A rabbit wearing a hat.
They say man is an animal
that can get used
Only half of that tale is true.
You get used,
you become an animal,
but you get used to nothing.
Maybe you adapt.
You’re a tiger when you lunge,
a camel when you spit.
You’re all claws and teeth and it hurts
to speak. Fight or flight drives
your every nerve, and you have no use
for getting used to things.
Are you ever fully human again,
after this? Maybe you’re tamed,
released into the urban grey
where you growl
in your mother tongue.
You carry wildness in your head
through every office, street, or bedroom.
But this is your second self.
She’s an owl that rules your night,
a wolf pack that guards your hills.
Respect her, because
they will say that you, woman, are a being
that can survive
becoming a beast,
and back again.
She didn’t panic.
Maybe this time she wouldn’t mind, even though
she didn’t know how to breathe
with him crushing her.
At 5, there’s more mystery
than comprehension. But she’d watched
heavy, unwieldy words slide
into meaning beneath their pictures.
One day this story would make sense too.
At 5, she didn’t know
exactly how and where Dad entered
Her half-formed ideas went wordless.
No one understood when she’d asked
why she only saw this room, this bed
when there were so many other houses,
other people, other beds.
Why did her eyes see
only one film instead of them all?
She stopped asking things like that,
but she still liked to imagine
the other houses, other children, other Dads.
You just don’t feel like a victim at nine or ten, you feel strange on those long summer nights when you can’t sleep, and it’s hot, and you’re touching your chest the way he touched you. Sadness eats you, but you don’t understand, you think maybe you want him to touch you again. Maybe this time it would be okay. It feels like your idea, so you don’t think you’re a victim at all.
You’re a kid but you feel like you’re a million years old. Your own emotions and desires seem alien, the kinds of things that good people don’t talk about. It goes beyond feeling dirty. You feel like you’ve chosen to live in filth.
It’s not a matter of this stuff being your fault. That’s too obvious. Instead, it’s a matter of this stuff being who you are. It’s that deep, it’s that frightening. You don’t realize you’ve been fucked with. You figure you were born this way, born bad. Born sick.
So you grow up, and of course you don’t remember it was all your father’s doing. That he started it. You don’t remember and it barely seems to matter anyway. Your mind’s a cesspool. Your boundaries were never defined in the first place, so how could you feel wronged?
It’s a long summer night. You’re lying in bed awake, hot and hurting. The past is far away, but in a lot of ways you’re still nine years old. Waiting for someone to teach you the right things, the proper boundaries. But no one comes. Your nine year old self is tucked away, unreachable forever. You don’t even know why you’re crying.
When you were young you begged your older sister to kill you. You lay on the floor clutching a stuffed animal, crying, begging her to step on your fragile throat and end it all. You can’t remember why you were so upset, back then.
You can’t remember why those empty threats flung recklessly to the backseat of the car — the ones about orphanages and abandonment — always seemed so thrilling, so attractive.
You feel shattered, but you don’t remember what you looked like when you were whole.
Were you ever? And what would healing even mean, if there was healing to be had? You already know how to quiet your crying. How to live when you’d rather not. How to linger when you want to run away. But you don’t know how to honour yourself.
Not when who you are is what he made you.
Me reciting the spoken word piece I wrote, This is What Happened to Me. Trigger warnings for discussion of sexual abuse.
all the buds from my sapling twigs, you flexed
me like a whip until I cracked.
I flicked up your body and touched
you without my leaves, with no
freshness in my child’s hands, ’cause I knew
how to get you off. I knew how to hurt
myself on your bark, I knew
how to fall out of your tree. I could cut
you down without thinking, almost
without knowing who I was, and I believed
I was your wife, or your property. I said
nothing when you wanted me to be quiet, I said
the strange lies when you wanted something else, I said
I was your whore, I was your devil
in an angel’s nightgown, I was your secret, stolen
into your bed, and no one noticed.
It was pretty weird the way you always got away
with what you wanted, all your games,
and your tricks, and your tools waiting
in the nightstand for your sick fix.
You were engineering
a childlike robot, you were tinkering
with a splitting machine that could tear
itself in half like a worm and split
again into 4, then 8, then 16…and more
and more. You made an army out of me. I marched
under the radar at your command, I never went
AWOL or anything, I lay
at attention when you undressed
me, never flinching — except when your bombs fell.
