We all experience pain on a daily basis. Those of us who battle mental anguish know that you can’t massage it away or put a band-aid on it. We can try but it’s just a mask it’s not a solution. We can smile and nod and pretend that everything is great. We can force ourselves out of bed and go through the motions of a regular day. We limp through and wrestle with our demons. It can be crippling and even life threatening. I recently sat down to write in my journal and started writing. I started remembering an incident in the third grade that brought up past pain. I wanted to rip the pages and just walk away but I fought through it and came out victorious but bruised. I want to share that memory with you.
I can remember being under the age of 5 learning to read and having stories in my head. I was always in another place as a child. I was in a home that was very volatile. I was the peacemaker and I can remember feeling it was my responsibility to keep everyone happy. I had a dad who was a Vietnam veteran and had severe PTSD. At that time no one knew much about it and it wasn’t even really recogonized until much later. The country was still very raw about this conflict and still regarded those who came home to be monsters and ignored them. I was too young to understand this but I could feel it. My mother was unhappy and overwhelmed as a young mother with a combustible husband.
Reading was my first escape from this pain. I would put my brother Jayson in our room and shut the door when the fighting would start. He would play and I would read. I would emerge myself in the pages. I would read out loud in order to drown out the world. If possible I would take it outside and tell Jayson that it was just the two of us in whatever world I was creating at the time.
I use to gather any neighborhood children that were around and have story time. I would memorize stories that my mother or granny would read to me. I had two favorite books at that time. Childcraft encyclopedias had been bought from a traveling salesman and it had a book about animals and fairy tales included. I poured over these two books everyday. Someone also gave me a book of Bible stories that had pictures. I would make colored markers and let each person choose a different story. I would tell the story and make up parts to add to the drama. I remember looking at their faces and seeing that they were hanging on my every word made me feel good.
Flash forward to the third grade. We had moved more than 4x in a month. I changed schools 3x and now I was in another new school. This was a very small school and although it was only 20 miles away from my hometown it felt like I was on the moon. This time my parents were really divorcing and I had a second brother who was only a year old. It was October and I had been in school for a week and no one had said a word to me except for the teacher. I was sitting there looking out the window daydreaming when I heard the words Halloween. I snapped back to reality and heard that we had an assignment to write a scary story and we would read them to the class. Anytime I had the chance to write was exciting to me and knowing that I had to read it in front of the class didn’t bother me at all. I am not sure why because looking back I can remember just how hostile the environment was.
My brother and I walked home from school everyday. We had only been there a couple of weeks and still being picked on. Just snarky remarks like where did you get those pants? Your new here we don’t like you. My brother was very shy and often a victim of bullying. I would always get in fights defending him from older boys. He was a sweet boy and never bothered anyone. I am telling you this part so you will understand the pain of what happens later.
I wrote my story in two days. I couldn’t wait for the teacher to hear it. It was a contest and there was going to be a prize. Deep down I was hoping it would break the ice with my classmates who still looked through me everyday. We had two weeks to turn it in and that was just torture for me. One day while everyone was talking about the assignment, I mention out loud that I had already finished mine. It was like a movie, every head in the classroom flipped around and pinned me with icy stares. I could feel my face turn flaming red and I shrunk down in my seat. On the way home I endured taunts and name calling. I didn’t care what they said to me as long as they didn’t bother my brother so I just walked with my eyes straight ahead waiting for the moment when they would turn off to go home.
The night before the assignment was due I couldn’t sleep. I was so excited about my story. I was raised watching scary movies and I even read Helter Skelter more than once before I turned 7.
