Ties the Bind

www.wellhappypeople.comI spent a lifetime preparing for the moments that waited ahead of me. Years of school predetermined my college graduation and I accepted my diploma with the same smile that cashed my first real paycheck.

Next would come my second true love and my first marriage would precede the birth of my first child by exactly 10 months. Nothing was out of order, everything neatly arranged.

I was so good at following directions; I don’t even remember questioning them.

But I don’t think you can prepare for sudden impact. It usually comes from nowhere. A car sliding towards you at the speed of light. A lie holding so many razor blades, it will take years to pick out the debris.

They say the only way to survive trauma is to roll with it. Let your body succumb to the impact, the punctures, the tears, the blunt force of it all. If this is true, it is because there are always two injuries happening at once—the impact and the way your insides respond. There must be a centripetal force to keep it all moving, ensuring your body will follow the desired path. Sometimes its denial, other times the responsibility you have to everyone around you. Stay the desired course…do not heed the warnings. Oddly, the worse it is, the more drawn your body is to the madness.  Battles raging inside us leave our minds impelled towards disaster. A self-fulfilling prophecy, we seek that which we are running from.

But there is courage in truth. The ability to listen quietly to the assault ravaging you, changing you. I’m not sure we promised God to rot in the debris of their lives. Somewhere inside, I believe he wishes us well. I suppose I need to believe he wishes us well.

For my muscles have memories, and they twitch at the sound of betrayal. And when hers was revealed to you, I mourned the loss of the trusting part of you. For he is gone forever. Lost to choices you never got to make.

But I’ve learned a few things from loss, and I’ve found the beauty in it.  For we didn’t leave because they cheated, and we didn’t leave because they lied. We left because we listened. And we learned without knowing, that it is always the letting go that saves us.

The beauty is that letting go works both ways. It releases and it binds–ties the two of us together so tightly, our muscles carry the same memory.  And even as our bodies stir as those forces keep trying to nudge us back inside the pain. We must remember to be quiet and listen.

So lie still with me awhile and lets let it all settle. Hold me tightly until the vibrations still. And know that when we finally decide to move again, the ripples will be entirely ours.

Instincts

You say I spend too much time dancing with ghosts…too far away to reach and too close to leave.If that is true, it is more a waltz then a tango…gentle, but shameless all same.

As I slide across a life I am beginning to love, I can’t help but feel his breath upon my skin. Mostly, I feel the breath glide past the tiny hairs on the back of my neck, and I can’t help but wonder if there is a difference between my instincts and this ghost. Instincts It seems to have a spirit all its own, and I think sometimes, I am too quick to name him.

He latches not onto me, but instead onto the circumstances that come with moving on. Some people call this doubt I suppose. I try not to be quick to name it and am thankful for the moments that are entirely mine when I trust what my heart is telling me.

The truth is that I carry him as a comfort because it is the only thing that is entirely mine. A reality born from the gasps I never let out and sealed in my own perception. There is comfort in knowing what happens next and so I am at risk of fulfilling my greatest expectations. Again. Always again.

The irony is that I have deep gratitude for this provocative dancing partner…for the love he gave me and for the love he stole back. For pushing me to my edge and for teaching me that even loyalty needs limits. But mostly, I am grateful for the dancing.

I used to think I was the kind of broken that was never going to heal. And there are sometimes that I still do. But I care less about the consequences because it seems to me that broken things let more light in. Sunlight can permeate my entire body, and it offers me a warmth that puts me to rest at night.

All along you’ve known my whole story. You are just now beginning to understand it. It’s all written here, and the words make far more sense than my voice. I could say to you, “if you’d only known me then,” and spend a million minutes painting the portraits of my past. But I smiled less and I am smarter now and if you listen closely, I’m inviting you to dance with me. In the sunlight, where everyone can see.

I’m moving closer everyday and I know that the ghost can’t hurt me anymore. The problem, my friend, is that you still can.

