Six months ago I wrote this prayer:
Oh Lord, enter this broken body and weave new pathways. I am weary Lord of trying and failing. I will never quit, but I do seem to make the same mistakes over and over. Old patterns die hard and yet if they don’t die, I fear I might. Please Lord hear my cries, wrap Your loving arms around me and give me courage and hope. May it be so.
It’s hard to know where to start when I have been thinking about this subject all summer and I find it is a circle. The thing about circles is that once you start one, they just keep going without end and from the inside it is not readily apparent where you are.
If we follow circles we end up back where we started. That can be good if we are fixing a mistake or completing something, but if nothing changes it is just a repeat. It’s kind of like watching reruns of our favorite TV show. After a while we can turn the sound off because we have the lines memorized.
I believe I have discovered the same thing is true in life. After living six decades on this earth, I see a lot of patterns. When I look outward the patterns are easy to see in perfect focus. That’s when I look at others and see them making the same mistakes over and over. When I look inward to things that are close up, the patterns are harder to see. It’s kind of ridiculous that we call that farsighted!
So it is, that I now find myself writing about something I was totally unaware of in my recovery. We are told that we were victims only at the point we were assaulted. It is described as a point in time. Afterwards we become survivors. Being a survivor makes it sound like we have skills, and we do. We learn how to survive each hour of the day. It does not indicate the quality of our days, just that we make it through. And it certainly says nothing about happiness or joy.
In the movie “Six Days and Seven Nights”, after crash landing on a deserted island, Anne Heche asks Harrison Ford “Aren’t you one of those guys that you can send into the wilderness with a pocket knife and a Q-tip and they build you a shopping mall?”
Those are the type of skills I have learned very well. I know how to fix things and make things work. Now when people, relationships, emotions and boundaries get involved, that is an entirely different story. Those are the parts of me that being victimized as a child got rewired. That is where in times of stress I fall into a victim stance, which has never served me well.
At this point in my life I find I am looking around saying “This looks familiar, haven’t I been here before?” We hear psychologists talking about the fear response of “fight, flight or freeze.” The pattern I learned from being a victim of abuse was flight.
So here is the circle I find myself in. I work for you and you know I am a good employee (okay, with a bit of an attitude). But that is only on the surface. What you don’t know is my real skill is in making things work and I don’t want you to know that, because if you do, I will be seen. As a person who was victimized, I really would rather not be seen, because people may find out my secret and then I will feel vulnerable and unsafe.
So here is what Randy did. I would become friends with the number two person in charge and I would offer my skills to them for free. Most number two people want to be number one, so they would gladly take my offering and present it as their own. This accomplished several things for me. I got to use my skills, have impact, and I could stay invisible!
Win, win. Right? Not so much. Here’s how that played out. After a period of years the number two person began to take me for granted, and I began to want more appreciation for my contributions the success of the company. I would begin to begrudge getting little credit for my efforts. Then I would quit, pack up my marbles and my family and move on. I would then start a new career (which I did 5 6 times) somewhere else and do the same pattern over again. I even continued a variation of that after I began advocating for survivors. I left people saying things like, “What’s wrong with him?” or “Where did Randy go?”
As I look back now I see my life with entirely new vision. I created a system where I could function in the world without being seen for who I really am, to the point of giving my talents (self) away to others, just so I could be invisible. The shame I carried controlled my life and kept me isolated.
What I did in my work I also did do in my relationships. Remember I am not a fighter. When people misjudge me, I let them. I never defend myself. I just pull back into my private world, the only place I am completely safe and comfortable, and close the door.
I know survivors of child sex abuse who do not leave their homes, ever! What I find interesting is that I do not see my life so very different from theirs now. I snuck around the world in my invisible cape and the people around me were totally unaware of the roles they played. They were actors in my play. Unfortunately I am now thinking that the play was based on living as a victim, and if it ended that way it would be called a tragedy.
I share this story in the hope that anyone who has been victimized might recognize some ways that they set the stage to feel like victims again. I do in fact want to be seen for who I really am. I want to take ownership of my talents, as well as my shortcomings. That is the only way I can break out of my circle based on being victimized as a youth.
Some people refer to it as breaking the chain, but the chains are long gone. I have been the gatekeeper and I now choose to open it. As I take these steps, I can now see in the distance a new world with me in it and the possibility of something called self respect.
I no longer want to fear being Randy.
May it be so.