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*written July 2013
I did something amazing. I was in Boston to meet a friend and I went home. I went back to the place it all started, where I experienced so much pain. I knew I was ready. I knew I needed to do it alone. I’ve struggled so much to retrieve memories of my youth that were not traumatic – I couldn’t find images, feelings, laughter from so many years while I felt imprisoned behind the gated doors and windows. I was scared to meet up with that sad little girl crying on the stoop, but I went. I marched right up the street from the station. I took a picture of my old school and remembered Molly asking my why Malik always looked up my skirt in the coat room in Kindergarten (I replied, “I think it’s because I can read.”) I remembered running down the street to Caroline’s house where her mom made cookies and we were allowed to lick the bowl. I remembered roller skating the day Ronald Reagan was shot. I took a picture of the Mackie school yard where I smoked my first cigarette behind a dumpster. I got a little scared as I approached the block my old house was on – I walked on the far side of the street and pondered it from there for a few minutes. I knew I was strong enough. I knew I was ready. That little girl wasn’t crying anymore. Alison Meridith can go f*ck herself – I *do* have friends. People *do* like me. I’m happy. I’m healing. I’m intact. I’m integrated. I’m healthier than I’ve ever been… so why was I so scared of an old brick house with bars on the door and windows?

I took a deep breath and wandered down the block. I realized just how busy the street was where I used to run across four lanes of traffic to get my mother’s newspaper three blocks down. I don’t remember how old I was, but I know the Sunday Globe was almost too heavy for me to carry. I remember it was scary. Nearly as scary as crossing the same street to catch the T to school in first grade – my mother never got up in the morning, so I usually missed the school bus and had to get there on the city bus. Those places were so big… I used to be so small. There was a lovely little shop on the corner – a building I remember burning in an apparent arson when I was a girl – so I thought I’d find something to mark the occasion. I discovered a sweet card intended for a newborn, and I realized that is what this day was – a rebirth. I decided to mark the occasion with a gift to myself and bought the card and a cheap bangle bracelet. I steeled myself for the next step and walked back up the block to my old house.

The magnolia my mother planted the year I was born has grown almost to the third floor. The bars were still there but there was the sweetest little dog asleep in the dining room window who perked right up as I stood there to take a picture. I was weeping the most cleansing tears. The little girl wasn’t there anymore. She’s happy now. She’s healing. She’s whole. I felt like an honest to god grownup, ready to move on and live life without that sad little girl hanging off my skirt. I scanned the house looking for traces of my old world when a young man came out of the house to smoke on the stoop. I had a lovely conversation with him about the house that belongs to his family now. I don’t know if he noticed the tears behind my glasses and sweat.

I called my boyfriend and texted my therapist to let them know what I had done. It felt amazing. I was released. I was liberated. I am free.

I wept all the way back to Copley Square then proceeded to recount the experience to a dear friend I spent the day with. We went into my old church and chatted with the receptionist before going into the sanctuary to say a prayer of thanks. I’m not really a praying kind of girl, but this day was extraordinary, and that church was as much my home as any other place – I found real sanctuary there for many years. My gratitude fills me. My liberation is like this incredible gift I never dreamed I’d receive although I write that with the knowledge that this is no gift. This was hard-fought and hard-won. I busted my ass to get this far. I worked like a beast to battle demons and ghosts, misunderstanding, sanctimony, judgement, rejection, loss… I won.

I know I’m not done yet. I have plenty of work left to do and there will be ups and downs for sure, but I’ve made tremendous strides and I’m pretty freaking proud of how far I’ve come.

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Will I ever stop chasing the little girl I was? I wish I could stop her from feeling all the hurt, change her path so she might find an easier way. I guess it isn’t up to me. All I can do is work to heal the woman she has become.

