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Dashes no dots

Reading in Genesis I again have little sympathy for Jacob. What a weak person that is, good grief. And what strikes me again is that as a human being I immediately feel a judgment over the whole situation, even tho I don’t read that back in the text. Nowhere it says that Jacob should have stood up against this heinous act of his daughter’s rape. Nowhere I read that the way her brothers responded by slaughtering a whole village over this is a bit over the top.

No judgement.

Where is God in all this?

Is He in the heartfelt whisper that heard while reading this story, in which I almost relive things that have happened to me, violence that left wounds everywhere, decaying into scars that act like braille, not leaving dots, but dashes, long and deep dashes, that I can run my finger over, when closing my eyes, finding myself in memory? Moments when God did not intervene in the actual situation, but where He did let me know in my heart, regardless of the time or day when I wanted to shout about injustice and pain, that ‘this is not okay’.

That feeling,
those lively throbbing convictions,
they point me radically
and unequivocally
to His existence.

How could I have known that something was not OK if there was no standard of OK? The philosopher C.S. Lewis once said: A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.

So I can only call rape wrong, and be sincerely and vitally indignant that a father lets this happen, when I internally know that there must be a bigger plan somewhere, where retribution will (have to) take place.

Perhaps it is exactly the seemingly absence of God that makes Him so visible. To see Him in the chaos of my previous days in which I really didn’t know left from right any more. Hellish horror in which I cried out ‘this is no life, this way’, in which I -get thee behind me satan – almost started to believe that it would be better if I didn’t live anymore. God is exactly RIGHT THERE to be found in that darkness. Right there. Just at moments when I cry out.

My words are the marking poles alongside of the road, markers that light upwards when you pass ’em, that point me directly to Him. Not forward, but up, to His existence.

In moments of chaos I feel Him, can I finnaly say that? I am way past the idea that I can write down my top 20 of bad days in life. Yesterday was definitely the umpteenth, it was – at least that’s how it feels – a living hell, unbearable, really un bear able.

And what did I do? I turned to and burried myself in earthly things, from 9 AM till 4 PM, psychiatrists, 911, all kinds of mental health aid agencies, calling, chatting, whatsapping, international zoom-meetings,… until at 4PM I’m at the GP’s, hopelessly thinking that this will NEVER be okay, this chaos-me, I’m ripe for the asylum, and if he would please register me for a clinical admission, please put me in solitary confinement, inject me till I can’t see straight any more, I can’t take it anymore. I am a basket case, please just throw me in the river, as his mom did with Moses. But with me, I don’t think I am meant for survival. Spare the basket.

And then it was a nonchristian man – my general practitioner – who reflected six years of working relationship back to me, as if it was my heavenly Father, Jesus perhaps, who spoke to him, and therefore directly to me: Pota, My dearest, I will never forsake you, you are My beloved, I see you, I see what you are going through and I am with you, I am with you, darling, hang in there, all things work together for good, trust Me, a clinical admission is not going to help you, neither is medication, you know that by now and I am glad that deep down you have come to see that as well, how does your faith help you in all of this? ‘

I snap back to the now and I hear the voice of my doctor: ‘How does your faith help you in all of this?’ I shake my head and feel ashamed. It doesn’t. ‘Why not?’ he asks. Because I don’t see God, I say. I don’t hear Him, I don’t see Him, I have to assume that He is there, but I need more than that.

I went home and called it a day. Stepped into a horrid night with strong dreams. Woke up not feeling much better. Dared to read Genesis again, and allowed myself to feel what it is to not like someone (Jacob), and try to teach myself that those feelings are okay. But for me it feels like musical dissonance, as I taste God’s presence folding itself around my antipathy. It’s as if God says: ‘Yes, what Jacob did was reprehensible, but I still love him, and vengeance is Mine, I will repay. Jacob makes mistakes, Pota, Jacob is not perfect, Pota, just like you, and I love you too. One day I will open your closed books too, and add a last page to them.’

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pəˈspek.tɪv

Mijn oog traant. Er komt water uit. Ik huil. Het is meer dan zout, het is een innerlijke beroering. Alsof ik meedein op een golf van herinneringen waar mijn hemelse Vader me op zet, of toe uitnodigt. Ik val stil tijdens de afwas, mijn handen half in het water, warmig, soppig, en ik sluit mijn ogen en huil.

Het is een stilzetten van iets dat meer is dan alleen mijn lijf, meer dan alleen mijn handen, mijn afwas. Het is een meest lieflijke reis, het is alsof de wind door me heen blaast en me ineens laat zien wat ik onlangs zei, verwijtend naar Hem, nee, niet eens naar Hem; ik was op mezelf gericht, in een boze, kale rotsachtige bui voelde ik in hoofdletters dat ik niet werd opgemerkt, why don’t I get noticed.

Er kwam een gecensureerd vloekwoord achteraan.
Het waarom was niet eens een uitnodigende vraag, eerder een retorische snauw.

Later veranderde ik het vraagteken in een punt. Het waarom werd een statement en daarmee sloot God nog verder buiten: I don’t get noticed. Zo boos was ik. Ik zag ineens een opsomming van mensen en situaties -die ik gedeeltelijk zelf had opgezocht of uitgelokt- waarin ik niet kreeg wat ik wilde, hoopte, verwachtte.

Ik heb het niet eens naar God gebracht, ik slingerde het mijn huis in. Ik deed het in een doos, schreef er ‘waarheid’ op en keek er niet meer naar. Waarom ook. Ik word toch immers ook niet opgemerkt? Dit is hoe het is, ik doe er niet toe, vond ik, verder niet meer naar kijken.

En dagen later sta ik af te wassen, mijn handen in het warme water, sop. En ineens lijkt het wel of ik met andere ogen naar mijn leven kijk, maar alsof ik het niet zelf ben, maar ik in staat word gesteld om een ander soort laatje herinneringen open te maken. Ik ben het niet zelf die ze opent, ik ben de inhoud.

En ik hoor ineens weer wat iemand die ochtend zei, over dat haar dochter me herkende vorige week. Een meisje van twee, dat in de auto mijn naam noemt, terwijl ze naar me wijst, terwijl ik buiten op de hoek op de bus sta te wachten. En ik moet ineens denken aan een jongen in de sportschool, die vorige week tegen me zei dat hij het fijn vond me weer te zien omdat hij verder wel wat jongens groet maar daar blijft het dan ook bij. En een vrouw in de kerk, die me lang aankijkt, drie keer twijfelt, dan ademhaalt en vraagt ‘was jij niet diegene die vorig jaar gedoopt is?’ en dan vertelt hoe indrukwekkend haar kinderen dat vonden, ‘hoe jij uit dat water kwam’, dat ze hadden gezegd dat zij ook gedoopt wilden worden.

Ik word dus blijkbaar wel gezien.
Allemaal door mensen van wie ik het niet verwacht.

Mijn oog traant. Vorige week nog was ik zo bang om blind te worden door die ontsteking; ik doe bijna alles met mijn zintuigen, proeven, kijken, voelen, zien, horen, ik kan niks missen, ik wil niks missen. En ineens denk ik ook aan de ontmoeting met de oogarts eerder die week, die zei dat ik iets heel bijzonders heb. Hij zei: ‘U heeft draadjes in uw iris.’ Ik schrok eerst, ook omdat hij zei dat het bijna nooit voorkomt, dat het iets is wat in de embryonale fase zichtbaar is, maar daarna verdwijnt, net zoals sommige baby’s worden geboren met vliesjes tussen de vingers. Hij zegt: ‘Heeft met evolutie te maken’, waarna ik meteen intern moet glimlachen en aan God moet denken. Niks evolutie. Gewoon God.

De oogarts laat ook zijn assistente even kijken omdat het gewoon prachtig is om te zien. Een andere vrouw mag ook even kijken. Ze hebben het nog nooit in het echt gezien, kennen het alleen van plaatjes. Ik schiet in een uiterlijke lach en zeg: ‘Nou mensen, graag gedaan.’

Als ik naar huis fiets, weet ik het zeker; het was de hand van God, die draadjes in mijn iris, Hij heeft mij geweven, al in de moederschoot. Die tekst van een opwekkingslied sprak me altijd al aan. Het is een zo ongelooflijk nabij-zijn dat je er geen woorden voor hebt. Zelfs mijn eigen moeder was niet zo dichtbij me toen ik nog in de buik zat. En God wist dit al die tijd, van die draadjes, niemand wist het behalve Hij, en nu ook ik. Ik voelde me een prinses toen ik het hoorde. Het was alsof ik een koninklijke mantel over me gelegd kreeg.

Je bent bijzonder, van buiten en van binnen.

Alsof Hij me een kusje op mijn hoofd geeft. En mijn adem stokt, ik ben intern stil, ik voel een intern wow-suizen, hoe moet ik dit nou verwoorden, wat ik voel, wat is dit nou wat er net gebeurde, mijn tranen drogen op.

Het overweldigende gevoel als God je onomstotelijk laat weten dat Hij voor je vecht, is onbeschrijflijk. Het is niet eens een vechten wat Hij doet, het is alsof het enige wat Hij hoeft te doen, is Zijn autoriteit te laten zien, te laten gelden. Te ‘zijn’. Dat doet de grond zo trillen dat al het los zand waarop je dacht te staan door donkere kieren voor eeuwig naar beneden valt en het enige dat overblijft een harde ondergrond is. Je staat op heilige grond, trek je schoenen uit, zei Hij tegen Mozes.

Het is alsof Hij je naar de grootste hoogte brengt, en in diezelfde snelheid al je hoogtevrees afneemt. Je hebt niet eens de tijd om terug te vallen, of naar beneden te kijken, laat staan tijd te willen verspillen aan tranen dat je Hem wéér niet vertrouwd hebt en dat je daarvan baalt.

