“The feeling of being doubted…is an ever-present background noise…”
Did you ever wonder if people believe you? Is that only the mental stomping ground of the addict? The alcoholic?
The feeling of being doubted, of my integrity being questioned, is an ever present background noise…especially when I am sick. I was even afraid, just now, to write the word ‘sick’. (wouldn’t it be better to minimize?)
One very HUGE contributing factor to this constant was the years upon years of describing extreme pain to a plethora of physicians who could find no ‘easy’ or ‘obvious’ condition to label me with. There were no broken bones, I had a history of drug abuse, I had a history of a mental illness diagnosis, and I am a woman. I was also very strong, working difficult physical jobs normally held by men, which may or may not have been a factor.
My experience has not been an isolated one when it comes to women who have Fibromyalgia and/or similar diagnosis. During the years before the medical profession widely recognized this condition I was one of a multitude who went thru years of mental anguish and physical agony before finally being given a smidgen of relief.
Finally a Diagnosis !
It took real determination (and very real disability and pain) to keep pushing on towards a diagnosis. I was told it was all in my head, that I was just overweight and needed exercise and that what I was experiencing was just a consequence of aging. At this point I was crying every night from the burning in my joints, in my muscles and in my spine. My best description for that time was as if I were wearing a dense heavy coat that was soaking wet, all the time. A coat that weighed about 100 pounds and was crushing me.
At this point my work was suffering, a kind boss had taken me aside after noticing my wincing, and suggested a Rheumatologist. Initially even he was sceptical until he got back the results of the CT Scans and MRI’s. (He was the first to order these types of tests!) I distinctly remember the initial shock at him gently taking my hand and apologizing, so sincerely, for not believing the severity of my discomfort. He went on to ask me if I had been in a car accident, the images showed that level of damage to my spine.
There were a myriad of issues the films brought to light, and from that point on my care finally addressed them. The physical relief was matched and even surpassed by the rush of validation! I was taken seriously!! I was, finally, believed!
…there was nothing…but to keep chasing the high, reality became too painful…married you so…you could not testify against him?…
I’ve been busy trying to find some balance. It has been a difficult issue all my life. I can be impetuous and impatient, wanting things to happen yesterday. In the past I hated discipline, and yet needed it desperately. I rebelled against everything, and prided myself on living outside the lines.
But I yearned to have the life I saw others living. I was always on the outside looking in-at families sitting round a dinner table, or gathered in front of a fireplace. Friends having lunch in a deli, or laughing at a movie. I was standing just outside, in three feet of snow, higher than a kite…and crying. Wishing I were in that house, sitting down to a hot meal, my heart full of love and surrounded by kindness. Full of joy. Full of hope.
After certain traumatic events I thought I could never be in the presence of ‘normal’ people again. Or in the company of ‘nice girls’. These feelings are common to those of us who have been forced to walk on the dark side…and that is exactly what kept me stuck on the outside looking in. As someone who had been sexually abused it was easy to believe that no one could understand me, I was different, warped somehow, out of line and irreparably broken.
These lines of reasoning are what kept me stoned, drunk and living on the street. A perverted sense of pride kept me “out there”; I was terminally unique and no one could understand me.
