Month: July 2017

Seconds and Thirds: On Putting Back the Middle

It was my last night watching Eva Grace before we hit the road again.  The time before this, she was hardly talking.  Now, she was all ringlets and ideas.  We read one last story three times, and I sang her that song I had written when she was just ten tiny toes and diapers.  Finally, I was closing her door.

“Goodnight, Eva Grace,” I said.

“Goodnight, Miss Mallory,” Eva said to me.  “I’ll see you when I’m bigger.”

“I’ll see you when I’m bigger, too,” I said.

I don’t know why I said it, though.  All I have ever been doing is trying to make myself smaller.

I forgot until my Someone and I visited for two weeks.  Two weeks at my parents’ house is enough time to stir up all sorts of nostalgia.  And also enough time to conjure old fear.

I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, a three panel cabinet above the sink.  And right where one panel meets the other, a section in my middle disappears.  My arms are still there, and if I stand just right, I look perfectly proportional.  Except skinny.  Skinnier.

After my childhood baths and showers, I remember creating time vacuums standing there, willing myself small.  I counted it as motivation.  I counted it as something to work toward.  But all I was doing was cutting out my middle.  And no matter how perfectly aligned I stood and how good it looked, it was still disproportionate.

Ten, fifteen, twenty years later, standing in front of that same mirror, finding myself again in the same crevice, I furrowed my brow.  This middle of me that was missing was missed.  I moved to the full center panel.

That’s me.  Complete.  I smiled.

“Goodnight, Mallory,” I said, “See you when I’m bigger.”

I have a friend who is amidst carrying her fifth child.  She posts occasionally beautiful pictures of her pregnant self, openly reassuring that she is still someone who is lovable for who she is and not for what she is doing.  I mark “like” on each one.  Not because of how she looks, but because of who she is.  And this friend, she reminds me and the rest of the internet that her body isn’t something to be dissected, not to be laid hands on, not to be commented on, but that she is a person in there.  A full person.

Lately, I have been taking up exactly the amount of space that I am.  I have stopped apologizing for taking seconds.  I’ve stopped explaining my love of late night snacks.  Instead, I eat when I am hungry and laugh at the funny jokes that are being told over dinner instead of eyeing the last potato and wondering if I am deserving of it.  I don’t have to eye the last piece.  It’s already on my plate.

I am building up my middle– I am making sure that it is full.  And I am finding that the less I apologize, the bigger my insides are getting.  Soon, I will be able to say what I think right when I think it, instead of wondering if anyone wants to hear it.  Potentially with a mouthful of peanut butter tofu.

Virgins and Whores: On Selling Big Russian Novels.

My Someone isn’t going to finish his big Russian novel.  Each year when we trace back to my sister’s attic and exchange the books we read this year for the books we intend to read in the coming year, he picks up his big Russian novel.  He turns it over and makes a declaration.

“I’m going to read this big Russian novel this year,” he says.

“Do you want to read it?” I ask him.

“I should read it,” he says.

“Do you want to read it?” I ask him again.

“It seems like something I should read,” he says.

“Are you going to read it?” I ask.

“Maybe next year,” he says.

Each year he puts it back in the box for the next year.

“Next year, I am going to read this big Russian novel,” he says.

My Someone and I are recently learning how to get rid of the things we believe to be true about ourselves that are maybe not true, and are working, after we get rid of those things, to believe we are still good and whole.  This includes, but is not limited to, my following ambitions to become:

  1. a yoga instructor.
  2. a car mechanic.
  3. a park ranger.
  4. a person who loves sunsets without feeling sad or stressed out.
  5. a person who can sit with a hot cup of tea and sip it while watching the snow fall and not believe that I should, instead, be cleaning or cooking or writing a novel.
  6. someone who writes a novel.

The things we are getting rid of are not all bad things.  Having enough know-how to tell the difference between an oil leak and a transmission leak is fun, but does not destine me to become the only mechanic for miles around in a small town in Wyoming.  This also doesn’t mean that I can’t change my mind.  But like my Someone and his big Russian novels, sometimes keeping that intention around only makes me angry with myself that I am not yet the thing that I’m not sure I am or want to be.

Giving up my dream of chewing my gum really hard and polishing my ratchet while giving a bad estimate actually makes me enjoy the work of changing our tire on the side of the road instead of kicking myself for not seeing it needed changing earlier.

“If you take this Big Russian Novel, you have to put back these other three books you actually want to read,” I told him.  It was true.  We have limited space in the camper, and a Big Russian Novel is more room than we could afford.  “It’s your choice.”

“I am selling my Big Russian Novel,” my Someone said.


“That’s it.  I’m not going to read it!” he said, a little louder than he intended.

“If you want to be someone who reads a Big Russian Novel, we can always buy you another Big Russian Novel,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said, “but now, we need gas money.”

And that is how my Someone shed his guilt and sold his Big Russian Novel and put our first tank of gas into our truck for our third year living wild and free.

