Domestic violence lives in your neighborhood. Do you see it? Do you see the little girl with matted hair, stained clothes that don’t fit, painfully shy and scared of everything? Do you think she can take you or your child’s glares, criticism, or judgements? Do you think to yourself,” she’ll be o.k.”? Or do you pull her hair back into a braid and remind her she’s safe?
Do you see the young bully feeling left out and angry? Does his trouble start at home? Do you know who taught him how to hurt? Will you be adding to his pain? Or, will you invite him over for dinner and ask him about his day?
How will you know if children were taught to fear, hurt, and harm? How will you know if they need your kind words and helping hands? Or, are we to assume they were just born this way?
I was raised in a domestic violence home. I was painfully shy, terrified to speak, and scared of life. Deathly afraid of the dark, of the light, of going to sleep, of losing my mom, of him stealing us from her, and definitely too terrified to tell anyone. I thought if I just showed up cleaned, helped, did good things and stayed quiet, then bad things would stop happening. So I stayed very quiet most of my childhood. I grew into an angry, snotty, and hateful teenager ready to bite back at life. I was bullied at school, “you look like the neighborhood dog, go back to the river whole you climbed out of,” and many more mean words were spewed at me before I finally decided no more miss nice girl. Then I found alcohol at 15 and could loosen my tight grip for a few hours, then I found heavier drugs that numbed me out so I could sleep and cope. I stopped caring about anything besides my next drunken and drugged extravaganza. Then I started having kids and feeling like a crappy human for my habits and started to put my life back together piece by piece by removing the pieces of the puzzle that simply just did not fit in.
My anxiety and depression had taken its toll on my body and mind and so I had to rewind and figure out what and how I went wrong, so I could start to go right. It was time to give a voice to my little girl that I shut up so long ago. The past was my present because I never healed my old wounds. I had to go back and feel what I tried to bury and numb so that I could let it go for good, and experience what now feels like without the burden of the past.
Remembering back to my childhood there were teachers, parents, family, and children that made my already deep wounds deeper and more painful, and there are some that gave me so much love and hope in humanity that I’m able to sit here today. I want to encourage you to be the latter in a child’s life no matter how difficult they may seem.
I have too many moments to count where my spirit was broken at home and at school. I gathered a lot of painful memories and moments that have and still need to be forgiven. I start with gratitude, move to forgiveness and end in gratitude: I sit here safe and loved now, even though he was a psycho and “stole” parts of my childhood, BUT….. I did climb trees, ride bikes, splash in the pool, cuddle with my mommy every chance I got, and enjoyed the horse that lived in our neighbors back yard. I did play in the woods until dark, eat fresh apples and pears off my dads trees, raise baby ducks and geese, and always had a dog.
I don’t have to carry around the sadness of what was not when I forgive. When I let go of the pain, I leave room for love to surface. I don’t have to be a victim anymore when I forgive.
I’ve always identified with the victim: first as a child watching my mom be strangled, choked, spit on, beaten and berated, then I was bullied, spit on, name called, left out, and shamed, then I became the abuser of drugs, alcohol and numbing myself and the pain. Not being the victim is hard when you’ve always identified yourself as one because of unfortunate circumstances.
Forgiveness lets me identify with who I want to be and who I am becoming, rather than owning what was and identifying with the pain of the past.
Forgiveness feels good. Really good. I have been able to heal a petrified little girl, quiet a mouthy adolescent, and calm my inner drunken and drugged self using forgiveness and gratitude. I am able to look in the mirror and see a kind, compassionate, helpful, loving, loyal and creative young mother, woman and wife with plenty of room to grow.
I didn’t and don’t do it on my own. My families support, therapists, life coaches, hundreds of self help books and blogs, church sermons, journaling, meditation, yoga, and more have helped pull me out of my darkness and instead helped me shed light on what helps me move in the direction of my heart.
I know that life and people can be difficult and challenging, I know that the weight of the world and your burdens can be too, and I know you want to be happy and free. Let gratitude and forgiveness show you what freedom feels like. Let your little boy/girl speak and feel. Let him/her turn their pain into passion, anger into action, bitterness into forgiveness, and grumbles into gratitude.
I can tell you from experience that a smile can save a life, a thank you can transform a mind, an I’m sorry can close and open new doors, and forgiveness tastes like freedom.
I hope we all have more moments where we are able to bite our tongues and swallow our pride, so we may savor the simple and satisfying flavors of life.
Hateful, rude, inconsiderate, angry, aggressive, and evil people exist and some of us are affected by them more then others. Running and hiding from what happened won’t fix it, pretending it didn’t happen doesn’t work, being ashamed and embarrassed is useless, repeating the pattern is dangerous and damages your soul, and staying the victim will minimize your spirit. But, if you can find time in your schedule to sit with your pain and space in your heart to forgive, then you are able to do what you came here to do: turn pain, evil, and darkness into love.
In Love, Danielle
(Please know if you are reading this poem, that the man I am referring to is not my real father, but an old boyfriend of my mothers)
********************************************************************** Little Girl
I’m sorry you were scared and alone.
I’m sorry that no one picked you up and carried you away to the safe place you craved.
I’m sorry you cried.
I’m sorry for all of the times you had to run and hide.
I’m sorry that everywhere you went, your time was spent, trying to protect yourself from fear and pain.
So little and fragile, just trying to grow every time it rains.
Instead always feeling emotionally drained, never knowing what the next breath would bring.
More screaming, yelling, throwing, strangling, hitting, sobbing, my heart throbbing, and my hopes and dreams for a life of love slowly dying. You were prying the innocence from my mind as you filled it with thoughts that would scare me to death and keep me up at night.
“Hide, run, go!” She screamed at us with a knife at her throat. The hate in his eyes, would he take my mom’s life? I closed my eyes, paralyzed in fear once more, as this has happened before.
He finally loosened his grip, and let her slip to the floor, where she begged and pleaded, “please, God, no more!”
I was a helpless witness and an innocent victim at the mercy of him, and his anger.
I could let my urge to play those rolls linger.
I could cry, scream, and yell about all of the injustice, and all of the wrongs; or I can choose to sing a different song. Because many times I was loved, hugged, cuddled, kissed, and given reasons to smile.
And, sometimes I was allowed to be an innocent child.
Some days others took my hand, held my heart, and made feel safe.
And, those are the memories I will choose to cherish and recreate.
I will allow all the love I did feel, and learn, to outshine all of the fear, pain, anger and hate that you placed within me. I’ll be the voice that sets me free.
I can’t wait for your apology, or permission to let go of being the helpless victim.
Many years I have wished I could hear an, ‘I’m sorry, I love you, and please forgive me from everyone that did, and didn’t notice my pain. But, that won’t restore the love in my heart, again.
Some said sorry, some have not, most still don’t realize there was a reason to say I’m sorry at all.
But, I no longer need to hear the words I once sought.
Because, you taught me what it looks like to hold on to resentment, anger and a victim mentality. You showed me your pain, I saw it, felt it, and lived it.
And, so I say for you, “I’m sorry, I love you, please forgive me.”
I know you wish you had the voice to say it, and mean it.
I know you wish you didn’t know the pain well enough to share it.
I knew you wanted to be stronger, you wanted to do better, and you wished you could. And, in those moments when I was brave enough to look into your eyes, I understood that you were scared and alone, too.
In those moments, I wished I could help you forgive yourself, and move on to new. I’ll let go, for me and for you. God bless you.