(I shut my eyes and drift back to those dark days when my husband and I were getting close to the end, an end that I knew was not going to have me walking out alive…)
The world I had immersed myself in was squeezing me dry. No true happiness, just oblivion. Once the money and the dope were gone, so was the glamor. Now there was nothing for it but to keep chasing the high, reality became to painful. To realize the person you left your family for never really loved you at all? That he married you so that you could not testify against him? Wait..what? What?…
The collect calls home, just to hear Mom’s voice, ” Are you alright, Susan? Do you have enough to eat? “
“Sure, Mom, no problem…we have work now, good work…Cement Plant shutdown…lots of money. Come up and see us sometime…”
They better never come visit. See me with black eyes, track marks. Find out we are living in a tent. Holidays coming round again, and I’m too strung out to visit. Oh, the bitter tears I cried that year, and the one after, and the one after that….endless rivers from red, swollen eyelids, dripping off the end of a snotty nose, wiped on dirty sleeves. Sleeves that roll up to purple scars on blue veins, sitting in a gray cement bathroom holding a syringe between tobacco stained teeth, ready to ride that white pony into blue, blue blue blue blue blu
That is not the way this story ended. It could have soooooo easily, except for one thing. One thing that I never would have believed if you had told it to me then. During those last few dangerous days of my marriage, days when he would get so high he would wire all the doors in the trailer shut from the inside, while creeping around with a hammer…days when I was so afraid of what he would do that I would hide in the bathtub hoping he wouldn’t find me… days when he beat me unconscious…when he shot wildly in a drunken stupor, missing me by inches…when he flushed a half ounce of coke down the toilet then dug up the septic tank and pulled the package out…days when he would OD and I brought him back to life, pounding on his chest and screaming, “Don’t die you #@$!%*!”…Then on our 7th anniversary he went to work at the naval shipyard, I made his favorite dinner and waited eagerly for him to come home, ready to forgive him one more time. Waited and waited, as the hours passed…losing hope I broke down, and prayed, not knowing what had happened but sensing something was wrong.
I remember lying in the dark , begging God for forgiveness as memories moved thru my mind, memories of all the hatred in my life, the drugs, the violence, all the pain I had caused, and abuse I had endured. I poured myself out to God, like I had not done in nearly 20 years. I really felt at that time that I was doomed, doomed to never get out of this situation alive. The violence and depravity were so overwhelming, and he had made sure to impress upon me, in no uncertain terms that if I were to ever try to leave, it would be my family who would pay for my error. And pay dearly. After pouring out my heart to God, I slept, drained of tears and exhausted .
It was a strange dream , and many years have passed, so I won’t attempt to relate it now. I was then awakened by a pounding on the door. My heart sank… Was this the police telling me some terrible news?
It was Jim, my husbands coworker, they rode to work together. He was beside himself… ” Sue, I have some bad news, really bad… I don’t know what happened but there was a SWAT team! The FBI, my god, it was terrible! They had their Guns drawn, told us all to get out of the van, get on the ground!”
Jim! (I heard myself yelling) Jim! Where is Marty? Is he ok? IS HE DEAD?
“what? Oh, no,no, he’s not dead, but they took him away, they cuffed us all, we were freaking out, questioned us all, but let us all go, except him!”
Oh, thank God, I remember feeling so relieved. He wasn’t dead on the highway, or shot by police… But what was he arrested for?
” Sue, it’s really bad, they were asking about guns, said we were stealing guns or something? They charged him with something to do with weapons, I don’t know…”
We talked on thru the night, and I was all wrapped up in how to deal with this new reality… So wrapped up that it did not dawn on me till years later that God answered my prayer that night, and he answered it in a BIG way. I survived my marriage to that man, I survived the addiction to cocaine and got clean, survived all the beatings, survived the alcoholism, the pain, the sadness, the insanity… Thanks to God.
I prayed for help and He heard my prayer… I am so very, very grateful to Jehovah, for his Son, Jesus, and for all His wonderful Wisdom , Power, Justice and Love. He is the Sovereign of the Universe and the Right to Rule belongs to Him, and to those whom he chooses to give it.
The Kingdom is in place, let it come!
Life is so good today. I am isolated, but I am never alone. I feel sad sometimes, but I am not without hope. There is nothing anyone can do to me that my God cannot undo. I do not need to cower in fear, because “there are more who are with us than those there are with them”(2 Kings 6:16b) I hope that you find some comfort knowing that God is the hearer of prayer, and the He wants us to talk to him, and share our feelings with him.
