The Bible says that one of the first things God did after He created the world was separate light from darkness.

I realize that yesterday’s post was cryptic and leaves a lot to my readers’ imaginations. And that’s how it will just have to stay because bloggers must have boundaries lest they become crazy attention-seeking sensationalists who exploit their lives and the lives of their loved ones for stats and Amazon affiliate ads.

I believe that at the end of this series there will be hope and light and joy, and everything that’s happening now will make sense.  But first we must go into the darkness and blindly fumble our way around for awhile trying to find our way out.

As you can likely guess from previous posts, in my past lies much darkness. I’m going to take you there, but I will forewarn you; where I’m going, there be dragons.

When I was sixteen years old my father dragged me into the hallway of our house, held me up against a wall, and beat me up. As he physically assaulted me, he screamed in my face, “You are such a SLUT! Not even the Pope would be safe with you.”

What precipitated this vicious attack, you ask?

I’d come home from a date with someone I barely knew. I wasn’t haven’t sex with this guy, but my father thought I was.  (Being vastly ahead of my time, I was actually having Friends-With-Benefits-Sex–which in the 1970s didn’t have a name–with someone else, but that’s besides the point.)

When my date drove up to my house to drop me off, my father was standing in the driveway wielding a bat.  I jumped out of the car (don’t ask me why, but I’m pretty sure it had to do with my date wanting me to get the hell out of his car so he could get away) and the date–who, shock upon shock, I never saw again–sped away from the scene.

At the age of 50, I now understand that my father’s attack was more about him than it ever could have been about me, but at sixteen I did not possess the wisdom and insight necessary to understand this. All I knew for certain was that my father was a violent, crazy madman, and that I was trapped with him in that hallway with no way out.

Although I have considered suicide a few times in my life–which is probably only natural for a child raised by two parents who openly pronounce, often and loudly, that your very existence is the cause of their mutual abject misery–I’ve never truly had the level of hopelessness needed for such a drastic action.

No. That’s not entirely the truth.

The truth of why I’ve never committed suicide is this: I have this belief (not backed up by any religious texts that I know of) that life is this learning thing and we’re supposed to be here learning shit and figuring stuff out. If you off yourself in the midst of a lesson–especially a hard one–then you go to hell, and the punishment of hell is that you are forever trapped in the pain of the lesson you refused to learn.

Since I’m sure you can easily understand now–knowing what you do about just this one past experience with my dad in that hallway–being trapped in any way, shape, or form is my absolute, ultimate worst nightmare. Therefore, the thought of eternal entrapment has been more than enough to keep me from taking any final fatal steps, no matter how desperate or hopeless I’ve ever felt.

This terror of entrapment follows me everywhere I go, even into the most innocuous places.

Most people desire to park their car close to the supermarket front door, but not me. I’m the sort of person who willingly parks far from the door into the supermarket and walks because I always want to make sure I can get out of the parking lot.

Anyway, back to the main point. Today I’m going to tell you One True Thing.

During my time up against the wall, I made one key life decision:

I would never be held up against any wall ever again.

This one decision has informed most of the choices I have made from that point forward. The moment I feel trapped is the moment I run. And just about anything can make me feel trapped.

I can now tell you One True Thing. It is very exhausting living your life like a crouched animal always on the brink of fight or flight; always checking to make sure your way of escape is clear.

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Catwoman January 27, 2012 at 11:16 am

That’s really a dark story. Thanks you for sharing your inner thoughts and fears. It could have been horrible, I just can’t imagine that. I feel sorry about to hear that you’ve committed suicide. That’s really a hard thing. Did you ever speak about it with some friends or maybe with a psychologist after that happened?
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Seeker January 25, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Let’s go where the dragons are. I have a few I’d like to slay myself.

I’m so sick of people (Christians) pretending that we’re fine, which is, I think, why I read your blog. Most of us are walking around with sucking chest wounds. I don’t think we have to. But vulnerability is rarely received well; I think it terrifies many people.

I’m sorry about your wounds. I pray that there’s hope and healing and grace and peace on the other side of dragon battles. Living wounded isn’t our inheritance, but I’m trying to figure out what is.

