Not Easily Broken

I’ve been skirting around this blog post for a while now. I’m not even sure why. Last year’s election upheaval brought with it a lot of emotional challenges for me and a lot of women I’m friends with or acquainted with and even more that I don’t know. It raised some ugly issues and memories of abuse and highlighted a lot of what we as females endure by virtue of our gender.

From a moderately dysfunctional parental relationship to a seriously dysfunctional marriage, it took me years to acknowledge that I was in fact abused. Separate and apart from the everyday experiences of growing up female in a society that has no respect for me regardless of my age, I had to sit down and speak directly to my experiences one day. I had to look them in the eye and come to terms with what they were, how they affected me and what I needed to glean from them in order to grow and improve rather than devolve and die.

My mother hit me. Mostly out of anger and yes, because I was an unruly child. I had the temerity to develop my personality at a very young age. I read, watched ‘grown up’ shows and chose at an early age who I wanted to be and why. Then, I lived it. The gall of me! That it didn’t fall in line with the conservative, hyper-religious, straight-laced, modest, timid person they expected me to be was the source of beatings, arguments, threats to ‘put me out’ and a perpetually strained relationship with some of my family. In order to maintain some semblance of sanity, I had to resist. I would have lost all of myself to a religion I didn’t fully believe in, principles I found to be anachronistic and beliefs I found to be built on a very shaky foundation of tradition and dogma and doctrines that if we are honest have done more harm than good. So I fought back. I dug my heels in and I persisted – in being the person I wanted to be, living the life I needed to live, making the choices that were best for me, and evolving on my terms. I’m blessed that I was able to mend my relationship with my mother before she passed, that we managed to forgive each other and find a way to have a relationship. 

It was not easy. So, when what looked like love came, I was intrigued. It praised and it complimented. It said the right things and did the right things. It got past the barriers that were already being built. So if every once in a while, the compliment provided an enclosure for a complaint, or a criticism or a mildly disdainful comment I let it slide. After all, I’m not perfect… So what if I had to make small changes, then bigger changes…then personality changes…? It was…my…fault…right…? BE CAREFUL. Because eventually, the enclosure fell away, the compliments disappeared and the disdain and criticism and complaints were hurled in tones of contempt without the pretense of the compliment. That the ring was already on my finger when the realization came was much scarier. That I didn’t even call it what it was until I had no choice to stare it in the face is a testament to how deep the denial was. That I eventually found the strength to walk away is something I will never take for granted.

I am not easily broken. Not this way. Not with beatings and threats and criticism and attempts to tear me down. Not with complaints and disparaging remarks and back-biting and back-stabbing. I lost a lot of myself. Too much. But that kind of method serves to make people more aggressive, angrier, less trusting and so much wilder than we need to be. It can work, and the person bent on subjugating you will use it to the fullest and it is not easy to get away from. It takes honesty with yourself, the support of people who love you and can help to validate you and eventually the restoration of your own strength. I was stronger than those methods, we all can be. I was because I chose to be. Because I decided to be. And even though for a while I forgot that, I found my strength and my spirit and my self-respect.

But, there comes a time when it’s necessary to break, even a little bit. To become a gentler version of your self. A time when the walls need to break down and the distrust and disillusion need to be broken away. A time when we have to surrender even a little of the wild, a little of the aggression in order to evolve into our best selves. Not everyone who tries to break us or break through our barriers is trying to exploit us. Persons who have experiences similar to mine develop hard shells to protect us from that kind of anguish again. People suck, there’s no doubt about that. We’ve endured duplicity, deceit, disdain, disappointment. Abuse on various levels, emotional, physical, mental, sexual. We’ve been taken advantage of, taken for granted.

To break by choice, even in the face of kindness, true strength, love and respect and a renewed faith that there are people who deserve our trust is still not an easy thing. But it’s the only reason to break. It is not a forfeiture of our strength or even our wildness but an acknowledgement of our confidence in others and channeling of these traits. We are a product of our experiences and time does not in fact heal all wounds. Time forms the scab that covers the wound. What heals is love: constant, honest, intentional, forgiving, patient, unfailing love. Love for ourselves, love for and from others, the bonds of friendship and/or a life partner and a desire to be our best selves and live our best life. And there are people worthy of our time, our affection, our love and our trust. And when these people come along, the right friends, the right relationship we need to learn to soften in order to allow these persons to break through the shell.

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