Apologia

I am sorry.
Can you forgive me?

You’ve been gone nine months.

I’ve not yet
written of you, though perhaps I’ve
gestated poetry
our story in its lines.

Poetry chooses its day to be born
this day on which I opened
that chest of papers and photographs
stored in your basement
the box of your sorrows
and mine.

I couldn’t say it before:
Please forgive me.

Upstairs
you had pictures displayed on your shelves
of our father, our cousin, our stepmother
our mother, and our grandparents
but none, not one
of me.

Today I found the old images
of me, your brother
in that chest, where you kept my photos
hidden.

I understand your scorn.
Please forgive me.

I don’t blame you I blame
myself, it was I
who could not endure
your drinking, I
who recoiled against your turmoil, I
who became enraged
when insulted but worse
failed to forgive.

I am better now.
Please forgive me.

Remember, I wasn’t
well-formed, remember her
cruelty, remember her
letters.

I found them
hidden
In that same box.

The missives she sent to
our relatives
hoping they’d respond to threats
of burning houses
dying children
she warned
we were not safe and she was
right.

These were the letters she wrote before
the hate mail
she forced me
to copy in my own hand
and sent to those I loved.

I tried
to survive yet perhaps I did
not, perhaps that’s why I could
not love you as you wanted
as we all deserve.

I could love you better now, but it’s too late.
Please forgive me.

Like you
I was scarred in childhood
insides burned alive.

I became another man
with a blackened heart
a wound unhealed
before now
nine months too late.

These days, most often, I am feeling happy.
Please forgive me.

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19 Responses to Apologia

  1. Trabel says:

    I am speechless…

  2. Karen says:

    Dear Will,
    People say “his/her art, music, poetry etc moves me to tears”.
    I literally wept with last night’s poem. For you. For him/her. For what was.
    I simply sat here a while and cried.
    The pain in you is tangible, and understandably so.
    The pain in such a poem is…. I admire you, salute you, call it what you will for your courage in sharing it with us.
    And, I thank you deeply.
    It is more than, far deeper than just beautiful.
    It is……………..

    Namaste
    Truly Namaste, Will.

  3. Jen says:

    There is god/good/truth/love in these words. There is healing on both sides even though she is gone from this plane. Good work bright soldier.

  4. Elaina says:

    I am crying now.
    I was so broken by my childhood, the deep inner wounds, the burned out self, as you describe, Will, that I have not, still cannot, love ANYBODY the way I should, the want I WANT. I cannot. I have 3 grown children and teenaged-to-ag-20 grandchildren who grew up without the LOVE I WANT but CAN’T…… still. And my cousin, who drowned at age 38 on June 3 last year… my only blood relative living in this state, more like a little sister to me than a cousin, but I did not, I was not, THERE for her as I wish now I had been, Oh. My. God.
    “We did what we knew how to do, and when we knew better, we did better.” ~Maya Angelou
    But my children and grandchildren are still alive, and I am still living almost 2,000 miles away from them, unable to even get their damn birthday and Christmas presents in the mail, because I am just so not RIGHT.
    I am crying. Damn it. I’m going to take the dog for a run right now before it gets too hot, and cry into the wind.
    Elaina

  5. Oh my gosh. This is amazing. I felt the pain and sadness coming through your words. A part of what you wrote sounded like you were talking about me. Thank you for sharing this.

  6. Elaina says:

    “I tried
    to survive yet perhaps I did
    not, perhaps that’s why I could
    not love you as you wanted
    as we all deserve.”
    ~
    “Like you
    I was scarred in childhood
    insides burned alive.”
    ……Will, I, too, tried my best to survive my childhood, but I realize that perhaps I did not. When my MPD/DID father stopped the car in the breakdown lane on the Oakland Bay Bridge and pulled my not-quite-3-year-old self from the car, chanting over and over in his high-pitched scary psycho voice that he was going to throw me off the bridge, far down into the water, and I would die… he got right up to the railing with me in his arms, and I felt so small and utterly helpless, and then, THEN, I felt that I was dead already, he had murdered me already.
    Years later, when I was 12, and my traumatized mother – after coming so close to being murdered by my insane father that I had thought she was dead, and my dad was arrested that terrible violent night, and then he was hospitalized, and diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder and Schizophrenia… THEN my mother, broken, shattered, traumatized, and totally narcissistic, tried to kill herself and all 5 of us children by filling the house with gas as we slept in our beds. And once again, I felt that I was already dead, I felt as though I had been already murdered, when she explained “I brought you kids into the world, so I believe I have the right to take you out of it, and life is so hard that I would be doing you a favor, by killing all of you.” Then I thought… NO, I did not THINK, I FELT…. I felt Dead Already. For what child has both her parents try or threaten to kill her, years apart? And I, too, tried to survive, but I did not survive. *I* did not survive, only a shadow of me, survived.
    And I have long felt the guilt, the shame, of not having loved my loved ones better, not having done more, been there, just…. BEEN THERE. I had so much love inside my heart to give, when I was a little child and everything was all brand new! But my light and loving nature was KILLED, it was strangled, it was gassed, it was thrown off a bridge… strangled, when my husband, my now-ex-husband, strangled me years later, as I relived my childhood, in my adult relationships! And in my heart and soul I screamed, Why do I inspire murder in the hearts of those I love and those I expect to love me?
    Forgive me, Will, if I am saying too much, and being too raw, here.
    The part of myself that is always very hard on me, tells me that this is a lot of malarkey, just a bunch of excuses for my laziness and my selfishness in not loving my loved ones more, and better.
    But truly I know, in my deepest heart of hearts… this is not a frivolous excuse, this is TRUE: I Did Not Survive my traumatic childhood.
    This is why I call my blog PTSD is Normal. If a 10-ton load of bricks is dropped on my unsuspecting head, being CRUSHED and OBLITERATED would be my new NORMAL.
    As the renowned psychiatrist neurologist author of 30 or so books, survivor of the Nazi Concentration Camps for almost 3 years, who lost his young pregnant wife and all of his family members but one, lost his whole life and world due to that unconscionable evil Nazi genocide – Viktor E. Frankl MD, PhD, in his book MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEAING, his most popular work, which has sold over 9 million copies, and is known as one of the top 10 most influential books ever published, stated: “An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal.”
    PTSD…. or…. WHATEVER you want to call the peculiar BROKENNESS of our SOULS that severe prolonged repeated abuse and/or trauma does to the human psyche, particularly when it occurs during our formative years…. the Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder/Injury which is explained so beautifully and brilliantly in Harvard Psychiatrist Judith Lewis Herman, MD’s landmark book, TRAUMA AND RECOVERY… this Complex PTSD that I have had since I was just a little terrified girl, when my daddy held me up to the railing and chanted that he was going to throw me off the bridge and I would fall down down down into the water so far below and I can still SEE the blinding sunshine coming off the water, the tiny boats so far below, and I can still FEEL the cold steel of the bridge railing, and HEAR the zoom zoom zoom of cars and trucks passing by, oblivoius to what the man with the toddler is doing and saying… and I still experience, in the hollow of my gut, my helpless resignation, an utter DEAD-NESS, and I know that it is true, I am who and what I am because of all these things that I had no control over, and no, I did not survive.
    Yet, I am still fighting struggling trying to survive. I am 59 years old, and freaking out on the inside because my life is coming to a close and I never got to LIVE. I have been too broken, too crazy, and too Dead Inside, to ever actually LIVE this one and only life.
    Is this why my dad and my mother and my exes did the abusive things they did? Because they, too, had been so badly broken that they did not survive?

  7. Trabel says:

    I am speechless…
    But I think I can add a non-emotional dimension to it.
    Trying to kill a child, whether it is for real or “dummy”, is the ultimate abuse, the one that goes to the heart of existence and puts to ordeal the basic instinct of self-preservation. The nature made it so that the child rely on his/her prime caregivers for survival – and by such actions the abusers fatefully mess up with this basic sense – and the mess gets imprinted on the budding mind of the child for the many years ahead.
    Basically, all forms of abuse mess up with Nature and the logic of life.
    In my experience, overcoming the sequels of abuse has two important aspects: one of them is working with the effects it had on our psyche (PTSD is really helpful!) and the other one is understanding the (perverted) logic of the abuser. When one gets to understand the abuser, the responsibility can be handed back where it really belongs – to the abuser. Symbolically, intellectually, emotionally… and in reality!

  8. Elaina says:

    Trabel! You do ”speechless” uncommonly well!
    Seriously…. yes, I agree with you, that trying or threatening to kill a child is the ultimate abuse, and it is imprinted on the budding mind of the child for many years to come.
    I also wholeheartedly agree that ”….overcoming the sequels of abuse has two important aspects: one of them is working with the effects it had on our psyche (PTSD is really helpful!) and the other one is understanding the (perverted) logic of the abuser. When one gets to understand the abuser, the responsibility can be handed back where it really belongs – to the abuser. Symbolically, intellectually, emotionally… and in reality!”
    Absolutely. Do you have a blog, Trabel? If so, I would love to read it.
    Since March 9 of this year, as I have been writing in my own blog the story of my traumas, in sequence, in context, beginning with the earliest traumas I remember… telling my entire trauma story for the first time ever, in my almost 6 decades of living… I am amazed and grateful to discover that I am NOT becoming overwhelmed, flooded, and buried beneath the avalanche of painful memories and painful PAIN…. I am, instead, Being Set Free(er), on a much deeper level than I have ever been.
    I am, in a way, explaining me to me. I am explaining my crazy life to me, and finding in the process that I am also, to some extent, explaining my abusers to me. Along with the telling comes a deeper understanding, and along with the understanding I am finding a new freedom from some of my most life-crippling PTSD symptoms.
    I write my posts, then I read them aloud to my best-friend-husband, as he reads along with me on his computer. (My husband has PTSD from Vietnam Combat.) As I’m reading my trauma-story-in-timeline to my loving understanding best friend life companion, I feel some pain, yes, but greater than the pain, I can feel myself HEALING on a deeper level than I have ever been before.
    Yes! Post Traumatic Stress Disorder/Injury is very HELPFUL, as you say, Trabel! PTSD helps us to survive the otherwise un-survivable.
    Will – dear blogger friend – how are you doing? I am beginning to worry. Getting in touch with such raw and long-buried emotions is like surgery, isn’t it, potentially wonderfully healing, and also painful, frightening, and fraught with danger.
    I sent a private email to you, Will, but I don’t know if you got it, with your blog host being changed? As I explained in my email, I have posted a link to this post of yours, and your poem, and my comments (no one else’s) that I made here, on my PTSD-is-Normal.com blog…. I know that the most courteous thing for me to do would be to wait until I have your permission, before doing that. I apologize that I did wait for your permission before posting/linking, as I normally would do. My “excuse” for my uncharacteristic lack of courtesy is that I feel so COMPELLED to share on my blog the emotions and the greater UNDERSTANDING that your poem evoked in me.
    If you object to my having your poem and link on my blog, please tell me so, Will, and I will delete that post immediately, as soon as I get your message.
    ~Elaina

