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Poem: Don’t Want to Be Your Good Deed

I figured this poem would offend people when I posted it so I deleted it so I could add clarification. I’m talking about accepting gifts that are trying to meet needs of mine. We’ve come complacent just giving in the short term without considering the long term. I think doing small acts of kindness is nice but what change could we create if we joined together and fought for something bigger and more satisfying and longer lasting. We have the power to say it is wrong the poor are being oppressed and to do more than give a meal. We can feed someone for a day or we can fight and work hard and make it so these people, me and my people, have the opportunity to fish at the same pool which right now has too many obstacles and locked doors between us. I don’t want people to use me to not see that more needs done and to look for ways to do more. If I need help, I can go to my church. I know I can go to them and I trust they will help me. If you want to get me a gift just because that’s great too. I don’t want gifts trying to meet my needs because so many have it worse and need help. What will help me most is for you to fight with me to help me reach my dream. I am grateful for the generosity around me and believe we can do something incredible if we focus our efforts and do it with purpose. I have a dream but I need help reaching it. Thank you.

I don’t want to be your good deed

I’m not your charity case

A token to assuage your guilt

Whenever you feel like dipping into your purse

To make yourself feel better

As I feel worse

I don’t want to be your good deed

Because you find it easy to give to me

When my brothers and sisters are dying

But you neglect their need.

I don’t want to be your good deed

An item on your list

That you can simply check off

When it’s convenient for you to give.

I don’t want to be your good deed

No more will I accept your gifts

Even in my needing

Your bandaids ain’t stopping my bleeding.

I don’t want to be your good deed

I want to be the human I am

I want my community to rise

No longer condemned.

I don’t want to be your good deed

Under your control

Dependent on you to live

I’ll die before I ever am again

Your good deed.

#iamhuman #poem #iammore #seeme #hearme #someoneplease #iamhuman

What I am Fighting For

People hear me tell my story of being a single, mentally disabled mother raising my daughter near the poverty line. I say I’m living in poverty but TECHNICALLY that’s not true. You see, I’m TECHNICALLY just above the line which is worse because I don’t qualify for many assistances that I used to when I was absolutely below the poverty line. Now that I have a part time job, I’m overqualified for food stamps, daycare assistance, supplemental medical coverage to pay for copays and medicine, and any sort of financial support. I’m barely above a line that’s barely moved for years and years even though food, rent, gas, etc has all gone up. But people don’t care about the poor. They blame us. This is also true of mental illness. Being both just sucks and disabled poor are treated just as bad, if not worse, than non disabled poor but all of us are human.

Fun fact before I continue: Did you know in the Nixon era in the very late 1950’s the institutionalization of mentally disabled persons was demolished. Yay! Okay, so other minorities earned their freedom centuries before but finally in 1958 we earned ours. As great as this sounds, however, do you know where all of those people who had been institutionalized went? Well most of them hadn’t ever successfully lived on their own and either immediately or eventually ended up homeless on the streets where 60 years later they still are because as much as we want to say we’ve made progress with mental illness and have enough support, the truth is there isn’t. I can’t work full time because of my severe disability but I also can’t afford any care because recently my government assistance to supplement my Medicare was terminated because I make too much money from my disability and part time job (which is my first job I’ve been successful holding for more than a year despite working from the time I was 15 until I was 20 when I ended up homeless to the point of not being able to work anymore until I got my job at the library with incredible and rare individuals).

And let me just point out to those who don’t know me or those who do but haven’t thought about this: statistically I should not be in the position I am, a single mother, a high school drop out, no college, on disability, almost poverty, government housing, a victim of police brutality, oppressed and struggling. I am a white girl who grew up with parents who are still married and both with college degrees in middle class. It’s this very point though: that we neglect anomalies, that led to my demise. It’s why no one believed my abuse. I think it’s easy to think abuse only happens in single parent, or poor income, or disadvantaged houses. To think abuse happens in families that appear so normal and happy is very damaging. We live in a culture of victim blaming and shaming so every time I spoke or told of my abuse, I very often was blamed or accused of exaggerating or being overly sensitive or asking for it. I had my abuse invalidated and ignored. Come adulthood, after being kicked out at 17 and advised by my school to drop out, when the abuse continued, I stopped telling. When I got pregnant, my life was in such shambles, no one even cared I might not have wanted it. No one asked. People just told me I wasn’t fit to be a mother.