But then there are these things:

“I want to know,” he said to me, “if you were actually innocent in all of this, or if you were some sort of teenage vixen making part of this happen.  Because I don’t want to be with someone who was anything but innocent in this.”

This was the man who felt he had rescued me from the man who had been abusing me.  This was one of our last conversations, and the moment I realized I was not only alone, but also needed to keep quiet so that no one else could tell me to be ashamed of the years I spent with a Bad Guy who did bad things to… and with… me.

It’s the “with me” part that’s so hard.  In the years after the Guy Who Thought He Rescued Me asked me this question, I’ve been spinning it around.  I ran myself into other bad situations when I leaned toward the part of me who believed I was the Teenage Vixen.  I circled back to create a wholesome looking life that wasn’t really mine to make myself the more Pure Version of the dichotomy.  The Virgin or the Whore.  Innocent or Guilty.  The options are so limiting.

And I have been so scared to pick a side.  Or to admit that I was anything but a doe-eyed victim.  But this Thing I Believe About Myself finds me in sweltering attics and dark basements.  This Thing I Believe About Myself carries with it an expectation of Who I Will Be or What I Deserve.

I am learning that no matter who I was then, it wasn’t my fault.  No matter which way you spin it.  And I guess my gut knew I wasn’t so interested in someone who demanded I be the kind of person who reads Big Russian Novels or says that being sexually abused as a 15-year-old makes me a vixen.  Even if it is a Guy Who Thinks He Rescued Me.

I am learning to not put this thing I was told to Believe About Myself back on the shelf for later.  Virgin or Whore.  I don’t want to pull it out of dusty boxes in the attic and wonder if this is who I was or who I am always going to be.  I am taking a lesson from my Someone and burning this one down to fuel for later.  And all the guilt that goes with it.  Let that get me a few miles down the road, and I will gauge whether I’ve made the right decision.

Time Loop: On Returning to Save Myself.

January 2017

April 2004

Dear Future Husband,

I’m sorry.  I don’t know if I know you, yet, or if you are someone I have yet to meet, but already I do not deserve you.  I have tried to guard my heart, but have failed you in so many ways, my love.  Please forgive me…

The letter went on.  With a follow up tucked in later journals and later pages of those journals.  I pulled them out instinctively, for a laugh, and read them to my Someone.  I began with a dramatic hand in the air and placed it over my heart in a longing Juliet sort of way.  But as my teenage self spiraled down and down into a pool of remorse and fear and self hatred, the mood shifted.  I looked up at my Someone.  He was sad.  I looked into myself.  I was sad.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“Yeah,” I said.  “Me, too.”

March 2017

We found ourselves in a studio in the woods of northeastern Michigan, and the late winter was setting in with twenty degree highs and winds that knocked the power out for hours.   Some of my favorite friends are in therapy, and I am envious.  I ask them questions about what they are learning and pretend I am laying on my back on a couch with the psychiatrist from Animaniacs writing incessantly on a wire-bound notepad.  I blame my transience and my lack of health insurance on not finding my own therapist.  I am coming to realize that the work they have been doing is difficult, and I was not ready.

Like a wounded animal, I have been crawling to dark places alone, concentrating on the healing, with ears alert for intruders.  Even the well meaning kind.

There in the dark, cooling studio in Michigan, I started a page I had been intending to start since I had found the letters to My Future Husband.   Or maybe that I had never intended to write at all.  Or maybe one that should have been written fifteen years before.

I woke up cranky and angry with the prospect.  I was no longer envious of my therapy friends.  I was scared.  I entered into a place in my mind resembling something of an old mining shaft and started digging around.  All of those old journals I had carried around without cracking open were cracking open here with all I had carried around.  There on a windowsill for hours I watched the birds and walked through the old mining shaft.  I emerged more broken than before, still wounded, still alert.  But different.

I am ready now.  And have been since.  It’s been a long few weeks.  But I am ready.

April 2017

I spend days in coffeeshops writing things down and reading notes from my friends’ therapy sessions.  My Someone often sits across from me, and says nothing as I cry or stare out the window or draw pictures of birds.

Dear Future Husband…

This was a note that was not written for my Someone, we know now.  This was 15 and 16 and 17 and 18 year old me writing to 31-year-old me.

me: Hey– are you there?

Me: Yeah, I’m here, I’ve read what you wrote.

me: Do we make it?  Am I okay?

Me:  You are okay.  We made it.  And I’m coming back for you now.  I’m going to save you.

It was in this way that I found out that I had created a time loop to keep me safe from 15 to 31.  That 15-year-old me was waiting in her bunker of journals, not for her future husband or a prince charming, but for her to save herself.

June 2017

From age 15 to 19, I was molested and raped by a worship leader of a house church who was 15 years older than me.

I am just learning how to say that out loud.  I am telling on him for my 15-year-old self.  I am advocating for her.  It’s really, really hard.

July 5, 2017

me: How is it going out there?

Me: Good.  I think you can come out, now.

me: I would like to believe you.

Me: Take your time.