If you weren’t there or if you didn’t read about it after the fact in the early days of the blog, let me tell you: those were desperate, terrifying, lonely times. They are long over now, as in the past as the past can be. Through writing, enlisting witnesses, and lots of (ongoing) therapy, I came to a kind of acceptance. These things happened. They marked, but did not destroy, me. This is my life and I am strong.
In a recent message exchange with someone who was there at the time, a direct witness, I alluded obliquely to my “difficult” adolescence. They questioned this understatement: Difficult? You were the coolest person I knew.
Wait. What? Cue record scratch.
It took me a few moments to process my disbelief. Perhaps it was a misunderstanding, a confusion of what I experienced (the blood, the body, the neglect, the blame) with who I was then (admittedly “difficult,” which is not to say uncool). But what was the point of clarifying a now-stranger’s muddied memory? As we continued to send messages, parts of my history collapsed, crumbled like a California cliffside into the depths of unshared memory. I was left to carry it alone.
Later, during a visit with a kind, loving, and entertaining person who has some large blind spots, a person who has known me almost as long as my mother, I again felt the lonely pang of erasure, the void of not being seen. The spreading darkness impeded my ability to think and feel. Recognizing and containing that darkness and letting it dissipate took a toll. Thank goodness for my husband, who listened as I figured it out.
Why do I tell you this? I write it out because I have to. I am compelled. But I also want to mark the shifts in myself. Ten years ago, these experiences would have enraged me. Five years ago, they would still induce anger, perhaps some sadness and shame, a turn to a glass of wine or two for succor. Today, I just try to make sense of it and feel compassion for those who cannot, for whatever reason, see.
It’s progress, sometimes of a lonely kind. But even when I feel lonely, I know I am not alone.