Purple Sky

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All of a sudden I’m caught off guard when it starts.  One minute everything is normal and the next something hits me like a ton of bricks.  It’s more like a huge power switch turned on.   I’m home in my living room watching television when a deep magnetic pull inside me takes over my entire body.  Never have I felt this before but I don’t fight it because somehow I know it’s futile.  Immediately but calmly I stand up and head towards the front door.   My fingers reach for the doorknob and I turn it.  Sunlight peers through the rectangular stained glass-looking section of the door.  I don’t know why I’ve never truly noticed the intricate design before today.  My eyes soak in its beauty as I walk past it and close the door behind me.

My skin feels the gentle rays of the sun and a slight cool breeze.  The sky is cloudless and offers a slight purple hue to it.  It puzzles my brain for a second because it was so faint but splendid.  It almost didn’t seem real.  I reach the end of our driveway and  turn left.  Headed towards the direction of the street sign at the end of my block that adjoins a neighboring street.  The white house on the corner belongs to my friend Angel.  Is she home I wonder? It really doesn’t matter because that’s not my destination.  With each step the pull inside me is stronger, and I never question why I’m doing this or what I’ll find.

I don’t notice any lights or sounds coming from Angel’s house as I walk by.  Quickly I realize I’m headed to Broadway Road which sits on the backside of her house.  At this point my brain begins to slightly disconnect from my body.  I can sense I’m almost there.

What is happening to me?

And for the first time I am afraid.  As I turn onto the sidewalk of the the busy road I feel the stale air rush over me as cars buzz by and the familiar smell of exhaust fumes waking my nostrils.  My heart beats rapidly as I almost feel myself running the last couple hundred feet to my intended stop.  The active street is to my left and a row of businesses on my right.  I know it as soon as I take my last step – my foot journey has now come to an end.

But to what?

I am standing alone on the high traffic street wishing I was back home in my living room.  All I need to do is turn and walk back towards home, but I can’t.  My body feels glued to the ground and a tear rolls down my cheek.

S-sstop just stop it! I tell myself because I.do.not.want.to.cry.  I hate (let me repeat) I hate to appear weak, but deep down I know the pathetic truth.  I try oh so very hard to look poised, tough and in control but it’s a joke.  My strength is flimsy at best and as you can see powerless to even fight against this unknown force that drew me here.

I’m deep in thought so I don’t hear the car when it pulls up beside me.  The passenger door abruptly swings opens which makes me take notice and I turn my head to see several people inside the car.  I’m completely bewildered looking at my surroundings because something has changed.  Realizing the street has now become a ghost town.  Not a car, truck or person in sight other than the green 4-door sedan with its inhabitants sitting 2 feet from me.

Within seconds my body is in the backseat of the car.  I know beyond a shadow of a doubt I didn’t volunteer to go.  Everything happened so fast I wondered did I even try to resist?  I hoped I scratched and kicked and screamed trying to avoid the abduction.

But I just can’t remember.

I scan my brain trying to recall exactly what happened but it’s useless.  The information I desperately desire cannot be found.  In the backseat I’m stuck in the middle of my captors.  My insides are blaring MAYDAY MAYDAY and I can hear and feel my pulse beating throughout my body.  My instincts tell me to holler and wail and fight like a hellcat for my freedom.

I’m reminded there are just too many and my plan will never work.  So I don’t move a muscle or make a sound.  Fear forces my eyes closed because I simply can’t deal with the horrifying truth of my situation.  I’ve been kidnapped so close to home and nobody knows.  This isn’t happening, this isn’t happening, this isn’t happening I repeat silently over and over.  No-no-no-no-no I’m home in my living room and this is just a hideous dream.

I hadn’t looked at the faces of the people in the car.  Why?  How would I identify them later?  Or would there even be a later for me?  I didn’t want to think about it.  So  I took a deep breath and tried to calm myself down.  Well as much as I could considering my predicament.  Oddly there was something inside me that felt as if these people were not strangers.  Did I recognize their voices?  Although I don’t recall hearing anyone speak.  Their smell?  The car?  I wasn’t exactly sure but something felt familiar.

I could hear the gear clicking into drive and we sped away.  To where?  I wasn’t told.  For how long?  It was a mystery to me.  I stood on the sidewalk watching the car finally disappear into the sun down the long 4 lane street.  I should’ve tried to remember the license plate so I could report it to the police, but I didn’t.  What did I do?  Stood there waiting.  For what I didn’t know.  But just as I was certain of my destination when I reached it I was undoubtedly sure I was supposed to wait.

So that’s what I did.

Without wearing a watch I can’t tell you how long I stood there.  The sun had moved to the opposite part of the sky, and the purple hue had vanished.   My mom would be making dinner soon wondering where I’d gone.  Rubbing my eyes I really wished I was home.  Which was ironic considering I usually found any excuse to not be there.  In spite of the yelling and fighting that existed I desperately desired to be inside those four walls in that moment.

I was ready to do just about anything for this day to be over.  All the anxiety and stress had taken its toll and I was completely exhausted.  I didn’t know it was possible to feel this level of fatigue in my mind and bones.  Timeworn would be the best way to describe it, and I was done.

I looked up in time to see the green car pull up beside me once again.  Fear gripped my heart and this time I was able to take a step back.  The driver and I looked at each other directly in the eyes.  Immediately I froze not knowing what to do.  Just then the back passenger door opened and a girl was tossed out halfway on the street and the sidewalk.  The door closed and the car quickly sped away.

I was overwhelmed and in effort to protect myself closed my eyes.  When I finally opened them was looking eye level at the ground.  When I realized I was partially in the street panicked and pulled myself completely onto the sidewalk.  I didn’t quite have the strength to stand so I laid there trying to assess the damage.

My arms and legs wobbled when I finally attempted to stand up but I managed to do it.  There were many bruises and scratches but I’d survived.  I wanted to smile when I discovered the magnetic pull was gone and I could leave my spot.  I brushed myself off and felt stinging on my right elbow.  I lightly touched it to discover it was bleeding.  Must of happened when I was shoved out of the car I thought.  I pulled my sleeve over it and began to walk home.

Achy and bruised I walked home with a slight limp, but I didn’t care.  All I could think about is making it back home.  Anything that waited for me there was better than what I had just experienced.  Then I realized I don’t even know what that was because I can’t remember.  What happened in that car?  Where did I go?  Do I even want to know?  Looking at the condition of my clothes and my body I know it isn’t good.  Once my feet touch my driveway I’m instantly relieved because it’s over.  A few more steps and I will be inside my house and in the comfort and safety of my bed.  It’s only a short distance but seems like miles.  I want to cry.  I finally stand at the side door that opens to the kitchen and reach for the doorknob….

Then I suddenly wake up.

What I just described is a dream I had for almost 30 years.  Everything about it was so real that I honestly thought it could be!  As crazy as it sounds I didn’t know if it truly happened or not.  At the age of 35 or so I actually found a moment of courage and asked my mom about it.  She looked at me wondering if I was serious and assured me it never did.  Strangely it brought me a slight sense of peace to hear her say it. 

I’m not blind to the symbolism of my dream. The ability of my child mind to create such a tragically powerful and accurate picture of my life of abuse astounds me.   Also very grateful that it’s been close to a decade since I last dreamt it. 

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When Truth Arrives

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My childhood wasn’t all bad there were good times mixed in.  Like when my dad would take my brother, sister and I for a walk to the park.  After dinner we’d head towards the elementary school with our dog Pocho (Poh-cho) in tow.  I still remember the feelings of togetherness and excitement during these evening hikes.  Our little mutt running around the grassy area as we attempted to skip rocks on the pond.  My dad did it effortlessly while we struggled to make our rocks bounce and jump across the water.

As a kid you don’t know things are bad until good enters the picture.  Maybe even then you have trouble seeing it.  No matter how long it takes one day truth makes itself known and when that happens confusion sets in.  If this new discovery is personally embraced then what will this mean?  Blind acceptance of the status quo will now be a problem.  Unfortunately children rarely have the power or authority to make changes in their life.  Especially where adults are concerned so maybe it was better to remain in the dark?

My dad had the gift of encouragement.  I think it went hand in hand with the fact he was also a dreamer.  Always saying things like you can do anything or you’re a genius.  A ritual he continued on with his grandchildren.  He allowed me to constantly explore new things too.  Ballet, acting, stained glass art, softball, basketball and more.  I can’t really remember a time when he said no to an activity.  Something I tried to pass on to my boys but just not quite as well as he did.

Then for no apparent reason things would change.

The same lips that were used to uplift and edify you could cut you quick and deep.  Sometimes he didn’t even have to use words – it could just be a laugh.  Not lighthearted  but one that was full of venom and judgement.   Left me feeling about an inch tall every time.  Was it driven from stress at work?  His relationship with my mom?  I’ll never know what demons drove him to utter vinegary sharp daggers to the ones he loved most.

Back and forth between devotion and cruelty and love and disdain over time took its toll.  This ping pong game took my budding brain and heart into overload.  Which was true?  Was I truly special or the punch line to my dad’s biting joke?

The way he freely expressed his love through song and silliness was simply the best.  A childlike moment where he allowed the walls to come down and showed us a untainted side of him.  If I had known these times would be far too few I would’ve appreciated them more.

