The year—1974. My heart—carefully encased in a storage container of self-imposed concrete. Impenetrable, untouchable.
My mantra—you can’t hurt me.
My pain—too deep to touch. Too scary to look at. Too raw to claim as my own.
I stuffed it. I projected it on others. I clothed it in anger and torched it in futile attempts to banish it. I kept a chip securely perched on my shoulder to push any future pain away.
Do not touch me. Do not affect me. Do not matter…was the the message I sent to everyone.
I never told them the truth. I never told them I was afraid all the way to my toes. I never told them that if they hurt me I would crack like fragile glass, shatter into shards that would never come back together again. I never told them how small, broken or lost I was.
Instead I hid. I hid in a smoke-filled world of pot, speed, LSD and alcohol. Don’t think, don’t feel, don’t care was the only thing that mattered. Just have fun. In the crazy days of that summer I ran away from home with three strangers who promised adventure, too high to ask how—or why—they would want to take a kid across state lines for a good time. They promised to love me. To take care of me. Attention felt like it must be love. I lived in a fantasy of drugs and wishes that would never come true. I did not know what love was.
I was fourteen years old.
They dropped me back off at the edge of a cornfield after being gone in a drugged haze for three days, their promise of love and care forgotten as the tires peeled away in the dust. Alone—hungry—and nowhere to turn, I walked home, where my future step-father met me at the door. “There’s no one here to deal with you,” he said, as he dragged me to the car and to the police station where I waited in lock up for my mother to show up and welcome me home.
It wasn’t the welcome of the prodigal child. I was grounded for the rest of the summer, under lock and key. My room had been repainted and given to my younger sister. I slept in the basement from that day forward on a couch with a pillow and blanket. My mother had strong feelings about not appreciating what you had been given.
Don’t appreciate it and it will be taken away.
Lesson learned, but it didn’t heal the hole. The gaping emptiness grew and stretched, darker, the ache leaking into my conscious, through the drugs, through the denial. The pain vibrated through me.
I was alone. Lost. And nothing could hide the pain.
Autumn came, the door finally unlocked on my grounding as school began again. I vacillated between Novocaine levels of numb and nerve-screaming levels of anguish, the secrets of my pain leaking out around me, refusing to stay hidden inside anymore.
A youth hangout rose up out of an abandoned building through the good will of local politicians who wanted to get those “druggie kids off of our streets.” That worked for us, we appreciated the worn out furniture, warm building and filthy bathroom. It was better than hanging out doing drugs in the woods.
It was there—in that worn-down building with corralled druggies and broken, bored teenagers of the apathetic generation, that the flood came and washed my soul. It was there— in the gravel parking lot, high on LSD, stumbling away from the too-loud music blasting out the song, Stealin’ from Uriah Heep. The lyrics were ripping out my heart.
Runnin’, hidin’, losin’, cryin’
Nothing left to save but my life
Stood on a ridge
And shunned religion
Thinking the world was mine
I made my break and a big mistake
Stealin’, when I
Should’ve been buyin’….
Runnin’, hidin’, losin’, cryin’
Nothing left to save but my life…
Falling back against an old oak tree, I sunk to the ground, cushioned in the crunchy comfort of its fallen leaves. The words, “Nothing left to save but my life…” continued to play, through the LSD, amplified, speaking only to me—haunting me— jeering at me—daring me.
I was at the crossroads. Choose… I could hear the Voice rustling in the wind. Choose. Decide what you want this life of yours to be… Save your life or die…
I covered my head with my hands, blocked my ears and screamed. I screamed out the agony, I let the hot tears stream from my face, tasting the salty wetness as they fell.
I don’t know how long I sat there like that until I had screamed it out, my noise blocked by the loud music. All I know is that I was suddenly aware that the music had ended and a new voice was speaking. In front of me. A voice with a body attached.
“He loves you. Do you understand that?” the new voice said.
I lifted my head, opened my eyes, peered up at the blue-jean clad legs and the acoustic guitar. Lifted my head higher, to find the smiling bearded face, the shaggy hair, the warm smile.
“Who does?” I asked suspiciously, wondering if he was a hallucination from the drugs.
“God. He wanted me to tell you. It doesn’t matter what happened, doesn’t matter what you’ve done. What they did to you. He loves you, and He’s still here waiting for you to come back to Him.”
He sat next to me, leaning against the oak tree. We talked. I asked questions. He answered, his voice sure, calm, loving, trusting. The teen center closed, the music went silent and after awhile, this stranger pulled out his guitar and played songs. He played Amazing Grace. I felt the first stitch of my heart weaving back together.
Somebody loved me. And somebody cared enough to tell me so.
I woke the next morning, sober and cold, in the basement on the black fake-leather couch that was my bed. It had to be a dream. Or a drug- infused hallucination.
No way could a stranger have taken hours out of his life to sit with a crazy fourteen-year old girl high on drugs just to tell her God loved her. It wasn’t real. It couldn’t be real. Nobody was that loving, that kind, that… amazing.
I felt something crumbled in the blankets. I pulled out my hand, still clutching the pamphlet he had left me with. In case I wanted to know more…
More about unconditional love. More about amazing grace. More about people who care about others just because that is what love does. I felt the second stitch of my heart come together.
I did want to know more.
Do you want to learn more? Join Wendi & Deb in a Journey to the Center of Your Heart, beginning in Nov, 2013. Discover how unconditional love – especially unconditional self-love, self-respect, and self-confidence can change your life forever more. And! Did you love this post? Share! Spread the love with your friends! And subscribe to Around the Studio so you never miss a new post! Thanks for reading!