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Which is the best reason not to mow your lawn.  However, your neighbors may not agree.  My lawn is currently sporting a look similar to the spiky haircut I gave my Barbie in second grade… I didn’t watch my twelve year old mow it, but I suspect he didn’t follow a pattern, but just aimed for the spots that looked tallest and didn’t notice how much he missed.  He got high praise for his efforts, and I enjoy a quiet smile when I look out the window.  His brother, of course, thinks this is emblematic of how easy his little brother’s life is and how he Never Has To Do Anything… At sixteen, he is meticulous in his mowing, but he had his bad haircut moments too 🙂

I’m still reeling.  I’ve been busy with kids this weekend which is good.  I spent time with my friends 2 and 8 year olds, riding bikes down to the beach and playing at the playground.  My body aches with all the physical activity, but it is a pleasant soreness.  I just keep looking at the kids and thinking how small and innocent they are and that is how it should be.  I’m so hurt and sad that my innocence was taken from me.  Looking back, I see that my mother really laid the ground work for it.  With her scrubbing me and telling me I stunk, it was clear from my earliest memories that *down there* is a place where bad things happen.  The abuse by those boys served to confirm it.  Girl parts are dirty, smelly places where bad things happen.

Words are not coming easily today.  I need to get dressed and get to therapy.  The sky is gray and it looks like rain, so I didn’t leave early to spend some time walking on the waterfront as I usually do.  I’ve been catching up on blogs and drinking too much coffee, trying to sort out what I want to deal with in today’s session.  I think we need to take some time to process the last EMDR session before doing another one.  I’m really struggling with the voices that say I’ve made it all up and that none of this really happened.  That just doesn’t jive with the power of that wave of emotion that came over me in my last session.  I just saw the image of C’s strange wrinkly boy part and the sadness welled up like a wave and filled me like I’ve never experienced.  When I connect the emotion with the event, it seems so strange how disconnected I’ve been for so long.  When I recognize how young I was and how wrong those things were, I feel so strange having written it all off as something that just happens or something that all kids do.  Granted, kids of the same age will play doctor and so forth, but these boys were between 4 and 8 years older than me.  They were teenagers with men’s bodies – they had no business using a child the way they did.  It continued for a while – that summer at least – with my brother and his friend.  I thought for so long that it was my fault for wanting to play with the big kids.  I never really understood that I was a victim.

I wonder sometimes if I should just let the grass grow.  I don’t spend any time out there.  I only mow it for the neighbors – well, for the people who drive by, my neighbors are all dead since I live next to a cemetery.  I’ve been cutting myself off all these years to try to be appropriate, to not offend, to fit in.  I’ve stifled thoughts and memories in order to be a good girl.  What if I stopped cutting myself off?  What if I let all this out and deal with it?  If I let the grass grow tall and strong in my heart, will it kill off the weeds?  Am I strong enough to find out?

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Remember wearing little white undershirts?  Thin, sleeveless shirts with little scalloped edges on the neck and arm holes?  I was wearing an undershirt the day I was molested by my brother and two older friends.  I was just a little girl.  I don’t know exactly when it happened.  I’ve always tried to avoid thinking about it.  I’ve been dreading it coming up in therapy because I felt such shame and guilt.  I thought it was my fault.  I wanted to play with the big kids.  I just wanted to be included.  One of the boys was at least eight years older than me, his sister showed me what to do.  I remember his anatomy in a way no child should.  I was just a little girl.  I might have been 8 or 9.  I tried to find a picture, but there is a gap in my album between six and ten.  This is me in fifth grade, a year or two after this happened.

I was just a little girl.

I had hand-me-down Toughskins jeans and a big belt buckle from Texas.  I wanted to be a cowgirl.

So yesterday’s session was pretty rough.  This wasn’t a new memory, but I experienced it in an entirely new way.  I remembered being up in the little house and being so proud to be able to play with the big kids.  Then sadness just pushed up inside me like a tidal wave and I sobbed.  I was just a little girl.  I was so little.  The boys were so big.  One of them was fat.  They were hairy.  No one would understand, we weren’t supposed to tell.  If I was very good, they’d let me do it again.  I was just a little girl wearing a thin white undershirt.

I’ve never cried about it.

I can’t describe the feeling that came over me.  I felt such grief, such despair.  I was so little.  I guess it was kind of a breakthrough.  It is the whole point of the EMDR – to allow me to process memories fully, to pull them out of that corner of my brain where I shoved them so long ago and have normal feelings about them.  I guess it is a good thing.  I just wish I could stop crying over it.  I had trouble calming down enough to leave the session.  How could I have ever thought that I was responsible for what they did to me?  How could I carry that guilt and shame for so long?  I think about what third and fourth graders look like… they are skinny and baby faced and silly and little.  The boys were in high school.  They were young men.

I’m giving myself permission to be sad.  I’m not planning to do anything today.  Just let myself be alone and try to cry it out.

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