I’d like to draw a map that would show me and all the places I’ve been and all the times I’ve wandered and gotten lost and where I ended up. And on the map would be my friends, these amazing people who have walked sections of my map with me or stayed put while I wandered or ended up in the same place after their own years of wandering. On the map would be my neighbor, thirteen years my senior, who moved in to his house when I graduated from high school. He’s been living there, building his life while I’ve been wandering around getting lost and fat and drunk and finding love and ending up across the street. The same goes for my 96 year old friend who has been living in the same house since 1948. There’s a sadness to think of her living there, working as a psychologist at the VA dealing with PTSD while I was busy being traumatized.
Last night I celebrated my friend’s 70th birthday. She is my friend. She picks me up for plant sales and helps me with my sewing machine. She’s one of the most generous people I’ve ever met. She only wants to share her life. She shares her knowledge about exercise and diet - but only in a way that feels like a gift and not a burden. She shares her joy over her grandchild and also her questions. She asks me questions about strollers and what’s normal for a one year old. It’s my area of experience, so I share. And all these women around the table, educators and therapists and social workers and musicians, had come together because of Susan’s generosity - because she said, “Would you like to lift with me?”
I’ve been tangled in a mess of old emotions this week. A former dorm sister went public about the abuse she suffered as a child in the mission we both grew up in and the failure of the organization to do anything about it. Eight years she’s been fighting to get the abuser outed and ousted. And their total lack of follow-through, their diminishing of his offenses, it makes me feel like a kid again - with no voice, with no recourse, with no hope of escape. My map would show me wandering around my house, tangled in my path, tripping over the way I just went, lost in the journey.
I meditated this morning because there’s little else I can do to keep myself from getting caught in this again. It reminds me that I’m HERE and I’m not lost and I’m not nine years old. It reminds me that all of my abuse is not what makes my life. My life is made up of a wonderful family and the greatest neighbors and the most wonderful group of women. I have roots here now, I am not wandering.
I want to do something with my story - with all of our stories. But then I watch a preview of a documentary about abuse in another Christian institution, and I think, “I don’t want to spend any more time on this. I want to be done.” And what comes of telling it? What is the outcome I desire? What is it that I am seeking? Do I want someone to validate my feelings? Do I want someone to apologize?
Ultimately, I want my power back. I want to be that little nine year old girl and say, “Fuck no! I will not scrub my fucking feet for you! Fuck no! I will not wash my underwear for you! Fuck no! I will not let you rub my skin raw with your whiskers!” And I want to not be afraid anymore. I want to not feel like I have to fight.
I want to push my pin into my map and keep it there and stop getting tangled in the old journeys.