The following is an excerpt from my unpublished memoir, entitled: “My Voice of Truth” written in 2006. It stands to be rewritten. I can hear my anger in it and although I’m not sure I would change that, but I suspect I’d write about it with a different voice today. I will be sharing my letter to my grandfather in my next post.
If you are in a fragile place, please decide whether this is a good time to read this. Take good care of yourself.
My first kiss should have been a fumble of delight, a rush of embarrassment and curiosity; it should have been a memorable first. It should have been the dark haired, blue-eyed boy in my class who made me blush every time he looked my way. It should have been from a boy my age in the awkwardness of a closet during seven minutes of heaven- but it wasn’t. Instead, my very first kiss was from my 72 year old grandfather as he stood me on a chair to better reach my lips with his. I was eight. For the next two years, my grandfather continued to plunder my innocence and prepare me for the others that would follow. By the time I was sixteen, I would be molested by nine other men.
There was no refuge from these secret assaults against my body. Instead I was further violated by my mother who physically, verbally and spiritually abused me. She kept me in complete isolation, in the dark apartment in the Bronx, where I was raised. The shades perpetually closed, blocking out any unwelcome reminder of the life we were not living. No phone, no visits from friends or family and if by chance a visitor appeared at our door, he/she would be met with the staged quietness of an empty house. The rare visitors allowed to enter were the men. They waited as she beautified her self, while I played host and they played with me. School became my only window into a world outside my own and in it I was frequently the target of humiliation. My father picked me up twice a month but the fun and laughter of his visits could not erase my mother’s rage or the vile strangers that entered my living room, stealing my innocence bit by bit. I did not live in a world where it was safe to tell. There was no one I could tell, no one to go to, not even a God that felt like a refuge to me.
As I grew older, my true self became buried under the twisted lies of my childhood. Each slap, kick, punch, molestation, sending me messages of untruth about who I was and who I could be in the world. I came to believe that I was insignificant, wrong, evil and unworthy. I felt wretched and used, believing the very worst, believing that if only I was better, if only I’d been a good girl, if only…
And yet there was a spark, a hope, a voice of truth that would not be denied, even in the face of such depravity and cruelty. This voice rose from within me, faint yet determined, urging me to survive. It is that voice that drove me to overcome the legacy of mental illness and incest in my family. Later it would be that same voice that said I had to do more than survive and make good, I needed to truly live. It called for greatness.
The question was how. How was I going to achieve this massive feat of turning ruins into gold? How could I possibly live this life that I could only slightly imagine when the voices inside my head screamed my nothingness to me each and every day? How could I battle the destructive thinking formed as a child and transform it into the kind of thinking that would give me the life I desired; the life I still didn’t believe I deserved. How could I learn to BELIEVE?
I knew that I would have to go back in order to move forward. I had to examine the childhood that continued to cause me pain and begin to change the beliefs created there. I would have to challenge the monsters living inside my head and defeat them with the truth of who I am. I needed to shine a light on my life and begin to live it consciously and with purpose, somehow recovering from and making peace with my past. It seemed so far away, such a vast distance with who I was and who I wanted to be. On many days it seemed easier to just give up. This image of a woman with strength and character moved further and further away each time I came close to touching her. What I didn’t realize is that the journey was not outside of me; who I wanted to be was right here all along. She was inside of me. All the characteristics I admired in others were already the essence of me. And if I gave up and thought it too hard, too far a ways to go, I would end up succumbing to the lies of my childhood and living an unfulfilled life- a certain death to my soul…
As a survivor, I am continually uncovering the hidden wounds of my childhood and I suspect that there will always be areas I need to heal. On some days I am tired and annoyed at all the work I seem to have to do just to feel “normal”, but when I look around me I am humbled by the strength of many of you and I cannot help but see my life as a blessing. It is this very stuff, the stuff of life, traumas and all, which give me the fodder to use for my purpose in life. It is the pain of not having a loving mother, of being stripped of my innocence which gives me layers and layers to write about. It pushes me to grow and find my true self. It is the fuel that drives me to persist no matter what comes my way. In these pages you will find the beginnings of my journey and how I am healing and reconditioning my mind after years of abuse.