Als God Zich in al Zijn almacht en glorie aan je laat zien, wil je niks meer dan bij Hem zijn, met Hem trouwen, het is niks wat je ooit hebt meegemaakt, al dacht je van wel toen je high was van de drugs; dit is kleurrijker, voller, breder, echter, echter, vooral echter. De zintuigen voorbij. Het is alsof je in een groen veld staat en je ineens vanuit een andere hoek kijkt, waardoor je ziet dat in alle bloemknoppen een belovende rode kleur zit. Je staat in een klaprozenveld.

Als God je laat zien hoe Hij overwinnaar is over de duisternis, is dat zoveel meer dan het licht aandoen in het donker. Het verandert alles wat je dacht dat er was. Het is niet eens het optillen van de sluier zodat leugens zichtbaar worden, het gaat eindeloos verder dan dat; het is een ultiem wegdoen van de leugens. Onbestaand. Niet eens overwonnen, het gaat verder dan overwonnen. God is de Enige.

God knipoogde naar me. Mijn oog traant ervan.

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Salt in the wound, assault and get sued

Every day I mistakenly think it’s the next day. Its been going on for a couple of days now. Saturday I thought it was Sunday already. Tuesday I thought it was Wednesday…. And apparently today isn’t tomorrow either. It’s exhausting; jet lag is a breeze in comparison to this inner storm, I can’t just adjust an emotional clock, time is standing still for me.

I have been sleeping on the couch. In another person’s house; it’s the only place I want to be right now. And sleeping is not very comfortable, because the couch isn’t that wide and I’m just a bit too tall as well. Moreover, the weighted blanket keeps sliding off. What am I doing here?

It is the place where I feel most connected to somesheep I love. He loves sleeping there as well. On the couch I mean. But he’s not there at the moment. He’s locked up. And emotionally I’m there with him. From the moment of his arrest, that didn’t go as I thought it would, the radio silence has been turned up to such an extend that – for the sake of inmates’ privacy – after every phone call I make to the prison to inquire – against better judgment – their NO is still ringing in my ears.

Just wait, ma’am,
he’ll call, ma’am,
be patient, madam.

His sentence is mine. His jail time yanks the batteries out of my clock time. And I breathe out his silence. The longer he is gone, the more my past plays up. Not hearing anything is the hardest part of it. It’s comparable to the silence I felt inside when I couldn’t talk as a baby. Why won’t they just tell me if he’s in their facility and not in some other city. Without a detention number I can’t do anything, I can’t schedule a visit, I can’t transfer money, I can’t send a card, nothing. If he has no money on his card, how can he call me to say that he has no money to call with.

The woman seemed to hear that logic for the first time.
‘Oh yes, uhm … no that’s not possible then. Then he can let you know by mail.’
– And you provide him a stamp for the envelope?
‘No, they have to pay for it themselv.. ah yes, I understand the problem.’

Every day I call.
Several times a day.
Luckily with each shift I get to speak to a different person, who for me now is the ultimate embodiment of new hope; maybe this person is willing to say something? No. But by telling my story each time, it feels as if I can silently let my feelings land on thin blotting paper; it sound like the falling of flakes of snow, they too silence the air. And with each phone call, a new flake lands, until finally the blotting paper is 4A thick and I can hold it between my thumb and forefinger. The sheet is empty. But at least it’s tangible.

By nightfall I greet the couch again and fall into a half-sleep, the rest of which I finish by the time I get up in the morning. Another half of the reason I am no longer at my place is because of a serious leakage, due to the heavy rain, the notification of which at first did not get through to the housing agency at all and then the urgency was not properly assessed, so that now the water has penetrated the cavity wall, into the inner wall and also under my floor. It makes me feel unsafe.

Meanwhile, at the lower neighbor’s house, it also smells like freshly poured concrete and wet wallpaper. I think my scent is called PTSD. Where do you start cleaning up? They placed a construction dryer in the bedroom (hello energy bill!). I see my plants gasping for a drop of humidity. My tears have dried up as well, leaving nothing but a salty outer shell. Please don’t hold me right now, I will sizzle to the ground.

Where is God?
But I should actually say: why don’t I seek God. Why don’t I praise Him for His goodness, His grace, His faithfulness, His justice, His everlasting covenant…. His arms, His peace, His promises, His wisdom, His love, His guidance… why don’t I just ask Him what I need, why don’t I just be still and know that He is God? Why don’t I crush down, at His feet. Why did I put down my paintbrush, put away my inked pen and avert my eyes? Where is my faith? It is a Godgiven miracle that I only fled to another house and did not flee to drugs.

I receive a message: ‘I’m praying for you.’
And I am ashamed to admit my thoughts: your prayer is of no use to me, I have to call the prison, the contractor, the housing company, the insurance company, I have to let the roofer in, the plumber ….

The next day I call the prison again. A new voice, sounding warm and calm. The voice says, “I’ll see what I can do for you, do you have a date of birth and last name for me?” I scramble some alphabet letters and some numbers together.

The man responds with “north C, I see.”
What does that mean, I ask?
‘It means he’s in solitary.’
What does that mean, I ask?
‘No contact with other inmates or with the outside world’ he says.

And only at that moment I feel overwhelmed by a sadness, that is much bigger than the cloud of salted mist I swallowed last week. The tears that flow down my cheeks are warmer and thicker than the drops of rain that have invaded my home. It’s a sadness over a reality that seems ever more insistent to me to be a truth, namely an inability to be soothed except by the man whose key I can use to enter his house, to be there in his absence.

Would I do the same after my father’s death?
Sleep alongside of his grave?

I feel how the salt of the past has not lost its flavor. Tears of grief for the loss of people, places, desires, trust, situations, memories, belongings, relationships, promises. Loss of hope? Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. Grief over the loss of potential motherhood. [grief over something that is too hurtfull to mention that it only wants to exist between brackets]. Grief over all the seconds of “me” that I spent on my own when I was 3 years old, 1 year old, 12 years old, please name all the numbers. Preferably in an order I can understand.

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Milestone musings

Sheep, this is for you, the stumbling sheep. The sheep for whom a yesterday can look like a tocomeday. The sheep that can alternate between stand by and watch, not realising that those building blocks usually need each other in order to not tumble over, even tho they don’t cause the other to exist. The sheep that by the same token needs to change the word addiction into grace.

The sheep that needs blocks first, in order to build, but can’t look beyond the mess God makes by emptying His box of work on your living floor. The sheep that needs to experience the full potential of a kite with a rope attached to it, and needs to understand that the rope does not hinder the kite but rather gives it direction and speed. The sheep that needs to move away from the house he received years ago, but wasn’t his to begin with, the house he wallpapered with lies, which weren’t his either, which is why we call them lies, the house that kept him trapped in his potential, the house that was built on sand.

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Cinnamon sticks and stones

If there is one thing that H has left behind in me, when she left me behind, something that at one point in our relationship more than once walked both of us to the end of a phone conversation, happy chuckling, it is the growing capacity to be grateful. I know it’s the task of a Christian to be grateful, or that it’s something like the positive correlational relationship between x and y; the longer you walk with Jesus, the more grateful you become. Let me then be theologically correct to say that God used H to great effect in living out the concept of gratitude in my life.

At first it left a sour taste in my mouth, making me bitter towards her as well, stop being so flocking happy about everything all the time and see the positive sprouting up everywhere. Why are all those Christians always just so thankful and thaaaaankkkkfullll. I became recalcitrant, not because thats who I am, but just.. you know.. out of principle.

And because of this recalcitrance I made the mistake of thinking that I had to get rid of an old rebellious part of me, and that there was something wrong with me, because very often I was not thankful at all and it felt as if I was sending a child part of myself home with a crumpled beige wrapping paper, when what I actually wanted was the cinnamon stick that had been wrapped in it. I have a high-pitched ringing in my ear all day, BUT I am so grateful that it is only in the right ear…. Get out of here.

But gratitude is not the same as never being really angry about anything.
Gratitude is not the same as looking like a happy camper all day.
Gratitude is not the same as burying your head in the sand for the things happening around you.
Gratitude is not the same as invalidating your own struggles.
Gratitude is not the same as saying that things can always be worse.
Gratitude does not seal your place in heaven.

I noticed that for me gratitude has manifested itself in a very natural way, a bit like the invisible line you cross when you hang out with the same person more and longer and when, unnoticed, this relationship begins to form, which receives its existential right in the word ‘friendship’, something you did not see coming and which contours you also could not have sketched beforehand. Gratitude is on the inside, like a breath of life that moves with the rhythm of the day.

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I call it a ten

He pulled a card. ‘If years could be poured in numbered bottles, what number would you attach to past year?’ Immediately we felt split in two, as we were represented by this stiff grey-ish, bloodled body in a morgue, with one tag attached to each toe. Left. Right. The rest of the body was covered with a white blanket. The first tage immediately blurted out the number two, unequivocally. The other experience tiptoed happily around our hearts and said the number ten. How could two numbers exist and not compete? The question had been singular, so why then did both numbers feel correct as answers?

He pointed us towards the story of Jacob’s two wives, who were competing in childbirth, rivaling with each other, hoping to win their husbands primary affection by having his baby, try after try, baby after baby, not realizing that multiplying Jacob’s offspring was exactly what God had previously promised. They all were in the same situation, with the difference that they were looking with their own hearts and eyes – and therefore hurting – and God was not. The wives would have graded their situation as bad and call it a two.

He pointed us to a point further down in the story, where Jacob was about to meet his brother after a twenty year periode of silence, and showed us how Jacob interpreted the multitude of men accompanying his brother as a threat upon which he acted accordingly, or at least in a way that more than hinted that he wanted to de-escalate the situation. Jacob too, as his wives did earlier, followed his own ears, eyes and heart and with that he followed his own feelings instead of clinging to Gods previous promise to no leave him. Jacob probably would have graded this situation as bad and call it a two. God probably would have said: This is exactly in my plan, I call it a ten.

So it was all a matter of perspective, wasn’t it Daddy? Is that the message of this week? That I am exactly where I am supposed to be, getting up and out of that death house, where my earthly eyes have declined so badly that the only thing I see is darkness, which is death, who calls itself number two. Sneaky sneaky, mister death, suggesting it could always get worse, lowering your (my?) standards to a one or a zero, or even change the rules by pretending not to roam back and forth on an ordinal scale, having now the possibility of dropping below anyone’s expectations, so that when next time I’m talking to someone and they ask me to grade my year, I would say -5.

