My Story: Why Tell It?
"I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”
Until recently, I had never used the term "adult survivor of child abuse" in reference to myself. When I was growing up in a very small town, there was a stigma and judgment attached to anything that wasn't the "norm." So, no one talked. In my situation, there was always the fear that if others knew anything, someone would try to talk to the alcoholic abuser who would become outraged, and nothing good would come of that. When I became an adult and moved away from my hometown, I didn't want to be defined by my past, so I never talked about it. However, when I was 38, I had an unexpected last encounter with the abuser in my Mother's hospital room two days before she died. Having left her almost 20 years before, he showed up at the hospital and caused my Mother to become terribly agitated, even in her sedated condition. When I told him to leave, he came toward me, cursed at me, and physically threatened me. After he left, I was so upset that he could still frighten me. He died last year, and it does not pass my notice that I can finally write my story.
*I need to add a thank you to the nurses on the floor who were aware of the potential volatility of the situation. They watched, listened, and waited outside the door to my Mom's room, ready to help me and to call security. When this person left, they came into the room and surrounded me with love, hugs, and assurance that he would never be allowed to return, and that I was safe. I know they looked like nurses, but I think they were really angels!
We usually think of prosperity in terms of tangible things - houses, land, wealth. However, there is another kind of prosperity that I have noticed many successful people have enjoyed. These are intangible blessings that are passed on, and enable the daughter or son to have a good, reasonable entry into adult life. These people have grown up in safe environments, never lacking food, shelter, appropriate clothing, or medical care. They've had a "safety assuredness" knowing that a family member would never deliberately cause injury. They've experienced nurture, and have had the pride of family connectedness and belonging to others. They've had caring adults who have been interested in their child's health, well-being, and education. They've experienced the blessings of being related to caring people. They've been wanted and loved. Growing up without these intangible blessings leaves a huge vacuum and a deep yearning. As an adult, it is hard not to feel "second-rate." Yet, even though it isn’t easy to rise above meager beginnings, it is possible to get to a place in life where you actually value and like the person you have become. It is a monumental life-challenge, but all things are possible!
Having a stable, peaceful life can be so difficult for the adult survivor to find. Abuse brought on by rages, alcoholism and drug addiction not only injure the physical child/young person, but they injure the heart, mind, and spirit, and leave deep wounds. Those injuries can take a long time to heal, and for some survivors, healing never comes. Yet, the pursuing of a lifestyle that helps you feel worthy, unashamed, and confident is worth the effort. Please be encouraged! I recently read this statement:
Yes, you deserved a better childhood!
Just reading those words was very affirming, even at this later age in my life!
My Early Years
By 13 years old, I was earning my own money for clothing and school needs by cleaning my teachers’ houses, babysitting, being a new-mother's helper (taking care of her newborn baby and school-age child, and doing the cooking, cleaning, laundry and ironing). I made frosty cones at the local drive-in, worked in a deli and a restaurant, and rang up purchases as a drugstore cashier. I did inventory for department stores, and picked berries. As I grew older, I worked for two banks- as an indoor teller, and then as a drive-up window teller. I left my second and last teller job after the inside bank tellers were robbed. I was working in the driveup window outside, so I was spared that trauma! I worked for a state real estate commission, and for a credit union. All of these jobs helped me develop a work ethic that served me well, and gave me a step up toward filling in the deficits in my life.
My Adult Life
After the array of jobs and my music tours and travels, I "settled down" and married twice (for a total of 48 years of relationship commitment, and still counting), was a parent to three children, went to college, got BA and MA degrees, earned two teaching credentials, and had a fulfilling 38-year career as an educator. I wrote curriculum resources that were published; I mentored and taught future teachers, and taught hundreds of students in my classrooms. Teaching was a good career choice for me.
Moving Forward Enriched
Concurrent with my teaching career, I have had a life-long involvement as a church musician, singer, choir director, congregational music leader, teacher and speaker. Additionally, in my 40's, I pursued a five-year plan of coursework and experience leading to pastoral ordination. My mentor and encourager, Pastor Harry, was the only person to call me "daughter" in my lifetime. His sweet greetings of "How are you daughter?" would quietly fill my heart. He never knew that I had never been a daughter to a kind and benevolent man. During the ordination service, he placed his hand on my head, and along with the hands of others, blessed me.
In this, my retirement "encore" career, I am writing, nurturing my love of music, family, and friends, creating a website, and developing other projects that fill these retirement days with interest, purpose, and zest!
What I Have Learned
Making my own decisions and choices at an early age with no guidance was my "normal." I made plenty of wrong decisions and mistakes, but I just kept moving forward. Resiliency -the ability to recover and readjust - kept me from "breaking." Learning to make good decisions, and developing resiliency led to better and better opportunities. Taking responsibility for myself, and not blaming others were deliberate, positive choices. Being optimistic about life was a cultivated choice that provided a welcomed change from all the negatives I had experienced.
Optimism is that hopeful feeling that better days are ahead, even when there is little or nothing to feel hopeful about. My sense of optimism, the resilience that developed over time, and my improved decision-making skills came about because of actions and changes on my part, and because I had a praying Mother and people of faith who prayed for me throughout my life. While my Mom couldn't change our circumstances, she could pray, and she did! One of her favorite Bible scriptures is this: "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning!"
Scriptures and Prayers for Comfort and Assurance
The Bible, Book of Psalms Chapter 147: God heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
The Bible, Book of Isaiah Chapter 40: He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength...Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."
Prayer: Be with me, God. I feel so lost. I can't seem to escape the dark cloud that is hanging over me today. Help me, God. Give me strength to combat despair and fear. Show me how to put my pain into perspective. Teach me to have faith in the new day that is coming. Thank you, God, for today's blessings, for tomorrow's hope, and for Your abiding love. Amen