A little reading music. (WordPress is angry with me today and won’t let me tag, but here’s the link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tek1Wh3jrWk)
A few weeks ago, I reconnected with an old friend. This friend is someone I had never actually met, but I feel I know her better than some people I see all the time.
She was my pen pal all through middle school and high school, probably much longer than that. We both tried to remember when we started writing. Too much life has happened since then and we can’t remember the exact year, but suffice it to say, we’ve known each other for a long time.
Almost every week we would exchange letters, telling each other stories about our lives. Sometimes it was telling the little things. I remember her telling me about showing pigs in 4-H. We would write about our pets and the books we read. We would write about the anxieties we each had, normal for young girls our age. In later years, I would write about the trial with my father and how horrible life was at the time. I did not know that she could not write about how horrible her life was at the time. I could not seem to stop talking about it and she was not in a safe enough position to utter the words.
Most survivors are in a position much similar to hers than to mine. I could not stop telling, but most survivors cannot start. The ugliness and shame of the abuse is too much and most people do not tell at the time, and many do not ever tell.
I did not tell because I am exceptional. I told because I thought my life was ruined, but I was hoping I could help anyone else from going through that horrible, sickening pain. It is not my fault, but I was unsuccessful in that endeavor.
It is hard for me to remember when the abuse started because it seems like it was always happening. That put me in an awkward position because I was lonely and desperately wanted to have friends. Part of having a friend at that time was inviting that person to over to spend the night. That was anxiety-producing on many accounts. First, I had to find someone who might like me enough to come over. I didn’t really think there were that many people who liked me that much. Then if I found someone I thought liked me, I had to bring them to my house. I had to bring them within harm’s way. I had to ask them to stay over night in the dragon’s lair, knowing that I could not protect them the entire time they were there because I knew my father was so smooth in getting to a new victim. I did not have a lot of friends over, but sometimes the loneliness won out and I found the nerve to ask my mother, then my father, if someone could stay the night.
My friend to whom I wrote was a slightly different scenario. She was far enough away that it was not easy for us to get together. Neither of us could drive, so that made it even more difficult. At one point, I remember planning for her to go with us to Disney World. Going on a vacation of any kind was a big deal for my family. We didn’t have a lot of money and often didn’t go on a trip at all. We were flying to Florida and I was planning to ask my parents to buy another ticket for my friend.
On so many levels, what in the world was I thinking? I was putting her in danger and asking my parents to spend more money. Neither was a good idea, but at the time, I was lonely and scared and, after all, my birthday fell on a day during the trip, so couldn’t her coming be part of my present?
I asked my mother first, and she said she’d have to talk to my father. That was a common theme in my house, which most of the time, did not turn out well. I remember writing to my friend progressively. I’ve asked my mother. She said she’d ask my father. She said she asked him. Now we wait.
It should come as no surprise that he would not let her come along. I do not remember what part of the letters I sent her, but I sent some part. She remembered.
When we met a few weeks ago, we talked about this time in our shared memory. She distinctly remembered it, when I was unsure whether I’d even sent her the letters about it. It was about so much more than Disney World. She said when we met recently, “I thought if we could be together, at least there would be two of us.” We would each have a friend and we would each have someone with whom we could fight against the abuse.
In our own unknowing way, we were and are like wonder-twins. Fighting, with all we had, against the evil with which we were living. Not completely knowing what the other was going through, even though we were connected. And now, we are still fighting to tell our stories and be heard in our own ways.
It is a reminder to me that even though we do not always know the stories of those around us, everyone has a story. Everyone is fighting and struggling and in our own way, we are all trying to find our voices.
As you struggle and fight, you are not alone. Listen with as open a heart as you can to the stories of others, and tell your story in the loudest voice that you can, even if it is now just a whisper.