Grandma and Me

Grandma and me, two halves of a whole
It’s as though they cut the cloth from her creation
And made it the fabric of my life

Grandma and me, we had an unearthly bond
Science can’t explain how I still feel her alive in my bones
Despite the fact that we buried hers
The universe brings her to me in ways I don’t understand
She visits me in people to comfort me and guide me
She frequents my dreams to let me know she’s still here
And when I wake up, I feel a squeeze on my hand
Letting me know that it was really her

Grandma and me, she was my light
She radiated happiness and warmth to those around her
They never would have guessed the trauma she endured
Because her heart grew softer as life got harder
A natural nurturer who could comfort strangers
Healing me in sickness using food as medicine
And healing herself with needles for headaches and pain

Grandma and me, I grew up in her arms
After seven kids birthed and one of them lost
She said raising me was still the best time in her life
And if you were to ask her
If she could have chosen a different life
One in which she was not abused or assaulted or grieving
She would have told you there was nothing this world could do to her
To make her give up the last 21 years of her life loving me

Grandma and me, we shared our pain
She fell on the subway in Korea the year she passed
And I cried every day until she returned home to me
And when her heart stopped working
The doctors and nurses took turns pumping her chest
My dad and my aunt stood in denial
Saying she walked into the hospital, so she will walk back out
But I knew after twenty minutes that it was time for them to stop
I think it was only right that I was the one to release her

When she took her last breath, she took mine with her
I felt my heart stop working too
Because I had lost the only love I had ever known
To be real, to be pure, to be unconditional
And I still carry this ache with me wherever I go
I think it would break her heart all over again
If she knew how much time I spent not forgiving myself
Because of the guilt I felt from letting her go
Unable to grieve because I blamed myself

Grandma and me, no love will ever compare
I have tried searching for it in others
Only to realize I could only find it in myself
My friend told me, “Sarah, you are a light.”
I told her it gave me goosebumps
Because that’s when it clicked

Grandma and me, we had an unearthly bond
Science can’t explain how I still feel her alive in my bones
Despite the fact that we buried hers
The universe brings her to me in ways I don’t understand
I think it is because I am becoming her

Grandma and me, we are the same
I’m radiating happiness and warmth to those around me
They never would have guessed the trauma I’ve endured
Because I’ve found a way to grow softer as life gets harder
A natural nurturer who can comfort strangers
Learning how to be a healer using food as medicine
And needles for headaches and pain
It’s no wonder why when I discovered
Naturopathic medicine and acupuncture
It felt like I was coming home

And if you were to ask me
If I could have chosen a different life
One in which I was not abused or assaulted or grieving
I would tell you there is nothing this world could do to me
To make me give up the first 21 years of my life
Being loved so deeply by my grandma
And feeling her presence for the rest of my existence
In myself

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Self-Love

I was birthed by a mother who could not love her children
My books tell me this is a woman who could not love herself
I was just a child when she began using her hands and words to break me
But she convinced me that I had been broken since I was born
She grew up in a generation where women bred babies
But if she had been raised in today’s society, she said
She never would have had me
My grandma tried to kiss away the broken parts of me
But it was still not enough to make me love myself
I spent my life thinking I should have been an abortion

I met a boy when I was just 13
He was my first love and I held onto him for seven years
We played I’ll show you mine if you show me yours
And then he revealed to me the scars underneath his clothes
I tried to kiss away the broken parts of him

But it was still not enough to make him love himself
His fear of inadequacy broke a part of me too

I ran into the arms of a man who couldn’t be honest
He loved the adulation of multiple women in every city
I held him while he told me about his desire for others
And the shame he wore about feeling this way
I forgave him when he told me about the one he saw regularly

I told him I just wished for him to stop self-loathing
I tried to kiss away the broken parts of him
But it was still not enough to make him love himself
His fear of rejection made me feel worthless

I ran into the arms of a man whose embrace was cold
He loved the outdoors but spent all his time trapped in a hospital
I held him while he told me about the people he missed back home
And the people he delivered bad news to day and night
His words were never sweet
I tried to kiss away the broken parts of him
But he told me it made him uncomfortable that I cared
That’s when I realized that our disconnect was not indicative of my value
His fear of emotion had existed long before I arrived

I ran into the arms of myself after that
I asked myself why I run away from those who are not broken
And why I only hold those who seem so detached
Why do I feel so empty each time I can’t help them
I have a self-preserving mind that wants to protect itself
But a self-sacrificing heart that wants to protect others
Perhaps because I felt the world had failed to protect me
That’s when I realized I was a walking paradox
And that no matter how many broken souls I kissed
I could not repair my own
If I did not learn how to love myself first

