I'm one of those people who love birthdays and holidays. My house looks like Kris Kringle's place at Christmas (apart from my Mister Misty Red & Green Skulls I put Santa hats on), a haunted castle at Halloween, and Bunny land at Easter. Birthdays to me are absolutely sacred things; the day the world was given the gift of you or me.
I didn't always feel that way about my own birthday. Annually, I glared at my hated reflection in the mirror, pissed off that yet another year had passed without my accomplishing anything other than becoming even more of a loser. And fatter. I had an obsession with my blub. All those hopes, all those dreams of my childhood, flushed down the toilet with nobody to blame but myself. I considered myself a stupid, chickenshit, ugly fat bitch who couldn't tie her own shoe. I'd fucked up my life so badly. Why the hell would I celebrate something as awful as my own birth?
Such a strange thing, self-loathing. It's almost as passionate a belief system as that of a religious zealot. Everything was a test of my faith; if I glimpsed something attractive in the mirror, I was betraying my own righteous rage. If I felt the slightest pride in the tiniest accomplishment, it was false vanity. I was repulsive to myself. It was a moral imperative for me to remain that way.
Insecurity likes you to be a blind zealot. It does a tap dance on your psyche, stomps you flat and sets fire to the remains. The really creepy thing is, you applaud it for doing so. That's right. Get that bitch. Keep her down. That's what an insecure person feels inside. Outwardly, maybe even consciously, pretending the opposite. I think that's why we gravitate toward negative relationships. We get someone to abuse us the way we feel we deserve, while secretly thinking our love and support will turn our beloved scumballs around. It's a misguided hope, pinning our own self worth on the ability to turn somebody who's even more fucked up, around. Noble goal, true, but until we get our own goofy brains in order, all we become is cannon fodder splattered all over the landscape. That helps nobody. When it involves children, it's lethal. Kids grow up with the programming of their childhood. Be very careful what you're teaching them. Tell your kids you love them and you want them to be strong and confident all you want. But when Daddy gives Mommy a black eye, or they see either parent listless and miserable but staying in a horrible relationship, that's a visual that far outweighs any fluffy words of love. A picture's worth a thousand words. What movie of the week are you showing?
I've talked to battered mothers, brave sons and daughters, well-meaning grandparents, who've all told me basically the same thing when it comes to getting beaten on a regular basis. Or raped. It keeps them off my kids. It keeps him off my sister. If they're on me, the others are safe. Selfless courage in a child. Misguided dumb fuck courage in an adult. No matter how desperate a situation is, no matter how abject your poverty is, there is always an "out" somewhere. Always. Don't believe the hype coming out of the mouth of the asshole who's brutalizing you. Check it out for yourself. There are hot lines, libraries, shelters; endless possibilities of being helped by people who really want to help you. People who were very often in situations just like yours, and who now volunteer. Remember the returning veteran commercial that was playing a few months back? It shows a returning vet wandering through an empty city, with nothing and no one around. Suddenly, another vet walks up to him, shakes his hand, and says, "Welcome back." There are thousands of brothers and sisters of circumstance out there right now who want to shake your hand and show you the way to a new life, one that's free of bruises, terror and self hatred. Take their hand. Move forward from the pit.
I recently had the honor of meeting a young woman who had done just that. Years of abuse and terror, an eternity of fists and fights and drug-addled violence against her, her children watching or listening from the other room, being damaged by the environment just as much as she was being damaged by her abuser. Even after years of brainwashing, by herself as much as her attacker, paralyzing her courage, with poverty and depression sucking the life right out of her, she found the strength to finally leave. I met her on her birthday, only a few weeks after she and the children got away. I saw a glowing, beautiful creature as I looked at her; furtive-eyed and still a bit in shock over this unexpected turn of events. It was wonderful, a truly miraculous sight. I hope she can stay free of the pattern long enough to find value in herself. Otherwise, it'll just be a new set of fists. But she felt good. It was a rebirth birthday, a glorious thing to see.
I remember my therapist telling me, shortly after I left my own husband, to make sure I didn't enter into any new relationship for at least a year. Like a country overthrowing a dictatorship, I was very vulnerable. I didn't know how to live under any other kind of regime, so there was a good chance I'd slide right back into it with someone else. I had to give it time. I had to have a relationship with myself. It was the best advice I could have been given. Amazingly enough, I listened to it. Now I am my own best friend as well as my own worst enemy. But the enemy part is a lot smaller now; much more easily managed. I'm an insecurity addict. Insecurity will always be skulking in the background, eager to take over my silly mind once again. As long as I'm conscious of that fact, I can guard against it and continue to grow. And moments like these, where I see a beautiful fellow fuck up get free of an environment far worse than any I'd endured, when I see her smile on her birthday, I know how good life can be. It doesn't get better than that. Hope from the hopeless. Sunshine after the rain. That's what she was and always will be to me now. Sunshine after the rain.