Reflections on loving God, being Catholic, being a woman, being ill, loving life and anything else that comes to mind.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Loved As If: Preview From 1st Draft of Last Chapter - The Plans I Have For You

Recently, my spiritual director asked me if I might have been sold to the man and woman. I don’t know, I replied. It’s possible. A few years ago, that question would have sent me away to relive my childhood in self-destructive fantasies that were coloured with the dim shadows of possibly having been sold into slavery. Since the incident with the girls whose mother died, whom the man tried to keep, I’ve thought I was like them. But, there are other possibilities. The man had said: You're mine! Even if you're not mine, you're still mine! Perhaps he did pay my caretaker for me.

My presence in the house always felt surrounded by the sinister. For years, vague memories troubled me: the man threw me, naked, across a room. He did something to my arm that hurt horribly. I stood before a window wearing a black cotton sling, swallowing hard from the ache in my shoulder; I must not cry. I pushed the memories away. They were silly silly, made absolutely no sense. Then, I hit my head on the bottom of a pool trying a hip lift in too shallow water. The technician checked some muscles that hadn't been included in my doctor's instructions and discovered an old injury in my left shoulder. A specialist told me my shoulder had been badly dislocated and improperly reset when I was a child. Finally the pieces came together. My memories made perfect sense. The sinister remained. I stopped telling myself I was being silly.

God used a swimming accident to help heal my tendency to discount myself. It doesn't surprise me. He has an unparalleled ability to take seemingly unrelated experiences and actions and knit them together so that the result heals. Not long after I moved to Houston, I went back East for a visit and spent several days hiding in a girlfriend's bedroom while she and her boyfriend, both faithful, Catholics, shared the same bed in the room next door. I don’t know if they did anything else. I didn't listen. But I was afraid to come out. Knowing they slept in the same bed, though there were two beds in the room, was already too much. I didn’t want to know more. For most of my visit, I stayed away from them. I went into fight or flight mode, was harsh (and probably somewhat irrational) with my girlfriend. Leaving a few days early, I fled to the home of another friend. She comforted and cared for me. For a year, I had flashbacks to the brothel; the smell of unwashed hair and body fluids were always in my nostrils. I began to look away from scenes that I knew would lead to or even suggest sex. I looked away from public displays of excessive affection. It mattered not if the characters and people were married. I didn’t want to see what they were doing.

Finally, I realized I was scandalized by their behaviour. But that could only occur if there was still something innocent within me. I'd long thought all my innocence had been demolished by death, rape, molestations, beatings - by all the ugliness that filled my childhood. But innocence survived. My ruthless conviction that I deserved to be harmed, deserved to be destroyed hadn't chased it from my heart. Neither had it been killed by an obsessive compulsion to fantasize about my destruction or my occasional attempts to seek self-destructive relationships. When the flashbacks ended, the compulsions didn't return. No matter how anxious I became, I was no longer dragged into such fantasies. Innocence trumped OCD. One day, I was scandalized and set free.

Freedom still leaves me giddy. It's a wonder, a glory. God's glory. I didn't expect to be scandalized by my friends sharing a bed. I've had more than one roommate who waited until I was asleep to bring her boyfriend into the room where I slept or into her bedroom next to mine. Their behaviour angered me. Some things are private and my roommates were breaking house rules. I've even seen some porn and read a few "erotic" books. They triggered and encouraged self-destructive fantasies but, ultimately, were fake and sad. I stopped because I didn't like what they triggered in me. But if God had asked me, Will knowing your friends sleep in the same bed scandalize you? I'd have replied, It won't matter. He didn't ask. He put me in the situation and untapped innocence flowed to the surface.