The first person in my life who loved and protected me would also look the other way when I was in danger.  I honestly can’t remember when my beatings began.  It was a normal part of my growing up – along with shouting and strife.  I knew I didn’t like it but I didn’t know it was wrong.  Life was just always that way.

As an adult I wondered how he felt about my mom’s treatment towards me?  Is that part of the reason they had issues?  As a child I viewed my parents as good cop/bad cop, but I was wrong.  They did things that were both good and bad, and my brother, sister and I repeatedly paid the consequences for their choices.

I struggle with truly accepting love from others.  There is a wall inside me that waits for the flip side of loyalty and kindness to rear its ugly head.  Fiery arrows that require this self-created dam to protect myself from the disappointing pain of betrayal.  If you look closely you’d see countless rusty dent marks left behind from decades ago.

Unexpectedly one day truth showed up and paid me a visit once more.  This time around shining a light on my lack of trust.  Years of abuse and neglect that built this wall kept me from fully living.  It was useful during my years of childhood trauma, but has now kept me from growing meaningful relationships.   Did it ever actually protect me? Who knows for sure but it definitely hindered my ability to heal and grow.

The truth is I’ve continued to pay the consequences of my parents actions (and others) even all these years later.  It’s an exhausting and barren place and I just don’t want to do it anymore.

The good news is I’m no longer a child and hold the power to change it.

But the idea of existing without my manufactured refuge grips me with fear and doubt.  I learned early on vulnerability came at a cost.  Is there still enough time to peel back the layers and learn to give, share and express my authentic self to others?  To myself?

Will I find the courage to walk towards healing?

My heart pounds loudly inside me because fear of the unknown has lost its power over me.  Resolved that all doubt and trepidation within me has an expiration date.  The truth is I want to know what’s it’s like to live with my whole heart.  Love with all of me.

Disappointment and hurt are a part of life.   I know this but can see the little girl is still trapped there.   I want to see her face when warm rays shines upon it and she can’t help but smile.     

And that fills my soul with hope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom Fighter

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Sometimes I feel I’ve got to
Run away, I’ve got to
Get away from the pain you drive into the heart of me
The love we share
Seems to go nowhere
And I’ve lost my light
For I toss and turn, I can’t sleep at night
– – Tainted Love by Soft Cell 

Abuse of any kind leaves behind scars that are difficult to fully heal.  Even when you have left it far behind part of it will always be with you.  Deeply embedded inside you.  Anger, fear, sadness, confusion if left hidden will easily turn into bitterness, anxiety and depression.

I know because it happened to me.

Childhood abuse is even more dangerous because (in my opinion) has a tangled ironclad grip on a person’s soul.  I mean think about it.  What does a child know about life?  About relationships?  About love?  Or danger?

There is a reason we “childproof” our home when infants begin to move around on their own.  Open electrical outlets, stairs and pointed edges of furniture (while at times necessary and useful) can instantly become a child’s worst nightmare.

So it’s tragic for children to learn about love and experience abuse at the same time.  It blurs lines and creates confusion.  You learn to believe lies.

It is my responsibility to hold secrets.

Unsolicited, hush hush attention from adult relatives must mean they love me.

The grimy, dirty, dark feelings that I am left with is my fault. 

Countless slaps, groping, insults and inappropriate kisses shaped my self worth.

Stuffing my pain deep down inside me will make it all go away.

I truly wish it all could completely fade away, but it just isn’t possible.  That doesn’t mean you will forever be picking up shattered pieces of what remains.

If you don’t allow it. 

It’s possible to one day look in the mirror and love who you see.

Developing healthy boundaries, the true meaning of forgiveness and how to identify safe relationships.

These are steps that allows (lasting) peace and opens the door to an enjoyable and fulfilled life.

Is it easy? No

I’ve wanted to give up many times along the way.  The voices in my head scream for me to stop and run back to the cocoon that feels safe and familiar.  As cozy as it seems does absolutely nothing to bring me to a cure.

I’m reminded how often I’ve told my children “usually the right thing to do is the hard thing to do.”  So I had a choice to make – actively and intentionally fight against years of childhood abuse and neglect OR lick my wounds and hide.

I wish I could tell you that I initially chose to fight back.

But I didn’t. 

After years of hiding from the world and most of all myself – 

I decided to pick up my shield and sword – and entered the battle.

The pain I endure now is by choice – a way to get me what I desire most.  Wholeness and freedom.

For most of my life it felt as if the years of sexual, physical and emotional abuse devoured me.  I understand all too well the fear and panic that accompanies drowning and choking.  When your life is suddenly threatened something instantaneous happens.  No time needed to figure out what to do next.  Survival mode automatically takes over and you try everything to be able to breathe again.

Merely existing after struggling for so long wasn’t enough for me.  I needed to stare abuse directly in the eyes and let it know it didn’t win.  Although my past detoured me way off course – I was finally able to find my way back.  I’m happy to say I’m headed towards the person I was always meant to be.

