I published a little article yesterday about some tough times I’ve been through in my life.
While the general response was supportive, there were a few people who lashed out in judgment.
That saddened me.
I understand by putting the information out there, I am releasing it to the world and everyone has a right to assess it as they see fit. As much as I do accept that, I guess, against all probability, I am still naive.
When I see other people who share their stories of addiction, abuse or any of the other things that human beings in their frailty fall prey to (and there are many, and each of us in some way has fallen prey to some thing), I admire them.
Particularly when they, as I, have tried to atone and succeeded in atoning for, whatever stupid mistakes they made. It surprises me when people have reactions of contempt or hatred. Though, as was (rightly) pointed out to me yesterday, people who have such reactions are seeing in me some reflection of themselves which must be terrifying.
Looking at it in that light, it is easy to understand.
But, I will not wear the scarlet letter S for “stripper” or “slut.”
Why should I? I am not those things. But I will wear it, proudly, for “survivor” for “strong”,”self aware”, or even just “self.”What else is there?
I am merely a woman who has struggled and fought and and will continue to struggle and fight until I draw my last breath. I am trying to become fully integrated, knitting together all the elements of me to form a cohesive and powerful being.
Telling my story, owning my story, is an important piece of that endeavor.
I will not be shamed.
It would be much easier to march around my conservative upper middle class suburb pretending to be what I appear to be; a mom who’s got the game down. I have herb pots and nice antiques, clean bathrooms and hundreds of pictures of my children on my walls. I can whip up a pot of soup for a grieving neighbor, I know the number of every school in our district by heart and I run with a crew of similarly dedicated and efficient mothers, all of whom can also, incidentally, pull themselves together in a heartbeat and look so beautiful they’ll take your breath away.
But that’s not the point. This isn’t Mad Men for Christ’s sake. We’re should be moving beyond all these preconceived notions of what people are supposed to be so we can get to the real stuff. I am a lot more interested to know about my friend’s challenges with, say, feeling overwhelmed and exhausted after having her fourth child than I am to see her hair looking perfect.
Yes, there is a big difference between the battles of motherhood and the battles I wrote about yesterday.
One, there is the question of ethics. My stuff involved unethical behavior and the mother stuff does not—at least in the case of the moms I know. Two, there is the question of choice: to choose to be in an abusive relationship (bad) and to then do a bunch of other things stupidly because of that choice, is a league away from choosing to be a mom (good) and then dealing with the natural fall out that comes with it.
Yet, I maintain that if we are able to accept ourselves as we are, and not be afraid of what we have been, whatever it was or is, we will find greater peace and have greater things to offer.
I had a dream last night, an iteration of one I have frequently, that I was running through New York, homeless with no place to go. I ran frantically into hotels, trying to find an elevator that would bring me to a floor with an unlocked room, I ran into elegant brownstones and snuck right back out again as soon as I heard the occupant walking around in another part of the house, I ran into restaurants, where everyone was dressed to the nines, laughing and drinking martinis just so I could huddle in the corner and get in from outside.
The difference between this version of the dream and the usual one is that last night, I was naked. It’s not hard to find the symbolism here. I have made myself profoundly vulnerable by choosing a path of candor.
I don’t want accolades for writing my truth or moving beyond my past. I just want to be at peace. And I’ll keep shouting my story from the rooftop, scarlet S and all, until the nightmares go away.
To those who judge me unkindly, I forgive you. Maybe someday you’ll be shouting your story of unkindness from the rooftops yourself. If you do, I’ll be there to listen. And based on the love that poured forth to me yesterday, a lot of other people will be there to listen to.
Thank you to all those who offered your compassion, and thank you to those who did not. You have all taught me something, and today, I am stronger than I was yesterday.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise