As a survivor of abuse, I can’t tell you how many times I just wished for someone to come a whisk me away and make my life better. When I was little I would dream of being kidnapped. No kidding. I seriously felt that being kidnapped by a complete stranger would be better than the hell that I lived in. I also dreamed that my grandfather (maternal) would show up at my school and take me away. I don’t know why I pictured him. I knew that he wasn’t a good father to my mother. Maybe it’s because I knew that my mother didn’t talk to him. I would daydream about my life as Cinderella. My mother fit the bill for the evil step-mother with the way she treated me and used me. I longed for adulthood. I couldn’t wait to meet my Prince Charming and get the heck out of there.
When those dreams seemed too far out of reach, I would dream of perhaps just running away and living on the streets. I figured any restaurant owner would give me food since I was a cute, blond little girl. I would sneak into Sears and sleep on the mattresses overnight and steal clothes when I needed it and still show up to school. I had it all worked out in my little head. But I always knew that even if I ran away, chances were, I would end up back at home with my mother even more angry and furious at me.
As I got older my daydreams shifted to a more romantic setting. I would meet a boy who came from a rich family and he would fall in love with me and take care of me for the rest of my life. I would have great opportunities to get an education and have an amazing career. It was all in my dreams. I didn’t even really date as a teen so the idea of ever meeting someone seemed so far out of reach and I had a hard time keeping friends as well. The truth was, my heart wasn’t in it to just get swept off my feet and married. I was searching for an out and someone who would stick up for me. It seemed like nobody would. I used to think that Dave was my buffer from my mother but I realize now that he never stuck up for me like he said he did. He would always tell me how he thought my mother was crazy and a stone-cold bitch and that he would stick up for me when I wasn’t around. I realize now that he only said those things to groom me and win my trust so he could molest me. His facade was beginning to shatter when I was a teenager and I had no one who would tell my mother to back off and leave me alone. He just stood and watched. Sometimes he would shake his head. If he did say anything to her she would have just exploded into another argument with him and he didn’t want that so I typically took the brunt of her anger.
When Forrest Gump came out in the early 90’s, I remember a scene that has always stuck with me. A young Jenny was running through a field to escape her abusive father when she stopped and knelt down to pray. She said, “Dear God, make me a bird. So I could fly far, far away from here.” Forrest then goes on to say that God works in mysterious ways and that he didn’t make Jenny into a bird but instead the state came and told her she didn’t have to live there any more and she moved in with her grandma. THAT was how I felt deep, deep inside. I wanted wings to fly far, far away. I wanted someone to come and say that I didn’t have to be there any more. I wasn’t religious and neither was my family but I began to pray that. I was about 14. The molestation was over but living with the memories and my mother was not.
God never gave me wings… or a social worker. I never got rescued from that home. I did finally leave at 19 and was independent my 21 and I was far enough away. It never worked out the way I dreamed it would. Things ended up quite different from my childhood daydreams. I didn’t meet a man who was rich or a prince or anything like that but I did meet a man who taught me personal love and strength. I was honest with him about my abuse from the get-go. I always knew that once someone got to intimately know me they would sense that something was amiss so I might as well be up front about it. He was loving and accepting toward me about it.
Anytime I told him that I loved him he would say, “me too.” Like, he loves himself too. He still does this! I asked him why he said that. I thought he was only being ornery. He always told me that nobody will ever love you more than you love yourself. He knew that I had self-love issues. I tried really hard to not hate myself but it was easier said than done. I hated everything about myself at times. After we got married, I began to realize that he was right. He didn’t step into my life and whisk me away and battle my family for me. Instead he stuck by my side and helped me find the strength to fight my own battle.
A few years ago I began reading up on feminism and admiring other women who were strong. I have learned (and still am learning) to take all that I have learned about strength, love, and myself and concoct my own medicine for healing. I have learned to build my own battle armor. I had to get to this place on my own and I am grateful for that. While it would have been easy on me for someone else to do all the dirty work, it just isn’t reality. Even if I would have been taken away as a child and put in the foster system, I would still have big personal battles to fight.
I have learned in the last few years that the idea of a damsel in distress is bullshit. The idea that women are too weak to stand up for themselves or fight a battle is so yesteryear. Disney movies can suck it. What Cinderella needed to do was punch that old hag in the jaw and get out of there. Perhaps move to the big city and become a fashion designer with the help of her mice and tweety birds. I wish I could have stood up for myself as a child like that, but I couldn’t. Now I can.
I have to make the personal choice everyday to stay strong and stand my ground. Sure, the pain is real but it also reminds me that I made it and I’m alive. I don’t need rescuing or fairy tales. What I do need is relationships that are real and mutual. Everything else comes from within.
At this point in my life if I want wings to fly far, far away it’s gonna be on a plane to Hawaii so I can sit on the beach and drink Pina Coladas all day. Some day perhaps…