I find life to be strangely comforting in its consistency sometimes. No matter how frustrated I am by own inner turmoil, life goes on. It doesn’t wait for me to figure anything out. I still have to get up tomorrow and put one foot in front of the other even if I don’t have a plan.
I find myself at a very weird place. The abnormal and rare have become normal and common for me. I am speaking about my relationship with my mother. After much soul-searching, meditation, and prayer, I have come to a painful yet strangely peaceful conclusion: it’s time for this to end. My heart doesn’t even feel broken, but that’s probably because my heart broke years ago. I love my mother to pieces, but she doesn’t really know how to love me. So, I am going to do the last thing I can for her. I am going to tell her the truth by revealing to her that she has a psychiatric disorder, primarily Borderline Personality Disorder. I have a very good book for her and a letter. Then, there’s the ultimatum. She must find a clinician who is trained to work with those who have Borderline Personality Disorder and get treatment–and stick with the prescribed treatment–or there will be no relationship anymore. My husband has a prediction; she’ll try to commit suicide for the umpteenth time. My therapist also predicted the same thing. Is that on me? No. I can no longer be held responsible for her happiness and well-being. She’s a grown woman! I’ve been her keeper since birth. No more. I can’t stay on the other side of the closet door, begging her to put down the revolver and the pills. She must find her own reason for living outside of me. She tried to clip my wings, but, somehow, I found my wings anyway; and, I flew away. She just hasn’t figured that out yet.
I don’t expect that many people will understand. I have had to cut off both parents. I have no family left. I asked BT (Beloved Therapist) yesterday if I was weird, having had to make the choices I’ve made. There have been people who have judged me harshly for walking away from my father. Not many people know the truth about him. What he did to me. I can only say that he hated me. He truly did. Sociopaths are like that, and he is one. A pedophile, too. I have the scars to prove it. Even a scar on the right side of my face from a car’s cigarette lighter. I was only 2 years-old. He thought it was funny. When my mother saw it she screamed at him, and said, “How could you?! She isn’t perfect anymore.” Doesn’t that sum it up? His own father committed suicide, and I just learned in a roundabout way that his mother, my grandmother, died by suicide as well. Pain. So much pain there. It makes me very sad. I must look to a different path and decide a different trajectory for my own life and the life of my daughters. It’s time to start over. No more cigarette burns. No more whippings and floggings. No more sexual abuse. No more…anything.
Suffice it to say, I know loneliness, and I know what it is to feel like there is no one behind you. I have often been so envious of people who have a family network. When they have a problem or a crisis or even a bad day, they have someone to call. Money is low? They can call Mom or Dad, Sister or Brother, Cousin or Godparent. For so long, I feel like I have been living on a tiny rocky island in the middle of the boiling ocean. Take one step back, and I’ll fall into the bottomless abyss. There will be no one to catch me. There is no one to call. I am on my own.
What would it be like, I’ve often wondered, to have someone to call? What would it be like to have someone behind me? A person to whom I might always turn? A person who wouldn’t let me down, or hurt me, or kick me when I’m down, or leave scars on my body and heart? These are legitimate questions.
I’m a lover of birds. I like to listen to them. I love to watch them. I kept Lovebirds when I was growing up–Marc Antony and Cleopatra. I especially love raptors–hawks, eagles, falcons, owls. Birds of prey fascinate me. I am blessed in that we have many raptors in my neck of the woods as well as a large variety of song birds. Whenever I watch birds, I feel that I am somehow privy to something I shouldn’t be. Sort of like looking underneath Mother Nature’s skirt. A few years ago, I was feeling very low. I would say that I was in the middle of a bout of clinical depression. The weight of my circumstances and past issues were pressing down upon me, and I couldn’t bear it. I felt crushed. I felt alone. I was experiencing pain all over my body. My youngest daughter was crying all the time, and I don’t exaggerate. She had undiagnosed autism, and she was in a bad place. My mother was harassing me, my husband was not being helpful, and I found myself in a place where I began to plan my own death. I was suicidal. Flashbacks of my abduction and subsequent captivity were washing over me again and again. I could actually feel myself being raped continuously. It was like being tortured. Death seemed like the only relief. The only way out.
