My daughter when you plant I hope you know it’s on fertile ground. All the pain and trauma I’ve experienced in my life I have stopped burying it long ago. It no longer takes root. I have pulled the mf weeds from all around it and put it on display.
Last week I took a vacation with my family and I was miserable to say the least. Four generations of women in my family under one roof and I was reminded of the famous Maya Angelo quote, “When people show you who you are, believe them the first time.”
My chest hurts as I write this out because the fear, abandonment and trauma I have faced in my lifetime does not even seem feasible or palatable.
The trouble for me was never outside.
Fear has always lived inside the confines of my home. Outside my house and into the arms of strangers have somehow felt more loving and safe than the warmth of a home. For some of us we have never felt safe in our own shoes or even in the arms of God.
At thirty-one. I’ve said many times that I’ve lived through enough trauma of 2-3 lifetimes. On the Adverse Childhood experiences (ACE) study I always score 9 out of 10. “An ACE score is a tally of different types of abuse, neglect, and other hallmarks of a rough childhood. According to the Adverse Childhood Experiences study, the rougher your childhood, the higher your score is likely to be and the higher your risk for later health problems.” (NPR, 2015)
15 miles away from my house driving home from my vacation, my sister cussed, yelled and raised her voice at me and the 12 years of trauma I experienced living with her and my mother came flooding back to me. I cussed my sister out and told her, “I will pull over on the side of the road and make you get out of my mf car.” I was so angry, sad and disappointed from not just the past weekend, but the 27 years I have known from her. The utter disrespect and selfishness. All the times I spent mothering her enduring her abuse. And embarrassed by my own anger.
For the better part of my life, I was terrified of the people who lived inside of my house and of visiting family members. I don’t romanticize or fictionalize my life anymore to make other people feel comfortable with what they did or didn’t do. I spent years enduring mental, emotional, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of family members.
I helped raise my sister from the time I was 5-14 years old, constantly left to take care of her while my mother worked. When I say raised, I mean fed, baby-sat, watched over her, helped her to get ready for school, not miss the bus, helped with homework, put sab on her face when she shaved her thick eyebrows off from being picked on at school.
And for most of my middle years 10-14 I didn’t even have a door to my bedroom. My little sister would go after me with knives and bats. So much so I started hiding in my room because I was terrified. Right behind the door I would clutch hold to the knob hoping it wouldn’t slide through my fingers as the bat bammed into the wooden door of my bedroom. Our double-wide trailer never felt like home, because my mother was never there. She was working 2 & 3 jobs at a time to make a better way for us. But, after while she noticed all the holes and slashes in my door and the bottom coming off the hinges she removed the door from the frame. She chalked it up as kids horse playing and didn’t do anything about it, except whip both of our asses.
I remember meticulously putting a white sheet up with thumbtacks to the frame and of course that didn’t stop my sister.
I hid in the bathroom after that.
To this day, I have a scar on my upper lip from one of my school perfect attendance trophies she threw at my face.
Just this year I found out that one of my molesters was doing the same thing to her too, after I went to go live with my grandparents at 14 it started happening. She has no idea how much I worried and guilt-ed for so many years knowing I could not protect her from all the pain. When she recounted the same abuse story I had replayed in my head so many times in January. I had a lot of empathy for her, told her I was so sorry it happened. I started spending more time with her, checking on her, and hoped she had changed.
But when you don’t work on and through your sh-t you become just as lethal as your abuser.
Over the years my mother and I have made so much peace through honesty in our relationship and listening to each other. At, fifty-six though she still faces her own demons, she is my hope of glory I cling to when people like my sister consistently and sporadically repeat old problematic behavior patterns that no longer serve them and unleashes undue harm onto others. They believe it gives them a sense of control over themselves and the situation, when it fact it shows the very thing they are protecting is the source of their greatest discomfort.
I have suffered so much at the hands of black men and women in my home, in my family, in relationships, at work and in my community.
And yet I love them fiercely.
The devil for me has never been outside. It has always been in my own house, in proximity to those I loved. And it is perhaps the most hurtful and harmful, because the place you are innately trained to go to for refuge is the same place that can be dangerous.
I wish this story was unique to Black women. That we weren’t all too often placating the needs of others instead of nourishing our own.
I tell this story for all the 10 yo Dominiques inside of all of us that are dying and crying. Who will never give themselves the permission to tell their own story.
Some days I don’t know how I made it out alive. How I am sane enough to tell these stories. But I know ‘Izz still here’, in the words of my favorite negro laurete Celie.
That I have a responsibility of being outside. Of creating safe spaces for you, for me, for all of us to heal.
I have learned to intentionally create safety and surety for Black women.
I have learned to not invite anything that doesn’t bring me joy into my life.
I have learned to hold steep boundaries when it comes to protecting my peace.
I have learned to reach inside the silence spaces of myself that are boundless to the presence of God.
There is no place more comforting.
I love her so much and I ain’t never letting her go.