08 March 2008

remembering her

I'm hitting a wall.

I've been working on my book proposal and I'm hitting a wall, but it's not what you might think. The words come freely and prolifically, except for when I try to remember her. I'm trying to plough full steam ahead and find myself bumping up against a wall of forgetting whenever I try to write about her.

Maybe that's the problem: I'm writing about her. I'm not thinking of writing about me, the thirteen-year-old who learned to cope by building walls. Disconnecting. Responding to her body's perceived betrayal by treating it like her enemy. She turned away from the body she lived in, putting up heavy barriers in the roadway of communication between herself and her flesh. At some point she said, Okay, Body. If this is how you're going to be, we're not talking anymore.

I can write freely of the ensuing bout with anorexia, about the numbness I allowed following the car accident, about the arrhythmia that held me prisoner for a time during my senior year in college. But I can't remember her. She made a deal with herself to choke off any pathways of remembering, to burn the bridges that might lead back to those painful places of being burdened with a body. I trust innately that I cannot sidestep these places or take a detour; without fully understanding why, I know that there are not any shortcuts to take if I'm going to be faithful to the story God wants to write, a story that I believe He intends to direct to a destination beyond my imagining, a place I can only describe as claiming His grace in and for the body. My body.

I remember learning a great deal about the nervous system following my car accident in 1996. I would frequently experience numbness in my face, tingling in my limbs. My neurologist explained to me that when the nerves are overstimulated, they begin to shut down, to turn themselves off. When the signals and stimulus gets to be more than they can handle, the flesh stops feeling altogether. The brain refuses to process the signals from overloaded circuits. Numbness is the result.

I think that's what I'm contending with here: a thirteen-year-old who was overloaded, ill-equipped to manage all the changes thrown at her, both from inside and from outside her body; she disconnected from those things she could not reckon with at the time. These are the very things I need help to remember.

I called my Mom this afternoon and asked her for what she remembers from that time. And that helped; I remember far more now than I did before I spoke with her. And some of her memories of that time brought fresh tears to my eyes; those numb, cold places are starting to tingle with feeling. They're waking up and for the first time in seventeen years, I'm taking notice of those sharp slivers still embedded deep in my flesh. I'm afraid to feel those things fully, to allow myself the space to fling open wide the gates to those memories.

I have a compass now, a direction; hearing these things from her helped me to get my bearings. I can begin to remember now, to take stock of my surroundings, and to continue walking, learning to trust in the grace that is now with me, and in the grace that is waiting for me in the hidden and forgotten places.

kirsten, circa 1990 {taken by dad}


  1. Kirsten, when I read this I'm struck by how fragile this is right now. I don't mean that in a bad way...I'm talking the beautiful sort of fragile, the way a butterfly's wings are put together or how a leaf is a fairly normal sort of green thing until you look at the delicate stem pieces running all the way through them. I hope this makes sense--it's a very intuitive feeling and so hard for me to grasp in words and put here for you. But it was strong, a strong sense of the incredible, awesome thing that God is pulling together here, with all its interwoven and interlaced pieces. That said, take care...i think times like this are when Satan attacks the most, because these moments are both so important and so fragile (I'm also thinking of your 'buffeted' post on the other blog and praying for you).

    Also, it seems like the thirteen-year-old Kirsten was so successful with her walls that she's even blocking YOU out, to the point that you think of her as "her" and not as "me." I'm remembering someone wise who once told me that we have defenses because sometimes we need to be defended, and I'm lifting you up as you bring these things into the light. Literally, lifting you up, because I don't have words when I take you before God, but I want him to hold you tight.

    Love you.

  2. Kirsten; How lovely is your reflection. I am glad that you are taking clear stock of what life was like at the age of 13. The beginning of your teenage years, your womanhood and God's intersection.
    I too have faced personal trauma dealing with the nervous system. I sustained a hard fall onto my back and butt once which resulted in almost 1 year of constant vibration through my back which I thought would never end. Then by His grace, it did. So Hang in there in faith. So that between you and your mom's collective memory, you may reach some teen now at that intersection and bless even adults at intersections in their lives as well.
    Glory be to God.
    scott r. davis

  3. Like Sarah, I too am praying for you.
    I'm trying unsuccessfully to put up a new post that has been really painful to write. There are many past issues that still hurt me and I have hidden them away, or perhaps hidden away from them, to preserve myself. I may need to approach them again but that action is not without risk. You may be in a similar position.