A friend of mine sent me a card. She had written a portion of Isaiah 51:
The ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. “I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mortal men, the sons of men, who are but grass that you forget the Lord your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, that you live in constant terror every day because of the wrath of the oppressor, who is bent on destruction? For where is the wrath of the oppressor? The cowering prisoners will soon be set free; they will not die in their dungeon, nor will they lack bread. For I am the Lord your God, who churns up the sea so that its waves roar—the Lord Almighty is his name. I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand—I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’”
Now, when I read something like that, I enter into it. Yeah, I was living in terror. I was oppressed. I needed someone to come to my rescue, and I needed comfort. When I read that card, my initial response was to cry out. I pointed a finger at the ceiling and yelled, “Oh yeah?! Well, where the hell are you? I don’t feel any comfort! Start speaking my language! I’m dying here! Move the seas then. Place me under the shadow of your hand. God, help me because I’m not going to survive this.” As I stood in my kitchen sobbing, I looked out my window. It was then that I saw two doves perched on the bird feeder in my backyard. I stopped moving. They were a mating pair of grey Mourning Doves. I had never had doves at my feeder before. They stayed for ten minutes and cooed while they ate. In the Bible, the dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, or the presence of God. In that moment, I could believe that God was speaking my language–he was comforting me, letting me know that he was indeed going to rise from his throne and act on my behalf. I love birds. For some reason, they bring me immeasurable happiness. Or, I could dismiss the doves’ presence at my feeder as a coincidence. I wasn’t sure. Funnily enough, those doves returned to my feeder for seven days in a row. Each time, they stayed for ten minutes, cooing, eating, kissing each other in their avian way.
Did my life suddenly transform? Nope. I had a long road ahead of me, but I had hope. What’s more, I had this feeling that “someone” might be behind me. Maybe I wasn’t alone after all. Perhaps I could lean back and find that I wasn’t going to fall into a bottomless abyss. Perhaps I could lean back and rest.
Something else changed that day, too. God started speaking my language; the language of birds, that is. I have been allowed to take part in the secret life of birds on so many occasions since those two doves landed on my feeder. I have watched cardinals kiss and feed each other. I came home from an evening Christmas Eve walk a few years ago only to find a gorgeous Great Horned Owl perched in the massive elm tree in my yard. We made eye contact, and he stayed in my tree, staring at me in his peculiar feline way for at least five minutes until our neighborhood murder of crows chased him off. I have seen a Great Grey Owl owlet and its mother cuddling, and I even watched that mother catch a sparrow in midair at dusk. Last summer, a young Peregrine Falcon decided that the lamppost across the street from my house would be a lovely place from which to practice launching. Every afternoon for a week, this young raptor practiced flying down our street from his favorite launch point. My favorite experiences, however, would be my Bald Eagle sightings. Every time I feel deeply discouraged in my life, I see a Bald Eagle. I might see one sitting on the side of the road or perched in a tree. I even saw one flying directly next to my car window. I’m not kidding.
For me, these sightings and experiences have all been signposts, if you will, that I am not only on the right track but also not alone. In a way, it’s God putting skin on, or feathers as the case may be, and breathing a bit of life into my world, speaking my language.
There are no easy answers for any of us. It doesn’t matter if you’re ending a relationship, facing unemployment, dealing with longterm mental health issues, or any other issue that faces humanity. There are many questions, but the answers…? I don’t know. For me, it feels like there is a great deal of digging around, waiting, and looking up and out. I do know that whatever the circumstance, I want to put meaning to it. In that way, I won’t suffer purposelessly.
I put out a bird feeder a few weeks ago. It always takes a while for the birds that winter here to discover a new feeder, but find it they do. I have looked out my window every morning in hopes that I might find a bird or two on my feeder. I know that they will come sooner or later so I have noticed that I’m able to wait with patience. Sure enough, I saw a Black-capped Chickadee flitting about the feeder this morning. They are one of the cutest birds in our state. My grandfather used to call me ‘chickadee’ when I was a little thing. I always smile when I see them fluffed up, looking fat and round. The chickadee will also eat right out of your hand!
I smiled when I saw that little wintertime bird. You and me, we’re not alone. Our feelings and circumstances don’t always tell us the truth. They certainly don’t tell us the truth about who we are. To one man, I was worthless. Something to rape and burn. But, I was also another man’s ‘chickadee’. I might feel alone like no one is behind me. Am I? Not anymore. I might be faced with a very hard situation right now, but I’m not facing it by myself. I’m also not that victimized girl anymore even if my brain likes to seize up every now and then.
I’m the woman who drives in the company of eagles. You…I bet you are stronger, more powerful, and more beautiful than you imagined, too. And, someone’s behind you, too.