When a person doesn't have gratitude, something is missing in her or her humanity.
A person can almost be defined by his or her attitude toward gratitude.
(Elie Wiesel, Holocaust Survivor, Writer, Nobel Prize for Peace)
Note: As an educator, two of my life's missions have been to teach my students about the Shoah/Holocaust, and about the history of slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. In so doing, I hope I have implanted the desire to know the truth, to stand with the oppressed, to be a voice for freedom, and to respect and protect the dignity of all humankind. My first introduction to Elie Wiesel was in the reading of his book, Night. If you get the opportunity to read this book, you will understand why Elie Wiesel's quote about gratitude is shocking and profound!
I am grateful for having an adult life that isn't a repeat of the early years of my life, and I am thankful for every kind and caring person who has blessed my life! For the adult survivor of abuse, close relationships, family, and a sense of belonging are yearned for and treasured ideals. Nevertheless, loss, disappointments, and hurts can continue to happen, and are felt at a much deeper, intense level because of what was lacking in childhood.
Throughout my life, I've taken the risk and have chosen to love. Still, I have sometimes had my love and loyalty treated very carelessly. Additionally, letting myself trust others took a setback years ago, when I "tested the waters" and shared a sliver of what I had gone through as a child. The words "victim" (as in playing the "victim card"), and being called "too sensitive" came back at me. As a result of these kinds of experiences, I came to understand that my adult life would have complexities that others would not be able to understand. Along with the regular day-to-day issues of life, and maintenance of relationships and careers, there would be survivor-related potholes along the way. All of these experiences were opportunities to learn and grow, even if, at the time I didn't recognize them in that way.
What I Have Learned
Life is richer if you choose to love. I have no regrets in this.
Being careful with where you put your trust is a part of "self-care."
People may intentionally or non-intentionally hurt you if they know your background of abuse. It will happen.
The intentional "hurters" are mean-spirited and toxic; the non-intentional "hurters" just need to learn more, so don't give up on them.
A Definition of Abuse
I know that others have had experiences so much worse than mine. Yet, in today's era of mandated reporting of child abuse, my abuser would have been arrested for the repeated physical injuries and deprivations he caused me to suffer . There isn't a "scale" regarding how much injury, or what kinds of injuries determine if you are an Adult Survivor of Child Abuse. There are no justifications or levels of hurt that determine if a child has or has not been abused. Here is the bottom line: If an adult ever used his or her power or strength over you to willfully cause injury, and to cause you to live in fear, that person was an abuser, and you were an abused child. There is NEVER a justifiable reason for intentionally injuring a child!
If you are an adult survivor, we both know that we can't recapture our childhoods. Those years are gone. However, it is possible to create a life-plan that will result in a better future for you, your children, and the generations to come!
There can be better days ahead because LIFE CHANGES ARE POSSIBLE!
Some of My Life Changes
When I was growing up, school became my "safe place." It doesn't surprise me that I went to college, became a teacher, and eventually went back to college for that blue M.A. Ed. stole. As a teacher, I was able to provide a safe place for many students whose home lives were unstable. I spent hours after school and on weekends, creating classroom environments that were engaging, clean, and organized. I got rid of broken pieces of furniture, worn out supplies, torn books, and anything else that could remind my students of poverty, dysfunction, or destruction.
I am thankful for the educational opportunities I had, and for the many encouraging and supportive people who helped me along the way. They all made it possible for me to experience a better life. Another encourager in my life was Jose Madrigal, the Financial Aid Director of the community college I attended before transferring to Cal. I worked in his office thanks to the financial aid package that included work study hours. During my last semester, unbeknownst to me, he submitted my name for a generous College Board Scholarship that I received, and that was renewable as I completed my BA studies! I am still so grateful when I think of his helpfulness toward me! These photographs of U.C. Berkeley's Sproul Hall and Plaza, my graduate degree graduation, sitting in a classroom at the College of William and Mary (the first college in America), and the motto I shared with students - "You Never Know What You Can Do Until You Try" -are reflective of a lot of years spent in education, and they were very good years.
Celebrations - a Joyous Life Change!
Celebrations are important to me because they lift my heart, and the hearts of others. Celebrations bring joy!
Celebrations can be small, like the little "Blessing Bags" I like to share; or, celebrations can be big, like the "reverse surprise party" I threw for myself on my sixth- decade birthday. I had asked my invited guests not to RSVP, so every time I answered the doorbell, I was delightfully surprised! I think it made up for every birthday party I never had! Food was plentiful (even without knowing how many people would show up), and love and blessings were abundant! What a celebration!
I hope you will learn how to celebrate, and nurture the "child" who still lives in your heart!