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The Caged Bird

January 15, 2010

Once upon a time, a young boy walked along a trail in the woods near his home.

In the tangled roots of an old oak tree, he noticed a plain brown bird with a mangled wing.  The boy was familiar with the woods, and knew that if the injured bird stayed where it was, it would be eaten by another animal looking for an easy meal.

He wrapped the bird in his shirt tails, and carefully carried her home.  There, he nursed her back to health and showered her with attention and love.

By and by, the simple bird came to love the boy for saving her.  She wanted to repay him, but knew there was no way to do so.  For days, she hummed a melody in her head, composing a beautiful song for the young boy.

When it was finished, the bird sang for the boy as he fed her scraps from his dinner.  The song was so incredibly beautiful, it brought the boy to tears.  He knew, then and there, that despite the bird’s plain appearance, she was a gift to be cherished and adored.

The next day, the boy presented his special bird with a gilded cage, with all the amenities a privileged bird might desire.  He invited his friends and family to hear her song, and reveled in the joy on their faces as they listened.

But soon, the boy grew jealous of the attention showered upon his bird.  He was afraid that others may try to steal the bird, now that they knew of the joy she brought with her beautiful songs.  So he locked her away in his closet, petting her in secret as he confessed his undying devotion.

At first, the bird flourished under the boy’s attention.  But as time went on, and her wing healed, she longed for the days that she sailed among the clouds.  Still, she sang beautiful songs for the boy to show her appreciation.

One day, as the boy cleaned the bird’s cage, she noticed the door to the closet was open.  She flew outward, and found an open window. 

The joy she felt as she flew was beyond words, beyond anything she could describe.  As the bird glided, she hummed a new melody for her special boy.  Eventually, she flew back to him, full of energy and life and passion.  As she drew in a breath to sing him her new song, he clipped her wings and stuffed her gruffly into her cage, chastising her for flying away.

She wanted him to know that she always intended to come back, that her flying had nothing to do with her love for him.  But all she could do was sing, and hope he understood.

Days, weeks, months, and years passed.  The bird longed to fly above the trees, touching the clouds, but the boy kept her in her cage.  Slowly, she forgot her beautiful songs.  Instead, she chirped tonelessly as her boy handled her.

She wanted so much to sing for him, to show him how grateful she was that he saved her from certain death that day in the forest. 

He gave her everything a caged bird could want, and yet… all she wanted was the freedom to stretch her wings and fly.

One day, the boy noticed that his special bird’s dull brown feathers were falling out.  He tried to recall the last time she had sung for him, but the date eluded him.  Finally, he understood that to love her was to let her be free to share her songs with the world.

He loosened the door on her cage and carried her to the forest in his trembling hands.  Quietly, her bid her good-bye. 

Moments passed as she regarded him with her sparkling brown eyes.  As she finally took flight, she sang the most beautiful song for her captor, her savior, her love.

And night after night, she perched upon his window sill and sung him to sleep with a beautiful lullaby.

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Hide and Seek

January 12, 2010

I play hide and seek with the woman in the mirror.

It is through the steam of the shower, when droplets have formed and run small rivers down my reflection, that I see her best.  She peers back at me through a prism, sparkling and muddied, distorted like broken glass, and averts her eyes.

She is shy and insecure, a master of the game as she hides and I seek.

The woman in the mirror is an expert at finding hiding places.  She can be found behind social norms and expectations, small town gossip and fear of rejection.  She is a chameleon.

I am determined.  I will find her.  In my quietest voice, and with gentle hands, I will coax her from the dark and quiet. 

She will find that I have finally given her a home base, a place where she can call out Olly Olly Oxen Free!  It is here, now, in this place.

And, in time, I hope she will give up the game, for good.  She is home.

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Drunk at 11

January 11, 2010

I got drunk for the first time when I was 11 years old.

Some slightly older friends took me to a corner bar in Heidelberg, Germany, and the bartender handed me a Bacardi and Coke.

Being drunk made me feel free.  Free from my anxiety and my pre-teen insecurities.  I laughed, I danced, I learned to shoot pool and throw darts.