I also realized the years of affliction and oppression in the end only made me wiser, stronger and taught me to persevere.

And for that I am grateful. 

 

 

 

Back to the Beginning

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Sitting in the lobby of the Tempe Police Department I was a mess.  I couldn’t believe the day had arrived to legally expose the truth of my childhood.   My mind was racing and my heart was beating out of my chest.  I decided to go to the bathroom because I didn’t know how long the meeting would last.  The truth is I was fidgety and it was just too difficult to sit and wait.  As I washed my hands I leaned towards the mirror at myself and sighed.  My eyes were red and slightly swollen.  Last night had been overwhelmingly painful and my heart matched my eyes – and hadn’t completely recovered.

I thought about my conversation with my father.  He stopped by my home to officially say goodbye before moving to Texas.  I wasn’t completely sure why since he stopped speaking to me many months prior.  It’s one thing to not call or text someone but to walk in a room and have them completely ignore your existence is on another level.  My parents were living with my sister and her family and I had  lunch with her about three times a week.  So this meant very often I’d see them.

I would walk through the front door and enter her living room where sometimes my dad sat in the dining room.  Although I knew what would happen I’d say “hi dad.” 

No response. 

Or if he happened to be in the living room would practically run out of the room without saying a word.  This had been our routine for a while now.  He refused to acknowledge or even be in the same room with me.  I obviously had done something but didn’t know what it was because he completely shut me out.  At first I was determined to make him talk to me, then became irked over it, but eventually the rejection overtook and my heart felt wrecked with pain.

One day I was surprised to find him standing by my car waiting to for me.  He asked if he could come over that night to talk.  Everything inside me screamed NO, but I heard myself agreeing to it.  I guess if there was a chance for peace and reconciliation I was gonna try.  As I drove away I wondered how a father and daughter could ever get to this place?  As much as I told myself I wouldn’t allow it to get to me – it did. What made it worse it that my parents would be gone in a few days so if it didn’t get fixed soon it might never happen.  So I really didn’t have the option to say no – or at least that is what I told myself. 

The first 5 minutes after he arrived revealed the reason for his silence.  I was so stunned thinking “this can’t be it – there has to be something else.”  It just didn’t make sense.  The punishment didn’t seem to fit the crime.  I sat quietly processing what he said, and not sure how to respond.  I was just stunned.  Slowly I realized the true underlying reason for his rejection.  It’s where it always stemmed from – my abuse.  Anything I said or did to protect myself or to move forward he was against.  Okay I take that back.  Anything other than quietly praying – giving it to God – and never mentioning it again he was adamantly against. 

I panicked because any hopes of reconciliation i could quickly feel slipping away.  I was desperate for him to change his mind and heart towards me.  To do that I would have to betray myself and go backward in my healing.  As much as the little girl inside me begged myself to do it – I knew I had come too far to ever go back.  Even if this meant my father forever withholding his love and affection for me.  In my final attempt to bypass his mind and reach his heart I told him a story.  I hoped my transparency and vulnerability would unlock the door.  Several years prior I discovered he took his brother (my abuser) in and supported him.  When I found out I was shocked and livid and called my parents.  They both defended their actions and he hung up on me twice.  I immediately began to emotionally spiral downward as my wounds ripped open.  I almost forgotten how painfully deep these wounds were because they were scabbed over for so long.  I was trembling and shaking and crying uncontrollably and had an emotional breakdown. 

I couldn’t control it – it was if my mind and heart took over and my body was just along for the ride.  Once the idea of ending my life became forefront in my brain I got scared.  I knew it was wrong and I knew it would only bring more pain to my children.  Suicide just somehow appeared attractive to me – a way to finally be free.  It was if I had stepped firmly in super sticky gum that I couldn’t remove.  I finally mustered the courage to tell my husband who instantly took control of the situation and got me help.  He loved and supported me in ways that I will forever be grateful.  His devotion, God’s power, counseling, and a determination to live helped me through it.  That gooey-grip that once felt frustratingly impossible to remove one day (after a lot of hard work) completely dissolved away.  What had once seemed impossible became completely possible!!  So I shared my personal and painful story to show if I could find my way out of that then I truly believed we could find our way through this situation between us.   

We sat knee to knee on my couch as I cried through my entire speech.  I could feel how uncomfortable it was for him to hear my words and watch me cry.  When I finished his eyes looked down on the floor and he said “oh man”  in a sorrowful tone.  As a parent I thought of how difficult it would be to hear your child tell this story.  Part of me felt guilty to do this to him.  But nothing could’ve prepared me for what he said.

“I want to feel love when I look at your face but I don’t”….

