I’ve been working lately on creating a major shift in my life. Prompted by my troubled pregnancy, I was advised to really work at letting go of all the emotional, psychological and spiritual baggage that I am holding in my body. Easier said than done of course. Writing and forgiveness have been essential to this growth. This is why the 21.5.800 challenge came when I needed it most.
Inspired by my work with Mynde Mayfield, my Fearless Living coach (who of course came into my life at the perfect moment), I performed a Letting Go ceremony last week. I took myself to the beach, wrote some letters, burned them and let the story, the feelings, the hurt go. I focused on a specific relationship and the shift I have noticed since has been mind blowing. When I chose who to focus on, there was a bogeyman in the back of my mind, waving his hands and saying “my time is coming”. I nodded my head in his general direction and ignored him as best I could.
Two nights ago, that bogeyman told me in no uncertain terms, his time was now. He is ready for me to look him square in the face.
When I was young – I’m not exactly sure how old – I was molested by a much older cousin. The memories came to me when I was sixteen, in two fluttery faded images, like old photographs with a hint of movement. I have two of these photographs and nothing else. In one, I am maybe 3 or 4. In the second I am older but I don’t know how much.
That’s it. That’s all I have. I don’t know if there were more times, more details. They are lost somewhere in the recesses of my mind. When they first showed up, I thought I was remembering a dream. They were unbelievable until I saw a picture of myself in the coveralls I remember wearing. My heart sank. For almost 20 years I acknowledged the memories but denied their import. I told almost no one. I figured since I didn’t remember pain, didn’t remember fear, that I was lucky and remained relatively unaffected by these foggy events. I didn’t consider myself a victim or a survivor. I saw my cousin periodically and felt nothing. I was FINE. Even my first therapist didn’t think it was a big deal.
For part of my Master’s degree in clinical psychology I needed to log some therapy hours. New therapist. Different take on the events. I dismissed them in my usual manner. She questioned it, she named it, she used the word “molested”. I cringed and fought her.
In the last quarter of my degree I took two workshops in the new LGBTQ specialization (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer, Questioning – the first specialization of its kind in a post-graduate psychology degree) at Antioch University Los Angeles. One of them was on feminism and sexuality. I was married, pregnant and one of the only straight people in the room. Through the discussion, self-examination and openness the two instructors facilitated so skillfully, I was suddenly sideswiped by the knowledge that my whole life had been affected by my cousin’s actions. The risky behavior in my 20’s. Allowing myself to feel violated over and over again in search of love. My inherent distrust of men. My head swirled as I recognized it was all related. But what to do with the sudden knowing? There was no point in blame. I don’t know what happened to my cousin that made him turn to me but I know he didn’t have an easy life – he still doesn’t.
I told my mother. Apparently I had mentioned something to her as a child and appropriately horrified, she had attempted to limit my contact with him. I think my grandmother must have known. Eventually I told my father, my brother, my sister-in-law. It has not been an easy journey with them. My mother’s reaction was not what I wanted or needed and she continues to spend time with him, to talk about him when I am out of the room. When I asked for an explanation she shared that she had long ago forgiven him but didn’t know how to be sensitive of my needs and feelings. My father wanted to know when I’d “get over it”. I think it must be too painful to even think about. They both know, in no uncertain terms, that he is never to be around my daughter or my niece. Never. Ever.
No one else in my family knows and I realize by writing this – and publishing it – I could cause hearts to break, including my own. But I can no longer be silent about this. I can no longer keep it inside. The silence has wreaked havoc on my body and my spirit for too long and I need to forgive and let go. Forgive and let go.
The bogeyman was in my dreams two nights ago. I know that other people’s dreams are never very interesting so I will be brief in the explanation.
I was in my home (although it did not look like my home) and my cousin lived across the courtyard. I remember being my usual polite self with him, as though there was no secret we were keeping, no shared experience we were denying. Back in my home, the sewer line started to back up. It was like one of those movies where the ground breaks open and some massive creature comes up from under the earth. The toilet came loose and rode the wave of stench as it filled the hall. I remember being horrified. We called the landlord but before he could arrive, it slowly receded from where it came, leaving no trace of its presence other than a toilet that needed to be bolted back to the floor.
I awoke from the dream and knew that it was time. Time for me to write the letter I have spent years avoiding. Time for me to get everything – the rage, the shame, the pain, the forgiveness – on paper and set fire to it so that I can rise from its ashes a more whole being. It’s time for me to heal, to stop carrying these faded photographs in my heart, in my body. They may never go away completely but in the silence I have given them power they don’t deserve. I am ready, finally, to reclaim the shattered pieces of my little girl’s heart, to care for her and protect her the way I wanted someone else to do. But it’s too late for that and I am the only one who can integrate all that she experienced with all that I am.
It’s time to forgive. It’s time to let go. It’s time for peace.
P.S. I just read Bindu’s post on Fear. My life lately (even my dreams last night) has been all about facing fear. I am terrified to press publish on this post. So I am going to breathe, acknowledge that my fear is trying to keep me safe, let it know that I’m a big girl and can take care of myself, and consciously, deliberately, do what scares me.