Ripples, Quakes, and Explosions
No trading sin for pain
Ripples, quakes, and finally an explosion. If I had words to express this, I would speak them aloud, but instead it comes in ripples, quakes, and explosions that begin in my head but move violently through my body as well. I have no control over this and no options. I have given up the bloody violence of razors and knives I once would inflict upon myself to calm the inner violence. Occasionally though, my hands disagree with my choice and inflict their own form of minor violence in the form of punches to other parts of my body. I cannot hold all of it inside. If I had words to express this, I would speak them aloud.
If I had words to explain this violence at the moment that it occurs, instead of having to become trapped within it, I would choose to use words. So now while I have words, I'll tell a story. It's a true story, yes, but sometimes true stories are limited by the scopes of our memories. I'll do my best, instead, to give you pieces of a story.
As a child, I had several occasions to discover the importance of balancing good and evil. While evil seemed invasive, albeit sometimes tempting, it needed goodness in order to be moved back into its own plane of existence. Of course my CCD teachers never taught us this. They taught us that through through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ we were washed of our sins and that we could keep ourselves cleanses through the holy sacraments. I'm perhaps giving them too much credit in how well they explained these things. I was a voracious reader and learned much on my own. I read books on saints and their willingness to suffer, to even die, before giving in to evil. It seemed to me that through their sacrifice they had kept evil from creeping forth out of the fires of hell and into our own world. As I read more and learned more, it seemed to me that when I myself had committed some transgression, the best way to show God I was sorry for offending Him, and to keep evil at bay, was to inflict some form of pain upon myself. A rock in the shoe, a lit match to the skin (but just for a second, don't leave a mark), a tiny little scratch here or there, something that won't show if anyone's paying attention. These were only for God's eyes only.
When did it turn into something else?
Was it when I went to retrieve a glass doorknob that my sister had admired on our old house when we moved? I pulled and pulled, imagining how thrilled she would be to see the faux crystal piece of glass. Instead it broke into pieces in my hands. I felt such guilt, but it was a guilt with it's own built-in punishment. I was proud of my bleeding hands at the same time that I was ashamed of myself for breaking a beautiful thing my sister had desired. Maybe it was the pride that got to me.
Was it perhaps when I discovered that a razor blade's glide across my skin could easily be disguised as the accident of clumsy hands while shaving? The pride of seeing my own blood drawn by own hand, and feeling a gentle stinging pain inflicted by no one but me. It was mine alone. It was private. No one else could make me feel it, or take it away. No one else would have to feel what was happening to heart. Stay fully clothed and no one sees. Gain a few pounds too and no one will even look (let alone touch). Let your hair hang down in your face. Hide hide hide.
Was it when I let him lick the knife's edge after each tiny cut to my shoulder?
Or was it when I bought a set of tools for the times I knew nothing else was going to take away the hellfire threatening to come screaming out of me?
So as I said, I learned the importance of balancing good and evil. I learned that when my heart sung a song of violence towards the ones who hurt me, I could choose one of my instruments to sing that song of violence to my body, as gently as a lullaby at times, as deep and lamenting as a funeral dirge at others. This was meant to save me, keep me pure, keep the evil away.
It did no such thing.
I've heard the singing of angels and the laughter of demons when battling with what goes on in my soul. When I could hear the demons laughing louder as I took hold of my sharp tools, I knew the balance had tipped in the wrong direction. I won't pretend I recognized it right away, and I won't pretend that I stopped as soon as I did. I tried to rationalize it. I tried to cling to it. But in the end I did remove myself from it. I'm a grown woman now. I'm not a child, or a teenage girl. I'm not trapped. I have a husband who would only lift a hand to me if he were pointing at something beautiful for me to see. Yes, sometimes the nightmares still come back. Those ripples, quakes, and explosions. But I have found balance. I have someone waiting for me at the other side of those moments. Yes, my husband, but also myself, weary but alive. And also a God who never wanted me to exchange my sins for pain.