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Aimee January 24, 2012 at 9:14 pm

Praying for you, Chloe.
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Unknown January 18, 2012 at 8:05 pm

I said to the man at the gate of the year, “give me a light so that I may walk safely into the unknown.”. He said to me, “put your hand into the hand of God and it will be better than the light and safer than the known.”

-paraphrase

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Jack January 17, 2012 at 6:47 pm

Your story makes me angry, not at you but at your folks. It is just unfair.

And it reminds me of a time when I was in Jerusalem. It is much longer than the version I’ll share here, but suffice it to say that I saw something happen there that sticks with me.

I was in the Old City and on my way to meet a friend at the Western Wall. I cut through the Souk, the Arab market and I saw a man curse at his daughter in the most awful way.

Arabic curses are pretty colorful, but the one the caught my attention was Sharmuta. He called his daughter a whore and that just bothered me more than I can say. It isn’t right.

It has stuck with me all these years later. So sorry you had to deal with that.
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Chloe Jeffreys January 17, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Thank you, Jack. I’m going to write about my dad now and let the poison out. I’ve hidden in shame over him and his cruelty for too long.

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Shorty January 17, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Hmmm- there are certainly some parallels with your life and mine- maybe ‘trapped’ men from the late 50’s reacted this way? Fortunately as the third child, I was spared the brunt of his frustrations. He did the bat thing in the driveway for my sister’s beaus-at least once, maybe more. (I did not have any beaus, and he died before I got any, either.) The bat was kept in the corner of the bedroom after he died- a silent testament to something, not sure what though. But he was missed; I always felt (and was) loved, just by flawed, inadequate parents who did their best. Somehow their best was good enough. (hug)

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Chloe Jeffreys January 17, 2012 at 8:56 pm

This is how I feel about my mother. I had anger at her over not protecting me and not taking care of herself, but I felt that she did do her best with what she had. My father was a psychologist. I guess don’t think he did the best he could with what he had.

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Stephanie (Just Me) January 16, 2012 at 10:21 pm

I was reading Jonah 2 yesterday. I’d never really thought about it before, but can you imagine what it was like for Jonah in that fish’s belly? Dark, slimy, stinky, claustrophobic; but more importantly, he was in a terrible predicament, the result of his own mistakes. He was completely unable to help himself, and he didn’t know if he would ever get out of there alive! But then, as in his desperation he cried out to God, look what happened:

“But you, LORD my God, brought my life up from the pit. When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the LORD.’” And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

While he was still in the fish’s belly, something changed, and suddenly Jonah knew God had heard him, and he was going to be okay. And that’s the heart of my prayer for you, dear friend: that even before your circumstances change, you will know that God has heard your prayers, and is moving on your behalf, and that you’re going to be all right.

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Chloe Jeffreys January 17, 2012 at 8:56 pm

I hate this valley. It is dark here. And I’ve been here before. But this time I wrestle with the dragon is the time I win my freedom.

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Heidi Jo January 19, 2012 at 11:14 am

Yes. You will win.

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Chloe Jeffreys January 22, 2012 at 9:39 pm

What’s my prize?

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Suzanne January 16, 2012 at 10:06 pm

Wow! I am sorry you were born to parents who felt that way about their own child. I hope the dark days get better. You write so eloquently about your pain. Just sharing your story will help others. Perhaps this is one of those strange “gifts’ that we receive from perusal pain and suffering. Wishing you the very best friend.

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Chloe Jeffreys January 17, 2012 at 8:57 pm

Thanks for commenting, Suzanne. I hope that by sharing my shame and my pain that others can be free. That’s what I want; I want my freedom.

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Sally January 15, 2012 at 6:41 pm

I remember a counselor once saying that the strategies we develop as children to survive do serve us well for a time, but keeping them in place as adults is similar to driving a Model-T Ford on an interstate highway, and the very thing we are sure will save us might also lead to a painful fate.

Maturing and growing into new and better ways of thriving, however, can also be quite painful. The women whom I feel are the most beautiful and strong are those who have chosen to leave the paths of destruction wrought by their families, learning along the way to re-write the wacky definitions of love, family, and service to God they learned when they were girls.

I’m praying for your perseverance as you journey out of the darkness.

