“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”
― Nelson Mandela.
Eleven years ago today, I climbed a great hill.
Sitting in the mall parking lot in the passenger’s seat of my mother’s white Oldsmobile, I told her the family secret that I had harbored for over twenty years; that her then husband of twenty five years sexually abused me as a child.
When the words finally came out, my body decompressed like a flattened tire. I thought I was done, fixed, as if sharing this piece of information would easily mend everything and solve all problems. That New Year’s Eve morning I stood at the top of my great hill expecting to see a welcoming horizon. And at first, I did. But understanding that I couldn’t stand in one spot forever, I continued on my way.
I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I was born into a generation of women and men who, when experience trauma, are often encouraged to talk about it and seek help. I eventually had someone to tell and immediately had someone who believed me. I had the guidance of a talented, dedicated professional who worked tirelessly to give me the tools I needed to work through the rises and falls. And I have a husband who has supported me every step of the way. Even the bad guy went to jail for a short time.
These fortunate circumstances coupled with determination to live clean, if you will, helped me to move forward. As a result, I have been able to scale more overgrown, rocky, and unmarked hills than I thought existed. And although I couldn’t reach the top every time, I’m content with where I ended up.
However, one of many things I’ve learned in the last ten years is that there are consequences to pursuing one’s truth. Expecting people to reflect, discuss, and perhaps change is a tall order. Maintaining thin relationships, living in a box, and avoiding issues are seemingly much easier paths to take.
So why rock the boat? Because as I started to value myself, I realized that regardless of what I was going to get back, I had to let people know where I was coming from. Several times I’ve been pleasantly surprised; other times, not so much. I’ve had family members haul off like a Real Housewife of New Jersey, friends just throw in the towel, and to mourn relationships of key people who weren’t able to meet me half way. It’s unfortunate and sad but as my grandfather says, “That’s the way it goes.”
I’ve often wondered if it is worth some of this residual agida to continue my version of clean living. It may sound reminiscent of a Kelly Clarkson song, but for someone who lived the first third of her life putting up walls, keeping things surface, and feeding the elephants in the room, I intend to spend the next two thirds of it living the most honest, genuine, meaningful, loving, and forthright way that I can. For myself, loved ones, husband and most importantly our children; this I resolve to do.
As we welcome a new year, I wish you a year filled with health, truth, cleanliness, and the courage to climb.