Fear. I know what is it like to live in fear for most of your life and only have a vague recollection as to why. I always feared my father and from as far back as I remember there are no memories of him holding my hand, bouncing me on his knee, sweet kisses or even an “I love you”. I have little to no memory of my early childhood in California but I do remember when we moved to Florida when I was seven. By then, it only took a look and a twist of my arm by him for me to be silent.
When my father suffered a massive stroke over twenty years ago I wondered why I was secretly hoping he would die. He did not but his life, as he knew it was dead: no more working, no more driving, no more activity of any kind. He was paralyzed on the left side and would never be able to do much of anything ever again. At the time, I did not realize that the sins of my father would be atoned for in this lifetime.
Growing up, I became the model child imitating the perceived perfections of my older brother. I did well in school, had middle to upper tier social life (but never high enough), and for the most part did as my mother suggested. When I asked her at age 10 when I could have a baby of my own she replied, “first you will go to college, then you will have a career and live on your own, then you will fall in love and get married, then you will buy a house and then you will have a baby. So, I did just that. Perfect, yet not perfect enough.
While I was in college it came out that my father had sexually molested an extended family member. My mother did not tell me the truth for some time and went into a deep depression. This is when I lost the person I loved the most and believed to be in my corner. The strong woman I tried to emulate all my life became weak mentally and eventually physically as well. Unfortunately, this weakness would keep her in a marriage to a pedophile until the day she died and I am not sure she ever forgave herself for that fact. My mother never asked if my father had abused me in all those nights she worked at the hospital when I was in preschool, she never asked if he had ever done anything inappropriate to me. She never asked. This was before the words sexual molestation and sexual abuse were part of society’s vernacular. No one talked about it. When I asked her years later why she never asked me she replied, “You were happy, you were successful so I assumed you were fine”. Never mind the tell tale clues of urinary tract infections as a little girl, the lack of boundaries with grown men (as a small child I was known to hug bagboys in the grocery store and later accepted fraternity house rape as having fun), and the fear that entered my life and never left until the age of 50.
Incest in a middle class family in the late 1960’s and 1970’s was the juxtaposition of “not in our family” and “yes, but no one talks about it”. Silence. So, I never said a word and compartmentalized the best way our ego selves protect us: we just don’t remember. I did not remember clearly but I always saw my father doing something to the “neighbor girl” but there was no neighbor girl, just me. I learned later that during trauma, the soul could leave the body so as not to experience the worst of what is happening. This is what I did all those years ago and would continue to do for a good part of my life when times were tough and I needed to keep a smile on my face. I became a lie and believed a lie: my family is perfect I would tell anyone who would listen. We all get along so well and we are one of the few functional families out there. Now, I understand that the term “functional family” is an oxymoron. There is no function in family. No matter how seemingly well a family “functions” it is those closest to us that teach us the major lessons in our lives and lessons are learned through pain not joy. It sounds cynical but in reality it is not. We are all human with a divine pure soul. However, when we are hurt, we hurt others whether it is with words, actions, or abuse of any and every kind: emotional, verbal, physical, and sexual.
I “woke up” sometime after I turned 40, but did not really realize what this meant until much later. What I do know is that my parents were living with me, my then husband and son and moved with us from Norfolk, Virginia to Springfield, Missouri. It was in Springfield that I found healing and a mentor/healer that guided me. It was in Springfield that I found what was to be my second career, teaching, that would carry my soul while my mind delved into the depths of my memories. Memories once so horrific my mind simply refused to believe they even existed. I told my mother, faced my father, and stopped the silence.
Healing is personal. Healing is not about others. Healing is about forgiveness. Not forgiveness of others necessarily but forgiveness of self. When you hurt inside, you hurt others even without understanding why. Once I felt with the entirety of my being what had happened to me as a child I still acted out. The child within me was still wounded, was still hurting, and was still looking for love she did not feel she deserved. I continued to hurt myself through my own addictions of overeating and overspending but each and every day I was getting closer and closer to understanding and closer and closer to peace. Healing, for me, is loving the child within at each and every age. It is learning to understand the whys and accept them. It is acknowledging my truth and owning it – even that which caused others pain -and finding it possible for who I am now to forgive who I was then. It is becoming what each of us is truly meant to be: authentically and perfectly imperfect. Most of all, it is finding my way back to love, back to where I began: a spark of pure divinity and pure love. I found my way back to me and I fell in love with myself once again.
Today, at aged 53, I am still healing, still growing, and still evolving. It is a lifelong process but I do know what peace feels like. I do know what living in a heart centered space feels like. I do know that allowing negative thoughts and feelings from the past to leave opens me up to feeling love and compassion for myself and through this place of love and compassion I can truly be there for others. Not out of any sense of duty or obligation but simply out of love. I now counsel those who are ready and willing to heal from the wounds of their past. I now try to live in my truth every single day. Authentically and perfectly imperfect.
This story was prepared, written and submitted solely by Beth in her personal capacity. The content and opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of 7 Billion Ones, Randy Bacon Photography and/or any members or associates of these organizations.