EDITORS NOTE: A Stone Skipped is a gorgeously broken story about a woman looking to find her way. Cheryl Vollmar has decided to tell it in installments, and Battered, Bruised, and Scarred is the painfully honest first volume. Please help me welcome her to The OCH Literary Society.
I took a drag from my cigarette, leaned back, and exhaled. It had been another dreadful day, and I was relieved to be in the solitude of my bedroom. I was exhausted, both mentally and physically, and wondered how much longer I could continue this way as I winced against the debilitating cramps manifesting in my legs from working my shitty part time job at the local pizza joint.
I didn’t like myself very much. I felt older than I actually was, partly due to the fact that I was overweight and out of shape, but mostly because I had lived a tumultuous thirty-four years. I was an emotional mess, constantly suffering from massive mood swings that seemed to come and go as quickly as the weather changed in my home state of Missouri. I had a tendency to say I had learned how to recognize and control these issues, but I, and anyone who spent any kind of time with me, knew this was a lie. I was insecure, lonely, and miserable, but good at hiding my pain and disappointment with a fake smile and an over-abundance of sarcasm and wit. I wanted so badly to be the girl who was put together, knew where she was going, and I wasn’t going to let anything stand in the way of that. But I wasn’t put together at all; I was in shambles. And despite my best attempts, what I wanted most always seemed to be just beyond my grasp.
It’s a terrible feeling, wanting to be loved, but…not. For me, it was the most horrible feeling imaginable. All I wanted was someone who loved me so deeply they looked past all my insecurities and flaws to see just how good I was deep down inside. To see all I had to offer and offer the same in return. Someone who wanted nothing more than to share as much of their life with me as possible. It was this hopeless romanticism that had me tangled in catastrophic relationships time and time again. Despite my jaded professions of being done with love and my own stints of deep depression, I felt deep down that I was destined for something more than the usual. I felt as though the path of my life was leading me toward something amazing. The sharp turns and hazards in the path were just plot twists in what had to be a story-worthy life.
But upon reflection, I knew it was foolish to think this way. Here I was, twice divorced, battered and bruised and scarred from so many bad decisions. Seeing the good in other people was my weakness, and it resulted in me giving too much of myself to people who didn’t deserve it. So much, in fact, I wondered if there was anything good left to offer. My fear of failure and disappointment clouded my judgment and the reality of my health and financial issues blatantly mocked my dreams of someday being more. How could anyone selflessly love me when I was such a disaster? When I couldn’t even love myself? I needed to quit letting the past rule me. I wanted, needed, to get to the root of my issues and turn my life around. I wanted to love myself, not just sometimes, but always; because at this point I couldn’t rely on anyone else to.
Twice I’d been told that God was sending me on a great adventure. The first time was by a blue-eyed psychic, as she sat with my hands in her lap while she attempted to soothe my aching heart. The second time was on a Sunday morning, just days later, by a frail woman who sat next to my aunt in church. Both believed they were messengers for God. I didn’t. I scoffed at them both. It seemed as though God had forgotten me the moment he created me. I had felt this way for as long as I could remember. The stress of raising my son by myself on a limited disability income was more than I could bear most days. I was barely making ends meet, scrimping, scrounging, and saving so I never had to make a choice between eating and keeping the lights on. If this alleged adventure was going to be anything like the majority of my life, I’d pass and take normalcy any day.
After my most recent break-up left me homeless and forced to start from scratch again, I swore I was done with relationships until I could get my shit together. I had grown weary of the pain of heartbreak, and realized that I needed to break the cycle of allowing just anyone to be a part of my life. However, creating healthy friendships and building a life with a good man still seemed a mystery to me, despite my wishes. I had a tendency to find men with the most amount of baggage and looked beyond their many faults and flaws for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it was pure naivety, believing they would change or I could make them want to change. Other times I simply told myself their behavior wasn’t as awful as being alone. I recognized my own flaws and thought I had no right to pass judgement on someone else’s imperfections. And then on occasion I truly felt I just didn’t deserve any better. I’d throw myself into a monogamous relationship with them; giving and giving until I was spent. I had been relentlessly pursuing the “ideal life” with a husband, a couple of children, and pet in a house with a picket fence, but realized that trying to attain all that now was absurd. It had taken sixteen years of my adult life to learn how to survive because my childhood hadn’t given me anything but pain and delusions. They say you can’t blame your situation on anyone but yourself, and to a certain extent I agree, but a childhood like mine certainly didn’t do me any favors.
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, and severe anxiety disorder by the time I was twenty-two. Some days mania takes over; I become a very cocky version of myself living recklessly with no concern for potential repercussions for my actions. I feel like a fearless goddess and recognize that I deserve everything my heart longs for. But then the depression rolls in and reminds me that I’m still that fat piece of shit loser who has fucked her life up beyond all repair. Very rarely is there a happy medium between the two, and I have yet to find a way to form an opinion of myself that isn’t based on the opinions of others. It’s so detrimental to my mental health, and ultimately my relationships, because in the end I grow so tired of trying to please everyone that I begin cutting them out of my life completely. I want to believe I’m doing what’s best for myself by removing the negativity, but I don’t really know. Most people act like this is some sort of cop-out to keep from having to deal with real life or an excuse to hold a grudge. But despite being wronged so many times, I don’t hold any ill will towards those I’ve separated myself from. I just found more peace in my own life by removing the stress. And maybe it sounds selfish, but it’s the one way I decided to take care of myself for a change. It occurred to me that my lifelong mission to make someone happy was a major effect on the way my life actually turned out. I had spent so many years being conditioned to believe that my own desires mattered little when it came to the big picture. I was a forced nurturer who observed guilt in feeling resentful toward those who took and never gave. But I was the one who allowed it, and I acknowledged that I had to break that cycle as I spent every moment of quiet time allowing my mind to mull over my past so I could try to create the future I so longed for.
Cheryl Vollmar is a red-headed hot mess, specializing in bad decisions since 1979. She has held well over fifty job titles in twenty years, and decided on a whim to choose Writer during the 2013 National Novel Writing Month. She is the proud mother of a kind-hearted fifteen year old boy and a precocious five-year-old Yorkie, and resides in southwest Missouri. As a homebody, she loves to cook and bake, and, much like her job experience, has too many projects crammed in her crafting closet thanks to her addiction to Pinterest. Born into a musical family, she also sings, plays piano and drums, and likes to think she has an eclectic taste in music. But her favorite past-time by far, is riding behind her ole man on their Harley Fatboy, where she swears the wind sings harmony to whatever tune she has playing in her head.
She believes with enough coffee, anything is possible.