Moving forward when it seems like the bad guy won.
To throw a pity party or march forward into this world of opportunity? Sometimes it feels almost gluttonous to ruminate over days gone by, circumstances out of your current control, situations and actions you can’t undo….people you can’t (and never could) control. Other times, it feels downright necessary to wallow, to grieve, and to hopefully learn something.
I’ve been thinking a lot about fairness this past week. And since I’m the one writing this, it’s my right to consider what has been fair and unfair in my life. Deserved and not deserved (Or is it undeserved? Occasionally, I feel like writing is just one big English lesson, you?). How long is a person supposed to sit in that uncomfortable space where they feel like they’ve been dealt a shitty hand? I don’t think there’s a statute of limitations on recalling past hurts. And anyway, recollection of those events is largely out of our control. Things pop into our mind and we can either drive them out with force or sit with them. What’s the better tactic? Sadly, I’m here to say, I don’t really know. I suppose the best answer I can give is that it depends. It depends on how you cope with those recollections; it depends on your ability to healthily consider events that have scarred you. Are you wallowing? Reflecting? Healing? Using what you learned to help others?
I’m going to share something and I don’t know where to start. This particular something has affected my life in more ways than I can adequately express here…or anywhere else, even if I was given a lifetime to help you understand.
I’m already dancing around this because it’s just.so.big.
Here it is. Well, here it is summarized and watered down (not out of shame but because I really do have to protect myself still), with pseudonyms to conceal the less-than-innocent.
There’s a person out there, we’ll call him “Avalanche” for obvious reasons (to me, anyway). Avalanche entered my life and brought sweet little snowflakes (see what I did there?) of friendship. Avalanche was in a position of great power and while I yielded power of my own, I was drawn to Avalanche’s strength and the uniqueness of being considered a friend and confidant – something Avalanche did not distribute widely. Like any abusive “relationship”, things soured slowly, over time and before I knew it what had seemed like deep affection had turned into a snowball running downhill. Are you as done with these analogies as I am?
It feels a little trite but I don’t know how better to describe this dynamic. Think about it. You’re on a hike in the mountains. It’s early spring so there is still a bit of snow on the trail and the mountains around you are covered with that beautiful blinding white powder. The sun is shining brightly and everything seems perfect. But you can’t hear the snow melting and the ground shifting slightly under the weight of it all. The first big chunk of snow that falls is so far away that you only see the birds suddenly popping out of the sky and flying into the distance. They are getting out of dodge but you think maybe they’re just going off to run their little birdy errands? You feel safe but, at the same time, something pricks at the back of your neck. Those birds didn’t seem right but you ignore the warning signs. Why do we always ignore the warning signs?
And then you hear it. The unmistakable rumble of a wall of snow on a mission. It must be a mile away, you think, but you’re in a vulnerable position now regardless. You trusted the day too much. You went a bit further than you normally would, trekked a bit further afield because you felt strong…confident. And now you’re in this valley. And the rumble is getting louder. You can feel it now. Your heartbeat quickens. You start to see slight movement on the largest peak in front of you. And then the unmistakable landslide. Layers of the snow are tumbling together now – headed right for you. You’ve put yourself in this position and only a miracle will grant an escape. The avalanche has you now. You’ll be buried beneath the power of it all and no one will really know how you came to be in that place and why you didn’t use all the experience and intelligence that you had built up over the years to prepare yourself for this moment.
And that’s just it, isn’t it? Emotional and physical abuse is like an avalanche but it’s also like dying of a thousand paper cuts. In either case, you just don’t really know until your buried or bleeding out. You can’t SEE clearly.
So, that’s how it was and that’s as succinctly as I can put two years of misery. Avalanche took everything that I had worked so hard to build but right now, today? Today what bothers me is the fairness of it all. As I consider my future and lately, that has involved trying to find my “twilight career” (yes, that’s a thing), I am irritated that I had to leave everything to protect myself. I dropped an atom bomb on my life and career for the safety of my soul. And even after I was healed enough to be able to talk about it and share the story with the people that should have done something, I am convinced Avalanche was relatively unscathed. I have no idea what Avalanche is up to and I don’t really care but the part that nags at me is that I feel sure that Avalanche’s world did not come crashing down around when I escaped. Avalanche likely remains in power and has probably even risen in the ranks. So, while I sit here, considering jobs that are far below my talents and fiscal value, Avalanche is churning along, as ever.
There are so many things missing from this story. And I’m sorry for that. It’s unique in it’s subtext and you’ll just have to trust that if I could share more, I would.
Part of me wants to Susie Sunshine this post now. What good is it to you, or anyone who might benefit from this, if I don’t throw in some sort of life lesson that’s valuable and less dreary than an avalanche and dying of paper cuts? Another part of me just wants to allow myself to be angry for a minute. I think I deserve that. I handled myself imperfectly in those two years. I hurt people who weren’t responsible for how I was being hurt. But that’s what they say, “hurt people, hurt people”. So it goes. Whatever the case, I didn’t deserve what I got.
The truth is, I HAVE learned a lot and life IS good. My heart is happy and safe. But I want to give something to the people out there who think they’re alone in feeling angry or feeling like they’ve been given the shaft. You’re not alone. There are times, and they are usually late at night or early in the morning, when moments pop into my head. Memories of the horrible things that happened to me. Guilt too, raises it’s hand, as does shame. I don’t call on them but they’re still there – like that teacher’s pet who just won’t stop until they get called on. I get through them now but they can still be jarring. Memories are a treasure but they can also be shockingly painful. You can’t erase them. You can’t get over them, not really. You can’t re-watch Grey’s Anatomy for the 15th time and hope that the distraction will make it all go away forever. It’s a Band-Aid on bullet wound. But sometimes, that is survival and survival is paramount to recovery. You can’t get over something if you’re stuck in a corner, rocking back and forth and sucking your thumb – waiting for someone to save you.
So, my conclusion? It isn’t fair. IT IS NOT FAIR.
But what to do? For me, well, I have to change my calculus a bit. For years, I worked 70-hour weeks, lived thousands of miles from family and friends and my only priority was whatever mission was presented to me at work. I have this opportunity now – to live the life that only I can design. It’s going to look a little different than my former life and that is ok. It’s more than ok – it’s great. It’s what I wanted and what my battered heart needed. There is nothing in the way of my living a happy and fulfilled life. I have the support network that Avalanche tried to isolate me from. It’s akin to the best shelter you can find on a dangerous trail. No manner of huffing and puffing can’t break it down. Whew – is anyone counting the analogies? Do I get extra credit if I exceed 10 in one post? I am the teacher’s pet of analogies!
I don’t have to push those memories out anymore. I can talk about them now. And if you are safe in the company you keep, you should try to talk about them too. It’s really the only thing that makes them less scary. If you’re still in the Grey’s Anatomy phase, that’s ok too. You’ll get there. I promise.
And sweet reader, if you happen to be in the midst of your own personal Avalanche, please do not make the mistake of thinking you have to do it all alone. There are so many resources out there. Use them. I know I am a hypocrite. I didn’t. Not for a long time. Part of that was situational. I couldn’t use many of them. But I could certainly have done something to help myself, long before I did. If you need a friend, someone outside of your immediate circle, and you’re not ready to call a hotline, go to a therapist or press charges, find me. I’ll listen, without judgment or pressure.
There are also some more professional organizations that offer a variety of services for those seeking help: