Yes it’s true, I got another year older over the weekend. 😉
Yes it’s also true that my birthday is a holiday in the US, which is nice. 😉
This year was even more proof that having the internet and social media is pretty cool, because it allows me to have small interactions around birthday greetings with a whole bunch of my friends and families even though very few of them are local to me, but I’ve already written about that elsewhere.
The other thing that I thought about over the weekend was just this idea of getting older. There is a perspective that comes with age that you simply can’t have when you’re young. Now don’t worry young people, I’m not about to go on about walking to school 4 miles, in snow, or telling you to get off my lawn, because there’s a perspective that comes at a young age that you cannot have when you’re older too. Aging is all about that trade off, you can’t do the things you used to do, sometimes because you physically aren’t capable, but also because you just aren’t the same person.
In short, we know that experiences shape us, for good and bad. The things we live through become part of who we are, and as I have gotten older, I know that I am not the same person I was just last year, yet alone 25 years ago. We are all changing every single day in small, and large, ways. Last year I lived over 2,500 miles from where I do today and worked for a different company, and while those changes are external, to suggest that they haven’t changed who I am in some way would be silly.
Yet, when I see survivors writing about their stories, I find it all too common that they seem like they are lost, wandering around, trying to find the person they were before the abuse. They’ve defined “healing” as the moment when they get back into the state of being that they had right before they were abused, and then move forward as if it had never happened. But that’s an impossible standard. A survivor can no sooner go back to being that child than I could go back to having the same athleticism I had when I was 20-21. It’s not possible. Healing a physical wound leaves scar tissue, and requires learning how to work around that tissue. This is no different.
The abuse happened, and even if it hadn’t, you cannot go back to being a child again and relive your life from that point. You’ve had too many experiences, good and bad, that have continued to shape you over the years. I’m not saying you can’t mourn for what was taken from you, and the ensuing years that have not been what they could have been due to the trauma. That is absolutely healthy and correct. What I don’t believe is healthy is this focus on somehow getting back to the real you, the one before the abuse. Even if you hadn’t been abused, that person would still be gone. Time has a way of making sure that we can’t ever go back. Think of that classic line about not being able to go home again. When I was young, that saying always confused me. Of course you can go home again, was there some sort of rule previously about not being able to return to your home town when you left or something? But as I got older, I understood more of what it meant. Of course, you can go to the physical location of “home” again, but it would never be the same way it was in your memory. Places, and people, will have changed.
Surviving abuse is, of course, the same. You can’t go back to the person you were before being abused. Healing isn’t that. Healing is making that experience part of who you are now, alongside everything else you are as well. Being abused is not the only experience that can shape you, the experiences you are having every day as an adult should be doing the same thing. You should be learning, growing, and having good and bad experiences that shape you above and beyond the one experience of having been a survivor. That, to me is healing. When the abuse is a part of the greater whole of who I am today. No more, no less.
I may not be able to go home again, but I can make where I am right now home.