On the Divine site today we have an extraordinary lady who has searched her soul long and hard before deciding to be a wonderful contributor and feature the article you see here today.
It takes courage and strength to write about the past in such a way and lay yourself open so that other people see your pain and hopefully, in time, the hope that comes of simply living a life that may be different.
So please give a huge cheer to fellow author Jas T Ward for baring her soul here today and writing something that I think a lot of people can identify and empathise with.
Labels and Normal By Jas T. Ward
Society always puts labels on almost everything and everyone. Beautiful, smart, confident, stupid, unacceptable, or acceptable. But if you’re a child living in the Southern United States after the hippy 60’s, the only label that was completely and totally expected was—normal. Especially if you were raised in a devout Southern Baptist family. Funny how they would drink, curse and beat a child Monday through Saturday, but repent on Sunday. But I was made to believe that was what normal label was because it was all I had known. And my, how I tried so hard to make that label stick.
My childhood was one that was full of physical, emotion and sexual abuse. Add to that the fact that my parents divorced when I was a mere toddler, it was pretty much self-ordained that my life prior to adulthood would not be a smooth nor a blissful one. My parents used me as a knot in a rope of parental tug-of-war to hurt each other and at times, I was lost in the competition. I never felt like I belonged to either side as both my mother and father remarried and made new families or, in my dad’s case, a new life.
A life that at times, seemed to be so busy to succeed after the heartache of divorce. One that didn’t appear to have time for the confused child that desperately wanted someplace, any place…to feel like home.
I did my best to not get in the way because if no one noticed me then no one would hit me. Or yell at me or even worse…other things. So I was quiet many times but would go into almost hyperactive if the positive notice came my way, like a starving creature given a treat rarely given. It was difficult to go to school and make friends when you were divvied up time wise to one parent or the other. No, I couldn’t do that sleepover because I was going to be at my dad’s. Or yeah, I would love to come to your party but I have to be at my mom’s this weekend. Soon, they just stopped asking and I didn’t mind. If anyone actually became my friend, they might learn the secrets I kept. See the bruises that I was supposed to hide. Find out that I really was as worthless as the ones that were supposed to love me said I was or made me feel. So I became one of those quiet, reclusive kids with my nose in a book or drawing in a journal. Never wanting to stand out, never wanting to speak up and most definitely not wanting to be seen. I was desperate to be normal like I thought everyone else was.
I just was never shown how and the skills were never taught. That normal label seemed to be a way to high for me to reach. I was just a little kid, I didn’t know then that normal is a label that washes off easy and never really sticks for very long.
When I was ten years old, I was that drawn-in shy kid that wouldn’t even meet your eyes if you looked at me in the hall. I tried my best at school, but home was not always the best place to study when you had people yelling and demanding to do this chore or that. Being Cinderella in the 70’s was not all it was cracked up to be but thank god for the invention of microwaves when you were told to make dinner for everyone or starve. I was going through puberty, before anyone else I knew had and was feeling even more awkward in a body that I did not want to have breasts. I did not want to have boys and men alike looking at me. So I tried to hide the changes as best as I could. Being a child had been hard—but I was scared to teeth of the next stage and understood even less about what was happening to me.
But still I tried my best to hide yet do my best in school which was my only getaway from home and my favorite class was English. I loved how words could be put together to form a beautiful picture in my head or how a story could be told that made even the simplest even sound fantastic.
But when Spring came, it was my favorite class because of Helen.
See, Helen was new to our school and she had lovely brown hair with the most beautiful brown eyes. She was kind and she was friendly and one day after class, she made a point of stopping me in the hall. At first, I flinched as she stopped me, waiting for her to say something cruel about my cheap clothes or hair that my mom had kept short for years. It had been that way for crying when she cruelly yanked on it with a brush to do away with the tangles, hitting me on the head brutally with the back of brush when I whimpered. She had then promptly marched me to a barber shop and told them to cut it all off short in a horribly done boy’s style. This was right before school pictures and I became the laughing stock of the school. Girls didn’t have short hair then.
That vanity punishment would teach me to cry or complain. I learned to stop doing both in all things after that—things much, much worse than tangled locks. The making of a silent victim all in the name of vanity. Mine? Hers? I’m not really sure. But I realized that I had to take what was given no matter what, or things would just get worse.
So when Helen stopped me, I internally braced myself for more ridicule from one of the normal kids in school as I then turned to face her. But then she smiled—it was a kind and sweet smile and I was speechless in its shine. She then pointed to the many doodled drawings on my brown paper bag book cover and said that she liked to draw too. I don’t recall forming any real sentences back, but I do remember showing her the drawings rather timidly and basking in her appreciation. No one had ever noticed anything I did and now, for someone that seemed to be labeled so perfectly as normal, I was in complete and total breathless awe.
