White Flag

When I find myself in times of trouble,

Mother Mary comes to me,

speaking words of wisdom- 

Let it Be.  

And in my hour of darkness,

She is standing right in front of me,

speaking words of wisdom- 

Let it Be.

Paul McCartney

whiteflag

Before I published The Fault in my Scars post, I sent it to my friend Glennon to read. Glennon is one of my favorite people.  She’s brilliant, funny, and wise, and a brave and vulnerable writer.  She is a big part of why I started this blog.  I love her.

She said this:

The essay felt like a holy surrender.

Like a long awaited surrender

to the truth of things-

like a giving up of the horrible,

backbreaking mis-belief that your past

could have been any different.

It was a glory filled holding up of your arms

to the air with a shout:

HERE I AM! LET IT BE!

Everything beautiful comes now.

After surrender.

You know that.

I have been thinking a LOT about her words in this past week.

I hate the expression, It is what it is.  It has always smacked of defeatism to me.  Is implies PRESENT, and if we are in the present, then we have choices.  We can make decisions. Things can be changed in the present.

What I DO believe, at long last, is this:  It WAS what it WAS.

I spent so much time trying to change my past.  As though I could will myself into having had a different, better, safer, childhood.

You hear people say all the time that we get dealt a hand in life.  That simply isn’t true. We get dealt MANY hands.  Different hands at different stages of life.  Different cards for different seasons.

My cousin, and I- we got dealt a lousy hand early in life.  A terrible, dark, painful, hand. Judging by the reaction to my last post, an awful lot of you did too.

And when the broken hearted people

living in the world agree,          

There will be an answer- 

Let it Be.

 For though they may be parted,

there is still a chance that they will see,  

There will be answer- 

Let it Be.

But we have all been dealt many hands since then.  Some good, some bad. We have, each time, the choice to play them or not.  Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em– amiright Kenny?  The problem for me, and I think for a lot of survivors of childhood abuse, sexual or otherwise, is that we spend the rest of our lives trying to play that one hand. Again and again.  Perhaps hoping for a different outcome, perhaps hoping that the cards themselves will change.

The thing is, if you keep playing those cards, you’ll likely find yourself reliving the trauma over and over as well.  It might look a little different, the main characters might have different faces, the circumstances might not be exactly the same, but you will find yourself feeling the same way, repeating the same patterns.  I did.

But friends- that hand is OVER.  Those cards are gone.  And everyone else has moved on, has been dealt new cards and is playing them.  We get stuck, though, because we are still trying desperately for a different past. We clutch those cards with the unyielding grasp of a child, still trying to win a game that has long ended.  Fighting against the truth of what happened.  Maybe if I’d done this, or that.  If someone had believed me.  We are trying to re-negotiate things that have already happened, and that never, never works.

I can guarantee this- if you do not accept your past, it will never be over.  Ever.

I wish things had been different for my cousin and me.  I so wish things could have been different for all of the brave women and men who have entrusted me with their stories this past week. Hundreds of you, with stories of violence, and pain, and betrayal.  I read every single one.  I wish each of you’d had what every single one of us deserves- a childhood devoid of abuse.  Everyone should have a childhood that is carefree, nurturing, safe, and full of wonder- protected by those entrusted with their care.

Those are not the cards we were dealt.

No amount of wishing will do a damned thing.  No amount of shaking my fist at the sky can undo what was done, can return what was lost.

I think we get stuck with acceptance and surrender the same way we do with forgiveness. We think, if I forgive, that means they get a pass, somehow. That what they did was okay. That I’m okay.  We think of acceptance as a stamp of approval on what happened. We’ve been taught to equate surrender with quitting and losing.

I don’t think that’s right.  I think surrender is giving yourself over to things you cannot change.  I think surrender happens when you stop fighting the unwinnable battle.  We survivors spend a lot of time shadow boxing opponents long gone.  It. Is. EXHAUSTING.

We have limited resources as human beings, and if we use them up fighting battles we cannot win, we are tacitly agreeing not to fight the ones we CAN.

I think that is one reason why there was so much power in the writing down of our story, and in Officer Paul taking down his report.  It was not a defeat, it was a victorious surrender.  It’s why, when I shared the blog, I said simply- Friends, here’s what happened.

It’s what happened.  I GIVE.  I can stop fighting the FACT of it, and decide what to do with the gifts that horrible part of my life gave me- because there truly are always gifts.

I am gearing up for some battles that need fighting.  I want to fight some battles I can WIN.

And when the night is cloudy,

there is still a Light that shines on me.

Shine on until tomorrow- 

Let it Be.

 I wake up to the sound of music,

Mother Mary comes to me,                

Speaking words of wisdom- 

Let it Be.

I am waking up to the sound of music, now.  Every day.  I have music in my heart again, because I folded that hand.   It played out the way it played out.  Those were my cards.  I am ready for some new ones.

Everything beautiful comes now.

