When I was born, I was named like all the rest of you, but something didn’t quite fit right with mine.
I had heard my name called, along with beautiful, precious, and baby, but it was on my birthday, by a handmade needlepoint, a special gift that had taken hours to make by lovely hands, in pink threads mounted by gold frames, I discovered the actual Biblical meaning,
“Blessed are the Pure in Heart for They Shall See God.”
My tummy turned, because I had really wanted a pair of Guess Jeans, not because I liked them, of course not, that would have been original and authentic, but because it was going to keep me out of the bathroom stall at school, a place I ate lunch every day, in an expensive private school, once again, the new girl.
There was nothing “Pure” about that, not with the lovely hands reaching out her special woven design of kindness, a gift I faked a smile for, and so I first took on the nickname, “Shame” for this birthday.
“Selfish” didn’t seem fitting to the crime.
I burned with other names when I saw it, not just the words but the baby pink threaded stitches I would see and flinch, when I was so obviously a grown up middle schooler. I knew only a brat would not see her joy in making it hang just right, so I would not hurt the woman I loved more than myself, I would gasp, seeing her eyes light up were worth 10 pairs of jeans.
Loving myself more than her had never been an option I would ever want to choose, time and time again I had hurt and cut her deeply, her sadness one of my many crimes, and so if I could not change my name or this birthday, I wrote my name differently, dropping the Y, what made me different was the day I put on the ie, certain it would bring me a hidden joy, or at least take away the sin.
I wondered if it would be easier to not be a girl, or a first born, or someone who loved music, for maybe that was why I held the pillow over a little f.m. radio, my heart pounding at every creek, the music was worth the punishment, obviously.
I had chosen to be grounded and not spanked for the MTV video, so I prayed a Tiffany song would come soon, the punishment never fit the crime, or vice versa, a confusing difference for my mind.
These secrets, the love of dance and music and people and places that were different than me, often got me in trouble, so I learned early to lie just about the ones you really really want, with all your heart.
When you’re “Selfish,” you hurt people anyway, so if you hurt someone on purpose, make it matter.
“Shame” is a difficult name badge to wear for it is in these situations, the hurt is not on purpose, against God or authority, but on accident, which is worse actually.
I remember the woman with the loving hands howling and yelling, crying tears of pain, shutting doors and family friends from out of town huddled around her and were comforting her. We had been to the mall, at the beach, with friends, and I felt the white go out of my face, when I heard her wailing my name.
That damn name. She had said to me that I didn’t love her the way the other children loved their mothers, and I was shocked, terrified, certain my confusion would be cleared by the people whispering to her, soothing her.
I felt my little arms drop, my heart go silent, and I couldn’t feel, I COULDN’T FEEL, I TELL YOU, but I tried. I tried so hard.
She finally found me on the balcony, angry, and I trembled, wondering if I had just not opened my mouth, complimented the other lady, maybe she would realize. Maybe she would see.
She said I felt nothing, absolutely nothing for her.
She was right, but the pain was there, and I wanted to, but I didn’t know how to lie the one truth I knew was how deeply I loved, so deeply, that the lies were FOR her, the apologies were FOR her, but I stuttered like an idiot, flushing, as she sadly shut the screen behind her.
I could go away or hide or lie if it meant her not feeling bad, for it wasn’t her fault. It was mine. Selfish doesn’t give love, but is a punishment to innocent people, an abuse, like my writing, the other part of me I weeped from having, all the time, all my life.
Locks on diaries don’t keep that even safe, and secrets are revealed by God, so to be a writer I learned, is a gift no one has the right to use against anyone, and so I put my finger in my throat instead, the relief of vomit now replaced the words that hurt, and relief came back up, soothing me, the pain in her eyes were replaced with joy, which meant I had done it finally right, until the day the neighbor saw it in her toilet.
I had done it again, this hurting, this torture, to the very person I wanted to help, to heal, to convince, and I had not covered my tracks.
How stupid can one be.
It wasn’t even high school yet, the numbers and hours to leaving home crept in, denied, screamed at, argued, but I didn’t know how to make them go away.
Having friends had helped until I found it meant I loved them, not family, who are the only ones who will really love you, so I decided not to be loved by anyone that didn’t matter, and work hard to be loved by those who do.
Until I fell in love.
Until I had sex.
Until I smoked pot.
Until I made people laugh.
Those sins made guilt disappear quick, and so I validated her, again and again, plotting the crime while she cried, thanking God I was no longer that girl on the toilet seat, her mother in the stall with her at school, crying and praying, my numb cold body screamed “YOU’RE SELFISH!”
I was numb and vacant, but at least numb, but even as sadly lost as I had become, I didn’t know what to do with the love I so feel and felt deeply for her, certain nothing I could ever do will show it, even finally accepting her God, moving into a furnished home decorated by her with a job my father arranged, my friends far away, my sobs a testimony to my decision to win her back.
He gave our check. She proudly showed us the rooms decorated, the new doormat, beaming with joy.
I gushed with gratitude, looked away from my new husband, a man I found later had been given a couple thousand for a ring my father drove five hours for, behind my back, putting it on the table for him, but when I asked her, she said with joy,
“You did say you wanted to marry him.”
Selfish people do selfish things like not appreciating love and gifts and checks and homes.
No more lying. I was doing time, and certainly this would require a belief in her God.
The same God wouldn’t allow me to see Rock Eagle, the very first time I was asked to room with Natalie, the girl I adored, mimicked in the mirror at home, a request I almost felt my heart flip for, a real girl wanted me, ME, to be in HER cabin for four days??
God told my mom no, and so I hated Him, sitting in a desk alone for days with a substitute handing out worksheets, Natalie stunned and hurt.
That led to being put down a grade, which I have never not made straight A’s, so I was confused.
In the middle of the school year.
In a new school, but this time, it was my brother’s class.
He moved that year a grade below, because he was small for his age, if I recall.
I wanted to erase my name, and myself, as they asked where he was, who I was, where he went, and how much they wished he would come back. It was a class of sixteen people and Natalie had far moved on, and so I messed up and said I was hurt, so stupid, her reaction let me know I always thought the grass was greener, that nothing was ever enough, that she was a failure, and my stomach burned in regret, my feelings couldn’t do anything but hurt and wound, I was convinced.
“Please love me anyway,” I would scream in my mind, lying to do what made my heart flutter, knowing how wrong lying is, I started to self destruct, and she said this to me from love, I know it, because true love for oneself would never harm, or be bad, or illegal.
This began the long years of doing anything and everything to be loved and validated, and the high I felt was more than any drug, to see someone just love me, despite the mess, just for me.
God knows who I thought “me” actually was.
I skipped down the halls of college in this freedom, wind in my hair, friends I loved, the burning didn’t go away or stop, the lies just got bigger and I had become two separate people, one for her, and this forbidden fruit I had the stupidity to tase, the experience of just myself.
I had to. I couldn’t think of her lying in my bed and bawling for weeks when I left, my freedom a slap to her love, and so was the day I told her the truth, her words were over my lies revealed were no truer than my own thoughts, “It would have been easier if you died.”
And so, I did the crime, I paid the time, mainly in living a lie, not mine, but hers, my new name “VICtIM” had now moved in full force, but Divorcee got the brunt of that rage. When I thought about it, I realized in my 33 years of living, I have just a few years on both hands that I didn’t live in her home, her in mine, married and divorced, her divorced, a true testament to my new found peace, that I knew she saw me, knew she felt my love, her own childhood made my own look like pie.
I was told many times if I knew how to have done it any better, her apologies were sobs, my shame and regre now boiling, her pain made me hate my selfish tongue that much more.
And I became a mom, saw she did the best she could, that love sometimes just meant suffocation, is messy, but it shows up, forgives, holds on, nor does it lie or betray, ever.
I did get rid of everything to be with her, help her divorce my father, pray with her, and the burning was almost even gone, completely, her love was so free it made me swell, except for this one thing.
I couldn’t get out of bed, ever.
I would still be there if I did not have little girl eyes, my own reflecting something I vaguely remembered, in this cloud of darkness.
My babies taught me well. They taught me love, and nothing I ever felt or received was confusing, or painful. Nine years of mothering led me to love, to a God I met and didn’t hate.
I recently picked up a journal back from when I was newly married, the first page went to the day I found out I was molested, at 26, by a boy who played tennis with my father, the night my dear friends were coming to meet my baby, none of them had understood my 3 month engagement.
I said I knew this was why I must be sick, this experience I still don’t recall, as an 18 month old, my father angry at my rage that upon this knowledge, he greeted my friends to his home, what any host would do.
I state it felt more like pretending, my feelings not even addressed, which I in this moment stood my ground, only to fall in the shower, let the water just run as I sobbed, my stupid name. My stupid mouth. Of course, I had been working so hard and here, in a moment of blank shock, I dared question my father to her, a woman who loved me, had taken me back, a drug addict, a mother unable to find her own home to dwell with a husband who didn’t appreciate or see all the things she had done.
It took me back to a memory, that journal, of me in my little purple room, smashing the one gift she had made me by hand, all her love and joy for me stitched into letters, her pride for me so deep, the confusion seemed more insanity on my part.
I had smashed it. I took it off that wall and smashed it, didn’t even know why, or what had come over me, but when I saw what I had done, I froze in fear and I lost all hope. I lost all hope I could be loving, if this is how I would love my own mother, MY OWN MOTHER.
I took the pieces of glass, buried them like a dead body, stomping them, and most my teen years were marked not by that hanging needlepoint, but the fear she would ask what happened to it, my heart jumping when she came to the room, my clothes picked up and rushed to hand to her, a relief, one more day meant sleep, my betrayal poison.
I am that glass, deeply buried, myself I am searching to find, but now I know it is not a crime scene, but a landmine of precious jewels slowly being discovered. My eyes, a window to the soul, had not paid attention to what I was burying, darting back and forth, afraid, wondering if I were to be exposed. I am finding not much splintered glass which I had thought, but little fragments of ruby and opal and topaz and amethyst, a deep serenity to keep digging, to see what else I have hidden, my shattered self is returning, a deep healing I find, a cost in losing the only woman I have fought to love, a flag I wave in defeat.
In losing her, I am free to write without the one fear I have never known life without, and it may never go away, hurting her, and as for my name, well, I am working on it.
I can’t put on false bravado, for it is true I know she will not read this, nor do I hope she ever hears of it, the years I spent with her hugs and calls, cups of coffee, long talks and walks are my favorite memories, worth every moment of being born to a name she gave, the name I would give the world to just be.
Knowing her love for years is more than she ever received from her mom, and in grieving and missing the woman I would do anything to have love me, I at least have the name she gave, “PURE IN HEART,” a badge I want to wear with pride, and so I dig, and weep, dig and weep.
For what, really, is just a Name?