What Easter is to me

For me, Easter is not lilies and springtime and joyous celebration of resurrection.

Seven years ago this season, I miscarried a tiny being that I already loved.

I was in church at Easter Sunday services when I began to bleed. By the time I was home, she was already almost completely gone from me.

For weeks afterward, I still felt pregnant — the bloating, nausea, hunger, and fatigue stuck to me like a reminder that could not be forgotten for even a moment.

When I conceived Nick a month and a half later, I was still grieving what I had lost.

I experienced the mixed joy and pain of the newness of life in my womb, and the death I had experienced so recently.

For me, Easter is about coming to terms with death. For me, Easter is about grief. I do not celebrate a risen lord on Sunday morning. I celebrate that I held death in my body and it did not kill me. I celebrate that I was blessed to be born female and fertile, and that I was able to have the experience of loss in all the ways that I have experienced loss.

Blessed be you who have miscarried and grieve it still. You contain both death and life, and all the terrible privilege that comes with it.

This post originally published at rhiannoncahours.com. It has been lightly edited.

Dedicated to the person who accidentally taught me boundaries: my father.

I just read an article that reminded me very much of my estrangement from my father.

In it, the author waxes eloquently about how badly she misses her adult children, who no longer speak to her. Only at the very end of the article does she sort-of kind-of admit that she might have done something wrong, but it’s unclear and downplayed.

Unclear and downplayed, like every memory I ever got up the gumption to mention to my dad, waiting for his acknowledgement that yes, that did happen, and oh God, I am so sorry.

It only ever happened once in my entire life, and I can still remember it: I was six or seven years old, and I had just gotten a spanking for something I hadn’t actually done. (My sense of personal justice was horribly bruised, as you can probably imagine.) My little brother’s guilt was revealed — I don’t remember how, he couldn’t have been more than five years old — and my dad had JUST punished me, but he pulled me into his arms and cried while I cried, telling me how sorry he was.

I still remember this because it is the only time it ever happened, and in retrospect, it hurts even more that he was only sorry for the mistake he made when I was still young enough to believe that every word he said was truth.

Really, the word ‘estrangement’ seems too optimistic, as if somehow I did not want it to happen, was hoping for it not to be so.

I didn’t want it to be like that when I was younger. I wanted a relationship with my dad. I wanted him to be proud of me. I wanted to feel somehow accepted by him, wholly, no matter what I did or didn’t do.

I wanted the dad who cried over his mistake and asked my forgiveness.

But that is not the kind of person my dad is now. It is not the kind of person he was when I was a child, excepting that one shining, tear-streaked memory I have.

And that is why I don’t talk to him any more. I grew weary of putting myself in harm’s way again and again, allowing him close just so he could suddenly become emotionally manipulative (as if he ever stopped, it is in his blood and breath and always will be). I grew weary of small moments where it seemed he had reached an inch or two across the chasm between us, while I was balanced precariously over the gaping void beneath me, having reached a hundred miles in the hopes he would have met me anywhere at all.

I learned, relationship after relationship showing me what I didn’t realize was true: that I did not really value myself, that I wanted someone to both love me and punish me, to heal the wound in my heart that had been there, bleeding slowly, since I was a little girl.

Children of narcissistic abusers have a preternatural ability to handle misfortune.

We can clean up, chin up, and resolve to do better, all while the abuser screams and breaks chairs and doors and trust and promises and hearts. We take in all the violence and we believe we can make them be better, so we allow ourselves to be hurt again and again and again. We do our best to absorb it, as if we are folding shards of glass and razors and blunt serrated bread knives into the soft skin of our bodies, and we pretend that it does not hurt that badly, that it is not killing us, that we are not nearly dead from it.

In the between-times, when things are good and smiles and generosity, we can see that we were right. Things are okay. That won’t happen again, because now we are doing it right, whatever it is we desperately want to do correctly in order to never see the monster’s teeth again.

I don’t really know how I stopped doing that. Or, what is probably more accurate, I don’t know how I stopped doing it blindly and believing I was doing all the right things.

I will always have scar tissue that spells my father’s name across my heart. It will never be something that no longer aches from time to time, like today.

I mourn that which never was: because our relationship, as I hoped for it to be so many times across all the hours and days and years, never existed that way.

You cannot truly love a person who only loves themselves, and only sees others as an extension of their needs, wants, desires, fears, and failures.

I did begin to learn to love myself.

I don’t want to make it sound like I have become bereft of all hope. In my relationships now, I still sometimes take all the pain in, including the pain that has not yet happened — because I am able to. What a terrible gift to have, really.

If you are a survivor of childhood abuse, I want you to know that it is okay not to repair the relationship with that person. You are not obligated to make yourself into the image of their idea of you. And you are not obligated to subject yourself to whatever recurring abuse you almost certainly will receive at their hands again, no matter how much stronger you are now.

So to my father, I dedicate this piece of writing, because he taught me why boundaries around my self, around my heart, around my children and my choices and my life, are not just a good idea: they are essential to my safety and to my ability to continue on as a person who does not relive her abuse every time her abuser decides to try out the relationship again.

Wrap yourself in your own love and trust: it is more than enough. You are worthy of love, real love that does not kill you a little at a time. Reach out to someone who loves you if you need help. Reach out to me. Call the National Domestic Abuse hotline, 1-800-799-7233.