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Chloe Jeffreys January 17, 2012 at 8:58 pm

Your counselor is so right. The ways I coped as a child are what have made me resilient. But I’m suffering now from those self-same coping mechanisms that saved me as a child. Time to let go of them.

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Robin January 15, 2012 at 6:38 pm

Well – you know I’m a blithering idiot with nothing tangible to add. But, you also know my heart (I think) and that I am one of your most loyal cheerleaders. I’m Team Chloe!! 🙂 love you, hon

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Chloe Jeffreys January 17, 2012 at 8:58 pm

I love you, my friend. I know your heart is always with me.

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Susan in the Boonies January 15, 2012 at 5:36 pm

I believe you are going to make your way through this.
I believe there is so much more for you to learn, yes, but also for you to enjoy, and savor, and celebrate in your life.
You belong to Jesus, and He came to bring you life, and life to the full. The hard stuff of the right now couldn’t be harder. But you WILL walk through it, and be set free.

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Chloe Jeffreys January 17, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Learning sucks. Just sayin’.

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Liza Lee January 15, 2012 at 5:23 pm

I’m like Anne. I haven’t been there and I wish I could help you feel better. You, Chloe, and all the rest of you who have been that trapped child. :hug:

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Chloe Jeffreys January 17, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Thanks for that hug. The scars from the beating have healed, but the pain of those words have hung with me all these years. The decisions I made during my time against the wall continue to drive my choices and that needs to stop.

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Birthblessed January 15, 2012 at 5:17 pm

me too

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Maddie Kertay January 15, 2012 at 5:15 pm

I for one am very glad you are back and very sad that you are walking through the valley of darkness ( Ha!, bible reference.. I slay me).. so here is the thing that people tend to overlook. I think in each life there is a certain “suck quotient” and how much “suck” you get is rather a role of the cosmic dice.. or drawn from a hat or destined on a fortune cookie.. take your pick. Being a free thinking sort I don’t much jive on God having much of anything to do with it and because of that I don’t think time on bended knee can protect us from the great “Suck number”.. I think often that is why people of structured faith are blown backwards when hellish things happen to them.. they have been so good.. they have prayed and tithed.. so WHY

It is what you do AFTER the suck that matters and says most about who you are and how you are going to proceed. Your job is to process and proceed.. and seems you are doing just that! Can’t wait to see you in about 1 month!

Hugs, Maddie

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Chloe Jeffreys January 17, 2012 at 9:01 pm

I love a good Bible reference now and again.

I love your “suck quotient” concept. I’m totally stealing it. We have to walk through the suckitude to get to the sunshine.

Nashville looms large in my future. I also can’t wait to see you again!

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Julia January 15, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Dear one, I pray that you will find true freedom and peace. Old family “junk” can be such a burden. I love you!

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Chloe Jeffreys January 17, 2012 at 9:02 pm

It is a burden I long to drop.

I love you, too!

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Anne (@notasupermom) January 15, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Just letting you know I was able to read it all. I wish I could help you feel better.

I think part of feeling trapped is how you couch the situation in your mind. Like your parents, I know someone who felt trapped when they had kids, while the same kids were like the best present ever to the other parent.

You, as a friend, are one of the best presents ever to me.

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Chloe Jeffreys January 17, 2012 at 9:02 pm

Anne, you help me when you tell me that this man did not deserve me. He didn’t. Thanks for saying that and saying it as many times as I need to hear it.

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Kristi R. January 15, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Oddly enough, I have a similar memory except I was 4 and it involved cans of food being thrown at me by my dad (drinking & hangovers don’t mix well with 4 yo’s playing).

((((Chloe))))

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Magnolia January 15, 2012 at 4:39 pm

I can tell you with absolute certainty, that I’ve been in that hallway up against that wall too.

My father called me that and worse.

I know the desire to stop living and how much easier it would be to just close your eyes and go to sleep forever.

But, I am here to tell you, whether you want to hear it or not, whether you believe it or not, that GOD IS GOOD.

I don’t care about the God in the churches or anybody’s damn religion.

I’m talking about Jehovah. The I Am that I Am.

He is good. He saved my life.

Period.

Magnolia

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Chloe Jeffreys January 17, 2012 at 9:03 pm

God is good. I have to believe that or believe nothing.

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