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Archive for September, 2009

Unplanned healing

Sometimes–well, many times, I’m learning–life just happens. And you catch yourself in a moment. And it’s wonderful.

Today that happened to me.

You see, it’s September 27. And that’s an anniversary of sorts for me. For the past 16 years, September 27 has brought with it a range of feelings and pain the depths of which I had never experienced before. The garden variety sadness, fear, and anger were there, but there were also some feelings that I can’t even put into words. (I know this, because I reworked this whole paragraph trying to find words, and I just can’t capture them.)

On September 27, 1992, a man broke into my apartment and sexually assaulted me. It was the slowest hour of my life and one that I struggle to forget and remember a thousand times over.

I remember how afraid I was in the months and even years following the assault. How I would stay up all night and sleep all day to get through my life. How I quit job after job because I couldn’t get through the day without panic attacks. How I loved walking in the cold, autumn Washington, D.C. rain, because it woke my skin up from otherwise deadening numbness and reminded me that I could feel something.

I remember reading an article just weeks after it happened from a rape victim that was “celebrating” her ten year anniversary. She talked about the minutes after it happened when she picked herself off the floor and called 911. She recounted subsequent years of milestones and realizations that she was healing. And then it was ten years, and she couldn’t believe she had made it that far.

I read that and thought,”Not me. Never. That will never be me.”

And then there was year one where I didn’t sleep that night but cuddled up with my cat and knew I was alive. It was scary and awful, and a big part of me was waiting for the door to open and for “him” to come right back into my life.

And then there were the years after where I always took the day off from work and did something special for myself. I still had problems sleeping on that night, and sometimes alcohol took the edge off.  But I started to live through it in a particular way. Nothing celebratory about it, but I learned to mark it. Still scared, still sad. But starting to live.

And then there was 1999, when the police called me out in California and told me that they had finally caught the man who had assaulted me.

What?

I mean, what?

That was obviously a very different year, marked with new feelings of reopening a wound I had thought I closed more of less (you never really close it, but still).

I remember thinking how I had finally gotten the strength to throw out everything surrounding the case–statements, police documents, potential sketches of the victim–around year four. How could this be popping up again?

I mean, really, I had healed after all.

And then there were the trials. Oh yes, I say trials, because after the first one took place in January 2000, a mistrial was declared, and I had to do it all over again in May of that year.

That was a whole new stage of healing. If I tried to explain it, it wouldn’t make sense. Suffice it to say, I emerged from that experience with an understanding and compassion for others in a way I never dreamed possible. For my assailant of all people. (I told you it wouldn’t make sense.) That experience was one of the most profound of my life. It changed me forever.

He was found guilty of some charges (he had done this to multiple women) and was sentenced to 17 years in prison. End of that story.

But then September 27 would come around, and I’d always stop and pause. I’d take the day off from work and do something special for myself. I’d say to my mom or Kyle,”Do you know what today is? I can’t believe it’s been x years since it happened.” And I just needed to be there, in it for some time.

In 2007, on the fifteenth year, I was in the midst of a home pancha karma treatment for myself (an ayurvedic fast of sorts) over the course of a few days. I booked a private restorative yoga session for myself. (And oh my god, if you haven’t done that, it’s the best way to take care of yourself. Truly. Do it. Don’t walk, run to the phone.) I remember my husband saying that he was surprised that I was doing it, because I just hadn’t seem that affected by it in the past years. I struggled to explain why I wanted to do it, but I knew I needed to. So I did.

Then wonderful 2008 came, and Delaney was 15 days old when September 27 came around. Still, I was aware. I remember hugging her and thinking,”No, you’ll never know of these things in the world. I promise.” Not consuming, but still aware.

September 27, 2009. I woke up to some back pain, which I’ve been having quite a bit lately but which is hopefully on its way out. Normal morning. Waffles with Kyle (Delaney had her first bite of waffle this morning!) and then plans to grocery shop.

“Okay, you take the dog for a quick walk. I’ll change Delaney and jump in the shower. Shoot for 10ish?”

Done.

Getting out the shower, I heard Kyle on the phone with our nephew, Liam. It was his fourth birthday today.

Oh my god.

“Do you know what today is?”

“Yep.”

I hadn’t even known the date today.

And just like that I realized that life–my life–had taken over and healed me. Had moved me from a place where it took a hold of my life to a place where my own life was moving enough to push it aside and make my current life more important to my conscious mind.

How wonderful. How unbelievable.

How honoring to that young girl who sat up all night watching the door, waiting for her assailant to return even months later when she lived in a different city. To the girl that thought she would never ever feel normal again or not feel afraid.

What a tribute to that life that seems so long ago and so distant but is still such a part of who I am.

I woke up to smiles this morning from a little red-headed angel. My heart feels like it will explode just thinking about it. I remember a time I thought I’d explode from all the other feelings inside me that I couldn’t make sense of.

What a different time. What a different life.

September 27, 2009. Nothing too special about today.

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