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I am...a New Yorker
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[Previous entry: "Learning"]

Tuesday, October 1, 2002
Changing
Sidebar

Seeing...
A statuesque black cop with long dreadlocks, standing in a crowd of his fellow officers of every description.

When there are horrible incidents with the police here in New York, I think we can tend to forget that we have a remarkably diverse group of police officers here and most of them are just trying their best to do their jobs, like any of us.

Crying...
Whenever I hear a sad story on TV and, of late, there seem to be many. My father used to tease my mother mercilessly when she did this, but I think compassion and empathy are two of the best qualities she passed on to me.

Using...
Exclamation points to be emphatic, not dramatic - let that be clear, for fuck's sake.

Irritating...
Woman who nearly knocked me over to cut in front of me on the subway stairs. Subsequently, she fumbled in her purse, while blocking the Metrocard entrance.

Hearing...
That Wrath of God thunder this afternoon.

Soaking...
Wet, caught in the rain on Park Avenue

I am...experiencing some growing pains, even if I know they signal progress. One of the major changes that I have noticed in myself during this past year is that I'm just not the boot-wearing, ass-kicking woman of 5 years back.

I am thankful I was once her -- so strong, self-possessed and outlandish. I need not be so hard on the outside (I never thought I'd see the day that I felt safe carrying a purse), because she continues to provide me with great reservoirs of inner strength. Make no mistake, I'm by no means above kicking anyone who harasses me squarely in the balls! But I don't get hot, nor go out looking for a fight.

I'm at this age, this point in my life where I want to understand more than I want to argue. I understand now, how Maude could give up protesting, but still genuinely feel she is part of the solution in a small, quiet way. Somewhere along the line, I just lost the part of me that cared to argue, endlessly over every needling detail.

I don't even argue with my mother much anymore, which is saying quite a lot! Since last September, nothing seems important enough to end a call or a visit angry over. I try to understand where she's coming from and try to get her to see where I'm coming from. For her part, she is showing concern and understanding that I never imagined I'd get from her.

I try not to throw the abuse up in her face, like a petulant teenager. Still I try to make her understand that the consequences I'm living with -- depression, nightmares, fear, inability to trust men (or even take them very seriously most of the time, until I meet someone gentle, sensitive and brilliant and take them far too seriously [while understanding full well the irony that life is either black or white for me!]), a tendency not to finish what I started (hence returning to school when I certainly had the ability to finish and go a lot further than I did), and ongoing physical problems caused by the abuse - are very real, indeed.

I think one of the greatest ironies of my life is how, so often, others wanted to turn the focus to my parents being at supposed "opposite" ends of the color spectrum when, in fact, my mother chose someone so very like her own father. How I detested it when people, even family members who knew very well what was going on, would say I was always depressed or in tears as a child because I was "confused" over my racial identity.

That was it, yessiree! It had nothing to do with the huge, swollen, throbbing handprints all over my body, the frequent migraines I suffered since I was 5, the physical damage to my head/brain nor the state of constant fear I lived in for 20 years. That's just not a factor at all -- it's all about race in the end. Give me a motherloving break!

Dorothy and I talked recently about how odd it is that Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome is recognized in veterans (like dear old dad), but is so often misdiagnosed, overlooked, or even dismissed in abuse survivors. We have programs to assist grown men who were tortured by strangers in times of war, our hearts go out to women who are raped once by a stranger, we think it's a shame when someone is robbed or beatten by a thug on the street.

Yet people coping with a decade or two of systematic, physical and/or sexual abuse (I dread that I will "remember" this and very much hope it's not the case with me) perpetrated on them by the very people on whom they were physically, emotionally, developmentally and financially dependant - are told to "just get over it."

It's hardly as simple as all that. It took 21 years to get me this way (and another 7 years of beatings and threatened beatings when I visited my brother) -- it will take some time to repair the damage. It's certainly not possible to not think about it now that the flashbacks, nightmares and physical symptoms have become so prominent. It wasn't like this even 4 years ago; the impact has actually intensified since my father's death.

Dorothy marvels that I don't torture or kill small animals, get strung out on drugs, have 5 kids I hate, or commit violent crimes. I don't believe having been abused, however severely, is carte blanche to do things anyone with a grain of sense knows are wrong. There is a line one knows one is crossing - rape, murder and violence are obviously on the other side of that line.

As for substance abuse, I always figured I didn't need to compound my problems. Indeed, excessive or frequent use only exacerbates them. I also refuse to bring a child into my life until and unless I can provide a proper home -- they don't have a choice in being born and there's just no need to have them and abuse, or let someone else abuse, them.

It is, however hard to understand where some of the subtleties lie, and that's what I'm working on now. Already, after nearly a decade on my own, I have grown new eyes. I think of Anne Frank, whose diary is one of the books that inspired me to write. I marvel that she could even contemplate the words, "In spite of everything, I believe that people are good."

Entry and sidebar were originally written August 16, 2002.

[Next entry: "Understanding, But Not Condoning"]
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