But then there’s God, meeting me outside of my death house, without my white death blanket on, greeting me into His presence, saying: It was a ten all along, lovy, I am glad you finally see it.

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What is it

The English translation into the sentence what’s wrong, lovy wasn’t the correct representation of the reality, because it was more defined in an extreme, backed into the corner of ‘wrong’, opposite to the other side of right as if I found myself in a wrestling match (which also made us wonder why nosheep ever asks what’s right, lovy, as if wrong is the deviation of some inherent knowledge of what it means to be human, but luckily we have the linguistic freedom to not live in between brackets). Or short: It wasn’t what the original language meant to say. Can we borrow from Hebrew where they say ma-zeh, having more of an open retorism, where the person in front of you is not sure what he sees written in the caverns on your face and just asks you: Tell me what it is that I see in plain view, I can’t read it. They even called Gods Bread from heaven ‘what-is-it’, or in better Hebrew pronounced as ma-nah.

What is it that I see, lovy. I believe there are but very few people who actually have this gift of approaching me more near this way. God is one of them, my dad and my boyfriend being two others. My dad doesnt even have to ask the question. I can see in his face that he notices something about me. It’s in the reflection of his silence that I discover that something actually is disturbing me inside. It’s in his eyes that I find I am still uncomfortable to know that he also sees I noticed him and now we’re both stuck in knowing, but both trying to pretend not to. My boyfriend asks it before I can see it in his face. In between these two men in time, one being with me from the beginning of my time, one being with me to the end of it, I feel this weird oscillation of being okay with disturbance, not forced to talk about it, and I discovering that talking about it even reliefs the disturbance, even though it is continuously covered (and governed) by the thought that when I do show my true colors, there is no future for me any more.

I think God represents both of these extremes. In His presence it’s okay to not talk about it. In His presence it’s okay to talk about it. I get the impression that He lets me choose, after He first made me feel at ease with both possibilities. I start to exist between these two options. There needs to be a beginning and an end to a line in order for it to be visible to the eye. That is the line that draws an invisible circle around my heart where the four letters of the word safe cover every corner of it, whispered, so that it’s not the language that fills me, but the breath with which the word comes forth. Try it. Whisper the word safe, and then see where your breath takes it.

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Selected: mute

See,.. what’d happened was..

No. Start anew, Pota. Can you put it in paint?

Two throbbing blobs of red, looking identical, as if it was an embryo that had just entered the wombing room and therefore happily celebrated its cleavage stage. I got stuck in the exact middle, not feeling represented by either mirrors placed alongside me, showing me the two parts of a yesterday, where one part was talkative and daring, bold and genuinely laughing, sharing and interested and where another other part of me immediately retracted to this mute stage, where fragmentation was the only thing I had to frantically avoid, leaving me without any words to share, to talk, to dare, show interest or present a genuine laugh. What resulted was an organic, but plastic, mannequin-me. It was beyond horrible. What I saw placed in front of me was the task of sheer surviving, counting down the seconds, breathe baby girl, to minutes, just breathe, to perhaps hours after which I could not hold on any longer. I finally stroked his finger.

This was my gift to him, he wanted to be with loved ones on his birthday, and with me, and so I agreed to go see his parents, drive by his sister’s work place and eventually attend some home party with people he knew. I remember that the moment I entered the house, I wanted to leave. Something was off with the energy there, it was even before I shook hands, before they poured drinks, before anything else. But I stayed. For him.

Earlier that day he proposed an agreement: ‘If you want to leave, let me know by stroking my finger. Do this at any time, even if it’s after 5 seconds, and we will leave, because I want you to feel comfortable as well.’ But I didn’t touch his finger. I wanted him to have this time with friends, with me on his side. This was my gift to him. Finally I did stroke his finger. Feeling my boundary on his skin hurt me. We left. And with that I left the image of a girl who was extremely shy because of all these new people around her, and a Father who saw that and pulled her close.

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Answers in the rhetorical

Wrestling with God’s imperishable love for me, in spite of me, thus encountering myself, totally confused, as if my name can only be written in a ball of wool, sandwiched by unanswered rhetorical questions, a cottony feeling and unspoken or unfulfilled needs, while it is precisely my intense desire to draw and set straight all the boundaries in my life, to scratch them into the cement under my feet and not let them touch each other either. Deviation from degrees that are not a plural of 90 or 0 sounds like musical dissonance to my ears and I endure it only by not breathing any more. If this scenario resembled a money exchange, and dissonances were printed on five euro notes, I would only change it for five euro coins, but never for any other money. The next step in my life is that boundaries do not have to be underlined, but can be set freely as the road meanders along in my head, without seeing it in reality. I am one big mess. Is this where God wants me? Escaping from what mental health professionals might call a tangled family, now enclosing myself in my own threads of incapacity?

WhoamiwhoamIwhoamIwhoamI.
Do I fill myself with approval from others?
Do I comfort myself with drugs?
Where have I lost my security?
Can it be restored in Him?
Where have I lost my identity?
Can it be restored in Him?


Did He throw me in this sea of fearful black waves where I had to throw everything overboard I thought was dear to me, because otherwise the boat (me) would sink? In my Jonah echo I too wrote on the dried-out chambers of my dead heart. I discovered two things, both of them taking first place:

  1. I would find freedom, and that freedom was to be totally and increasingly OK with not sharing anything about myself. I would discover how it feels when people really leave me alone. That feeling will give the incentive to draw pencil-borders of my new path. My silence (apparently) is okay.

  1. I would discover that what I share is okay. That people do not judge, look at me strangely, reproach me or reject me, that people don’t look up to me, or down on me. Because I was not put on a pedestal, or used as a doormat, I discovered I had two feet on my own to stand on. On the throne in my head I stepped off of the pedestal, and walk away of the doormat. Sharing my story made me see that I was mostly holding myself captive in lies. My story (apparently) is okay.

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Empty calories

Daddy, the way you showed me how Esau comforted himself with the thought of killing his brother Jacob was so clear, that I saw how revenge is an eternal circle, perpetually and inherently thrusting itself forward, closing oneself in with every turn, tumbling down this slanted slope of destruction, eating itself alive, while procreating twice as fast.

The thought of revenge can be comforting, or at least that is what the world advertises to us as a truth. That once you have your revenge, ‘it’ will be all right again? Please define me the ‘it’ then, because I can’t find it under my i. The only thing I found was a lie, because I discovered that revenge doesn’t erase the the scratch on my soul. ‘Sorry’ doesn’t unspeak what was said. ‘Sorry’ isn’t the sole ingredient of the epoxy that glues people together again. If I steal your car because you stole mine, I’m still without my car and still missing all the personal belongings that I stuffed in the glove compartment. I would still be shocked by the fact that I never expected you to steal my car. If I then turn into indifference as revenge, I am stuck with that emotion all day.

With what do you comfort yourself, My daughter?

Oh Daddy, You made me ponder over it yesterday already.. with what do I fill myself.. do I fill myself with worldly things? How can it be that I increasingly notice that I want to stuff myself with pride, as if water can be pushed into a ball of cotton candy that you shove down your throat, knowing that it’s empty caloric food, that will only blow up my stomack (or ego), after with I let out this air of nothingness when in contact with another, ending empty and alone again. Bummed. Angry. What to do?

With what do you comfort yourself, My daughter?

Oh Daddy, it’s so easy to find comfort in lies, but that’s also a worldly free gift I guess. Jesus sent the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, who lives in me. The Person who is always with me, a Person whose voice I sometimes still hush to silence, because I keep believing the lie that I have to solve things alone, my way, because if I don’t do it, who will? Esau should have turned to You with his hatred and not have murder on his heart. I should have turned to You with my mess. With my everything actually.

What history lies behind me, Daddy, to know about the rubble in Isac’s family, them kicking dust around as if gravity doesn’t exist. How relatable to see family members tumbling over each other like that. I can’t imagine Your sadness over this scene. But I also see Your decisiveness in all of this, because You never tore Your papers up, You continued Your plan, what grace You show me to have..

I am in wonderings to see Your majesty walking forwards, as if it was you on the isle.The majestic way that in my opinion only the Prophet Isaiah could approach it a little by making way to describing your robe filling the entire temple.. Oh Daddy, how You showed Your mercy to be thundering silence.. how Your rock solid promise lays the foundation underneath every rubble in every family, and therefore in mine. How You know how to operate outside of time and turn past mistakes into future glories, as if it was You who rummaged through that glove compartment looking for what we put there only to throw out when we would arrive at our destination. Oh, how this I see Your greatness evermore clear, distinct and unmistakable. My rips are alive, tearing into bigger cracks. And in what I perceive to be a loss of ‘me’, looking into black nothingness -if You’re not here, I am lost!- I find the light of Your glory, Your promise, Your love. It’s beyond words, it’s in You that I have my being. My God.. it’s scary A.F. (thank you for knowing abbreviations). Because it shows me that if You let go, I have nothing to hold on to! Please hold on to me, Daddy!

Thank you for Your plan with my life, that You had all ready and typed up before I could even walk (or fall). That it is a plan unreplacable, despite me. Teach me how to run to you for comfort. Teach me to live Your way. Be my comfort today. My life feels like one big mess, Daddy, I have no idea where to begin, it’s hard to breathe at times and I see myself hiding in fleeing from reality, but it’s exactly in those empty spaces where I find You, thank You that I can’t run away. Thank you for running into me, wherever I go.

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Empty fillings

Daddy, by mentioning the word pride today, You made me look in a mirror that I hoped I could disappear in or hide behind. Can I deny what I saw? Can I pretend it to only be my reverse image and make myself believe that the real me is the one who is holding up the banner of this charade? My goodness, Daddy, how do You put up with me? You told me how the pride of life doesn’t come from You, but from the world. It made me stop and think: what is it that I fill myself with?

