My last tweet reads:
Ever get the feeling you’ve said all there is to say? That’s NOT where I am. I feel like nothing I can say now can top what I already said.
Let me try anyway. It’s not going to be pretty or classy or well-written. There are just too many thoughts running around in my mind and crash-boom-landing into each other.
I wrote this post last week. Of course you know that, you were there. For the first time on this blog, I’ve felt like I wasn’t alone, speaking out to a vast vacuum with no idea of where my words and ideas were landing, who was picking them up and what they were turning them into. Not any more. You were there with me, reading, re-living my experience and comforting me.
It wasn’t a ‘this happened to me now so I must note it down in my journal’ entry. The Idea-smithy is very little a journal in that sense. But it was something that was experienced a long ago, a multitude of experiences – of events, of situations, of sensations, of emotions, of relationships, of people and of realizations. That’s what I write about and so I wrote about it.
Like I said, I wasn’t confident about sharing it online so I sent it to a few friends. Finally, after a couple of hours of sitting on tenterhooks, I did what I always do when I’ve been nervous long enough – threw out my fears, walked out and said,
I can’t bear to be scared anymore. So here I am, come and hit me if you will!!!!
Metaphorically of course, to the demons in my mind. Then I published the post, switched my computer off and walked out, intending not to look at the blog till Monday.
I went out with my dear, darling N and the little lord. My little lord, the only man to read the post before it was published, woke up from his nap and hugged me. Then the three of us played a giggly, silly Scrabble, ate dinner with our fingers and went home. As N dropped me off, she hugged me and said,
I’m glad you put it up. Brave girl! Good night!
As I opened my door, the phone buzzed with my no-nonsense, rockstar friend messaging,
You make me a proud blogger tonight! I’m so glad you put up the post! You rock, girl!
Earlier that evening, the lovely Meetu told me,
I shared the piece with some friends and they all thought it was beautiful! You should put it up!
And later that week, when I met her for lunch, over the fun, back-slapping banter, she leaned over and said,
No weirdos as yet. I’ve been watching. People are surprisingly decent!
So yes, this post is turning out to be a sentimental replaying of the things that people have been saying to me about my post.
There is a reason I’ve been quiet for a week. A week, can you believe that of me!! No new posts, no changing the yahoo avatar, not even a reply to the comments, prompting my indignant spitfire pal to remark,
Woman, at least answer those comments! People are saying such nice things to you!
The truth is…I’m overwhelmed. I don’t know what to say.
I wrote the post for purely selfish reasons, like something I should have written in a diary years ago but decided to finally go ahead and do it – on the blog instead. I thought I’d get a few comments from people sympathizing (which I’d hate) and a couple of friends patting me on the arm and maybe, oh just maybe a couple of weirdass-trolly reactions.
What I was completely unprepared for was this. It feels like that post was sitting atop a huge lock of emotions and experiences – my own and a lot of other people’s. All week I’ve been caught in the flood. Comments, emails, IMs, tweets, messages and phone calls. Friends have called of course. Strangers have written in and shared intimate experiences that I can’t even talk about since I’m bound to silence by their confidence. And most of all – the people in between, neither friends nor strangers, people with whom I have a connection but not a relationship – have shown me their human faces and I am finding it really difficult to keep them at arm’s length now.
Someone I was annoyed with months back and stopped calling, called me and said she had read the post. And in the next moment, she was in tears and telling me about a relative who had abused her at age 5.
A colleague sent me a message telling me how much it had touched him. A colleague I say? Yes, I’ve maintained a strict no family-no colleagues policy on this blog till last week. Writing that post dissolved a lot of my own rules. And when someone at work asked me for my address, I gave it and found this message the next day.
People I hang out with often and never discuss anything more personal than my boyfriends and even that only in jest – spoke to me and told me quite honestly that they didn’t know what to say. I just wanted to say that I appreciated that. It was like I showed them my real self – the one behind the smart comments and style statements – the messy, emotional one and they responded. Well.
I was also pleasantly – most pleasantly! – surprised by the reactions of men. Friends and strangers. I do not believe (well, not anymore) that every man is a sex-starved monster. I have had the privilege of knowing and being loved by many wonderful men. Family, friends and yes, lovers too. Some of the men who have commented have demonstrated in their own ways how much they love and support the women in their life. For the women who have suffered and relate to my experience, please do read those comments as a reminder that half of the world – the other half – may be just as caring and wonderful as we are.