I started to downplay my abuse too. It was easier for people to think I wanted it than to try to tell people the truth and be told it wasn’t valid or that I should have just said no or that I was lying. It was easier to laugh about the home abuse and the police brutality because I knew no one would support me. Even today, as I try to thrive as a single mother despite what I’ve been through, I still have people not believe me or down play what I went through. I think a lot of this does come from not fitting in the statistics. That’s the worst though because when you’re not quite one thing or the other, that’s the easiest place to fall through the cracks. I call it the in between and that’s a much worse place to be because that’s where no one cares.

So why do I speak? People usually do care when I speak now and the first thing people usually try to do or offer to do is buy me food or give me money. I-do-not-want-this. Period. And I offend people so often by refusing this. “You’re poor, you need it.” No. Do you hear me? No. What I need is change. I need a system that cares about the in between.

I want the assistance income level changed higher so I can have access to healthcare so that I can FINALLY heal from my trauma and abuse that you cannot comprehend. How many times were you raped? By how many men? How many times were you thrown to the hard ground, had your head slammed full force onto tile flooring as a grown male police officer shoved his knee into your back and yanked your arms together behind your back and put cuffs as tight as they could dig into your wrists as he screamed and shouted you were a waste of his time and he should have let you kill yourself and he was going to press charges of destruction of property because in this ordeal when you froze–because of your history of abuse and resulted mental illness–and he took it as insubordination he broke his sunglasses? How many times were you abused silently and laughed at by the abusers and then by the people who believed the abusers as you stood there humiliated and abused for your ENTIRE childhood? How many of you were told to drop out of school by your school? How many of you cut yourself because you desperately needed help and NO ONE would rescue you no matter how many times you begged?

Do you know how many times I have begged people with helpless tears in my eyes and helplessness in my soul to please, please help me only to be denied or worse yet blamed?

And now because no one believed me, I entered a system of poverty, of being government dependent where once again I am blamed, humiliated, and shamed for my misfortune. I am STILL dependent on others for my needs and cannot object to mistreatment because they have what I need. I have to endure abuse STILL because what I need is beyond my reach and I am STILL blamed for it.

I want help. I want access to help so I can heal and cope with my horrible flashbacks, my anxiety, my nightmares all from my complex ptsd.

I also want education. I want my pastors and church members, teachers and students, bosses and coworkers, police and service workers, everyone to be educated about mental illness and poverty and how especially trauma victims might respond. How we think. What we endure. I want people to be able to help me through my flashbacks and panic attacks when they are happening without needing my help because in those moments I should not be expected to educate and am not capable of doing so. I want people to know what my scars mean and not judge me or have assumptions that take away my identity of a human like I can’t feel pain. I want people to see the schizophrenic off their meds and see more than a raving, crazy lunatic. I want no more people, especially black men, shot to death during a mental health crisis like happened less than a year ago here in my city. No more of the mentally ill being victims of police brutality. No more of any oppressed minority being victims. No more fear because there is understanding. There is education. I want education.

I want a higher poverty line for government assistance so that people who start to work again disabled or not disabled aren’t penalized for it. I want more people to be able to re-enter the work world because they have access to daycare assistance. I want no more hungry children OR adults to have access to food programs because like my child said when I took her to a snack program just for kids, “adults need to eat too.”

I want more and better quality assistance programs to get those addicted clean and the homeless off the streets. America is one of the worst countries for this and we are one of the richest. This is wrong and I think it comes largely from our lack of empathy towards these groups: the beggars and the addicts. It’s easy to blame them but don’t forget you first threw them on the street 60 years ago and then made it so difficult for them to do any better.

I want programs that allow college students to just be students and not have to work so that they can focus on school and getting an education. I want more support for students with disabilities and not just longer test times. I want students to be educated about the programs and if one is struggling, to have the school work with them to find a program to help them succeed. I want free daycare for single parents trying to attend school on school premise so they can earn a degree as well as financial support because college is hard enough without raising a family and working to support them.

