The Boggy Marshes and the Howling Wilderness
The first time that I ever visited the boggy marshes, I was a little girl. So young, maybe three or four years old. I stood in the dark silence with my little red peacoat with black buttons and my shiny black patent shoes with white lace anklets. The wind lifted my hair and swirled around my face. The landscape was vast and the swamp beneath my feet was muddy but solid. I was afraid to move or take a step in any direction for fear I would sink into the dark sticky tar and disappear. The silence and the solitude of that moment were profound. There was no need to cry out because it was clear that no one could hear. I was alone. Separated from the world of the living and frozen in limbo in a world of the living dead.
My mother had left me there when my dad wasn’t looking. I always wondered why no one came to save me. Did they not notice that I had gone missing? I wondered what I had done to deserve being cast into this forsaken place. But now I think part of the reason was that my mother simply allowed me to wander into the desolate realms of her own tormented mind. I was lost in the tangled trees of an endless dark forest in her never-ending nightmare.
Fast forward fifty years.
Decades of determination not to dwell in those nether regions of the mind. Never quite knowing how to achieve that freedom from the dark and silent place, always looking for a rescuer, a savior, someone to come along and take me from that tormented landscape.
But there are beastie things in the forest. Predators and demons. Hungry monsters who want nothing more than to seize upon a succulent and juicy little morsel like me.
I survived not one but two encounters with those wild creatures. I fought for my life and walked away with a few deep scars and some superficial wounds. But it was the third one that I encountered who eviscerated me and left me for dead. He completely gutted me and feasted on my entrails, pausing and smirking as he consumed me while I watched in horror. I put up a tremendous fight — full of fury, tears, and pure love hemorrhaging from my broken heart, but I could not escape. He devoured me, licked the blood from his lips, and disappeared into the darkness. What remained of me was in pieces, deep in the belly of the beast.
Each time I had wandered into the wilderness, I managed to find my way back with a warrior's determination to survive and a faithful hope of future escape from the swampy bogs of despair. I held onto visions of my children, laughing and dancing in the waves of the deep blue sea. I looked West and dreamed of that sunny salvation. I told myself that eventually we will get there, and believing that is what helped me get up off the ground each time.
But this time. It was different. He slit me open with such a delicate touch that I didn’t even feel it until I looked down and saw the lake of blood pooled around my feet. I looked into his eyes as he pushed in the blade. . . like he pushed his body into mine night after night year after year, and I saw nothing but my love reflected back to me. He was empty, so he was invisible and the windy caverns of his dead heart began to echo in my head. When he killed me, he brought me into the desolate realms of his soul that were uninhabitable and wild, lonely and forsaken, and he left me there. It felt so familiar. It felt like home. Suddenly I was back in the dark wilderness of my childhood — Abandoned. Alone. Afraid.
I don’t want to be in this place. I try to move, but with each step, tendrils wrap around my ankles and legs and try to pull me down under the mud and muck where there is no oxygen, no breath, only suffocating space. Sometimes the things that grab me feel like fingers or strong hands that hold onto my feet and won’t let me leave. Sometimes, they feel like his hands — warm and familiar, comforting yet deadly. I fall to my knees, and when I have no strength left, I lie flat in the boggy marsh as I feel dark things crawling over me, building a nest, securing me in a web, mummifying me. My lips are sewn shut, my eyes covered with mud, my ears filled with twigs and thorns. I am paralyzed, stung with venom and poison that renders me helpless.
I feel everything and nothing.
I lie there twitching and trying to move, trying to gain some traction. I pray to a mute God who has never let me hear his voice, somehow managing to hope he will help me. I find myself on my knees and then suddenly on my feet, and I’m moving again. My narcopath murdered himself when he was a tender three or four, and now his doleful spirit swirls around me in the wind along with the lost souls of millions of others who were similarly silenced. They mock me and tell me I can never escape.
But I am not like them. They were suicides. They murdered themselves, and then replaced themselves with some false and wicked thing. I am the one who always keeps the fire burning, puts the light in the window, holds onto faith in God that someday I can escape the howling wilderness and find love and happiness. And that means I can escape when they cannot. So I keep moving…visions of freedom and happiness and the golden glittery Cali-coast in front of me. So I can keep walking towards it, towards the setting sun, towards some kind of peace.
That’s what it’s like to be discarded by a narcissist or psychopath. To love a person with anti-social personality disorder or borderline personality disorder. That’s what it’s like when you love them and take their hand as they come to save you and seat you on their valiant steed and ride away into the sunset. Their intentions are not pure or honest. They are acting a part in their own production. And the true tragedy is that they don’t even know it. They don’t know what they are. They don’t know what they’re going to do or why they’re going to do it or even why they have no choice. Many of them actually believe they are the knight in shining armor coming to your emotional rescue.
They are dead and don’t know it. In the end, they have to kill you, too.
They have no choice.
But you do.
It is possible. It is possible to join the living and stand in the sun and feel its warmth on your shoulders. It is possible to recover and claim a life among the living.
When you first come out of the swamp, when you first leave the desolate wilderness, you may be covered in mud and bruised and bleeding. Your legs may be trembling as they stand for the first time on solid ground. You may be weak and frightened.
Do not look behind you.
Do you not look back over your shoulder at the dark place and all that happened there. Just keep moving forward. You will be able to get clean. You will be able to see beauty and experience life. You will be able to find your own personal deep blue sea and baptize your new self in its purifying waters.
Just keep moving. Keep looking ahead. It is possible. You are free to join the living. Just be brave enough to gulp those first breaths as you come into the world. You are born again into a new life.
Do not look behind you.
There is only death back there. Step into the light.
A feast of words is best accompanied by a side of song. For a consummate experience, digest both. Suggested pairing on the menu: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmnXGvXYpKg
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