The year that broke the dam

Today’s post is the anniversary post I had planned for yesterday. As is often the case, life intervened. And in retrospect, I’m glad it did. Terrified, but glad.

You see, I was prepared to reflect on this last year alone. Lord knows it’s been a year like no other for me. But over the course of the last couple of days, I’ve realized that’s not enough. Not even close. It must go beyond that.  It must be shared how a photograph of an eagle…

Morning at the lake 003
To have missed this would have changed it all.
To have been witness to this, did change it all.
Change is life.

a beam of light

2011-12-26 001 013
Light through the dark.
All you need do is look.
And believe…it’s for you.

…a kind word of encouragement from a friend, and a blog can change the world.  My world. And I hope, in some way, someone else’s.

I must talk of how my past blew a hole in my present and almost destroyed my future, yet didn’t. And I hope, somewhere in here, before I’m done, I will show too, just how much I’ve gained this last year; in love, friendship, self-esteem, self-reliance, …hell, let’s just say self.  That’s the biggie.

The mirror I’m looking in today is one that goes beyond my image.  Beyond the face that shows subtle signs of age in the soft wrinkles in the corners of my eyes and mouth, and the 50 shades of gray. This mirror mirror on the wall…tells the secrets, tells them all.

Yes, and it’s been a long time coming. And I’m not alone in my many dimensional mirror. I see image, beyond image, beyond image times a thousand, of half woman/half girl, half man/half boy faces that all have the same haunted eyes, looking back at me, silently screaming.

The screams have been heard.  The faces have been seen and are known.  The old, the young, the gone, the living…mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews, friends and strangers; all once children, young adults, adults, of abuse.  They are with me, in front, behind, and beside me.  They are me. They are you. But since I’m the one on this side of the mirror, I’ll speak; for them; for me.

All things in their time
The time is now
Open the flood gates

Why a dam? It’s built to withstand years of stress and pressure. To give that which is needed when it’s needed, and not before. It’s there to hold back that which is as deadly as it is life-giving. It has a built-in relief system…its flood gates.

We are very like this dam, we human beings.  Our bodies and our minds are built to withstand years of stress and pressure. We can take a life as quickly as we can give it. We cater to those with needs, giving what is needed, when it’s needed, and not before. And we too have built-in relief systems. Plural. For we have many. Not all good, not all healthy, and certainly not all lasting. But we each do what we have to do to survive. It’s in our nature. To survive. Or try to. Some do. Sadly, a great many don’t. Some do their best to just survive. Some go beyond, make a difference, help others with faulty or stuck relief systems.

This last year of blogging; specifically, the meeting of a surprising number of kindred souls in this community, has shown me that whatever forces are at work, led me here for a reason. This is no accident.  Not even a happy one. It is just as it has to be.

Things happen for a reason? All things in their own time? I’m no expert on the human condition, nor am I a philosopher.  But yes, these things I believe. At least, I believe them now. There was a time not so long ago, my belief system was quite different. Why? Because there is no reason in this world or any other I could ever imagine a right reason or right time for abuse. Of any kind. Of any one. Most especially though, child abuse, and God forbid, sexual abuse.

It is of that I speak. Here. Today. Openly and for the first time, terrifyingly public; beyond the false walls I built around myself at a very young age. In this last year, the walls have begun to crumble, and I’ve found that the hands I reached out to others in empathy and compassion, have been taken and touched in kind, and placed safely into a human chain of compassion and support I’d not known until now. Not because it wasn’t there; because I’d never reached before. I was busy keeping my fortress secure. To say blogging helped change my life would be an understatement…it, an eagle, and a beam of light, saved it.

This is the sledgehammer that’s going to take down what’s left. Not just to set myself free, but to reach the one, or the ten, or the hundred, who need to know they are not alone and they are not broken.  Bruised, battered, scarred, hurting beyond hurt, and isolated, yes.  But not broken, and not alone, and not AT FAULT.

I used to think remembering and reminding myself of the details were important. It’s not.  It’s toxic. The devil’s in the details? You’re damn right he is. I kept each detail locked in my fortress, either framed and hanging on the wall like a treasured photograph, hanging on a hook in my closet ready to be taken out and worn like a cloak, or hiding under the bed enmeshed in those evil wind dancing, webs that have been catching and holding years and years worth of dirt; years of details wrapped in a cocoon and saved for later…

Oh the tangled webs we weave
In our minds
Just to survive

…Enough!  Walls down. Light in. Broom in hand.



There’s no more room.

I have always wondered, and I know other survivors do also, who I would have been had things been different. Who I was supposed to be. I shall answer the first here…the second, at the end.

  • Would I still feel the need for approval or validation for everything I do?

This is a hard one. And at this moment, all I can say is definitely/maybe not. I’m not there yet, but the more I learn of myself, the more I know that I am quite capable of deciding if what I’m doing is right, or good, and the only one I need approval from, or validation for my deeds or actions, is me. Same goes for consequences. Mine. As with the devil’s details…blaming the past or hanging onto past hurts only keeps me in the dark and they too need to see the fat end of the broom.