    But I know that you are walking this path with God and you, and we, are trusting that He will lead you safely into the places you need to go.

    Take care of yourself, be gentle with yourself, be gentle with the 13 year old Kirsten.

  4. sarah - thank you. i felt so much love & tenderness & empathy in your comment. and i was thinking the same thing: this is a very fragile & delicate place. the defenses went up for a reason, the numbness happened for a reason, reasons that went beyond the awkwardness of puberty & adolescence.

    i loved the insight you shared about the 13-year-old me building such strong walls that the 30-year-old me can't penetrate them. that is so insightful. the walls went up for a reason. i needed to protect myself & i did the best i knew how to do. i am scared to go to this place, to feel hurts that were inflicted over half my lifetime ago, but i expect to find grace there. i expect jesus will be meeting me there, too.

    bless you sister. thank you for your prayers; i crave them. i love you so much.

    scott - it will be an interesting & scary journey, this delving into memory. thank you for your encouragement.

    dean - thank you for your prayers. i have just come from reading your post & winced throughout: you are someone who loves & who feels deeply. and yes, i think we are walking parallel paths, exploring deeply painful places, places that are difficult to expose, to bring to the surface of our memories. hearing my mom share about that time with me reminded me why i had shut them out in the first place.

    i trust that God will be leading me safely too; the path we walk is often one of tears & deep grief, but it is also one where his grace & his love can meet our deepest needs & most aching places. i hope the same for you, brother.

    praying for you tonight. thinking of you & lorna & the kids. thanking God for you all.


  5. dean - p.s. right after i put up this post & before i read your comment, i was talking to God about this 13-year-old girl. i kept hearing him say, "love her. be gentle with her." and you said it, too.

    be gentle.

    she has been through enough, i think. i will address her with tenderness.

    thank you, dean.

  6. i wonder what it will be like for the 13 year old kirsten to be given the glimpse into the future and see who she becomes, is becoming, even the beauty that already is there she just doesn't have the ability to see yet; what a difference that knowing would have made for her to grow with year by year, each awkward and painful moment by redeeming love moment...what a gift you have to give to her now to re-member and what tender mercies she has to give to you for the two of you to re-present each other as you are presently walking together into a glorious transforming future for-giving bitter to sweet and sorrow to joy...

    i have something to email you that maybe useful in these inner peace talks you are having with yourself and Jesus [i'm sure terri won't mind my sharing her good teaching]

    gentle love to all of you

  7. my sweet friend . . . what can i even say? you have shared so much of your vulnerable self with us here. i am reminded of the other night in our phone conversation, when you shared that you were hitting walls and feeling resistant to going places. in that call, i shared that it made sense that this would happen if it was about exchanging deep-held lies for truth. but now, reading this, i realize that what you were communicating to me was much deeper than i understood at the time. there was resistance from her, difficulty going there because she didn't want you to get near. yes, there is some of that "lies for truth" work that will be a part of this process of getting to know her, letting her voice out, and talking with her gently in response from the 30-year-old place that you now stand . . . but it's so much more than the lies for truth thought i offered you in that moment. i see that now.

    i love the compassionate voice you carry here. i can feel your moving toward a compassionate gaze to rest upon her. it is likely a gaze she doesn't know yet how to receive. it sounds like she did not receive a lot of compassion in her day. this is all so new to her. i can imagine, too, that it scares the dickens out of her.

    i cannot imagine a more tender and gentle soul to reach that girl than you.

    love to you in this place, on this journey, along this path. praying for you as you gently uncover the layers and layers of protective covering, as you begin to feel the feelings in those numb places once again.

  8. i can't help but remember one of my earliest blog readings and how christianne described this internal building of trust

    But there are more rooms inside there, rooms that have long been locked and bound and strapped with heavy leather strips a stitching awl cannot sever. She is wise, that one. She learned long ago she cannot trust me with some things, that I will quickly and easily abandon her in favor of other loves...

    this "learning how to trust ourself and Him in us now" has really stuck with me...

  9. Kirsten
    you have come through so much pain, that is why you only get more beautiful as time goes by. My heart is with you along your pathway to peace with yourself. Kirsten you are teaching me a lot, you really are.

