You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
I had a friend ask me the other day, “Why did they choose us?”
We were talking about something else entirely, but I immediately knew what she meant.
And my initial reaction was, oh no. I’ve been waiting for this question ever since I started writing about sexual abuse. Oh no. If I answer will it make things better, or worse?
“Why did they choose us?” I repeated, hoping to buy some time or that she would beg off. I didn’t think she was in a place to hear what I believe to be the truth. Maybe she meant something different.
She did not.
We chatted a bit, I danced around it. I didn’t really answer. I didn’t say what I fundamentally believe.
Because we were handy.
Because we met some monstrous criteria he or she had in their head, and because he or she could.
This, the crime that seems the most invasive, the most intimate? The more I learn about it from all perspectives, the more I heal, the more stories I bear witness to, the more I come to believe it is actually utterly impersonal.
It has nothing to do with you. You are a means to an end. Your abuse, MY abuse, was solely about our abusers.
It doesn’t feel that way, though.
Which is harder? To feel singled out for such a heinous act, to feel as though something about you drew that predator’s gaze? Or to be a happenstance victim. To be someone he just assumed wouldn’t tell, or to whom he had access? If not you, then someone else. To have someone take such depraved and grievous liberties with your body just because you were convenient?
They’re both hard. Unthinkable, really.
We look for meaning in everything, I think. I know I do. I want to know WHY. The times in my life when I have felt the most despair, when I have been the most self-destructive- actually, just DESTRUCTIVE- have been when I’ve been wrestling with a why. I want things to make sense. I want a reason that makes sense to me. I want ANSWERS, damn it.
It explains the interesting relationship I have with my body. For most of my life, it has been an abusive relationship- and I have been the abuser. I had a therapist once tell me to say loving things about my physical appearance in the mirror. Stuart Smalley style affirmations.
I could not. I mean, I honestly could not. She eventually suggested that perhaps I just refrain from saying outright hateful things.
I have a disconnect with my body- I always have, for as long as I can remember. I have the ability to float away. That began as a protective measure- maybe even a life-saving one- but has become a stumbling block over time. When you disassociate that way, what should be acts of affection or intimacy become something happening to you, rather than with you.
That is not good.
My body, because it was the arena for my abuse, became my enemy. And I did not want to live with the enemy. I did battle, instead. My body became a war zone.
That disconnect, fueled by shame, led me to starve myself, eat too much, actively avoid sleep, drink too much, and put off taking care of simple medical issues until they became emergent.
The only times in my life I have consistently taken care of my body in a healthy way were when I was growing another body inside of me. Once again, my body had a purpose that was not about me, but this time, it was in a good way. I was kind to myself because it benefited my children, who I already loved unconditionally. I loved being pregnant. I felt so happy and present. I was creating a family. MY family.
I don’t think it ever occurred to me that I am my family.
I had a moment yesterday, thinking about this when I busted out laughing. The college I went to had “Spirit, Mind, Body” as its motto. Yeah…
I’m finally starting to make these connections. I’m working hard at being kinder to myself, and to somehow figure out a way to reunite those three. I’m getting the band back together. I’m working on mindfulness and staying present. I’m meditating.
I’m kind of pretending to meditate. But I’m trying.
God gave me this body to live in. It’s kind of miraculous, really.
Maybe it’s time to start thinking of it as home.