“And finally, this question: the mystery of whose story it will be, of who draws the curtain. Who is it that chooses our steps in a dance? Who drives us mad, flashes us with whips, crowns us with victory when we survive the impossible? Who is it that tells all these things? Who honors those we love with the very life we live? Who sends monsters to kill us, and at the same time sings that we’ll never die? Who teaches us what’s real, and how to laugh at lies? Who decides why we live, and what we’ll die to defend? Who chains us, and who holds the key to set us free?
You have all the weapons you need. Now fight!” — Sweet Pea, Sucker Punch
My dear friend Mary posted this quote on my Facebook page yesterday. When I read it I was moved to tears. "You have all the weapons you need. Now fight!" This quote opens so many emotional doors for me that I prefer to stay shut and locked. I have fought fiercely and lost so much. I ran out of money one year too early in my divorce. It was a very nasty bloody battle; 3 years of on the battlefield getting the shit beat out of me. While the worst, most costly battles are behind me, we do not go more than 3 or 4 weeks without a huge power struggle mini battles where I have to stand firm to hold my line.
‘Still I Rise’ by Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Some days I believe this down to my bones, some days I weep. I am so scarred and bent from the beating I took. I remember the days when my thighs were still strong and carried me into the fray. Now each morning I am humbled by the grace that fills my legs and core to aide me in standing my ground. Still I fucking rise! I hear Maya's throaty voice telling me to "rise, rise Melissa. Leave behind your nights of terror and fear!"
The day I ran to my local shelter for abused women I received some of the most important information of my life. I learned that men have most of the power, that I am small & weak & scared & not safe. I learned the laws are no longer set up to protect me. I learned that I can and will be hurt physically, emotionally and spiritually. I learned that even the strongest, smartest women who are financially able on their own, get killed by their partner.
I learned that the "state" my ex husband was in mentally, put me at extreme danger. I learned that most women cannot get restraining orders that extend beyond two weeks, unless I was being beaten and had bruises I would not get a permanent restraining order. I learned that even if I was beaten, unless we had documentation of multiple events, there was still a chance I would not get a permanent order. I learned that what he had attempted was not going to get me more than two weeks safety. I was given the Wheel to explain to me that what emotional and verbal abuse was.
I was told that if I chose to try to get a restraining order that my chance of being killed by my partner went up exponentially. I was told how to make contact if I needed to shelter me and my kids. Before I left, this woman who had seen so very much and weathered her own storm quoted Martin Luther King Jr. and told me that "with God's assistance a year from now you will be free at last. Just keep reminding yourself a year from now it will all be better."
“Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches That Changed the World
I still hear Maya's voice and Martin Luther King Jr.'s voice rallying me.
When asked, "who draws the curtain," "chooses our steps in a dance," "Who chains us, and who holds the key to set us free?" The answer is me, however I am still holding my line. I cannot become lax or comfortable. To forgive and forget does not feel like a real option until both of my kids are 18. Daily, I work at forgiveness, it last 3 or 4 weeks until he pushes to see if I have begun to rest. He is always testing me because he thinks I am weak and will lose focus. I will not.
I am trying to walk a path of peace, but my heart is so full of this war. While it doesn't sound or feel very enlightened, I am learning the steps now to move me closer to forgiveness each day even though I won't be able to apply them fully until my children are grown up. This wound can't heal with it being ripped open with regularity. I am working to forgive him and myself for the past, but we are adding on new layers every month. This is the best that I can do, for now.
I am very clear that I have all of the tools I need to keep winning, to hold my own against him, to keep my wall strong. I feel very grounded in my ability to fight him, but I hate the state of being ready. This preparedness keeps my heart chained to my hate. I am the owner of the lock and the key.
Who's story will it be? The story is mine and I will tell it. It is the one of the thing he cannot take from me. He cannot silence me.
I am living. I am fighting. I am loving. I am feeling it all.
"For those who fight for it, life has a flavor the sheltered will never know." Wise Man from Sucker Punch
I know the flavor of a life fought for.