After some thought, I decided to continue sharing my book with new survivors along the way, of which unfortunately, there are many. If only there had been more literature when I started my journey. But at least I found a tiny woman’s bookstore in the city where I purchased a few books detailing the horrors of childhood sexual abuse. I was not alone. (Voices in the Night)
So I share on that note. You are not alone. This is the last chapter and coincidentally also posted on my 12th month since beginning to blog. It’s been an experience of going deeper which is odd because the people I connect with I have never met, yet feel more intimate with than just about anyone else. And that is because only when one is hurt on such levels would they truly understand the depth of pain and injury one has to fight, claw and climb out of in order to survive.
I can say I don’t wish to be somebody else as I once did, wishing so hard I am surprised I did not morph into the person I was wishing to be. I do wish still to be more lighthearted, less serious, more carefree, so I’m still wistful when around others like that, my friends for instance. But I embrace me, wrapping my arms around who I am, some that changed irrevocably because of what was done and what I survived, then worked to rise above. I am still learning to appreciate what that took, and the beauties, talents and gifts that lie within.
I am thankful for my blogging friends, whose courage and stamina propel them forward in life with hope, instilling hope in my days too. Thank you!
CHAPTER 24: GHOSTS
It’s hard to get close. Keeping quiet, pretending nothing happened, fractured me. The deal: keep a family, stay silent. Shame silenced the roaring rage. I spent much of my lifetime smiling at those who used me for pleasure and as a dumpster for their anger. Silence erased me.
My job now, each day: accept who I am and what happened. Stop wishing to be somebody else. Since I do not possess the fiber to pretend it didn’t happen, and lack the grace to accept what occurred without extraordinary effort, the wish remains. But the beckoning voice, which once bellowed, has quieted to a whisper, pricking softly and less often. Slim girls do it—make me envy their slimness, their smiles, raised happy, loved, whole, or at least safe. Why not me? I have yet to figure out how to be slimmer and feel safe. Being taught to allow such crimes, to love the criminals, caused breakage difficult to repair, impossible to restore to what would have been. So I work with what is, or try to.
Discovering a voice, my center, takes patience and time. The voice beneath the excess pounds of flesh hides, even from me. I work to connect parts of myself foreign to me, hidden by the other voices clamoring in my head.
Every day they haunt me, the voices, sometimes at three or four in the morning, but that’s a normal occurrence for many women over fifty, so I am not alone. Sleep usually comes again after a stumble to the bathroom. The voices lay in wait till morning to begin their yammering. “You failed. You’re not good enough. You did this wrong. You should be ashamed of yourself. You’re fat. You’re ugly. You’re not normal. You’re a bad mother, wife, sister, friend…you are bad, bad, bad, undeserving of life.”
The voices are relentless, insidious, almost soothing in their familiarity and brilliantly, creatively destructive. As a little girl abused, I believed all living things in human form thought me to be as dirty as I felt. The family system supported my badness to survive, even if unknowingly decimating my ability to grow and mature naturally, as if pulling a plant out by the roots. I find myself at the cusp of sixty with an eight-year old heart, still yearning to please so you will not leave me. That’s okay. Moments of peace, internal connectedness, and the late blooming birth of self-acceptance make aliveness worthwhile.
Though I know they originated outside of me, the voices of my childhood became my own. There’s plenty of blame to throw around, if I choose to be stuck burning in rage, but I choose relief, a better way, another way, to find the real me. That is the work. Confront the voices.
Some days are harder than others, and it is hard work. There are many voices, or one voice repeating the soul-breaker over and over, “It’s your fault, you said something wrong, did something wrong, felt, thought, acted, looked, saw, blinked, turned your head: wrong, wrong, wrong.”
The work comes with the comfort of knowing that I did not lie down and take it, not as an adult. After leaving home for college at eighteen, I began the long journey of coming up from a very dark hole, a crevasse immeasurably deep. And every attempt afterwards, successful or not, proved courage, persistence, and a strong will to live, because it took years to stop telling Samuel, “I wish I would die.” How do you trust again after you’ve been shattered? But I kept going, trying, working, and found many along the way who cared, helped, and were trustworthy.
Sons grew strong, despite the breakage. Friendships, like trees that live past the span of our own lives, are mine. Risk, take a leap! Unlike the squirrel jumping skillfully from branch to branch, I often fell, and fell hard. It took many failed friendships, wrong friendships, bad choices, and most of middle age, but I found them. They were right there all along, but I wasn’t ready. I chased after what I knew, and what I felt accustomed to.
It took too long, from college, where the opportunity to make friends spilled rich and ripe, to well past marriage and having babies, when isolation descended without the energy to combat it. Soap opera stars were my best and only friends. Morphing through the screen into their intimacy, I felt closeness without pain. Socialization came with the weekly trip to the grocery store and a few moments with the cashier.
I finally opened to those who would not take advantage of me. I kept taking risks, painful as the many failures were. The risks, each time like stepping off a cliff, allowed others to see what lay hidden beneath the wreckage left by the hands of brothers. Yet I did take steps, baby steps at first, often more steps backwards than forwards. But as I found myself worthy, so did others, a person worthy of life, living, and breathing. I don’t have to do anything to prove it. I am, and it’s okay.