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34 Comments on “White Flag

  1. This is a great post. I’m in my early 60’s and did not trip upon the simple grace of ‘acceptance’ until recently. When I mentioned ‘accepting’ what happened to me, a dear fellow blogger reacted strongly as if I had said I’m ok with it. It is hard to distinguish the difference if still caught in the grips of fighting demons.
    You speak of it well, defining it clearly. I am not in favor of what I endured, but I do finally give in to the fact that these things happened to me. My years of raging against it, fighting everyone, resisting, eating, drinking, running, and more raging, did not change the fact that I was born unto a family where others used me to escape their own rage.
    It happens. It’s not even personal. Humans hurt each other. And I happened to be one of the ones hurt. It could have happened to my friend who hops about happily as if she’s the energizer bunny, while I am not. Years of forcing myself to keep up with others who had not survived trauma has exhausted my adrenals.
    I accept me, and all that happened to me. And to finally accept me, I am learning what it feels like to love me. Quite a miraculous journey. I am glad to be me. I don’t want to be anybody else.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for expressing your thoughts and lessons learned with all of us. This post is so full of wisdom and truth. I so appreciate your vulnerability and simple honesty. The world needs to stop being a safe place for abusers, and that won’t happen until this conversation becomes pervasive and loud. Too many people want to turn away from listening to unpleasantness and go back to their unencumbered life where they don’t have to do anything hard. And standing up to abusers is hard. Standing up to all the dozens of enablers surrounding each abuser is sometimes even harder. But it has to be done. It has to.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I think you are right. I think the enablers are harder. I find it harder to forgive them than I do my abuser. It’s time to get uncomfortable, I think. Time to shine a light on all those dark corners. xo

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a relief! Acceptance–yes. Condoning–never. You provide such a heartfelt way forward. Beyond trite! Welcoming new horizons. THANK YOU! Keep writing. Keep telling and listening stories. We all need one another.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m glad you folded those cards! Great post. After my mother passed away, a long while after actually, I was able to fold the cards on my grief. I wrote a poem then, “The Seasons of the Soul” and your post reminds me of it. I’m glad that seasons come and go, just like all cards games have an end.

    Like

  5. Read, wept and loved every word. An elderly pastor told me two things when we were discussing forgiveness: 1) Sometimes we find we have to forgive the same person for the same things more than once to reach true forgiveness and 2) We don’t need to forgive the sin to forgive the sinner. The sin will be dealt with by Divine Wisdom. What you had to say on both acceptance and surrender was spot on. Fly free because now you will soar ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • I struggle with thinking, okay, I’ve forgiven, it’s a done deal. I always think that’s the one time requirement and moving on and repairing myself, etc. has to be worked on over and over. I didn’t realize that until reading it here from you. Thank you.

      Like

  6. oh laura. this is lovely. just sparkling with heart and truth. close friends know my feelings about ‘it is what it is.’ it’s the worst. curse words is how i feel about the cliche. please bury it deep with DON’T CRY OVER SPILT MILK. it is devoid of hope and for me too dismissive. while i don’t use the expression, my experience points to IT IS WHAT IT ISN’T which encompasses the mystery and paradox and blessed uncertainty of my experience in a really messedupweird but blessed kingdom. i wish you could’ve seen the faces of the ladies in my bible study small group a few years ago when i unleashed a rant about IT IS WHAT… a few dentures may have hit the floor that day and not one soul understood my perspective. thank you for reminding the planet of the power of WRITING IT DOWN. thanks for being a voice for grown up kids grieving their innocence. it seems to me you are taking your cards and creating a beautiful mosaic (playing cards which have not just one, but two sides, right?). peace to you right where you are.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Very good words, again, and these may be the start to a conversation with someone I know, who, to the the best of my knowledge, did not suffer sexual abuse but endured heavy emotional abuse from a parent. In spite of proclamations to the contrary, I believe the pain is still there, being pushed down, as if that could make it mean it didn’t happen. Thank you.

    Like

  8. Thank you for sharing your journey. I too have been walking a similar healing path from childhood trauma. I too told my story to supposed “helpers” who only re traumatized me and set me flying backward several years. I’m now stronger and am learning to love who I am. I’m starting to see myself the way others see me, not the way my abusers wanted me to view myself. I’m getting there.
    So, thank you for sharing. It helps…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so sorry that when you were brave enough to speak your truth it was not met with the respect it deserved. The world needs more Officer Pauls, that much is clear. I am so glad that you are stepping into the light, friend. xo

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Hey there! I knw this is kind of off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for
    this site? I’m getting sick and tired of WordPress because I’ve had problems
    with hackers and I’m looking at options ffor another platform.
    I woul be fantastic if you could poinmt me in the direction of a goood platform.

    Like

  10. I’m really enjoying your blog. I have not had anything like the kind of traumatic “cards” dealt to me that you have had to handle. But I have learned that it is very hard for me to turn the page on a hurt, real or perceived, or on any relationship where I’ve really invested myself, really been vulnerable. Funny that you mention that music was becoming a healing part of your process. I find I sometimes think someone is writing the soundtrack to both my good and bad times and love the moments when I find a lyric that resonates. Every good wish.

