Facing the Unknown–My Messy Beautiful

When I first received the email from Momastery detailing The Messy Beautiful Warrior Project, I knew I wanted…no…HAD…to be a part of it. You see, the whole reason I started this blog is because of Glennon and the shameless truth-telling and hope-spreading she does everyday when she shows up for her Monkees, as well as the rest of the world. Truly a force of nature that one. With all her brokenness, and honesty about the brutifulness of life, she sets me free over and over again by reminding me it’s okay to let the world see me. Shame doesn’t lie in honesty. Peace does. And when you come clean, you often discover not only are you not alone, but you’re in amazing company…and together we’ll make the best of what’s around. The last part is a line from a Dave Matthews song. I feel the same soul connection to him that I do about G…I’ve just known him longer.

Completely blurry and imperfect...but you can see the joy!!

Me and Glennon. Completely out of focus and imperfect…but you can see the joy!!

But I digress.

This post is about how my broken, messy path in life has qualified me as a warrior and equipped me for future battles.  If you follow my blog already (thank you, btw), you may have read this. If not, then welcome! The aforementioned post is not required reading by any means, it’s just a prequel…sort of.  But onward we march.

I grew up in a small Southern town, where people not only knew each other, but could also greet the skeletons in their respective closets by name. In fact, trying to keep secrets was as useless as a trapdoor in a canoe. Perhaps that’s why, once I managed to recall and assemble the memories from my fractured childhood, I felt perfectly comfortable…even relieved…writing about them for the world to see. Except for one, which continues to haunt me to this very day. In fact, my heart is racing and my hands are trembling as I sit here on Good Friday, about to lay my soul bare just before attending a prayer vigil at church. No time like the present, right? Okay, no more stalling.

When I was in the 3rd grade I had a very good friend–let’s call her Ginger–because that’s not her real name. She lived just down the street from me, so I used to walk to her house to play and vice versa. Although we lived very close, we went to different schools.  Her mom worked at a local elementary school, so Ginger was allowed to attend that school because logistically it was easier. The only time we saw each other was after school, on weekends, during holiday breaks or for sleepovers. Ginger lived with her mama and adoptive dad. Best I can remember, Ginger’s biological father either died when she was a baby, or was never part of her life. When her mom married Guy (also not his real name) he adopted Ginger so they all had the same last name. Or something like that. Sorry for the hazy details. Maybe that’s what happens when you suppress memories for 30+ years and then try to drudge them up?

Anyway, Ginger was the only child in her house. Although her mom and Guy tried to have a baby, I think I remember overhearing Mama say–in a hushed tone– they were unable to conceive. In hindsight, this was perhaps a God-send. What I  remember in shockingly vivid detail though, is one afternoon in particular. I was at Ginger’s house, and I’m not sure why…but her mom wasn’t there. Guy was in charge. We were playing in her room and he came in and sat down on her bed. Then he began stroking my very long, straight hair while saying, “Your hair is pretty. If I ever have a little girl, I want her to be just like you”, despite the fact Ginger was sitting right there listening. I’m sure that must have upset her, and evoked resentment. Just writing it makes me sick to my stomach. Sometime after that, could have been days or weeks…the phone rang at my house, and it was Ginger asking me to come over and spend the night. I covered the phone, turned to Mama and explained how I didn’t want to go and “would she please tell Ginger’s mom I couldn’t”?  She obliged, and may have asked why I was adamant about not going, but I don’t remember her pressing the issue. Again, it’s all foggy.

Eventually they moved away, out of state. I have no idea why. Maybe a change of employment, maybe a guilty conscience. Who knows? Ginger and I kept in touch by writing letters. On real paper, with stamps and everything! Then one day, maybe during 4th or 5th grade, I was in class and the office aide came to get me because my mom was on the phone and needed to speak to me. Thinking about that day still makes me shudder. Mama was calling to tell me that Ginger and her parents had shown up for a surprise visit. Oh, and Ginger and her dad were coming to pick me up from school early! A feeling of panic set in, but I internalized it, careful not to draw attention to myself while standing in the school office. I told her I wanted to stay at school, and begged her not to send them. By then she had to know something was amiss, because let’s face it…what kid doesn’t want to leave school early? Seriously.  Nonetheless, they picked me up…but Mama was with them. Thank you, God. After that I don’t remember seeing or talking to them ever again. If I had to speculate, I’d be willing to bet both my parents suspected Guy of molesting me, but couldn’t prove it because I was too afraid to tell them anything. Apparently, they decided it best to make sure the friendships were simply severed. Since they lived out of state, it was easy enough to just…lose…touch. Figuratively, and literally. Amen.

There are few things in life I’m fearful of. Among them…snakes, water I can’t see through (oceans, lakes, rivers, etc), suffocation (I’ve been in anaphylactic shock numerous times due to medication allergies, so I know what it feels like) and… that man’s face. Yes, I remember it. If he were to pass me on the street, I would stop dead in my tracks. His gaze haunts me, and the sound of his voice in my head is frightening. He is my Boogeyman, but the exact details of why are no doubt lying just beyond the reach of my cognitive memory. Both my parents are in Heaven now, so I can’t ask them what really happened. Nor do I blame them for not pursuing the matter. Living in a small town is both a blessing and a curse sometimes. Thus far, just the flashbacks have made me hyperaware and vigilant when it comes to the safety of The Beans. I’ve made sure they understand never to be afraid of tattling on anyone who makes them feel uncomfortable. Even adults–especially adults. Be warned: come after me, and I’ll fight ’til I fall. Hurt my babies? God have mercy on your soul. My survival is a testament to sheer will, considering all the things I’ve endured, and if this tiny little five-foot-one-inch warrior can walk through the fire of life unscathed, forgiving along the way…well then…so can you.

So I guess that’s it. Not a secret anymore, and if knowing I’m a Messy, Beautiful Warrior helps someone else drop their armor and face their own battle then it’s definitely been worth telling.

Now. Back to Dave….

Hey my friend
It seems your eyes are troubled
Care to share your times with me
Would you say you’re feeling low and so
A good idea would be to get it off your mind

See, you and me
Have a better time than most can dream
Have it better than the best
And so can pull on through
Whatever tears at us
Whatever holds us down
And if nothing can be done
We’ll make the best of what’s around.

(The Best of What’s Around; RCA Records, 1994)

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This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

Comments

  1. I have to tell you how truly brave and courageous you are for sharing this here with all. I cannot even imagine what you felt or went through at such a young age. My heart goes out to you just reading this here tonight. As a mom to two young girls, I can say without a doubt that I am very vigilant as to who they are friends with and their parents, as well, knowing that stuff like this does indeed exist and can happen without warning. Again, thank you for sharing.

    • calibamamom says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Janine. I have 3 girls myself, and this is my worst nightmare when considering where they go and what they do, so I am hyper-vigilant about knowing families they associate with as a whole. I get CONSTANT eye-rolls from my teen, because I follow up every request she puts in to go somewhere, with a phone call to whomever the parent is supposedly in charge. Fortunately, the bulk of their close friends are either friends of ours through church or long-standing family friends, or both.

  2. Visiting from Honest Voices… thank you for sharing your truth with us!

Give it to me straight. I can take it :-)

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