I’m not sure, but I think the words are ready to come as to why I keep hearing this song and how I’m hearing it so differently these past couple of weeks. It’s been some dark days for me lately so I’ll warn you that I’m not even looking for a paint brush in this one… no pretty pictures today. If you’d prefer to pass, I’ll understand. I’m actually surprised I’m even going to post it… but here goes.

As I listen to the lyrics and the way they unfold, I realize that I’m thinking about the broken little girl inside me that’s been begging to be healed for as long as I can remember. I’ve bought her off in all kinds of ways throughout the years by trying to deny her existence and all of the pain that she still carries. I can’t even reconcile my childhood with the smile I see on the baby in this photograph. It’s hard to fathom that this was actually me at some point.

But when I look at this picture – of me? – I want to warn this child of all the pain to come. I want to tell her that no matter how hard she tries to be invisible, they will still find her and they’ll treat her “unkind” because…

she was a mistake.

I know, there are tons of folks walking around this planet and a whole lot of kids today who weren’t planned by their parents. But in my case I’ve never NOT known that I was a mistake. It’s just always been a part of me, this knowledge that I’m not supposed to be here… almost like it’s a part of my messy DNA. It was actually my Mom who said it but I’m certain that she had no idea of the impact of her words that day. She probably didn’t even think I was old enough to grasp that chain of sounds as being a statement about how I came to be in this world by accident. She told me that when she first found out she was going to have another baby she was very sad. And she followed that up by saying that once I arrived, she was happy I had come.

But once I heard the first part, I think my little brain was so overwhelmed with that heavy news that the second part of what she said to me just had no impact. Like I said, the message that I heard was “I’m not supposed to be here.” As in, on this planet. Somehow I showed up by mistake but I don’t know from where or how to get back there to set things right.

And thus the little girl you see smiling in this old photograph was forever altered. Even to this day, I think it’s the reason that I feel like I don’t have a place… that I just don’t seem to “fit” anywhere. It’s the reason that I still feel like I am an interloper in a world that has no place for me because… the mistake is ME.

And it wasn’t just these spoken words that told me I was a mistake. It was the look I so often saw on my father’s face when he happened to glance my way that told me it was true… even more so than my mother’s actual words. I could be wrong, but I honestly believe that I was conceived under the most inhumane of circumstances. I believe that my mother endured my father’s beastly appetites in ways that are now considered marital rape and that I was the result of one of these occurrences. I know for sure that as a child I was aware that “bad things” happened to Mommy in the basement. There were so many days when she couldn’t even meet my gaze when I questioned why she seemed so sad.

Because of that, I think my father saw me as a kind of punishment… a living, breathing reminder… not that he’d done something wrong mind you. But that he’d gotten caught. I think he saw me as his cross to bear because he’d taken what he wanted without considering the consequences. And that consequence for that night…

was me.

Here was another mouth to feed and a constant reminder that, although he wasn’t one to entertain regret, somehow this time the Universe hadn’t let him slide.

I never understood why his face seemed to change so dramatically when his eyes moved from one of my siblings and landed on me. I’d wonder why daddy seemed to be so mad all the time and it felt like it was all my fault. It didn’t seem to matter what I was doing, or if I was doing nothing at all. But he sure looked like he didn’t like me very much.

And I’m not sure, but I think those looks I would see on his face when he actually DID look directly at me was when I first began to understand what hate actually looked like. While I might have been confused about what it looked like, it didn’t take me long to very clearly understand what it felt like to be the target of such a deep seated hatred.

And that smiling baby in the picture would come to understand that her mere presence would come to cause a lot of problems for everyone else, especially when daddy would be on sick leave or would go on strike from work. I can vividly remember many times thinking, “if I hadn’t been born there would be more food for everyone else.” Somehow I came to believe that just by being in a seat at the dinner table, it was me who was the root cause of the financial strain that I saw on my parents faces.

My siblings sure picked up on the difference in how daddy looked at me versus how he looked and acted with them. I think it goes without saying that kids are a lot smarter than we give them credit for and they pick up on subtle, and not so subtle, cues. And at some point along the way, my brother and my sister came to realize what I already knew… I wasn’t supposed to be there.

And so they had a choice to make. Knowing that this extra kid was somehow different in daddy’s eyes, they had to decide whether or not they should follow daddy’s lead. Because they definitely didn’t want to be treated like the extra kid who was so obviously different from them with that flaming red hair that nobody else had. Not to mention she was the one that daddy called “a small brown worthless nut” because she wasn’t born in Virginia like they were. She was born in Ohio so she was called a buckeye and they were pretty sure that wasn’t a good thing.

So, as an adult I finally came to understand that the reason that even they didn’t seem to care too much for me was basically just survival instinct. If they took the chance of treating me differently than the way daddy did, he might start treating them differently too. So instead of having a big brother to protect me, I had an ever present bully who took great delight in making me cry because I was just such a pathetically easy target. And instead of having a big sister to look up to and learn from, there was just this other person in the house who wished I wasn’t there and who ultimately just began to pretend I wasn’t. Because in her young eyes whatever was given to me, no matter how small, it was something that should have gone to her.

She really needn’t have worried but at the time she sure did. I remember riding in the car and hearing her insist on a new winter coat. Even though all of my clothes were “hand me downs,” it crossed my little mind that if I hadn’t been born my Sissy could have her new coat. I just really wasn’t supposed to be there and I sure wished I could just go back and set things right.

But there I was, taking up space and consuming resources that were already stretched pretty thin. The differences would continue but at least the drain on resources and the damage I posed to the family could be minimized.