But it also made me feel out of control.  As though I was watching myself from somewhere else in the room, with no say in how the evening would proceed.

I decided, then and there, that getting drunk wasn’t my thing, no matter how much fun it was.

Only a few short months later, at the age of 12, I was raped.

Not in a bar, not in an alley, not on a train or even in the dark of night.  It was in my friend’s bedroom, on a cold, crisp, winter day. 

I wasn’t dressed provocatively.  I wore a white turtle neck, black cotton dress pants, and black boots that went click-clack when I walked across tile.  Hung carefully on a chair was the grey Member’s Only jacket I borrowed from my Daddy.

After that, I learned how to drink just enough to numb the pain.  At the age of 12, I quickly found the line between buzzed enough to feel good and drunk.

Alcohol was my crutch, the thing I turned to when I didn’t feel like life was worth living.  With it coursing through my veins, I could be a different person, one who knew nothing of fear and rape and shame.

I gave it up, eventually.  Even in my extreme youth, I knew it wasn’t the answer to my problems.  

Instead, I put my pain in a box, built a brick wall around it and walked away, hoping that if I didn’t have to look at it, I’d forget it existed.

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Out of the Abyss

December 29, 2009
I walked through life upon a tight rope.

At times, it was 10 feet wide.  Others, it was mere millimeters. 

I fell, silently.  My voice was stolen at the age of 12.  I was unable to cry for help.

Below, an abyss.  A deep, dark, prickly place.

I was walking along, happier than I’d been for some time, when I stumbled.

The abyss was waiting for me, with its greedy claws outstretched.

*

This time, I clung to the rope above me.  I didn’t want to fall.  Not this time.  Please, not this time.

I clung.  Limp.  Barely holding on.  Invisible to those passing by.

But youYou.  You know who you are.  You noticed.  You stopped.  You grabbed onto what remained of my self, and you pulled with all your might.  You didn’t know why.  You didn’t know how, but you pulled against the abyss, anyway. 

I know you hear me say thank you.  But can you ever know what it means to me to be pulled, unscathed, from the abyss?  It almost swallowed me whole for the millionth time, and you saved me.  You helped me to find my voiceThank you will never be enough.

And Nic.  You changed my life with your story.  We are sisters, you and I.  Sisters of sorrow, of grief and of unimaginable pain, but also of survival.  Your strength gives me hope for the future.

Quieter than the squeak of a field mouse, I spoke.  Filled with anger, my voice rose.

You heard me.  You stopped.  You listened.  You gave me strength.  Every one of you.

Melissa and Duchess and Sautter and Cindy and Kendra and Neena and Issa and Stacey and Nic and Tracy and Meghan and Jenna and PB and Jazz and Megan and Habanero Gal and Marinka and Heather C. and Kellee and Krissy and Eileen and Samantha and Tricia and Vixen and Lora and Kathy and Greis and Maura and Heather and Katie and Kirsten and Al_Pal and Kari and Kate and Stoneskin and Susan.  And always, always, my husband.  My trapeze artist, trying to catch me.

The abyss is still there.  It will always be there.

For twenty years, it was a deep and lonely chasm I walked above, never knowing when I might fall. 

Always, I wondered when my happiness would be taken from me.

But now.  There is a safety net below me.

The abyss has lost its power.

Thank you.

Originally Posted at The Sweet Life 8/11/2009 8:27 pm

Comments:

  • 8/11/2009 9:41 PM PrincessJenn wrote:
    You are stronger than you know. And more inspiring than you could ever imagine. Thank you for being brave enough to tell your story. (HUGS)
     
  • 8/12/2009 4:14 AM melissa wrote:
    Just know that you are getting stronger and more powerful with each word you write. xoxo
     
  • 8/12/2009 4:41 AM cat wrote:
    That was beautiful. I’m sure you have helped people out of their own abysses, as well.
     
