Saturday, March 16, 2013

To This Day

and if a kid breaks in a school
and no one around chooses to hear
do they make a sound?

                Upon first hearing Shane Koyczan’s poem “To This Day”, I wept. Having now heard it and read it many times, the impact is no less. He has put so eloquently into words how so many of us feel-to this day. Yes, I have left it behind, in a sense. But the long-term effects are subtle. The long-term effects are a handy tool for the Enemy to use against us. That’s why, to this day, criticism stings me harder, certain words trigger a feeling of nausea, and the positive is easily buried beneath the negative if I am not careful.

every school was a big top circus tent
and the pecking order went
from acrobats to lion tamers
from clowns to carnies
all of these were miles ahead of who we were
we were freaks
lobster claw boys and bearded ladies
juggling depression and loneliness playing solitaire spin the bottle
trying to kiss the wounded parts of ourselves and heal
but at night
while the others slept
we kept walking the tightrope
it was practice
and yeah
some of us fell

                “Hey, Purd!” I can never forget it. I have tried. I won’t even tell how I got the nickname; it is too painful. It sounded like it didn’t mean anything, and that was the beauty of it for Her and all of Her lemmings. They knew I would never tattle, because then I would have to explain. So they could shout it at me on the bus or across the middle school campus and I would try to ignore it. “PURD! You look PURDY today!” Explosive laughter. Strange looks from people. Quizzical looks my friends, from my brother.”What does that even mean?” I never told. So they would say to Her, “Why don’t you shut up?” and of course She would put on a face of innocence. It was just a made-up word, what was the problem?

                That nickname did not follow me to high school, because She moved away. I began tenth grade with a profound sense of relief and a little bit of hope, which was quickly dashed those first few weeks. Some of Her lemmings tried the name, but it didn’t sound the same without Her to egg them on…so they came up with new ones, things that everyone could understand perfectly well…and I still never told because by then it seemed pointless as well as immature. Back then we were told to get over it, as long as no one was doing anything to us physically.

                When the cutting began, along with the hostility toward my parents, the diagnosis of borderline personality was made. How ironic is that? Day after horrible day I had to deal with being tortured by people who enjoyed watching others suffer, but I was the one with a personality disorder? At the time, though, I bought into it because I was already convinced there was something wrong with me anyway. My parents, not so much, especially when the suggestion was made to put me on Prozac. No, thanks. The idea of drugging their sixteen-year-old daughter was abhorrent to them, and they were right. In fact, I myself am opposed to that sort of thing under most circumstances-and I am not talking about legitimate things like actual ADD or bipolar disorder, in which case medication may be necessary in order for a person to function normally-but I am talking about drugs administered to mask the actual problem. Having gone through that with my son, who was put on Abilify at the age of ten, it makes me shudder.

                Looking back, I realize some things. I realize that I did have some issues, but they were probably more hormonal than anything. When at the age of thirty-two I was told by an OBGYN that no, I wasn’t crazy and never had been, that there were actual things going on physically that were not my fault, I actually hugged the man. I also realize that some of the issues had to do with the normal difficulties of growing up, that I am a particularly sensitive person which doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and that the school I attended was a shark tank. I was one of the plankton on whom the sharks fed. Finally, I realize now that the kids who went through a lot of the same things and seemed unbothered actually were bothered, they just had stronger personalities and many of them, like my friends Tisha and Charlotte, had such a deep Christian faith and were so mature spiritually that they were able to withstand it better than I.

                Knowing all of these things on an intellectual level, however, does not honestly help very much in the reality of everyday life. I think of Truman Capote, who needed so much affirmation from people because his wounds were so deep. I think of how he drained them emotionally. I don’t want to be the sort of person who takes and takes from my family and friends without giving back. I never want to be the kind of teacher whose self-esteem is so tied up in how the students respond to me that I fail utterly at earning their respect. I don’t think I am any of these things, but I worry about it a lot.Ridiculous thoughts that are lies from Satan keep me awake at night-and even as I write this, I know it might happen again tomorrow. I still walk the tightrope.

                In the movie “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”, my favorite line, said by an English teacher to a lonely young man, is “We accept the love we think we deserve.” It’s true. I see it all the time, particularly with young ladies who don’t see their beauty and worth and will allow themselves to be treated like dirt. But I see it with young men, too. With them it is usually different as they build walls of sarcasm and hostility, purposely making themselves unlovable so they won’t be hurt any more. I did all of those things. I tried it all. None of it worked. To this day, I still find it hard to accept praise, to receive unconditional love. I had a great family, but the abuse I suffered at the hands of my peers unfortunately often overshadowed it. I also accepted Christ at a young age, but the vile words of classmates often made me forget that God made me beautiful.

                “Strong animals know when your hearts are weak. “ Thus says little Hushpuppy in “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, a movie that I love so much because it speaks such truth. The people who get some kind of joy from hurting those who are weaker know exactly who we are, and they attack. That gives them power. Logically, the thing to do would be to not let them see that they have hurt us, but that’s easier said than done. I got better at it over time. In fact, I am so good at it now that I don’t let people know they have hurt me even when it would be more beneficial for everyone if I did so. I push it way, way down. Sometimes I feel stuffed to the brim, as though I will explode. Sometimes I do explode-at the wrong people, the ones closest to me. To this day,I am not “all right”.

            What I am, though, is forgiven and loved, not only by family, friends, and students, but by a big incredible God.When you come right down to it, no one is all right. Everyone is broken, be it a little or a lot. We want to do God’s job and fix each other, but we can’t. What we can do is love each other, help each other, and encourage other. We can pray for each other and support each other. “I see that I’m a little piece in a big, big universe,” says Hushpuppy. Indeed, we all are. Some of us may feel that we don’t fit, that there’s no room for our particular piece of the puzzle, but we all do.

and if you can’t see anything beautiful about yourself
get a better mirror
look a little closer
stare a little longer
because there’s something inside you
that made you keep trying

                The best mirror is God Himself. Look at Him, the One Who created us and sees only beauty, the One Who puts a spark of Himself into us all, and gives us life. He was the Something inside me that made me keep trying, even when I felt that I was on the edge of falling off the edge of the world. Those words that still echo down through the years can be drowned out by the Song, but I have to let that happen. I have to ask Him to silence those other voices and show me the mirror that reflects Truth and reveal to me daily that I am more than what I perceive myself to be-not because I am any better than anyone else, or any better than I ever have been, but because I am allowing Him to work through me.

“ Our lives will only ever always continue to be a balancing act that has less to do with pain and more to do with beauty.”

No comments:

Post a Comment