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Positively Speaking

 “There’s the mother”, she whispered loudly enough I could hear as she nodded her head to me. The couple next to me paced in place with artificial ease. “It’s OK” the husband said to the wife rubbing her shoulders as we all waited in line. Only I wasn’t “the mother”, the abusive mother. I had been the kind, loving mother and the agitated couple were vexed over something that had never happened.

That was my daily existence for twenty two years. At least once a day, everywhere I went in the little village.
By mistake I landed in a place where I was the target of hate for things I’d never done by people who either didn’t know me, or were mad at me because I had set limits with them, or were covering up illegal activity. Yet when I left that place, I quickly forgave, indeed I had spent 22 years forgiving, and remained hopeful for the human race and still liked who I was.
Why? How? What are the steps for staying positive when you’re in a hostile environment? Maybe it’s your work, maybe it’s your family. How do you stay internally strong and keep a proper sense of who you are in the midst of incredible abuse?

First of all it’s important to understand I was an old pro at it. I was horribly abused as a child, and then mindlessly wedded, and very happy, to man who when he left gave me a copy of the book,”Christian Men Who Hate Women”.  Most women jump into another abusive relationship. I jumped into a culture, a lifestyle. Until you have healed from being exploited, you don’t see it. And for me, if I saw it, I didn’t set limits.

So I had a history of preservation. I drew into myself and enjoyed solitary activities like playing the piano, singing,reading, writing, watching movies, praying, knitting and handcrafts. My disabilities aligned and allied me with others who had to be very authentic and overcomers in a world of discrimination.

My faith and relationship with God had been strong since a young age. I was, by the grace of God, drawn to cheerful, well ordered, grounded people. I ended up in abusive situations because I didn’t know I could set limits, not because I was drawn to them. Once I learned how to set limits, and learned to endure the kick back from people who are used to getting what they want to feed their needs, I was fine. My peripheral friendships were very undramatic, thereby giving me lots of support.

The other thing to know is that I am naturally sober. Ask any person  in recovery about the twelve steps. They feel foreign and difficult and need to be worked to be effective. Me? They are my natural way. I surrender ten times a day at least, keep short accounts, apologize frequently, pass on what I know. That really helped. What I did to handle being battered didn’t add to my problems.

Lastly, my sense of humor keeps me out of the dark pit of vengeance, a lot. When I feel oppressed I cry and then I laugh. If you process things in real time, they are less likely to build into something hard that cannot be healed.

Oh- and I finally recognized what I couldn’t change. That’s the hardest part for me but I’m learning. I hold my palm open flat in front of my mouth and I blow the imaginary cement block of unchangeable away.

Along the way, I read a lot of narratives of overcomers. They inspire and encourage the high road. Examples of others who went through tough experiences of persecution, responding positively with resilience, churning the bad into mulch helped me move into my dreams and good sense of self.

You have two choices. You can be Hitler and bury the pain, and end up being a very popular monster, or you can speak your pain and be an advocate for change and healing. Highly recommend the later.