WordPress offers this cool little tool called “The Daily Prompt” for bloggers, in order to give them a push to write daily. Last night, on a whim (impulsive, remember?) as I was lying in bed I thought “I should write something every day until the end of the year.” I mean, it is the slowest work schedule that I will have for a while. I have some days off that are not filled with any social activities because well, I don’t do these holidays. I always try to work these weeks so that those to whom these days are important can actually take the time off that they would like, while knowing someone is at the desk keeping the light on. A friend and faithful blog follower from day one (can it really be four years now?) recently complimented me on finding my writing ‘voice’ again now that I am out from under the funk that was weighting my thoughts and person down like a ton of bricks. As such, I’d like to keep that muscle active and strengthening, rather like exercising the physical body. I find it challenging to write on things that are not rambling around in my brain begging to get out into the light of day, so this is a stretching experience for me. I’ve had a few of those experiences this year and while the results were not always pleasant, indeed they have produced growth, even if sometimes it was painful growth. Today’s daily prompt reads as follows:
Share a story where it was very difficult for you to forgive the perpetrator for wronging you, but you did it — you forgave them.
Childhood is thought of as a time for no worries, the time to spread your wings, discover who it is that you are, and to be free to do so under the watchful eye of parental love. It is the time to indulge in fantastical thinking and develop ones imagination, to run barefoot through dew-laden grass, to eat too much ice cream and learn about overindulgence via terrible tummy aches. It is supposed to be a time of safety, guidance, growth and love. The reality is that for many, many children, childhood is more akin to the school of hard knocks, a lesson in benign neglect, or in some cases, a time of great fear, shame, confusion and trepidation. There are many children who experienced far worse things than I can even imagination. There are children today that are living in far worse conditions and situations than I ever did. But you have to grow up and learn about others before you have a larger frame of reference and can understand that important lesson about life – somewhere, someone always has it worse than you do. I made it to the forgiveness part, but I do not think that I will ever forget. In cases like these, it is best not to forget, for the sake of the safety of others.
While I will not go into the graphical aspects of my story, it is sufficient to say that I am a survivor of sexual molestation as a child. My family was not some backwoods Deliverance kind of environment either. We were socially active, we engaged in a religious community, and we lived in close proximity to other family. I attended both private and public schools over the course of these times. And yet, during this time frame in my life, I can only remember speaking of the situation, to other children, twice. One friend with whom it was discussed subsequently revealed to me that her father was doing the same. We were ten years old. Did I think to tell anyone on her behalf? No. It was, in our minds, some private shame that we ourselves bore and telling anyone would result in a dismantling of the family unit. No matter how dysfunctional it might be, it was still our family. The other friend I later told when I was late in my teens, reacted like a normal person – with horror and sympathy, and no likewise tale in her own home. It was only then that I began to understand this was truly not normal. And yet, I still told no one that could have changed it. By this age, I had stopped the actual physical molestation and only had to deal with the intimations, explosive anger and verbal harassment. I was twenty-one years old before I told my mother, who reacted in total shock followed rather quickly by adamant denial and the statement that surely I must be remembering things incorrectly. I later shared this information with my brother as well. My first husband was the only person that ever stood up for me, and put things in no uncertain terms to my father. Yet we still welcomed him into our home for holidays, still visited occasionally, and had a relatively normal interaction even if on a quite limited basis. Then came the breaking point that led to no interaction. My father wanted to take my young daughters away on a trip to the zoo with him, without me or my husband. I put my foot down and said no. I was given an ultimatum at that time – “Either I will be in their lives as I want to be, or I will not be in their lives at all.” And so that was the end of our association with him. My girls were too important for me to be emotionally manipulated by such nonsense. As the years went on, somehow it became my responsibility in the eyes of the rest of my immediate family, to mend this breach and just ‘get over it.’ As the mother of three daughters, that was the last thing that I desired, to just ‘get over it’ and reintroduce extended family interactions. Since my parents divorced the same year that I married, seeing my mom but not my dad did not really register with my girls, as there was always a step-dad in the picture. When they all became legal adults, I shared this information with them and left that choice up to them in regards to developing any kind of relationship. At this date, none have chosen to forge any kind of relationship with him.
I attended therapy off and on over the years, and learned to handle and identify some of the long-term residual effects of my life experiences. Although diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in my late twenties, I can only think of three episodes in my entire adult life that triggered any display of symptoms, and in two of those situations I was quickly able to make the connection and verbalize the issue with my husband, and avert any kind of reaction at all. I consider this a wonderful thing and a testament to the success of my therapy and healing.
Within the last year I have seen my father face-to-face for the first time in many years and we had a reasonable lunch and social visit. The anger and fear are gone, perhaps because I understand that there is nothing to fear any more. The anger I learned to let go of a long time ago, as that was only hurting me and doing nothing to him or his life. That was very freeing for me. Through my own studies in Psychology in college, I also learned that many male perpetrators are actually victims from childhood themselves – and this fact was recently confirmed via another family member about my father.
Forgiveness is a good thing for me, because carrying hurt and anger stunted some of my emotional growth when I was younger. I made a lot of wrong choices trying to cover up and bury that awful ‘thing’ about my life. Knowing what I do about my father’s background now, understanding the impact that alcoholism had on his life during those years (he has been sober nearly thirty years now), and the knowledge of how Torah justice would apply if in practice, it is easier to let it go and forgive. I do not feel compelled either, to have some sort of relationship with him if I choose not to. It is simply a historical part of my life that I have lived with, dealt with, and accept as part of the person that I am today – a strong, capable, loving woman with a goofy sense of humor and a great zest for life. Oh, and who wants chickens and to live in the woods (smile)!