This post originally published at rhiannoncahours.com

My perpetual broken heart

Everything is so close to the surface lately.

We’ve been in the process of moving to a new place, and it’s an eight minute drive from our current place so I have been using my truck to haul loads of packed-up things to our new sunny apartment. I spend lots of time imagining how we will configure all our stuff. A few days ago, I even gridded out the room sizes on graph paper so that I could arrange and rearrange the furniture well before we’re moving it over.

In order to get all the moving parts of moving (ha ha) in order, I’ve had to hustle harder than usual. More phone calls, more driving, more projects, more work, more invoices, more deadlines.

Two days ago I pulled into a bank parking lot on my way home from Meijer so that I could give ten dollars and a small bag of snacks to the man who holds a sign for his grandson, who is only eighteen and needs a new kidney. He was so peaceful and kind, and thanked me. We hugged and he prayed and as I walked away, my huge grin turned to wracking sobs and I sat in my truck and bawled.

Everything is so close to the surface: there is so little I can really do other than see the pain and offer a token of my love and my fervent prayer for all to be well.

My children continue to get older — taller, cleverer, more articulate — and sometimes just looking at them breaks my heart. How beautiful and precious they are. How fragile is the cord that stretches between each one’s heart and mine; and how perfectly complete I feel in the knowledge that these wonderful people are my kids.

I keep waking up from dreams that have left me with a profound sense of something, or someone, that is missing.

There is someone there, some spirit or ghost or being, that knows me. Someone I know is there, someone whose presence I often feel. I only see them in my dreams, and that only occasionally. They wear different faces, showing up so that I know that I am loved.

Who knew that love could make a person feel so sad sometimes?

My heart is broken open; everything is so close to the surface.

It is preferable to being wrapped up so tightly that I cannot sense anything. I would rather see and feel the pain and sorrow of life than be immune to all of it.

This post originally published at rhiannoncahours.com – it has been lightly edited.

Pour some grace on it

Lately, I am a bundle of cranky-ness and problems.

I am struggling with these seasonal allergies, which have in fact never gone away since I started experiencing them hard-core two years ago. I am unhappy in my skin, frustrated with my living space, trying not to hate the way the humidity wraps itself around me and it’s only JUNE, there are at least two more unbearably hot months to come before this damp sticky air goes away.

I can’t seem to get out, or do anything, because the timing is always off.

It is always time to rest instead of doing.

Time to sit and drink tea and wait for the headache to pass.

Time to think instead of acting.

Time to stay indoors out of the thunderstorm.

Time to wait, to be patient, to sit on my hands.

I really fucking hate waiting, you guys.

Yesterday, I wrote a letter. It’s partly to my step-mom and partly to my dad — to her, because she was the one who wrote me the letter I’m responding to; and to him, because his thoughts and his beliefs have become her own, and half the letter reads like it was dictated by him. It was a difficult and upsetting letter to write, but there are things in it that I have needed to say for years. And I have said some of them now, and that does feel good.

I haven’t sent it yet. I’m doing that tonight.

Last week I went to the doctor, because now that I have insurance, I was beyond excited to make an appointment for a physical. I asked for all the tests and all the bloodwork I was allowed to get, within reason, because it’s been so long and I want to take care of myself. I found out that I have one of the myriad strains of the HPV virus, and then I found out that I had an abnormal PAP result — some abnormal cells, nothing pre-cancerous, but we’re going to take care of it now because that’s the safe, smart thing to do.

I sat and was stunned and then I cried a lot and then I wondered what would happen to my kids if something were to happen to me, and I told my boyfriend and then I told a dear spiritual friend and then I told my mom and then I told my sister. (And now everyone can know.)

Sometime soon, I will go to a gynecologist and have a colposcopy. My mother is going with me. I am afraid and I am nervous and I am pretty sure I will be just fine, but it’s on my mind all the same.

Why am I telling you this?

Because there is shame here that I want to uncover and wash clean with grace.

I have no shame that, in my searching for love and meaning, somewhere along the way I contracted a common STI. I’m a human being, and some of us get sick. Actually, I’m sure each one of us gets sick at some point in our lives. Being sick is not a thing to be ashamed of.

At first I thought — here it is again, just like when your first husband left you — you’re a dirty used sock, and until you’re cleaned up you’re useless. Disgusting. Leftovers.

But right away, I remembered that NO, that is bullshit. I am whole. I am nobody’s leftovers. And there is no shame here.

Also, I want you to know that if you have health insurance, use it. If you can figure a way to get some, get it. Call your local community health department. Find out if there is even the smallest of chances that you can get care, and take all of it that you are able to. Make sure you are healthy, and if you aren’t, figure out what to do next. You matter. You are loved.

I’m spinning my wheels but I’m also surrounded by love.

My mom is here today visiting. This summer is the Summer of Cousins — my brother’s daughter and my oldest nephew will both be here for several weeks.

My boyfriend’s mom is moving literally around the corner from us. My sweethearted friend Lynn, bearer of tea and brownies, is close enough for hugs and in-person conversation any time either of us wants it.

Thank goodness for all that love, because otherwise I’d just be a cranky bitch who hates humidity.

This post originally published at rhiannonllewellyn.com – it has been lightly edited.