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... 

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