I want empathy. I want love. I want people treated as people whether they wear a uniform or hold a cardboard sign. When speaking or interacting with government agencies, I want kindness and empathy. So many times I’ve been spoken to horribly and left in tears. I’ve been put down and spoken down to when asking questions. And I want the system easier to navigate. Someone should not have to go to so many different places and fill out so many papers and then be penalized when something is lost or forgotten or missed. We are human in the system. When decisions are made that effect a group, I don’t want it made solely by authority. I want those effected to be included and given the opportunity to speak and then have their voice heard. I want more opportunities for oppressed people to have their voice heard and be included in decision making.

Have you ever spoken to a homeless person before? Have you ever sat next to the homeless man holding his cardboard sign asking for money? Have you ever asked his name? I have and he said his name was John but everyone just called him cowboy because no one knew his name. He asked me why I cared because he was just an old alcoholic who was going to die soon. I held out my scarred arms and said we all make mistakes. I haven’t seen John for a really long time and I don’t know if he’s okay. I don’t know if he’s alive. I don’t know if the abused boy I used to love talking about God to who had to be asked to leave for bedbugs is okay. I don’t know if the two different patrons, one who used to be a volunteer, whose houses were both condemned in the last six months, the latter just a few weeks ago are warm and safe whose biggest fault was being poor. They are GOOD people but what matters most is they are all people. I want people to stop being treated as less than and judged and blamed. I want them forgiven and helped instead of punished and judged. I want people to care just as much as I do. We are all human and beloved and deserve to be loved whether we are illegal immigrants, refugees, addicts, homeless, black, Hispanic, criminals, mentally ill, poor, rich, white, middle class, farmers, police, students, children, etc. We are all human and all persons are beloved and deserve to be loved. We deserve to have our pain and struggles validated and believed.

Don’t buy me groceries. I’ll ask you if I want your financial help. You can feed me, but you’ll never satisfy my hunger because I am hungry for change and an end of oppression. I am hungry for love–for ALL people. See me. HEAR me. Validate my pain and show me you care not just by this, but by your actions and not just toward me but toward others as well. I notice. I hear. I see what you post on social media. I hear how you speak about people behind your back. I notice what you don’t say. The enemy of oppression is not people. The enemy is hate and ignorance. Only love will end this. We must open our hearts to love so that this oppression can end.

Please. I am here again with helpless tears begging for a more lasting help. Please help me with love. I need help. I need love.

Inspiring Innocence

I took my five year old daughter to the library because they were serving a free snack this evening. We are struggling so badly and I was desperate to even supplement a little. I had been looking for free dinners but Thursday’s seem sadly unaccounted for. I guess there’s not a lot of need on Thursday nights. Any place that seemed slightly hopeful would have cost more in gas than it’s worth. As it was this wasn’t the closest library to where we live. There’s not a big enough need.

I had fucked up bad as a parent yesterday. I wouldn’t blame her for hating me forever. I stopped by the church to pray with my pastor on the way when my mailbox brought more bad news on the way out of our neighborhood. I seriously cannot take anymore.

Then as we arrived and my daughter started to eat her snack, she asks, “Mommy, you want to share?” Offering me a goldfish cracker from her small bag.

“No baby,” I said. “Them snacks are just for the kiddos.”

“But grown ups need to eat too,” she said empathetically.

Y’all, children can teach us so much. I lied and told her I wasn’t hungry and the truth is just because my stomach might be, my heart couldn’t be any more full.

Through Hungry Eyes

The world looks so much different when you’re hungry. Of course this is true if you just are getting close to meal time but it’s so much worse when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from or how you’re going to feed your child. You see food and have so many emotions. Do I eat it and feel worse hunger later when its nutrients wear off? Do I not eat it and continue to feel like shit mentally and physically? Do I hoard it and bring it home to my child? Do I feed her first or do I feed myself so I can mentally handle parenting demands?

I fucked up so badly yesterday as I lost it and picked her up and spanked her several times. I want to literally die. I cussed at her as she and I both screamed. She was throwing a tantrum because I wouldn’t let her eat what she wanted to eat because she doesn’t understand what’s at stake. She can’t comprehend the hunger I’m feeling so she can eat. She doesn’t get it and she was having a bad day yesterday. I made it worse. She made a point of telling me over and over. Can I quit now?

Jokes about food like the term “hangry” no longer feels funny. I want to scream and cuss everyone out because of this word “hangry” because yeah I’m fucking pissed at the world because of my hunger but it’s not funny when you don’t know when it’s going to end.

