I had a meeting this week that I’ll never forget. One of the participants said to me afterward, “I am so proud of you. It’s like you just found your voice.” If there’s anything that I’ve been trying to do over this past year, it’s exactly that. I needed to be my own again, and now I’m starting to reap the benefits of that decision. It isn’t exactly time for an epilogue, but I’ll take what I can get.
I still have days where I scream with rage at the injustice of everything that happened to me… but in the end, because of what happened to her, it gets harder and harder to stay angry. As I get older, I see the bigger picture. I have empathy for the fact that you can’t engineer a child’s reality without having a fractured reality of your own. The part of the equation that is not mine to own is how to fix her reality as well. However, I had to learn that part. It did not come easily. It was the equivalent of trying to help a little old lady across the street who didn’t want to go that way, anyway, and spent our entire walk banging me on the head with her purse.
It is literally amazing to me how many times I got smacked upside the head before I realized I probably needed it to stop. Now that it has, my life feels, well, bigger. Barring any unforeseen obstacles at work, I am on track for a gorgeous future. There’s also opportunity for travel, as my company is opening several overseas locations. I’m at the point where moving doesn’t sound appealing, but if someone needed me to be an expat for a while, I am sure that I would have the ENTIRE Bloomsbury collection on my Kindle and my bags packed before Dana could say, “where are we going, again?”
This is going to be an absolutely crazybusy week for Dana and me, but it feels like the right amount of full as opposed to being overwhelming because I already have too much to think about to enjoy being a part of my own life… if that makes any sense at all. The effect of having my abuser in my life is that I was trapped in the mind worm of how to help her, how to rescue her, while I let everything I loved drown. It started when I was so young that I didn’t know how I was affecting my future. From the moment I started 7th grade, my grades were terrible because I wasn’t doing that kind of homework. I have no doubt that my abuser could never have seen herself as such, because she didn’t really take it into account that things she would talk about with friends her own age would terrify me. Had no concept of the fact that no one in her life had time to love her like a 7th grader. It was just math homework. I could put that off.
And now, almost 25 years later, I’m going back and doing the homework I should have been doing all along. It’s harder- it always is when you know the basics of everything and the intricacies of nothing. In school, as in every part of my life outside of my abuser, I just did enough to pass. I realized that in order to have a life worth living, I needed to “show my work.”
I needed to approach every area of my life with the same love and devotion that I gave to my abuser, because it was misdirected. She couldn’t, wouldn’t love me back, and even if she could, it wasn’t going to be a substitute for being a well-rounded, whole, healthy individual. I also got tired of being so over-focused on her that other people thought I was *in love* with her as opposed to just loving her.
God’s honest truth is that I was in love with her when I was a kid, but as an adult- I’d say from about 19/20 on- it was more a case of “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is grown, he will not part from it.” By the time I was an adult, I’d been caught in her alternate reality for over 7 years. I didn’t know any better, and I didn’t have anyone to show me differently because I wouldn’t tell anyone what was going on with me, anyway.
I am blessed beyond belief that even though few other people in the world get it, Dana does. Dana understands the concept of loving someone completely without being *in love* with them. Moving heaven and earth for the people you love even though there’s no chance of romance, because that’s just not part of the package. Partially, I think that’s because she knew that’s how I loved her at first. I didn’t fall in love with Dana right away, but I loved her like the rest of the world didn’t exist. If Dana needed me, I’d drop everything, but there wasn’t an element of physical attraction until years later.
And in those years, I learned the difference between how it felt to love someone like that who really wanted and needed it… and someone who didn’t. It was the beginning of recognizing that something was wrong, really wrong, and how much I needed to fix it.
Time to get back to my homework.