Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Nine Lives - Part III: High School Melodrama

high [adjective] to reach upward; elevated school [noun] an institution for instruction

High - School. Interesting name really. My experience was hardly "elevated" or "uplifted" and even though I got decent grades, my classes didn't instruct me on how to deal with life--or hurting, angry adults…much less insecure peers. I did my best trying to figure things out…wobbling and stumbling most of the way. 
People found entertaining ways to spread rumors about me...not that it was very difficult when my whole life seemed to be a public exhibit. Anyone who knew me in school could probably recall a time or two where something in my life was whisper-worthy. Yes, I was one of those people. The ones who you see crying, sitting in the middle of the school parking lot and think, "I wonder what their problem is? They are probably trying to get attention or something…" And that wouldn't be too far from the truth. I was dealing with more problems then I knew how to handle and I was looking for someone, anyone to hold my hand through it with me...

Soooo I began dating. What a great idea! Not that I consciously thought of it that way--but that's just what happened. Even when my mom told me I shouldn't, and my dad absolutely forbade it, (and would have killed me if he had known...) I jumped right in -- with my whole heart. And with my fairly unhealthy view of the male species, at sixteen, I ended up finding myself involved in a toxic, disastrous relationship. It was so much of a whirlwind, I didn't know which way was up and which way was down. My mom had gotten remarried, so she was fairly distracted when it came to noticing anything different about me. And if you were wondering where my dad was in all of this -- read Part II: The Readers Digest... 
The relationship I was in went from fun and happy to a tears and confusion all too quickly. I felt used, misled, broken hearted, and lost. "Coping" would hardly describe my state of being---I was in full blown survival mode. What is this love thing anyway? Is it supposed to hurt this much? What am I doing to cause all of this? Can't things just run smoothly for once?! Won't somebody please just love me?!

Then, somewhere near my seventeenth year of life, my mom found herself getting another divorce and I found myself pregnant. I was scared to death to tell anyone. Finally I managed up the courage to tell my mom. She didn't know what to do with-- or make of her troubled daughter. And I didn't blame her. I was sick, and felt like a complete disaster of a person. I had lost my appetite for food and life, and didn't care who thought what of me. Then, about a month or so later, I had a miscarriage. My mom couldn't have been more relieved--and deep down, past the heart was I. 

Weighing in at only a hundred pounds--I looked gauntly. I was half way through my senior year when I decided to move to a new school and come face to face with a major change yet again. What I hadn't realized yet was that change is the only constant thing in life. It paves the way for good to rise out of the bad. Change allows for us to learn from our mistakes and make new choices, as it also shapes our perspective. It was Viktor Frankl who said that, "when we are no longer able to change the situation, we are challenged to change ourselves….the last of human freedoms--to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." Although I wasn't clear yet on how my choice would pan out, I was just beginning to discover that life is what you make it. A future was sitting right in front of me, and it was inevitable that I was moving forward. I had taken a step, my first step towards creating anew my destiny.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Nine Lives - Part II: The Readers Digest

Let me tell you plainly that I was a happy child. Imagination was my good friend, and it ran free like wild horses. We lived in the mountains on an acre property with blue skies, trees and fresh air. It was wonderful. I would run around barefoot pretending to be a Native American and stay outside for hours playing by myself or with my little sister. When I was indoors, I would entertain myself in various ways through drawing, singing or putting on plays for anyone who would watch, including Barbie and Ken, I might add.  
My mom was an excellent mother and she always had our best interests in mind. My dad worked in L.A. and was gone most of the week, so during weekdays, things were pretty carefree around the house. He was very particular about things and enforced many rules at home that everyone was to abide by, including my mother. Unlike the average American family, we weren't allowed to watch TV or listen to popular music. It was out of the question to ever eat something like a donut or bacon. Spending the night at a friends house was O-U-T, and we could never leave toys out of our rooms or they would be thrown away. So when he came home from work, we made sure that everything was as perfect as possible. None of us wanted to upset him.

In third grade I was taken out of public school and my sister and I began homeschooling. This was a huge adjustment for me initially, but I adapted and although I missed my friends, I developed a huge passion for learning. On weekends, fights were frequent between my parents. During the bad ones, I would take my sister into the back of the house, huddle in the corner with her and ask God to stop the fighting. 
Then one day, when I was twelve and my sister was seven, my mom had simply had enough. I remember the morning she came in told us we were leaving as she packed our clothes. I started to cry and all I could think of was "What if daddy catches us? We will all be in big trouble." My mom knew this. She was scared too. Before I knew it, my parents were getting a divorce. I felt like the floor had been removed from underneath me, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. My sister and I went from having almost no contact with the outside world, to being thrust into a new school, in a busy new town, with two parents who were hurt and very angry with each other.

Adolescence is already hard enough for a "normal" person and I was a seventh grader who didn't know what any "popular" anything was. My first year interacting with peers was filled with embarrassing moments. I quickly began to learn about hard knocks, the pain of gossip and what it meant to "fit in." School however, was the least of my problems. 

As with many divorces, my life was split between parents half and half. On my dad's time I wasn't allowed to participate in sports or after school programs as he saw no use for them. Most coaches were not happy or understanding about having a player who showed up only fifty percent of the time. Besides being strict, he was exceptionally protective. On good days, we were usually kept locked indoors in the same room with him while he read The Readers Digest or the Bible, or we stayed locked outside in the backyard to do yard work. My sister and I did our best to be good daughters, and we didn't complain for fear of the consequences. Breakfast was my favorite time of the day with him because we would just sit there quietly, sipping coffee. 

With my mom no longer around to protect us from my dads temper tantrums, I did my best to shelter my sister from the brunt of it. My dad was angry that my mom had left him, and on the bad days, I spent countless hours fighting, crying, and being made to memorize letters that he had written for my mom. He wanted her to know what a terrible person she was for leaving him and he felt she would hear it better if it was coming from me. We "practiced" for hours each week. Of course when I went back to my moms I didn't have the heart to tell her all the things he wanted me to. It was hard enough hearing her sobs through the bedroom door on a regular basis. 

By age fifteen, I was running away from home. Literally. Running. The first time, I sprinted as fast as I could to my nearest friend about a mile away. My heart might have exploded right out of my chest, had she not been home. Soon after I began to slit my wrists with sharp objects. Then, with plenty of prescription drugs in the medicine cabinet it all seemed so easy really. I thought I would just pop a handful of Codine and drift off to sleep. 
I don't remember much of that evening, but I know that school counselors almost rushed me to the emergency room when my dad intercepted, and against everyone's better judgement, decided to take me home and pray for me. The prayers must have been pretty strong that evening because I made it through the night. With the amount of pills I had in me, it is a miracle that I lived through it. 

It is said that "A gem cannot be polished without much friction, nor man perfected without trials." This I know to be true. My early teen years had been nothing but friction, yet for a reason unbeknownst to me, I had been given another chance. I would soon learn that trials are a blessing in disguise and each day is a fresh start, filled with choices to be made. At sixteen I had been given a new opportunity for choosing life and there were many more lessons yet to learn...