And I’m angry at people who don’t understand and want to buy us groceries or feed us a meal. It won’t sustain us. Do you understand?! It feels like you’re playing with us. One, you are in control as you dictated what and how much you give us. I’m powerless to you as you hold what I need. Also, you can’t sustain feeding us every week and so your one time generosity is cruel as you give and take away. This part of getting used to eating is HELL. So you’ll excuse me when I won’t let you buy us food.

And I can’t focus on anything but eating. I can barely answer yes or no questions. There might be a solution I haven’t thought of, but I can’t think. I’m starving. I’m trying to feed my child. We’ve had so much of our assistance cut all because I’m WORKING. Do you understand how horrible that injustice is? I’m starving worse now that I’m working than when I wasn’t. But don’t expect me to be able to have complex conversations right now. Don’t ask me how I am. I’m starving. I’m fucking miserable. I’m hungry and scared and fighting on empty. I’m familiar with this. I have been through these famines in the past but it’s so much worse not having self injury as escape and having a child dependent on me.

If you try to push me or ask me complex questions, I will snap at you. I’m NOT trying to be mean or rude. I am HUNGRY. All I can think about is food. The only conversation I could have at length is about food. About eating. But even now that is too painful to pretend so I sit with headphones on consumed by my hunger and try to make something out of it. I try to hold the tears and anger in but I just feel too weak.

If you see me, know I can’t see you. The only thing I am thinking about is eating and how to make this hell end and make it end for others too. Go vegan if you want to help like I do because it could end world hunger 16 times. Volunteer at food pantries, don’t just donate food and money. Actually go there and help out and listen to the stories of the people there. Educate yourself. Rally to change the poverty line and assistance line. Quit hoarding your money and blaming us for not being able to get out. The person making $50,000 pays about $50/YEAR in taxes for food and welfare programs. Surely you can spare a bit more so that my daughter and I can eat. I pay taxes too. I work. I work disabled. I work hungry. I work exhausted. Fight with me and hear my story. Quit acting like hunger happens far away. See my face. See my hunger and look at me. I am here. Do you even care?

Stupid sheep.

Silent Hunger

As the hunger starts to sink in, first I get incredibly emotional. I can barely function and things like small talk which I find draining cause me to go running to the bathroom to cry it out. When I know we are going to struggle to eat, fear penetrates every aspect of my life and I’m consumed with food. Every time I open the fridge or a cabinet, I take a mental note of how much food is left and right now, I’m terrified. Every time my daughter takes a snack, I sometimes have to stop her because I need food for her lunches. Whenever our weekly fellowship dinner is canceled at church (like it was for two weeks for the holiday) I want to cry because I think “that’s one more meal I have to provide.” Whenever I have to pay for gas or the copay for the therapy appointment I had, my thought was “$20 less for food.” My thoughts and thinking morph into thoughts all about food and eating.

Thinking in general is the next to go along with physical weakness. This is a HUGE problem for my job. I shelve books at a library. I start to feel dizzy every time I stand from putting a book on the lower shelves. I look at titles, authors, and call numbers and in a slow haze, they blur and I make frequent shelving mistakes. Sometimes the words seem to move on the cover. The whole world feels numb and all I want to do is lay down and sleep. I can’t. Working is my only hope to get food I am so in need of.

I get angry too. I know it’s irrational, but I find myself getting angry at everything and wanting to yell at anyone who is irrationally the source of my annoyance, “at least you and your family have food!” I want to scream. I’m hungry. It’s not fair I’m hungry. I want food!

I get scared to eat available food. What if it runs out. What if I’m more hungry tomorrow and should save it for then. I won’t eat anything my daughter might eat.

As I was in the stacks today, I also started getting hot flashes. It came with bouts of weakness. I fight with everything in me to do my physical job. I haven’t been talking to my coworkers. I have to consume energy and talking would take too much. Plus I’m worried I’ll snap at them and if I say, “I’m sorry, I’m hungry,” what does that mean?

And people want to help and sometimes bring food, but people don’t get that sometimes make things worse. You see, eventually my body will get used to this hunger again and I’ll find strength in it. My stomach won’t hurt so badly. I won’t crave food and I’ll be able to adjust. This part, though, the having to get used to the crumbs is the hardest.

