what happened there

three questions

i feel my eyebrows crinkle, my chest tighten just a little, my son asks me why i’m mad at him. “i’m not mad.” “you look mad.”

“oh, what is happening here?” the question a friend taught me to ask myself.

my mind rushes to my stories, pages bound and strong by the spine: is it like the light is really bright after being hidden away for decades or like i’m walking around with that big elephant and everyone can see it or like i’m scarred in all the places they touched me or like i have a wound exposed and the air hurts it and the sun stings it or like i’m still diving down the ocean depths or like i’m on a path and there are boulders popping up that i have to navigate?

it is like all those but none of them are right. none of them soothe.

nor do the myriad of rationalizations i have tucked away: that every moment was all part of god’s plan or that i was divinely chosen to receive the evil and keep it safe from others or that i am a cosmic superhero who went in the place of another child so she wouldn’t be hurt.

none of them settle my body anymore.

now when my eyebrows crinkle and my chest tightens and breathing gets shallow and i can’t think of words to say and i go to ask myself, “what is happening here,” all i get is a faint sense to ask, “what happened there?”

my mindfulness work of the last year and a half is going back in time. it’s taking away the stories and the analogies and the assumptions; the book shelves full. it’s taking away the rationalizations that are like cheap fleece blankets: immediately pilly and too small with a machine-made blanket stitch around the edge.

i concentrate to smooth my face and breathe deep and wait for the answer. “what happened there? just the facts.”

like walking in the forest and seeing what’s there: just the facts. the tree that lost bark a couple feet up, the hedge apple at its base, the yellow leaves on the ground, green ones on the branches. the bird moving from elm to oak, the squirrel tracing a trunk like a candy cane stripe. the sun slanting at a 5:00 in the afternoon degree, the shadows long.

“what happened there? just the facts.”

and oh, it’s hard. the facts are horrible. they are worse than the analogies. they are bathed in fluorescent light. they are sharp and ugly. without the excuses i’ve made for decades, without the reasons i’ve created, without the hope that it was meant to be, what happened there? textures and smells and words spoken and time passing. the facts alone are almost too much. the moments right before and the moments right after, the door squeak, the steps, the confusion. my heart increases to write it. my eyes nearly close. i breathe as deep as i can, it is still shallow.


this is where i am and the blankets don’t cover the truth i’m exploring: i lived moments of my life that were outside of god’s hope for me.

i’ve never considered this. it was too terrifying and would take too long to grieve. it was safer to believe that god made those things happen and i would understand someday. it was even safer to think that god approved of it and i just had to show how well i could take it. it was safer to think that i did something bad to cause it and therefore, i could do better and it wouldn’t happen anymore. all of that was better than thinking that i was outside of god’s power, which i equated with love.


but i think that’s it. the same truth my friend told me years ago: she can’t believe in a god who would predetermine or approve of abuse happening to children. now i understand that.

i don’t know what that will bring, my questions are much greater than my answers. my loneliness is great, but at least i’m not alone. and i’m not mad at you, sweet boy, i’m tired. and thank you for the reminder to see what is right in front of me now.

breathe in, breathe out, be aware, notice. what is happening here? what happened there?

2 thoughts on “what happened there

  1. Wow. Powerful. Thanks for sharing. I plan to think a lot about the line “I lived moments of my life that were outside of God’s hope for me.” This really resonates with me. I work in a field where we try to help children and families who are hurting; where children and sometimes parents have been abused. I’ve wondered about all of these things and how God fits into these families and situations. I have no answers but really like your words. Thanks for speaking out and being present for yourself and others. Take good care.


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