Excerpt: Part of My Journey by Nancy E. Miller
Years ago I wrote Daffodil, a compilation of poems and prose about my journey from a dark childhood of abuse to, not only survival, but being a victor. I haven’t published it…yet…but here are a couple of the pieces about the power abusers hold in our lives.
Turn off the light
Just crack the door
Tiptoe `cross the hall
Listen for the snore
Turn the knob in silence
Don’t run the water loud
Keep the lid down
Covered with a towel
Dangerous night trips
Across enemy land
Past the dragon’s lair
Lest she raise a hand
It’s a dangerous path
To answer nature’s call
When the slightest mistake
May bring the travelers fall
It wasn’t long after my marriage to Ernie that we decided to visit overnight with my parents. I figured it would be relatively safe as long as their beloved, formerly hated, son-in-law was in tow. We stayed in my old room which was right next door to my mother’s room.
Now my folk’s house is your standard Florida 1950’s cement block construction with carpet over tile over cement flooring. My mother blocked all sunlight out of her room. I often wondered if this added to my image of her as a blood-sucking vampire. She also slept with a window air conditioner roaring just a few feet from her head.
And yet, my mother heard EVERY tiny noise outside her doorway. She saw ANY light as it crept under her door. And to wake her majesty was, dare I say, an infraction of her many rules and punished accordingly.
So I found myself sitting quietly in my old room as my husband got ready for bed. He reached for the door knob and I jumped into action.
“What are you doing?” I whispered.
“I’m going to the can.” My husband answered back as any good sailor might.
“Well you can’t just go across the hall.” And I was dead serious.
“And why not…that’s where the bathroom is.” He said calmly as his eyes questioned my good sense and sanity.
I blurted out how, to go to the bathroom, one must turn off the bedroom light, open the door, tip toe across the hall, open the bathroom door, close it, then turn on the light. Once done, you must put down the toilet lid BEFORE flushing so as to muffle the sound, then reverse the previous process. Oh, and you must put the toilet lid back up once the flushing stopped.
I know he laughed once beyond the doorway but, to my face, he tried to remain somber. After all, this was MY mother we were talking about offending. Sure enough, the next morning she made a point of saying how SOMEONE disturbed her in the night with all the terrible noise in the bathroom. Later on, I received the unedited lecture. Oh, and we won’t even go into the night he decided it would be fun to have sex.
We don’t always see the extent of the control our abusers have over us until we see it through other people’s eyes. It was through my husband’s eyes I realized the farce played out nightly for the amusement of the queen. Even if she didn’t hear or see any offense, she knew we all danced to her tune.
Once upon a time
You were so tall.
I looked up at you
and to you
for all my needs.
Now I am grown,
Still you loom
in my head
Gods of my childhood.
To survive the past
I must face the present
and embrace the future,
As you truly are.
THE GODS OF OUR CHILDHOOD
Stand up. Take a good look around. Imagine you are talking to your parents. Chances are now, as an adult, you are the same height or taller. Now sit; not on a chair, but all the way down on the floor. Look around. You are a child looking at the room through a child’s eyes. Now imagine your parents again. What chance did we have to defend ourselves against someone so big?
The problem most adult survivors of childhood abuse have is that, in their minds, they are still the defenseless child of yesteryear. When we were children, our parents were gods to which we looked for shelter, clothing, food and warmth. They had the power to take or give; to punish or reward.
The truth is, as adults, the only power our parents have over us is the power we give them; and we don’t stop there. We delegate power to our bosses, our friends, whoever is willing to take it. It’s how we were trained. We can’t possibly be smart enough, or good enough, or strong enough to take care of ourselves. How can we? Keep believing that and you’ll stay just where you are.
One word of warning.
When you decide to take back your power, the people who enjoyed its fruits for so long will fight you for it. It’s normal. People don’t like change and they do like control. Your choice will be whether to stand tall or shrink back into the shadows.
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