I am just going to come out and say that my father was a real piece of work. He was beyond abusive. He was evil. There are a lot of ways that abusers manipulate and control their victims. Turning siblings against each other is one of those ways. Only in this case the manipulation was is offering to spare one for the other.
For years my sister and I had no relationship. That is not to say that I did not follow around behind her and get into fights with anyone that tried to bully her. She is my sister and I needed to keep her as safe as I could. She was and is the diplomat. She reasons with people and uses great people skills to defuse conflicts. She has lived with my mother for many years and has put up with a lot. And used those amazing skills (which I think is her super power) to help my mother to modify some of those behaviors that made it so difficult for me to live with her.
Today we talked about some very painful stuff. We looked back on our childhood and talked about some of the hard stuff. None of which was easy. She has felt guilt for a long time about some of the things that happened to us. I just wanted to take this opportunity to say to the world (or whoever reads this) that though she may not know it she did more to keep us safe than she knows or remembers. And that no matter what my father told her she was a good big sister. She did work to keep us safe when there was no one else there to do it. She was that person who stepped up for as long as she could and did what she could.
Here, publicly, I want to say that it is an honor and a privileged to not only know you but to be your sister. I love you.
I wanted to write about validation. I even wrote the whole post out. Then I realized how dark it felt. I realized I had tapped into all those negative feelings of invalidation that I have experienced. All the times I was told that I should not talk about the abuse or what happened were brought up to the surface. And it was not a happy post at all.
So to spare you that gloomy walk down memory lane I have decided to share a story. One that I hope is less gloomy.
Once upon a time there was a small ball. That ball was really a person. And that person had been told how small and insignificant she was on such a regular basis that she believed the words. She stayed curled up in tight little ball to protect herself as best she could. Sometimes she would open up the ball to see if danger was still there. In her ball shape she could move through her life.
Then one day a friend came into her life. That friend offered her his hand and together they opened up the ball. That ball had stood firm against so many waves. Trapping all the pain inside. And when it opened all the pain came rushing out and overwhelmed her. She struggled for so many years to stand up straight. The tightness of the ball made her bent this made it difficult to walk. Her friend was there waiting until she could stand straight. Holding her hand. Telling her she was amazing and strong. Validating all that she had experienced as real and hard.
Some people came into her life who tried to silence her. They tried to keep her story quiet because it caused them pain. They did not want to know such evil things could happen. So they tried to make her fell like she should go back in her ball. But there were friends always at hand to slay those evil feelings until she could do it for herself. The friends believed in her. And she began to believe in herself.
Soon it did not matter what others thought or said. A very strong wall of love and compassion had been built up. People who believed her stood by her. And very soon she began to grow. She was not bent and stumbling. She stood a little bit taller. And the wind did not move her around as it did when she was a ball. Sometimes though when things get too hard and she feels weakened by the stress she curls back up into that ball. But she does not stay there. She has become limber enough to know how to straighten up and stand. And wise enough to know when she needs to protect the softness of her heart. And brave enough to stand in the wind and move forward.
A long time ago things were very dark for me. This was a very long time ago. Before I had a husband and before I had children. This was back in the dark days when essentially it was just me. And even though there were people in my life, it did not feel like there was anyone.
It was at this time that the depression and loneliness started to become suffocating. All I could think about was how painful everything was. How much it hurt to take a breath and to just keep going. It hurt so much more to live at that time than it did to think about not living. It was about this time that my youngest brother died in a car accident. And it all seemed so easy at that point to just not be here anymore.
I do not know what happened exactly. There was no great moment of clarification. No one came suddenly into my life to help me make meaning out of everything. There was no outside change in my life. I just decided to keep going. To keep trying to breathe. And the breathing became a little easier. Things were still dark but they weren’t as dark.
Coming out of that dark place took time. And a lot of escaping. I was living outside of Boston at the time and spent a lot of time in the city just looking at people and reading. I wrote more at that time then I had in a long time. I am not sure how I came through to the other side but I did.
That doesn’t mean that the darkness doesn’t still come out of nowhere and truly floor me anymore. It does mean that now I have reason to believe that I can make it to the other side of the darkness. Because I already have. I already walked through it. I am still here.
I guess the reason for this story is to say that the darkness though very real does not have to win. We can make it to the other side and be OK. There are many things to help us through. Friends, family, therapists to name just a few. But the point is that we are needed here. And sometimes we just need to be there for someone else, or allow someone to be there for us. I know that in reality it is really not that cut and dry all the time. But it is that cut and dry more often than we think.
I am glad that I kept walking past the open window. That I kept going. I know many who have not. And they are greatly missed. So the ending of this story is that a long time ago I thought that the pain was more than the pleasure of living. And I took a chance that the story I was telling myself was not true. And I won. I have a beautiful husband who is an amazing example of how to keep pushing through and eight beautiful children who have given me more reason to keep walking past the window.
And to end the story traditionally, I lived, happily and unhappily, but I still live.