I’ve felt this post coming for a few days and I’ve been pushing it away, not wanting to go there. But here it is, refusing to go away…
When I went back to my high school last week and interviewed Jack Cummings, it precipitated the opening of a huge well of grief that I didn’t know was there.
After writing the post “It Was About Me“, I received a message from one of my high school teachers saying, “OF COURSE it was about YOU. We all knew that…wish we had made it clearer to you.” I responded to her, trying to explain why no matter what they had said or done I wouldn’t have been able to hear it or understand it. I was on the “sharp edge” of trying to survive the emotional turmoil that was my home. I couldn’t trust anyone who said nice things to me because I was tensed for the verbal slap that was right behind it.
My father told me one moment that I deserved all the best in the world and the next moment that I didn’t deserve anything that I had. He called me his “princess” and then accused me of believing that I was a princess. He told me that I was the smartest kid in the world and then punished me for being too stupid to accomplish an adult task. He told me ad nauseum that I could go to any college I wanted because I was completely worth the expense…and then withdrew all financial support and stopped speaking to me when I was in college.
I’m willing to bet that more than one person is raising their hand as they read and saying, “That sounds just like what I experienced.”
The grief that came up this weekend was a result of seeing the line drawn so clearly between my desire and my reality – wanting so desperately to have a male figure in my life who was calm and steady (like Jack Cummings appeared to be), versus going home to a man who was so manipulative and emotionally abusive.
I cried a lot this weekend as I worked through the pain, talking it out with my loved ones. At one point I yelled out, “FUCK YOU, I didn’t ask to be here! I didn’t ask to be born! What right did you have to treat a little girl like this???”
Words I never, ever, ever would have said aloud to my father.
They were bubbling furiously under the surface – silent but deadly.
Getting them out proved to be such a relief. There was still more crying to be done (and there will probably be more in the future), but those words were poison that had been living inside me all these years. That boil has finally been lanced.
I know there are other truths that I’ll get back to again soon – my father was acting out of his own craziness, he had jacked up role models of parenting, he didn’t know any better, etc.
It’s also true that it’s not okay to treat a little girl that way. That little girl grew up believing that she was crazy and it wasn’t safe to yell back.
Now she has yelled back. The world didn’t end. No one hurt her.
The abuse has ended. Her world is a safe place to be now and she can stop waiting for the slap.
She is safe.
I am safe.
My world is a safe place to be.
Thank you God.