The days became better for me as Helen seemed to make a point to say hello or wave at me in the hall. I craved those simple gestures and almost started to believe that oh so elusive label might be within my grasp the more Helen acknowledged me. Her friends just rolled their eyes or whispered behind their hands, but it didn’t matter. Someone of worth noticed me, a thing of worthlessness.
Weeks went by and I was starting to hold my head higher, meet the eyes of those around me. I was finding a small little path of my own to walk that someday I hoped would merge with Helen and the other labels of the norm. That path was about to be totally blocked off if not wiped to dust altogether.
It was about two months later when I was in the girls bathroom at school and Helen walked in. She gave me that smile and I smiled back. I stood there awkwardly as used the stall and came out to wash her hands. She glanced over at me and gave me a puzzled look, yet still friendly and asked if needed something.
Without thinking, I acted and kissed her. It wasn’t the action of those I write about in my books—but fumbling, quick and desperate. Helen, at first, did nothing. But then as time seem to speed back up, she shoved me away as she wiped her mouth and screamed, “Gross!”
It was that moment when her pack of normals came in and saw me against the wall and Helen upset. She told them what I did and then I realized just how far normal was to me.
They all merged on me like a pack, screaming out words like “freak”, “weirdo” and the worse of all, “faggot.” I don’t think I even understood what that word meant. I know some boys got called that but since I did my best not to involve myself with the reality that swirled around me, I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant. I tried to leave, tears streaming down my face, but they pushed me back against the wall. I begged and pleaded, but soon I would do neither as they started hitting me with their fists and books. I slid down the wall and they then decided to kick, still labeling me with words that were the opposite of normal…
I didn’t make a sound. I simply curled up with my arms wrapped around my head as they continued to take out their indignation and rage on me. Perhaps my silence meant they weren’t hitting me hard enough. That their kicks were landing in pain. They were wrong…it hurt so bad that no one was more relieved than I was when the bell for class rang. They told me that if I told anyone, they would let everyone know what a freak I was.
No, I couldn’t let that happen. Since I was a small child, I was told that if I let anyone know the secrets of what was done to me, I would be hurt even more. Or worse. They had no idea what telling me that would do—after all, they were just children themselves. Being as children always are at times when they don’t understand—cruel.
I ran from the school that day, my grades and the haven of its walls no longer forefront in my mind. I just did not want to see those girls and know they would laugh and point at me. But most of all, I wanted to hide that I was hurt and wounded—the flight or fight instinct had been so out of sync with me then.
Getting home, I immediately ran to my room, crawling under the bed to curl up there with my journal of scribbled art and stories clutched tight to my chest. It was then I cried. Big, fat tears that seemed to come from some pool within my soul, each that dripped emptying out the essence that might have remained of being a child.
I don’t know how long I curled up there, but I know that later that evening when my mother and stepfather bellowed for me, I didn’t acknowledge. My side hurt, my arms hurt and I knew if they saw the bruises they would ask what happened. They would demand to know what I did wrong and they would find out I was different. And they would beat me even more in hopes somehow that would lead to me being less of a freak. And more normal as I was supposed to be.
So I never told a soul. But I did write a story about it. About a scared little bird with ugly wings that flew all wrong. The bird tried to fly right and fit in with the rest of the flock, but the flock just laughed and called it a bad bird. A useless bird. A broken bird.
So the little bird decided to snap off its own wings. Better to not have flight than to take that flight and be hurt by trying to fly.
I wish I still had that story and maybe someday I will write it again with the scribblings that have now become much better than what they were then.
I would like to say I learned I was never going to be normal then. That I realized that normal was really a label I didn’t want. But no… that wasn’t the case.
For I still have many, many more lessons to learn before I realized I was normal…
About The Author
“I am the product of several realities making the whole: a troubled childhood, domestic violence survivor, homeless person, single mother and a suicide survivor. But in every single one of those realities, one thing remained true – my imagination.
Reading and writing were always my escape. It helped me deal with the harshness of my existence at the time and made me grateful for the escapism books gave me. Now, as a writer, I seek to give that gift back to someone that may need the same haven that saved my soul and my creativity as I once had.”
Born and raised in Texas and spending time living in Kentucky, Ms. Ward spends her days and nights writing as therapy to handle the past. She is the proud parent of three very independent grown children and grandmother to three delightful grandchildren.
She has two furbabies that sit and ponder why their human is talking to herself late into the night as she writes out colorful and diverse if not twisted characters and tales.
Ms. Ward is founding author and published by Dead Bound Publishing. She can be reached via social media at: