My Companion on my Time-Traveling Train

My Companion on my Time-Traveling Train

Please note:  This material may be triggering for some with histories of trauma or abuse. I am more detailed in this piece than I am in most of my pieces.  Please take care of yourself and only read it if you are in a stable place with ample support. 

I watched a child this morning, as if from a train window. A time-traveling train. I had a tour guide and a Faithful Companion along for the ride. As I looked out the window, I saw a little girl:

The sun is getting ready to set, and dusk settles over the little dead-end neighborhood street. She puts down the Barbies and says goodnight to her friends, climbs their basement stairs, and heads out their front door. She didn’t realize that it was so late. Her mother is worried sick, and it is her fault. Darkness encroaches upon her as she marches the quarter mile home, and with a shudder, she sees her mother at the top of the driveway. As the features of her mother’s grief-stricken face come into view, the child feels as if a bowling ball has been dropped into the pit of her stomach. She sprints as fast as her five-year-old legs can carry her to her mother who seems to be overflowing with equal measures of rage and desperation. Her mother reprimands her in the public of her neighborhood community, but the consequences that lurk behind closed doors remain dreadfully looming, as she grovels behind her mother into the “safety” of her house.  The child must pay, and she knows that darkness awaits. Terror grips her heart and her body as they prepare for bath time. She can’t stop crying. Her mother can’t stop crying. “I thought I had lost you,” her mother keeps repeating as she runs the bathwater. The little girl sobs. She has so much power, and she doesn’t want that kind of power. She is just a child. As the bathtub fills up, a switch is flipped in her mother’s brain, and the monster emerges. As her own power vanishes, the child surrenders to the monster. She submits to the punishment as monster-hands hold her head and face under the water. She waits for darkness to enfold her as the monster hands refuse to let up. Lungs burning for air, she succumbs to the need, and water floods her nose and mouth. As the lights fade out, she feels sensations that she assumes accompany the process of dying. The mother-monster of Dr. Jekel and Mr. Hyde is her daily experience, but she only allows for conscious awareness of the overly attached, doting mother. The darker side lurks in the shadows of her experience, nagging, haunting, chasing her down every dead-end street. She feels the “not-right-ness” of their relationship. She feels the ambivalence that seems to emanate from a mother that she is desperate to please, out of dependence as well as terror. That, however, is the extent of the awareness that she has of the dark places that her mother takes her in her twists of character. Because she doesn’t have a clear picture of her mother’s illness, she assumes that she is evil, broken, and needs to be eliminated.

From the window of my train, I saw the root of self-hate, shame, and fear in that child. I saw her mother behaving like a monster, and as a mother, I despised the abuse. I raged with fury and indignation. I watched Jesus help the child hold her breath as she was being nearly drowned, and I watched Jesus firmly jerk the psychotic mother back into reality, allowing the child a chance to survive. I saw that Jesus loved this child  and wept with her horrific circumstances and loved the mother enough to not abandon her in her destructive illness.

My Faithful Companion sat beside me in the time-traveling train as I looked out the window at five-year-old me and my mother of whom I have so much fear. As He showed me Himself in the scenario, He revealed His power, love, and goodness. As the train came back to the station, and we stepped off into 2016, He said, “My child, I am redeeming you. I never abandoned you. And it is okay that you stepped away from your mother. I have not abandoned her either. You never have to feel like you have to take care of her again. Rest in me. Let me handle her. I love both of you.”

But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you walk through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you… (Isaiah 43:1-2, NASB)

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Mindfulness on Mother’s Day

Today held quite a bit of potential. Nightmares about my own mother offered themselves as today’s prelude. I rose from the nightmares to meet the needs of my own sweet babies at 7 AM. Mother’s Day, for me, is a bit of a paradox. On one side of the coin, there is picture of a narcissistic and atrociously abusive mother who performed unspeakable evils. On the other side of the coin, there is a lovely picture of me and my precious treasures of children. Mother’s day is simultaneously a reminder of the most destructive force in my life and also the most restorative, healing relationships that I have with my own children. This is quite the mind bender, like the day where two crazy opposite universes collide. Today, one universe clearly overcame the other in their collision.

My sensitive husband asked me tonight how today went for me, knowing the power that it holds. I thought for a minute and told him that I chose to keep the coin flipped to the side of love. I chose not to flip the coin over today. I know that this isn’t always possible. Sometimes the past hits me like a freight train traveling 300 miles per hour, but today, somehow, God gave me the gift of amnesia of the pain of “mother.” I maintained connection only with my own role as mother. I reveled in gratitude and joy as my 7 month-old babbled and giggled and pinched my cheeks. I snapped like 300 photos of my almost two-year-old making silly faces at the top of her little slide. I savored every second with my beautiful children and felt the harmony of our lives as we played together. Motherhood has been my redemption. I longed and dreamed and prayed for these angels, but could have never fathomed how wonderful they have turned out to be.

God’s gift to me this Mother’s Day was blissful awareness of only the present moment. He allowed me to be with my children and my beloved without the lingering sorrow of the searing pain from my past. I consider this a gift because it certainly does not happen every day. Some days are clouded by grief, and sometimes, that’s how we heal. But today, I needed light and joy, and my God who gives great gifts knows what I need.

I am infinitely thankful for a Mother’s Day that has been centered on my babies and my love for them. I am blessed beyond reason.

