The Past is Always with You

Outside my front door, these beautiful, bright green sprouts are coming out of the ground. Soon, they will turn into healthy plants producing vibrant yellow, red and purple flowers. For months now, the ground they live under in the winter has been brown and barren.

Yet, today, you can see bright spots of green.

This is how I think of myself as a survivor of sexual and physical abuse. My mind’s eye sees me as dark, gloomy, unattractive, and a burden. Much time will pass as my gut hurts daily and I wonder why I have the good life I have today. When will someone wake up and say, “Oops, you don’t belong here.”

Then, vibrant green sprouts start to fill my head. I will go months, even years sometimes, feeling as if I belong in the sunshine, on top of the dirt.

I feel the need to interact with others who have also endured abuse in their past. I don’t usually limit my thoughts to victims/survivors, but today, for some reason, you are all on my mind.

I am 48 years old. My last abusive relationship ended 26 years ago. My last sexual assault took place 34 years ago. I look at those two numbers, and those amount of years each equal a full-grown adult. When I see those numbers, I wonder why any of what happened so long ago is still with me. I’ve lived the equivalent of an adult life since each of them happened.

One day last week, I had the chance to sit and talk with another woman who knows what it is like to feel small, abused, and alone. This is a rare occurrence for me. Do you get those moments at all?

I ask because I am struck by how healing, and also exhausting, it can be to put all of your experiences out there.

For my new friend, the wounds are very fresh. She is still in the early stages of her healing journey. The tears welled up in her eyes as she discussed her story; while I felt a familiar feeling of gut pain when I discussed mine.

Then, a few days later, I turned on one of my favorite political commentators and watched him dance around a mild roast of women who say Vice President Joe Biden made them feel uncomfortable. I tend to disagree with this man sometimes, and this moment was one of them. Do I think Biden had intent to sexually assault the women or to make them feel uncomfortable? Not at all. Do I think he needs to stop man-handling women? Yes, please. I would love to meet him one day and thank him for all he’s done, but I don’t want him putting his face in my hair and kissing it.

Anyway… I sat there and watched the commentator dismiss the women and I felt disappointment. I wish all women could find themselves sitting across the table from someone who just knows… deep inside knows… why you made decisions you did or feel the way you do. I am so thankful for that coffee that lasted almost 4 hours.

I’m going to be honest. I totally agreed with the commentator when he talked about the degrees of the incidents under the #metoo umbrella. I agree Biden is nowhere near someone who rapes a woman. I agree that Biden is not a predator and he shouldn’t be destroyed over the fact that he has no boundaries and needs to get some.

However, as I recall the conversation I had with my new friend, I remember how safe I felt. I remember how confident I felt that the person across the table wasn’t going to dismiss me. I feel sad when I think of women who are dismissed over feeling violated, no matter the degree.

I remember sharing with her something about an abusive relationship I had in my early 20s. The situation she has, in my mind, is far worse than what I had in that relationship of mine. She has children and saw no door out. I left my boyfriend’s house daily, and did not have to return. I remember looking at her and confessing that I had every opportunity to leave and I made the dumb move to return. Without missing a beat, she listed all the ways abusive men get you to take what is given and keep coming back for more.

I was describing how when my first abusive relationship started, I remember having so many friends. Then, one day, I looked around, and I was alone, in his bedroom, waiting for his friends to leave because he didn’t want me to be a part of the party they were having. I was completely isolated. She nodded and said, “That’s what they do.”

They also simultaneously make you feel worthless and the center of their existence. They tear down who you are, all the way to the bare bones, and help you build walls with your friends and families on the outside. You begin to see that you only have them, and feel that you need them so that you can feel any value. At the same time, they reduce your value, the one you have in your mind, to zero.

The training abusers give you is hard to shake. Even when you get strong, and you decide you are worth enough to find happiness, to take a new path, you still have something planted inside you that says, “You don’t deserve happiness.”

It’s planted deep.

I don’t have an inspiring next step or something to say that will wrap this blog entry up in a pretty bow. I just wanted to reach out, in case anyone out there is wondering if he or she is alone.

You are not alone. A full, active, beautiful adult human life has grown, bringing me plenty of beautiful yellow, red, and purple flowers. Yet, there are days when I feel like I’m dirt with dried little stalks. Both feelings exist in me.

Ok, there is one thing I can say that can end this entirely on a high note. If you stop, and really take in the vibrant moments of good, and treasure those moments, owning them… the barren, dry moments will start existing in smaller spans of winters. Springs will be longer, as long as you stare at those moments longer than the moments of winter. You really will see many more pops of color … and hope … in your life.

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