Written by: JoAnn Kerschner
March 24, 2015
Today I sat by the one thing in my life that has been consistent in a world of hidden secrets of childhood sexual abuse; the sound of the water, the birds sending messages of spring, the ducks and seagulls, their sense of freedom as they swim, dive, or fly, a sense of a carefree life… freedom.
I wondered as I walked, thinking, reflecting on my life.
Trees- symmetry, strength, a protective force for so many things in life, the branches and vines that grow as crooked angles, wrapping themselves around to maintain stability, coils of circles, a sign of forever; all things reaching toward the sun; growth, nourishment, light after darkness.
I know why I felt so protected; the unconditional acceptance of my feet walking steadily through the brush; making my own path. My eyes seeing beauty in a world of ugliness. My hands touching the soft grass, petals, leaves, their veins feeding their existence, sweet moments of tenderness, each unique in color and shape, accepted by the others. The roughness of the bark, branches, sticks; reminders of resilience deeply rooted but yet fragile, broken at times but giving life to newness, seedlings, birds, leaves. Berries colorful; purples, reds, crimson…all standing out among the blended family of nature.
The dirt and grass – softness and stability; embracing me, reminding me of the need to continue…grow, but yet I saw the fragile moments; the need for rain water, signs of the tenacity needed for survival. The topography; life’s valley’s and hills, demonstrating the ups and downs but yet the valleys provide a place of rest – to climb the hill again, hoping to reach the top, a feeling of greatness, acceptance, looking down, a freedom, a victory.
I watch the people today, out of their homes, feeling warmth and new beginnings. I stop, talk, listen, and watched. A grandmother with her daughter and grandchildren, two beautiful children willing to share with me; their pride – I see it, I feel it as they talk about these beautiful girls, a twenty month old, curious, with hair like silk, the braid so perfectly done, I noticed it long before I reached them. The baby; so much hair; thick, brown, the cute smile…lying so contently in the stroller wrapped in a blanket; protection from the wind, security in the world. The father and grown son that stood out among the rest because of their bright reddish orange hair; talking, spending time together. The gentleman pushing himself in a wheelchair, struggling but rejecting my help; he was trying to gain strength in a world that expects it. The old lady walking alone, wanting to talk, engage; she seemed lonely and gracious for the company. The older pot-bellied man, quiet but yet nods gently; a gesture of kindness, he sits watching the eternal ebbs and flow of the water. The children, excited, happy, running, laughing, talking to the geese…innocence; a gift most have as a child.
The sycamore balls; fallen from the camouflaged tree bark, I pick one up, it reminds me of wholeness, seasons, change, an opportunity to turn something of its own unique beauty into a new gift of camouflage, a tree ornament, a bird feeder covered in peanut butter. I sit down on a bench, shaded partially by the canopy of branches but yet rays of sunshine piercing through the cracks, warmth. A small boy walked by with his mother, pushing a stroller, he stops to show me what he found… a sycamore ball. He is surprised when I reach down and showed him mine. He said, “They are prickly”, he describes his as a baby and mine as big like a mommy or daddy. He reaches to take mine; much larger, more appealing. His mother begins to speak, you could see she was upset that he would reach out and just take mine, I reassured her, it was fine; after all there were so many more to be had. She accepted, I asked the boy if he would like his back too, so he could have a family. He said he wanted me to keep it…I will.
I feel blessed to see so many things today; things that others take for granted; my world so different from theirs. They are families, busy lives, running, supporting, loving, wrapped up in a world of expectations. My world…different expectations, neither of us truly understanding the others. I think how blessed the world would be if we both understood the complexities, needs, of the other. Understanding, compassion, love, value, family; something I yearn for, a chance, a wish, yes…one I believe they are thankful for but yet take for granted. For them; I would be the eyes of a child, one that never grows old but has the experience and insight of an adult. Yes, teaching, engaging, loving them so unconditionally; different from their family members…I see their efforts, embraces, smiles in a way that no other does. No judgment ever, even on the days that they struggle, or are having a bad day. I would be the one that reminds them of their special qualities, their willingness to be a gift, one that does not cost money but only human compassion. I would be the one to care when they are sick, hurt, sad, or just needed a hug; I can see pain…internal and external. I would be fun, not overbearing, understanding of needs, hopes, dreams, and help. They would know that I cared, a request…never an inconvenience, but something one does for others, a family so different from their “real” family. I would show them the things they miss as they walk the same path with me, the details, simplicity, my laughter, my playfulness…as I run down the hill instead of taking the steps, my dirty hands as I play in the dirt, the beauty that still exists in a dandelion, the shapes that are in the pebbles, the rocks, the colors, the feel of a raindrop on their cheek, a snowflake on their tongue, the wind in their hair, the reason I still press leaves in wax paper and store them between the pages of a book, the softness and security of my pink blanket, the child that still exists in all of us; but yet they are too busy pretending to be grown, solid, confined by the structures of their lives.
