A True Story of Transformation from Brokeness to Joy
A young man sat awkwardly on my sofa and explained to me that he had never been in a rich person’s home (we are not even close to being rich)
He shared some of his childhood stories with me. He told me how his family lived without water. When the neighbors left to go to work, they would climb the fence and use their water hose to fill containers for washing and drinking. His stories only became more tragic from there.
Having come from a similar background, It really troubled me that I had somehow become so enveloped in the Blessings of this life that broken people could no longer relate to me.
In order for him to see himself on the other side of his sorrows, I must find a way to reach him. I wanted to try to build a bridge behind me that he and others can find and feel invited, drawn, and intrigued to also cross.
The following is a true story of the transformation of my life as an insecure, abused, and broken girl, to an incredibly blessed woman, mother, and grandmother.
Finding My Bridge
The sun was already below the horizon when I reached the top of the hill which was covered in tall grasses and ancient oaks. Its brilliance had painted the clouds with fiery reds, purples, and deep oranges as it slowly sunk. The hem of my skirt danced across ripened stalks as they swayed in the wind.
The only thing that could have made that moment more perfect is if I could have thrown off my shoes to run barefoot through the grass singing carelessly like Maria on Sound of Music. I apologize if you haven’t seen it but I am sure you get the idea and you should watch it when you get the chance.
Barefoot was inadvisable considering the frequency of the cows visiting that same hill doing what cows do after a large meal of tall grass. Trailing behind me were my four (then) little people and they would have taken theirs off too and it would have been pretty messy later on.
So much beauty in a singular moment is life-giving. “This is where we live now,” I thought to myself in as giddy of a head voice as a head voice could possibly be. “This is where my children will play and explore”. “This is home”. My head voice was probably irritatingly nostalgic and cheesy but it was true and it was a beautiful realization.
Jumping to the Present
That frolicking moment happened almost thirty years ago. It was a moment of beautiful beginnings. It was preceded by devastation, tragedy, and brokenness.
Most of us have things from the past that if not healed properly, will keep us from getting where we want to be. There was deep and massive chasm separating me from the person I longed to be.
I will not dwell too much on the past but I need to share some of it so that you will have a good amount of context to understand the transformation. (I will be jumping to the present as well as the past, before the frolicking moment on the hill so try to keep up.)
Snapshots of My Childhood
Trapped and Tied Baby Hookers was the title of the only book that I remember being read to my siblings and I. We were too young to understand its content, and I am not sure if there was a picture on the cover, or if it was in my mind’s eye. The image was of a young girl with her arms stretching high above her head, bound at the wrists by some sort of strap hanging from an unseen ceiling.
I have no other memory of the details of it, only the title and that picture. A few years ago, I tried to see if it was a real book and found that it was. I have never researched it beyond that and have no intentions of ever doing so again.
The person reading the book was and is a genius at convincing others of no wrongdoing.
Surprisingly, I have very few flashbacks of the atrocities that were committed on my tiny body, which seemed unpleasant and puzzling at the time. The genius always had a way to soothe and set me at ease with the assurance of its good nature.
My older sister’s arms stretched around my siblings and me, as we at times, huddled together, frightened and helpless during endless nighttime assaults on our mother.
We covered our ears to drown out the angry screams, tortured cries, and the sounds of furniture screeching across the room because of the force of her small frame being dragged and thrown around by the genius.
We never dared to question or provoke the genius. Today, I believe we call people with this behavior a sociopath. I have never met a better one.
I went to school. I tried to stay invisible. I had skills and exceptional abilities. I was too frightened to use them. My insecurities were mistaken for bad behavior.
As if life had not been cruel enough, I developed an eighteen-year-old body at the age of eleven. (Someday, I would like some sort of study to be done on early puberty being brought on by early sexual activity. As an adult, I have witnessed this in little girls, whom I suspect are being abused.)
I was quiet, awkward, and felt like a walking freak show. High school boys were trying to date me from the time I was in the fifth grade.
I once received swats for hitting a boy who touched my bottom as I was carrying my lunch tray across the cafeteria. I had to turn sideways to open my locker or my bottom or breast would be swiped while my arms were raised trying to open the lock. I still, to this day have the reflex of a Jedi, if something comes within a few inches of either of those two things.
Music, literature, and poetry were my refuge. I had an incredible English teacher in the seventh grade. She was one of the few adults in my life that looked past my body (yes, it was that abnormal) and treated me like a normal student.
Though I had never done anything wrong, except hold hands with Jimmy D. when I was eight years old, I had a reputation for entertaining the football team on the bus, and such. Girls mistook my quietness for snobbery. I made a few friends, but overall, I was miserably lonely and insecure.