  • 8/12/2009 6:52 AM cindy w wrote:
    Oh sweetie. I’m glad it helped, but seriously, don’t sell yourself short. You saved yourself. You are incredibly strong to have not only survived, but flourished. You kick ass. {big hugs}
     
  • 8/12/2009 7:15 AM AmazingGreis wrote:
    XOXO – I’m here anytime you need ANYTHING!!!
     
  • 8/12/2009 8:36 AM Headless Mom wrote:
    Your husband is there, we’re here. Always. To catch you, but YOU did the work. Continue to kick the abyss in the ass. We’ll celebrate all the successes together!
     
  • 8/12/2009 8:47 AM nic wrote:
    weeping tears of joy for you, my sister, my friend.
     
  • 8/12/2009 9:20 AM Neena wrote:
    bravo, my friend. bravo. If I could toast you right now I’d always wish for the existence of strong safety nets!
     
  • 8/12/2009 9:25 AM avasmommy wrote:
    You are filled with strength. You just didn’t know it. It takes courage to write about what happened to you. You found your voice, and you used it. I am proud of you.
     
  • 8/12/2009 9:49 AM Susan wrote:
    Cheers to nets of any shape, size and sort! Glad to be here for you, but YOU are the one who has done all the hard work. And you should be so proud of yourself for it.I am.
     
  • 8/12/2009 2:36 PM Issa wrote:
    Andrea, you are amazing. Sweet, funny, kind, awesome and just amazing. But this? You did this for yourself. You opened up and poured your words onto this page and you helped yourself. You never know who you could have helped with that post. Writing what you did is one of the bravest things you could have done. Truly.Still…we’re here for you whenever you need it. That’s what friends are for. To help you when you need it; pick you up when you need it and make fun of you when you get drunk at dinner.
     
  • 8/12/2009 5:22 PM jessica wrote:
    In my lifetime I don’t think I will ever write that eloquently.
     
  • 8/12/2009 9:23 PM Kathy wrote:
    You are a strong women and never alone. Blog world has saved me in many ways, you are always amongst friends.
     
  • 8/12/2009 11:26 PM Maura wrote:
    You humble me. Your strength is extraordinary. Love you.
     
  • 8/13/2009 10:55 AM Vixen wrote:
    I have no fear in being part of your safety net, because you won’t fall. Your power is within you, and has been, just waiting to be released. Much love to you. The abyss is powerless now.
  • 8/13/2009 8:06 PM anymommy wrote:
    I agree with everyone else, the strength is yours, my darling, but I’m happy to hold your hand while you muster it. Any time.
  • 8/17/2009 10:47 AM habanerogal wrote:
    I am so glad to be a part of the big human net that we can reach out to each other and hold on through the universe
     
  • 8/19/2009 7:45 PM Kari wrote:
    Thank you for sharing your voice with us.Love you!
  • h1

    Thief

    December 29, 2009
    I want him to know what he did to me.  Beyond raping me, what he did to my psyche.  To my self worth.
    I want him to know he’s the reason I have a hard time looking at myself in the mirror.

    More than that, I want him to feel badly for what he did to me.  What he stole from me.

    I want him to hurt, deep inside, knowing that he, a grown man, changed the course of a 12 year old girl’s life and walked away as if nothing had happened.

    If he’s married, I want his wife to know every detail so that she can look at him and see the monster I saw in 10 years worth of nightmares.

    I hope he has a 12 year old daughter, so that he can look at her an imagine a man doing to her, what he did to me.  

    If his kids are little, I want him to lay awake at night, afraid of his daughters meeting a man like him.  A man who will stalk them like prey, who will weave a web and catch them in it so that he can suck the life right out of them and spit them out as though they are nothing but garbage.  I want him to take that fear right out of my head, so he can see what he did to me.

    Twenty years has passed.  I’ve never sought counseling.  I’ve never dealt with being a victim. 

    And I know now, why I haven’t. 

    I’m afraid.  Afraid to voice what I’ve thought all these years: that I deserve what he did to me.

    I’ve worked my ass off to be the best person I can be.  Trying to prove to myself that I’m worth something.  I’ve only just realized, that so much I’ve accomplished in my life has been because I was compensating for being raped.