I just wish people knew how hard it is. Don’t feed me if you want to help. That’s a temporary fix. Fight with me to change the system. I know I’m lucky because as hungry as I am, I’ll never starve to death from my hunger nor will my daughter. I might cry, but I won’t die. And the little energy I have left I will use to fight. If I can find energy to fight despite my pain, you can too.

Please help me. I’m starving. So many people are starving and losing jobs and hope because the only thing they can think about is food.

I’m so hungry.

Fourth Recovery Anniversary

He asked me if the pain bothered me at all. I felt so ashamed. I’m used to this question. As I used to cringe while having self inflicted wounds stitched at the emergency room, it always surprised the workers at my intolerance to the pain.

“I’m human!” I want to scream, “of course the pain bothers me!”

Someone went as far to think because I used to self injure, childbirth pain wouldn’t bother me. “You don’t mind pain,” she had said per sumptuously, “so that part of childbirth won’t bother you.”

I’m human. Of course the pain bothers me.

“For pleasure or for pain?” Someone at a park casually asked as a conversation starter one summer. It was the summer right before I ended up homeless. I used cutting to convince the hospital I needed help. No one would listen any other way. I was all alone. Cutting disconnected me from the horrid emotional pain temporarily.

I’m human. Of course the pain bothers me.

Sometimes it makes me so angry when people more often than not make this assumption; the assumption I don’t mind pain. “Are you a fucking idiot!?” I imagine at times screaming at them. “I’m human! Of course the pain bothers me.”

I didn’t write a blog post Tuesday like I was going to. I barely made it through without a relapse that day. It wasn’t the pain I missed; it was the ESCAPE from a MUCH WORSE pain on the inside.

I think people see my scars and hear they are self inflicted and see how horrible and deep the wounds once were. Never experiencing what I have or having survived my traumas, it seems people can only surmise that I enjoy pain. Let me make this clear: I don’t. I HATE pain. I almost pass out with needles. If I am not disconnected from my body, the physical pain is awful and I’m a baby with it. I am human. Of course the pain bothers me.

Self injury isn’t an enjoyment of pain. It’s not a love of attention. It’s a signal of the most unbearable emotional pain and a desperate plea for help. I cut because of that, and even the most horrible, deep, and gaping wounds were scratches compared to the wounds that were inside. Scientifically proven, you are unable to feel intense emotional pain and intense physical pain at the same time. This is what people don’t understand. If they did, then maybe instead of asking if I am bothered by pain, they would already know and say instead, “Damn, you must have survived hell.”

Some people get this. I’m always slightly stunned when perfect strangers congratulate and thank me. I cherish the letter from an anonymous teenage girl, the time an equal stranger bought mine and my daughter’s lunch after high fiving me when she asked and I told her I was succeeding with my recovery, and all the inspiring, vulnerable, and intimate conversations I’ve had. I am honored and they claim I inspire and motivate them, but they are the ones who seem to find me on my weakest days when I’m ready to quit and they are my strength and reason I keep fighting.

I am human and yes, pain bothers me. It always has and always will. You can’t imagine cutting your skin like I have because you can’t imagine the hell inside I have endured. Now recovery means no escape and some days that means all I can do is lay in a ball on the floor and sob. Some days it means sleeping on my floor instead of my bed. Some days it means coping poorly and getting drunk. Some days it means going to bed at 7:30 and letting my daughter watch cartoons. Some days it means not sleeping at all. Some days it means sitting in an empty sanctuary and sobbing desperately to God, barely holding on. Every day it means I’m doing it, though. I am fighting and I am living. I am facing that pain and even on the days I do it a mess, I rise the next morning alive and without new cuts and I know: I am getting stronger. I am doing this. I am human and I endured the pain.

Thank you for all those who see me and treat me as human and continually cheer me on and allow me to be human and bring light into my darkness. Thank you.

Poem. Yesterday.

I walked in the gutter

Where all the trash is thrown

No side walk to walk on

My ankles cut by twigs and grass.

Cars sped by

Part of me cared what they thought of me

The other part thought

Fuck you.

I pondered where they were going

As music from my headphones flooded my soul

And was expelled through each frozen fog of my breath

Wherever they were headed

I knew they couldn’t be farther from where I was

Than when they passed me by

In the gutter that I trod.

My toes and fingers hurt

Tortured by the frigid air

My cheeks stung with the slapping harsh wind

My legs cramped

I couldn’t take another step

So I took one hundred more.

When I arrived

Shivering and weak

Hungry for lack of food

I looked for the unlocked door.

No one saw me slip in.

The warmth

I wanted to curl up on the floor and sleep right where I stood

Instead I walked up steps

Pulled open heavy doors

And slipped inside the cold, dark room.

I sat

I sat in a pew

And shivered violently

Releasing so many helpless tears

I sobbed alone as my body shook

Such a perfect, pretty place I thought

But unapologetically cold

The perfect metaphor for what the church has become.

The stained glass cross

Full of colorful broken pieces

Let in the only light

It reflected upon the broken pieces I brought in

Hands empty

Nothing to give

It gave me its light.

That

I thought

Was what the church should be synonymous to

Not a cold dark room

But colorful broken pieces

That bring light to other broken pieces

Not unapologetically

Unconditionally.

This place was too perfect for the king I know

This room wasn’t made to make him happy

It was made with money to make us pretty

Jesus was not that kind of king.

I stood under the cross and said with quiet tone

God I need you

Then I walked back home

In the gutter

Where all the trash is thrown.

My Charlie Brown Christmas

This Christmas is different. Normally I’m all about the season. I love the bright, colorful lights and decorations on houses and in stores. I normally start listening to Christmas music 24/7 mid November and don’t stop. I love setting up my tree and having it decorated and lights hung up outside by Thanksgiving. Last year I made 80 handmade Christmas cards and it brought me so much joy. I was blessed with so many Christmas gifts and miracles last year and I normally just feel it and that word that constantly rings out this time of year: joy.

This Christmas is different. It’s not the being poor part. As I keep having spoken to my heart and coming from my lips: it’s not about the money. We were gifted a very large and generous financial gift which actually added to my frustration. I’ve been in my church’s sanctuary a couple times a week alone just to desperately feel closer to God as I beg for help. Yeah money sucks, but I really don’t care right now. I don’t care we’re losing the car soon. I really didn’t care I couldn’t afford gifts for my daughter knowing my family would spoil her and I was going to get free second hand gifts from my church’s contributing charity. My daughter really won’t care either and the portion I chose to keep of the money we got went 100% towards physical needs (gas and groceries). In my frustration that I got something I didn’t ask for, I had heard God say this money was part of the answer to my prayers but it’s not about the money. I was, and honestly weeks later still am, confused by this. How was that helpful?

This Christmas is different. I didn’t decorate the house. I have lights but I didn’t feel it to put them out. My tree was put up but half the lights were burnt out and after 15 minutes of searching unsuccessfully for the burnt bulb, I gave up. My daughter put about three ornaments on the tree and decided she was done and after putting on the star, I really didn’t care either thus left a very pathetic tree. This tree I’ve had since before I was homeless. I’ve had it since I started living on my own as a teenager. People laugh at it but it has brought me so much joy even when I sat by it with fresh, gaping, self inflicted wounds, alone.

This Christmas is different. After almost four years of no self injury I don’t feel joy this year. That word has been haunting me lately. I want to feel it. It’s not that I’m not grateful or don’t appreciate the gifts, but I kept thinking just now, it’s not about the money. It’s not about the gifts. I see so much commercialism and wants. I am very much in financial need, but when I think about what I want most in life more than anything, it’s nothing money can buy. I want to be healed. I want to be free from my childhood abuse. I want the nightmares to end. I want the invisible hands to stop touching me. I don’t want to hurt others on accident from flashbacks that shape shift what’s in front of me. I don’t want these panic attacks. I don’t want to be me. I’m struggling so badly and see people filled with joy celebrating and buying gifts and wanting to gift, but I don’t want gifts or anything. I want to be whole. I want to stop being so afraid. I don’t even know what that looks like though.

However then something happened yesterday that started to rekindle a more pure emotion than I’ve ever felt before. It’s barely an ember, but I sense it’s something even more powerful than joy.

Yesterday was the day after a horrible flashback. It’s the day when I’m so drained that I can’t hardly move. It’s the day I sob and sleep and try to recuperate from the physical drain flashbacks take from my body. I could barely move but my daughter wanted to play with her friend who lives a few houses away. I went out with her but it was sprinkling. I told her to invite him to our house. His mom, my friend who I haven’t seen for a few weeks, came out and I invited her over too. One of the other sisters in 3rd grade also came.

