Content warning: domestic violence
Three years today.
This year, I want to claim this day not as an anniversary like I have previously, but as another birthday, a rebirthday, because despite this ongoing healing process, I still feel—I am, I was—ripped into two halves: me before domestic violence and me after.
I am not the same person I was before. I can’t be, for better and for worse. The worse is that I am not carefree. I’m no innocent, but I lost some innocence. I lost the ability to not wonder about the potential for violence in every man I know and meet. I lost “friends” who would rather know and believe my abuser than me. I lost a lot. The better is that, well, I am no longer the me who was susceptible to being this kind of victim (this is not to suggest that there is a type of victim, or that victims in any way bring violence on themselves. This is just me vaguely owning my own unresolved issues with emotional abuse as a child, which left me vulnerable to destructive relationships as an adult). What happened to me will never, ever happen to me again. After-me is shaping up to be a bit of a badass. Before-me was all talk and trust and naiveté. After-me has been tested in the field, and made it.
Today, my before-me is over 1,000 days dead—to quote a post from last December, “she was smothered on a dirty floor on her birthday three years ago.” She’s not coming back. Maybe you think I’m being dramatic. She didn’t choose to go. May I remind you, she didn’t choose any of this.
Today, the after-me is three years old. What would a three-year-old do?
Well funnily enough, besides being an unintentional expert on domestic violence, I also know a bit about at least one three-year-old: the one my son was from October 2015 to October 2016.
A three-year-old would, on his birthday, beg for presents. Today, as has been my custom for the last two June 15s, I will buy myself flowers. I will smell them until they don’t smell anymore, I will admire them until they wilt, I will watch them die, and then I will empty their vase of water, put their fragile bodies back in the vase, and display them on my writing desk until next June 15. Today I will throw away last year’s June 15 flowers—painted roses—and replace them with new ones.
A three-year-old would, on his birthday, eat too much sugar and bounce off the walls. I will buy one piece of very good, very dark chocolate and let it melt slowly on my tongue while resting in child’s pose.
A three-year-old would, on his birthday (or any day, every day), demand to hear one of his favorite songs over and over again. He gets it honest:
I took a drive today
Time to emancipate
I guess it was the beatings, made me wise
But I’m not about to give thanks or apologize
I couldn’t breathe, holding me down,
Hand on my face, pushed to the ground
Enmity gauged, united by fear
Forced to endure what I could not forgive
Eyes seem to look away
The wounds in the mirror wave
It wasn’t my surface most defiled
Head at your feet, fool to your crown
Fist on my plate, swallowed it down
Enmity gauged, united by fear
Tried to endure what I could not forgive
Saw things clearer
Oh, once you were in my rearview mirror
I gathered speed from you fucking with me
Once and for all, I’m far away
Hard to believe, finally the shades are raised
A three-year-old would, on his birthday, insist on being the center of attention. I guess this post will have to do.
I am three years old, but I am also an adult who has made a ritual of surviving. I have made a life in this aftermath. I’m saving to buy a house. I run my own business and hold a great full-time job. I’m writing a(nother) book. My child is happy, healthy, hilarious, brilliant, and has a huge heart. I am working in ways large and small to make my various communities better. I feel so much a part of this physical place where I live that, when I’m jumping around on rocky cliffs, taking my shoes off to wade in rivers and streams, swearing through muscle pain and sweat to make it to whatever summit is in my sight, I can practically feel roots pushing out of my feet, through pine needles and mountain laurel and into the Pennsylvania dirt. I feel peace more than I feel fear or despair.
I recently had a Reiki session. If you don’t know what Reiki is, the short definition is, energy work. A Reiki therapist or master channels and directs positive energy, the life force, into a patient and can draw out negative energy. Our bodies have natural healing processes, of course, and the concept of Reiki is to activate and restore them when they are impaired by stress, trauma, etc., to get the life force flowing again. I’ve had Reiki work done before, but this round was different. My therapist spent a lot of time at my feet, very lightly touching them from every angle, and I could feel a pull. I know from previous sessions that a lot of negative energy can be drawn out through the feet. I saw dark, brooding colors behind my eyelids—blacks and browns, lots of burgundy—as she was doing this. My left leg felt heavy, like it was being pulled. My hips ached. At the end of the session, which was overall so soothing, she told me she kept having visuals of this black tar-like gunk, a sticky, stubborn shadow all through my body. I kept pulling it out and pulling it out, she said. Don’t worry, she said. It wasn’t your energy. It was someone else’s.
Before-me is going, going, going…
Roots. Ritual. Rearview. Reiki. Rebirth.
Real life. It took three years, but I’m starting to feel like I have one.