    I didn’t deserve what he did to me.  No more than someone crossing the street deserves to be run over by a drunk driver.  I have to come to terms with that. 

    Who I am is more than what he made of me.  I deserve to move on with my life.

    I deserve to look in the mirror and see what other people see, for the first time in 20 years.

     
    Originally Posted at The Sweet Life 8/7/09 10:56 am
    Comments:
    8/7/2009 11:55 AM melissa wrote:
    I wish I had words. I don’t. I’m sorry. You are extremely brave. Hugs and love to you right now.
     

    I’m proud of you for speaking out. Big hugs, lady.
     

  • 8/7/2009 1:26 PM Headless Mom wrote:
    (((hugs)))
  • The first step is what you’ve just done. Beginning to talk about it. You are way more than what he did to you.

    You are a brave woman, and I love you immensely.
     

  • 8/7/2009 1:27 PM Neena wrote:
    Your courage is amazing. There is a special place in my heart for you :o)
     
  • 8/7/2009 1:45 PM Issa wrote:
    Andrea, you are so amazing. To write this, to share with the world; it’s nothing short of bravery. You didn’t deserve this, no child ever does.
  • I met you and you are a sweet, amazing, beautiful woman who I wished I could spend more time getting to know. Tons of hugs darlin.
     

  • 8/7/2009 2:03 PM anymommy wrote:
    You do win. You are a stunning woman, a true friend, a fabulous mom, so much more than what he stole from you. But, you deserve to grieve for the little girl he abused and you deserve all your fury against his evil. Love.
     
  • 8/7/2009 2:23 PM nic wrote:
    you are not a victim… you were… you are now a survivor.
     
  • 8/7/2009 2:26 PM Tracy wrote:
    I am so sorry that this happened to you. You are so brave. Thank you for sharing this with us.
  • * hugs *
     

  • 8/7/2009 2:59 PM AMomTwoBoys wrote:
    Wow.
  • I was thinking exactly what Nic said.

    SURVIVOR.

    That’s what you are. I’m here if you ever need to talk.

    xoxo
     

  • 8/7/2009 2:59 PM avasmommy wrote:
    Andrea, you were never to blame, or deserving of what happened to you.
    I hope you find some healing now.
     
  • 8/7/2009 3:00 PM PB and Jazz wrote:
    You are a brave beautiful person. I am so sorry you had to experience what you did and so young. Thank you for sharing.
  • 8/7/2009 3:01 PM Undomestic Diva wrote:
    Wow. You are so brave. And so right. You deserve to see what I see when I look/talk/read you… someone amazing.
     
  • 8/7/2009 3:06 PM habanerogal wrote:
    Amazing and so thought provoking.
     
  • 8/7/2009 3:09 PM Marinka wrote:
    You are an amazing survivor. I’m sorry that you’ve had such pain. I feel lucky to know you. xo
     
  • 8/7/2009 3:10 PM The Mother Tongue wrote:
    You are a strong, amazing, beautiful survivor. *hugs*
     
  • 8/7/2009 3:10 PM Kellee wrote:
    Andrea, we all think you are incredible. I know can also see how amazingly brave you are. You are beautiful and strong, and you deserve to see that in yourself. Thank you for sharing that with all of us. *hug*
     
  • 8/7/2009 3:12 PM Krissy wrote:
    You truly are amazing. ((Hugs))
     
  • 8/7/2009 3:31 PM Eileen wrote:
    You are so brave and strong…..
  • and just amazing for being able to share this.

    I cannot imagine how hard this was.
     

  • 8/7/2009 3:34 PM samantha wrote:
    Such powerful words from such a brave person.
     
  • 8/7/2009 5:11 PM Tricia irishsamom wrote:
    You are awesome and brave just the way you are. You have taken the first step just writing about it. And you should know that it was NEVER EVER anything to do with you. You were a victim then but you are now a wonderful, brave, amazing woman. I wish I could give you a hug and tell you how much I hurt for you. I think this will mean so much in your journey of healing. Be proud of yourself and hold your head high. *hugs and more hugs*
     
  • 8/7/2009 5:40 PM Vixen wrote:
    You are a survivor. I would welcome you to the club (I, too, am one), but I really wish I didn’t have to. This opening up is the first step on your road, bravo. And hugs and love too.
     
