I said I would be transparent through the process of fasting, but I’ve kept something firmly shut away. There is a shadow about that I hide from everyone. I live with the existence of it, but I’m excellent at distracting myself. The tv is always on, a background hum so my thoughts don’t get isolated. My hands working to be busy. But fasting is an ever illuminating light that demands us to stand up and state what is going on underneath the careful layers we spin. The last few days it seemed to yell and scream in my face until I slowly evolved into a mess on the floor. There is no hiding from it anymore.
I told my husband I don’t think I can be honest about it. With you. With him. With myself. As I was struggling to put this post together, he texted me back with a simple response- yes you can. I knew he was right, and I settled into a disarray of tears, mourning the loss of ‘cover’ I craft so carefully. Transparency is the hardest medicine of all. And it seems to be what this fast is requiring from me.
In a last attempt to get out of it, I asked Eddy, the ghost,
what he would do. The radar was quiet until a simple truth surfaced in the
night, “land.” Maybe Ghost Radar is just exceptionally funny, but land is what
I have been praying for. It started with shame, and ends in shame. Consumed by
it, I am nothing more than a skeleton woman fished from the freezing sea,
searching for her flesh.
My attempt for that flesh was asking my best friend to marry me several years ago. And he did. We got married under a cloud of shame. And no, I wasn’t pregnant. I was just…I don’t know. A brunette among a sea of blondes. Does that make sense? I spent my wedding day alone in my apartment trying to figure out how to zip up the ugliest wedding dress I had ever seen. I wanted to hide from the disproval of me, and the ivory mess of fabric seemed to swallow me whole. I had lived with a general disproval of me for so long. The living room ceremony was full of tension and awkward tight lips. The option for a real wedding was not a choice, I was told. My Halloween wedding ceremony was, I felt, all that I deserved. I projected that mindset onto my husband. The shame they felt, I made his own. I convinced myself that he would have never asked me to be his wife because he was too ashamed of me. I made it truth, and accepted it as my own. To this day, when he says I love you, I hear an unspoken obligation.
The shame continued and followed me into my years of Lyme disease. It didn’t matter what the doctor proved. What the blood test stated. The shame of quitting my full time job while my husband worked full time and attended the university full time was ever present, and often pointed out by others. He was beautiful to me. Reminding me of my limits and caring for me with gentle spirit. But not everyone had that attitude.
“Laura. You’re not sick. You just need to heal your inner child.” That comment alone caused me to shut down. To this day, most people who know me face to face do not know I had lyme disease. Tyler and I became an amazing team, hiding the fact that I was sick, because I was terrified that more people out there shared that same opinion. When we fasted to heal the disease, it was met with silence from those who ought to have been our support circle. And when I was healed? It wasn’t a victory….because, for them, I was never sick.
The miscarriages were the nails in the coffin. Watching my children bleed out one after another was met with, “it’s a blessing. Tyler can’t handle that with everything else you put on him.” The shame of getting pregnant and the shame of desperately wanting those souls to stay was like a constant song of guilt. And when it was an acceptable time for us to have a child, the shame was ever present, reminding me that I cannot have a child. Skeleton women cannot give birth, nor would it be a gift to the child to be raised by such a shadow. My husband never knew how to console me through each death, and was hurting himself. But I was too consumed in a mess of blood and pain to see past my fingertips. I just knew that he was silent, and I projected the shame I assumed he must have felt onto every action he made.
Finally, when the numbness came, robbing me of teaching and perfoming piano, I felt like the one gift I legitimately had was being taken. Just like the wedding. My health. And my babies. Music was the one thing no one could project shame onto me, because I was excellent in my craft. I studied for twenty some years. And when I wasn’t at the top anymore because of health?
Well….this is when my husband became on suicide watch.
Between the two of us, we’ve never told a soul- from my own
doing and control. I once heard someone say that no one living was really
suicidal, because if you were, you’d be dead already.
“Then why do people say they don’t want to live anymore?” I asked. The guy laughed as though it was obvious. “They just want attention.”
I was ten at the time, and committed it to fact. It didn’t help that I lived through public high school where just about every girl I knew was “suicidal.” It was the popular thing to do. And it was annoying.
So when it inched into my own adult life, I kept it close to my chest. The last thing I wanted was someone thinking I was seeking attention. What I wanted was the physical illness to stop. The shame to disappear. And for my soul to get a chance to just sleep in peace. I tried hiding the depths I was sinking into from my husband for over a year. We morphed into a roommate relationship while I became more zombie like each passing day. I stopped answering the phone. I didn’t see people anymore. I stayed home while the husband went to family events. Being suicidal for me wasn't a passionate anger. Instead, it was a slow death.
And finally, when the slow death was complete, I tried throwing myself down the stone steps of our home that everyone thought was a death trap. I was willing and hopeful to test that theory. I had previous efforts the days prior to end my life that kept failing. I’m not sure how I walked away from falling backwards down the stairs. I just remember being slammed into the side wall from a force that I couldn’t see, stopping my fall. I sat there stunned for the entire day. Stunned and angry. Angry at God for preventing me from rest.
Tyler came home, finding me sitting in the same spot on the stairs. He was upset because I hadn’t cleaned. I hadn’t cooked. I hadn’t done anything in months. He was done with my zombie like existence. I accepted my shame and failure as part of my makeup, his anger just. It was a rare moment for him to him break down. But I remember sitting there in a resigned silence while he screamed at me to say something and fight back. “I want my wife back!” He was crying and shaking, and I could do nothing but stare straight.
I had no fight left, didn’t he see that?
And then I supposed it was God who intervened and took my ability to walk and see this last April. If I was going to live like a zombie, why not make it official? I hated every minute of it, but I discovered something about my husband during that time. He is a righteous and good man. This man took his resigned and cold wife to the doctors each day, cooked meals, ran the errands, cleaned the home I had neglected for months, completed Good Earth Living orders and shipped them out, slept on the couch so I could spread out and sob through the night, finished his senior finals, graduated, started interviewing for degree related jobs and somehow, found time to rub my feet. I broke down sobbing at one point while he was bathing me in the tub because I knew I could never, ever make it up to him. A part of me felt as if he was caring for me out of duty because he was a righteous man. If I woke up magically healed, he still had a skeleton corpse of a wife that couldn’t give him children or make him happy. He could never be proud to have me, and introduce me as his wife because of the disproval of my existence.
It was during this time the beautiful souls over at Soulodge
sent me gorgeous stones, feathers, and shells to build my own medicine wheel
while I physically healed. We laid in bed, him turning the stones over while I
read the accompanied letters with tears and gratitude. I felt held and hopeful.
And now that I can see and walk again, I am quick to say the medicine wheel
completed the work, but this fast is clear to say the work is not over.
perhaps this fast was never meant for flesh.
but for the Shadow that I keep hidden. To be seen.
I don’t know what to do yet with it. I just know I need to open this door and let this skeleton woman be seen. The energy it takes to clothe her in false flesh and perfume is more than I can handle. Especially with my lover so far away from home.
I want to be seen for what I am….and approved of.
I want to be whole and complete.
I want healing, in every part of my life. Flesh and soul.
….And in a painful moment of honesty, I’d admit that I want nothing more than the man I love to propose to me, four years after marriage, and wipe away that shame I’m clothed in. To tell me that he cared and continues to care for me because he chooses to love me. Not because he is the righteous man that I have found him to be, or good to his word. I am a bride of shame, and a decaying corpse since that day. But I need a peice of his heart for my own.
…and maybe like the skeleton woman, I can take that peice of heart and drum my own flesh back into being.
if that doesn’t make sense, I would ask, have you ever been a shadow in love?