Ironic; both of our worlds bound by structure, the need to conform, but yet separated by one word… “normal”. They say there is no “normal”; it is defined by one’s own standard. Their “normal” is certainly different from mine….and unfortunately will always be.
Adult survivors of child sex abuse live in a world bound by secrets, shame, worthlessness…the secret continues in life as each adult is silenced by their “normal”. I understand, there is all of you, and there is me…why would you change your lives for me, it is easy to pretend that I don’t exist, even after finding a voice to speak about the atrocities of my life; so the others I have met, talked to…remain hidden, wondering, will I be the one? Silently they pray, they are grateful for my trust, but yet it is easier for them to hide, they are accepted that way, it is only in their internal beings and in the darkness of the night that they let the pain out, there are no more tears….a life, expectations of what “normal” is in this world.
After all for someone to change this world, my life, they have to be able to see the words that are hidden under my “normal”, those words, something they all dream about, want, only they can’t see it right in front of their faces, they only see it in lottery tickets, vacations, stuff; yes the prize of all prize, monetary reward, winning the prize. I am the prize, the risk, the chance to integrate two worlds, if only they knew what I know, they would see that I won’t even cost them money, but I will provide a return on their investment worth more than any dollar they ever earned. That chance is bounded by their “normal”, the chains of reality. I wish they could see me, like I see them, hear them, observe them, our desires so different but yet the same. The one blessing we both have to offer, yes two worlds combined, paths uncharted, different lives but yet the key to unlock the “normal”, ignore the whispers, judgment, selfishness of society but yet understood as human. True self-realization, altruism…a risk I would take, if only they knew they would receive, and not just give.
I am grateful, gracious, blessed for their kindness, their words of inspiration, hope; I understand their intentions, meaningful, honest and words they are familiar with and know how to express…. The reality is as each day passes they continue to have their “normal” and I am left with mine. I have come so far up that hill; the one that seems like a never ending mountain but yet the top is out of my control, unattainable by my own efforts, work, prayers, and yes HOPE.
I hope that the next storm, somehow makes our worlds collide, a new reality, a world that I know and feel would be a new “normal” and not just a single raindrop on my cheek, one that feels even greater, one that would wash away the dirt, the scum, the isolation from my soul and add new growth to them, a new kind of nature.
As I walk away today from my solitude, my need to run, my world that still is embedded in fear despite the fact that I have worked so hard to be chosen in, not out of pity (I have none), not out of self-loathing, not out of feeling sorry for me (don’t), but just for a chance to be chosen just for me. I pick up a handful of sycamore balls as I go, reminding me of the innocence and acceptance of a small boy today, his ability to see my world, just for a second. Yes, a big one…and a little one…a family. I picked up four and added them to the one I was given by that boy, a handful of continued hope, promise, but yet of “prickles”, round prickly balls, reminding me of eternity, a life full of “prickles”, representative of me, my life, my world, but yet reality. If I could squish them all together, make them one…that small boy and I could change the world, my world.
When I am gone from this earth, I will have touched many, I am confident of that, I know, I see inside of them, their needs, I take them into my heart, I love them all, I will change the world for them, a chance at life, a chance for a new sycamore tree absent of camouflaged bark and “prickles”, only wholeness. I just wish I could do that for myself, I am thankful today for that little boy and grateful that in his world of innocence and wisdom, he has not discovered my sycamore ball, the one that was lying next to the bench, broken in half, although I will continue to wonder …maybe the wisdom of a small child can teach us how easy it is to glue that sycamore back together. A sign… for the world to see.