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Magical World

Wouldn't it be lovely if, with just a twitch of the nose, life, or any aspect of it could be changed. Instead, positive changes always seem to involve tremendously hard work, determination, and endless setbacks. How lovely it would be to have the powers of Samantha Stephens.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

November 27

November 27th was an important day in history. On this day, in the year:
1095 : Pope Urban II ordered first Crusade
1924 : First Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade was held
1940 : Bruce Lee was born
1942 : Jimi Hendrix was born
1868 : Custer massacred the Cheyenne on the Washita River
1970 : South Vietnamese forces attacked near Cambodian border
Of course all these things happened before pretty much everyone in bloggerland was born.

November 27, 2005 is a landmark day for me. On this day my cousin's wife took her life. When I learned of her death, my entire body seemed to spasm. I didn't know what to feel. I was deeply sad--I loved her. She was sweet and kind. She was survived by two young sons in their teens. She was unhappy and addicted to drugs for most of her life. Inside, I wept. But another part of me was exultant. My cousin had lost something--he was hurting. Alternately I felt vengeful and guilty, triumphant and mournful. The result of all this was that I felt that I might explode at any moment, and the anxiety created by the intensity of feelings was almost unendurable.

As I sifted through my reactions, I realized many things:
1. For many years I had disregarded and trivialized something that had been a major traumatic event in my life.
2. I had always been deeply afraid of men, especially young men between the ages of 14 and 18.
3. I had no emotional connection to my husband in our sexual interactions.
4. I had avoided family reunions and gatherings at which my cousin might be present for nearly fifteen years.
5. I had many issues concerning personal space and privacy which precluded close friendships of any kind, and did not allow for casual touch from people I did not trust (that would be pretty much everyone except my husband).
6. I was angry.
7. I was sad.
8. I did not trust people.
9. I felt I had no value.
10. My life was a lie.

After a few days of introspection, I gathered myself together and prepared to get on with the business of living. After all, one can't spend forever feeling sorry for oneself. It seems to waste too much time, and there was work to be done. For a few more weeks, life returned to normal. I was capable, motivated, and driven.

About a month later my father proposed a family party in Utah. All my siblings and their families were to be present. It sounded fun and we were excited to be there. But a week prior to leaving, my eldest sister told everyone she had invited my cousin to join us--it would be good for him to be with our family as he mourned the loss of his wife. Almost immediately, the confusion of feelings descended on me. This time I lost control. The thought of seeing my cousin was overwhelming and frightening. I wept and could not stop. Darrin insisted we go to my father and tell him everything. I refused.

The next day I was still weeping. Darrin drove me to my father's office, escorted me inside, and waited for me to speak. Through my tears, I begged my father's forgiveness for the words which I would speak. Then I told him that when I was eleven, the cousin invited to live with us for four months had molested me repeatedly during that time. Then I said I could not go to a family gathering if he was invited.

My father was silent. When I looked up at him he looked shocked and disbelieving. Quietly he asked me for more details. I told him as little as possible--unable to verbalize most of what had happened. He asked me why I hadn't come to him for help--which led to more confession--Dad hadn't helped me before in similar, but less extreme circumstances--I didn't think he would help me then, either. My heart broke as my father began to weep. I said to Darrin, "See!! We shouldn't have told anyone! This is just ugly--it should never be told!" I was very angry with him.

My Dad came to me and took me in his arms. He said, "Sam, this needs to be told--has needed to be told--for a long time. I'm so sorry. Please, please forgive me. I wish I could take this all away. I can't." Then he sobbed in a way I have never before witnessed. He told me it would be necessary for me to get counseling, and asked me to please allow him to pay for the cost. In that way, he said, he would feel he was helping a little. He told me I didn't have to worry about seeing my cousin, my dad would make certain that was not a problem. He was still weeping when Darrin and I left.

And so, I began my journey. It has been horrifying, enlightening, and highly emotional. I have discovered many things I wish I did not know, and acknowledged things I have hidden for many years. My wise father has had to undergo counseling himself because of my revelations to him. I have grown to the point where, nearly a year later, I am able to talk to most people, in some degree, about the abuse experience. The end of October brought a stake meeting in which I spoke about acceptance to all, regardless of their challenges. I used my abuse as an example of things people might not know about me--but something that might cause me to need love in a different way from one who has not experienced abuse.
So I look at where I am today, and where I was this time, last year. And I realize I have so far to go--it's an overwhelming feeling. However, I also realize that last year I was saying (only to Darrin): "The abuse happened. It was kind of awful, but it was a long time ago, and it doesn't matter anymore." And today I say, "The abuse happened. It was really awful, and hurt more than I can express. But the more open I am about it, the less control it has over me. I can tell others. I can get over this. I can live with it--I don't have to hide from it. It does matter, but in time, I believe I will be all right."

It's taking lots of time, more than I ever dreamed it would. But I can see progress and I have hope.

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