Secrets Define Us

Yesterday the dam broke. Something roared to the surface as well, something I have hinted at in past posts.
In my industry we have a saying, “close hold”. It means things that are not revealed, instead they are held closely to the chest. I have always treated my history as ‘close hold’; it is mine and mine alone. I will often hint at it, throw pebbles into passive lake waters to watch the ripple affect but my entire adult life I have treated most of my history as a dark secret. This ‘close hold’ in part has been a tribute to those who never deserved the gift of my silence. The other part has been the lesson learned so many years ago I have simply been unable to let it go the lesson of shame and fear.

I was told by one who should have loved me should have protected me, should have taught me to speak truth, chose instead to do no such thing. Instead they flung me into a vortex; an emotional black hole demanding my silence because the alternative was my own destruction and their shame, worse even than this would be the loss of esteem from the person I loved most in the world, I was convinced if I spoke up I would be spurned, found forever wanting. They convinced me, I was not believable, that even if I were to scream my pain and hurt, tell what was done to me no one would believe me. I was less than,I was …….

Slut

Liar

Whore

These were words thrown in anger at an eleven-year-old child. Words of power. Words of anger. Words burned into a soul still unformed and open. Words that fell like the Blacksmiths Pein on the soft Anvil that was my young and untrained heart.  Words that would set my feet on a path for years to come. Convinced of my lack I would unwind what little of my ego remained and offer my heart and my body to anyone who would validate my conviction of valueless. Unable to fight back, I would accept the brutality even at times welcome it as it corroborated what I knew about myself, what I had been told; that I was less than and undeserving of love or care.

All this, all the brutality. All the loss because my mother wanted to preserve her standing. She failed an eleven year old child who had been gang raped. She failed to report. She failed even to tell that child’s father. She demanded that child’s silence and even blamed that child for the brutality of that rape.

That child was me. I knew who raped me and I would have to attend school with my rapists for two years. Because no action was taken against them I continued to be emotionally and physically brutalized by my classmates. Slut was something whispered in the halls as I walked by, not for something I did but for something my mother failed to do.

My heart was damaged, my core was broken and I retreated to an internal life, one I don’t believe I have ever quite stopped living in. My pragmatism is my strength and my defense. My views on forgiveness were formed in 1968, though I couldn’t have defined them as clearly as I can today they haven’t changed very much.

Life journeys are odd things. A family member told me 15 years ago that no one else in the family could have survived the shooting as I did; no one else was strong enough. I thought at the time, damn I don’t think I would wish that strength on anyone. I wish I wasn’t that strong, I wish I didn’t have, had never had those life experiences that made me strong enough to survive that.

The Vortex of my History, National Geographic

Not all my parents have passed yet. Some have though, my biological and adopted fathers are both gone. The mother of my heart, my stepmother is gone. My biological mother and my adoptive mother are both still in this world.

My brother has said to me my mother did what she thought was best at the time, I will never accept this answer no person with a heart does what she did to a child thinking it was best for that child. We were both adopted but our experiences were very different. I have always wondered why, I don’t think we will ever know.

Comments

  1. Powerful and frightening. No child should ever be made to feel like something like that is her fault. It was like you were raped twice. I am so sorry. And no, there is no possible excuse for those boys OR your mother’s actions. They broke that poor little girl. I hope you have been able to grow and thrive since then. I know it must have been incredibly hard. I am sad for you and that long ago hurt and abused child.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting. The decades slid by and some things in life have come full circle. I was smashed on hard places but blessed with something inside that ultimately let me flow over those to heal, in my own way to absorb this and make it different. Perhaps it should have broken me, I think it did for a time; but not forever.

      My fury is mostly muted now, though at times it rises up when injustice shows it face. But me, I found my way. That is what Broken Chains is about, finding my way and not being defined by the acts of others.

  2. I’m glad you felt you could finally write about it. That alone shows the great strength that we know you already have. The saying I struggle with in a situation such as yours: God never gives you more than you can handle. I suppose coming out of the other side is proof, but I don’t think anyone, especially a child, should have to handle such things. The shame is on those who treated this like your dirty little secret. Wherever the blame and shame goes, it certainly was never with you.

    • I am beginning to accept that it is not mine to hold, not my secret and not my shame. The holding though, that was my gift to a great number of people who truly didn’t deserve it. Now, as I open these doors and pull the lids off these long buried treasure chests, well it isn’t without some pain, some fury and some sense of relief.

