My first selfie 20 years ago. This was the time I claimed my visibility and my body after a knife was put to my belly, my breath was taken from my throat, and a gun was put to my head for speaking my mind with a lover.
I grew up believing violence was a language of love. And it was in strange ways. Like when you add to the story the beautiful girl who sparked to life in my womb on the worst night of my life (#metoo) and inspired me to save us from the legacy of abuse. This is why I am driven to untangle the language of violence from relationship. I could have died while my son slept in the next room. I could have easily passed on violence to my babies the way it was passed in to me.
Oh goodness, how I feel such love for this young woman who was raising two babies by herself, living on welfare and going to college to become a good provider, all while trying to get her trauma broken head on straight. She loved the dark of Gothic style, music, and literature because it felt real and honest. It was the only home she knew. She hid in the comfort of the dark because shining the light on her pain was too damn hard.
And yet she tried with all her might to turn her tiny family toward the light, toward love that lifts up rather than tears down, toward a way of being where our dignity and sovereignty were at least honored in our home. After all the self help, spiritual teachings, therapy, medication, and mistaken diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (actually Complex PTSD), she didn’t understand that her traumas were lodged in her cells. We didn’t know about the lifelong impact of trauma on psyche and body like we do now. She always did her best with what she did know and she relentlessly pursued learning of the self and healthy relationship so she could do better. How can I not adore her? Despite all the ways she was broken and had to repair while mothering, she miraculously raised two children who love themselves and follow their dreams. Now it’s our turn.
I am 44 and I am still claiming myself and trying to untangle the old pain from the self that I am today. I am still learning to speak love for myself and others without causing harm, to untangle the words of love from the words of criticism that cuts a person and domination that diminishes a person. I know people don’t like to talk about the reality of our deep pain and the ways we violate others because of it, but this is necessary work for healthy relationship at all levels of society.
We need to face our capacity for violence, as well as the depth of pain and trauma that drives us to violate. We are conditioned by a culture that tells us all that we can demand, coerce and control others to submit to our belief in what is right, often in the name of love and justice. Most of us use words instead of guns to establish our superiority of thought/feeling/belief over our children, partners, friends and/or peers. This is what drives our conflict to violence – our need to be right and impose our rightness on the other at all costs.
I want that young woman of 1997 to know that today I have a marriage that builds me up every single day. I am part of a love based adoption triad with a third child that is resolving the deepest hurts caused with revolutionary harm reduction practice and restorative justice. I have Beloved Friends and community members who radically include all of who I am and treat me with respect even when I fail.
I now know for certain that a different way of being is possible and my deepest desire is to share that possibility with others who hunger for a different way as much as that young woman did so long ago.