Friday, August 28, 2015
Ten years ago, I woke up from the first day of my honeymoon to news of Hurricane Katrina. My wedding had been a happy day despite nearly calling it off the night before, a long-winded speech from my "gay husband" about all the reasons my new husband didn't deserve me, and various guests telling me that my mother-in-law had passed out in the Country Club lobby.
My daughter was likely conceived that week, and her personality is nothing short of a hurricane itself. Birthing both my children changed me; raising my daughter has shaken me to the core.
Raising a feminist daughter has meant that I have had to confront all the oppressions in my own life, including my family of origin, friends who were not truly friends, and my own oppressive (and repetitive) thoughts about both myself and women at large.
Whenever I feel hopeless about the world changing, I remind myself how different I was 10 years ago. I can barely recognize that woman today. She wore stacks of diamonds and never missed an episode of "Desperate Housewives"! She was a cheap replica of the princess I thought I was supposed to be.
Sometimes, you have to laugh at yourself - although, I also choke up thinking about my wasted years. From the outside, no one would believe that my former husband was an abusive addict who would end up leaving me, and my children, in poverty.
When a man watches you push two of his children out of your vagina, you want to think that he forever holds the best interest of both you and said children forever at the forefront of his mind. That's where women get fucked. It doesn't work that way. Women with small children are the perfect victims of this sort of domestic violence because they are pretty much stuck. We are usually told to "just get over it."
This last week has been rife with reflection for me. Gratitude, anger and sadness fuel my tears.
Many of us grew up as girls believing that our lives would end up like fairy tales. Most of us are not prepared for the nightmares. Even those of us who had dysfunctional childhoods still preferred to believe that our grown-up lives would be much, much different.
We also didn't grow up understanding that some challenges, like poverty, natural disasters and daily abuse, don't go away with a quick switch, or a New Age Meditation. In my case, the really "bad period" took up a good 5 years of my life.
You don't just get over anything. Healing your life is hard work.You wait for apologies that never come. You cry the same tears over and over. You decide you don't want or need apologies. You cut out the abusers and the energy vampires, but some of them stalk you anyway. You suffer the residual consequences of poverty day after day. You watch your children suffer. You get angry. You get depressed. You rage. You catch yourself doing things you don't like or that are against your own best interest. You slap your hands a few times but you keep on with them anyway. You read books, write journals, go to therapy (when and if you can afford it) and talk to other women. You learn to accept and maybe even love yourself a little more each day. You pray, meditate, and scream. You hit pillows and walls and your own damned head. Then, you cry some more.
Most days, you just do the best you can.
You begin to realize that just getting over it will take your entire life and the next one and that's only if you didn't have to take care of children, or work two full-time jobs or do any of the other things most women do every day to survive.
After a while you begin to realize that maybe this is just as good as it gets for most women. Some days you can accept that and others you can't, so you fight you and fight and you fight until you are exhausted. You begin to hope that maybe someone else can at least have a good life - perhaps your daughter or granddaughter. But then you see all the ways they are fucked in almost the exact same ways that you were. You hope that it is not all in vain. Men tell you to relax! or just take a vacation!, but you look at your bank balance and it is still negative. So you just go back to it, and try harder.
Our systematic oppressions may be invisible to those who refuse to see them, but they are there. And we must continue to fight against them, for all women. But we also must take time out for the smiles when they come.
As I pass midway through my fortieth year, I have learned that I must embrace and enjoy each happy moment. Truly, there are too few. As girls, most of us were taught to chase after the wrong things - ie anything other than our own pleasure. Looking forward, I will chase after my own with greater abandon and much more laughter.
by Trista Hendren