When I Was a Child…

That Scripture from Matthew or wherever… it doesn’t matter, does it? Yall know what it says… I spoke like a child… 

I speak like a child all the time. Most of the time it’s because I am so stinking happy I can’t control it. Like I can’t control it when I’m mad or sad or bad. I take drugs for that… lots of them actually. So the gleeful gal or the banshee… whichever has the reins… you can only see a small percentage of the giddy or the gorey. On a whim last Saturday, I cut my hair OFF (again)–something I’d not done in almost twenty years. I did it because when I looked in the mirror, I felt like a haggard, lonely woman, and the feeling did not sit well with me… but what finally drove me to do it was the vision that in five years or so my hair could be barely there on the top of my head and straggly threads on the back and sides… and that vision made me feel SO. MUCH. UGLIER. And yes, I know… I’m made in Christ’s image, and it’s easy to run those words through my head, but as they do so, it’s in a tone that’s mocking and demented… because I go outside and the words seem to hold no value. And yes, I know that’s my faith wavering. I know it.

Once upon a time I worked at a bookstore, and one of its managers told me she thought of me as fearless. When I asked her why she’d chosen that word, she said something to the effect of that no matter how much I struggle when out and about in my days, I get up and go out, and that is fearless.

I do it because I have to do it. Just like when during my school days, and this is something my mother marvels at still, I never said I don’t want to go or asked if I could stay home. Yall. My father was the superintendent. OF. COURSE. Like I COULD ask that. Like they’d let me stay home.

We’re doing Priscilla Shirer’s Elijah study at church. It’s a good one–hard-hitting, as a study should be. I hadn’t worked on it this past week. One of the questions we addressed today (NOT phrased as it should be because my book’s in my car, and I’m upstairs in my room and too lazy to get it because I know yall’ll get the point) what’s something you’ve wanted and not gotten? I’ve wanted requited, romantic love, independence from my parents, and financial stability. I’ve never known these things. And reading them, I felt like a child. Seeing this in print just drives the hurt in a little bit deeper… and it’s been a hurt that’s lasted for the better part of three decades. I bent my head and allowed myself to feel that hurt but reined it in just before tears fell. And I carried myself through that study well enough this morning. I’m always SO happy to go to study because there are SO many women there whom I love and take pleasure in spending time with them. But the pleasure and the joy are sucked out like a vacuum at the conclusion… the room gets grayer and grayer and grows more and more silent… and I am there taking out the trash. Just before the last people left, I’d overheard some who lead the ministry talk about needing someone to lead the giving tree and thought, “THAT. I can totally rock that.” So eager was I to help, so pleased that I could use my gifts for good, I shouted, “I’ll help.” Like a first grader eager to help her teacher. Childish. 

Moments before this, I’d marveled at how much more youthful I felt because of this haircut. I feel like I’m ten years younger. At least.

And then the people left… and all the things whammied me. The immaturity of my life–the lack of a spouse, the lack of children, the lack of a romantic relationship, the lack of independence, the lack of funds in my account, the lack of being able to lead when I so often feel called to do so. Who would put a child in charge? That’s crazy right? All these women, they have the husbands, the children, the independence (though I’m sure most would say they don’t… because of the husbands and the children), the funds in their accounts, the ability to lead (and don’t tell me yall don’t, because I know danged well who rules those houses).

I cried like a little girl, yall. I walked into that sanctuary, sanitized my hands and let my fingers feel the piano keys played earlier that morning by a gifted man as we’d worshipped. There is so much music in me, and yet, I lack the ability to play it–the hand-width, coordination and strength. I prayed: The highs are so high, Lord, and the lows are so low. And it’s hard to dance with the devil on my back, but I do not have the strength to shake him. You do, though. So please, God, get him off me.

My throat hurts. It started, interestingly enough, not long before I joined in a Bible Study Fellowship study of Romans. There’s some line in there, something like, Your throat is an open grave.

I try to sing in church, but my throat REALLY hurts after the second song or so. So I sit, and let the music swirl around me… and then I start thinking the devil’s sat me down, so I force myself back up and I tell myself to sing anyway. But it hurts, and singing was the thing that saved me in my childhood. Always. I’d walk the streets of my neighborhood and sing Bette Midler’s The Rose… and the song was always a prayer, and I had such confidence that in the winter I would know love. And yall, when I’d sing that song, it was always with the love of a good man in mind. I needed to sing it because the boys I knew were so unbearably cruel. The men I’ve known have been.

Winter’s never come, though.

I have buried myself. I have boxed myself in. Stunted my growth.

Yall might think it’s easy for me to unload. It’s not. I might have shared about my physical aches… it’s easy for me to complain about those, yall, because they HURT and are so plentiful that I can’t help myself. But once upon a time I was a champion internalizer like my brothers, like my parents. And about five years after I started blogging, I began to use this site as a sort of therapy. I’d type. Lots. And it would help. Hardly anyone I knew read it, and that’s okay. That was PERFECT because I didn’t feel as though I burdened anyone with any of it. 

I didn’t start unloading the baggage upon my friends until about four years ago or so. And there is such guilt and shame in me for burdening them. Such hatred because I cannot carry my cross with grace like all the others do. And I lean heavily on the words they’ve said back to me… but they are words. And I, like any writer, know words can be like vapor.

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