Pride.. ouch.. thinking that people will look up to me when they hear about my college degree, where I worked, what I know, who I know. Wanting people to look up to me. Not feeling okay when people don’t look up to me. Feeling rejected actually. Non-existent, completely lost when they don’t notice me, or don’t put me on a pedestal. But at the same time feeling incredibly bad because I don’t want to be that way! I don’t want to boast on my worldly achievements, I don’t want to lean on that at all. I don’t want to look down on others, in order to place myself higher. I don’t want to feel more important than others, because it makes me feel incredibly lonely. I don’t want to feel better than someone else. I don’t want to give others the feeling that they will never accomplish what I have or am. I hate this part of me! Why don’t you cut it off from me like cancer?

I thought I was a huge big shot because of my cum laude gratuation, but what is left of that? No job. Wellfare. I am so much ashamed to talk about it now. It happened again when I joined the church five years ago, that I noticed how people didn’t look up to me, and how it made me feel so incredibly insecure. Who am I if people don’t look up to me? And this week I noticed it again in a totally different setting: I want people to look up to me, and again they don’t. It makes me lose sight of who I am then, but that is perhaps exactly what You want for my life, as if You yanked the rusty nails from a tightly shut wooden box, a coffin perhaps, that now makes all four sides come down in one gravitational swoop, uncovering a little me inside, just like a worm. If I am not who THEY say or think I am, then there is one thing left to do, and that is run to You, in shameful admittance that You’re my last resort, and not the first. But perhaps You’d say: “In either case, you’re here, My daughter”

If You’ll have me, Daddy, I want to tell you how lost I feel among people, because I increasingly see so much clearer how I want to cover my invisibility with the opinion and eyes of the other person. The feeling is absolutely horrible, Daddy, to notice that these tiny threads between me and the other have been worn down from the get go that they only visually make a connection between me and the other, but in reality show that only one puff is enough to show the thread was dust and ashes only. There is nothing substantial between me and the other, all is vanity. It hurts me, Father, and at the same time I want to speak my grattitude, that You are here, that I can talk about it with You.

That pride of ‘mine’.. Can I ask You to remove it? Or is this You who is placing me in situations where my pride will be broken, the same way crushed flowers give off a beautiful scent, more than you could smell if you would just pluck them out of existence. I surrender to this, Father, to these situations, because they make me feel utterly helpless, making way more room for You. Pride comes for the fall, catch me, Daddy, here I am.

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Unfolding on the shore

Daddy, when You told Rebecca she would have two nations (גֹיִים) in her womb, why did you voice it like that? Why didn’t you tell her she would be having twins? It makes me think of my mums pregnancy, that she wouldn’t just give birth to me, but to a generation that would flow from me, spiritually speaking? I mean, all Abraham had to do, was to have ONE SON, and You would expand that family so much, that many nations would see the light of day. One pebble in the water carries his wave onto the shore, were it can unfold.

Daddy, through the prophet Isaiah you tell the people of Israel to not be afraid. Does You say that to me as well? I mean, Jesus also spoke those words. Fear not. I have not received a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. Well, if I am honest, I am everything but do-not-fear. And I realize that I am standing on that shore of the promise made in the ocean, because I AM redeemed, through Abrahams faith and through Your blood, made visible in Jesus. Do my ears also go up by hearing the sound of the knowledge that You formed me in my mothers womb? That You love me, despite me? That You chose me and will never go back on that promise? Unfold me, Daddy.

Daddy, I feel pulled apart so badly that the only thing I feel is covering me, is hopelessness. I have lost sight of you and feel stuffed with fear. Fear that You are angry with me, upset with me, disappointed in me, that You are ready to give up on me, that You will throw things to my face. And I want to thank you, so badly, that through the deep valleys of my shadow of my death, that I find Your hand right here, exactly here. And in my shoutings I fire all the darts to the enemy, who wants me to believe that You ran out of mercy for me, that this time I really crossed the line. The prophet Jonah almost fell off the earth and even there he fell into Your hands. Let also me be covered with the truth that You have redeemed me. Be with me today, keep me sane, keep me upright, keep me walking, I don’t think I have ever gone through a more dark period than this one right now. But you are bigger than the situation I am going through. You are with me still, You can do more than I can pray for or that I can fathom. Wash me with Your forgiveness, clean me more white than snow dreams of, cover me with Your blood, let me drip of the certainty I have in You.

Daddy, I can’t see the rest of the day any more, let alone the rest of the week, month or year. It frightens me beyond belief! Is it You who is doing this, covering everything, so that I can only see one step in front of me? Here I go then, here am I, Your daughter.

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Een voorschot op rouw

Ik ben niet geschrokken van zaterdag en zou je bui niet omschreven hebben als donker. Zelfs ogen raken gewend aan minder licht op den duur, toch. Hoe ik de zaterdag juist heb beleefd, was samen een beetje prutsen in de garage, denken dat pur toch beter was geweest dan touw om zo de kiertjes te dichten.

Je weet denk ik nooit hoe een ander iets ervaart. Ik denk dat het voor jou zwaarder is dan voor mij, want ook jij leeft niet in een isolement en bent met anderen verbonden en realiseert je waarschijnlijk dat dit impact heeft op iedereen (wat het dan weer zwaarder maakt voor jou, wellicht).

Ik ervaar jouw situatie soms als het een meedeinen op dezelfde golf, soms zit ik in een golf die erachteraan komt, maar het kan soms ook aanvoelen als een verhoogde staat van paraatheid, waarin je in je ademhalen continu rekening houdt met.. dat is het voor mij de laatste tijd een beetje, en dat is een manier van leven waar geen handboek voor is. Wat als jij dood neervalt terwijl we graszaad staan te mengen in de garage? Poeh. Ik merk dat het er -ongewenst, ongemerkt- voor zorgt dat er een raar soort stukje plexiglas om me heen komt te staan, dat me ietwat belemmert om zorgeloos van je te houden, om gewoon de dagelijkse dingen te doen, om gewoon normaal te zijn met elkaar, lekker laks haast, dingen als vanzelfsprekend te nemen, zelfs door je donkerte heen te kijken.. omdat in mij steeds één twinkeling in mijn oog probeert jouw val te voorkomen danwel op te vangen. Wat. Als. Dadelijk. En hoe zoiets voelt, dat woord staat niet in het woordenboek.

Het is wel een gek gevoel om ergens te weten dat de persoon door wie je je zo voelt, misschien juist níet de persoon is om het daarmee over te hebben. Het is een beetje hetzelfde als iemand die terminaal in een ziekenhuis ligt, dat zo iemand er heel erg voor de ander moet gaan zitten zijn, omdat de ander het zo zwaar vindt en de ander zo verdrietig is. Och toch, ik kan je niet missen hoor. Zoiets. Of misschien is dat ook wel wat er gebeurt, of hoe het de bedoeling is, dat de zieke de gezonde troost biedt of opbeurt, ik weet het niet. Soms houdt iedereen elkaar voor de gek, door zich sterker voor te doen. Wie moet wie eigenlijk steunen? Ik weet een miljoen procent zeker dat ik een pilaar ben (voor mezelf, maar ook voor jou) als je op me zou leunen, dan zou ik misschien zelfs wel beter weten wat mijn rol is, misschien vind ik dat het moeilijkste aan de hele situatie. Dat ik niet weet waar ik sta. De ene dag bouwen we samen een buitenverblijf, de andere dag niet. Zoveel misschienen. Misschien kunnen we ook wel naast elkaar staan, met de ogen dezelfde kant op, net zoals we jaren lang kilometers spoor gelopen hebben en nog meer kilometers auto gereden hebben, naast elkaar, en dan zou ik het wel aandurven om te vragen en te luisteren naar wat je beroert.

Kunnen we van elkaar weten hoe onze situatie is? Misschien wel een beetje, jij stond jarenlang aan mijn donkere zijlijn. Jij zei me eens iets wat me destijds een inkijkje gaf in hoe mijn zwaarte geweest was, namelijk ‘we zijn er al tien jaar op voorbereid dat er ‘s avonds een telefoontje komt van de politie’. Tjonge, pa, wat confronterend, ik had werkelijk geen idee dat ik niet in een isolement leefde, ik snapte werkelijk niet dat een ander geraakt kon zijn door iets van mij. Ik snap het nog steeds nauwelijks. Het is de roestige, ruwe, ribbelige zijkant van de glimmende medaille van ‘houden van’; dat je bezorgd bent om de ander, zorg hebt voor de ander, mee lijdt met de ander, lijdt door toedoen van de ander (zonder verwijt, want dat is niet eerlijk). Ik vind het een van de meest pijnlijke bijkomende verborgen kosten liefde en is één van de redenen dat ik geen kinderen heb gewild.

Ik zadel hen dan op met het feit dat ze ooit afscheid van mij moeten nemen en dat ik ze niet nabij kan zijn precies op het moment dat ze me misschien wel het meest nodig hebben. Ik heb dat heel indringend ervaren toen M en ik uit elkaar gingen. Ik kan onze breuk aan, zolang hij maar naast me staat. Ik ervoer het nog een keer toen M stierf. Dat ik uitgerekend met hém het verdriet wilde delen van zijn overlijden. En nu heb ik het weer, met ons, maar nu neem ik een voorschot op rouw. En dat verdriet me denk ik het meest. Dat ik nu al weet dat ik je op dát moment niet meer op kan zoeken, kan schrijven, binnen kan komen banjeren op kantoor, om het er even over te hebben.

Lieve pa, laten we elkaar blijven dragen. We zijn er sterk genoeg voor.

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Life 360

Sinds ik in september van vorig jaar de schrik van mijn leven kreeg doordat mijn moeder me in een iets minder ontspannen manier opbelde dan ik van haar gewend was, met de mededeling dat de operatie van mijn vader niet goed gegaan leek te zijn en ze met spoed naar het ziekenhuis terug moesten, en of ik in hun huis eventjes iets over wilde nemen terwijl ze weg waren, is er iets in mij veranderd.

Ik ben nog niet toe aan het beschrijven hoe ik die dertig minuten op de fiets heb beleefd, zonder innerlijke zijwieltjes wiebelend naar mijn ouderlijk huis, in nood van de opperste vertwijfeling, niet wetend of ik moest bidden voor kracht voor mijn vader of voor mijzelf.. Bij elke keer dat mijn rechtervoet dichter bij de aarde was dan mijn linker, ademde ik uit en hoorde ik mezelf zeggen: ‘Heer, zorg dat ik er klaar voor ben, zorg dat ik het aankan.’

Maar ik ben nog niet toe aan het beschrijven van die reis. Er was iets anders, iets wat kleiner, meer behapbaar is, waar ik wél concreet mee uit de voeten kan. In de tijd dat ik in mijn ouderlijk huis aan het wachten was, wist ik niet waar ze waren. Waren ze nog onderweg naar het ziekenhuis, waren ze daar, waren ze alweer onderweg naar huis? Het niet weten was alsof iemand een CD met stilte had aangezet en het volume op 10 had gedraaid. Ik hoorde niks anders meer dan niksigheid. Alsof iemand voor mijn ogen het heelal had opgevouwen. Tot..
de sleutel..
in het slot..
en mijn ogen meteen die van mijn vader zochten en troffen.
De schrik en vermoeidheid in zijn ogen vielen samen met die van mij.

Intern kreeg ik een wit vel voor me, waar ik alle mogelijkheden op kon schrijven van de dag van het overlijden van mijn ouders. Hoe zal dat gaan? Ineens zag ik ook mijn eigen sterfelijkheid en realiseerde ik me: ik ben alleen. Als ik hier in huis dood van de stoel val, wie weet daar dan van? En wanneer? En wanneer ik een eindje ga wandelen? Mijn moeder knikte instemmend en zei dat ze het helemaal niks had gevonden dat ik destijds in mijn eentje naar Dallas was geweest, dat ze niet wist waar ik was.

En ineens zag ik iets wat ik zo ontzettend wilde koesteren: het is een hemelrijke groei die mijn Vader de afgelopen jaren heeft bewerkstelligt tussen mij en mijn moeder, want waar ik het in Dallas echt vervelend vond dat mama af en toe een berichtje wilde krijgen van mij, 𝘭𝘢𝘢𝘵 𝘮𝘪𝘫 𝘵𝘰𝘤𝘩 𝘭𝘰𝘴 𝘫𝘰𝘩, voelde ik nu een verlangen om te verbinden, ik wil dat zij weet waar ik ben.. ik wil eigenlijk dat zij altijd weet waar ik ben, ik wil dat mama op een app kan kijken en mij kan volgen, net zoals ik haar dan kan zien, gewoon zodat ik weet dat ze er is, ook al zie ik haar niet. Krijgen we dan na al die tijd eindelijk de gelegenheid om iets te herstellen wat ons is overkomen, toen we uit elkaar zijn gehaald, ik als baby, zij als nieuwbakken moeder, gescheiden van elkaar, zonder dat we dat allebei wilden, ikzondermama, mamazondermij?

‘Ja, doe maar’, zei mama, ‘download die app maar.’ We gingen een verbond aan. Een gesloten verbond waar alleen zij en ik in zaten, in een cirkel, allebei zichtbaar als stip, die van haar bruin, de mijne paars.

Tot vorig jaar dus. Haar stip bleef bewegingsloos thuis rusten, terwijl ik wist dat ze op dat moment bij de badminton was. Deed ze dat expres? Wilde ze mij niet meer in haar cirkel? Wist ze dat ik eerder die week nog dronken van baby-achtige verliefdheid had zitten kijken naar hoe haar stip met een iets te hoge snelheid over de brug reed, op weg naar mij toe? Wist ze dat ik voor het naar bed gaan altijd eventjes op de app keek of zij ook thuis was?

Sloot ze zichzelf van mij af?
Sloot ze mij buiten?
Ik was zo geraakt door de gedachte, dat ze niet gezien wilde worden door mij, dat ze mij had weggeduwd, dat het voelde alsof ik mama kwijt was.

En waar ik vroeger, als ik haar wel eens kwijt was, meteen dacht om ándere ouders te gaan zoeken – ik ben eens als 10-jarige verdwaald in de haven van Athene en dacht toen alleen maar: ik vertel de politie dat ik mijn ouders kwijt ben, dan geeft de politie mij nieuwe ouders en ik zal Grieks moeten leren – voelde ik intern nu een verlangen van een beweging naar mijn moeder tóe. 𝘐𝘬 𝘸𝘪𝘭 𝘣𝘪𝘫 𝘮𝘢𝘮𝘢 𝘻𝘪𝘫𝘯.

Na een paar keer slikken bracht ik het ter sprake. Mama wist van niks, zei ze; ze had ergens die week in de app op een knop gedrukt, om een notificatie weg te krijgen. Blijkbaar had ze daarmee haar locatievoorziening uitgezet. Ik hoorde mezelf een zin uitspreken die ik nooit eerder had uitgesproken, maar die zich wel ergens in mijn traumaverleden aan de binnenkant van mijn hart had geplakt, als was het de laatste flard behang in een kamer van een huis dat ik allang had verlaten, het soort behang dat zich zo intens aan de muur hecht dat je er alleen maar overheen wilt behangen, omdat je het er gewoon niet. meer. af. krijgt. Op de diepste laag van mijn hartjesbehang las ik hardop: 𝘪𝘬 𝘥𝘢𝘤𝘩𝘵 𝘥𝘢𝘵 𝘫𝘦 𝘮𝘪𝘫 𝘯𝘪𝘦𝘵 𝘮𝘦𝘦𝘳 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘥𝘦..

Wat er daarna gebeurde, weet ik niet meer; maar concreet -en behapbaar- leidde het tot het volgende: ze gaf me haar telefoon en zei: ‘Ik weet niet hoe dit moet’. Ik zette haar locatievoorzieningen weer aan, waarna we allebei weer als bewegende stip in de cirkel stonden, daar, op dat moment, naast elkaar. De app vroeg ons om de relatie tussen ons aan te vinken. Ik drukte op dochter. Zij drukte op moeder. Daar waren we dan, naast elkaar, in het echt. De cirkel was rond. Verbonden.

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Nepnieuws in een verzonnen brief

Voor het eerst in mijn leven zie ik mezelf in een situatie geplaatst die zo zielsvreemd is aan alles wat zich heeft vastgeklemd aan het kruis van Jezus, dat ik met verbazing kijk naar de categorie die men ‘pijn’ zou noemen en plots zie dat er al die tijd een wereldgrootse nieuwe werkelijkheid achter mijn speelveld afspeelde die ik niet eerder waarnam en waar ik ook de woorden niet voor heb, laat staan de emotie of de gepaste gezichtsuitdrukking. Lichamelijk zou het eruit zien alsof ik rustig roerend in een pan mosterdsoep het ziekenhuis bel met de mededeling dat zojuist al mijn vier ledematen eraf zijn gerukt door een tuinhakselaar. Ik constateer enkel feiten; de rest van mij is er niet meer. Zoiets.

Het is qua intensiteit ver voorbij alles wat ik ooit heb meegemaakt bij elkaar, maar dan maal een miljoen en opgeslokt in een seconde. Het is een pijn die met één prik in het maagdenvlies voor altijd onomkeerbaar maagdeloos maakt, het is een pijn die met één scheur in de vruchtzak de baby de ogen doet openen voor het feit dat ze al die tijd niet alleen in mama’s buik zat, maar per afgeleide ook in de wereld waar mama’s buik zich bevond. Het is een kras die eruit zou zien als een hashtag (#) en zich ergens op de oppervlakte bevindt van wat ik daardoor ziel zou noemen, een kras die in een woedepoging om hem uit te gummen de oppervlakte alleen maar meer bezoedelt, als was het geborsteld aluminium. Ik houd mijn adem in.

Levensgroot zag ik op mijn projectiedoek afgebeeld hoe mijn reputatie zich ergens verborgen in de tijd van mij loswrikte en voor mij uit is gesneld, om in een ijzingwekkende echo die voor eeuwig gevangen zit in zichzelf de wereld te vertellen wat ik gedaan heb. Weet je wel wie dat is, wappert het doek waarmee de geur van verrotting, sperma en geronnen bloed de lucht in wordt geduwd. Zij is een rare, zij is gek, zij loopt bij de GGZ, zij snijdt zichzelf, zij is labiel, zij neukt iedereen, ze laat zich er ook voor betalen. Het was alsof ik in een duivelse (of hemelse?) rechtbank stond en ik geloof dat ik alleen mijn ogen nog open had. Hoe kan ik achteruit teruglopen en terugkomen op schreden die ik ooit een kant op zette, waar ik nu nooit meer naartoe zou gaan?

Ik wend mijn ogen af en zoek naar een mogelijkheid om ook mijn ziel af te wenden, maar zijn stem roept me terug naar het hier en nu. Kijk me eens aan, hé, kijk me eens aan.

Het voelt alsof mijn recht van spreken is verbogen in onrecht en ik zwijg omdat ik ook niet eens meer kan fluisteren. Het maakt mij niet uit wat ze over jou zeggen, zegt hij, en of het waar is of niet, ik weet wie jij echt bent. Het maakt mij niet uit. De manier waarop hij die laatste zin zegt, maakt dat ik hem geloof en zijn werkelijkheid tot de mijne maak. Het is alsof hij degene is die me aan mijn afgerukte arm mee wil trekken uit de helse rechtbank waar de menigte mij zojuist in heeft veroordeeld. Een rechtbank waar God allang Zijn toga heeft neergelegd en uit is vertrokken, omdat Hij 2.000 jaar geleden al met pensioen ging.  

In de bank rechts van mij zie ik ineens mensen zitten uit mijn eigen leven, mensen die ik ken, dacht te kennen, mensen die mij altijd vriendelijk gegroet hebben, mensen van wie ik dacht dat ze mij zagen voor de persoon die ik was en niet voor de aanklacht die ze nu over mijn mond heen plakken. Heb ik al die tijd in een leugen geleefd, denkend, naïef levend en hopend dat mensen geen verborgen agenda hebben? Krijg ik nu antwoord op een vraag die ik me in vriendelijke verwondering altijd al heb afgevraagd: benieuwd als ik was hoe mensen mij eigenlijk zien als ze me in de stad zien lopen?

Waarom hoor ik nu pas dat in mijn eigen stad, in mijn eigen straat én zelfs in mijn eigen flat een zin wordt uitgesproken die klinkt als: ‘Als zij zich zo zwaar opmaakt, dan gaat het weer niet goed met haar.’ Heb ik al die tijd voor schut gelopen in de stad, voor schut gestaan bij de kassa, voor schut gestaan in de sportschool, voor schut gestaan toen ik in mijn eentje naar de bioscoop ging, voor schut gestaan omdat mensen, veel meer mensen dan ik dacht, mij zagen en onderling fluisterden: ‘Oh oh.. het gaat weer niet goed met haar.’ Waarom was hij de eerste en de enige die me stilzette en zei: Waarom maak jij je zo zwaar op? Het staat je niet. Je hebt zulke mooie ogen van jezelf. Waarom heeft niemand.. ooit.. iets..

Met terugwerkende kracht begrijp ik ineens wat het onderwerp van gesprek geweest is toen hij een keertje ‘s avonds overstuur bij me kwam en zei dat zijn handen jeukten, omdat mensen hem weer hadden uitgelokt. Ik had toen nog tegen hem gezegd dat hij het moest laten gaan, sta erboven. Ze hadden het over mij hè, vroeg ik voorzichtig en met een brok in mijn keel. Zijn knikken was onzichtbaar maar duidelijk. Daarmee werd zijn pijn een heel klein beetje mijn pijn. Ik snapte ook ineens wat iemand bedoelde toen zij tegen hem had gezegd dat hij erbij liep als een pooier toen zij ons in de stad had zien lopen. Ik had toen nog quasi verontwaardigd gereageerd door te zeggen: ‘Als ze zoiets over jou zeggen, wat maakt mij dat dan?’ Zijn zwijgen van toen kwam er nu in een zucht van opluchting uit toen hij ook die last niet meer in zijn eentje hoefde te dragen en ik hoorde wederom een onhoorbaar knikken, toen ik begreep dat die opmerking over mij ging: mijn prostitutie maakt van hém een pooier, niet andersom.

Welke verhalen gaan er nog meer rond over mij?
Wie voedt die verhalen?
Wie toetst die verhalen?
Wie heeft die verhalen gehoord? Mijn ouders? Mijn broer en zus? Mensen in de kerk?

Wie zijn die mensen die dit doen? Wie zijn dit soort mensen? Of schuilt achter elk gezicht een masker dat zich verbergt achter een glimlach en bemoediging?

En hoe meer ik probeer om in woorden te vangen wat er gebeurd was, hoe verder ik er van af sta. Ik heb wel woorden voor pijn, verdriet, woede, verraad, onmacht, gulzigheid, wraak, afzien,.. ik ken de blindheid ervan, het oerse, het rauwe, het dwingende, het onmenselijke haast, maar ik heb geen woorden voor échte werkelijkheid. Het is alsof ik het binaire handboek heb gekregen van een softwareprogramma waarvan ik altijd dacht dat dát mijn leven was, niet wetende dat het slechts een slaafs opvolgen is van commando’s op een pagina, omgebladerd door het kwaad.

Het voelt alsof de opperlaag van mijn aardse lichaam is afgeschraapt en ik bekleed moet worden met goddelijk transplantatiehuid. Is dat wat God deed in Zijn hof? Zijn kinderen bekleden met iets van Hemzelf, wat alleen maar zou passen als ze waren ontdaan van hun onschuld? Moesten ook zij iets afleggen van wat zij dachten dat echt was, om zo tot een dieper besef te komen dat hun leven, bewegen en bestaan volledig ligt in Hem die hen schiep? Lagen ook zij als bloedende lammeren op Zijn altaar en was ook toen al de schreeuw van het dierenvel een vooruitblik naar niet alleen het hartenoffer van Abraham, maar vooral het offer van Zijn God vele jaren later?

“Ga jij met haar?!” De gons in zijn oren wordt de echo in mijn hart. Hij wist dingen over mij die ik hem niet zelf had verteld, dingen die ik bij Jezus had gelaten. En zijn handen hadden gejeukt om deze mensen met zijn ‘ja’ allemaal tot een zwijgen te dwingen. Ja, ik ga met haar, en als je nog eens iets over mijn meisje wil zeggen, moet je dat doen waar ze bij is.

Maar deed Jezus niet precies hetzelfde bij mij? Was ik niet precies die overspelige vrouw, in het middelpunt gezet, omringd door een menigte die alleen steniging op het verharde hart had? Was ik niet precies die Zaccheüs, verborgen in een boom van gebladerde schaamte? Als deze man al in mijn hart de geruststelling kon stansen dat het niet uitmaakt wat ze over me zeggen, dat het niet uitmaakt wat ik gedaan heb.. als die woorden al meer lijken op het watermerk ín het papier dan het papier zelf, onuitwisbaar ook al is de boodschapper verkreukeld, lijkend op een hashtag die haar stempel zet onder een verklaring van echtheid, hoeveel temeer tekent het bloed van Jezus dan niet de contouren van mijn hart..

Bij Hem ben ik veilig. Bij Hem ben ik vrij van oordeel. Bij Hem ben ik geaccepteerd. Bij Hem ben ik voorgoed gescheiden van mijn zonden. Bij Hem ligt mijn echte reputatie. Bij Hem mag ik die diepe pijn doorleven van verraad. Ook Hij werd weggezet als gek. Ook Hij werd beschimpt, bespot, geslagen. Maar juist Hij keek naar mij om, om daarmee mijn blik hopelijk af te kunnen wenden van de aanklagers, weg uit de rechtbank waar niet eens ik, maar Hij 2.000 jaar geleden Zich vrijwillig liet veroordelen, om mij de kracht te kunnen geven om vergeving te schenken aan de mensen die mij in anonimiteit verraden hebben, duwden mij alleen maar verder van hén af, dichter naar Jezus toe.

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Code red

When inner chaos gets molded into this fur ball of a constant reliving of wordless trauma that the only thing you can do is give way -or bow down to- suffocational word vomit, you find yourself using personal pronouns that would give any psychoanalist with a fetish for linguistics a field day. Because the you is never the other when one talks about things that one doesn’t have the words for oneself. Let them be confused, so I can stand by in recognition, nodding, smiling in gladness that it’s not me. Let them be the ones to utter how they not know what is intrinsically going on, so that I can be safe in silence. Let them have my hell, because what you give away to others, is gone.

We found a letter. It was about a dad, who showed himself to be prudent and circumspect. In words it was like he drew a circle around us, not looking us in the eye, but speaking us in the ear, as if he knew this is the only way to approach a wild a animal, let him know you see him, by letting him know you don’t look. The father said: ‘I am ever contemplating whether I should ask how you are doing, but I think I won’t ask that question aloud.’ As mentioned, he doesn’t look at me, he is staring into space, in a ninety degree angle from me, creating this perfect shade where I can hide in, so that I don’t even have to say I don’t want to talk about it. My dad is a genius with language like that. I take after him. Now both of us have asked and said things that nobody ever heard. Let’s leave it for now. I am not up for longer conversations.

In another letter we read how anger always protected us. It made damn sure that we couldn’t get hurt, couldn’t get approached, couldn’t get held and squeezed to death. We were the ones having control over the distance between us and others. We threatened, cussed, and clothed ourselves in this robe of fire, that made damn sure nobody dared come closer. People walked away, turned their hearts, shut their mouths, left us. We burned them to the ground. Others reacted in fear, or reacted to our anger. Nobody ever looked behind what we showed them. No contact was possible. Don’t touch me, I’ll cut your head off. I am going to find out where you live and you will always be looking over your shoulder. The I is a we, or a one, or a you. Make sure the reader is confused so you don’t have to be.

My robe was taken from me, or it fell off. I don’t know how, but part of the robe is really gone, as if it was torn into patchwork, or threads, leaving parts still hanging on me to hide in. But when that happens, I am a bystander at the same time, shaking my head, hoping that words will fall out of MY mouth, saying: don’t mind her, please look past what she is presenting, nothing personal. All she is left with is a heavy body, consisting of tears only, molecularly being held together by horizontal gravity.

Sadness.
Fear.

Where I used to be a word master, producing the most impressive complexe sentences, decorated masterfully by perfectly placed cuss words, as if each sentence was an arrow, dipped in curare (yes, a word), and shot right into everyone’s heart but mine – aim to kill – I am now silent as fuck, so loud, as if with every breath forward in time, a brake is being pulled that regresses me back in emotion, and I find myself in this hole without an edge. There are no words for what I feel, how I feel, I fully and only consist of raw sadness and fear. And my words don’t find their echo back to me, because the walls are gone.

And then this truth stepped in, over the rubble of my life, his boots let me know he was stronger than the crushed pebbles that I mistook for walls, and talked to me, saying: Alongside of these two modes of being, you will discover a God-given desire, or perhaps you can compare it to them stirring something up inside of you, remember John 5, the pool of Bethesda.. this is your wall falling, Pota (I know your real name). Sadness has a desire to be comforted. Fear has a desire to be soothed. Both desires can only be gratified in a relationship. Anger always made you do life on your own, locked up like the whore Rahab.

At the same time he talked to me, I was filled to the brim (remember John 2, where the water jars were filled on Jesus’ command) with a ghastly screaming, being utterly powerless. Hold me. Comfort me. Fill my unending void (be my eternal security), sooth me.. but I notice that the more I let that desire ‘be’, the bigger I see her become. She seems to swallow me whole, as the monster she is, and not only does she rob me from my words, but also my breath, and my sleep. Where is my robe of fire? Did I burn it? Have I grown too much into an adult already for calling myself out on pretend play?

A third letter came. It was short. It read that love is a choice, that with every breath you take connects you to the other. How can I trust that someone will keep choosing? Breathe out.

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Pour it – poor her

Pour it in black and white, she said, it will do you way better than verbalizing it. It needs to go through ten fingers, rather than through two compressed lips, being harassed by a tongue. Trust it to paper, she said. The she was the therapist who is reading this now.

As one talks, you move forward in time, walking down a linear path, from which it is difficult to stray while you look back, as the seconds strud forwards, legs side by side, open and close, as if time was the perpetual whore, walking around in your dark past. In this way, while talking, I get even further and further removed from the time that stopped (me in) my development. Writing allows one to work outside of time and I silently suffocate my voice when I brusquely chop the words into letters when my fingers hammer on the keyboard. The letters come. The S. The O. So this is me, here I am, battered.

The child says: Mama is not allowed to be my mama.

The therapist says: What we have here is a clear and severe case of early childhood attachment trauma.

One child says: I feel disgust for mommy, and contempt for mommy and delight that mommy suffers.

An other child says: I can’t bear the feeling of disgust and contempt and pleasure. It’s not right. It’s like swallowing a monster.

The kid with the big shoes says, whose contribution was blotted out due to white noise in the heart, says: I think I’m an adult, or a therapist, or whatever, -hey smart ass!- but I just wanted to say that it’s not healthy for a mother to seek emotional support from her child for struggles in her own marriage. This female adult should be discussing things like this with a good friend or a sister or something. Or with a therapist or something. But I don’t want to be a therapist.

Then a child without a name talks in a very frightened and low voice: Can I please just not exist anymore? Is that allowed? Can someone turn me off? Hello?

Jesus is silent.

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Restored – 5

God tells Joshua that the law mustn’t depart from his mouth, but that he should think about it night and day. The expression night and day has morphed into this idea of incessantly, while in the original Hebrew it said something like ‘by day and by night’, refererring to the exact two moments when a sheep herder would eat. The rest of the day he could ruminate on his food. It also fits more closely to the Hebrew word for ‘thinking’, which can also indicate mediation or chewing the cud. It isn’t healthy to be eating all the time; you should also take time to digest it, let it sink in. Somewhere on my canvas I see the words ‘take your time’ and that is exactly what I had to do for my fifth color entry, belonging to the book ‘Restored’, because it was a quite impressive read, and a heck of a question, that God asked me. It’s not that I have a middle name, like Steven R. McQueen, otherwise mine would also have been the R of Rebel.

It started in the garden of Eden.
Not doing what God says.
And I fair no better.

I run every red light, either by foot or bike, unless I see cops somewhere. I don’t wear a mask in a store, unless someone summonds me to. And.. I see myself standing on a fork in the road, to make another decision, this time in my relationship. Sex before marriage. Yay or nay. Do I run that red light as well? Thinking that nobody’s gonna get hurt because I really checked all the angles, left, right, left. The contents of the box of excuses that is pulled open on this topic is almost too hilarious for words. We will stay together anyway, so we might as well.. Jesus died for this sin too, so just ask for forgiveness every morning.. Adam and Even also didn’t go to civil court to jot down their signature somewhere, and still God deemed their relationship valid and blessed..

But outside of the box of excuses I also saw something else. I saw Jesus’ tears. He showed me how my desire to stand before Him as a clean bride surpasses the physical desire I have for my boyfriend. I saw a woman in a wedding gown, without spot or blemish. It was almost as if I was standing before an altar and I wasn’t asked the question: ‘Taketh thee..’, but I heard the question: ‘Which one of these two does thou take..’ Do I choose my boyfriend or do I choose Jesus? Also on this segment of my spiritual umbillical cord it comes down that choice again, as if it were another turning point in my conversion. This it what it comes down to.

Do I choose Jesus here or don’t I.
Do I save myself for marriage?
Who receives my yes?

This means I can lose my boyfriend, for he is not a christian yet and unknowingly he adds to the box of excuses by saying that if God exist He probably wants me to be happy, and that everybody does it these days, and that God probably knows this, and that God shouldn’t be so oldfashioned, because He may be living in the year 0, but we’re 2021 years along now.. But it feels as if I hear a muffle on the volume of these lies. It feels as if my feet are somehow planted or glued onto this path, leading to a heavely altar, paved with godly promises, with girl-friend-ly encouragements and with somewhere in the back of my mind a chuckling idea that basically all my life I haven’t done things the way people thought I should. So let me be a rebel then, on this topic, but not a rebel towards God, but to the world.

I step forward, take my veil off and say yes.
To Him.

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Restored – 4

When I saw myself on a recently recorded video, I startled. I look older than I feel. I am way more tin than the mirror tells me. But I was also in shock because the seriousness that I have felt gravitating over me, is more visible in my face than I had hoped. And at once my book turns to a chapter that talks about overcoming bondage of bitterness. The timing on that one huh. In one gulp of breath or ink immediately 19 names roll onto my paper, people’s cheecks from my former church that I would just love to smack hard with a piece of drift wood, to prevent them of knowing that with their silence last year they forsook me in a moment that I needed them most. Openly scaffolded as the whore of the church.

What hurts me, is knowing that God loves them too. It feels as if my own father wines and dines the man who rapes me. How could God let happen what happen last year, why didn’t He intervene. Why do I still think that their sin is way more unforgivable than what I tallied on my stick.

Vengeance is Mine, my heavenly Father says.
I will repay, my heavenly Father says.

This is what I need. A vengeful God, not yet a God that summonds me to forgive, even though those two things can walk alongside of each other, and can even walk hand in hand, as if they were four arms of two lovers, together becoming one flesh in an embrace. But will He avenge the way I want Him to and the way I need? Does He even know how deep that knife went into my back? Why does His forgiveness towards my enemies feel as betrayal of me? Why did He chose to have His wrath fall upon Jesus and not upon them? Why did in doing that He divested me from the possibility to brood on my own legitimate anger..

Vengeance is Mine, He says.
I will repay, He says.

All the blood is on His clothing. The blood of death, the result of punishment for sin, the sin also commited by the people who have hurt me so much, that blood is not on them, but has fallen on Jesus. Because He wanted it to be so. Because the Father wanted it to be so. It makes the garments of all the people in my former church whiter as snow, radiating and glowingly white, clothed with the righteousness of God, who also embraces me in His heart. My sin isn’t smaller than theirs, ouch.

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Hey past.. why?

If I’m honest, I blame God that He never let me know that my brokeness can be restored (did I even ever ask Him?). I don’t know if He even cares (did I even ever ask Him?). I think that’s where the black weight comes from, that I feel hanging over me all day, ever since my boyfriend asked me to be his girl. Ever since I have known him, I feel confronted with a wordless screaming baby pain, where I not only feel abandoned by my biological mother, or later betrayed by my spiritual mother and put away by my spiritual leader, but also abandoned by my heavenly Father. Pushed out of the house I was born in, put away from the house I was born again in.. Lord.. where is Your habitation then? I am lost.

Unsafe attachment. The sweeter you are to me, the bigger my fear and mistrust. What is behind all of this? For how long can I swaddle myself in this idyllic feeling of an ancient-desiring-melting-together-with-you? The more I try to put it into words, the bigger my regression becomes, as if I am a marble made of gummy bear ingredients, that I am trying to squeeze in between my thumb and index finger, to get the first drop of sadness out.The marble only shoots away, the same way that I am ungraspable, to myself mostly. Incomprehensible too. The more I am with people, the more clear I am starting to see that the first 26 layers of me are mere masks. And my creativity and intelligence are without boundaries, to the point where I have seldom met someone who saw me for what I was doing: playing charades – actor and sometimes my own audience as well. How lonely. Who do I need to forgive in order to put my hand in my own bossom, whose arm is going to pull me away from the puppeteering?

Where is God with His restoration?
Where is His peace?
Where is His joy?
Why don’t I hear Him?
Why does it feel as if I have to hold my head above the water myself, kicking up a storm that He could easily silence to stillness with one tug of breath?
Why doesn’t He make me trust Him more?
Why doesn’t he fill my broken cistern with slow dripping, treacly gold?
Why.. past..

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Restored – 3

My lie is thinking that in Jesus I won’t find everything I need. Only now I see this. Maybe it’s because I saw my yesterday end with three empty signs, planted in an unknown backyard, pointing to an absent house. But maybe it was necessary that God made things clear: with one arm stretched out He whiped everything off the table. There. Let’s start with the basics. Acknowledging my lie – that I need my boyfriend more than I need Jesus – doesn’t slingshot me so much into the black universe as it suddenly positions me upon a white plain, as if it where the desert that I had to plough through, knowing that I will kick up some dust in the process.. will I be fit enough.. will I be short of breath.. and I remember mama’s words when we pressed our first steps of our day onto her freshly scrubbed kitchen tiles: nooooooo, I just cleaned there!

Hold on.
Hold on.
He won’t.
Let go.

The first step is acknowledging that lie, put it in the light. Is that enough? Does it have to be on paper as well? I do acknowledge it to myself, but not to my boyfriend, afraid to lose him when I say it, or when he sees my painting later this day. During my worship, where I try to undress myself of the wet steps of my parently past – where I was silently tought that you have to violate your own boundaries to be there for the other and that choosing for yourself is a bird flipping to the other – towards the fine sand of my future, once again I saw my boyfriend walk next to me, as my groom; he was moved in a way that I see only he can be, it resembles how my heart can cry softly; his tears make me believe in love. And at the same time I realise that it has to be Jesus’ tears and love.. that must make.. me.. believe..

I turn the volume up, because I want to have that clinging to Jesus and I will only stop singing when I feel that rest again, a rest that I know can only come from Him. When I have that back, I start writing this. My boyfriend texts me, asking if I want to come over to annoy him. I text back that I will meet him when I am done writing. I feel proud. But here’s the battle again. Am I even allowed to do this? Walking back to my second day I see that my truth signs have space for multiple names. I can trust Jesus, I can trust my boyfriend, I can trust my parents, my girl friend.. but He is Name above all names.

