The Matchbook Diaries


Civil War

There are two kinds of wars, ones where you are trespassed upon by a foreign nation, and ones where the trespass is internal.  When you are little you’re likely to sustain a foreign war.  After that time most spiritual war is civil.  The peace of God is something people often exchange with one another, but peace is exceptionally rare.  I am a troublemaker, not a peacemaker.  From the time I was three, and the rapes began, I dreamt of wars.  In my little girl dreams I drive around in this little car and everyone else is in their little car but they are all out to get me and I cannot escape the battle.  I’ve been fighting all my life.  When someone infringes on my family my reply is rarely meant to solve the problem.  My reply intends to hurt the one I perceive as attacking, and, often, since their aggression is countered by mine, my replies escalate the conflict, dig it in deeper, and widen the radii of pain. Evil is content.

Vengeance is God’s territory, but I want it.  I relish the opportunity to attack, to demean, to humiliate.   I am exceptionally good at it.  The danger of hate games is that they don’t end, instead they reverberate, they curl up into a small, tight wad of mean thoughts and plans and then pop out to ruin a sunny morning or a blissful rainfall in an afternoon.  Those hate thoughts do the work that the devil intends, they poison me.  My thoughts, which might have been revolving around some lovely pleasure twist inward.  Immediately I tense up, and my mind which was relatively relaxed returns to its normal position, bracing, and maneuvering.  Fight, fight, fight.

A piece of God lives in every conscious being on this and any other planet.  God’s vengeance is perfect and inescapable.  Mine damns me.  Peace?  Peace was never particularly appealing.  For three years I vividly recall my mother and father fighting over the breakfast table, which was scary, though after my father left I was being raped nightly and my daily life shifted into utter terror.  War, cruelty, hate, the menace of a pending fight, these are what I expect, what have been normalized for me.  Peace is incomprehensible, an insipid, distant concept with very little to recommend itself.  It’s not sexy.  It doesn’t appear to connect with my need for power.  When I think peace I think trickling streams, modest weather on a tin roof.  When I define myself I see violence, the vehement thrash of a wild ocean, the wide-eyed shock of an unexpected event.  I’m not a peacemaker.  I relish the chance to condemn.  I love to slam doors.  I love to call names, really mean names.  I love to turn my back on people and leave them forever.  I will, too.  If you call my bluff you’ll see I mean it.

And I’m tired.  The long term outcome of my troublemaking has been devastating.  When a new threat looms I develop a plan of attack….then I sit back and think, “OK, but if my intention is not to punish, but to resolve, what would I do?”  Drawing a blank there.  Conflict drives me, not peace.  I’m not looking for resolution.  I want to punish those who disappoint me.  I want to hurt those who hurt my family or me.  Isn’t that gorgeous?

Why does God get to hoard vengeance?  Because it’s poison.  When I feast on it, which I have for 55 years, I’m expanding the center of death in my heart, giving it leverage, feeding my soul to it to gratify my lust for revenge.  A writer I’ve studied declares something like, “You’ve never met a mere mortal.”  Every conscious being is a piece of God.  When I attack, I attack God.  I will pay for those mistakes and I sure as hell make a lot of them.

To be a peacemaker is to want peace, to value it.  Alas, I do not.  I was surprised that the reason I cannot sleep is because I’m not trying to sleep.  I’m trying not to sleep.  So now, the reason I do not connect with others is because I am not trying to connect, I’m trying to disconnect.   For me, connection is rape.

Every night when I was tiny and my mother was raping me and talking violence to me at the same time, I was saying, in my head, “Please don’t hurt me.”  I said please.  I was politely asking for the rapist to not hurt me because I had no other defense.  I’ve spent the rest of my life with a stupendous chip on my shoulder proving how tough I am, what a stone bitch I can be.  And never once has that posture given me a moment of respite from the terror that lives in my heart from the past.  Never once.

God’s actions towards human beings (in whatever format you choose to recognize God) are ultimately designed with peace in mind.  I want one thing more than I want revenge.  I want to be loved.  I want to feel God’s life in me radiating, emanating.

In Ulysses, James Joyce imagines picking up one end of humanity’s umbilical cord and hollering into the tube like it’s a telephone speaking through it as if a belly button was a spiritual black hole that puts us in touch with Eve and then with the maker of Eve.  “Hiya, God!” we holler into our navels, “How’s it hanging?”  There’s no need for James Joyce’s time breaching umbilical phone cord.  We are talking to God directly every time we speak to ourselves and to other conscious beings.

I feel alien often.  Only people who have never actually participated in an atrocity see war as glorious; the armchair warriors clap and heap praise on the ones who are bathed in actual shit and blood.  War is an abomination; it’s body fluids, it’s demons, it’s public humiliation and inconceivable abomination.  It’s all I know.

Warriors like me are not beautiful; not sexy.  It’s lonely.  In the end I’m on the bathroom floor night after night howling in pain, in shame, desperate for God to touch me, needy for God to be with me, and there God is, night after night, touching me, staying with me.

It’s glamorous to be a peacemaker.  It’s languid, nearly erotic to be able to forgive.  Offer gorgeous resolution that is authentic and lasting – it feels good.  It’s a feast – I’m sooooooo rich, lemme toss you this priceless gift.  That’s how it actually feels.  It feels fabulous, like a martini in sunshine, like a mango, jalapeño taco in the middle of the day in Lisbon.  What’s boring, what’s common and cheap and dull is troublemaking.  It’s incredibly easy to break shit.  Then you need a new relationship or new thing to break.  It’s profoundly satisfying to build shit, to connect stuff back together and make it effective and beautiful – that’s peacemaking.  The piece of God in me wants to hook up with the piece of God in you.  The evil that works against us wants to be sure we never reach through to each other.  The evil wants us to spend our whole lives hating each other and, best case, not even know why.  Then we hate ourselves right straight into hell.

Let’s don’t.