We all file into the classroom and everyone is talking and discussing their stories. I am sitting quietly waiting for my moment to share mine. The teacher asks for volunteers first. I started to raise my hand but everyone already hated me so I waited. She then started calling names out randomly. Turns out I was going to be the last one to read. I walked up to the front of the class. Blood pounding in my ears, my footsteps seemed so slow and loud on the vinyl floor. I could feel my hands starting to shake and as I looked at the teacher for some sort of ally it wasn’t there. She to looked at me as if I had 3 heads. I swallowed hard and turned around to face the crowd. There wasn’t one smile or friendly look. I started reading my story with a shaky voice and refused to look up. I was on the third page when I decided to peek at my audience. All eyes were on me but not in a scary way but in a raptured way. I could see they were interested in my tale and eagerly awaiting the next line. My brain switched as I look down at the blurry words. I don’t know the thought process or how it happened but I started making up after that. I started make sound effects and using my hands for emphasis. I started changing my voice for the characters. I was really going when I realized I hadn’t turned a page in a while. I also saw the clock and decided I needed to find a way to wrap it up.
When I finished I gave the teacher my paper and walked back to my desk without looking at anyone. All of a sudden I heard claps and compliments. I didn’t know how to handle it I just sat there staring. I think I said thank you once or twice. The teacher went out in the hall with her aide to decide who would be the winner.
I was forgotten at this point as everyone hoped it was their story or a friend that would win. The teacher came back in and laid the stack on her desk. She looked around and said everyone did a great job and it was a hard decision. She started with third place then second place, I felt my heart dropping because I knew I wasn’t even going to place. When she announced the winner I had already gone to another place in my head until I felt someone tap on my shoulder. I raised my head and everyone was staring at me. I had won! My knees were shaking as I walked up to the front of the classroom. The prize was one of those big lollipops that have different colors in the swirl. A few people clapped while others whispered and gave me hateful looks. I didn’t care and I didn’t dwell on it. When I sat down at my desk it occurred to me that if the teacher actually reads my story she will realize that I made it up at the last minute. What would happen then?
I met my brother outside the building and showed him my prize. I told him all about it and we started walking home with my lollipop sticking out of my bag. I told him he could have some of it if mom would even allow that. Just as we got to the corner a group of my classmates caught up with us. The boys started pulling at my bag and saying oh look at miss show off. You think you’re so much better than us now and that your smarter. Your just the new kid that’s why she gave it to you. Your story wasn’t any good and your ugly. You look Indian are you a redskin? Your nose sure looks like it. Why is your brother so skinny? Why is he so quiet? The taunts when on and someone started grabbing my bag trying to get the prize. I didn’t really care about the lollipop as much as no one makes fun of my brother or touches my stuff. I dropped my bag and started swinging. There were about 10 kids around us mostly boys and few girls. The girls were laughing and the boys were still running their mouths and I was just trying to get to the closest one. My fist made contact a couple of times when someone yelled I got it and the crowd took off. They had the lollipop and they were all running laughing with it high in the air. Then the boy who had it threw it down and smashed it on the sidewalk. One girl yelled that will teach you to be such a goody-goody new girl. As they turned and walked towards their home I just picked up my bag and looked at my brother. He had tears in his eyes and he said I’m sorry Lilly, (thats what he called me) and I said its ok I didn’t want the stupid thing anyway.
I never told anyone and I was still an outcast that year until I met my best friend Michael Murphy which that is a story for another day. I buried this story deep in my soul. Now I realize it is one of the reasons I have a fear of sharing my writing with anyone. It cripples me with pain and anxiety just thinking about this blog. Then there is the other part that begs to be written and to be put out in the world. This part is becoming stronger as I pick through the pain and rid those demons that have been sitting on my shoulders all of these years. That is just one incident and I hope that someone even just one person reads this and can use it for their own fight. Don’t let the pain take your joy and your life. Your here for a reason and people can hurt you with words just like they can with a gun or a knife. Don’t let that stop you and don’t let it overcome you. I am here if you need someone to listen or if you just need to know there is a friend who won’t cause you pain.
Peace and Love
This blog is for all those who have always felt like they are on the outside looking in. The empaths, sensitive souls who are constantly questioning and seeking answers. Anyone who is damaged, unwanted, the underdogs. This is my purpose and calling in life. I want to create a place where you can come and feel safe and free. Follow me as I find my way, a stranger passing through. I will have travel, writing, lifestyle and anything else that happens in my life. It will be an honest account, a real connection that seems to be lacking today. I welcome you and I hope you will share your journey with me.