This article deals with child sexual abuse, a difficult issue for most to stomach. Because, as Leslie points out, one in four women and one in seven men have been abused before they are 18, and because so many abused children grow up to seek help from posts like those on TSN, I thought it was important to publish Leslie's article. However, if the subject is triggering, please seek a safe space where you can read this article, ask a trusted friend to read it with you or come back to it when you're feeling more ready.
Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth.~Buddha
I’m a survivor of child sexual abuse.
But even after decades I still can’t say that completely without shame. That’s the nature of this kind of abuse. Logic tells us we were children. We had no choice.
But the wounds go deep and are so hidden that for me, and many like me, that feeling of shame becomes as much a part of who we are as our eye color. We just learn to live with it.
We survive. But once innocence is lost, it can never return.
I believe many survivors of childhood abuse are drawn to spiritual traditions. Those of us who manage to fight the low self-esteem and the numbing lure of drugs and alcohol still need to make sense of what happened.
It doesn’t matter where you are, you are nowhere compared to where you can go.~Bob Proctor
As a young girl, I learned early that I was different. I heard family members talking; I heard the mean taunts and the comments about my mother. I was constantly compared to a woman I knew nothing about.
Every time I did something wrong or didn’t get something right, I would brace for the barrage of insults and name calling. The most popular one was “You are going to be just like your mother.” No one had to tell me what that meant. I figured that out early when, at four years old, my cousin nicely told me I would never amount to anything.
I promised myself that I would prove everyone wrong. I would become someone. I worked harder in school and most of all, I did all I could to please everyone I came in contact with. I wanted to make everyone like me and not see the side that my family members saw.
Asking for help does not mean that we are weak or incompetent. It usually indicates an advanced level of honesty and intelligence.~Anne Wilson Schaef
For the past few months I’ve been training for races I’m running this summer. Before I signed up, I had never run more than a few blocks without stopping. I’d just never gotten into it.
I’m not really sure why, but I’ve always wanted to run a trail race. Plus a triathlon is on my Nothing’s Impossible List, so why not start with the part I’m no good at?
I headed out to buy some good shoes. The owner offered me advice and ideas about how to begin running and what sort of training plan to follow.
What’s funny is that I figured there couldn’t be much to it. Instead I realized that I was a young babe in an old woods. There was a lot to running, and I didn’t know what I was in for.
I’m so thankful I opened up to that shop owner, because now I have all sorts of things to help me succeed. I was a little embarrassed to admit I was trying something new (that’s one of my ego’s trouble spots — I always want to look like an expert), but by doing so, I probably saved myself a whole bunch of misery, injury and wasted time.
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt
Countless self-help gurus urge people to find their purpose, to lead a purpose-driven life, to be purposeful about their choices.
The thinking goes like this: If you’re feeling a pervasive sense of un-fulfillment and lack — perhaps sprinkled with varying degrees of anxiety or sadness or anger — then you’re probably lacking your purpose. Find your purpose, the enlightened people say, and all else in life clicks into place.
Roger that. It’s a logical thread to follow.
There’s just one problem: Trying to find your life purpose causes a lot of people more stress and anxiety. It throws life wildly out of balance. It creates striving. Until that holy grail of Here’s my life purpose is found, life can feel perpetually lacking.
Whatever it takes to find the real you, don't be daunted if the rest of the world looks on in shock.~Stephen Richards
About a year ago I left my job, moved up in the mountains far away from family and friends, and started anew. I had enough of crowded places, constant machine noise and a life spent mainly indoors. My way out was to use part of my savings to offer myself a year to find out: “What’s next?”
Until then, I had lived in different cities around Europe, working in offices for many years — a normal western lifestyle with its ups and downs and its hectic and stressful rhythm.
For some time I had been uneasy about it, and as I started searching for other possibilities, I suddenly felt I needed to do a clean cut and find a way of life that really fulfilled me.
Here I had my big chance to review my life, and the main question I tried to answer as honestly as I could was: Did I live according to my dreams, my convictions and the demands of my heart?
It's your place in the world; it's your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.~Mae Jemison
I woke up earlier than usual and stayed in bed with the sheet pulled up to my chest thinking. How is it that I’ve come to live someone else’s life? The apartment was quiet. Early mornings were the perfect time to think.
As a child, I knew exactly what I wanted to be. I wanted to take pictures of nature and write magical stories. As an adult, those dreams became distant.
I listened to the cacophony of voices around me, and they all knew what I should want. They all knew what I needed to do: go to college, get a stable job, get married, buy a house, have children, work hard until retirement …
I’d listened to everyone else and tried to contort myself to fit into a mold that just wasn’t right for me, leaving a string of abandoned jobs in my wake, each less suited for me than the last. The only joy I found in the nine-to-five grind was handing in my resignation notice.
You are very powerful, provided you know how powerful you are.~Yogi Bhajan
At the age of 12, after a rigorous audition and interview process, I was accepted into a local art school. While I had taken art classes nearly all my life, I wasn’t entirely convinced that I had talent that could even come close to the artists that this particular school churned out year after year.
I thought that receiving the acceptance letter might be validation enough to convince me that I was capable of doing what I had set out to do — that I had enough natural talent, and now all I needed was specialized instruction.
Instruction, it turns out, wasn’t what I needed. Confidence was.
The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.~Buddha
After I graduated from college and started earning a decent paycheck, I spent a fair amount of time flipping through glossy home decorating magazines and meandering through home furnishing stores.
I was “setting up house” for real for the first time in my life. It seemed very important that I get the décor exactly right because it would make an important declaration to the world about my personality and lifestyle.
But choosing just the right style was hard — because I didn’t have my own style yet. Well, no … I knew I must have one. I just had to figure out what it was.
If you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something … Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, do it. Make your mistakes next year and forever.~Neil Gaiman
There’s a story about a ceramics teacher who, at the beginning of the quarter, divided his class up into two groups. The first group was told that their grade would be based solely on the quantity of their work and the second group, on quality.
At the end of the quarter, contrary to what one would think, it was the first group that received the higher marks. Why? Because every day they churned out pot after pot, trying out new things and quickly learning from their mistakes.
The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousandfold.~Aristotle
I must have heard it delivered a thousand different ways: Honesty is the best policy.
Precisely because I heard it a thousand times, I tended to associate the saying with less significance. It’s like hearing your mom tell you, “Put your coat on or you’ll catch a cold!”
Looking back, it seems I spent a lifetime wasting so much energy putting out fires because I lost sight of what was most important. Being true to myself was a concept — a nice idea for others, but not for me. I didn’t have that luxury. I had way too much on my plate.