“For I well know the thoughts I am thinking toward you,” declares Jehovah, ” thoughts of peace, and not of calamity, to give you a future, and a hope. And you will call me, and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” Jeremiah 29:11,12
“You will call, and Jehovah will answer; you will cry for help and he will say ,”Here I am!” Isaiah 58:9″
“Jehovah is close to the broken-hearted; He saves those who are crushed in spirit” Psalms34:18
I just attended one of my meetings on Zoom, for Worship. It amazes me how much these 2 meetings per week have become my greatest source of comfort, by seeing all my loving friends. It’s wonderful to feel the warmth-it even comes in loud and clear thru the computer!!
Isolation can be a killer for the mentally ill. There have been times when the only thing pinning me to this fabric of life was contact with another human being. The worst part of being so deeply depressed and out of hope, for me as a Bipolar person who used to have suicidal ideations, was that all I could see, ALL I COULD SEE, was the abyss. I had absolutely no ability on my own at that point to make a decision to reach out of the blackness for help. When you are in the dark, it is difficult to see a friend. The emptyness seems to stretch endlessly away, I had no thought of how I would hurt my loved ones.
I thank my God that someone saw my despair, and made a move, even though I said I was fine. Over and over and over…I would paste on a smile, because we of the depressed masses are SO GOOD AT ACTING, and repeat the phrase, “Oh no, I’m really fine, just a little tired…”, or “Nothings wrong, seriously, I’m fine.” Especially as a teen, I knew just how to shut my Mom down with a roll of my eyes and an exaggerated sigh of frustration. A slammed door worked well too.
At the time in my life when I was suicidal, I was not yet diagnosed with any mental illness. I was a teenager, had been sexually abused routinely, had been drinking and taking drugs for years, and felt so sick inside, mainly with self-loathing. Up to that point, say around age 13, I was starving for love and attention at home. I know now that it was largely in part due to my parents’ exhaustion at working constantly. But there was more. My Dad was tired, constantly, and angry, and he was very grouchy. I was SO sensitive that every word he said was rejection. I was not at all at fault, but I was acting out my need for love in promiscuity. Of course , having been sexually abused by trusted adults beginning at age 8, I’m sure I needed serious counselling even that early, but those were the years before it was ok to talk about such things.
I had many experiences where I heard my best friend and I being blamed for causing the abuse, even at the ages of 8 and 9, by the abusers co-conspiring wife, in the courtroom!!!! Also, the old-fashioned Protestant attitudes exhibited by Grandparents and Aunts and other family members told me in no uncertain terms that these abuses were never to be mentioned again.Nice girls didn’t talk about such things! Nobody will ever want to marry you!! You are “spoiled”now!!
These lies and the ensuing actions of not being cuddled, or hugged, or even being allowed to accompany my beloved little cousin to gymnastics class seared my little heart and mind. How does a child process rejection? She doesn’t know that her family is perpetuating the trauma, or that they are sick too, or just plain mean. She believes the lie that she is unlovable . Imagine for a minute: An eight year old believing it is HER FAULT that she was violated . That Daddy and Grandma don’t love her anymore…
So clear to me now, how wrong they were. And it also so WONDERFUL THAT I understand now. I hope so much that someone out there sees this who has a loved in a similar situation, and reaches out to the child, or teenager, or adult…Tell them IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT !!! You are LOVED, AND CHERISHED, AND NOT TO BLAME!!!
The circumstances that the abuse happened under were not caused by you. You absolutely DID NOT WANT THIS TO HAPPEN, NOR DID YOU MAKE THIS HAPPEN!! Repeat these truths over and over, until you can truly believe them. You must try, even though it may seem to be the hardest thing in the world, to find someone safe to talk to. For me, this was a Doctor at the emergency room, where I wound up after jumping out of a moving car. He really cared, even though I refused to talk initially. He did not judge me, or act shocked, or even run and get my Mom. Today, after years of treating sexual assault the fault of the victim, I would hope that ALL Doctors would give help and comfort to assault victims. This most likely is not the case, so don’t give up in seeking help. There are suicide prevention hotlines you can call, also 911 and 211 in the US. In the front of the phone book, if they still make these, there are lists of helpful organization, also safe places to go.