“I don’t know why.” He said solemnly. 

It was if the carpet was pulled out from under me.  I never in a million years expected him to say these words to me.  It never entered my mind that my father couldn’t or wouldn’t love me.  It took me a few seconds to process the words that came out of his mouth and I crumbled.  I began to sob and heard guttural sounds come from deep inside me that I’d never heard before.  I was embarrassed to do this in front of him because it made me feel weak.  Robbie heard me from the next room and immediately came over to comfort me.

I composed myself and looked my father in the eye.  I can’t tell you where my strength came from and said “dad – until you or I die I will always hold out hope that things will change between us.  I forgive you for everything and want you to know that I love you.”  He asked if he could give me a hug and I agreed.  I walked him to the door and watched him walk away.

Looking at myself in the mirror now I wish I would’ve stuck with my first instinct and declined to meet with my dad.  Tears immediately filled my eyes and I thought “Okay stop it – only focus on today”.  I wiped my eyes, took a few deep breaths, wiped my eyes once more and made my way back to the lobby.

I tried to will myself to feel stronger in attempt to mentally prepare for this meeting.  Imagining the questions that would be asked, but later discovered I really had no idea.  Ten minutes passed and the double doors opened and a man walked towards me.  He formally introduced himself as Detective Bacon and shook my hand.   Okay the irony is not lost on me.  If I had to guess he was in his mid-to-late thirties, average build and brown hair.  We had communicated by phone and email a few times which had gone well but still wasn’t sure what to expect.  I was a big ball of nerves and his kind face and non-threatening demeanor helped me to relax a tiny bit. I also learned that a victim’s advocate would be joining our meeting as well.

Not long after a second person stood in the lobby introducing herself as Maria Gonzalez – the victim’s advocate.  We then made our way towards the room where it would all begin.  As soon as I stood up I could feel the tears pushing against the iron wall inside me that held them back.  Walking down the hallway my mind went back to my conversation with my dad.  It hadn’t mattered how much I opened up to him he wasn’t ready to have a relationship with me.  I think it was a combination of the lingering pain from last night and nerves from my current situation.  But I could feel my internal wall starting to shake.  I told myself “damn it do not cry , do you hear me? do.not.cry.”  We stopped at a seating area off of the hallway.   There were four chairs facing each other on a circular rug with a table in the middle.  This area had floor to ceiling glass windows where the sun was streaming in through the trees.  If I wasn’t in the back office of the Special Victims Unit I might have enjoyed it.

Detective Bacon immediately explained the role of the victim’s advocate and why he had invited her.  She spoke for minute and then said we could talk more once everything was over.  The detective then explained what would happen.  As he did the wall inside me collapsed and tears flowed from my eyes.  I just couldn’t control it.  They both just patiently waited until I regained my composure.  When I did I said “I’m sorry this is just so surreal and I’m overwhelmed right now”.  They politely nodded and the victim’s advocate handed me a tissue.  My heart felt like it would jump out of my chest and I was pissed at myself for crying the first few minutes of this meeting.

I was then led to what I would describe as an interrogation room.  It was small with a table and three chairs.  Two were placed at the table and one was by the door.  There was a trash can, a box of Kleenex and a large window along one wall.  It was a two-way mirror where the victim’s advocate sat on the other side.  I couldn’t see into the next room but she could watch the questioning.  There was also a camera filming our meeting.

A file was placed on the desk in front of me and the questions immediately began.  I had previously recorded a phone statement so I had an idea of what to expect. My memory bank of over four decades now had to be dusted off and reopened.  Some information was easy to access while others took some effort.

“What room did this interaction you just described with your uncle take place?”

“My brothers room.”

“Can you describe the room to me?”

“Ok”.

“As you walked down the hallway from the living room it was the first room to the right.  It was small and there was a window on the south wall, and a closet to the left.  The bed at this time was on the right.”

“Tell me the color of the walls”.

Long pause

“For some reason I see a mustard yellow color but it could have been the color of the bedspread.  I’m not exactly sure”.

“Tell me what he was wearing”.

Longer pause

I was taken back to that moment in that room on the bed.  My uncle was on top of me and touching me.  I ferociously strained my mind to locate the information that could recall what he wore that day.  All I could feel was his mushy hot skin on me.  My breathing increased as I literally was transported back to that moment.  I choose to endure it in attempt to find the answer.  It was deeply painful and with tears streaming down my face said “It’s was a long time ago and I just can’t remember”.

Defeat immediately washed over me.

About this time in the interview I realized this was going to be harder than I initially thought.  My natural solution would be to end the meeting – go home and crawl into bed – get under the covers and begin to emotionally stuff everything back into my ancient burial ground inside me.  This coping mechanism I’ve used my entire life I realized only worked up to a point.  It was useful short term but ineffective in helping me to more forward.   As badly as I wanted to retreat, hide and disconnect from life I purposely sat firmly in my seat.

