20 years ago a 13 year old kid was pushed down an allyway in broad daylight in a busy shopping Saturday and had things forced upon her which would steal innocence and hope. What’s remarkably unshocking about the attacks I faced throughout my developing years is how unshocking they are. They are not a stories that need to be retold, nor ones you need to hear. The thing is, something about them has been rattling around my head lately.
So I ask your patience whilst I try and sift through some of the big stuff in small sentences. I find forcing nauseaous feelings into digestable syntax makes them easier to swallow. This is no personal out pouring of personal history blog that is desiring your sympathy, but maybe some words found here may be threaded in a way someone was looking for. Maybe that person is me. If there is any benefit to be found in the grittier bits of life, it is to create a place of safety where people can just be.
And it’s all about safety.
The crux of it is this: somewhere along the lines this society we live in seems to have muddled up attractive and predatory. Maybe it’s my personal history, but I am not convinced I am the only one who gets very confused about how you hold your head high without making yourself extremely vulnerable.
Recently, an incredible human being walked in to my life, put their arms around me and whispered that I was safe now. Just as I started to believe it and took the in breathe whilst staring him dead in the eye, he walked away before I had the chance to exhale. And into my pocket he slipped a note telling me I needed to cement these foundations myself before I could light anyone else’s path.
I am left with a load of pre-prepared dishes of ingredients like a television cookery show; knowing I’d like to create something of nourishment for myself and others but feeling like I’m just not old enough to be cooking on an open fire yet. But I know if I don’t work out the mix just right, it’s all going to burn.
I am a comfort abstainer. Some ugly societal seed has taken root in my brain which tells me my value is directly related to my body mass. The poison germinated too close to the house and the roots interfered with the wiring. It is my safe place, being unkind to myself. It’s not comfortable but there is safety in the known. After all, how on earth could anyone possibly hurt you when you’ve got an inner dialogue as viscous as this going on? It’s the shittest self defence strategy ever devised, but one I believe most of us fall into the habit of - if we don’t check ourselves. And I’m doing no worse than the society I live in pushes upon us daily. You must be skinny, sexy, demure, photo shoppingly beautiful and if you are not all of those things at all times, well hell, you may as well just go and invest in seventy cats right now.
So how do you manage to dig out the self-confidence to shine like gold when we live in a society that perpetually berates such self-assurance as arrogance? The answer, of course, lies in great actions, not proud words. But how do you learn to believe that you are desirable without displacing your value upon other people’s feedback? That’s the bit I am trying to learn myself into feeling. To ingrain it into my cells. To know this with such deep certainty that nothing can disturb my peace. It’s a long class, but no lesson of importance was going to be a breeze.
I feel we need metanoia - a revolution in thought as well as deed. I fundamentally do not believe human beings would perpetuate harm upon another if they put a little more effort into respecting the sanctity of life and the vast potential within every person they encounter. Including themselves. And I mean every person. The person who got the seat you wanted on the bus, your neighbours and their dreadful taste in music, that family member who has the capacity to turn a phrase that ignites your hell-fire. The men who raped me. Every single person. Because I don’t believe that actions such as I have experienced could possibly come from a place of peace and happiness. People simply do not do things like that if they are happy. And if I can’t make peace on my own doorstep then how can I possibly believe there is hope? I believe every single human being has the potential to become the most amazing person who has ever walked the face of this planet. It is my personal choice and responsibility to create as many opportunities for them to manifest that potential as posible.
So what can be done? Maybe this is the most naive blog ever written, but a little consideration for others could change our world. I believe the answer lies by approaching difficulties with wisdom, courage and compassion. If someone is causing you suffering, on whatever level, try and calm down the finger-pointing and see where they may be coming from. And think about your own actions, and how others may be viewing them. Remember people view your behaviour and hear your words from their life experience, not necessarily from the heart with which they were intended.
The smallest things will inevitably make the world of the difference.
If you are walking home at night, show some respect for other people you may see along your journey, cross the street to let them know you are not a threat – you might not feel like one, but they don’t know you.
It’s the year 2012 and I have to think about what footwear I chose when I go out of an evening, in case I may be home late, and if need be, whether I be able to run. When it is dark I take my headphones off to make sure I can hear everything around me, my ears are like satellites. I mask alertness of a hawk to others on my path with an endless intrigue into paving slabs.
I’m 33 years old next week. I wonder if I will reach a point in my lifetime where I can walk home alone and feel safe. Not brave, or bold, or indignant, or fierce, but exhalingly, comfortably, believing-in-the-goodness-of-people safe. Then it will really be like coming home.
It’s that hope which keeps me striving to create a world of peace and happiness for every single human with whom I come into contact. I believe there is a long way to go. I also believe it is possible.
I wish you safe returns.