I know how hard it is to reach out, but you can do it. If you don’t feel up to talking to a human, there is still the BEST FRIEND you will ever have, who you can talk to, Anytime, Anywhere, out loud, or silently from your hurting heart… This person is God. Jehovah is his name, and he is Jesus’ Father. He knows you are hurting, and he wants you to call on him…
I did not believe that God could love me, and I suffered on my own for 20 more years. You don’t have to suffer that long!
Psalm 34:18 says, ” Jehovah is close to the brokenhearted; he saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Psalm 94:19 reads,”When anxieties overwhelmed me, you comforted and soothed me.”
Psalm 27:10 also says, “Even if my own father and mother abandon me, Jehovah himself will take me in.”
For me, praying to God has been my lifeline. Even though I live alone now, I know He hears my prayers anytime and every time. I say, “in Jesus name.”at the end of all my prayers because Jesus tells us at John 14:6 , “No one comes to the Father except thru me.” Thus is because God made Jesus High Priest and God requires that we acknowledge this when we pray! So Jesus also states this truth in the Bible at John 16:3,
” If you ask the Father for anything, he will give it to you in my name.”
One of my favorite verses in the Bible offers me so much insight into God’s love for us . It is in Isaiah 41:10, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be anxious, for I am your God. I will fortify you, yes I will help you, I will really hold onto you with my right hand of righteousness.”
I hope this brings you comfort and hope. Know that you are loved…
. Fall in a heap, exhausted. Then get up, clean up, and do it all over again.
. There is joy in this. This “living” we do. No matter how sweaty, or dirty, or ugly, this “living” is a beautiful thing.
. There is no ‘give up’ here, no ‘quit’ , no ‘over it, no ‘packing it in’.
This is where every. breath. matters.
. DO YOU HEAR ME?
EVERY BREATH MATTERS.
Right now, in my little trailer in the middle of down, down, way down and out USA, I am deciding to care. I am deciding that my sufferings will amount to something, that all this silence and fear and worry in my heart will be done away with, that with this breath of life my Creator blessed me with will be used to help someone else live, too.
. I know I’m a rag-tag mess. I can’t think straight most of the time, and there are days I can’t leave my house. I am oppressed by an illness that tells me I don’t have it, and that feeling like I’m sick is a sin. I’m not exhausted, it tells me, I’m lazy. I’m not in excruciating pain, I’m a dope seeker. I was not abused, assaulted and raped, I was promiscuous.
. I am here, I am now, and with my God’s help, I will reach out to someone else. And with my God’s help, I will not believe the lies. Instead I believe the Bible, God’s own letter to me, and to all his children. I want to live.
. That’s my “I’m so tired I can fall down right in this spot and sleep for a month” face. And it’s none too pretty. It’s also the most unflattering view of my nose…I was never unhappy with my nose until my Ex broke it . We were pretty high, and the cops had a roadblock we were going to drive past, and in my nervousness I didn’t realize he was just waving us around a broken down car. So I was going to stop and roll down my window, but that psycho husband of mine hit me with a right hook that I knew had broken my nose the minute it landed. Now with my nose smashed and bleeding and my lover screaming, “Just Go! JUST GO YOU STUPID @#$!%&!!” I rolled right thru the zone just praying that the cop would see my pain and lock my old man up forever.
. Unfortunately, I had a long way to go with him, not only in miles on that specific trip, but years in marriage as a hostage to this monster. I cried and whimpered while he continued to berate me all the way to our friend’s house, at which time I ran into the house to pry my broken contacts out of my eyes, and ask for an ice pack. And a stiff drink.
. The woman who lived there with her common law husband was no stranger to domestic violence, I had seen Jim go at her plenty of times when he was drunk. They had a 2 year old little tow-head named Gregory who I loved dearly, he came over with his blue eyes big with compassion, and said, “Bwoke?”while pointing his tiny finger at my face.
