Memories, Like the Corners Of My Mind

Me And My Cousins

Me And My Cousins

(WARNING:  This post contains information of a highly personal and upsetting matter.  If you are only here for the crafts, decor, and recipes, I suggest you skip this one.)

I found a picture of me with my abuser yesterday.

I’ve been cleaning out all of the corners of my home for weeks and months now, in anticipation of an upcoming yard sale that will finally be happening this weekend, and this means I’m delving into boxes containing everything from my past.  Lots of elementary school projects; birthday cards from childhood; old paystubs and tax forms; all my collections of random papers.

It’s quite a charming photograph, really:  black and white, obviously 1970s, it shows a sunny California car-lined street, with three kids playing on the sidewalk.  I am approaching two years old, judging from the looks of it, making the cousins that are patiently trying to place me on the skateboard about twelve and thirteen.  In this photo, it is a good six years before he will change me forever.

I can look at the picture and actually feel nostalgia, without a hint of being grossed out or horrified.  It’s weird, really.  I’ve decided that this is because I’m just a baby, and they are barely beyond that themselves.  Everyone is still basically innocent.  Also a good emotional anchor in this picture is that the cousin supporting me, the one steadying the skateboard with his foot and trying so hard to balance me on– is still to this day a remarkably kind and true human.  He’s an excellent and loving father to three girls, and knowing all of that and who he is gives me a strength that is bizarre to name, but definitely present.  It’s the other boy, his brother, that has haunted my thoughts lately.

I guess you could say I’ve also been dredging through the boxes in my mind.  It’s as if I’ve headed to the attic and thrown open all of the blinds.  I’m cleaning out every bit of dust and old junk accumulation that I can get my mental hands on, and a big, big part of that attic is occupied by that damn kid.  And he was pretty much a kid himself, not even twenty when he molested me.

That one afternoon trapped in the barn with him has formed so, so much of who I became– a control freak, largely untrusting of men, a lifelong fat girl because he told me I was pretty.   And like a typical victim, I blamed myself for that.  I felt like that was part of my problem, as if I could stop being pretty, the horrible people of the world would have nothing to work with and maybe would stop hurting innocent people.  Stupid rationale, I know, but I’ve been able to pinpoint that my big ass has essentially been a defense mechanism, and I don’t need it anymore.  (The ass or the mechanism.)  And let’s just say I’m actually *glad* that I have the excuse of being allergic to hay, because that warm, wafting straw smell makes me want to vomit every time I catch it in the air.  (A very unfortunate thing when you live in Tennessee.)  That one day changed all of me.  But it doesn’t have to dominate me or who I am now….

I’ve forgiven myself, and I’m moving past it.  “Forgiven YOURSELF?” you may be thinking.  Well yeah.  I was just a kid, so I didn’t know the words for what he had done to me.  I didn’t know how to express what happened, or even how I knew it was wrong, I just compartmentalized the event, and managed to avoid any situation where I would be remotely alone with him ever again.  But I have had guilt over the years, because I knew for a fact– even then– that I was not the only young cousin he was violating, and I felt responsible for not stopping him and calling him out on his behavior.  I felt like I allowed him to keep doing these despicable things to innocent children.  That is a horrible burden to bear….

Looking at it now, I see that I tried to express it, I tried to talk about it.  Have you ever read Orwell’s fantastic futuristic novel, 1984?  In the prologue to that book, Orwell explains that in the oppressive governmental regime that is the setting for the story, the leaders have removed the words for rebellion from the language completely.  Since there is no way to talk about anarchy, it is nearly impossible to plan any sort of fight against the system….  This was sort of the same thing.  I didn’t know about sex, or inappropriate behaviors, or sexual predators, or pediphilia, so I could I talk about them?  All I could do was make it clear that I did not like his presence.  And I did.  Repeatedly.  And to their credit, the adults in my life never forced that, even though they clearly never understood my motivation.  (I I realize that if these fathers had known at the time what was happening to their daughters, something very bad would have happened to that boy.)

And I look at the flip of that coin– I now know that he also molested at least three of my cousins.  Do I blame them for not stopping him?  Do I view them in any way responsible for the fact that he got to me?  HELL NO.  So I will no longer blame myself for something I had no control over, and certainly can’t change now.  It’s my only choice for moving on….

I’m SO done with storing my feelings about it, I’m throwing out the box.  I know that there are trustworthy men in the world, I am fortunate enough to have a handful of them in my life.  I also see that it’s okay if I want to be pretty.  I’m trying very hard to drop the behaviors that allegedly *defended* me against those terrible memories, as they have shown me they do not help.  Life doesn’t have to be under my control to be fulfilling or worth living, as long as I keep moving forward and making an effort towards a more positive state.  I’m seeking all kinds of health, especially mental, physical, and environmental.

I know I should also forgive him, and someday soon, I will.  That moment will be here before very long.  I’m considering contributing something to Project Unbreakable, which I think will also help that process.  I’m going to be able to do that though, and looking at this photograph shows me this isn’t a thing that’s far away.  In the meantime, I can be happy that he lives in another part of the world from me (and in some uncomfortable circumstances), and that I will not have to ever run into him at the grocery store.

I can find joy in knowing myself better, and for at least trying to move past it.  I have hope for the future that I may be able to have a healthy romantic relationship with a man someday.  I want to heal, and that means something.

Jul 10, 2014 | Category: Just A Thought | Comments: 3 | Tags: , ,


3 Responses to “Memories, Like the Corners Of My Mind”

  1. Sending virtual hugs.


    Don’t think of “should.” Do what you *want*, what is right for *you.* Forgive him if you *want* to, but don’t force yourself to do it because you think you “should.” It is not selfish, wrong, or bad to *not* grant forgiveness, no matter what society tells us. *Demanding* forgiveness for bad actions is another way those bad actions are condoned.

    Grant forgiveness, because it’s what *you* want, because it will help fix *you*, not because you owe anyone else anything in this matter.

    (And, of course, I hope this doesn’t seem harsh or judgmental, but I’m really bad at expressing things like this.)

    • Amber

      Oh of course I don’t think you’re judging, dear friend! You wouldn’t speak up if it wasn’t coming from a place of love, I get that. No, the forgiveness just seems to be happening, not out of a drive or a me-trying situation, and it’s probably still a bit away…. And “forgiveness” might even be the wrong word, as would be saying that “I’m at peace with it” or whatever, I’m never going to *be happy* about it, but I don’t have to be angry either. Forgiveness is just sort of the closest term that I can seem to come up with. But I see that comparmentalizing it and pretending it didn’t happen hasn’t helped me for sh*t. I’m ready to just be past it, whatever way that means in the end. If I never actually do forgive him, that’d be fine with me. I just am not allowing him to have any control over my thoughts anymore. I’m done with him, whatever those terms.

  2. Wow, such a touching post. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to write about something like this with clarity that is not infused with years of confusion and pain.

    I kind of feel like you made a decision to talk about this in disregard for personal and emotional sacrifices.

    We may be few but we are strong.

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