I remember sitting across from her at my favorite place on Main Street - the steam rising from our coffee mugs formed a veil between us. I was 40ish. She was 60ish. It was awkward - familiarly uncomfortable. I had spent a lifetime feeling disconnected from this woman whose eyes were the first ones I gazed into as I entered this world. And yet still, here I was - looking for something - anything - motherly.
She looked away from me. Gazing out the window she said it. She finally said something.
“You’ve had a difficult life.”
The words just hovered there - and I let them.
I longed to have the guts to ask - “How? What do you mean? Have you had a change of heart? Now do you believe me? Can you see what you have refused to look at before? Do you finally understand that you not believing me - your staunch refusal to believe me - has been the most challenging and painful part of my life?”
But, I just sat there - silent. That’s how I was trained. Unable to ask, for fear that the answer was a hard “No!”
I took a sip of coffee. She put money down for the check. “Rise and shine!” she said - and stood up to leave.
“Rise and Shine!” My mother’s sing songy voice roused me out of the darkness every morning.
“Rise and shine, Beth!”
It was a welcome call back from the nightmare of my father’s visit to my room the night before. A call back from the heaviness of feeling all alone. A call back from the nights spent curled up in the corner of my bed - tucked tight under my favorite blanket with the satin edges - cool to the touch.
I would lie in waiting - praying that tonight would be a night he would forget to come in and punish me for sassing my mother - or for not combing the fringe on the oriental rugs - or for leaving the ice cube tray empty after fetching his drinks. I believed if I prayed, I would hear his footsteps move past my bedroom door. But most nights, I didn’t pray hard enough.
The door would open - flooding the room with light for a brief moment - the smell of scotch and cigarettes reaching my nose before he did - and I pressed myself up against the wall before he pressed himself against me.
And after he was done, as he was walking out the door, he whispered “Don’t tell anyone. No one will believe you.” And I knew he was right.
“Rise and shine! A new day is dawning!”
The fear dissipated and the pain got compartmentalized. Sometimes putting my feet on the floor and walking out my bedroom door in the morning took all the courage my little girl self could muster. I would rush into the bathroom, get cleaned up, pull myself together, get dressed and go downstairs for breakfast.
For years I felt broken. Abandoned. Ashamed. Angry. Small, Worthless. Shattered. Alone. Forever changed.
I have always remembered. I never forgot. I have spent decades digging deep on my healing journey - illuminating the darkness to find the hidden gifts.
Denial is a powerful force. And my mother’s refusal to believe me isn’t personal to me. In fact, it’s not about me at all. It’s about her - all about her.
One of the things my life has taught me is that what you think about yourself is far more important than what anyone thinks about you. My power resides in my willingness to believe in myself with compassion and kindness and courage.
And yet, watching Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony brought it all rushing back through a 50 year time warp. Her too?! The pain, the fear, the sounds and smells and tastes still knock the wind out of me some days.
Listening to her story and all those who found their courage because of her courage have inspired me to be more forthcoming in sharing mine. To share my trials and triumphs, my unique perspective and our common connections. And suddenly, I feel so much less alone.
Speaking our truth is the most powerful tool we have to bring - to ourselves, to one another, to our communities, to the world. Our destiny is not written for us, but by us.
Tell your story. Your story will heal you by setting you free. Share it with the world It’s time to Rise and Shine!
Blessings on your path,