. Lori took me aside while I was lameenting, “He broke my nose. HE BROKE MY @#$!&%!! NOSE!” and told me I should be taking pictures of all the injuries my husband had been inflicting on my person almost daily, I was too mad to listen, but years later I now wish I had. I guess the scars, PTSD and crooked nose will have to do.
. Anyway, I was still ticked off and full of the kind of courage that comes from straight whiskey, so I sat on the couch loudly lamenting my poor nose. That’s when Lori’s husband Jim looked at me laughing and said, “What’s the difference? You already had a big shnoz !!!” My husband thought this was a riot also.
. That was the day I began to hate my nose.
. About 5 years after this incident, Lori and Jim were fighting again, and she came to us (well, to my husband ) asking for help to buy a gun. She claimed she feared for her and her son’s life, Jim was “wild”and “dead set” on killing her. In our cocaine induced insanity, we went to a guy my hubby knew , and purchased a gun for Lori. Later that night, we met up with Lori in a Grocery Store parking lot. My Ex showed it too her, she had many questions. She purchased it. (By this time , after years of this woman’s unusual interest in my husband, I had learned to hate her. It turned out I had good reason to do so.)
Approximately six months after the “transaction” my husband was working with a crew of guys subcontracting welding for the Charleston Naval Shipyard , and the ATF and FBI threw down on them all in our van while they were at the Shipyard . Lo and behold, little Lori, our “best friend”, had been wearing a wire during, not only the gun transaction, but in ALL the “meetings” she had with my husband. He had been sleeping with her for years, as I learned at his trial.
. Well, he got 15 to life as a habitual offender, I sold my hot rod 71 Mach One and his Harley to hire his attorney. After that I eventually made it to my parents home in Florida, got clean and sober and divorced jerk face. That was in ’02. He got out in 2011, remarried another womedan he had been cheating on me with. He died on February 7th alone at their home of a major coronary. And so ends that chapter of my incredible life.
Everyone want’s to be pretty, or beautiful, I think. I know I was obsessed with the thought my whole life, and deprived myself of much happiness for what I thought was a severe lack of it. I had no sense of my own “looks” till about 8 or so, my parents told me I was pretty before that, and my Sicilian Grandma would pinch my cheek and say , “Bella, bella!!”
Then, one summer day, my Mom decided to enter me in a local child’s beauty contest…She started by fussing with my hair. I was busy digging up bugs or something in the yard, so her newfound interest in me was a bit unsettling. I was an obedient child, so I let her fuss and fiddle. I remember it being spring, and the yard was full of bird’s chirping and golden light. Mom was in a good mood initially, then she asked me to sit a certain way on the back porch, and she whipped out a camera. Well, that seemed fine, and I asked her what the occasion was. Oooh, a little contest, and you are going to win! This made me more agreeable, initially.
. The session took quite a while, and Mom wasn’t satisfied with the efforts, so we kept pressing on. I think I must have gotten too fussy, because I don’t have any warm fuzzy feelings attached to this memory. I just know we got thru it somehow, and I went back to my scientific bug experiments.
Weeks passed, then excitedly the local gazzette prints the photos for review. All the other girls had their hair in pigtails with ribbons, lacy ruffled collars, some even had little dot earrings, or a pretty necklace. We raced thru the names to my photo…oh…my photo. Here was a ‘new’ look! With half of my little face in shadow, you could see right away that Mom hadn’t had the right lighting. Or maybe it was the bipolar side showing up even then!!! More than that, though, I was wearing just my favorite tee shirt, and my short “pageboy” haircut was in stark contrast to the other, pretty, girls. No necklace, no cute little dot earrings. And no prize.…Sigh… Mom was more upset than I was initially, I had never compared myself to other girls before that, as I recall. I do remember Dad criticizing her photo-taking ability, as he conitinued to do for the rest of her life, and thereafter for a good portion of mine(till his death!). There were rumblings inside the jealous side of my psyche, the newspaper had it all there in black and white : Susie is different. You would think that would be a good thing for a little tomboy like me, but I did not like the way it felt.