  3. Dear Val,
    Reading this post, and reading the comments and your replies, well, I just don’t know what to say.

    I would love to be able to share your pain, to alleviate some of it, to make you laugh instead of cry. But, really, it is not the same release. So I can do not much more than offer you my shoulder, and my eyes to read your sadness.

    I am glad you let this out. I will be gladder still when I see more, and see that you are healing as a result of opening the faucets.

    • It is odd Elyse, for the most part I am okay with my world and my life. I have been blessed in many ways; with wonderful friendships most specifically. I have found more peace than one would expect perhaps and have moved forward, without allowing my history to cripple me completely.

      Now, well now it seems it is time to rip those scabs off and finish the job. Hurts like hell, but something is compelling me. I think I know what it is. I suspect it signifies some endings. But maybe more importunately it signifies new beginnings.

      So I will continue to let the dam burst, not every day but as I am comfortable with. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

      Val

      • Kathy Finnerty says:

        Women….we are very strong individuals. We live thru so much hurt and pain and continue on. Sometimes I don’t want to be strong but then someone like you comes along and reminds me of how lucky and blessed I am and how I think it is a gift to be stong. My heart truly hurts for you but I am honored to know someone like yourself. It inspires me to be the best I can be and be thankful for all the wonderful quialities I have, being stong the most important. Youheal one day at a time and it doesn’t matter how long it takes and yes every day is a new beginning. I wish you peace anbd contentment always.

        • Kathy, thank you. I gave you the link because of the wonderful post on FB this morning. Everyday I wake up and count my blessings and then find that one little thread I can pull that makes me mad or makes my heart hurt. I think it is the season of the witch, maybe in part the political ugliness that is out and about that is causing my anger to burn so brightly. Who knows.

          Val

  4. My heart goes out to you, and I admire your ability to write about what must have been an unbearable time in your life. I agree with what you said about not accepting the explanation “She did what she thought was best.” There is no excuse or rationalizing for certain things, and what you went through is no exception. May you continue to heal. I know it can’t be easy.

    • Thank you Madame, for reading and commenting. You are right there is no excuse for the rationalization provided. I think though, my brother needs to do this it is the only way he can live with the outcomes.

      Val

  5. This is a dam which needed to break, dear sister. Let the poison out so your natural happiness, your inner effervescence can backfill the hurtful holds and allow you to shine in the way the anger and resentment has held at bay these many years. You deserved answers. You still do. Knowing they will never come is no more comforting knowing those who held them now cannot give them.

    Knowing you can be above this is comforting. In so many ways, you are already above this. Finally bringing it into the open and dropping the magnanimous gesture you have carried for so long is likely the lynch pin to the happiness you so richly deserve.

    You always know where I am, my heart.
    Red.

    • Thank you and thank you again. I don’t know, I don’t know if I am strong enough for this flood. It seems to send me crawling for shelter right now.

  6. This is a powerful post…full of questions that deserve answers that probably don’t exist. I know that you share the stength you earned from living this…which may or may not count for much…but, perhaps your strength is your gift that would be taken away if you understood more than you do. Thank you.

    • Perhaps you are right, yet still I think damn wish I didn’t have to have all those experiences. That path, was one I wish I hadn’t trod. Now with the woman who would call herself my mother in her 90’s and incapable of answering for herself any longer, I will never have an answer to the why. I know some of them, I have pieced together her damaged history and will tell it because it is mine to tell.

      Val

  7. I believe that there are no answers to some of these questions. I am usually at peace with that. It is enough to know that they should not have done these things to us. The words they used, the protection they did not offer, things done and not done . . . why long ago stopped mattering. There is evil in this world, but there is also good, and we, we can be good. We are good.

    • The tar on my heart and soul is what needs to be purged. I know there are no answers any more to be had. I was so very angry for so very long. The destruction, sometimes it felt so intentional on all our parts. Many years ago I learned of the death of one of those boys, I found myself sitting and crying because I never had a chance to confront him and ask why and are you sorry. I seem to always have those question. I know there is evil but I always want the evil to be challenged and redeemed, my nature I guess.

      My mother is beyond answering now, but I pieced much of her history together over the years. I know some of the whys. It doesn’t change my anger at her choices at her actions.

      I am trying to gain more peace. I read many many of your blog pieces, it was part of what broke the dam.

      Val

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  3. […] decades, people are treating one another with less respect. For some people, it is about lies and failing to protect. Even when we can understand the explanation, it does not mitigate the […]

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