When my siblings each hit fourth grade and music became an option, they both chose a brass instrument. My brother the trombone and my sister the coronet. When I hit fourth grade I fell in Love with the sound I could make drawing a bow across the strings of a viola! And oh how I wanted to learn how to make those strings sing! But instead of that beautiful stringed instrument, I was informed that if I wanted to be in music I could play my brother’s unused trombone. I actually tried for a short time but that trombone case was bigger than me and we had to walk to school.

There would be no music for the extra kid.

My best friend and I started taking dance lessons because her Mom was allowed to drive when mine was not. We took ballet and jazz together for a couple of recitals and I discovered that I wanted to be a ballerina! I couldn’t play the music but maybe I could learn how to dance to it! I somehow even got my very own beautiful toe shoes and as miserable as they were to put on, I was determined to break them in so I could learn how to balance on the tips of those delicate little shoes like the other, more graceful girls that I watched with awe. But it was at that same time that my best friend didn’t want to dance anymore. I had no way to get there so after maybe a half dozen classes that dream died too.

There would be no dancing for the extra kid.

Even my vision was somehow suspect. When I began to have trouble seeing the chalkboard, I asked my teacher if I could sit up front. It had to be pretty bad for me to muster up the courage to ask for anything from anybody but she not only obliged me a front seat, she told my parents that I seemed to be needing an eye exam. The response was that they figured I was just wanting to wear glasses like my brother and sister. And so they waited it out to see if I’d get over my envy. By the time I finally ended up at the eye doctor, he said my vision wasn’t only poor… it was actually worse than either of my siblings.

So the extra kid at least got her vision back.

From these and other events, I finally discovered that the best approach was to do everything I could to not be noticed… which isn’t easy to do when you’re the only kid with red hair. But I came to learn that if I stayed really quiet and did exactly what I was told… and if I just stopped asking out loud for the things I dreamed of having… if I tried really, reeeeally hard.

Maybe I could learn how to be invisible.

And so I created a space in my head that I could go to when things got to be too much… when my brain would go into overload and I just couldn’t take in any more rejection or pain. I’ve come to call it my “bubble” and I’ve spent a lot of time there. Not just when I was that lost little girl that had once beamed so brightly in this old photograph. No, I may have created that safe bubble way back then, but it’s come in handy throughout most of my life when what was happening around me or to me was more than my brain could absorb. And I’m pretty sure that along with some of this stuff I can remember here, there’s a whole lot of stuff that I can’t recall. And I think it’s the stuff I don’t remember that is still stored in that space that I created to keep me safe that terrifies me the most.

So here we go once again with another label. It’s called dissociation. Some people say that for them it’s almost as if they are visually hovering over some mind altering situation that their brains just can’t take in… almost as if they are watching from above what they can’t believe is actually happening below. But for me, it’s more like a quiet empty corner in my mind that I can go to all by myself. A place where I can find some semblance of peace and quiet.

It’s that place where I can finally get the closest to the invisibility I tried so hard to master as a child. And it’s a place where, when the need arises, I can go to and pretend that what’s really happening to me or around me isn’t what’s really happening at all.

For me it’s just a blank space. But what it holds feels very dangerous to entertain.

Why I’m pouring out all of this emotional vomit about that pathetic little girl I’m not even sure and whether or not this will ended up posted is a pretty long shot.

But I think the reason I’m revisiting some of this early stuff is because I finally see that I can’t change the way I felt as a child about knowing I was a mistake or the hurt of being treated as the “extra kid.” I’ve known for years that unless and until I try to heal the pain that little girl endured, along with so much worse that would come later, I’ll remain mired in all of that muck.

So now I can finally try to explain why this song hits my ear and my brain so differently now. I know that if I don’t try to finally reach back to try and heal that lost little girl by fending off those wild horses, their hooves will trample over me instead of being a means to my redemption.

I’ll be taking part in an intensive trauma retreat in a couple of weeks and during that time I’m certain that I’ll be accessing some pretty rough places in my history. As I approach the changes I’m trying to make in my past and in my present in order to be able to see a new kind of future, I’m going to try not to be bitter or treat unkind that lost little girl, or the broken teenager, or the heartbroken young woman, or any of the parts of me that have sustained such lasting damage as to cause me to find safety in a bubble above my head or in an apartment in which I can so easily become trapped.

As I look toward that retreat, these are the words in the song that cause me to want to go… while at the same time terrifying me at the prospect of what I might find:

Faith has been broken
Tears must be cried
Let’s do some living
After love dies

I think I’ve got to be strong enough to both go there – to go to that retreat – and while I’m there to also “go there” to the places within me that need to be healed. I’ve got to muster up a kind of strength that even “Wild Horses couldn’t drag me away.” I’ve got to finally let all of those broken parts of me go and try to heal them… in order to do some living.

And maybe, just maybe, if I can make peace with all of those bruised and broken parts of me… Those Wild Horses? Those beautiful wild, wild horses…

we’ll ride them some day.

Wild Horses
The Rolling Stones

Childhood living
is easy to do
The things you wanted
I bought them for you

Graceless lady
You know who I am
You know I can’t let you
Slide through my hands

Wild horses
couldn’t drag me away
Wild, wild horses
couldn’t drag me away

I watched you suffer
A dull aching pain
Now you’ve decided
To show me the same

No sweeping exit
Or offstage lines
Could make me feel bitter
Or treat you unkind

Wild horses
couldn’t drag me away
Wild, wild horses
couldn’t drag me away

I know I’ve dreamed you
A sin and a lie
I have my freedom
But I don’t have much time

Faith has been broken
Tears must be cried
Let’s do some living
After Love dies

Wild horses
couldn’t drag me away
Wild, wild horses
we’ll ride them some day
Wild horses
couldn’t drag me away
Wild, wild horses
we’ll ride them some day

Songwriters: Keith Richards / Mick Jagger
Wild Horses lyrics © Abkco Music, Inc

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