When I was 12, our family lived with my widowed grandmother. One summer day, while my mother and my grandmother were away at work my father sent my sister and brothers outside to play. They were given strict instructions not to come back in the house until he gave them permission. While they went out to play, I stayed in the house to finish my chores and my father told me he was going to go take a bath.
A little while later, my father called out to me and told he wanted to see me. I walked into the bedroom and found him sitting naked, on the bed. He told me to sit on the bed beside him. As he started talking to me, his breathing changed, and then he pushed me back on the bed and took my clothes off me.
His breathing was heavy, and he told me that he needed to teach me something very important. He told me that if any boy or man tried to touch me the way he was touching me that it was wrong and that I should not allow it.
The events that took place after he removed my clothes will be forever seared into my memory; from the beginning of the attack until he was through. When it was over, he told me to clean the bedspread to get rid of any evidence of what had taken place. Getting rid of the evidence didn’t mean it was over; there was still the memory for me to deal with.
Afterward, I was so confused, scared, repulsed, and afraid. He kept telling me over and over that I could never tell anyone what had happened. He told me if I ever told anyone, he would get into a lot of trouble. I could sense that his fear of getting into trouble made him angry and his anger was something I wanted to avoid at all cost.
I soon realized that there was no help for what had just happened, but my bigger concern was finding a way to keep it from happening again.
Finding a way to keep it from happening again was exhausting; living day to day trying to out think every possible scenario where I might find myself in the same situation and trying to stay out of his reach, constantly weighed heavily in every decision I made.
There were others; the college boy who asked to take me ice skating, the father of the children where I babysat, the teacher at school, the man at the public swimming pool, the boss at work. I questioned my worth and wondered why these men kept showing up in my life. Was I putting out some sort of signal that attracted these events in my life? I kept asking, “where was God in all of this,” because he certainly didn’t seem to hear me when I cried for help.
I was wrong. God was there every step of the way. God was waiting for me to find my voice. I found it when I was 18 years old.
I was tired of carrying the shame, guilt and humiliation of my father’s secret and one day I had had enough; it was time to speak my truth. To my surprise, every single fear I had carried with me since that summer day when I was 12 years old did not come true. The world did not open up and swallow me, God did not strike me dead and my father had no power over me.
I soon realized that finding my voice was not enough. Sharing what I had been through was not enough. While talking about it brought it out into the open, the memories were full of thoughts, feelings and emotions that ego uses to keep us trapped in the belief of our low self-worth. It was like drowning in a soup full of thoughts, feelings and emotions where sometimes you find a way to keep your head above the soup but too often you keep getting pulled under. I wanted out of the soup.
I also realized that there were too many times when I did not see the value in who I was because I allowed the experiences in my life to measure my value and my self-worth. This led me to discover the “inner me.” The “inner me” was sabotaging my belief about how I should show up in the world. As I continued to understand the value of “me” I stopped believing what others told me would happen if I use my voice, and started trusting my intuition.
I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become. ~ Carl Jung
There is one thing that I am absolutely sure of, every person has value and it’s your belief in your value that arrives just a few seconds before you speak, who you see in your mirror and how you present yourself to the world.
Your value exists inside the love you have for yourself.
You have the inner strength you need to choose self-love over self-doubt. I know this because I’ve done it and I continue to do this. If you’re having challenges choosing self-love over self-doubt I’d be honored to share my strength with you while you are finding your way out of the soup.
Nancy Mueller ~ Life Empowerment Sensei