Maintain (You Got the Range)
Dear sister who needs a reason to maintain:
The abuse was only the beginning.
Some of my very first memories are tethered to his calloused touch on my tiny thigh. Everything changed in my fifth, and final, year of violation. I became a girl with a secret past. And that made me feel powerful. I clung to the belief that this would be my one definitive struggle. This would become my story. This would be the one thing that I had to get over, the main plot line of my life; like the girl with the dead mom, or the boy whose house burned down. I believed that I had passed some test, and would be exempt from any real future pain. Let’s take a moment to laugh at my foolishness together.
In the years to come I would see the light. More accurately put, I would see the darkness. I would cling to a hospice bed rail, counting the seconds between my grandmother’s slow, shallow breaths. I would spend six Saturday’s flushing my favorite aunt’s chemo ports until there was no more aunt left. I would know death like a childhood friend. I would lay myself under a man, disregarding his being over me in more ways than one. I would wield knives and spit threats. I would hear my mother scream, and see my father cry. I would be slammed, pushed, slapped, and rejected. I would fight, and fight, and fight, with my body. And I would fight even harder with myself.
It took years to reach the realization that the trial of abuse was only the first mountain in a long, ragged range of life’s ups and downs.
It came to me by candlelight with the help of a little cannabis. I sat on my bed in a haze of smoke and sadness, feeling nearer and nearer to the end. Everything, everything, was so damned hard. Life felt like a long, drawn out swim through mud.
It’s not over, it whispered, neither the good times, nor the bad. These mountains do not stand alone.
It was legitimately one of the simplest truths ever brought to my attention. Molestation was a mountain. But it didn’t stand alone. It was the first of many in a very long range of my life. Life’s little horrors, those cold and jagged mountains, are unfazed by our expectations. There have been many, and there will be more. It does us no good to wrap ourselves in an incredulous fog when new trials came our way.
I’m not saying surrender to the struggle. I’m not saying to crumble in trying times. I’m telling you to brace yourself. You will be hurt again. You will be hungry again. You will be empty again. You will be broken again. But you will be healed again. Maintain.
Survival is a delicate art form, one that I’ve only just been introduced to in my 26th year of life. You have to balance on an imaginary beam, knowing that as long as you live, there will be struggle. If you can wake up at the base of a new mountain and still want to dance, you’ve got the stuff that turns mere grit to pearls. And the world needs you. Let your story, however mountainous, fill your chest with pride. Belt it out shamelessly for all to hear. Because when it comes to testimonies, honey, you’ve got the range.