. And I really hated having my photo taken, for a long time since. But now that I am past childhood, even the one that lasted till I was 40 or so, and now that I have a wonderful electronic device to photograph myself, I like to. From time to time I get really down on myself, and I am afraid I may turn into my Mom, who would gaze at herself in the mirror and say, “I’m so ugly.” When I found her doing that it made me cry , for her, and get angry, for me, because I am her identical twin!!! We are all beautiful.
. Make sure you hear me: we are all beautiful. All of us, all the time.
There is no “wait until” time to be beautiful…until I lose weight, until I get a tan, until I grow up, until I get some body changing, unnatural surgical procedure. And you don’t lose your beauty when you age, either, so don’t fall in that rut. Or try not to.
. Be gentle in your assessment of your appearance, don’t judge yourself by peering at your reflection from 2 inches away. Everybody has enlarged pores from that distance! And scars? Honey, I have scars if you wan’t to compare them sometime. From acne, to road rash due to jumping out of a moving car, to adult chicken pox that were even in my mouth and on my bottom as a 40 year old….to all my surgery scars and beatings I received, chipped teeth and all, even the scar where my husband stabbed me, or the ones on my neck when he strangled me unconscious. Yes, I have scars.But it is really true: What is on the outside is of no importance. Some may say, that’s easy to say if you are beautiful, but what if you are disfigured? I watch alot of documentaries, and one of the recent ones was about the Young woman some years ago who had her face torn off by her friend’s pet chimpanzee. This woman was nearly dead when help arrivived, and her story is a traumatic one.
. But her daughter just says it all when she says that she used to not believe those sayings that “what is on the inside is what makes someone beautiful”, until she was with her Mom again after the accident. Her Mom is so beautiful, without a face, or hands, her inner strength and love prove the old saying true. If you are strong and can watch stories like that she really is an amazing and wonderful example to all.
. So, finally, when I was bumming out on my looks the other day, I kicked myself off the couch, put on some colorful makeup and clothes and had a silly photo shoot. It really was nice, in this isolation, to just have a play day. And the fun wasn’t over after the pictures were taken, then I had more fun editing them until I really thought , ” I am pretty!”
P.S. I did mention the make-up and photo-editing, didn’t I?
Should we tell our secrets? Burden our loved one’s with them? Jeopardize our relationships with society, our peers? Risk our reputations?
. Many people choose not to. Instead they carry that burning bucket of nastiness hidden away deep inside. Letting it rot away all their prospects for joy, searing their potential away under the scars of a guilty conscience. And , in the end, it’s all for naught. They really didn’t fool anyone, most of all they did not fool God.
. I had secrets, many, many dark ones. In my abused child’s mind a darkness festered, and I have hidden it desperately for so many years. I thought I had it hidden so well that it could never hurt anyone, least of all me. But it has Hurt me. For a long and terrible time. I thought that the God of the Bible would never forgive me, could never love me, I was that dirty and sinful and twisted. I was determined to keep my secret to the grave, and I was even working on helping that day come sooner, putting myself in the grave sooner.
Oh, I tried, but it seemed like I was indestructible , at least physically, but I was succeeding in killing me inside. The longer I held onto, the deeper I buried, the harder I punished myself …my secret was like a squirrel in a pillow case, fighting it’s squirmy way our while ripping my sanity to shreds.
The pain just got too great, and after 30+years I finally bent my knees and poured out my heart to God. It took a very long prayer, and I had to keep praying and spilling my guts to Him, purging all that blackness out of me. All those years of bottled up guilt had become a well of poison, shot from arrows from Satan, telling me I was worthless, unlovable, beyond redemption and without hope. Lies. Lies upon lies upon lies, made to keep me far away from my Creator and His Son.