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Restored – 2

And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind..

When I was born the first time, I learned a couple of lessons: Nobody sees me.
Nobody stays with me. I can trust nobody. My opinion, my boundaries and my desires don’t matter. Eventually people will leave me. This led to an impossibility for a ‘me’ to develop. I found my ‘I’ in the other and with every other I was a different person. If they saw me, I existed. If they smiled at me, I was loved. If they wanted something, I went along. When I was born again a battle started, against these lies and it’s the toughest battle that I’ve ever fought, because I have to trust Jesus in this one, who says that He is to be trusted, He does see mee and He does stay with me. How can I trust that, I wonder.. only because He says He is God? How can I trust even that?

I tried planting these truths, as if they were cardboard signs, the size of them being those things you push deep in the soil of your yard when you are putting your house up for sale. In my case they were called truth signs, and I tried planting them in my garden. On one side of the sign I would write the lie that NOBODY sees me, and on the other side of the sign I would write the truth that JESUS sees me, but what I ended up with was an empty sign in a yard without a house, because that is what reality is for me now (but what isn’t necesserily the truth). The fact that I don’t put the name of my boyfriend on those signs hurts me. The fact that I don’t write the name of Jesus hurts me. The fact that I am looking at empty signs hurts me. On top of that, I don’t even know where my house is!

Lord, You know me. You know how I feel; I don’t have to put it into words, because you eyes look way beyond my effort to keep the locks on my waterfall shut tight with a battering ram of words. You are with me, that is something that I need to believe, because otherwise I don’t think I exist any more. Without You filling me I only consist of lies, fantasies, other people’s character, road signs in book ends and fears that paralize me. These moments used to be the exact moments, Lord, that I would cut myself, moments that would have me jump off of my crisis rim, into sheer panic, moments that I would have reverted back to drugs, but You have such a patient and gentle way of showing me different, because I shouldn’t seek my solace in the world, but in You.

I wish I could call You,
I wish I could drink You,
I wish I could see You,
I wish I..

Lord, the tears that never were, they asphyxiate me, all the tears for things past. Turn my life around, Father. Let me know that I know that I know that it is You who sees me, that it is You, who never leaves me, that it is You who I can trust. Bring me home, Father, take me to Your house.

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Restored – 1

In my bookcase I have a book, the title of which being ‘Restore(d)’, although the brackets are non-existent and only implied by the last letter being of a different color. I read it two months before in a prophetic dream I saw myself being rescued through the water, one month before I walked I walked towards the front of the stage of my first real church service with a beating heart, praying a prayer that I absolutely did not see the spiritual significance of. I said yes to Jesus. So one month prior I read that book and because someone then told me to write down what resonated with me, what offended me, confronted me, what it brought to the surface with regards to thoughts and situations, I could look back upon that, now that I read that book for a second time. The endless stream of words that I poured out back then, as if it were acidifying brain vomit, would through statistical factor analysis bring forth three components: anger, suspicion and fear. Only the sentence ‘Adam and Eve didn’t need covering’ made me sad, but that emotion seemed to be an outlier in the data that clogged my brain, maybe exactly the outlier you want to remove from your data set, because it deviates so extremely, that it hopelessly pulls (or pushes) the results out of context. Maybe I was that outlier. Removed. Deleted. Catapulted into a black cosmos where oxygen had stepped off the throne of life a long time ago. Sad.

When I chose to paint what or how I felt, I didn’t need time to think; blood came to mind immediately, and a hole, resembling the hole in my heart perhaps. It was more like an emptiness, because holes can be filled, and voids can’t. Anyway, all of my life I have felt this emptiness that I never could fill, and boy did I try. I tried everything,.. drugs, alcohol, jobs, hobbies, relationships, men.. But it was never enough. An i-love-you seemed to uncover an extra dimension in the void, causing me to need more i-love-you’s. Never was there a deepening in a contact, only more depth in the emptiness. And when yesterday my boyfriend said no to my question if I could come over, I unexpectedly felt myself warped into something that I only recognise to be – as far as recognition is even possible when lacking language – a reliving of my baby pain.

I wanted to be with mama.. and I was put away.
I wanted to be with my boyfriend.. and he said no.

The pain that I felt was scorching hot, if language was all about temperature, but this was a pain that goes beyond skin, it was found on the thin film around my heart. Everything in my body ached, it was a pain that was screaming loud and loudly, but I couldn’t understand the words. In any case, physical pain turns pale in comparison to it. I now understand how I could cut myself so easily all those years. Sad.

Suddenly I saw that my desire for my boyfriend consists (among other things) of the fact that he fills my void, his presence outvoices my silence and by having my focus on him, I don’t have to ackowledge that I am lost. I find myself in his arms and when those remain closed, I have my hands full with losing myself.

This.
Must.
Stop.

Every relationship that I ever had, had this undertone. I cleave onto the other, I suffocate the other. I don’t want that any more. That emptiness, I really have tried everything.. and in a deep reluctant sigh that afternoon I decide.. ‘Okay, last resort.. let’s try Jesus then.’ He was on the bottom of my resume that showed forty-five years of unsafe attachment. I suddenly saw how the colors in my painting chanced. The void turned into the image of an egg, the blood turned out to be a whomb and I deliberately wrote His name inside of me. But I saw that my egg had a shadowy rim on the right. I couldn’t ignore it. I couldn’t not draw it. I want the blackness to not be here, but it was. So I drips of black fell onto my egg, in the whomb and I felt God saying to me: ‘Don’t be afraid, just paint it, let this be for a while, it’s fine for now, I am here.’

My ears are suddenly ringing beyond my tinnitus. I feel seen.

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A house of gold

(Disclaimer: This story talks about a Dutch feast, so for a better understanding please read about Saint Nicholas – not to be confused with Santa Claus).

When earlier this monthy I received a text message from my little sister, asking to celebrate Sinterklaas, my yes mode immediately flickered ‘ON’. Despite the sad fact that our relationship is far from optimal, she and I seem to be two pees in a pot on Sinterklaas. That same week however I also heard that my dad, my brother and my sister-in-law would not be there and with the attendance increasingly fading, my enthusiasm did too. I had to admit that I just don’t feel as complete without them, but in pondering that admission I also found myself put in a strange kind of early childhood loyalty conflict, whereby I seemed to be forced to choose between (divorced) parents: show who you love most.

Do I do attend Sinterklaas because my mom is there,
Or do I not attend because my father is not.

The group composition was different in also another way: not only was it thinned out with regards to the old clan, it was also supplemented by two new humans; the two little children from my sister (who last year were asleep at that time of night). I just didn’t see this happen any more for me, I don’t want this, I thought. Those boys have such high energy levels that after five minutes I feel a wreck, let alone that I spend the whole evening with them. My heart ached for real because I had really looked forward to spending time together with the family again, as if Covid was on holiday for just one day. I too had to decide to say no. No Sinterklaas for me this year. I felt horrible.

In stepping aside from the whole thing, I saw that a new feast was born; it wasn’t Sinterklaas with my family any more, but a feast initiated by my sister and her family, in her house, where my mom was invited as a grandmom. The role change that was wrapped in the passing of time made me dizzy. I am not fond of change.

A couple of days later I felt God tugging at my heart. On more than one occasion I thought the thought (mind you: you are not obliged to think every thought that enters your head) to make a present after all. For my sister. And I immediately knew what I was to make: a house.

For years my sister was jealous of the present that my mom made me nine years ago – a tiny house. But the voice of jealousy was actually a tightly and silently tucked away desire to receive a present from my mom as well. I felt a shadowed sadness about her early childhood conflict, that has dug its poisonous roots deep in the lie that mama loves me more than her. When mama made me that house for Sinterklaas, my sister saw that as a declaration of first loves that doesn’t accept seconds, and flames of jealousy shot through the roof (how symbolic that the house was made of matches). Only the jealousy of a second daughter can make a mother feel uneasy, as if she has to apologize ad nauseam: I am sorry that I didn’t give birth to you first.

So. That would be it then. I would make a therapeutical journey, treading a path that my sister should have walked, but didn’t. I would walk her miles, in my shoes, because sometimes people need to carry other people. Not every grownup has grown up. Being so close to my heavenly Father I felt safe enough to admit that I too can still feel left out when I see love being given to others. What about me? Is there anything left over when you’re done loving someone else? How can love not run out? It’s as if love can bring about this weird idea of division and I saw this suffocating theme raising his voice at an seemingly innocent feast called Sinterklaas.

So, I made a house. Not of matches, but of wood. What first caused my sister to incinerate in jealousy would now be her own source of light and warmth. I locked myself up in my study room for two days to work on it, smiling from ear to ear (more like grinning), because I saw how God has lavishly gifted me with an seemingly endless stream of creativity, patience and eye for detail. God directed my attention to the wooden box that I still had laying around and He said He would not only give it a new purpose, but also a new destination. It would move and find its place in the heart of the house and of my sister. God had used the wooden box earlier to celebrate my sister-in-law’s pregnancy, but also to heal a layer of my babypain, and then He used it to endure a miscarriage and also deal with the loss of my own baby and perhaps a grief of motherhood lost. And as is the case with important changes in the Bible, where people get a new name, also this box got a make-over: I spray-painted it golden.

And so it seems as if with Sinterklaas I am laying some of my pain in His hands yet again. If the house could talk, it would lift ifs four walls up to the sky and say ‘Seen.’ I serve a God who sees, a God who looks after me. He was present when I got separated from my mom as a baby, leaving scars that I am still healing from. He was present when my mom got separated from me. But He was also present when a new baby was born into this world, my little sister, a baby who feels wronged because she thinks someone else receives more love. My heavenly Father has an andless and eternal amount of attention, spanned over the width of heaven, for those who feel unloved and He is gifted beyond only human belief to listen to those who ducked away in silence or tried overshouting their babysadness by making a lot of black noise.

On December 5th I am not celebrating Sinterklaas.
On December 5th I am celebrating God.