shy-islandThat’s the song I listened to for a good year, “You’ve Got a Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman. That song influenced and emboldened me to leave an abusive family for good.

“Leave tonight or live and die this way.” Those words were so, so true. I wasn’t like my sister. I didn’t fall in line very easily. I was quiet. I was shy but I had nearly every part of the quiet child ripped out of me. That’s when I became a kid with nothing to lose. I can’t say how many times I bucked when the easier way would have been to buckle. I ended up being a spirited runt known for a smart mouth.

It was no fun being the runt. I was second to the youngest living relative and I was a lot shorter than everyone else, including the youngest cousin. Grandmother was an even six feet, Mother was 5’11. I maxed out at 5’4. There’s a song they used to sing, “Short people got no reason to live.” That’s actually a song and I heard it non-stop. Cups were placed high so I had to jump at them to get one. I couldn’t use a chair or a stool. They left no stone unturned and abused at every turn. They were cruel and sadistic. I think of the extent to which we were all abused and wonder how on earth we lived through it.

What I know for certain is this, had I stayed I’d be in the same boat as my sister. I’d still believe the things I was taught. I would have never tasted freedom. That is painful, when a person is never, ever free and the true understanding of it is abstract, it’s sad and painful.

Since the day I was no longer living in my mother’s home I’ve had opportunities to questions beliefs about myself, about her, about the family dynamics, about the opposite sex and about women. I’ve had opportunities to heal wounds instead of have the scab picked off so a deeper wound could be inflicted. Being away from her and that family is the only way I was able to scrape off years of corrosive ideas about myself and the world.

How influential was my mother’s power over her children? When hospitalized I was asked to draw a picture of God. I was honest. I drew a naked picture of my mother, nothing but the waste down. That’s the very first thing I saw in my head when asked to do the assignment so I drew it. I was asked to choose one word from a group of flashcards to describe myself. I chose the word defeated.

I am not defeated. I wasn’t defeated because I had the opportunity to take my freedom and had something in me willing to risk the unknown to get away from the known. Enough was enough. But I cannot say my sister had whatever one needs to survive such a situation. I knew it wasn’t there when I was a kid which is why I tried to teach her to leave when being hurt, concentrate on one object, do this, do that, you won’t feel it as much. We may all be equal because we are human but we do not all have the same strengths and abilities or opportunities. I no longer believe my sister could have left. That hurts. She’ll live and die this way. I think to myself, they got her, they finally got her!

I told Dr. D that even though I’m not present in that house, after the string of deaths, my heart has been divided. I strongly considered reconnecting with some of my family members but that would mean going back to insanity. It would be taking that fast car, putting it in reverse to return to insanity. Why would I trade what little sanity I have left for the gift of once again being seen as worthless? My voice means nothing. I mean nothing to them. I thought things might go well with my aunt because she sounded more calm than I remember. That calm broke quickly. It’s hard to hide your true self, especially when observed with eagle eyes. I wanted it to be okay. I wanted a family member, a living blood connection but the cost is way too high. I refuse to let my heart go back home and suffer so much just to feel like I belong to someone. I don’t knock the need to belong to a family. That need is real and its understandable, but it is not worth the price I’m being asked to pay.

I will figure out how to let this brief brush with them be a learning experience. I see the red flags (flames) and I recognize what I’m being asked to do. Don’t talk about the past, give up your name, fit right back in to the role I was placed in as a child, and remember I’m nothing, worthless. No. I can’t play that role anymore. I never tried out for this horror film and I no longer wish to star in it.

I feel weakened but not defeated.


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