It took me fifty-five years to figure out what life is about. It took me that long to find myself and to realize that my family members have never had a clue as to who I am. I realized that I had spent over forty years without expressing myself from my heart in front of anyone. I realized I’ve never experienced real love. And I believed that there was something seriously wrong with me.
Which was constantly confirmed by my family.
My view of the world and of my role in it were mysteries to me. The information that I had been given as a child, from my parents and from school and church and from everywhere I looked, was completely wrong.
I have had a very full, if not extremely self-destructive and emotionally painful life. I have experienced more than most people could ever even envision. I’ve been an avid student of human nature since the age of four, and as someone who never learned how to ‘properly’ communicate with other human beings, I have spent nearly all of my inner life feeling abandoned, rejected, and alone. I had very few friends. I spent most of my teen years alone in my room with the door locked, immersed in books or drawing or singing to sad music or just crying.
And I woke up nearly every morning of my life wishing that I hadn’t.
I ‘knew’ from childhood that I was different from other people, especially the people in my family, because I said what I thought instead of what I was expected to say. I refused to blindly believe in god or do what I was told to do if it didn’t make sense to me, and I was looked upon as disobedient and a huge disappointment by my parents and others. I became the black sheep, the throw-away kid, the non-believer. My father called me “stupid” and “tramp” and “fuck-up” and my mother buried her smiling face in the sand and pretended that everything was just peachy and she threw me under the bus to save herself.
Being positive and agreeing with others is what girls and women do (which is what all of America seems to do now, at least face-to-face). But I was unable to pretend. I still am. And when I tried to tell my mother how sad and lonely and confused I was, her lazy rote response was always,
‘Just have faith and believe in God, and everything will be okay,’ or
‘Just be happy! That’s what I do!’
My mother is expert at not seeing anything uncomfortable or disturbing to her in any way, and she is always smiling and happy and everyone just loves her.
Dad gave me a boiler maker at around ten or eleven, and I was a regular drinker by the age of sixteen, a full-fledged alcoholic by eighteen; booze flowed freely in our house. So did violent fights between my father and I. We hated each other until just about a year before he died, after he did some soul-searching of his own. Unfortunately, he never really knew me. Too bad. He would have actually been pretty fucking impressed, if he had only stopped ripping me to shreds long enough to get to know me just a little. If only he had believed in me just once, or took me seriously about anything I ever said. . . . I didn’t know him either though; he was a deeply damaged man who only found some peace in his very difficult life just before he died.
sleepwalking through life: letting things happen
I was painfully shy as a teen. I was incapable of talking to strangers, even on the phone. This shyness and belief that I was a horrible, ugly, stupid and evil human being made me silent, small and apologetic. I barely spoke, when I wasn’t acting manic, and my silence, along with my self-loathing and my nightly mission to drown myself in booze, made me a pretty easy mark by horny young, and not so young, men. My abandonment issues and negative self-esteem made me desperate for affection, which made me a willing mark as well.
I allowed myself to be used and mistreated and date-raped—more than once—and I became pregnant—twice—before the age of eighteen. I was voiceless and powerless. My thoughts were dark. I became extremely self-destructive. I found myself, quite often, in dangerous situations. Alone, drunk, and crying in the subway tunnel at 42nd Street at 4:30 AM or wandering the streets of Mexico City with only one year of college Spanish . . . I’ve been involved in car chases, I’ve outrun police and have had a gun drawn on me, I’ve played pool with narcotraficantes . . . and I used to wander around late at night downtown back in the eighties when Belltown was frequented by crusty old drunken sailors, queers, drug dealers, and fringe elements like me. I’d stumble through the darkened alleys, just hoping that someone would kill me and be done with it.
But not only did no one bother me in those downtown alleys; I became pleasantly acquainted with some of the drug dealers. They were just trying to make a buck the only way they knew how, and some of them were actually really nice (if only daddy could see me now!).
My search, for what I didn’t know, led me down some very dark and disturbing roads. . . .
Until the day that I was so filled with fear and rejection and hopelessness about absolutely everything that life had to offer someone like me (as well as the state of the planet and the fact that no one seemed to care), I threw in the towel. That day when I could not tolerate one more second at my hateful job. And I was no longer able to take any more of my mother’s hurtful, ignorant bullshit nor her inability to see what she has done to me and continues to do. And the very last straw, on top of so many others on my broken back, was my sister’s inability to acknowledge, let alone apologize for, so many very shitty things she’s done to me, including the last shitty thing that I’ll ever give her the chance to do: forgetting that she had made plans with me on Christmas Day. Since my mother had long since banned me from holidays (because I make my morally deficient brother-in-law “uncomfortable”), I spent Christmas eve 2014 alone at a dive bar in Pioneer Square, and the rest of the year, as well as January 2015 in bed, drunk, stoned, and so very close to ending it.
The way I saw it, I had only two choices:
- kill myself
- quit everything and everyone and cash out my pathetic 401k and try to find just a tiny bit of joy before I left this apathetic, uncaring world.
I chose the latter.
And in the process of writing my story and of finding some people who care enough to talk to me and hear me and accept me with my flaws, I found my way back to my soul, my spirit, my voice. I found my way back to god. I am so very thankful for the people who have been in my life over this last year, even if it didn’t seem that way. I’ve learned from every encounter I’ve had, good and bad.
And my mission, for the rest of my life, is to try and make others understand that we need to start listening to each other. Because I see the look of despair that I felt all my life in the eyes of people all around me. People who feel powerless. People who have been forgotten about, rejected, abandoned. Like a dog that’s been left tied under a porch without love or affection. Like me.
I want them to know that it can get better—if you face your dark side or your secrets or your fears and render them powerless. Or at least manageable.
I am facing that side of myself every day, and sometimes it still takes control of me and I react from my go-to place of terror and powerlessness and fear and I lose control and I lash out . . . or have a panic attack, or tear up self portraits or other artwork. . . . But not nearly as often as before. Before, when I still believed that rules had to be followed and that I was lesser than others. Before I escaped my family and the pain I felt when I spoke with them and before I stopped drinking at home alone. Before I started smoking cannabis for my chronic pain and to calm my spinning thoughts. Before I took the red pill. . . .
I feel an overwhelming need, now, to write about my experiences, as many of them as possible, so that my nieces and nephews can have a chance to know the real me. And so they can know that they are not alone. I understand what they are going through because I see their mothers doing a lot of the same shit my mother did to me . . . and she is still poisoning young minds with her blind-faith ignorance to this day.
I write to try and validate my existence somehow; to try and make some sense of my sad and wasted mess of a life so that it doesn’t all seem so pointless.
So that perhaps others can avoid some of my mistakes.
And I feel an urgent need to write and explain how I know the things that I know, and why I may become upset if you tell me that my experience is mine, but that yours is different;
because what I hear is
I believe what I believe, therefore I cannot believe what you are saying.
And that is that. I feel ignored, dismissed, like I don’t matter, and I go back to feeling like a child: overpowered, unheard, brushed off. I feel physically attacked, like I’ve been punched in the gut and I may lash out. . . . I still over-react to even the most subtle hidden messages in people’s comments sometimes because I still haven’t figured out what it is that has even triggered the bad feelings.
But it is taking less and less time to figure out why I have my outbursts of anger and panic and overwhelming sadness, now that I’m writing every day. But it is nearly impossible to explain it to the innocent victim of my rage or aloofness or other unpleasant mannerism—let alone apologize—since they had absolutely no bad intent. They were only speaking from the place that I had been before, before I faced my skeletons and demons and started taking away their power over me.
I have finally found my soul and my bliss and my passion, but now the hard part really begins.I have to figure out how to survive in a savage, corrupt, and evil world that benefits a few and does everything it can to keep the rest down and at war with each other. A system that continues to consume and pollute and destroy and murder in cold blood and in full disclosure, yet no one seems to even notice.
I need to convince the world that I have something to offer and that I am wiser than I appear. I need to find a way to co-exist with those who refuse to see what they don’t want to see and those that hear my words but haven’t yet learned how to understand them. I have to stop being open and honest with people because most people can’t handle honesty. It makes them extremely uncomfortable when I’m so “negative.”
More than anything, I want people to stop agreeing with each other all the time, and being “positive” about everything and avoiding difficult realities. We need to disagree about things, so that we can talk about them, maybe even solve some problems. I want desperately for people to stop, and close their eyes, and imagine what it would be like to be the homeless heroin junkie living under the bridge or the old cat lady who never talks to anyone . . . I want people to question their own biases that make them say and do the things they do.
And I’ll do the same as I continue writing my stories about my crazy experiences, using as much humor as possible since the subjects are often pretty dark. I’m going to use analogies from movies and books and music to explain situations or events; I’ll use a lot of photography to illustrate my stories, and I am planning a comic series (and a graphic novel) for some of the really tough subject matter.
Even some of my best friends are going to wonder,
‘Who the hell is this person?’