The kids played and one of them asked why we didn’t have many ornaments on our tree. I laughed and said we just didn’t get them out. He asked if they could finish putting ornaments on. I said sure if they wanted and the three kiddos put tons of ornaments on the tree. Then my friend told the older daughter to go get the rest of the garland they didn’t use for their tree which perfectly matched my ornaments and as I laid exhausted on my couch, she and her daughter wrapped my tree in their garland. Just like in Charlie Brown’s Christmas, my pathetic tree seemed to transform before my eyes.

After that, the kids went back to playing and my friend and I talked. I told her why I was struggling and some of my abuse. She mutually talked about some of the horrible physical abuse she endured growing up. Then we switched to talking about the power ball lottery and what we would do with money. She said she’d set a ton away for all three of her kids college tuitions. I said I’d give a large portion to my church. We both agreed we wanted a house and nothing fancy, just a place of our own with a yard. In that moment I finally felt it: this is the true meaning of Christmas. It’s not about the money. It’s not even about joy.

I still don’t really know what it’s about, but I’m starting to. I’m still feeling abysmal and am struggling with body flashbacks and am off Wednesday and want to try to sneak into my church again to pray. I’m trying to figure out something I can leave as a sacrifice because I don’t have any money left until I get paid Friday but I keep hearing: it’s not about the money. I don’t feel like I have anything else to give God right now. I don’t have a sheep to sacrifice. I don’t have two pennies for an offering. I still am in need of a miracle, what can I give to God in honor of my faith? If it’s not about the money and gifts, what is it about? What is it I’m even looking for? What was that meaning of Christmas I began to feel yesterday?

This Christmas is different. I am different this Christmas. I’m not sure who I am or who I am becoming. I don’t really know much. I think I am starting to learn, though and I’m sure I am becoming something and more of what I was always meant to be. While I don’t understand it, I think it’s okay I’m not feeling joyful. The pains of labor Mary must have felt right before she gave birth to Jesus would have been incredibly painful too. I’m sure it was not joy she felt with each contraction.

I actually think about my own experience giving birth. It was not joyful even after I pushed my daughter out. I remember sobbing but it wasn’t tears of joy. I think it was more relief. The pain of labor was over and I could hear her crying so she was alive and safe. It was an overpowering flooding of love indescribable. I wonder if that’s how Mary felt too. We, the family and friends of the mother feel joy at the birth of a child, but the mother’s emotions are so much deeper. I think there’s something to that.

What is the true meaning of Christmas? It’s not about the money and it’s not even about the joy. I think maybe, just maybe, it has more to do with that other common word seen, heard, and spoken this time of year: peace. I think what it is I want more than anything, what I’ve been begging God for, what I hope to find and felt with my friend and our children yesterday, what I felt after giving birth to my daughter and what I imagine Mary felt after giving birth to Jesus was peace. In a broken, dark world, amongst pain and fear and suffering, a light was born. The light didn’t end the pain and suffering which makes joy hard to feel, but it brought hope that there was an end to this pain and in that hope there one can find peace and I think with peace, joy is possible. That’s what I’m learning this very different Christmas.

Merry Christmas a few days early.

Let Lies End (Poem)

I’m suffocating on the scream

Not allowed to pass my lips

I try to speak

But like a filthy beggar

I’m passed by with looks of disgust.

Will no one see me

Can no one hear me

Does anybody care

Why do you pass me

On the street

Why do you leave me

Broken here.

Please believe me

I speak the truth

I’m helpless as you take the lie

Freely given

You reach for poison

Oh the tears I cry.

Do not eat it

Don’t consume it

The truth is bitter

But healing

The poison sweet

You eat like candy

Oh you gluttonous fool.

Dejected I escape reality

No longer do I even look back

No one is there

No one to care

I’ll take my truth

And burry it deep

Keep it safe

With lighted vigil

I’ll keep watch over it

I’ll stay and hold it so tenderly

And I will never come back out again

Oh never, never again.

This is where the lies will end

And this is where a new life will begin.

This is not the end

No this is not the end.

This is where my life begins

In the places where the lies end.