I am afraid.

I am afraid of upsetting people, of alienating them, of saying things that will make them angry at me, even if I feel in my secret heart like they need to hear it, or they’re hurting or upsetting me.  I second-guess at my feelings, my thoughts, my hopes, because what will people say?  I cringe from disapproval, and I tell myself that I’m just being polite or diplomatic but what it really boils down to is fear.

I have left the abuse, but I’m still trapped in the cycle of fear, and it keeps me from standing up to my former abusers, or people who are manipulative and jealous and petty, and saying NO.  No more.  I will not let you do this to me.

I wish I could say this: When you message me, I won’t let you push me around. I’m tired of people’s emotionally manipulative bullshit, and I don’t appreciate you trying it with me.  I’m tired of being nice to you.  What you’re asking for is ridiculous and nearly impossible and you need to let it go.  You burned that bridge. Quit trying to cross it.

I wish I could say this: I’m not going to rescue you again because you’re never there when I need help.  Friendship is not one-sided.  I’m tired of being the reliable one and never having anyone I can turn to.

I wish I could say this: I feel like you’re jealous of me and my life without having any real concept of what it looks like.  

Here is my life:

We’re not rich, we’re comfortable because we’re careful.  We live in a one-bedroom apartment full of  (inexpensive) Ikea furniture and stuff we got secondhand. We shop at thrift stores on sale days and bargain hunt and clip coupons.  We don’t eat meat at home more than a few times a month.  (We enjoy this.  But it makes shopping for food much less expensive.)  We share meals when we go out.  We go to the second-run theatre and check museum tickets out at the library and go to things that are free or cheap.  He works full-time and I do piecework and it’s enough to keep us middle-class.  We’re older.  We’ve been through the hand-to-mouth stage, and we’re past it.

Here’s the important thing:

We know how to be happy with just each other.  We’re happy because we’re happy, we create that happiness together.  We make it, like love, every day, and it doesn’t have anything to do with external factors.  He hates his job and I’m stressed because I can’t find one, but we’re still happy every day, because having each other is such a blessing and we’re still reeling from the freedom.  We still play the game, at least once a week, of “Isn’t it nice?”  Isn’t it nice to be able to listen to the radio and change the station when you want to?  Isn’t it nice to be able to say, “I don’t like that song,” and not have to listen to it (over and over and over)?  Isn’t it nice to buy food in advance, to not have to go to the store every day, to have someone who appreciates it when you do something for them?  Isn’t it nice to have someone who’s genuinely interested in what you’re interested in, and to be able to do something new without feeling like you’re competing?

Isn’t it nice not to be emotionally abused any more?

I am happy because when I have made a decision, I’m comfortable with it. I don’t constantly second-guess my choices.  I’m not looking for perfection.  I will never again have the life I once had, and I’m okay with that, because what I have is so precious.  I can be with someone I love.  I can hold his hand in public without being afraid that someone will report it and I’ll be punished.  I can walk around without being afraid that I’ll be interrupted to do something I don’t want to.  I can enjoy an afternoon at the arts festival without being afraid that I’ll get dragged past displays I want to look at to spend more money than I have on something she doesn’t need and won’t want ten minutes after she gets it home.

I am happy because hurricane season is over.  In the fall, with luck, I will be moving somewhere that’s never gotten hurricanes.

Please be happy for me.  Please let me be happy for myself.

But I am still afraid, because I’ve been taught that not being okay (no more and no less) will be punished, and I will lose.  I will lose my friends, and normal people have friends, and I’m trying so hard to get back to normal.

When you’ve been badly injured, you learn to distrust your body.

I was in an accident ten years ago, bad enough to require surgery to repair it.  I figured out that I was badly hurt when I stood up and then immediately fell down because my knee wouldn’t support my weight.  Ten years later, and I’m as healed as I ever will be.  I can’t stand comfortably for long periods of time – when I go to Disneyland I carry a cane and use the disabled entrances, because I can’t stand in long lines – but other than that, I’m fine.  I can get up and down, I can walk (even all day) without pain, and I no longer feel every single pressure change.  Ten years, and I know my very few limitations – but I still go down stairs carefully, holding on to the railing, one foot at a time, because I have the lingering fear at the back of my head that when I put weight on my right knee, it won’t hold my weight.  That single betrayal was enough to make me suspicious of my body, and even ten years of being fine isn’t enough to completely regain the trust.  I can walk, I can run, but when I get to the top of a staircase (or the top or bottom of an escalator), I stop. I move slowly.  Because I’m afraid.

I suppose, if I’m still afraid of staircases ten years after a single betrayal, I shouldn’t be hard on myself for being afraid of speaking up.  But I’m willing to tackle staircases, even though I’m afraid.  Now I need to work on being willing to object.

~ by Amber on March 31, 2011.

2 Responses to “I am afraid.”

  1. I hope that you don’t feel like you can’t turn to me or discuss things with me. I know I’m…a hard person to have a friendship with, but I consider you very close and I don’t want to make you feel like I’m treating you badly. :\

    I don’t mean to be selfish or unreliable, even though I know I often AM.

    I will never again have the life I once had, and I’m okay with that, because what I have is so precious.  I can be with someone I love.  I can hold his hand in public without being afraid that someone will report it and I’ll be punished.

    I understand the way this feels so entirely. I mean, I miss the life I had (although in so many ways I’m still living it anyway, aren’t I), but…knowing I don’t have to hide absolutely everything, and that I’m free to openly love someone I have loved for a long time behind closed doors…it’s a really, really nice feeling.

  2. I think that everyone struggles with that fear. I always worry about stepping on people and I try to be gracious when I do (because we all do, it’s a part of life). I’m not sure why it’s such a horrible fear for … well most people. I know if you accidentally said something that hurt me and I said “Hey, that’s hurtful” it would -never happen again-. That would be the end of it. It wouldn’t color my opinion of you forever. You’re a wonderful human being, yeah, but that doesn’t mean that you never make a mistake.

    Mistakes don’t mean you’re a bad person. I’m so proud of you for making it as far as you have from what you’ve been through. Really, you’re one of the strongest women I know and it’s amazing the strides you’ve managed to take to not only make yourself better but speak out for others. What you’ve undertaken as a passion is a hard thing. I don’t think I could do it.

    I’m also very happy for you. I enjoy hearing about your ups and the things you love and enjoy. Keep being you, hon. It’s beautiful.

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