A glimpse at the metamorphosis of a broken child––and how I found wings to fly into a whole new world…
Our self-image, strongly held, essentially determines what we become––Maxwell Maltz
The following article drawn from my journal and memoir introduces me far better than any interview or bio. I hope you pause a moment from your busy life and read a snippet from my story…a glimpse into the soul of Casi McLean…who I was…and how my passion, mantra, and brand ignited from a spark buried deep within a broken child.
My mother’s warning still echoes within my mind…
“You don’t want to know him, Casi. He’s the kind of man who pulls wings off of butterflies.”
The faceless man haunted me for as long as I could remember… I shuddered, and clenched my eyes as tightly as I could, but the admonition refused to be silenced.
Drawn to the refrigerator, I opened the door and stared at the jumble of food and drinks. I wasn’t hungry, but comfort food held an irresistible attraction when my mind searched for answers. “What’s wrong with me? I’m educated, thoughtful, honest, kind — ” I shook my head in disgust realizing my self-assessment sounded like a girl scout.
Reaching for my empty coffee cup, I filled it and wrapped my hands around the steaming mug. The rich aroma of the strong, nutty brew filled my senses, the hot liquid slipped down my throat and radiated, comforting me like a warm blanket.
Ambling back toward my chair, I paused at the somber image looking back at me in the mirror. My God, how did I turn into this person? I barely recognized the frumpy figure staring back at me.
“Pathetic,” I whispered, pulling my long, stringy, dark hair from my face. I grimaced at the reflection peering back at me. My eyes, swollen and red––from a week of wallowing in self-pity after learning of my husband’s affair––drooped into brownish-gray bags, and my coffee stained robe clearly bore signs of having been my only attire for several days. I looked pitiful — and old.
Damn, what happened to the determined, vivacious young girl who dreamed of conquering the world?
Collapsing into a chair, I noticed the empty journal on the table beside me. Mother gifted me the diary a few months earlier in an attempt to encourage me to write. I used to love writing. I used to love a lot of things, before life devoured my passion, drained my energy, and swallowed my dreams. Maybe writing would help…
The wind whistled, sweeping around the chimney and I shivered, feeling the chill of the autumn morning as it stole through the open flue into the room. Curled up in my favorite overstuffed chair, I tugged at my robe and tucked it neatly around my feet then I picked up the pen…my mind began to unveil forgotten memories.
Journal entry, October 1989
Iam — me. I can’t change who or what I am any more than I can move the moon or touch the stars. I feel deeply, think far too much, and dream of passion and love beyond the scope or fantasies of typical people.
I was society’s child, daring to dream, but only in the solitude of my bedroom in the dark of night. Something deep inside held me hostage, sabotaged my ardent ambition.
Mama told me endless stories of my childhood, but I have little to no memory of those days. I can’t recall playing with my sister, Brianna or my brother, Alex, no birthday parties, holidays or special events. I can’t even remember my mother shopping with me, fussing over my hair or taking me to the park, but, Mother’s stories are seared in my mind.
My thoughts drifted through a portal in time to Mother’s tales of my early childhood…
Mama said even as a child, I was introspective and inquisitive, with innocent eyes and steadfast hope. Not a classic, curious three-year old who asked why the sky was blue, I had a tendency to catch people off guard with deeper questions, a trait that never failed to astonish my parents. How could they explain to their toddler why blue was blue?
Mother delighted in recounting Casi stories. She said I was perpetually happy, a little Pollyanna who always saw a silver lining and insisted on happy endings. From the moment I jumped out of bed until I drifted into slumber, my vivid imagination and cheerful outlook flourished.
I skipped down sidewalks singing songs and complete strangers often approached us to offer me a piece of candy or comment on how lighthearted they felt to see such a happy child. Constantly energized, I only stopped to question some minor detail that caught my attention before I flitted off again.
Strikingly animated at times as well, I amazed Mama and Daddy, like the time she took me to visit him at work. Daddy teased her about his new secretary and described the woman as an absolute doll. In front of several coworkers, I innocently chimed in, “When you lay her down, Daddy, does she close her eyes?” That naive comment brought laughter to Daddy’s office parties for years to come.