  • Would I still agree to do things I don’t want to do to make someone else’s life easier or happier at the expense of my own?

I’m hoping I would have been able to find a balance here. I don’t want to cause hurt or pain to others, but over the years this trait has been detrimental to my own sense of self-worth.  I do believe this trait will be going out the door with the webs, with a more healthy one in its stead.  Not born of conceit or over indulged self importance…one born of kindness and compassion yet with the awareness that I am worthy of the same consideration.  This is a big one.

  • Would I still be empathetic to the point of physical discomfort?

Yes, unequivocally, yes. This will not change. And I don’t want it to. Or it won’t change because I don’t want it to. Either way, it stays.

  •  Would I still be 100% confrontational within my own family circle, yet 100% against/afraid of confrontation outside of it?

I think I already proven to myself that this is history. (right service manager Denise?)

As for the family confrontational dynamic…well part of that is genetic (yes it is..we French love to argue).

Kidding aside, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel here.  A big part of this trait that can appear akin to someone with a chip on their shoulder; a (disguised) resentment born out of my sense of not being protected. But maybe even more, not being recognized.

For me of course, it was obvious.  I knew the taint was visible, I saw it every day.  But I know that’s not the way of it.  And I will say something about that in a moment…but I do know, without question, it was not from lack of love. Still, I did harbor that resentment and anger for a very long time. Its departure is another recent event, and frankly, one I’m glad to see out the door.

What I wanted…needed…to say about the ‘not being recognized’ is this, and I’m coming at this from both perspectives, my own perspectives; as an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse, date rape, and as a parent.

Parents work. Yes

Now more than ever. Yes

One, both, inside the home, outside the home…work. Yes

We have no choice if we are to provide what we need to care for, and make better lives for, our families, if we chose to have children. Yes

Children require work. Yes

Now more than ever. Yes

Day care, pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, primary school, elementary school, middle school, high school…sports, jobs, cars, dating, college.  It’s never-ending. Yes

What do we need more of?  Time? Patience? Energy? Help? Yes to all the above.

What do we do if we are out of/never had any/can’t get any of the all the aboves?

we see a child crying or having a tantrum and tell her to please, please stop or go to her room – we see a shy little boy and make him go outside and play with the kids next door – we see a shy, chubby adolescent and enroll him/her into an activity or put them a diet because no one wants to have their child picked on for being fat – we are at our wits end with the surly teenager who never smiles and can’t wait for him/her to outgrow this phase – we see a young man or young woman making self-destructive life decisions and lecture them about the dangers of sex, drugs, and rock -n- roll (or rap, or heavy metal, or country…makes no difference).

These are all normal, everyday scenarios in the lives of most families.  And will continue as long as we have children.  So what’s the problem.  This…

what if hers is a cry for help without the words to express it – what if his shyness is fear of being away from home or out of your sight because he’s been molested and told he will be punished if he tells – what if the chubby little darling is substituting food for the right kind of attention and hiding their perfect little selves in fat from the wrong kind of attention – what if that surly teenager has a dark secret and thinks no one will understand but knows if you really, really looked, you’d see it without them saying a word, please don’t make me say it – and what if those self-destructive decisions are just that…an attempt at self-destruction for fear of someone knowing, the pain of someone not knowing, and the shame with having said nothing.

We need to stop looking through our children. Stop making assumptions based on our own lack of time, energy, patience, or help.  Things are not always what they seem.  Sometimes they are just what they appear to be…but the time it takes to really look at your children, talk to them, is worth more than any paycheck.

We talk a lot about bullying.  It is rampant these days.  But is it really ‘these days’?  Or have we just been too busy to notice it before.  Bullies are not born.  They are made.  It’s not a stretch to imagine an abused child becoming a bully is it?  Can one who is bullied, beaten, molested by an adult not just as likely to turn his/her anger toward someone weaker or smaller?  We don’t always turn inwards.  Some cope another way.  There is never an excuse for bullying.  But I’d be more inclined to ask my son or daughter the hard questions if I ever saw or heard of them bullying others.

And finally, to answer the second of the questions…Who was I supposed to be?

Well, that one is becoming more clear.  Me. Right here, right now. Me.  And that’s just fine.


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Hi everyone! Welcome to 50 Shades of Gray Hair. 50 Shades is my blog of life over the hill, where each day is full of delicious opportunities to earn another gray hair. I stopped declaring war on the gray when I began this blog years ago. Instead, I embrace and celebrate them along with whatever life decides to throw my way, with (sarcasm forward) humor and an optimistic eye to the future. I think. I hope? I don't know. At any's real, it's honest, it's full of 4 letter words, and it's me...on a platter. I sincerely welcome you all to my porch....♥♥Rhonda

37 thoughts on “The year that broke the dam”

  1. Oh, sending you a big cyber hug. I had an idyllic childhood and only found out years later that some of those around me were going through the same kind of crap that you endured. Violence and oppression are sicknesses that need to be eradicated as much as cancer and cholera.