    You are dropping little seeds of life in me that makes me think there may be hope of coming out of my prison of self destruction. I have not embraced your words yet, i am still slowly killing myself.

    Kirsten i hurt inside the pain is unbearable at times because everyday i look in the mirror i see these prison walls that i don't even know if i want to come out of. Even typing this and looking at the words on this screen makes my blood boil in anger and makes me cry in silent torment.

    This may sound somehow dramatic but i am not being a drama queen. I really hate myself, no i think despise or loathe may even be better words. Truthfully i would not know what life would be like to NOT HATE MYSELF. It is so bad that i can not hear God or anyone else tell me that i am worth while, or to love myself, that sounds insane to me, it makes me more mad.

    For me to swallow any of this will be a slow process and God will have to approach it with a lot of sensitivity.

    I left you a comment on my last blog about that song. Ha Ha was that a jewel or what?

    I believe with all my heart that God gave me that song last night to make me laugh. I love music all kinds of music. It has only been recently that i have listened to country music. I don't know what made me change my mind about it.

    Honestly a few years ago you would not have caught me dead listening to that hillbilly stuff, i could not tolerate it. Me and my friends laughed at it. It was the butt of much of my sarcasm. Still, some of it is just ridiculous. I love to laugh and that stuff is too funny.

    I love you and it was so good to hear your voice tonight.

  10. It is hard, painful to remember her.
    That you struggle to remember her speaks to the loving protection your own body has created, to keep her safe.
    And now, it is safe. Safe for you to remember, for her to come out, knowing you will be here for her.
    Go gently, walk tenderly.
    Courage to you.

  11. One quote that my mom gave me a while back was "you did the best that you could, with the information and skills that you had at the time". I look at some of my clients, and see their struggles, as adolescents, and realize that while I do have more life experience, I see life through a different set of lenses than I did when I was 13. Some of my deepest hurt came during those times, and I remember the struggle that it was. It is then that that quiet voice says "you did the best you could at that time, with the skills/knowledge you had".

    I thank you for your vulnerability, and your allowing us to join you in this journey. You have had so many journey's this year, that you have been allowing us to share with you. Be gentle with that 13 year old - as one of the few who reads this blog who knew you when you were 13, remember the good with the bad. I remember thinking so highly of you, and your kindness towards others - I remember middle school, and the joys/sorrows that it brought the both of us. I also know that we both went through things at that time that we didn't have the words to communicate with, the skills to deal with. Be gracious with yourself, allowing yourself time to slowly become friends with the 13 year old you. Sometimes, when I encounter parts of myself, I just want to plow right through them, and figure them out - but I know that God is gracious with me, and calls me to be gracious and patient with myself.

    Love you dearly my friend

  12. That's it; the hidden and forgotten places are where grace lies waiting to be discovered and felt deep in the soul. This will be a hard time, I think... possibly much harder before it lifts.

  13. di - i am hoping that i can love this 13-year-old from precisely that place; a place that can not only offer her love & validation for who she is in that moment, but a place that can offer wisdom about what is yet to be & the beauty that will unfold from within her, a beauty that comes from God's own hand.

    thank you so much for sending me those resources about those inner peace talks ... it is helping. really.

    christianne - sweet friend of mine. what would i do without you in this place? there most definitely is an aspect of exchanging lies for truth. that is a big part of it. but like you said, there is resistance from her in this place because she doesn't want to remember, she doesn't want those tender places to be touched because when she trusted those places to another, additional wounds were inflicted. i can't blame her for putting herself in a corner to hide. i'm hoping that with patience & presence in love, she'll let me just hold her ... that'll she be free to cry & feel her pain ... & then come out into the light to find love & peace & healing.

    thank you for walking with me daily, my friend. it means more to me that i can say.

    tammy - it hurts me so much to hear you say these things. i'm so thankful that you have an awareness around this, that you know what is happening in your own flesh. i hope that you will be able to cooperate with the grace God has for you in this place, that you will be able to participate in the healing that He has for you. i love you so much & wish desperately that i could endow you with an ability that would make this easy, but you & i both know this is one of those things that is up to you. no one can do it for you. but you know tammy? you KNOW you can count on anyone here to walk beside you in this.

    bella - thank you for the tenderness & courage you offer, for reminding me to offer it to her as well. i will walk softly, & approach her tenderly.

    ilse - thank you so much for your words. you were with me during this time, you & i went through so much together at this age. i love what you say, i think i've heard it before about doing the best you could with what you knew & the tools you had available to you at the time. and i think that's true - i needed to find a way to protect myself, & i did what i had to do. and now that i am older, able to address these things in a different way, i can approach this young girl with the grace & truth that i know is hers for the taking.

    l.l. - sounds so familiar, this aspect of finding grace in the hard & hidden places. i look forward to your book friend, & what light your story might shed on my own path. and i think you're right ... it's going to get darker before the sun comes out.