My spontaneous enthusiasm did not impress everyone, however. The first time I went to the big church, I felt frustrated because I didn’t know words to their songs, so when everyone bowed their heads in silence, I belted out my version of “It’s Howdy Doody Time.” The pastor, donned in his long black robe, glared down disapprovingly from his pulpit, while my mortified mother whisked me out the back of the church to the nursery.
Mama told me of times I embarrassed her with my innocent jargon. Once, when I accompanied her to the dry cleaners, my visit caused quite a ruckus. As we walked through the door, my eyes lit up at rows of hanging clothes stretched back as far as I could see and soft mist hovering above racks.
Mama, unimpressed with rising steam and vast array of clothing, spoke to the clerk and attempted to hand him several pairs of Daddy’s trousers. Each time she put a pair of pants on the counter, one by one I pulled them off and held them tightly in my arms. Frustrated at my behavior, she paused her conversation to attend to her misbehaving child.
“Why don’t you want the man to clean Daddy’s clothes, Casi?”
With a wrinkled brow and thrust out lower lip, I whimpered. “Mr. Man might lose them.”
“You don’t have to worry about that, honey. Now please leave them on the counter.”
She turned back to the clerk while I leaned against the wall and sulked. A few moments later, I happily twirled around in circles. Mama patted me on the back.
“Now that’s my good girl.” She grabbed my hand and turned to leave the shop.
I paused with a big smile stretched across my face, looked up at the clerk and announced, “I know you won’t lose my daddy’s pants. They’re the only ones with a zipper in front.”
In those days, my entire frame of reference consisted of girls — except for Daddy, of course, and zippers on girl’s clothing always appeared on the side. I may not have come to the right conclusion, but even at three, I had an analytical mind.
Mama called me energetic, inspired and self-confident, and destined for a significant and successful future. As a young woman, I recognized my potential, but dark shadows lurked in my soul and held it captive. Escaping their grip required battling my demons face-to-face.
For the first few years of my life, our family moved constantly. Whenever I began to feel comfortable with my surroundings, I’d awaken one morning to stacks of packed boxes and suitcases. I grew to dread the empty feeling in my stomach as I peered out the back window of our old, black Packard, and waved goodbye to yet another home.
On several occasions I stayed with my grandparents in Decatur, Illinois, while my mother settled us into a new house. When we moved to Decatur, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta, the idea of two different places with the same name confused my immature mind, and I didn’t understand why Mommy wouldn’t take me to see Grandma.
A deep need to connect to someone or something familiar overwhelmed me, so I stuffed a few treasures into an old, brown, paper bag and, with teddy in hand, took off down the road in search of Grandma’s house. Hours later, tired and disheartened, I sat on the curb of a distant street feeling lost and alone.
Knowing what I know now, I can’t imagine the anguish my mother must have felt after hours of searching for her precious little daughter gone missing.
As the police car approached me and hovered by the side of a road, Mother scarcely waited for the vehicle to come to a stop before she leaped from the car, collapsed to her knees and scooped me up in her arms. Elated to find her little girl, she held me tightly to her chest, sobbing tears of relief.
“Casi, what were you thinking?” She scolded me through tears. “You frightened Mommy. I was so afraid someone took you.”
Iwas so upset by her reaction I never brought up Grandma again, and Mama never mentioned punishing me either. Continually uprooting a child in her formative years obviously makes it difficult for her to feel like she truly belongs anywhere.
In all our moving around, I never questioned my hazy memories. A few recollections, mostly those attached to traumas, managed to seep through the fog though, like the distant train that whistled through the woods behind our house. I never actually saw that train, but the faint whir comforted me and lulled me to sleep on many occasions.
One evening Daddy took my puppy, Lucky, out for a walk in the woods, but he came back home with only her leash in his hand. He looked at Mommy with serious eyes and shook his head.
“Lucky is gone.” He gazed down at me.
My eyes welled with tears. “Daddy, where is she?” I sobbed frantically, yanking at his pant leg. “Did my puppy get lost like I did?”
“Lucky wanted to run and play, Casi.” He began to explain. “You know how much fun she has chasing squirrels.” He wrapped his arms around me lovingly and wiped a tear from my cheek.