I was a newly-sprouted forest under siege, I swung
like a catapult when you pulled
on me. I learned how not to be,
how not to be anything
but movement, just actions, just response, cold reaction.
I learned how not to be anyone, but I was everyone
you needed me to be, I was all or nothing
every day of my life and I sank
into the black and white world, happy unreality
playing with my toys so politely. And you bragged
that I was gifted, but you hated
that I was smart so you tore me up, you tore
me down. So I took your touch
like a comfort and found something to want
in your sick lust, I found rewards in punishments
that nearly broke me, I found love
enough to keep me quiet, keep me pleading,
keep me ashamed and terrified
that you would never let me go, or that you would
send me away. It was war, it was chaos, it was blood
and snot and semen and shit, it was real
it was real, it was real, it was real, it was real.
It was real.
This is what happened to me.
It happens to us all — we struggle to drag ourselves awake in the morning, we get the afternoon slump at work, and feel completely without motivation in the evening. Something keeps us near the dreamworld of sleep, and the waking world is a real downer.
For me, I easily drift into sleep. I always have; I’ve always slept very well and I fall asleep almost instantly, whenever I want to. I also tend to shut down in certain situations — like at work, later in the afternoon, when I’m in a lull and bored. I will literally slump forward, my muscles half-paralysed, and slip into a dream for an instant. And even without falling asleep, I can get spacey and trancey. This dissociative state drags me down. It numbs everything: emotions, energy, motivation, and passion.
I hate feeling sleepy or numb. It’s torture keeping my eyes open when they are closing on their own, and no one wants to go through life disconnected from everyone and everything. So I’m trying some more “out there” techniques for wakefulness, mindfulness, and awareness. It’s about changing my consciousness to be more alert and engaged in the moment. More alive.
For me, true mindfulness and awareness is not found by focusing on my breathing or my surroundings alone. Awareness is being sharply conscious of the outside world, yes, but it is also being conscious of my inner world. The shamans say we dream the world into being, so it makes sense to me that one ought not seek to empty the mind, but to quietly accept and understand it, just as one accepts the noises that creep from beyond one’s room.
When I look within, I have a very detailed world to visit. I have made it so as a tool to understand myself and my parts (for I identify as a multiple, being composed of many many distinct and individual parts). This way I understand the full complexity of the moment. When I know how my part Pomona wants to meditate quietly, meanwhile Electra and Shiva are riding horses at breakneck speed with Phoenix leading on her griffin, meanwhile the kids are parading with their spirit animals, playing and interacting under a crisp blue sky, I understand how I am really feeling. There is too much in a moment for me to say that I want any one thing at all.
Then, I ground myself in the outer world. I feel my feet flat on the floor and extend my energy to entwine and flow with the Earth’s. I have a small rattle that I can use as loudly or quietly as I like, and I carry it with me always for the purpose of awakening my senses to physical reality. I also have a stone with one side beautifully polished to look like ancient paintings on a cave wall, and its energy is grounding to me. Sometimes I run through my 5 senses, focusing on each one for a moment to really feel what I am seeing or hearing or touching or tasting or smelling. I move my body through space too — grounding shouldn’t be such a still or stiff exercise. Space is an experience we have in the physical world, as is time — trying to experience time more deeply can be mind-bending but fun.
Feeling grounded, I peek again into my mind. I feel more secure and satisfied, seeing that my parts are living a rich inner life.
Inside, Robert helps Branch and Field take out their frustrations on an image of their perpetrator. They yell and raise their weapons high, charging. Meanwhile Alexa wanders off with Carrie to see the faeries and make offerings to the coming Spring season. Colin makes breathtaking, unique birdhouses and Allan wants to make a full-size train system — but to where?
I come back to my surroundings, my feet on the floor. The rattle in my hand. I feel excited by the possibilities life holds. I feel refreshed, and I have an understanding of what I want in all its fullness. I honour my parts’ wishes even though I’m at work and can’t do much for them — I can at least honour their wishes by knowing them and feeling them.
There is a level of self-honesty here that I can’t live without. I can’t pretend that my rich inner world is any less than the real world – for imagination and reality curl around each other in complementary contradiction, each needing, birthing and eating the other.