Win

In the game of life you may find yourself amidst a family feud

Odds stacked against you, destined to lose

The age-old fairy tale from hell of the narcissist and the empath, which one are you

My eyes have grown weary from struggling to see clearly through all this gaslighting

If you show any emotion in response to their explosive commotion

That is how they win

You’ve miraculously kept your boat afloat despite the perfect storm of their rage

The shore is just beyond your view, keep faith and raise your anchor

Starve them of fuel with your lack of reaction, let them sputter to a lonely stop without you

Adult babies cry, assuming you’ll run to their side as you usually do, but will you?

What if you stepped to the side, got off the ride, wasn’t it sickening for you?

What if you put yourself first, tended to your own hurts instead of those around you

Stop playing their game- you had nothing to gain, they drained your sanity and occupied your brain

Energy-vampire mind-game spinners, tangled you in their mess and devoured you for dinner

You care so deeply for their feelings, but they don’t care about yours

Stop playing their game

That is the only way you can finally win

Figure

Notions in my nervous system leak out from time to time

Potions in my stomach leap back up from time to time

I zombie-shuffle around the hospital on a 24-hour shift pulled between urgencies and emergencies, my ID badge clipped to my scrub top, dangling like a nipple tassel, swaying immodestly with each step.

Despite the stress of my current life, I feel deeply blessed

In the dark of winter, I feel the sun rising below my feet, supporting and uplifting me

The sky’s the limit

I feel it all- my invisible mental illnesses concealed by my silence and my simultaneous self-healing chipping away at the the plastic false-front I put up for survival, replacing it with vines organic growth that I hope will one day blossom with radical authenticity.

‘Did you come?’ he asked me, I didn’t know what he meant by ‘come’ but I was used to faking it when I didn’t know the answer so I said yes because I was raised to tell people what they wanted to hear, and never appear flawed, weak or wrong. I believed my ‘yes’ was the truth because I didn’t know what ‘coming’ was outside of arrival, so I figured that my coming had happened without my knowing, and I said yes because I figured it was the right answer- the answer he wanted to hear. It didn’t bother me at the time that I hadn’t wanted him to put his penis inside me- I was hard-wired to do what everyone wanted of me, and still am. I had suddenly entered a world of new vocabulary and new unpleasant sensations. We were kids, barely adolescents, yet he knew things I didn’t and had done things I hadn’t. The honest, informed answer would have been a resounding ‘What does it mean to come?’ followed by a ‘No, not even close’. Jersey boys grow up fast, didn’t even seduce me before they induced me grow up fast; the recovery is slow. Trauma lasts; a few seconds echo across a lifetime.

‘Don’t go in there- he’s a bad man’ was the stern and tremulous forewarning from an elder woman on a stoop watering her urban flowers. I wish I had followed her suggestion or asked for an explanation. Ever the workaholic, I brushed past her, attributing her words to eccentricity, and knocked on her neighbor’s door. I had told this man I was coming to visit, and I follow through with my word and maintain utmost punctuality, on principle. Hungry from a lifetime of poverty, I was determined to make my fortune on the high seas of the internet by socializing with rich men who I later learned were impoverished in spirit and cost me far more than the pittance I garnered. He locked me in his apartment and shouted commands at me to take off my clothes and get on my knees. He proceeded to rape me in every orifice and slapped me hard across the face, choking me as silent tears streamed down my cheeks. I had mastered the art of silent crying in early childhood. The man and I were both deeply disappointed by the events of the evening. He was furious when I hesitated to follow his commands. He asked, ‘didn’t you read my profile?’ I hadn’t, but I figured he wanted me to say yes, so I said yes. He followed with, ‘what did you think of my profile?’ I replied, ‘I liked it’. I never read his profile, but I imagine it might have read something like ‘heinously unattractive morbidly obese abusive alcoholic with tiny, foul-smelling penis seeks young woman to verbally and physically abuse through rape and violence.’ Hours after I initially wanted to leave, he released me from the hell-hole of his apartment. The city air never smelled so sweet. After fearing for my life that night, he motivated me to quit sex work. Silver lining. I wonder if the truth would have set me free sooner- if I had simply said ‘no’ when he asked me if I had read his profile or told him that I didn’t like it if he had paraphrased it. How much waste can one haste make. Speed made me sloppy. It still does from time to time.

Despite the horrors I have survived, I feel most distressed by those closest to me- my explosive nuclear family who I care about deeply and who hurt me deeply. I didn’t imagine that my own happiness could cause so much upset amongst them. They take what is beautiful and make it so damn ugly, shitting on my truest joy- my union with my life partner- with their dramatic accusations in which they mistake their feelings for facts and make my ‘special day’ about them and their insanity. They already ruined all the special days of my childhood- I shouldn’t feel shocked or even mildly surprised. It seems they only celebrate alongside me when I fit into their vision of vanity, when it is convenient for them. The frustrating part is that my partner is a good person who loves me and we are happy together, although he doesn’t fit into their narrow ideals for race or finances. The aggravating part is that we got married in part for them, to keep our love proper and kosher and acceptable. I figured it was what they wanted. The enraging part is that we got married in part for our future children, after I aborted my first three pregnancies partly for my family’s honor, without stopping to reflect how they dishonor me. I am now struggling to become pregnant at an advanced age. My uterus has suffered untold abuses. There is nothing I can do to make unhappy people happy. All I can do is cultivate my own inner glow and shine.

As usual, I am frozen in fear and anxiety, and also exhaustion. I’m tired of the indentured servitude of residency, tired of battling on the front lines of the pandemic, and tired of a lifelong pattern of catering to the emotionally labile who believe I owe them my life and that I am responsible for their unobtainable happiness. For the longest time, I believed them. My bleeding heart didn’t know any better.

I choose to collect my thoughts before responding without reacting from a place of hurt. Overwhelmed with emotion, this will take time. I want certain family members to think more thoroughly and compassionately before spitting venomous words at me. They want me to speak on demand, yet are quick to give me the cold shoulder and now that I am older I want to cut the cord between us like surgery to free myself from the malignant tumor of their energy.

May I stop trying to figure out what other people want of me- it has only lead to my misery, over and over and over and over.

Back at work, I hear the whip crack. I haven’t met most of the people who are getting rich off my back.

I observe people’s bodies with judgement even though it tastes bitter- ranking them in attractiveness- what an unattractive habit. I remind myself to stop imagining their thoughts, to focus on the flame instead of the candle, to behold the melting wax in awe- the interface between spirit and physical form.

I’ve put forth an immodest amount of effort in my life, pushing through severe anxiety and depression without accepting help, least of all from myself. I did seek help a couple of times during childhood when I told my mom in my little voice that I was depressed, to which she reprimanded, ‘you are not depressed’. If she only knew how frequently suicidal thoughts have dropped in to visit me. I no longer invite them in for tea- social distancing. My mother taught me to replace my feelings with everybody else’s feelings.

I feel emotionally ready for retirement even though there are many moons before I will receive my first real paycheck. I have come to treasure quiet peaceful moments. Doing less is my goal, even if I rarely allow time for it. Simply being present in the now, basking on the soft moss of inner calm, feeling that I belong, that I am lovable just as I am. I hope the same for you, and not because I figure that is what you want to hear- I sincerely wish that all beings be happy, healthy and free.

Grandma

Your bones were a home to his hate

Pushing the limit of how much pain one body could hold

Stoic, we didn’t know

Did your bones creak under the weight of his blows?

Did your spirit waver?

You talked to yourself in rushed whispers nobody heard

Did you speak your truth?

Your body didn’t break despite the violence

He had a rigid mind and brittle bones

In his attempts to use force, you proved yourself stronger

You endured decades of untold abuse

Did you know that you didn’t have to suffer alone?

In putting the family first, did you forget that you are the family?

When he died, did you cry?

When his death finally freed you, did you feel safe in your skin?

Did the prison bars of his arms penetrate your mind?

Nearly a century old, you are still alive and well

I won’t ask you to share your trauma

You won’t ask me to share mine

Our bones are strong

Little Women

A tale of 4 sisters

The first two bulimic and bruised

The eldest succumbed to drug addiction early on

The first three prone to promiscuity

The second smoked and drank

The third lost her voice when the second beat it out of her

She worked as a prostitute because it was easier than saying no

The fourth turned out alright after the third shielded her from the family tradition of abuse

At great expense

The third sister’s body is a bomb ready to explode with all the trauma it holds

Please tread lightly

I am a little woman but I hold enormous potential energy

I am a volcano of anger and I don’t know how to express myself without burning others

So I implode, swallow, drown, melt

Often letting my feelings remain unfelt

But I love to feel and I love to heal

I long to stomp barefoot, curls in the breeze

Take a break from humanity, put my mind at ease

We will seek peace in vain until we embody peace ourselves

Swallowing Fire

My unspoken sadness and madness

Burn like hot coal in my throat
My sore neck holds the tension of another night’s nightmares
Running from persecutors with unknown motives
Even in my waking life, I don’t know why some people get so mad at me
How tempting to cut them off like a gangrenous limb
I hesitate when my persecutors are my family
Stubborn old fashioned tradition of gritty endurance
Ancient dynamics, drama on loop
My sister, abusive and oppressive
My parents either didn’t notice or didn’t care
I used to want to be saved, wanted my parents to protect me, to show my sister that I mattered. That will never happen because it hasn’t happened yet
My rescuing is entirely my responsibility
We are grown as hell
I notice and care about the years of mistreatment and terror
I will protect myself
Though I’m not sure how
Though my throat is scalded with all the fire I’ve swallowed
Fire I’m getting ready spit when I tell you what you are

Bouncy Ball

Resilient sphere of color

I throw you down but you only bounce back higher

Dancing down the stream
You get caught on rocks and fallen leaves
I free you and follow you down the babbling brook
Your journey is again halted by forest debris
I dislodge you with a stick and you bound onward
Carried effortlessly by the water
I was told that all rivers flow to the ocean
I am determined to travel there with you, to see this through
Then I learn that water sometimes moves underground
Branch still in hand, we are both stuck on land
I didn’t account for this
Years later, I am an adult in a high-pressure profession
Just now pausing after years of running
As if I’ve been chasing a ball down a stream
Bouncing from one goal to the next
I am bewildered by the restless movement which only distanced me from my heart’s desires
In exchange for passing tests, I received more tests
No one ever asked me if I want to be tested
I value serenity and peace, meditation in nature
I was already where I wanted to be
When I was a girl with a rubber ball
Bring me back to that forest stream
I will stand in it
Let the cool water wash over my feet
Bouncy ball by my side
In stillness and simple satisfaction
We will stay

Flame

Your rage strikes my heart like a lightning bolt

Cracking it open and setting it afire
I am at a loss for what to do, so I warm my hands over the embers and wait
To transform, part of me must die
I cannot rush, only trust
How many times can one heart break?
As many times as it takes
To learn the sacred lessons
To consciously unite with the divine
Time and time again
Pain is pain, sensation is sensation
No matter the form or formal education
Lucid dreaming just before waking
I see a sea of broken hearts glowing in the dark
Each a floating lantern offered up
Burning with the same flame

Strong

Let’s start where we are

At the end of my rope again
Wanting to kill my body to liberate my spirit
Free myself from the grips of your jealousy
Your hands can’t grasp the air, can’t contain that which is intangible
Only the heart can do that
I want to throw a wrench and stop the drama-go-round with a screeching halt
Would it shake you awake from the illusion of reality?
Would it finally lift your veil?
I have felt hunted by you my whole life
How refreshing to be the one to hold the knife
I want to get out of my own way
I balance a negative thought with a positive one
Remind myself that I create my life each moment through perception, attention, intention
Even now, you are another a poppy in the field, trying to keep me knocked out instead of awake, empowered, enlightened
Wrapped up in visions of destruction, I remind myself that I have a choice every moment
I turn my mind’s eye to that which uplifts me, and give a wink
How much more energy would I have for that which I love if I let go of that which I loathe?
I don’t have to prove that I am strong anymore
I don’t have to take your shit anymore
You are the one who needs strength
At my best, I pray for you and the healing of our relationship
At my worst, I fantasize about taking a shit on your grave

Good

I no longer strive to be labeled as ‘good’ by others

Like a trained fucking dog

I don’t want to act sweet
When I feel salty and bitter
I never wanted to fit into a box
Or stay between the lines
I don’t even belong indoors
I am a wild, free woman
If that means I’m not the angel you thought I was
Then light up the fire and brimstone
Too long have I carried the burden of trying to save the world while looking cute and put-together
Always satisfying other’s needs like plugging holes in a dam and I’m about to burst
I tremble and ache to let go of the many ropes which bind me
So many roles to play and expectations to meet
No wonder I have no time or energy left for me
I am the only person I can save, and my liberation doesn’t require fake smiles or insincere social pleasantries
To live my best life
I must aspire to be more than simply good
I must liberate myself from the ribbon I am wrapped up in
Rip off the docile doll’s dress and burn it,
Warming my hands and illuminating my night
I must feel my body and ride the waves of my emotions with shuddering ecstasy
You want me to be good
But I want to be better

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

Please don’t judge me for being a sex worker in order to make ends meet
You taught me how to dissociate from my body, how to put other’s wants ahead of my needs
You were my first violator and my first pimp
Remember molesting me at night throughout my childhood and adolescence?
You opened the floodgates for countless rapes
Remember forcing me to do things I didn’t want to do my whole life?
Pimping me out to abusive children who you ‘felt sorry for’ because they did’t have any friends
The reason why they didn’t have any friends is because they weren’t good friends. Like you, they were trapped in abuse
Oscillating between abuser and abused
Remember commanding me yet never asking or listening?
I told you I was depressed, you told me I was not
The middle school guidance counselor called you to pick me up from school because I was suicidal-
All you did was yell at me
You found out I was a sex worker by violating my privacy
You yelled at me to respect myself
Yet you never respected me and actively taught me to disrespect myself
How can you expect me to fly when all you ever did was drag me down and break my wings
You raised me in poverty
Gave me no financial resources, no guidance
I was hungry, I had textbooks to buy and rent to pay
You want to take credit for my success
I became who I am in spite of you, not because of you
Though I see the crucial role you played
At the end of the day all I can say is namaste