There are stories in any life that are too damaging to tell. And, while the stories that come later will help to fill a mind with less painful memories, the ones that can’t be told remain. They are the small hard lumps in a heart.
Mine planted false flags, and, in an unwitting effort to exorcise that story from my soul, I followed them – even after I knew they were leading me astray. Spiting only myself, I continued on the wrong path, creating more stories so filled with my own decay and debauchery that, for many years, I only told them to myself and then only as fiction.
Like all little girls, I read fairy tales as a child. As a girl I once dreamed of being rescued by a prince – he didn’t even have to be handsome. Then I dreamed, not of being rescued, but of being worth rescuing. I dreamed of being beautiful or wise or good like the often passive but always pure and morally perfect ‘heroines’ of these tales.
I finally did choose a new path that led me to a new town and to a prince. But even after I began creating new stories, I wondered if they were just another part of the fantasy where I was wise and good. My rescue didn’t come until several years after I married my prince, and it didn’t come with a dramatic fight or breaking of a spell.
Instead, my salvation was in those years. It was in learning to trust someone. It was in being a partner. And when we became parents, responsible for another life, it was, for me, in realizing that I was in the process of rescuing myself – whether or not I was beautiful or good or wise.
I thought about this yesterday watching the BillionRising videos and posts from around the world as women (and many men) spoke out against sexual assault and violence against women. I thought of the women who can’t tell the stories of their lumps because of shame and fear. I thought of how many of them, trying to make sense of their stories, have wandered from the paths they started on when they were girls. I thought about how many still wonder if they can or should be rescued. And I thought about the way we talk about the stumbling starlets, misguided girls in the midwest, and even the women who have had their stories brutally ended at the back of a bus or irrevocably altered in a dorm room. As a warning to others not to slip or be pushed, we call them slut or tramp or trash, admitting to the world that those tales – and sometimes even their owners – should be discarded.
The small, hard lump in my heart never goes away. I don’t think it can. But for me, the key to living with it was to stop giving into the conventional wisdom that a fallen woman can never get back up. The BillionRising reminded me how important as it is to safeguard the stories of the girls who are just starting their journeys. But it also reminded me, yet again, how important it is that – whether they trip and fall or have a push of any sort – every one of them has the chance to rescue herself when she’s ready because we are all wise and good and beautiful enough to be saved.