Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

Abuse Molds You

IrisesAbuse molds a person, whether by actual hands of aggression or by words. Patrick Stewart recently came out to talk about the abuse he was subjected to as a child and I’ve never wanted to hug a stranger (which I often do) so much in my life.

What particularly affected me was his take on the flip comments made by others about the abuse, about what triggered it. As if it were justifiable if someone asked for it.

One of my earliest memories was of a large man flipping over tables and pushing a refrigerator across the room in anger, while a woman half his size cowered in the corner. I later found out this was the man who had adopted me, giving me his name but never his affection or attention. In part, because he was out of the marriage by the time I was two years old.  I was almost out of diapers, but not the woods of abuse.

My adopted mother remarried a man who was not only a rage-aholic like the table-flipper before him, the new guy was a raging alcoholic (his words, not mine), too. Instead of furniture and appliances, his target was the five foot tall woman who weighed 98 pounds to his 200. Not a fair fight, but at six foot four not many opponents lined up to do battle with him.  But, public opinion – by which I mean family opinion – was that she “asked for it. ”That woman had quite a mouth on her, I’m sure she pushed his buttons in a lot of ways.” That was told to me when I was a teenager, dating for the first time.  I didn’t tolerate a lot of bad behavior from boyfriends, but comments like that made me think that if and when abuse did show up, it was likely my fault.

Nola was a tiny pistol of a woman, but she didn’t ask for or deserve the days she spent in front of a mirror carefully applying make-up in an attempt to hide the angry purple bruises on her cheeks, eyes and wrists. Broken ribs and emotions were not easy to disguise either, but she did it. For six solid years.

There were times I was struck in anger, but I hid a lot as a kid. I’d grab the largest books I could carry (often the dictionary, which I truly loved to get lost in) and crawl up on the top of the detached garage roof or as high as I could in the neighborhood trees.  I was often asked if I was afraid to fall. I’d laugh at the well-meaning comment, thinking at least a fall would provide me with a legitimate excuse for wounds.

By the time the fourth grade rolled around I’d watched Nola be pushed out of a moving vehicle on the highway during arguments, hung out of the second story window of our home off Story Road in San Jose (on the night of her anniversary, no less) and countless other minor incidents along the way.  The abuser’s sister said, “Well, do you know how many nights he’d come home from a long day of work and his shirts weren’t clean and dinner wasn’t made?” Riiiiight. Because his wife’s long workdays and poisonous resentment probably made those tasks unbearable, but those were justifiable offenses, I’m sure.

When I was nine, this toxic relationship came to a close but the pattern didn’t. The woman who fell in love, quit high school to have two sons before she was of legal drinking age (not that that stopped her) had gone from the frying pan into the fire and spent the last years of her life simmering in a string of abusive relationships until she died.

As for me, I could not watch or be subjected to what went on in our home and I made the choice to get out before I graduated high school and moved into an entirely different world, a world of words which didn’t leave visible marks – but the scars are there.

I am grateful that my life was saved by the people who ultimately parented me – but while time heals all wounds, it also gives a person time to weigh what went on before.  Most days, I walk a balance beam of forgiveness and forbearance, but never forgetting.  It’s a narrow bit of real estate that I fall off of, from time to time, but I work really hard to dust myself off and get back on. And hope nobody notices.

Xo – t.

 

“A beast does not know he is a beast, and the nearer a man gets to being a beast, the less he knows it.” – George MacDonald

“More than 90 percent of all the prisoners in our American prisons have been abused  as children.” – John Powell

“A wounded deer leaps highest.” – Emily Dickinson

“ A healthy relationship doesn’t drag you down. It inspires you to be better.” – Mandy Hale