  9. Trabel says:

    Dear Elaina,
    I do not have a blog yet – because my most intensive work with my childhood issues was in 2004-2006, and blogging was not so popular back then. I am planning to share my experience and I’d like to take my time; partly because I need a prolonged break to organize my material and partly because I am still integrating all wonderful changes it brought to my life.
    The net has been a vital aid in my work, allowing me to find the pieces of information I needed and to tap into the knowledge and experience of all wonderful people that went this way and that were there for me! …
    Well, I also want to be there for others – in our common struggle for a better life and more humanity!
    PS: Alice Miller gave me a lot of answers.
    http://www.alice-miller.com/index_en.php

  10. Elaina says:

    Thank you, Trabel. You are the second person to recommend Alice Miller to me, so I’m taking that as a sign.
    I’m so sick right now, I have something like a chest cold or flu or pneumonia, something miserable. Having PTSD of course I think that I’m dying..

  11. Trabel says:

    In her book ‘The drama of the gifted child’ Alice Miller proposed the model (if I can put it this way) of the co-existence of the False Self (formed under the pressures of significant figures in our childhood) and the True Self (corresponding to our true nature, which is suffering when suppressed by the False Self).
    …and that we can have our vitality back by integrating our True Self (and pushing our False Self where it belongs).
    I’ve checked your site before and I can notice the new developments! In my view, it’s all going in a good direction ;)

  12. Elaina says:

    Thank you, Trabel, for your very meaningful compliment about the progress you see on my blog. I have begun reading Alice Miller’s books, I intend to order all of them as soon as I have the money to do so, and meanwhile I am reading samples of her books on my Kindle, and also reading her blog link that you provided above. So far, everything I have read of hers resonates deeply with me. Thank you so much for pointing me toward her insightful and healing work.
    ~I am worried that we have not heard from Will since this Apologia poem of his was posted. I also have not received a reply to the private email I sent to Will, asking him to let me know if he objects to me publishing his poem, with my comments, and link back to his blog, on my own blog. Now that I have had several days to calm down from my emotional rush of revelation that Will’s Apologia evoked for me, I believe that I probably made a grave mistake in posting his poem on my blog, without first obtaining express permission from Will to do so. I am therefore going to immediately remove it from my blog. I am very deeply sorry, Will, if my rreaction to your poem has hurt you in any way.

  13. Will says:

    Elaina–

    Thank you for your contribution to this site. Your background obviously affects you deeply, and I appreciate your sharing your journey. By way of encouragement, I can say that over time my own steadiness and availability have increased. I believe you will gradually find your true, deeper self that is currently obscured by the aftereffects of all you went through. I am glad you have connected with Trabel, and that she is offering support.

    No problem about the poem. None at all–I feel honored that you would want to share it.

    I am so sorry to have posted this piece just before leaving for a 5-day meditation retreat. Without an internet connection I had no idea there was so much happening on the site. I won’t make that mistake again. Thank you for caring.

    Warmly,

    –Will

  14. Will says:

    Trabel–

    Thank you for your comment on my poem and for your insightful comments to Elaina. I appreciate your enlarging the discussion with the references.

    Take Care,

    –Will

  15. Will says:

    Brenda–

    Thank you for the support. My sister was a dear soul, and in the last year of her life we got close again, but she was so ill that my photos remained in her basement. I feel a lot of sadness that our relationship was so badly conflicted for so long, but I am more at peace around it all than this poem makes clear. I wrote it immediately after going through my sister’s possessions, and was looking at things pretty darkly. I have more perspective now, especially after being on retreat for five days.

    Warmly,

    –Will

  16. Will says:

    Jen–

    Thank you for seeing the healing and its broad reach. This poem doesn’t highlight that aspect as much as it might, but you have insightfully seen it. Thanks for the comment.

    Blessings,

    –Will

  17. Will says:

    Karen–
    :)

    –Will

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