    1. very true, but there’s no vaccine for this. we each must be that which these kids cannot be…their protectors. and in order for that to happen, we must learn to recognize the danger that lives in our very own homes, our very own families, our next door neighbors, our teachers, and coaches…we must begin to look at and with our kids…not through or for them. and thanks for the hug..


  2. Rhonda, I bless the day we connected ~ in true Rhonda-ness, you tugged at my heartstrings, allowed my tears to flow, connected with me and gave me strength with your post. This is beautiful. Please feel a big ol’ hug from someone who understands. xo


    1. That you can find strength here is the reason behind this leap Yvonne. That you found a connection, have an understanding, is the sad half. But, know this…your gift of light, goodness and joie de vivre, that you share every day, is the other half. Your chapter shows the way to the light.xoxo


  3. A bit of a blubbering idiot over here…So flippin’ proud to know you, to have been a small, occasional detour in your journey and to see where your travels have brought you. To this moment. This awareness. This circle of love and acceptance that will travel with you wherever you wander. Welcome to the wonder that is you..oxo


    1. Nothing small about the mimi-hug detours. Couldn’t have gotten here alone and didn’t. Your words and friendship over this past year have filled my heart and helped keep my feet on the road, moving forward, and nudging me closer to the center line, as all the best SKs do. And you, my dear woman, are the best..xoxo


    1. thank you kyle, for your love and support in helping me get here. and I do know…that’s the lightness in my heart. this takes the weight off my soul.


  4. I am sobbing that I didn;t see this earlier, Rhonda – I actually feel quite anguished with admiration for you and for this incredible post. Oh how much I wish I’d seen this earlier today so I could’ve commented earlier. This is the most courageous and beautiful post I have ever read. I salute you Rhonda and feel honored to be your friend. Loveya – Julie


    1. The honor is mine Julie, has been since the day we met. And there is no better time to see or do anything than the time we choose to do it…that is always the perfect time. and loveya right back U..xo


  5. Rhonda sweetie…I am circling back to you, and my admiration for you, your courage is beyond words. To say I am proud of you is an understatement really, and mostly reveling in the release, the truth being in the light. I feel so privileged to travel these roads called life with someone like you. Wonder Women unite 🙂 xoxox


    1. I kind of like the company I’m in too Bon…a LOT. There is so much we can learn from and share with each other; as many reasons to rejoice as there are to cry; whatever road or detour we each choose, knowing we are not alone makes all the difference. WW unite indeed…xoxo


  6. Belle, I just read this for a second time. Your posts always amaze me, there is no pretence in them at all, but this one takes the cake. It’s the most vital post I’ve read by anyone in a long time. You are more than just fine, you fucking rock. And leave me speechless. My wife wants to know how you do that.


    1. You humble me with your words my northern brother. Had I not eradicated the ‘blog that was’, perhaps more would have gotten the message, because for me, the message is the thing. But, I must continue the journey forward and for that…there must be no regrets. Do I wish I could reach more, do more, be more? Sure…I do and always will. But I’ll always hope there is one, at least one, who benefits. Thank you for your comment Trent, it means a lot.
      As for the wife’s question? LOL May I suggest she show you an Orange? 😉


  7. Been off the ether and came back to read this part of your soul. Goodness girl, thank you for expressing so many emotions, fears and hopes so beautifully. There are so very many people out there who need to read this, especially parents who might miss the signs. xAx


    1. That is my hope and I’m glad you made your way back here, I know you all are so busy doing the animal god’s work…means a lot to me to have you visit, and thank you for your encouragement…always.


  8. As you said things do happen for a reason
    THe eagle you posted is the bird of freedom it was not named the bird of freedom by chance, and the light shining through didn’t happen by chace either. The biggest mystery is the mystery left for each of us to ponder on. What does it mean, for each of us.
    As far as the need for approval the only approval you need is to look within yourself and say I am worthy. Remember Your sense of worth is only as much as you give yourself. I to have that same problem and even though I enjoy helping my family and others my own self esteem towards myself at what and how I feel about myslef is close to none, and I find myself asking the same question over and over, what am I really worth, What is my value towards life.
    You can be extremely empathetic without putting in physical discomfort, the best thing for you to realize is that your empathy has to be used on the things of great value, and integrity. The greatest integrity and more effort used, are the ones that aren’t going to wasted. The ones that doesn’t take alot of effort and integrity are wasted and those are the ones that get wasted. With that being said, those are the ones that will make you in physical discomfort because you will be in a constant repeat with these situations where empathy is needed. Empathy is always needed with children, and words will need to be chosen wisely and in terms they can understand, as we all know, I have a ten year old and when I talk to him he gives me a look of bewilderment, when I used large words, forgetting sometimes.


  9. Rhonda, I’m so very sorry to hear of your precious pup’s passing. They become our children and our very best source of comfort. Your writing is fabulous and I will indeed visit The Year That Broke The Dam on your blog. My very best to you, always hugs, sparks of courage & joy your way 🙂 THIS IS POWERFUL, EXCELLENT, INTENSE!!trish


Nice-n-Easy...but tell it like it is

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