“Bita we can stop anytime and reschedule for another day if all this becomes too much”.

So now I was given an out a way to end this mental and emotional torture.  I wanted run out of that room and never return, but my soul begged for justice more.

“Okay thank you but I can’t do this a second time -let’s just continue”.

Question after question it quickly became evident to me how far down I buried my past.  It took great effort for me to shovel the memories back up to the surface.  Some memories faded over time while others were still intact.  Some memories triggered others I completely forgotten existed.  It was like opening a time capsule to my life and left me mentally and physically drained.  As I spoke my answers to the detective I could smell and feel and almost taste the past.  Something I always believed would kill me but I was wrong – it didn’t.  I also realized in burying my past I wiped away the good memories too.  I loved my neighborhood street and many people in it.  The homes where we played – the trees and fences we climbed -dinners with friends – walking to school together – absolute special times.  When my world began crashing around me I frantically rushed to rid myself of my painful childhood memories anyway I knew how.  I was a child and didn’t know how to separate the good from the bad – so it all had to go down deep if I were to survive.

What would happen now it was all on the surface? I slowly began to remember and I mean truly remember.  At first I was cautious because I was afraid of what could show up in my mind.  Small impressions formed and a bunch of little details popped up like fireflies at dusk.   Standing alone it might not mean much but all together created a beautiful but sorrowful painted masterpiece.  My past was calling out to me and bringing me full circle.  I was four years old when my abuse started.  I didn’t understand what was happening to me and when I finally realized it wasn’t good I became confused.  I was tricked into keeping secrets until I was a teenager.  I made myself believe that stuffing the memories and emotions would save me.  Believed pretending to be okay would be the best it could ever be.  I mean how many times throughout the years did people say “just let it go” or “give it to God” or “choose to be happy?”  I can promise you I have tried to do all these things all of my adult life, and it didn’t work.  The funny thing is I’ve repeated the same survival skills knowing they were as worthless as a three dollar bill.

I was a little girl when I believed these things would work.  It made sense at the time and I’m proud of her for doing what it took to survive.  It was now time to change my method for healing.  Things were happening in my life that made me see wasn’t a coincidence.  Now I’m rounding the corner closer to fifty and the truth is like a flashing neon sign in front of me.  My long winding journey for freedom has led me to this chair in the police station today.  I was terrified.   Did I have the courage to stand and face my past full of pain and torment?  I felt weak and as if I would faint at any moment.  Not just face it but walk through it.  Force myself to speak of things that only ran rampant in my mind and heart.  Things I’d never described to another soul – let alone a stranger.  Every fiber of my being screamed “NOOOOOOOOO”, but I knew in the deepest core of my being this was the only way to move to the next level of healing.

I had been stuck for a while and didn’t know why.  You see no one in my entire life had protected or stood up for that little girl.  She had no say over who touched her or used her.  She wasn’t allowed to talk about it to anyone.  Even when she finally did discovered no one wanted to hear it.  She was made to feel as if it was her fault and in turn stuffed it all deep down inside.   To the point it almost killed her. Nervously I walked into the police station deciding that this little girl deserved a voice no matter the outcome.  Sitting in that small room and answering question after question I realized the key to my next step in healing would take me back to where it all began…

No More Monsters

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I’ve always believed God was real.  My earliest childhood memory involved me speaking directly to him.  It was more like pleading and begging to be saved from the creatures in my room.  No one seemed to know they were there but me and I never told a soul.  These terrifying shadows only made themselves known in the dark.  I couldn’t see them at first but then slowly the outline of their odd shapes began to appear.  I tried to not look at them because then they wouldn’t exist right? Inevitably my curiosity would get best of me and I’d have to look.  Fear would immediately grip my 4 year old heart when I saw the grotesque creatures spread out all over my walls and ceiling.  Paralyzed with fear I couldn’t look away or even close my eyes.  All I could ever do is tightly grip the sheets around me and pray they wouldn’t move, but unfortunately they always did…

Sleeping soundly in my bed I awoke suddenly to sounds coming from the kitchen.  I opened my eyes to see a sliver of light shining through the bottom of my bedroom door.  The banging of cabinets opening and closing over and over again.  Shortly thereafter the savory smell of food sizzling in frying pans made its way to my nose through the door.  It was my mom’s 3am ritual of preparing food for my dad.  He was a foreman in the swimming pool business.  Living in Arizona meant that if you didn’t want to die of heat exhaustion you had to (as my parents would say) get up in the madrugada (early morning).  His job was very labor intensive so it was crucial for his crew to “beat the heat” although I’m sure they were still very hot.  To get through the work day he needed plenty of water, food and a good work hat to protect him from the sun’s rays.

