Then and Now

A photo of a cluster of orange flowers, with the caption: "Sometimes what doesn't kill you just makes you wish you were dead."

Then and Now

Poem by Iris Carden

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger"
or so the old saying said.
Sometimes, what doesn't kill you
just makes you wish you were dead.

She'd always tried to be nice
concerned with how others felt.
She'd never been as concerned
with protecting herself.

She'd given and given and given
more and more and more.
She'd given with no return
and she never kept the score.

Then the day came at last,
when she had nothing more to give.
When she had nothing left,
and no-one cared how she would live.

When she was left with nothing,
and had to try to start again,
no-one wanted to know,
and she was dearly short of friends.

When she picked herself up 
not knowing how she found the strength.
Suddenly there was someone 
who needed her once again.

The story repeated over and over
leaving her with so much trauma.
Each time, she was more broken,
but there was no help for her.

Eventually, she realised
she would have to change her ways.
She had to carefully choose
the people who filled her days.

She learned to only give
what she could afford.
She learned how to say "no"
to those who wanted more.

As she became that bit stronger,
she was no longer alone.
Others who had been as broken
saw her as one of their own.

The broken banded together
to lend each other strength.
Each knowing others would be there
when they needed help again.

The trauma didn't make her strong.
It really made her weak.
She only found her strength inside
a safe community.

Her community enfolds her
and helps protect her heart.
And she helps protect the others
when their problems start.

Now she looks so confident,
She appears in control.
It's still a very thin veneer
over the harm in her soul.

She still cares and still gives
when others do need help.
But there are limits now
and she protects herself.

She enforces boundaries,
now she knows what they are
And when she also needs support,
she knows someone who will care.

Never ever will she again,
risk her everything,
For the sake of those
who don't give her anything.

She won't risk her safety
or give her security away,
She knows people take advantage
and loving words betray.

She's done with starting over
with losing everything.
She's still a gentle rose,
But her thorns have gained a sting.

Treat her with respect 
after all that she's been through.
She's willing to walk away
and leave your problems with you.

She knows she's not responsible
for any mess you've made.
Consequences for your actions
are just yours to be paid.

She may help you if she's able,
but she now knows her limits.
And she's more than willing to accept
her life without you in it.

Don't think you can control her
with threats to walk away.
She's learned to keep herself safe,
and won't beg you to stay.

Don't bother playing silly games.
She'll never  play along.
She may have been a victim then,
but now she knows how to be strong.

By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.

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