Culture of Me

Slowly, I am forgetting what it is like to hate and somehow, at the same time, realizing how closely connected to the pain I will somehow always remain.  My days come easily now, and it takes me less than 2 minutes to lay my head on my pillow, and fall instantly asleep. I seldom work to fill my time, but rather seek out the moments of stillness and comfortable silence.I haven’t stared out a window looking for a car to come home for over a year and a half. And even though I’ve always loved my children, I learned to love parenthood from a man who literally bounces off the giggles of the tiny people he calls his kids.

I have a man who cups my face in his hands at least 6 times a day and tells me he loves me. And when his hands fall from my face, he shows me he is telling the truth.His love is a generous dose of raw connectivity and tireless devotion. He’ll seek me out 24 times a day if he could, but he’ll fold my laundry and feed me in between.

And he loves my children as though they are his own.

He speaks in droves without saying a word, and when I grow confused, he hugs me the riddles. I understand his mind as clearly as his body, and I have yet to hide a feeling from him, even though I am finally quiet.

I haven’t seen my therapist in months, mostly because I know what he would say. These are the moments I worked for, and I no longer hold my breath in my mouth. There is an easiness to my life that I never imagined. In fact, I don’t think I even knew to want it.

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The Culture of Me

But somehow, I feel deep sadness and there are times I miss not knowing better. My sadness has its own culture, and it runs so deep, it lies in my genes, not in my memory–for that knows far better. I have so much to miss that my mind settles on nothing. Nothing at all. But I feel it, from a place I can’t touch.

There are the facts and there are the feelings, and I’m shocked at the lack of connectivity between the two. I should hate them all for leaving. Instead, I am sad for myself…I am scared for them…and I thankful for the ones who took their place.

The Code

I was born with two first names and one last, and this always confused me. Mandy was a child’s name, and my mother explained to me that one day…I could call myself Amanda. I never thought I would call myself Amanda.

My birth right was settled long before I came to bare it.  A destiny set forth by people I would barely know and some I would love long after they left me.  So it is with genes…the ones we inherit, the ones we spend a lifetime trying to squeeze out of.  Mandy came with a personality produced of steel.  I was made of energy, a vision of fire and ice; I could only be touched for a moment.

Except I was born for staying.  Just another girl in a long line of women who would love…be lied to…and stay.  Unknowingly, I spent my days wearing that badge proudly. I spent my nights screaming at him for it. My therapist says being stuck is usually about one of two things…love or loyalty. I am what happens when you love the wrong thing and are loyal to the pain.

I suppose my rhythm has a code to it. A code both predetermined and set in place each day of my life. There were certain rules that were not to be broken. So it is with life, each day we reinforce in ourselves that which we never chose in the first place.

Except I find myself now, with two first names and no last.  And I can’t help but remember the moment, just seconds before my wedding, when sheer panic filled my body at the thought of changing my last name.  I was a Hill…and too much like my father to know better. My new last name came with a family who hated me before they met me. I wasn’t ready to give up the only name that ever felt like home. It felt like me…Mandy, Amanda…it made no difference. 

My divorce was final in July, and I’m now left with a name that never really felt right. I belong to people who never cared to know me. And my old last name belongs to people who knew me and left. And so I have two first names and no last.  I spend my life trying to find words to describe how that feels. And I know that by doing that, I’m half living and half dying. Because life is lived forwards and understood backwards. I’m caught trying to do both and am barely moving.

Renaming the past means you leave something out…a forgotten detail, a lie that becomes the truth. A story retold is but fragments of what really happened. Of what was really felt. Its laughter without the pain it covers.  Mandy was good at laughing, and too many people made me pay for it.

Renaming the present means changing the code. It means I squirm inside each time you describe me with the old script. Please forgive me for changing. Amanda is good at crying and too many people make me pay for it.

So for now, I guess I have two first names and no last.

The Song of the Lark

There are always two stories to tell, the wreckage and the repair. And the difference between the two can be so small, they are actually told with the same words.

