Wednesday evening, as we were getting ready for bed, a massive thunderstorm rumbled above. Fat rain drops smacked the metal roof, while lightning made a chaotic embroidery of the sky. It was a marvel, and the hubster and I darted from window to window and stood on the porch to admire it all. Flash back twenty-two years, to our first apartment on 11th and Lafayette in Denver, and that same storm would have had me hyperventilating and sobbing, wondering when it would all end. Isn’t it wonderful how time and experience show us a different way of seeing?
For the whole of my life, my sister has abused me*. As a child it was sometimes with words, mostly with fists, and once with a hot curling iron. When I complained to my parents about it, they would ask what I’d done to provoke her. Though I hated this response, for a long time it seemed legitimate, while also infusing me with a ridiculous sense of power. If I did something someone didn’t like, that person would have absolutely no control over their hands or words, and I should actually expect an onslaught of deserved abuse.
So when my mother-in-law started her bullying before Greg and I were even married, I went right along because I’d had such formidable training. Surely, I’d done something to provoke her, too. It was always my fault. Our society told me similar stories. I remember hearing about a woman whose husband murdered her because she was a nag and drove him to do it. Or the countless men, women, and children who are beaten, raped, and worse because of small slights, wearing the wrong clothes or appearing in the wrong place.
I thank the Me Too Movement and my own enlightened thinking nearly three years ago for changing this narrative. People do not ask for violence upon their bodies and souls. To say I forced anyone to harm me is an out and out lie, because that violence lies in the abuser and not the victim. It is the abuser’s choice to utter hurtful words. It is the abuser’s choice to do do physical harm. It is not, nor has it ever been, my choice to be on the receiving end. The abuse I suffered for having my own opinion, for saying no, for watching the wrong television show, for taking a long bath. Seriously! None of that is on me. None of it.
How sad I am that it took forty-five years to come to the realization, but what brilliant new light through old windows. How free it makes me!
*In case you are wondering, I cut off all contact with her nearly three years ago after receiving hateful messages via Facebook. Otherwise, I suspect she would still be at it. Old habits…