I recently began to imagine myself as a Peace Lily. However, my question today is, can I really be one? Without the sad duet of a broken record, I am going to for the last time, paint a snap shot of my colourful life. Although initially this may appear a tad depressing but please be assured, I did get my happening ending not the elicit massage parlour kind. Almost wishful, I know. There are no dreaded cliffhanger in this Once Upon a time tale. So hang tight dear friends. Before the light there is some ugly we need to weed out as this sets the precedence for my point.
Two years ago, whilst browsing the complicated world of online companionship, I stumbled across the unexpected. After, my recent affair with a chronic illness, I never visualised my entire life being turned topsy turvy by one spontaneous moment of mere boredom. Amongst the many smiling faces, one familiar stranger, many moons away, called out in ways I hadn’t even imagined possibles. His words danced on the screen in a wild electric energetic current, sheepishly pulling me towards the future. If it wasn’t for this magical intervention of the cosmic order, I do not doubt where my life would end. My pathetic tomb stone would read, “if only, she had dared to live”. The meaningless autopsy report signed by a cold stranger, would say, cause of death- toxic family syndrome. The end evidently obvious to the blind. The toxic cycle of my family is deeply entrenched in compulsion obsessed with the various versions of abuse. My whirlwind romance, paving the path for a chance at life I stopped thinking was possible. I cannot recall when I stopped dreaming about a better future. I really don’t.
20 years ago, I recovered memories of child sex abuse by a “supposed” biological brother. I say supposed because I have no desire to be associated or attached to him or our shared history in anyway. Since, that critical incident, I have been dealing with how my family coped with this information. My mother refused to believe it. Of course, Muslims know better. One of my sisters couldn’t forgive me because I ruined her childhood by telling her my truth. And well, I’ve been blamed for pretty much anything possible over the last 20 years. You’re wondering, why talk about it now? Right? You already have your happy ending. Interestingly, the past cannot be left in the past, if other people don’t let it be. Without making excuses or judgements, I want to ask you,
Can you leave the past where it belongs or does it find ways to creep into your present? And if so why?
My recent return to this ugly hell has opened doors to a toxic dumping ground that for some bizarre reason I feel has been left behind, which simply hasn’t. It seems to be thriving here. Please note, I haven’t been back for more than two weeks to be precise. I arrived last Sunday, as I face this new one, I am reminded of how our history seems to have a hold on us. Be it be abuse or anything, are we really ever free from it? I am going to a momentarily flash forward. I married an amazingly gentle soul who is filled with light, love and joy. His beautiful smile lights up my heart with a warm glow. He has shown me nothing but unconditional love, without judgement or reservations. Love that my family has never been able to give me. I was never good enough to meet their expectations or preconditions for love. Yet, here I am, back in 1989, 2001, 2005, 2011 and today, all thrown in one messy chaotic cauldron of bitter hate.
Now, my mother is 68, with early onset of dementia. Her memories a painful mix of regret and sadness. I don’t have the energy or willingness to prove anything to her so I let it be. My sister, still unable to forgive me for betraying and breaking her trust. It’s as if she did me a favour by granting me some version of a relationship, which at the time I gratefully accepted. Loneliness clinging greedily to any signs of acceptance, be at unhealthy or not didn’t matter. It wasn’t remotely on my consciousness. I was hungry to belong to anything. Family was the easiest scapegoat. However, the quite nudging of self respect made a sudden appearance into my awareness. It forced me to witness the reality of my life. I was a puppet on a string in service to a toxic relationship with an angry, cruel person who I didn’t actually like. Granted, I should have said something sooner and acknowledged my needs but I really never had the metaphorical balls to do so. My fear of conflict, keeping me shackled to a place of silence. I was a victim of my own mental health. I believed it was kinder to forgive and forget. So over the years, I’ve been filling a wishful well with my forgiveness. A well with no end.
Today, my other sister reminded me how I was this vile, selfish and nasty excuse for a human for not being able to forgive the “abuser”, her brother. A brother who is a child of illness and mental health issues. A courtesy never once extended towards the real victim of the crime. Yes, it is a crime for those who still may not know- sex with a child is a crime and nothing you say can deter from the fact.
You would think I would be upset by this and if it upsets you, please don’t be. In fact, I am not. I have been accused of so many violations of humanity that you would suppose I was a heinous monster. Actually, I am bemused by the madness of it all. The lengths that people can go to appease themselves is utterly insane. Let’s be logical here. The person who is responsible for this madness, is unaffected by his actions. He inflicted us with a disease that unfortunately no one has been able to find a cure it. I bet on this freezing cold evening in England, he is probably snugly tucked away at home, with his wife and children watching Netflix with no care in the world for the devastation he once left in his wake. Yet, the only people talking about or being impacted by this, are in my orbit.