When the pain of keeping my secrets became unbearable, I had found a tiny old woman, a long time student of the Bible, who took me in and saw my agony. She saw that I was full to bursting of the ugly secrets that kept me from God. She recognized my suffering and showed me in God’s word where a man named Saul who was a persecuter of Jesus followers, who chased Christians down and dragged them back to be killed, who stood by and watched while Jesus followers were stoned…This man was forgiven by God. This man was used by God to write books of the Bible under inspiration. This murderous villain was forgiven of all his sins, all his awful dirty secrets. This man became the apostle Paul.
Oh, the cleansing tears I cried, tears of gratitude and joy, tears of freedom from a horrible heavy burden. Suddenly I felt as if a Boulder had rolled off my back, I was lighter, the air was clearer, my vision better, my legs stronger. But most of all I felt a light come shining inside my darkest places, where the nasty secrets had been buried, and this light , in it’s cleansing brightness has stayed in my heart down to this day. Because God saw fit to sacrifice his perfect Son so that sinner’s like Saul, and like me, could be forgiven and have a clean conscience before Him. By Jesus ransom sacrifice I have been washed clean of all my secrets, and God has thrown all my sins behind his back, never to be remembered again.
. Oh, there is so much more to this life than I ever thought possible. I do not cower in fear anymore when darkness falls, because the light of God’s truth shines on those who repent, turn around and put faith in Jesus, and then take steps to learn about the will of the God of the Bible and do it to the best of their ability .
. You can feel this glorious unburdening too. I hope you can. I go to the website JW.org for free Bible education materials. It is totally free, and I love to look at the videos and listen to the music. It brings joy to me in these difficult times. I hope so much for you, dear readers, to feel this love and be relieved of whatever burden you carry. Thanks for reading!
I do silly things sometimes. Fairly often, in reality. Most of the time they are thoughtless mistakes, quickly forgotten by all who have been effected by them. There was a time, in the past life I lived, the one I talk so much about on this site, that I did intentionally bad things. Things that hurt people. People who loved me, acquaintances, strangers, it really did not matter. My warped bipolar, drug addicted brain could only seek it’s own gratification, usually with no apology attached. Selfish. Mean. Low down.
. I lived 20 years of my life in Pittsburgh, and went to school in a large predominately white suburb. In the large community I lived in there were 4 black children in my school, that I knew. Out of hundreds. I never wondered why, never asked why, it was just “the way it was”. These were times before forced bussing and desegregation. I never had learned to be predjudiced, it was a non-issue. The first black child I ever saw was about 4 and so was I, I clearly remember running down the hedgerow and meeting him at the opening, breathless.
Baby me in my favorite coat
. He looked at me, and I at him, and I loved him. I wanted to play with him, and he smiled happily back at me. That was 40 years ago-I remember it like yesterday. Mother used to tell visitors that I ran inside that day telling her I was going to marry him and have gray babies. That seems bizzare for a four year old (black plus white making gray) because I don’t think I even had a concept of my being “white”. (A born artist, I probably thought I was pinkish yellow or something…) But I do believe I loved him, on the spot, at first sight.
. I never saw him again, when I ran back outside the family was gone. No black people ever moved in next door, or anywhere on my block for that matter. After I grew older and went to secondary school I saw the other black children who were my age, but we never made friends. But they are stamped on my memory, because they were beautiful. They had a hard road at that school, I know, because they were talked about as being half white, like it was a curse or something. When I brought them up at home, my parents knew exactly who they were, because a “mixed race” couple must have really blown up the town’s skirts back then.
. I must have been talking about it in front of my Tennessee born Grandpa, because I remember being shocked at his reply, and the venom in it. He then said that I had black in me, because I had big lips. So, the realization dawned that prejudice was closer to home than I realized. But I still didn’t feel it, I just thought how nice brown skin would be, it wouldn’t show my pimples. A few years passed and I got my first real job, in a Sambo’s restaurant (yes, that was really the name). I was 15 and my manager was 30. He was black, and very handsome. I was besotted and we dated a couple times. I thought the age difference was exciting, and so was his skin color, and the danger was exhilarating. A danger I was now old enough to understand. He spoke of love, but never wanted me to meet any of his friends or family. I told my Mom about him, and she nearly fainted. She was not racist( I don’t believe), she sat me down and talked a long time about how my grandpa and my father would disown me, how hard the world was on mixed race couples, and it was, at that time. I said goodbye to him on the telephone and that was the end of our friendship.