I now wonder if this 3am routine hadn’t taken place would I have altogether avoided the unwanted creepy visitors?  Maybe I would’ve slept through it all and been saved by the bright morning sun.  Maybe my innocent and happy childhood dreams would have been left intact.  That’s what could have filled my mind and memories for decades to come.  Instead of the over sized sci-fi spider-like creatures that tormented me in my bedroom almost every night.  If so, I could have been free of the terror I felt every morning as a young child.

Where did they come from?  Why did I imagine such things as a child?  Had I seen something like it in a movie?  Or hear others talk about it?  How does this happen to a four year old?  I don’t know.

What I can tell you is that I know now these creatures were very much real, and not just a figment of a child’s imagination.

All children are born with desire to be loved and nurtured.  They need to be helped with everything.  To be fed, to be changed, to be bathed, and even to be given a nap.  They are at our mercy for everything.  What you teach them is right is what they will believe.  They won’t know any different for many years to come.

At a very young age I was taught about the bonds of family.  Such strong feelings of loyalty and respect when discussing this topic.  A deep sense of security in knowing (whether by blood or marriage) that we were all a part of la familia.  Even as a child I can remember the sense of belonging just felt right and good.

Family gatherings for weddings, funerals, or the holidays were times to be cherished.  Some of my best memories were gathering at a home for food and fun.  Barbecues and bonfires while music played in the backyard. Spending time talking and playing with my cousins for hours.  We’d sometimes fight but mainly laugh for hours on end.  Usually we would beg our parents for a sleep over so that the fun could continue through the night into the next day.  Such special memories I wouldn’t trade for the biggest stockpile of gold that’s buried deep in Manhattan.  Or so I’d like to think….

I can’t tell you when or how it first happened but our loving family alliance was compromised and endangered.  Like a fatal disease I’m guessing it was slow growing and unnoticeable at first.  It began to seep into every area of our family disguised as a loyal and loving family member.  Maybe they had true affection and intentions at one point, but the moment arrived when they made the choice to wreak havoc and destruction.

Sometimes cancer starts with changes in one cell or small group of cells in the body.  As it continues to grow can eventually form a tumor where the cancer then takes over and (if left untreated for too long) eventually can lead to an altered life or even death.

In my case my parents trusted several family members and brought them into our home.  They sexually and emotionally abused me for years.  I was such a young child when it started that I didn’t realize it was wrong at first.  In fact, I remember being flattered they paid attention to me and even tried to please them.  When I began to understand something wasn’t right I became confused.  Why?  Because they were still  accepted family members that my parents embraced fully and openly.

I negligently learned these wrong interactions were right.   No one came out and said the words but actions spoke louder.  Over and over again.  So I was a young girl placed in compromising situations with an uncle, an aunt, a step-grandfather and cousin who were never held accountable.

You may be thinking “well maybe if you had told your parents things would’ve been different?” Believe me I thought the same thing for a long time – until I finally told them.

And nothing happened.

Their lack of help and support spoke volumes to my heart and soul.  To watch them disregard my pain and keep their arms open wide to these people ruined me.  It was hard to recover from it but I happy to say it was possible.  I don’t share such tragic and personal stuff to bash my mom and dad.  I do love them.  I’m just not responsible to hold their secrets – that’s how all this mess started.

My mission is to share with anyone who listens is that families are a wonderful gift and blessing.  It can also be your worst nightmare.  I look back now at those creatures I saw in my bedroom in the dark.  Was it a warning or foreshadowing of things to come?  I was tormented by monsters in my home and in my bed for over eight years.  They hid their actions in the dark when no one was looking.  I kept this secret for a long long time because I was afraid to speak up.

I am not that same confused little girl.

I now understand right and wrong

loyalty

healthy family bonds

love

safety

According to Rainn.org:  Out of the yearly 63,000 sexual abuse cases substantiated, or found strong evidence, by Child Protective Services (CPS), the perpetrator was most often the parent:

  • 80% of perpetrators were a parent
  • 6% were other relatives
  • 4% were unmarried partners of a parent

What does this tell us?  Very rarely are children attacked by passing strangers.  It is people that we know and love who have been given access to our children.  Just because we carry the same last name or blood does not guarantee our children are safe.  It does not mean these adults have well meaning intentions.

I discovered years later that I was not the only child in my family who was abused.  It is well known in our family.  In fact my last living abuser still is welcomed in homes of some relatives today. There were other people in the family who were outraged by these acts against our children.

Sadly not enough.

We need to stand up and speak out and protect our children.  It is possible to make it difficult for these dangerous individuals to harm anyone else.  We know them!  We can hold them accountable and warn others!  There is still time to cut out the cancer and change our family inheritance.