  14. kirsten, this is so good, this work that you're doing, and it's already working its way out in the world to reach others who need to hear it. it's touching the places in me that are neglected and hidden...the places i have made the vows you're talking about. i've been here before, and i'm sure i'll be here again. so will you. but here is where we start. there is nowhere else to be. i'm loving you here, seeing that girl, whispering so she won't retreat. i'm declaring that God saw you then and he sees you now, and i'm agreeing with him that you are good. very good.

  15. Kirsten
    I know that i am missing you today because i can hear the sound of your light hearted laughter in my mind.
    Missing you, maybe in some ways i wish you were here. Probably i wish you guys were all here. This has been a hell of mess here, i am a wreck.

    I am thinking of you all.

  16. Funny you should say that... I was thinking how much your language mirrored that concept and how often your language in general is sister to mine. Interesting how two people from two very different places can learn to speak with similar words. :)

  17. terri - it is good work, holy work even. it is dig down deep in your guts & pull stuff out by the roots work. we're going to be gentle with that 13-year-old. she's had plenty to deal with.

    tammy - love you, girl. we can all be glorious messes together.

    l.l. - thank you for saying that, i like the idea of our languages being sisters: related, but not the same; i will be carrying that thought with me. see you soon! ;o)

  18. go for a touchdown at the conference of insight.

  19. hey kirsten; an amazing post here filled with so much insight and person. who you were is inexorbably tied to who you are now and who you will be, but it won't define you. she was just a part of you and i love that you are getting in touch with her.

    loved what you said about not being able to fling the gate open wide, having that space. maybe you can crack the gate open a little bit at a time. be ok with moving slowly through this.

    you're awesome. what you're doing takes a lot of courage and fortitude.

    sorry i haven't been around lately. super busy. i'll drop in when i can just know i'm praying for you.

    blessings . . .

  20. Kirsten, this blog post means a lot to me. That sounds strange, since usually we use that phrase when something was intended for us and it touches us that someone did what they did *for us* (which is not the case here), but what you wrote touches me so deeply. The fact that you are pressing out this kind of pain, which avoids words, which doesn't want to be articulated ... is such an act of love to yourself as well as to all of us who have struggled with this.

    I am really struck by this: "Okay, Body. If this is how you're going to be, we're not talking anymore." I couldn't have said it better myself - my body and I had the same conversation. It's still something I spit out in moments of conflict nowadays. A few years ago I went on a 3-week guided solitude retreat, and my body and I had many conversations about the history of our relationship. Looking at it objectively (with the help of my guide), I began to realize just how painful that kind of hate was to carry around inside of myself. I began to realize that part of me is the victim - the one hearing all those angry words. I never put myself in her shoes (because it would hurt too much), but when I did, I realized that I did not want to have such conversations anymore.

    A friend recently mentioned Remrandt's "Return of the Prodigal Son," and how she was struck by her need to remember that all 3 of the people in the picture (the father, the elder son and the younger son) are all parts of her soul, and she needs to invite them all in. There is part of her that gets lost, goes astray (the prodigal). Then there is part of her that beats herself up for that and hates herself for being weak, for getting lost, for messing up, and wants to reject it (the elder son). Then there is part of her that can shepherd both together and accept that she is lost and angry at herself, and extend love to both parts (the father). All 3 need to be in the conversation. Both sons need to be loved and extended a hand of invitation to leave their sin and receive love. I pray blessing on this journey of yours as you talk with both sons, dealing with the resistance to feeling the pain and writing about it. Keep going - I think it is a really really important one. I feel in myself a deep hunger just to talk with others about the journey, to find words to articulate the feelings and the processes ... somehow it makes a huge difference to me. I guess what I'm trying to say is, as one writer to another, know that what you are attempting to write matters a LOT.

    Love, Katie