I want to add that my experience does not trivialize the brutal experiences suffered by hundreds of little boys worldover. Child abuse is not gender-specific and I suspect a lot of men relate just as well to my post as women do. What’s worse is that women still have a chance of receiving some comfort and sympathy when they share their experience but I think most men don’t even feel comfortable enough to talk about their horrors. My heart goes out to them. I wish I could say more. I wish I could do something to make the world a safer place for children – girls and boys.
The most heart-rending of all has been reading and listening to the experiences of others. People who haven’t spoken about their horrors opened their hearts and bruised souls up to me. I feel so helpless, so powerless. I have no balm for their pain. Nothing to say except mumble,
I know, I know. At least I think I do.
Almost guiltily I find myself feeling really grateful, so very thankful for how lucky I am. I was not assaulted by a member of my family. I was 9 or 10 and reasonably old enough to understand what was happening. And though my post didn’t cover this very well, I had a supportive family. They believed me when I told them and did everything in their power to make things easier and as normal as possible for me. They did not restrict my freedom, guilt-trip me or even probe me about my experience. And years later, I learnt just what a horrible experience it was for them to learn that their little one was experiencing something that they could not protect her from. But they let me learn and supported me in every way they could, my parents did. What a blessing that was, I can see only all these years later.
In the later years, I also had access to books, media and the Internet where I was able to learn more about what I had experienced. I learnt about trauma, child abuse, sexual assault and the various ramifications (physical, psychological, mental) on the victims. I discovered – and which to this day I hold true – that the nastiest cut, the most potent poison in such an experience is the fact that the victim ends up as the casualty AND the guilty party. Whether it is self-imposed or societal, most people I spoke to after this post exhibited either directly or otherwise, an unwillingness, an embarassment, fear even of sharing their experience with other people. My first reaction while putting up the post was defensive as well.
One particular friend I shared this experience with, shared something of her own. A brutal experience but also the pain inside her, which didn’t come out in the form of tears but which I could see in her eyes. Her words chilled me.
I find sex disgusting.
And then for thought,
You know the odd thing is that we are the kind of women no one would ever expect to experience things like this. We’re bold, proud, smart and independent. The kind of women who won’t take shit from anyone at all. Who would think it?
It made me think that we’re that way not despite our experiences but because of them. Somewhere after the realisation that there is no one around to ‘make things alright’ for you – no teacher to shoo off bullies, no parent to pull you out of trouble, no friend to stand up for you – somewhere after that, you make up your mind that you’ll take care of yourself after that. Forever and forever.
All I can say is how glad I am to have written it. I really thought it was over and the fact is that it is. And yet the healing goes on. Every conversation, every relationship is a proof of the fact. Every minute is a reminder to myself that it is okay to ask for help.
There’s something else I’d like to add. From the comments I received, I gather that some of you think that I’m being brave and noble and forgiving of my guitar teacher. The truth is that I’m not. I am not a forgiving person (ask my boyfriends, ask my ex-friends, ask anyone who has ever stood me up, said something nasty to me or hurt me). I am one of those people who carries a hurt like a badge of honour long after the war is over. But the truth is that I really feel nothing more for my old teacher. No anger, no resentment, no fear, no coldness, no disgust. Nothing. It is just as if he were a total stranger and I didn’t know him at all.
Perhaps not entirely unrelated, I took guitar lessons for 3 years and even played on stage once. But to this day I can’t play a tune. It isn’t that I haven’t tried. But I hold the guitar, mutely and there is no recollection of the chords and notes that I know I used to be able to recognize. I have no connection or recollection with that music anymore. It is as if my teacher and my guitar are both strangers to me. I gave away my guitar a few years later, donated it to an orphanage. I can only hope that it brought some child more happiness and music than it brought me.
I remember reading once that Rudyard Kipling grew up away from his parents, with a nanny who battered and abused him. He wrote much later that the experience had left him unable to feel any anger or hatred. I know just what he meant. There is nothing more that I know how to say about this experience.
Thank you so much for reading. Thank you so much for writing to me. Thank you for telling me that it will be okay. Thank you for sharing your souls with me. I’m so, so very touched.
And finally, I’m sorry for being such a moony, loony sentimentalist and embarassing you (some of you anyway!). I blame it on the rains, they always have a weird effect on me. If you like my fiery, sharp-tongued, stylized self better (and oh, say you do, I work hard on it!), I’ll be back soon!