Beside a wide glass jar were two stacks of 4 x 6 cards in white and red. On a piece of paper was a quote on truth by Buddha and a written invitation. The instructions read: We invite you to share your truth. Unburden your soul. Blow the dust off a painful secret; trusting us to hold it for you. Write on red if you are ok with us discussing it. Write on white if you do not want your thoughts shared.”
The event was for adults who were there to listen to inspiring true stories of perseverance. In the back of the room, sitting quietly on the floor waiting for their parents to be done, were a few girls middle school in age.
The last time she felt safe was when she was a child of seven or eight. Back when each day stretched out before her like a mile, with endless possibilities of play and friends in the neighborhood, in the pool, around the block, across the street, in other houses - utterly carefree. She didn’t know of fear.
Now her fear knows no boundaries at all. It is limitless. It is an omnipresent monster residing just under the surface; easily stirred. Like when she cannot ignore it any longer and she turns on the news against her better judgement or clicks on the article, awakening the beast and letting it into her heart, her mind and her sleep. Once it has taken up residence it consumes her easily and her thoughts become a reoccurring stream of When will it happen again? Where? How? It is only a matter of time.
My high school boyfriend backhanded me on prom night. The force of the blow made my nose bleed and my head throb. I was so stunned I didn’t utter a sound. I just sat there, holding my nose shut and letting the tears stain my white dress.
I never told anyone at the time. I blamed myself. Not because I deserved it — god no — rather because I was too naive to see it coming or believe it was possible. Afterwards I simply pretended it never happened. Everything is just fine, thank you. There were reputations to protect and images to uphold. He went on being a jock. I went on being a cheerleader. We were voted “Best Couple” the same year I was to become homecoming queen. We never spoke of “the incident” again; as I referred to it, refusing to acknowledge it for what it was: abuse.
We met for the first time when we were twelve years old, my husband and I. It was the summer before we started Junior High and he had just moved into the neighborhood. My girlfriend thought that we might like each other and because she already had a boyfriend, I figured I should have one, too. Even though the very thought of it made me blush and sent my heart racing at the same time.
He was sweet. Shy and sensitive. I was awkward and still very much a bit of a tom boy, but we shared a love of listening to music and riding bikes and holding hands. The latter of which never failed to give me butterflies in my stomach.
When I was going through the most challenging times in my life, I wanted nothing more than to read something — anything — from someone who had been there before me and had come out the other side in one piece.
And then there were the times when I felt totally isolated; when what I was going through was so immensely private I dared not tell anybody out of embarrassment or shame or both. Surely someone has been through this before me, I would think to myself. I’m not the first. I’m not the only one.