Naked Broken Afraid

And it’s Wednesday Sluiter Nation Recruit Day!  WAIT!  You don’t know what a Recruit is?  Well start here!

I am not sure what it is about being asked into The Nation, but it seems that I bring out the dark in people.  This either means A)my blogger friends have misjudged Sluiter Nation as a Goth Blog, or B)my blogger friends feel that this is a safe place to share their souls.

I’m going to believe it’s the latter.

Today I bring you one of my most cherished friends in the blogosphere: Adrienne of No Points for Style.

Not only do Adrienne’s words routinely leave me speechless, but she has become a trusted friend and confidant.  She understands–perhaps better than anyone out there–what I am going through when my depression grabs me by the throat and slams me into a hole.  She gets how I don’t want to come out until I want to come out.

Plus she told me the best writing advice that I have ever gotten:  Write what is behind your eyes.  Because until you get it out?  Everything else will be mediocre.  You can’t ignore that which is right behind your eyes.

I am honored that Adrienne went ahead and wrote what was behind her eyes for you all today.

*************

Some loneliness is soft and sad, like undercooked sugar cookies made soggy by the weight of sick-sweet white icing.

Some loneliness is nakedly aggressive, crouching on the furniture, drool rolling out between its crowded, filthy teeth.

Some loneliness is grown inside an event. It lasts an evening, a week, a month. It lasts as long as it takes to get settled in the new city, find a new faith community, or heal from the rupture of a relationship.

Some loneliness is grown inside us, a perverse organ. A liver of the spirit, it filters wrongly, eating feelings of together and with and a part of, digesting them and excreting shame.

Of the raw materials from which loneliness may be built, shame is the most robust. It is the bedrock foundation on which a lifetime of loneliness is best erected.

Sixth grade: the cafeteria is huge, noisy, and smells like early puberty, dust, and old fry oil. They are talking, all of them, and I know that they don’t want me. All the evidence of this is generated by my own guts, which hunch and lurch under their sodden covering of shame. I go to the library and sit there, alone, reading books during my lunch period for all of my three years in middle school.

Later, a girl with a lumpy blonde ponytail and electric blue eyeshadow asks, “Why don’t you just kill yourself? Nobody even likes you so why do you bother?”, and I know that she’s right.

Later still, I will try to take the advice of the blue-lidded girl, but even that I can’t do right. My structure of loneliness, built on its stout foundation, is large and strong, a luxurious, carefully tended prison. I cultivate it. I maintain it. I seek evidence that justifies its continued existence. I rarely leave it.

Later again, I met a man. He said he would have me, as a favor. My job would be to tend the loneliness, to use it to make myself worthy of him. My gratitude for his occasional visits to my isolated world would make me worthy. I could earn his presence.

After he gave me two babies (good gifts, those, no matter the inaccuracies in the narrative he told of, and later to, them), I saw some cracks appear in my prison’s foundation.

I hated those cracks. Are you surprised? Perhaps not. Perhaps you know, as I knew, even in that dark and ignorant time, that to walk out — away — was to walk into the world unprotected. Naked.

Faced with a terrifying and uncertain transformation, I chose instead to struggle mightily toward reformation, to mash mortar into all the cracks, brace the walls, hang shutters over the broken windows.

Eventually, though, the structure showed itself for what it was: a story, an excellent fiction built of half-memories and warped evidence. The shame created the isolation which bred more shame which fertilized yet more loneliness. I lived on a treadmill of self-perpetuating lies.

When I finally walked out, I found myself in the midst of a baptism, bathed in the cool water of renewed life.

Amazements greeted me. I was accepted, respected, desired, and even loved. I moved into the world with new confidence, erecting a new edifice around me in which I could be secure in the embrace of others. Friends, co-workers, family, boyfriends, a church community. A whole new world. I remarried, had another child, and built a new life. My visits to the crumbling prison grew less frequent and I did fewer repairs while I was there. My new home was better. Shinier and happier.

The new structure seemed so stable, so solid, so comforting. When it crumbled, I was stupefied. The people I depended on most to keep me attached to the ground rejected me. They used hateful words and angry gestures and they went away. Almost all of them, and they took my two eldest children with them when they went.

The pain was monstrous, like having my guts ripped out of my body through my nose. I moved through my life — barely — screaming.

The new baptism was not of cool water but of ripping, crushing, savage heat. I was dashed against the rocks, torn wide open, exposed, without so much as a simple fig leaf to protect me.

Alone alone alone alone alone and no person could soothe this anguish. No person. My heart was bitten slashed stomped poisoned brutalized far, far beyond its ability to rebuild. Bitterness beckoned in the distance. “I can rebuild the old house,” it said. “We will make loneliness a virtue. We will build the walls with hate and peek out at the world through windows made of cynicism. All will be secure in here, where no one else may enter.”

I dabbled in that bitterness, tempted. It was all so familiar, but larger, deeper, better. More.

But I had seen a bit of the sun, and it, too, enticed me. It promised light and warmth and togetherness.

And risk. More nakedness. Vulnerability.

Build a new house on the brink of the cliff?

Step off into the abyss?

I stood there a long time. The bitterness and the light made their cases, the bitterness depending on hard logic and fear, the light wooing me slowly with promises. A third way, the light said. Love without dependence, the light said. Eyes open, lights on, no secrets, the light said.

I listened to them long and long and long and I inched ever further away from the edge of that cliff and closer and closer to the house that bitterness was building for me. And when I was close enough I saw the house clearly, and I saw that my children would never visit me there. My husband would only speak to me through the mail slot. My parents, my sister, my friends, my grandma, a thousand people I haven’t met yet — the door would open for none of them.

Eyes wide open, wounds unhealed and still suppurating, naked broken afraid, I walked to the edge of the cliff.

Stepped off

into the waiting arms of the light

where the pain is sometimes (often) exquisite

and I am tempted to hide in shame and bitterness

and yet

I am never alone.

*************

Want to get to know Adrienne better?  Yeah you do.

Read about her struggles with having a son with a pediatric  mental illness…and the toll it takes on her family in The Mother I Was, The Mother I Am, and The Mother I Wish I Could Be

One of the very first things I read by Adrienne that made me fall hard for her: Love with Teeth

And she is not always dark…she can be pretty darn funny and awesome too: The 2011 Award for Best Use of Peer Pressure for the Good of Humanity and Its Limited Supply of Brain Cells Goes To Jacob (plus some other stuff)

Yup.  She is awesome.

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About Katie Sluiter

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a high school English teacher, college adjunct instructor, freelance writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.

Comments

  1. This post got me in tears. It’s like Adrienne took the words right out of my life and poignantly wrote this. I can relate. I understand. I know how it feels. Thank you for this post, Kate!

  2. There is so much beauty in this post; so much pain.
    And then also the hope.

    Just amazing: the individual words; the story in its entirety; the threads of a message.
    Poetry and truth.

    This is so very brave.

  3. Oh, Adrienne.

    I cannot think of this woman without brimming with tears.
    She has been there for me in ways others arent’ able to.

    She’s not better, she’s just…

    Adrienne.

    I love her, in ways I could never find the words to explain to her.

    Why do I feel such a kindred bond with her? Who knows.

    The universe knows, it’s why she was placed in my life.

  4. Beautiful. Poignant. Brave. Brought me to tears.

  5. Oh. My. Goodness. This was hugely, painfully powerful. Gut wrenching, deep, and awesome (as in big awesome).

    Thank you for introducing Adrienne to me today, Katie.

  6. Oh Adrienne your words… so incredibly moving and powerful. You put words to feelings without words and I love you for it.