“She ran onto the railroad track as a train approached and froze like a deer, hypnotized by headlights. She couldn’t hear me whistling or yelling for her. I tried everything I could think of to get her attention, but when the last car faded into the distance, there was no trace of Lucky. The train took her to heaven, Sweetie.”
Iwas inconsolable. That train carried my friend’s daddy away too, and at four years old, I couldn’t understand why he parked his car so close to the tracks that the engine was able to grab him and take him to heaven.
The once comforting whistle no longer soothed me at night. Instead, like a tarnished knight of death, the droning sound made me feel alone and abandoned.
Ido recall a happy memory from my childhood, feeling safe and secure sitting in Mama’s lap, my head on her shoulder as she read to me. An insatiable audience of one, I dreamed of faraway fantasylands always with happy endings.
I longed to be able to put words together like those in the books I adored, and as time moved forward, I did. Writing in my diary from my own memories and experiences was the best way to start.
My first clear recollections came from Langley, Virginia, a small town on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. populated predominantly by upper middle class and saturated with political figures. Daddy, a struggling CPA, was far from rich, and I considered myself fortunate to grow up in such a prosperous area surrounded by wealthy families whose pulse focused on the heartbeat of the nation.
Supported by affluence, the public education was unparalleled. Our young lives were sheltered and pampered. Passing the CIA or Robert Kennedy’s home and sharing classes with the sons and daughters of prominent politicians became routine.
My sister Brianna and I were not best friends or confidants. We squabbled from time to time, as most siblings do, but five years my senior she showed little patience for her annoying baby sister.
In fact, she went to great lengths to avoid me, but I adored her anyway. So did Mama who spent many Saturday mornings shopping with Brie and often returned with bags of beautiful new clothes for her. True, I eventually became the beneficiary of all of her outfits, but only after my sister grew tired of them.
Brie was flawless––I was not. Her enviable figure and beauty inspired me. She could do so many things I wanted to do, always with elegance and perfection. She came home from summer camp with the most incredible stories of fantastic adventures. She rode horses, ice skated beautifully, and was athletically talented at every sport she chose to play, yet she could be graceful and polished when necessary.
So, no matter where we lived, my sister befriended an unending stream of girlfriends, and boys on the phone or by her side whenever the notion suited her. I used to tiptoe to the family room door and peek around the corner, hoping to catch a glimpse of Brie with her suitor-du-jour, secretly wrapped in his arms in a passionate kiss. I wanted to be like my sister and tried to emulate everything about her.
My relationship with Alex, four years my junior, was another matter entirely. He was the baby of the family. My paternal grandma doted on him, always showering him with little gifts for no apparent reason, but somehow she forgot about the girls.
Still, I felt a motherly affection for him and would defend and protect him whenever he needed the help, which was often. Because he was their only son, my parents coddled him.
Though Brie and I enjoyed exceptional public education, Alex attended the finest private schools. He was given every advantage my parents could afford to ensure his successful future.
Sandwiched between the two of them, I accepted that I didn’t merit new clothes or special treatment. I wasn’t jealous. I just acknowledged the situation as fact, but inferiority silently seeped into my soul. No one ever explained the reasons behind decisions my parents made, so I naturally put my own spin on things.
I had no idea my brother’s private education was influenced by the social revolution of the sixties, not by parental favoritism. When Mama put cardboard into the toes of my shoes or clothed me in hand-me-downs, the thought never occurred to me that my parents struggled to make ends meet.
Brie got new clothes, most of which were secondhand, or gifts from neighbors, because she constantly grew out of her clothing and, as the oldest, there were no family hand-me-downs for her.
Daddy discovered my fractured self-image after he received a small bonus from work. He decided to take me to the store to buy some new pajamas, a novel experience for me. Mother held a nightie up against me to check the size while tears squeezed from my eyes and trickled down my cheeks. I ran to hide behind Daddy, grabbed on to his leg and peered back whimpering.
“I don’t need a nightie.” I softly tugged his pants and pleaded with him. “Lets go home Daddy, please, tell Mommy it’s time to go home.”
“Okay Sweetie.” He picked me up and held me close. “It’s all right. We’ll go home.”
Santa brought me new pajamas that year and Daddy resolved to always set aside money to ensure that all three of his children received new clothes from time to time.
Daddy was my hero. His job took him out of town often, but I knew he would always be there if we needed him.
Mommy insisted he would battle dragons for me, regardless of his silent nature and the demands of his growing career.
When he traveled, I imagined myself a princess tucked safely in my bed while Daddy, fully clad in shining, knightly armor, slew dragons and protected me in a faraway land.
He worked hard to provide the best life for us. I adored him and always tried to be his perfect little angel.
I never saw my parents argue, but I often heard them late at night when they thought I was asleep. I sensed concern in their secret discussions. My mother’s voice, drenched in desperation, trembled as she spoke words that confused me. Anxiety ripped through my body when I heard her say things I didn’t understand.
I pulled the blanket over my head and hid, as if from a horrible monster lurking in the bedroom, and I listened intently while my stomach churned with apprehension…
In those moments, I visualized a faceless knight with vacant eyes leering at me from behind a mysterious mask, his armor tarnished and damaged. He frightened me.
Determined to make things okay, I resolved to become Daddy’s best princess, prettier and smarter so he would be happy. Then, curled safely under my covers until the voices silenced, I eventually drifted off to sleep.
The light of day always found my mother cheerily preparing breakfast and the visions of the eerie midnight sessions faded into the stockpile of forgotten dreams…
I twiddled my pen between my fingers as I read over my newly composed journal entry. I’m no therapist, but even I could analyze my early childhood. From the outside, no one would have guessed my internal anguish.
My cheery disposition was my disguise, a defense developed deep and early. I felt I needed to earn my daddy’s love, so I tried to be perfect — like Brie. I created a Pollyanna outlook because I believed my family’s happiness depended upon me. My responsibility required me to make sure everyone stayed happy.
I’ve heard perspective is the key to what we believe. Self-confidence creates a strong ally, but I think self-doubt can be an equally strong adversary. A poor self-image stole my childhood hopes and ambitions, but I wondered if my self-worth developed from my broken belief system.
Could I rebuild my self-image and find my dreams again?
I stood and walked back to the daunting mirror. “You are in there somewhere Casi,” I whispered to my reflection, “It may take time, but I willfind you. I’ll determine where my life wandered off track and why my choices derailed my future.
My memories drifted through the cast of men in my past and the melodrama of broken promises — then to Zack. He would be home soon and I needed to pull myself together.
I would confront him about the phone call from his mistress, informing me of his ten-year affair.
A sudden shiver swept over me as the faceless man flashed through my mind again, followed by a surge of desperation, rejection, and fear.
I couldn’t shake the feeling that something bad, maybe traumatic, happened in my early childhood. Were the memories lost somewhere my mind? The late night whispers silenced, trapped inside a protective fortress.
If only I could recall details, I might unravel my elusive past and maybe find the destiny that faded into forgotten dreams…
Finding the truth transformed my belief system, which helped me follow my heart and live my dreams. The transformation not only freed me to live my dreams and become a USA Today bestselling author, it also made me uniquely qualified to guide others toward recovery using simple secrets I discovered that changed my life.
I hope this excerpt from my memoir has given you a peek inside my heart and soul and inspired you to read Wingless Butterfly, Healing The Broken Child Within. Grab your copy on this worldwide Amazon link.
I live my dreams and love writing fiction, but I weave non-fiction into all my stories, planting seeds of hope and inspiration for my readers. My goal — my brand — is Discover The Magic and Dare To Dream. And my hope is to steer others, toward their own passion. Check out my books on my Amazon Author Page.
My first published book, Wingless Butterfly, tells the story of a broken child shared like whispers to her best friend. That story evolved from my own life-long struggle to find love, validation, and self-worth. Pick up a copy on Amazon…Click the picture below
I had so much fun staring as the older me in my trailer. I’d love for you to take a moment and watch my debut performance —
Side Note: If you like this story, be sure to check out my other articles on Medium — like this one: Dare To Dream.
Do You Dare To Live Your Dreams?
How I discovered my passion and learned to live my dream ~ A USA Today Bestselling Author!
Connect with me on social media, my website, and here on Medium. Maybe you’ll discover something about yourself that might help guide you to live your own dreams.