A day that requires a strength I’m not positive I have.
Yet I’m committed to faking that strength if I have to.
A day to speak-up, speak-out, and step-up.
To use the tools I have; tearing down old walls, kicking open locked doors, and shattering the stained and grime covered glass windows that have kept the dark in and the light out for too long.
Then, I can put the sledgehammer down, pick up my paint brush, and add my own colors to the palette of those brave souls already building a sanctuary from the prisons of abuse.
If aiding those who have already begun fabricating the framework; the architects like Andrea Bredbeck, and the carpenters, masons, and painters who swing their hammers, glide their trowels, and stroke their brushes of truth; if that is all I can do, then it’s what I will do.
Support is the – KEY – to this sanctuary. Without it, the door will remain locked.
Let your loved ones know, BEFORE they need it, that you’ll always be there.
Don’t assume they know…hammer it home it you have to.
That’s YOUR tool…use it. With love, but use it.
♥ And to those I love and to those that love me…thank you. ♥
I particularly love this one because it’s quintessential Susan (the Green Thumb Goddess). She can always pack a wallop in her poetry but I think she especially nailed this one. The seed planted here is powerful, visual, and easy to relate to.
I would also like to thank my daughter-in-law Lindsay for allowing me to use her beautiful face in this image. While she’s not a victim of sexual abuse…she absolutely ‘gets’ it!
A side note:
Women do not have to be victims of abuse to feel like and see that ‘stranger’ in the mirror…sometimes lost, sometimes less than, too often unrecognizable. Because I know that feeling all too well, not just as a survivor, but as a woman in general, there’s an added incentive to lead by example; to show that we must not be silent; we must not become part of the backdrop of someone else’s life; we must not lose sight of who and what we are…special, unique, and empowered to change the world by virtue of our voices, our minds, and not the least, raising our children.
We must step up and out of the supporting role and take the lead when we need to; show our sons and daughters that just because we plant and tend the garden, it does NOT make us gardeners.
And our choice to be housewives, does NOT mean we are ignorant of the world outside our four walls.
If our choice is to be stay-at-home mothers, it is just that – a choice. NOT an open door to disrespect, condescension, or a sign that we feel ourselves unworthy. If anything…it’s the complete opposite.
The link above will take you to their page…but here is what they ask:
1. Write an article/poem related to Women & Women Empowerment and post in your blog.
2. Link back to this article of KnowYourStar.com with a hyperlink so your readers and friends can join us if they are interested.
3. Enter your name and link into the Linky widget. (It should be the post link, and not your blog link in general. In your blog, click on the post title. The URL in the address bar would be the post link.).
4. Read and enjoy as many of the other writers as well. When you read more, most of them return to read yours.
5. Don’t miss this golden chance to impact the society! Let’s change it for better!
In collaboration with my dear friend and fellow blogger, Susan Daniels and her amazing ability to put what we feel into poetry…the following is our response to the challenge!
We did a series of three poems/images. The poetry is classic Daniels and the images are composites of photos of my own that I’ve manipulated to show what her words mean to me.
Please join the challenge is you feel you can, but if not, Join in the Conversation, visit KnowYourStar.com and read some of the other powerful entries in the effort to get RAPE out of the closet.
I was working on a post this morning, having to do with the tons of fun in the sun trying to sell a house in today’s market (yeah, right), when as often happens, a short sidestep away from the center line resulted in being led down another dirt road. But that’s life, especially my life, as I live for the treks down the less traveled dirt.
This particular step off the line was a conversation with a friend that began with small talk about the Gawd awful heat wave and remedies for sun burns, meandered to the pros and cons of having your home and all its contents spread all over the air waves for any ol’ burglar to scope out, tip-toed into current affairs generally and recent events in the Florida courts specifically, then naturally (!?!) morphed into what it must be like for a child to be raised in a Muslim household that forbids TV, radio, music, internet, and playing with children not of their own religion.
Don’t you just LOVE these conversations that sprout tentacles like a giant squid? I do…I love the random nature of them almost as much as the feeling of comfort I get knowing we can talk about anything…all at once! Very stimulating to say the least.
Anyway, post Muslim life discussion, from which we both came away thinking we’d like to try our hand at reading the Koran, the conversation jumped the broom to religion in general. While one of use believes and the other does not, one thing is certainly true: Where we find intolerance, bigotry, segregationist thinking, there is usually a religious aspect fueling it. If we are ever to see the day when our planet’s caretakers can live in true peace and brotherhood…religious fanaticism or extremists, of any kind, must see the end of days.
This of course ‘evolved’ into, well, evolution. Which as a non-believer in religion of any kind, is in fact, the religion of choice. Past the talk of apes and chimps, we discussed how humans are shown to have an innate ability to share. Yup. Share. Which of course led to whether being kind and empathetic is genetics or learned, and whether lesser traits, like competing in all respects, is too, learned or innate. Survival of the fittest after all, with no moral force guiding it? For the non-believer, the take is that we are just naturally a ‘nice’ animal. For me, the believer, I tended to agree, but still harbor some doubt. I do think, that while certain characteristics of humans are innate, most are learned behaviors. Basically, nature vs. nurture. An old and forever on-going topic of discussion that has its own, very long, dirt path. We discussed why certain behaviors occur in some animals and not in others.
For instance, the beaten dog. How can a dog who knows mostly pain from the hand of its human, still find it within itself to lick that very hand the few times it might be extended in what one could only marginally be described as love? It’s insane. Yet, it happens all the time. However, for a child to be reared in the same way, the risk is far, far greater, that the result could just as easily be a non-empathetic psychopath as it could be a loving, thriving, kind, and generous, human being. Is that a choice? Nature vs. nurture again? I used myself as an example, and even so, I still have doubts about it…or maybe doubt is too strong a word.
I have questions.
Being a victim of childhood sexual abuse (The year that broke the dam) from the ages of 5 to 14 and a victim of rape at the age of 19, one could imagine that I could have become a bitter, angry, mean-spirited, non-trusting, love-hating person. But I didn’t (Back on the Road). I’m like the beaten dog…and I don’t mean to sound overly dramatic here…it’s more a visual aide. I live a life filled with as much love as there is hate; as much beauty as there is ugliness; as much need for love, both to give and to receive, as distrust of it. So, it begs the question…was this my choice? Or was I bound by genetics to grow into a woman with a heart and huge capacity for empathy? I don’t know.
But here’s the rub, and ultimately, the reason for our long stroll down these particular paths…in speaking with this friend, it was pointed out ardently, that I do, in fact, have a wonderful heart, a good and strong personality, a huge capacity for love, and that (this is the key) I’m beautiful on the inside.
Ah yes…the beauty within vs. the beauty without (is that the term? doesn’t sound right, but you know what I mean). I, for one, actually HATE that phrase. I love that I am, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a double-edged sword for me. I fell into the trap long, long ago, that it’s more important, at least initially, to be more beautiful on the outside. It has been my experience, and I just may have to take the responsibility for it (Delusional Illusions), that people who could not see beyond the surface passed me by without a second glance and without having the pleasure of getting to know me. I’m not alone. I’m certainly not unique in my thinking this is the way of things. I say honestly, if it was a choice to be the way I am, it was not an easy one, but for me, the only one. Why? Genetics? Nurture? (shrugging shoulders still)
So while I do still struggle with this question, the conversation, for all its meandering, did help me see that hard or not, choice or not, I am on the right path. My path. And if Joe Blow from Kokomo chooses to walk by me because I don’t look like a Playboy centerfold…I say one thing (well, I say it behind his back ’cause I’m nice)…
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…
…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.
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…
…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?
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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