In my reality, I have nothing to say or understand. What was done, is well done. I am no longer a vulnerable child but here we are again, infringing on that child’s sanity without any care for my well-being. Although their cruel taunts and unjustified justifications for his actions and choices are sad, I feel nothing. I know that in actuality this cycle, places the blame on the shoulders of an innocent 8 year old. However, I am able to recognise that this is not my cycle. I did die with that little girl but I am born again to live without the label of damaged goods. This toxic waste of abusive histories, that is determined to poison us until we choke to death and die is a mere choice. No one is really willing to choose life, any attempts to escape, only leads back to it. So we are slowly dragged back in and suffocated from the inside out. Where now, you ask?
As a child, I believed I was a butterfly without wings. I so badly wanted to fly away from this tortuous death sentence, where joy dared not visit. Happiness was a sin. But sadly, I wasn’t able to float away in the bosom of a liberating brisk wind. Instead, I changed my perception. In my mind, I became a Peace Lily, grounded in mother earth with strong, solid roots. A foundation alive in the many connections it served with the other grateful sorts. I would blossom and flourish into peaceful ecstasy. Now, this experience with my family fills me with self doubt. I’m just not sure that I can survive in this toxic land, where nothing but misery grows. It clings like cancerous cells, trying its best to drain my soul of its light. Until this morning, I remembered that I was born again. And every time I forget, my heart and soul knows the truth. We are not family. We are adults defined by our history. It is not a chance encounter, it is our destiny. Interconnected? I think not anymore. Simply blood running through veins and nothing more than that.
I am afraid that my fragile petals will be crushed beneath violent angry feet who deliberately seek to snuff the brightness out. Where before, I was able to forgive, the ugly side effects of this war stare at me as my reflection. For once where I was patient, compassionate and kind, instead I now find myself irritated with unkind thoughts. I cannot even stand sharing my personal space with them. Where before my words were well thought out, they now care little of the consequences. I have definitely passed the peaceful baton back to a long dead Mother Theresa.
Is the toxic waste killing me? In the end, do contaminated roots really never let the buds blossom?
The truth is I am evolving into what? I cannot fully be sure. All that I do know is that it won’t be too far from humanity so why worry so much about something that I no nothing about yet? I mean we cannot live in the past or future. And in the present, I don’t see myself turning into a vile beast. Will their toxicity kill me? Of course it will, if only I allow it too. And well, damaged roots are damaged that’s no lie. But does it and should it or can it determine us? I would say that all depends on you and what you decide for yourself and your life.
I will not die in this way because I do not want it to have such power over me. My point is simple. Although, the abuse happened a long time ago, it’s ripples appear to not fade with such ease and everyday I realise because we don’t let it. How do we heal when in fact we are igniting the flames and no one is really making the effort to recover from it?Harsh it may seem, yet we cannot also keep one foot in the past with the hope, we will one day move on. To actively move on, we would have to let the past go and be present in today. Temporarily, I am reliving the madness because I chose to be here, for now together with them. But I also made a promise to live. And I am the one facing my soul, no other. So the only barrier in my actual life is my own mentality and inner voice. If I give my power to the noise, then I am abusing myself. I am responsible for that pain, no one else. Thus far, for as capable as I am, I intend to honour this promise no matter how long it takes. All, I have to say to my family is, I wish you the best. I hope you can heal but I cannot help you because you are unwilling to help yourself. With that, I am at peace with myself because their feelings and judgements about me, neither define or describe my truth.
I hope to pass the time in the present, with as much kindness as I can offer. With love in my heart and soul, I forgive myself for the pain I have caused. And I forgive my family, for what they do not see. I have one chance at life, I will not be poisoning my soul at any cost.
Peace Lily or not, I will win. I will remind myself everyday, until it is intuitive that I have control over my life, my body, my mind and my actions.
Today, he has no power and neither does my family. They choose this cycle. I do not choose it. Currently, I am the best version of myself and he will not strip my dignity anymore. Neither will you.
I would like to thank you for your patience and time. I hope these words can help you too. Please share your thoughts, journey, truth or whatever you feel will help you heal from the toxicity in your life. Every day is a new day, remember we are born every moment and we can choose to do something different not simply comply to what we know.
Toxic waste and history doesn’t define your existence. You do. So live in peace, love and joy.
Photography credit to original artists.