Please don’t hide your head in the sand believing it can’t happen in your family.  Open your eyes and ears – trust your gut instinct enough to investigate.  When I became a mother I never wanted my sons to wake up to nightmares in the dark.  I wanted them to have a chance at full life free from torment.  The reality was I knew I couldn’t protect them from every single thing life would try to throw at them.  I did, however, do my damnedest to keep their childhood dreams innocent, happy and safe as long as possible.

Imagine if cancer had spread throughout most of your body?  Terrible thought isn’t it?  What if the doctor said with treatment there was a 90% chance of survival?  How would you respond?  Fight or choose to submit to the disease?  With those great odds why would you ever allow it to kill you?

We can win the fight against child abuse – we are all related to a majority of people perpetuating it. It is possible to protect our children – change their future – and heal our family legacies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alternate Ending

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Rose is dressed in her white long nightgown and slowly walks towards the stern of the boat. The sky is black and she is deep in thought.  When she finally reaches it immediately grabs hold of the rail and steps up on the first rung with her bare foot.  The wind is slightly moving and her beautifully messy white hair whips around her face.  She looks out at the ocean below and she is reminded she has been here before.  A time long ago when she debated jumping from a much larger boat and while remembering this she smiles.

The camera pulls back to see Brock (Titanic’s treasure hunter) and Lizzy (Rose’s granddaughter) having a conversation nearby.  Suddenly Lizzy looks up and sees her grandmother standing at the end of boat and fears for her safety.  Brock and Lizzy call after Rose and run to her.  A conversation ensues and then Rose finally reveals she’s had the “Heart of the Ocean” the entire time.  She holds it up ready to toss it in the ocean where she believes it belongs.  Brock panics and begs her to allow him to hold it in his hand even if it’s just for a moment.  She lowers it into his grasp where he stares in awe of the magnificent and brilliant diamond.  In the end Rose tosses it into the ocean while Brock watches with a jittery laugh while his search crew thinks they’ve all lost it!

Wait what?!!

I’ve watched the 1997 movie Titanic a thousand times and this is not how the movie ends.  Surprisingly there IS an alternate ending to mega box office hit film.  I will attach a You Tube link (scroll to the bottom) of the Soul Sparks tab of this blog where you can watch it for yourself. While I enjoyed viewing it I must say that I can understand why they opted for the other ending.  It was the right choice.

There have been many times in my life I’ve wished for alternate endings.  A chance for things to be different – to be made right.  Currently at the top of my list is the death of my father.  The phone call I received after dinner on April 7, 2017 will forever be engraved in mind and soul.  The news of his sudden death permanently solidified our separation on earth. Even a year later it’s hard to accept the fact that it’s over.  I wish so much that a lot of things could’ve been different between us, but that wasn’t the ending that was written.

Thinking back to the beginning our our relationship I realize it was built on a shaky foundation.  Love existed but danger did too.  You see we had inherited so many secrets and lies.  The desecration of our family slowly seeped into every area and hindered my relationship with my dad.  In case you’re wondering he never hurt me sexually or physically in any way or at any time.  He did, however, look the other way.  He refused to stand up for me and many times blamed me, and this caused even more pain.

“No no I don’t want to hear it – that was a long time ago so just get over it”. 

His words stung and immediately a tidal wave of emotions crashed all over me.

“How can you say that?”  I said in a tone that made me feel vulnerable and weak and I hated myself for it.

With a slight snicker he replied “Your problem is that you won’t give it God.”

Anger, sadness, disgust and disbelief became so powerful inside that I felt like it would swallow me whole.  His disregard to my safety and well-being was a huge chasm in our relationship.  Although this pattern repeated itself many times throughout the years he was still my father and I loved him.

He firmly believed that family was everything and you never ever went against them. Ironically it was also what divided our trust and confidence and hindered the bond between us.  He also had a loving and funny side too.  I loved our walks to the park and barbecues in the backyard.  Or how he would sing “La Mananitas” to me each year on my birthday.  My dad was the first person who told me that I could be anything in life – something I have tried to instill in my own children.

Here’s the thing- a lot of child abuse is perpetrated by family members.  In my case it was very much true.  A report is made every 10 seconds, but I think about how many more cases go unreported.  Why?  Maybe other families share my father’s view on family and choose to deny and remain silent.  It is possible to change family history and eradicate child abuse.  No more secrets – misplaced loyalty – or willingness to look the other way.

So many families hold terrible secrets that continue to be passed down from generation to generation.  It’s incredulous to think how long these sick acts go unquestioned or stopped because it’s family.  Our children are worth stepping out of our comfort zone. They are worth our love and protection.  It is possible to establish a strong sense of family without continuing to sacrifice our children.  It’s time for change, healing and most of all an alternate ending.