I’ve spent a year searching for the words that describe my journey out, or perhaps my journey in…to a life I could actually call my own. I’d spent a decade of my life so angry and so lost, that I knew I needed to be still and slowly sift through the anger that fed my ability to stay.  When I lost the anger, the path unfolded before me. My walk was slow, and I gathered many treasures along the way. But I listened, learned to love, and was loved, for the very first time.

But searching for the words to define the difference between the pain and the recovery is like peering into a mirror and expecting the image you see there to be somehow more beautiful than the object of its reflection. It isn’t. Because as I keep looking inside, I begin to see the wreckage that lies beneath the surface. And slowly it begins to stir.  That anger…deep inside me. The only thing that kept me alive for 10 years, hungry as hell. Like truth, it wills to be known.

The Song of the LarkI was searching for a box sturdy enough to store all that happened. And when I couldn’t find one, I built one myself–out of my own responsibility. And with each nail I pounded, I kept remembering more. And that anger, that perfect, honest, destroyable anger…it kept stirring.

I was searching for a forgiveness pure enough to harbor the hate even while I remembered to forgive myself. I spent a lot of time taking deep breaths, turning my attention away from the rumors I just couldn’t fight anymore. I kept asking myself the question, “what does it really matter anyway?”

I was searching for a story patient enough to have a happy ending.  Where he could lie, I could leave, and we could remember that there was a day where we loved each other.  But there wasn’t.

And so the journey out is as full of destruction as the journey in.  And when I see them, the wreckage tells the story. The past comes screaming out of me with such fury that it cannot be controlled.  These are words of course, and they are carried by the momentum of his actions. They’d be strong enough to start a war, except the war began the first day he lied away their relationship. I’ve been fighting it so long, I can’t remember if I’ve even won a battle. And so I ask myself the question, “what does it really matter anyway?”

Because just when I thought I’d be fighting this forever, they went and ended it. This entire blog has been about boundaries, about me sitting in the middle of two worlds so paralyzed from past mistakes and future fears that I could only gaze up and out of the valley that became my home. I never would have imagined, it would be them that would release me.

I thought I would hate him forever, but the night he laid his hands on me, pulsating from rage and his own wreckage, released the final story.  They think I need to win. But I am too busy loving the loss. They think they beat me up, they forgot they did that two years ago.

You can step over my bruised body a thousand times. You can hit my face until it bleeds. You can brag in this town until one person finds the stupidity to believe you. But you will not write my story. Not with your fists, your lies and your own pain. It is mine.  All mine.

And so when you said I deserved it, you gave me the words.  There are always two stories to be told, the wreckage and the repair. And the difference between the two can be so small, they are actually told with the same word.

The word I’ve searched for with bed sheets clenched in my fists of rage.

The word I’ve searched for when I chose to be silent instead.

The word I’ve searched for when I couldn’t prove your lies.

The word I’ve searched for when you begged for my return, even as she waited for yours.

The word I’ve searched for each time you told me no one loved me.

The word I’ve searched for each time you called an ex girlfriend or never came home.

The word I’ve searched for each time drywall fell from your fists.

The word I’ve searched for each time you recreated my life in your own vision.

The word I needed the first time you lied, the first time you cheated, the first time you threw me, the first time you loved me, the last time…the last time…the last time.

Goodbye.

The Land of the Living

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time

I thought it best to let the weekend come and go without my usual splendor for anniversaries. I watched the days before it pass quickly, and though most were spent dancing inside and out of my own laughter, I still somehow thought the last weekend in May would leave me reeling for the past. It didn’t.

The way time moves us from one location to the next has always transfixed me. Most of us hold on to the belief that time cures all things. That wounds left air drying amongst the passing seasons will somehow harden and fall away. They don’t.

I filed for divorce one year ago today and I can tell you it feels like yesterday. It was May 27th when he forgot to come home. Officially May 28th when she texted him wondering where he was, and 4:18 am when I was smart enough to check his phone, read her words and 4:19 am when I knew I wasn’t his anymore. I like not being his.