I met a man when I was 25
He loved his family, his friends, his work, and himself
But he told me there was still one thing missing

This was my cue to leave many times before
This time I returned to give him a second date
I told him before I do, I want to tell you my secrets
My fear of abandonment has existed long before you arrived
I’m afraid to get close to anyone so I seek what’s unavailable
And push away those who are ready for love
But if I let myself fall, I lose myself each time
I cannot afford to shatter again so I need to take it slow
That’s when I realized I was healing the broken parts of me
I did not need him to kiss them away because they were mine
I think this is a sign I’m on my way to loving my whole self

Self-Worth

Someone recently said to me, 

“You have endured decades of repeated trauma and used that to find purpose in your life. How do you not see the value in yourself?”

I thought I did, but my behaviors don’t reflect someone who truly values herself. Beneath the facade of confidence, I am beginning to uncover that there are deeper insecurities that dictate the self-destructive tendencies that I can’t seem to justify, dwelling in my unconscious mind since I was a little girl and reinforced time and time again. I am just now realizing that I only see my value through the eyes of others and I don’t feel worthy of love just as I am, so I give and I work hard and I help others, satiating my need for the validation of my existence.

Since I was a child, I sought refuge in those who were powerless to protect me from the monsters that lived in our home, on the streets, and in my head, and since then I have learned to rely solely on myself. But what happens when you’re raised with self-doubt and can’t trust your own intuition?

The truth is, I have never felt safe on a visceral level and because of this, I have developed defense mechanisms, coping mechanisms, and survival strategies throughout my life, all of which I thought were meant to protect me but in the absence of threat were only inhibiting me.

Under my bright disposition, I am hypervigilant and anticipating attack. I say I am a rational person but am terrified of ghosts. I am anxious to the point where it cripples me at times and refuse to attach myself to anything that might blindside me or be taken away, anything that has the potential to destroy me. So I seek happiness through fleeting experiences with predestined expiration dates that have the sole purpose of serving me in that moment. I travel knowing I’ll have to return home, I read knowing the moral of the story is only pages away, and I water my plants knowing they’re replaceable.

But when I love, I love wholly, and let me tell you, my plants have never died from neglect but only from being overwatered. With people it’s not so easy because I can’t control the certainty or timing of their departure that I perceive to be inevitable, so I leave before I am left. And if I am ever stupid enough to let someone in, I make myself their home without asking for rent, but they come and go as if I’m a vacation and leave their stress and worries behind with me. I say I lose my self-worth when I am in relationships because I give and I give without asking for anything in return until I am depleted and distraught, and when it’s not enough for them to stay, I feel worthless.

So instead I seek temporary lovers whose agendas are self-serving but at least obvious enough for me to decipher because I can’t endure any more surprises. But even then I seem to lose self-value because their desire for me only runs skin-deep; I don’t let them see the rest of me. I start to think my body is the only thing I have to offer.

I have been conditioned to think that love is not truly love unless it is earned and tend to run away from those who want to love me. When they say they love me, I don’t believe them, perhaps because the one person who was designed to love me and nurture me has only ever hurt me and left me all in the name of love. She tore me down into an empty shell of a human for her own personal gain and when I had nothing left for her to take, she took my father and said it was my fault that we weren’t a happy family. You say all mothers love their children but you have never met mine, and somehow I have wrapped my arms around others whose internal demons have resembled hers and as a result, I continue to deprive myself of love. This is not the behavior of someone who values herself.

I am trying to identify and unlearn all the habits I have formed in order to keep myself safe and to learn new ways to sustain myself if a tsunami ever hits again because my past has shown me that it will. I say I am an old soul because I feel I have lived many lifetimes in my 26 years, each time that I have had to adapt in order to survive. I have rebuilt a home in my mind and my body many times over and luckily the healing has gotten quicker and easier each time. Now I am stocking my shelves with the tools to keep my head above water during the next disaster and the resources to start anew when it has passed.

Although history has shown me that people will abuse me, deceive me, and leave me, all while telling me that they care, I find solace in knowing I will never be like them and that there are others just like me. I am beginning to see the real value in myself because the common denominator through every traumatic experience has been my resilience to come out of the darkest days even better than if I had never been scathed in the first place.

Many don’t know that behind this seemingly happy life that I have carefully constructed to portray as my own, has been an arduous existence tormented by my abusers and a brain that torments itself in their absence. But my heart is still soft and my smile is still warm because although it’s been a bumpy ride, I can’t say I haven’t lived a colorful life, and the good things in my life taste extra sweet.