become your best friends now and your way to cope with your pain. You seem to have no control anymore. In some ways, I can relate to this. I feel crazy and out of control everyday. I wish I could tell you why and I wish you could tell me your story too. You blame me for ruining your life. You blame “the system” for setting you up to fail. We all tried so hard to help you. I hoped this baby of yours would be a turning point for you. You were so excited and I know you loved her. You were so proud of her, always asking me “what do you think of her..?”  But she wasn’t enough motivation for you.

I wish you would stop letting her Dad beat you and abuse you. I wish you would run away. I know your choice to leave is so hard. You are far too deep in a hole to do it yourself and you can’t find the strength to stay away. I understand completely. I want to leave too but I too am scared. You think I am perfect and you resent the life I now have. I know that makes you angry. But, I’m just like you…stuck in a world so tangled and dark that I cannot see how it could possibly be any better or different. It has sucked me in too. I’m just better at hiding it. I cope alone in secret.

I want you to know I love you. I want you to know that your baby is safe with me. I know my life is full of crap like yours. It’s different crap, but it’s there, and I won’t let it get in the way of her flourishing in life. I know I fought to adopt her out of foster care against your wishes, even with all this crap…if you only knew how counterintuitive it felt. I know you wanted her to stay with Mom and Dad so she wasn’t so far away from you. But I know things about them that I don’t think you remember. I’m just beginning to remember myself and realize we were not ok. They are not the god’s they make themselves out to be. They were awful to us. They still are. I don’t want one more child to have to endure what I, and maybe you, did. I blame them for your addictions and your pain sometimes. I couldn’t let it happen again. Not to your baby. No way. She’s a little shining star and so, so sweet.

I will fiercely protect her. I will love her like we never were. Whatever path my life takes in the coming years, I will put her needs first before mine. I will fight every battle for and with her. I will always let her know that she matters and is loved because I know that that is what we both so deeply desire ourselves. I am praying for you. I did not steal your baby. Someday I hope you will understand that I saved her.

College Bound…

A violent bloodbath occurred in my entire inner being and my heart exploded into tiny, painful shards of emptiness as I hugged my son and told him with as much sincerity as I ever have that I loved him. I couldn’t even feel the anguish that was pulsing through my body because the intensity of this feeling was just too much to handle…it had been building up for weeks and I have been forcefully pushing it down each time it welled up. I knew if I looked him in the eyes I would lose the tiny shred of control I had left in me. I lowered my gaze and turned and walked away, heartbroken and empty.

I have an incredible sense of insecurity in all of my relationships. It seems as though every important being I have given the entirety of myself and all my trust to has turned against me with hurt and rejection tenfold. The few that have nurtured me, and I am invested in and proud of, I hold very close to me with a white knuckled death grip of determination to not lose the tiny bit of good that I receive from them in my life.

I fear I cannot handle any more loss in my life. And while this occasion was supposed to be one of happiness and joy, expectation and excitement, adventurous and liberating, it has left me, unexpectedly, with such a sadness that I can’t even describe. I wasn’t expecting this. I’ve been fighting for him to  get to this point, unscathed and in one piece; advocating for him and his ability to grow in his maturity, character, young adult wisdom, and wit. But amidst all that, all I want to do is crumple to the floor in despair at the thought that this baby of mine is gone, off to conquer the world and do great things.

Selfish me has a hole inside that needs to keep this precious one close so that hole does not spiral into an abyss of darkness where I fear I cannot get out. I can’t bear the thought of losing one more person in my life that I have loved so unconditionally. In my world of insecurities and uncertainties I want the relationships I have confidence in to stay close to me. It’s too hard to let them go when they are the only ones that keep me going in the midst of all the rest that break me down and kick me into a state of motionless defeat.

My children are my lifeblood. They keep me alive. I am so proud of them and who they are, even when they aren’t the greatest they can be. I love them with all of my being, even when I can’t find love for anything else. I am so proud and in love with this young man but so sad about this change and emptiness I must endure as he goes out and discovers the world with his own eyes without me. I didn’t think he would be the one who broke me down like this but I should have known…it’s always the ones I least expect that do.