There are days when I feel like a repeat offender.
These are the days where nothing seems to go right. For every two steps I have jumped forward, I allow myself to be slammed backwards another four.
Those are the times when I feel most vulnerable, chained helplessly to my past. Those are the days when I allow doubt to creep in and I open the door for others to pounce and use and abuse that moment of weakness for their own personal gain.
I suddenly become that little girl again, where I always felt nothing more, but less than.
And all I want to do is run away and hide…
I don’t want to face the ugly man lurking in the dark shadows around the corner. I don’t want to feel the pain of change and reflection for the sake of growth.
In those moments I am simply done. Out of juice. Void of any semblance of chutzpah that previously drove me onward through all the grime.
That is the constant uphill battle survivors of abuse face. It is a frustrating, difficult, painful, and at times exasperating journey away from all the shameful feelings one developed during years of relentless attacks.
It takes courage, it takes honesty, it takes constant self-reflection, and it takes a Hell of a lot of energy to move on.
It also requires one to step out from behind the protective barricade in order to reach out for the people in life who are good, and kind, and gentle, and loving.
It’s the act of surrounding yourself with a giant roll of bubble wrap. It is transparent, but it feels warm, cozy, safe, and you know you will be fiercely protected from harm by a supportive village who lifts you up for who you have become and understands from where you have traveled.
But then there is that annoying little creature called “trust.”
Historically, I have not always made the wisest choices in terms of village members. Understandably, since trust was obliterated by the one person who should have been there in my life to encourage and reinforce that trust.
So, I approach people slowly on my tiptoes, and with great caution. From a distance I observe and take note. They seem safe. They seem genuine. They seem kind and gentle and like they would hug me in that warm, all-encompassing way like they meant it.
And then there are those moments when I feel alone. When I feel vulnerable. When I feel used. When I feel unable to sort through all the negative self-messages that kept me tied down for far too long to that nasty, misleading untruth that is shame.
No matter how hard I have worked and how far I have come, how much I truly know now that it was never my fault, I still find myself on occasion a repeat offender.
Of doubt. Of fear. Of confusion. Of shame.
As you read this, I am most likely riding on a train on my way to Los Angeles. I will arrive at Union Station this afternoon and make my way to The Last Bookstore to do a reading of my piece from the Seal Press anthology “Dancing at the Shame Prom.”
This act alone takes a ton of courage. I can stand before a group of strangers and give workshops and lectures without hesitation and with a measure of bravado. But this time I will be talking about my own personal journey.
It will force me to become vulnerable.
As I stand in front of that room and speak my truth, every cell inside me will know that the horrors of my life began a mere 10 miles from the site of this reading. The house that held the dark secrets has since been boarded up and destroyed due to freeway expansion. Yet as visual as I am, that house still lives on inside my mind.
I remember every room, every closet, every nook, every cranny, every single nasty deed.
But today I am safe. I will surround myself with the protective bubble wrap of my fellow Shame Prom sisters and celebrate. Celebrate life. Celebrate friendship. Celebrate truth.
I will mark this day in my mind as a victory. One more step forward towards peace and freedom for my soul. An official emancipation day from the chains that bound me to my past.
And I will dance. Boy will I dance.