Three hundred and sixty-five days oughta teach you something, and the lessons have nothing to do with time. The first was to understand my strength. The second was to shed the shame. The third was to ask for help. The fourth was to tell the truth. And the fifth was to listen and be still.Amanda Carrier, Silence is the Enemy of My Heart

Time teaches us that things slow down and speed up at their own will. An hour can feel like a hundred years and a whole season can pass in the blink of an eye. I learned not to waste time, and to not question the speed or the slowness of its passing. Because time is simply a canister for life. It harbors the moments that define and destroy us. And it releases the moments that heal. It is a vessel for the people who will leave and a life vest for those that stay.

Sometimes time takes its time, and other times it speeds up…comes and goes, dances in and out of us so feverishly that we forget to check the calendar. Sometimes it carries away the anniversary of the worst day of your life without so much of a glance backward. And other times, it whispers to you the lesson…life rejuvenates itself.  Always and forever more.

Speed of Light

Silence is the enemy of my heart by Amanda CarrierThis is the vision I return to most often, when thinking of my daughter.  It used to make me so happy. Hair blown back, not from the wind, but from her movement…her energy dispersed into a world willing to harbor it.

My middle daughter lives most often on the outside of things. Boundaries, for her, exist only as speed bumps…things skidded across, without the slightest realization that they were there to slow her down.

I spend my time balancing the difference between protecting her from this world…pushing her back inside that proverbial box, and turning my mind’s eye from the inevitable wreckage that comes from the realization that this world doesn’t tend well to those that ignore the limits. It’s a process of course, and I am standing witness to the heartbreak of a girl who keeps being left aside. The world is pushing back, and she doesn’t even know it yet.

I can’t stop the lessons, and I can’t seem to find a comfortable place between the men who leave and the ones who want to stay.  I’m too busy letting everyone down, standing confused inside that box that she hasn’t even noticed.  I’ve spent a lot of time lately standing still, convinced that taking my time meant making the right choices.  I hear lots of voices, and they are all asking different questions. When I finally answer, it is seldom with the right voice.

And yet here is my daughter, skipping through this life and tasting all of it.  Moving at the speed of light, because the wind isn’t fast enough. Tears of loneliness erased quickly by the laughter of a well placed joke.  She can scream in pain and dance in the rain within seconds of each other. She is here and there all at once.  She is everywhere always.

I should follow her lead.

Unmeritted Mercy

I’ve read the Bible, in its entirety, just once.

I’ve stood before the eyes of God and pledged to love one man for the rest of my life, and lied.

I’ve sat inside pews of the smoothest oak and witnessed the connection between other people’s souls and heaven, and felt left out.

I’ve heard the tiny whispers of a child’s prayer and wept.

And I’ve prayed, just once, for the life of an unborn child.

But I don’t think I knew grace until I told you who I was and you loved me anyway.

I learn the most from stories, and my deep infatuation with words has left me searching for perfect endings.  My youth still dreams, but my wisdom tells me sometimes other people write them for you.

I’m starting to understand that my ghosts haunt you as much as they haunt me.  Dreams are for the young, and they keep resurrecting the ashes from my past.  Each time I try to wipe them away, they disappear into the sunlight, only to appear again in the darkness.  But spring is coming now, it is floating on the cool breeze sweeping winter away. The days are getting longer and darkness is pushed away by your grace.  Amanda Carrier

If the Bible is the story of creation, of a generous life and of faith, then ours is story of endurance.  As though you have already forgiven me for future mistakes, your touch is as light as the sun. My breath steadies itself in your presence. And I see you search for me in my silence. Locked far away, my words lie still.  But I’m experiencing you more in the stillness, than I ever could struggling with words.  This is our moment shared, a place entirely ours…with no beginning and no end.

Perhaps I’ll find God tucked somewhere deep inside you because I do best with things I can hold. So I’m going to float inside the idea of you for awhile, make your words the current for mine.  I’m catching up to you now and am close behind.