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

Nearly three weeks have passed since I cut off contact with you, since I sent you what must have been an unbelievable nightmare of an email, ripping me and your grandchildren out of your life. Years ago, we built a physical barrier, moving across country, but that was not sufficient. I had hoped, oh I had really hoped that less contact would solve our problems. Every time you came for a visit or called, I crumbled, imploding into a heap of self-hate and shame. I tried desperately to make it work. You have to believe that I did. I was the last one to ever want to draw the line in the sand and say that you and dad couldn’t cross it. I have been relentlessly allegiant to you, never in a million years wanting to villanize you in any way. I have lived my life to protect you, my parent, from myself, from the rest of the world, and from yourself. I was willing to go to my grave defending you and caring for you. You had me trapped. I was paralyzed, just as I had always been, unable to break free.

But, mom, something shifted. I fell in love. I entered into healthy relationship. I had my own children. I entered into a season in my life where I had to choose between taking care of helpless, precious, babies, whom I love more than anything in the world, or taking care of you, a grown woman, who has tied me to yourself with cords of shame, bitterness, and hatred. I had to take a step back and evaluate our relationship in light of the vow that I have made to my own family, the people who depend on me for their survival.

In the aftermath of this estrangement, one experience, or lack thereof, seems to speak loudly: I have no grief. I feel no sense of loss. None whatsoever. I have never loved you. I have been terrified of you, manipulated by you, shamed by you, but I have never felt love for you, my own mother. I thought that this reflected something terrible in me, some horrible deficiency, or presence of extreme evil. I think, however, that it really reflects more realistically the sick nature of our relationship. I am extremely capable of love and compassion. I see it every day. With my husband and my children, I feel more love than I ever imagined a heart could harbor. Thus, I am not a sociopath. Although, you may be. I feel no loss, but I feel sad that I feel no loss. How does a person lose her mother and feel no sadness? This in itself is tragic. I do, however, feel like a boulder of guilt is resting squarely between my shoulders. I try so valiantly not to enter into your mind and not to imagine what you are thinking and feeling about my decision, but it catches me when I let my guard down.

Your birthday came and went, and I did not call you. I am so so sorry. I wish that I could have. I truly wish that it were different. I desperately wish that I had “false memories,” and someone would prove me wrong. I wish that I could find out that you were safe for my family, and that I could honor you by allowing you contact. I want to honor you. I want to take care of you. I want to love you. Strangely, however, I am certain that this wall is the best way for me to love you and for me to love my husband and my children. You had too much power over me, over us. I was too scared of you.

I breathe deeply now as a free woman: A woman, strong, and whole. You are no longer successful in your attempts to break me down into fragments, making me weak and ineffective in order to make yourself seem stronger. My lungs stretch to hold a little more air with each new breath. The sun seems a little more radiant with each day out from under the shadow of your darkness. I come more fully alive as I wriggle out of your shackles of death. I defy the odds and break free, and my children and grandchildren and great grandchildren will live in peace.

I am truly sorry that it has to be this way, and I pray for restoration.

The “Break-Up”

Can there be a “call” to break up with your parents?  Yes, I am an adult woman living many hundreds of miles away from my parents, but they run my life.  I have a sense of indebtedness towards them.  They are my parents, for crying out loud, and what if I am totally wrong and off base about my entire childhood?  Do I just cut them off?  

But relationship with them is killing me.  It is draining me of my lifeblood, just as they did when I was little.  Somehow, they still are in control.  That phone call.  The name that pops up on my phone and sends my world spinning.  That first birthday of our baby that they just have to fly out for, and I have to feign excitement.  Why would I let them ruin a time of joyous celebration?  MY child. Not theirs.  They already ruined their own child. 

But how?  How do you cut it off?  How in this great big world can I possibly say to my parents that my relationship with them is harming me and my family and that I need more space?  Not just a little breathing room, but I don’t want to ever hear from you again. 

My entire life has revolved around caring for my parents.  My sole purpose was to make sure that they were always emotionally stable.  I protected them from everything, especially from myself.  Now, once again,  I am the greatest threat to them.  I hold this time bomb, and one day soon, I am going to have to bite the bullet and call it quits.  I will hurl the bomb at them and watch them explode into a million pieces.  And my world will shatter.  As they crumble, so will I.  Because, we all know, that they hold the key to my demise. 

What is the “godly” thing to do?  I am either all about my present family or all about my parents.  I either protect my husband and children or protect my parents. Can I do both?  Can I protect everyone?  Can I guard everyone’s feelings and make a decision that will not hurt anyone?  My primary role is to protect and care for my children.  Their safety and well-being is paramount in the hierarchy of important things in my life.  Honoring and loving my husband is my other primary role.  I am a “daughter” of sorts, but that is not my primary role anymore.  I am no longer a secret-guarder.  I am no longer the one who has to keep my mother from committing suicide or my father from attacking my mother.  I am no longer the one who has to endure the consequences of my parents’ choices.  Thus, it seems to me that the “godly” thing is to cut my parents off. 

But here is the other rub: Can I emotionally handle the consequences of this break up?  Will I unravel?  Will I splinter into the thousand pieces that I constantly labor to hold together? Will the stress of all of this release crazy amounts of cortisol into my unborn child?  Or is it the opposite?  Will the trauma that comes up with every conversation with my parents drive me to complete madness?  Will the long term stress of trying to live a double life wreak havoc on the well-being of my family?  What is more damaging? 

So here I stand, in limbo, in the in-between, in this half-in, half-out, undecided, cowardly place.  I will probably remain here for a while.