Thursday, August 31, 2006

strength and courage

I can't help but write about women this morning. This is an old topic, but must need to be revisited because it's omnipresent in my world this week.

I am acquainted, either very closely or distantly to three women who are in the middle of man made drama. This I mean literally. Men make it, they live it. Or perhaps these women make it??? This morning I am not sure.

The names here have been changed to protect the (almost) innocent.

Jody lives with Mitchell. She doesn't like him anymore. He is not happy about this. He threatens her. They have very ugly violent fights. She has two small children. She says she's moving away. He comes too. The cycle continues. She says she tries to tell him, but he won't leave. When he does leave, he steals from her, pawns her stuff, and threatens her. She says she doesn't have the strength to fight. She says she's trying. She is tired of being a victim.

Amy lives with Jason. She has two teenage daughters. Jason is physically and emotionally abusive. He is also an alcoholic. She says she can't take it anymore. But every night she goes back home and puts herself and her kids in the line of fire. She is afraid of him, that he might really hurt her the next time. He threatens to kill her. She gets a new place to live in the country. She can't tell him he can't go along. He goes anyway. It gets so bad she says she's going to leave. Someone offers her a safe place. She goes back to him anyway. She doesn't have the will to fight. She is a victim.

Alison has been living with Paul for five years. They are engaged. The relationship has always been rocky. They have split up numerous times, but each time she goes back for more. He is angry - all the time. He is jealous and critical and constantly harasses her, accusing her of being with other men. He has mental disorders and uses drugs and alcohol on a regular basis which causes him to be even more unstable. He hurts her. This week she sought refuge with a friend, and told Paul he has to leave. He packs his things (again) and leaves. She is afraid to go home. She is afraid he'll come back. She is weak when it comes to Paul. The cycle continues. She says it's different this time. Has she decided she is no longer the victim?

This cycle of abuse is everywhere. Spend some time in a group of women. The majority will tell you that they have "been there." I am one of them. At what point do we become accepting of this behavior? At what point do we begin to value ourselves so little that we live in pain and horror? At what point do we decide that we deserve better? How do we break this cycle?

I have no answers. Though I wish that I did. For me the turning point was a mini-breakdown of sorts. Perhaps on looking in on me, you wouldn't have noticed, as I went about my daily business without missing a beat. But inside I was broken, and I knew I had to save myself. Then I did. I worry that perhaps I will find myself there again for the sake of love, but my current relationship has no signs of dysfunction that I can see. And I like to think if it began to take that turn I would run as fast as I could in the other direction.

I talk to the women I mentioned above. Try to give them encouragement. Tell them life doesn't have to be that way. But they know nothing else. They don't believe me. They are afraid.

This pisses me off. And so today I hold the space for them to be courageous. To step up and say, "I deserve better, and it's out there for me." Someone has to hold it. I hold the space for them to save their children. I hold the space for them to break the cycle. I am here to say for them..."It is NOT okay!"

On the other hand, I know that I had to save myself. I had to dig the courage and strength out from under a boulder of fear and doubt and judgment. And under that boulder I found my voice. And once I found it, it began to scream. The tables turned, and all of a sudden, the power was mine. All I can offer these women is the small shovel of encouragement, then they have to dig...deep. And sometimes, the hole is filled with their own tears, but it continues to grow despite the saltwater. After digging and digging, which seems endless, a tiny voice can be heard. It grows louder and louder until we recognize it as our own. It screams, "I am worthy! I am beautiful! I am smart! I am strong! And I will no longer be your victim!"

I want you to know that I can hear you scream...and I'm listening.

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