  • 8/7/2009 5:42 PM Lora wrote:
    Andrea, absolutely you did not deserve it. You are brave to post this, and you deserve to seek counseling, to be released from the pain of it. I wish you all the best in your journey.
     
  • 8/7/2009 8:52 PM Kathy wrote:
    Andrea you are brave and should be proud of the women, mother and wife you have become. You are not a victim but a survivor. My he rot in hell! Hugs!
     
  • 8/7/2009 9:00 PM AmazingGreis wrote:
    You have just won. Your courage and strength to speak out and share your story is amazing. This is the first step in healing yourself. You will likely never forget, but to be able to speak about it will help immensely.
  • You are a beautiful, smart, outgoing and amazing woman. I’m so lucky to have met you and to consider you a friend. I’m a phone call away if you EVER need anything.

    I love to listen and give really good virtual hugs.

    XOXO
     

  • 8/7/2009 11:20 PM Maura wrote:
    I am so indescribably proud of you. Now you just need to let your head listen to your heart so you will see the woman we see. Love you.
  • 8/8/2009 10:21 AM heather… wrote:
    I see you. Strong, ferocious, tenacious. An amazing wife, a fantastic mother, and a giving friend. I am so, so sorry that you had this happen to you, but I am so, so proud that you are speaking out and reclaiming YOU.
     
  • 8/8/2009 11:50 AM Overflowing Brain wrote:
    You and I had similar blogging weeks. Good for you, you’re not alone.
  • xo

  • 8/8/2009 7:10 PM Kirsten wrote:
    You are so brave to write this. So brave.
  • h1

    Coming

    December 29, 2009
    I can feel it coming.

    Like a storm cloud off in the distance.

    It rumbles and rolls, inside my head and my heart.

    I hate that it can still do this to me.

    I wish I could leave the past in the past.

    If there were a pill I could take that would wash it away, I would take a dozen.

    I can feel it coming.

    I have to say I’m sorry, in advance, for what may appear here in the coming days.  Weeks?

    I have to let it out.  It has stormed inside of me for far too long.

    Twenty years of letting it beat me down, and finally, I will conquer it. 

    I’m ready to fight.

    This time, I will win.

    I will win.

    Originally Posted at The Sweet Life 8/7/09 9:44 am

    Comments:

  • 8/7/2009 9:55 AM Maura wrote:
    You don’t have to say you’re sorry for letting your words out in your own space. Ever.
     
  • 8/7/2009 1:01 PM cindy w wrote:
    Everybody here is rooting for you, hon. Say/do whatever you need to say/do to take care of yourself. xoxo
     
  • 8/7/2009 1:48 PM Issa wrote:
    You don’t have to apologize for any of it. No matter what you need to say…and yes, I’m reading backwards…but still. This is your space, love. Write whatever you need too. Your words are beautiful and you are as well.
  • 8/7/2009 2:24 PM nic wrote:
    you are winning! you are! keep writing, unapologetically. 
  • 8/7/2009 8:49 PM AmazingGreis wrote:
    You WILL win! And you don’t have to apologize to me!!!Hope all is well, you know where to find me if you need anything.

    XOXO
     

  • 8/7/2009 8:53 PM Kathy wrote:
    You are winning and some day I hope the storm passes.
     
  • 8/8/2009 1:39 PM melissa wrote:
    This is how you will win and we are all on your team. Keep writing and DO NOT apologize.
  • h1

    The Other Side of Addiction

    December 29, 2009
    She was in my life for what felt like forever, but was, in the grand scheme of things, a brief moment.

    Four years we spent doing things best friends do.  I loved her.  In truth, I love her still.

    It’s impossible to know if the person she showed me was who she thought I wanted to see, or if it was some semblance of the real her. 

    I like to think I knew her.  That I didn’t come to love a person she only pretended to be.

    I trusted her with my feelings, my deepest thoughts, my children’s lives.  Apart from my husband and the midwife, she was the only other person in the room when my youngest child was born.

    We shared.  We laughed.  We loved.

    And then she was gone, in the blink of an eye.

    She was an addict, her boyfriend said.  Vicodin.  He’d only just discovered it himself.

    And she was gone.

    He told me things then, things that hurt my heart and my head and my soul.

    About the person I thought she was, how she really felt about me, about my kids.

    I dream about her.  I dream she comes back, and explains that he was just lashing out in anger.  Maybe he was trying to make it easier for me to let her go.  Maybe he was vindictively trying to burn her bridges for her.  Maybe he was simply telling the truth.

    I’ll never know. 

    But still, I love her.  The person I knew, and the parts she hid from me.  I only wish she’d trusted me enough to let me see.

    Maybe she could have left knowing I love her, anyway.  That I love her enough to help her through it.

    I wish I could tell her that.

    Originally Posted at The Sweet Life 7/31/2009 9:26 am

    Comments:

  • 7/31/2009 11:35 AM AmazingGreis wrote:
    Great post. I totally had a friend that just disappeared, not sure why, but she stopped calling and coming around. I think about her often, but I can’t say that I continue to miss her to this day. But I do still think about her and what her life must be like now.XOXO 
  • 7/31/2009 11:59 AM melissa wrote:
    Drugs are a scary thing and addiction is serious disease. It changes people. I’ve been unfortunate to see it first hand. The one thing I do know and have heard many times over is addicts are know to hurt those they care about the most.I think you are right. I think she truly wanted to push you away because she didn’t want to let herself hurt you. I honestly believe that.
     
  • 7/31/2009 12:21 PM Issa wrote:
    I’ve lost one of my brothers to addiction. He’s still alive, but he’s no longer him, the spunky kid I grew up with.It’s the people who are left behind who always wonder. Wonder what could have been, what was real, what could have changed it?

    All I know it, this is a wonderful post. And? I am sending you an Internet hug right now.
     

  • 8/1/2009 2:49 AM Ben wrote:
    People are their actions. If she was always a friend to you, that was the person she wanted you to see. That’s the person she wanted to be when she was with you. That’s the person she was.Addicts aren’t evil. They’re sick. Often they know it. She may have wished she wasn’t that person. With you she may have not been that person. She would probably didn’t want you to even know that person existed.

    At her worst times, when she said those things, she may have been angry or jealous. Regardless, I doubt your friendship was artificial. Hopefully one day she’ll remember that and come back into your life.
     

  • 8/2/2009 11:54 AM Maura wrote:
    I’m not sure what affects me more, your post or Ben’s response. Both are wonderful to read. Addiction has played such a huge roll in my life, but I don’t even talk about it. Maybe I should. I feel for you and the friend that you lost.
     
  • 8/5/2009 11:42 AM Annje wrote:
    I think Ben is right. Even if she said those things, it was the drugs speaking. What was not fair, was her boyfriend telling you that–he is probably angry and suffering as well. I am dealing with loved ones with addictions as well and it is heart-wrenching. I can understand your doubts as to what was real or not–I have those too.
     
  • 8/6/2009 11:22 AM Lu wrote:
    I am going through the same situation right now with my sister. I totally agree with Ben. I think that it was the real side o who she wanted to be with you. Addicts are great chameleons.
    I wish I could give you some great insight or hope, but I am walking this path with you.
    HUGS
     
  • 8/6/2009 12:04 PM merlotmom wrote:
    I’m sorry about your friend and sorry that she hurt you. I think you’re right though. You need to trust that what you felt was genuine when you were with her, was. THe other stuff was the drugs, or something else, talking.
     
  • 8/6/2009 6:33 PM anymommy wrote:
    She was your friend, don’t let second hand information color your memory. Okay, I just read the comments, Ben said it beautifully.It’s lovely writing too, we all have friends lost. I tend to blame myself, so I hope you are seeing this clearly, it was her addiction.
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