There are people who walk around behaving as if all the good things of life are going to come to them. Most of the time, I think these people are assholes. Entitled, high maintenance, pains in my ass, hose bags who live to make my life difficult. Other days, I think maybe these people are not assholes but actually way more psychologically whole than I, who has never that I can recall ever thought any of the good stuff of life was ever to come my way. I don’t think I’m worthy, therefore I don’t act worthy and therefore, you know, nothing of worth happens.
I was raped on my fifth birthday, brutally and with particular viciousness, by an eight year old boy in my neighborhood. Years of therapy have gone into me being able to write that sentence. It began a decade of physical and psychological torture, sexual assault, and general unpleasantness at the hands of various men, women, and children that left me with very little in the way of a glass half-full attitude. Even before that, what I recall of my childhood is my parents and their anger, a desperate adoration of my father and anxious need of my mother’s approval. I’m not sure I even needed the violence and terror to be a sad and lonely child. It certainly didn’t help.
I spent a tremendous amount of my early adulthood creating an air of invincibility, of dangerous levels of not giving a fuck, all sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. Live fast and hard, die young and leave a beautiful corpse. It was all complete bullshit, of course. I would eat glass if I thought it meant someone would love me. I had a lot of mediocre sex because I didn’t know how to ask for what I wanted, didn’t know what I wanted, and was ashamed I was disappointed because enjoying sex wasn’t something I knew anything about but I was pretty sure good girls weren’t supposed to.
Then I had a baby. The baby changed everything. I had a reason to get my shit together. I had a purpose in life. I raised that baby. And I did a good job of it. Astounding, I’m sure, lots of people, not least of which her father. I’ve had occasion to talk about what that was like, being twenty-two and alone and pregnant, a few times in the last weeks and what I’ve said is I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Not knowing allowed me to think I could do what I obviously wasn’t in the least capable of actually doing. I’m glad for the not knowing. I’m glad I had my baby. I’m glad I had the baby I had, the way I had her. I wouldn’t do it any other way.
My baby is an adult now, with her own life, making her own way and I’m trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my days. Since I didn’t have much time as an adult before I became a parent, I don’t have a lot of practice in being an adult who isn’t spending all her energy raising a kid. I don’t really know how to be good to myself because I should be good to myself and not be good to myself because I need to be a good mom. In the midst of all of this figuring things out, I got The Cancer. Because I didn’t have enough to do? Enough to figure out? Enough pain? I don’t know.
It doesn’t really matter why things have happened – the rapes, the beatings, bullying, disease, etc. It happened. More importantly, it all happened to me. What matters is what I make of it. What matters is figuring out how to make today okay. How do I make a life for me? How do I get what I need? How do I even know what I need? How can I do the most good? Or the least harm? How do I learn to take care of myself when I have no real experience with that? How do I learn to put myself first? Or not last? I don’t know. The more I delve into the questions, the more I come up against the notion I don’t even know what I don’t know. Again.
I want to get this right. I want there to be a happy ending. I want to be able to tell the small, frightened, five year old me, laying face down in the dirt, not giving up was worth it. I want better birthdays. I want all of this to add up to something good.