December 31, 2019.
The last day of the year. The last day of a decade.
On days like this many people ask “Where did the time go?” and surely, I am one of those people. Ten years is a long time—3,652 days—and like everyone else, I couldn’t tell you what I did on each of those days but I can say I survived all of them. This decade saw many ups and downs and I’m sitting here wondering what my highlight reel might actually look like.
I’ve never been one to reflect on such recent past. New years come along and I simply think of them as just another series of days that I will have to survive and endure. The fact that I made it to another year was never of any real significance to me. It’s just the way life happens, no big deal and not much to celebrate.
Each year though, people talk of resolutions, starting anew, shedding the past, breaking free from whatever…you get the picture. I hear those things and feel nothing. The dawn of a new year, even a new decade never inspired me. For me there were no “second” chances at anything. There was never any “revival” of spirit or faith. There was nothing to shed or get rid of. No resolutions or promises to myself or anyone else. There was just another year or decade coming and folk were happy. So be it.
Today feels different.
I don’t have any resolutions or promises. I’m not sure what lies ahead, but somehow I am optimistic about it. And that is scary. I am reminding myself that this scary is because it’s something new. I don’t have to run and hide away. I don’t have to be afraid. A new year means a future. And if there’s a future, I should be planning for it. But as I asked in yesterday’s blog “How do I plan for a destination whose road has never been walked and whose end has never been seen in a future that’s never been thought of?”
One way to do that is by looking back to see where we’ve been. I have come a long way from somewhere and I’m now fairly sure that where I’ve been will help figure out where I’m going.
So my highlight reel looks this.
In 2010 we had a Cadillac and an apartment with a great back yard and decent jobs. 2011 we were both laid off from those jobs. 2012 I started college and a new job and finished my book. 2013 we were homeless for 3 months. 2015, my youngest son was finally released from juvenile detention. 2018 I turned 50 and graduated from college and published my book. 2019 I started therapy.
For a highlight reel, there doesn’t seem to be much to tell for this past decade, but there really is so much more.
Take 2012, for instance. I started college because I got laid off from a decent job that wouldn’t hire me in another position because I had no degree. I used that as a catalyst to act. Enrolling in college was the easiest part of the process. The first classes I took were Statistics and Algebra. I swear I almost quit! Statistics wasn’t so bad, difficult but not too bad. Algebra had me in tears and the professor wasn’t very good. But it was Algebra that taught me that just because I didn’t understand something, it didn’t mean that I couldn’t understand it. I can learn.
2012 was also the year we totaled the Caddy which brought me to my “Aha” moment. It was the “Aha” moment that led me to therapy in 2019. The tragedy of the Caddy brought to my attention something that had been going on my whole life that I had refused to see or acknowledge. That was when the abuser came to my door “to share in [my] misery.” The words stung then and they still sting now. They were not words of comfort. They were not words offering help. They were not words that had any positive intent whatsoever. They were sharp, like daggers with spokes. And they struck home. They struck true. And they opened my eyes to the hideous and insidiousness that they encompassed. They were words that revealed the manipulation. I turned 44 years old that year. And the “Aha” moment was almost too much. I felt like I was being destroyed from the inside out. Everything I thought I knew became questionable. Something was desperately wrong and I didn’t know how to deal with that. So I wrote it out in a letter. And then I sent that letter. And so began this journey. The emotional and psychological manipulation began to end when I sent that letter but it would still take 7 more years to finally begin to deal with it through therapy. It was 2012 when the abuser stopped speaking to me because I wouldn’t do something he asked. It was 2012 when I realized that I wasn’t the only one he was manipulating. 2012 was a very significant year and it will stand out as the shift of a decade. The events of that year changed me. I didn’t see it clearly then, but I knew something was changing. And the change was scary so I tried like hell to bury and suppress it. I tried like hell to tell myself that I am ok. That these things, once recognized will simply work themselves out and I don’t need to worry about it.
Which brings me to 2018. The #MeToo movement had gone viral. I joined in. It was significant for me and suddenly I wasn’t alone. But then came the #WhyIDidntTell. That was profound. I watched Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford testify before a Congressional committee about a man who attempted to rape her when she was 16. I knew she was telling the truth. After seeing her and seeing the outcome, I knew I could no longer be silent. So I wrote it out, posted it on my blog and shared it on Facebook, tagging my family members. “Why I didn’t Tell” was seen and read by more than 500 people. Putting this out there the way I did allowed my Aunt to asked to read my book. I had mentioned it in passing when I was telling her about another book I was writing. She read that manuscript and told me I should publish it. And new technology and the internet allowed me to do just that. In September of 2018 I released the Kindle version of my story and in October I released the paperback version.
With the publishing of this book, I was suddenly thrust into the world of me. The life that I had suppressed my entire life. I was suddenly acutely aware of this other me that I only fleetingly knew existed. There was anxiety and panic that wasn’t there before. There were memories that were really mine and not just some story anymore. This was my story, my life. This was me. And 50 years of suppression came erupting to the surface. It had been rumbling since 2012. And now the lava-mud was front and center, present in all its raging glory. And I needed help. I started therapy in March of this year and I have learned so much. The world isn’t so scary anymore. Life is still difficult. New things are just new things. And change is happening. But I am processing the enormity of me. The me I’ve been and the me I’ve buried. There’s a coming together of the me. I was abused and manipulated for a lifetime and I survived. That didn’t used to be a big deal, but I am becoming more and more aware of the amount of strength it has taken just to be me. I remember the fear that has been a security blanket for me throughout the years. I remember how fear has been my protection. I remember the drunken rages and how they were my freedom to express what I had suppressed. I remember the anger. I remember the guilt. I remember that all this was given to me as a way to keep me in a place. A place that I am finally climbing out of because of the protections I formed as a child. I was rebellious. And that rebellion saved me. My rebellion knew wrong was being dealt and rose up to defend. I defended myself my whole life with all of the coping mechanisms I developed.
I survived. And that makes me a warrior.
In 2020 and going forward, I will embrace the strength I have that has allowed me to survived the unthinkable. I will no longer fight myself. I will use my strength to tell my story. I will use my strength to help others find their own strength. I will not brow beat. I will not demand. I will BE. And that is enough.
The decade has taught me well.