I wrote this in the seventh grade for Mrs. D’s original poetry extra credit project:
Everyone thinks I am;
When really, I’m not even close
It seems to me;
That I should be
Then, everyone would leave me alone
By age sixteen, I was drowning in bad behaviors that I loathed, and I had to escape it. I wanted something else. I knew that I did not possess the moral courage or self-discipline to keep myself from the things that I had fallen into.
I began to crave a life that I had seen others live. I was longing for something that at the time, I could not name. I determined to set out in search of something else. I wanted something firm and stable that would secure a normal situation as opposed to the chaos which I came from, which seems like an admirable goal on the surface. There are certainly worse goals to have, but to desire survival as opposed to failure is only survival. It is only mechanical. There are so many more wonderful things that must be discovered and experienced.
Without knowing which skills are even necessary or the right questions to ask, I swallowed my insecurities and went out. I left the tenth grade, my home, and headed out in search of something that I could not articulate in thought or words.
I could not describe it, but I felt it. There was something alive inside of me, and if I allowed that aliveness to come into contact with what it was searching for, it would sound, like an alarm and alert me that what it was searching for was found.
Over the next few years, after struggle and growth, life began to fall into place. It was better than in place, it was everything I had dared to imagine because I had never dared to imagine anything more than a solid home life.
It felt like I had arrived. I married Mr. Perfect (wink, wink) and my family was growing. We were doing well and everything felt secure until it wasn’t.
My Artsy Bridge Allegory
I set out into the big beautiful world searching for things that could bridge the gap between me and my desires. I came upon three bridges. Feeling intimidated, unaccomplished and insignificant, with great fear and trembling I approached the bridges.
The first bridge I saw was beautifully and skillfully ornate and regal. I didn’t even give it a second glance for fear of being seen trying to approach it. I imagined myself being flung off of that bridge, similar to the way a homeless person trying to beg for food in a nice restaurant is hastily ushered away.
The second bridge I came upon was made of strong steel and industrial in appearance. Though it was still plenty intimidating, I walked around it and explored it’s structure and considered its possibilities. I wondered if it was exactly what I needed and was looking for.
There was one other bridge which was narrow and small compared to the others. It is hard to say what material it was constructed with because it was covered in an overgrowth of ivy with small, white flowers. It was long and curved to the right. I was unable to see the end of it. There was an inexplicable peace that I felt when I stood near that little bridge but the sturdy, steel bridge summoned me with its assuring strength and clear visibility to the other side. We will call it the stability bridge.
More than anything, I wanted to know there would always be enough of everything. I craved a good, solid plan and reasonable control of my circumstances.
I chose the stability bridge. It seemed to be a very lovely place until it began to shake. It shook violently and relentlessly until it came apart. It dumped me into a deep, fast, flowing river. No matter how hard I tried to stand or swim, its overwhelming current carried me mercilessly farther from where I longed to be.
I wish I could say that I chose on my own to return to the little, Ivy bridge, but I didn’t. As I clung desperately to the sinking wreckage of the stability bridge, the river ripped away my weary grip and carried me there to the Ivy Bridge and spat me out at the foot of it. Feeling much despair, having lost my grip on stability, I stumbled clumsily and spent, and fell upon it to rest.
Being at the Ivy Bridge was more like falling back on the constant friend that you desert when you are chasing rainbows but return to when things go badly. Almost begrudgingly, I surrendered to the reality that I could not pursue anything else. Stability would never be in my grasp.
I lost control and now I only had the vague and narrow, little, ivy-covered bridge. I could neither see nor imagine what the other side held for me.
The reality of the dismal situation should have been discouraging and depressing, but over time, as I lifted my head and became aware of my surroundings, I began to feel something different. It felt a little like coming home to be comforted by a loving mother, after a long and exhausting journey.
As the days passed, it mattered less and less what had been lost on the stability bridge. The love and warmth of humanity and a Heavenly Father began to cover my heart like a warm and familiar blanket.
The Ivy Bridge became my way. It isn’t a bridge meant for crossing or accomplishing. It is a strolling bridge meant to be relished, explored, and played upon. It is a living bridge that will be changed because of your presence and you will change because of it. It will become stronger during times of shaking and it will not fail. The worst that could happen on the Ivy Bridge is that you will unexpectedly or expectedly if your time is complete, be thrust upon the unknown, unseen, side of the bridge. In such a case there is a general understanding by all who travel this bridge that the end of this bridge is better than the beginning and though none have seen, it is known to be true.