When I turned 20 I moved to Florida with my Mom. I was very addicted to cocaine before I got there, and I was now living in a county where the sheriff had shipments landing on his own airstrip! It did not take long to land in jail, and then I had an epiphany. I did not hate black people, but they hated me! At least in that jail they did. There were 21 girls in a 6 man cell, we laid on the floor like sardines. When the matron first shoved me in, I saw only one other white girl, and she the meanest of the bunch. “Who did you kill? ” was jeered at me, and the verbal abuse began. I was scared, alone, jonesing and locked up for the first time in my life, and I could not understand why they hated me so bad.. I hadn’t done anything to them, had I?
. I became the brunt of their jokes, being called things I hadn’t heard before. The girls made a habit of stealing my food, taking my blankets and making my life miserable. I was learning, though. When they saw that I could draw and write pretty, I started a little letter writing racket for 1 cigarette per letter. I wrote fast and soon made some memorable friends. When I took the time to learn about my cell mates I began to be enlightened about racism. I was enlightened about my own sense of entitlement, I saw how unequal we were in our education , and in how we were treated by the guards and the police. My fear had subsided, but now I knew that racial differences could be dangerous.
. The turn my life had taken led to being around very racist white people when I got out of jail. Hateful, gun toting people. I wanted to be accepted, I wanted friends, it was not long until I learned the drawl and wore the flag. I never talked about my northern roots, I talked about my relatives in Tennessee. I played the part, got high, got drunk and said the “N” word. I hated everyone who was different, hated everyone who looked at me cross-eyed. I disliked myself most of all, for my two-faced , hypocritical ways.
. Yes, I finally cleaned up my life, got away from violence, cussing, drugs. Got away from my abusive, hateful husband when he went to Prison. Been clean and sober 20 years now, and I am a baptized worshipper of God. I preach to others about love of neighbor, love of family, obedience to God. I changed my wicked ways, I yell it from the rooftops…
It made me physically ill to watch George being murdered. I was, and am outraged. I felt like he was my friend, and all those feelings I posted in my last post. But when I went to the store in the days after his death, and a black man walked down the aisle I was in, I felt terrified. I could not look him in the eye, my face burned with shame and I wanted to run away. I did not mention this in my last post, yet that was my motivation to write it in the first place . I actually wrote about it, then got scared and deleted it! Rewrote the post without talking about my discomfort, my shame, my guilt, my anger at myself. I wanted so much to understand why I reacted that way, why I felt scared to reach past his wife to get my margarine. Why I think if she had said Boo to me I would have peed myself. Why I was unable to say how outraged I was, how I understood their anger, why I was unable to say Anything…
. But good old Sue, she changed her chameleon colors, again… Instead of peering deep into the wound to get to the heart of that ugly splinter, to pull it out and see it in the light of day, to clean the wound and bind it up to heal…I chose to cover the wound, leave the splinter, let it fester some more.
. In my dishonesty, not only to you, gentle reader, but to myself, I had the audacity to presume that my family’s history is comparable to the Floyd’s. While I am sure my ancestors experienced the pain of predjudice it was not a bit helpful to bring that up in this context, as if saying what happened to their son was just a predictable passage in the history of mankind. No, I have to do better if I truly want to clean my heart of the stain it bears. I am part of the problem too. I am not the one to act like I know what black people feel. I tied that emblem on my forehead too many times to be so saintly now…
. I’ve still got work to do, tonight and tomorrow and every day hence. I have to go sharpen my knife, and sterilize my tweezers and get that damn splinter out…I think it’s time.
This is me now, the pain has mellowed, I see love ahead!