I fell in love on Sunday night.
In a deeply meaningful way, I reconnected with an old friend I have not actually seen for a very long time, and we have been inseparable ever since. We belong together, and I intend to do everything in my power to ensure we are never separated again, ‘til death do us part.
My true love is… me. Perhaps it sounds a bit strange but, after thirty years of self-rejection and abandonment, it actually feels pretty incredible to come back home to myself at last.
Time to get down and dance.
I do not yet understand what it all means, but I know something significant has occurred, a massive shift inside. For decades, I have assumed I fully inhabited myself, when in fact, it seems nothing could have been further from the truth. A huge disconnect existed between body, mind, and soul. As mind struggled to make sense of soul’s difficult life lessons, body was shamed, cast aside, and essentially banished from all but the most basic considerations. Exiled.
When did the disengagement happen? Did it occur in an instant when, raped at seventeen, I left my body behind on the bed and watched the violent act from above, or did it transpire slowly, insidiously, every time another man used me for sexual gratification as a child? As an adult? And how is it possible that I was so disturbingly, intentionally unaware of this break inside me for so damn long? Maybe I will never know.
But suddenly, unannounced, the time arrived to make amends, rebuild connections, and finally, as E.T. would say, go home. In order to attain a more holistic form of healing, full recovery on all levels, I suppose I had to come back to my body first (a fitting phrase, borrowed from a good friend, another sexual abuse survivor). There was no way around it. One cannot heal what one cannot see or refuses to acknowledge. An epiphany in the truest sense, the weight of such revelations folded me in half with emotion, and I wept in gratitude.
Wait! It seems I’ve gotten a little ahead of myself, so let’s rewind for a sec.
It all started in the bathtub.
Submerged to my chin in steaming water, devoid of distracting bubbles or anything scented, I heaved a huge sigh of relief, revelling in the peace and quiet, and offered up a silent prayer of thanks that my children were sound asleep at long last. It was past ten o’clock, and to say it had been a challenging day would be a gross understatement. I was beat.
As my fingers created ripples across the clear water, I listened to the tinkling of tiny droplets as they splashed from my hand, watched candlelight cast frolicking shadows on the white shower tiles, and for a while, imagined myself a mermaid, trapped in the big city, settling for a small tub when, in reality, only the ocean could cure my ails.
Yeah, I do things like that, so what?
Anyhow, I happened to glance down at my left arm, with its constellations of dark freckles and tiny moles, and suddenly, I was simultaneously struck by a number of interesting facts. Although freakishly strong, my arms are fairly small, not much bigger than my daughter’s—relatively speaking, of course—and they are also the exact same arms and legs I used to climb trees when I was about her age.
I observed my short legs next. Flexed powerful calf muscles, rotated sturdy ankles, wiggled the funny, peanut-shaped toes I inherited from Poppa, my mom’s dad. Gently poked a blue bruise on my thigh, then another on my shin. Touched the familiar birthmark on my right foot.
Arms wrapped legs in a heartfelt hug.
With a sense of amazement, I realized that, my whole life, these four appendages have been attached to my body, which itself has been with me throughout every single moment of my existence, and together, they have tirelessly worked in unison to carry me to this point. I kissed each knee, both shoulders and elbows in turn, as an odd thought crossed my mind. Even though my arms embrace the ones I love, often and tenderly, I have never actually let them hold me. Until now.
So many tears. I wiped them dry.
I held me in my arms the other night. Sobbed for the child I used to be, forced to bear the burden of others’ pain for far too long, for the girl I was, destined to deal with the guilt, fear and shame of rape, alone and in silence, and for the woman I am now, who finally understands we are one and the same. She is me. When I tell her story, I tell mine, and while that may seem blatantly obvious to some, it has not always been clear to me.
Maybe I had disassociated from my experiences to some degree. Stashed the awful, terrifying memories in locked compartments, deep down in the vault, and separated my self from myself, in order to save me. And it worked, I survived. But now, it’s time to bring my self back to myself.
I feel it in my bones.
In one of my favourite films, “What the Bleep Do We Know (Down the Rabbit Hole),” there’s a scene in which Marlee Matlin’s character, Amanda, draws sacred spirals all over her body during a bath in joyful celebration and solemn acknowledgment of the great love she has begun to discover within. I have always appreciated the scene for its sense of intimacy, but now, I really get it. I understand. I spent a lifetime searching for a love that was with me all along. But I am love itself, manifested, whole.
I am love.
I love me.