    Like

  11. I believe everything said made a bunch of sense. But, consider this, what
    if you composed a catchier title? I ain’t suggesting your information isn’t solid., but
    what if you added a title that makes people want more? I mean White Flag |
    In Others’ Words is kinda plain. You might look at Yahoo’s home page and note how they create post titles to grab viewers to open the links.
    You might add a video or a related picture
    or two to get people excited about what you’ve written. Just my opinion, it would bring your posts a little livelier.

    Like

    • As it happens, He Wrote It Down caught the attention of hundreds of people who passed it on and re-blogged it, and I have no idea how many thousands of people read it here and other places. I think this writer is more about substance and not so much about attracting attention with flashy things. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Wow. It’s like God through you. I wonder how powerful it would have been if I had read this write after “He Wrote It Down” which changed my life. Except I wrote it down. I do all the things. I don’t even trust myself enough to do anything with the hand because what if I’m exaggerating? What if I’m making a big deal out of nothing? What if I really am just too sensitive and anxious? But I am tired of fighting it. I married my love 23 years ago, and that’s how long I’ve been fighting these stupid demons. But they’re in me. Maybe I’m just crazy. I don’t know. But I want the surrender so, so badly.

    Like

  13. When I was in treatment at a hospital, the folks were mandated reporters and told me ahead of time they’d have to report anything about someone still living. I was in such a way that I didn’t care, and I have trouble dissociating so kind of other parts of me told them anyway. The state I grew up in has statute of limitation laws that meant nothing could be reported. This week, I learned a college friend, whom I know was molested as a child by a Boy Scout troop leader, sued his abuser. Four more boys came forward. The perpetrator killed himself. His obit says he died peacefully and contributions should be made to BSA. However, my friend successfully sued the estate. He thought he’d kill himself before age 50, but now he feels free. I am so so happy for him. I want that freedom. But I’ll never have it.

    Like

    • Did you know some states are working on revising statute of limitations on those kinds of things?

      That’s obscene that the obit suggested contributions to BSA.

      I had a therapist that said the clients she’s lost to suicide (not many), two were perpetrators as well as victims — that when confronted with what they’ve done, that happens sometimes. I think we’re talking about a certain type of perp, not a full-on pedophile, but someone who acted out on abuse done to them (if that makes sense).

      I don’t know — but I think about it. I wonder what made the person in my life act the way he did, and there’s a certain cluelessness about him now, I don’t know how far away he has it walled up or what memories he consciously carries, but I think I would never choose to confront for that reason alone.

      Then other times it makes me so …. that I have all these memories and scars I can’t escape and he seems to sail through life unscathed. I’ve never had a normal life, and he seems to. Where’s the fairness in that?

      No easy answers. Sorry you struggle so much, also.

      Like

      • Laura–you are right. There is nothing fair ever about an adult hurting a child. That’s why I was so happy for my friend he got a smidge of justice. Lost years to depression and anger and all, but finally feels free.
        moth2flame—I find the way you write very insightful even though I’m sad for you that it’s borne of pain. I also am so sorry you struggle as well. Thank you, Laura, for a place to talk about things that stay silent everywhere else. ❤️

        Like

  14. Hmm.

    So much food for thought in this one.

    Not that a therapist hasn’t said basically the same things to me.

    Many times.

    Not that I don’t intellectually agree with you — heck the song from Frozen says it all, right: (laugh if you will, I like that song).

    “And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast
    I’m never going back, the past is in the past”

    I mean — it starts out where I am:

    “A kingdom of isolation,
    and it looks like I’m the Queen
    The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
    Couldn’t keep it in;
    Heaven knows I’ve tried

    Don’t let them in,
    don’t let them see
    Be the good girl you always have to be
    Conceal, don’t feel,
    don’t let them know”

    But it moves on — it takes where I AM and goes where I WANT TO BE.

    I’ve never seen the movie, but man the lyrics in that song resonates, and I know for some people it’s like nails on a chalkboard because it played so much — but for me, it’s a road map, a siren song — a song of what you here called surrender.

    A song filled with hope.

    And I WANT to do those things. I WANT to be more okay. I don’t WANT to be so sad. So afraid all the time. So full of turmoil. So lacking in peace. So hurting in my heart.

    I just don’t know how. And you know that. I’ve said it how many times to you now? (And bless you for listening each time.)

    You are so right, you know, about how acceptance or forgiveness feels like it’s also saying it was all okay. Whether that’s the situations or me.

    It’s not okay, it wasn’t okay, and it feels like it will never BE okay.

    But you’re also right (and my therapist, too) that I spend an awful lot of energy that could be better used on hating myself, hating the things I did, the things that happened, who I was, who I am —

    And I keep myself from being better than I was, because I’m so lost in being who I was.

    If that makes any sense.

    Like

    • I fell head over heels for Let it Go the first time I heard it. So powerful. I felt the same longing you describe.

      Like

  15. Thanks for drawing attention back to this post. I have it bookmarked because it meant so much to me but I don’t read back through my bookmarks as much as I should.

    I have a hard time putting things in the past and forgiving with my parents. I never felt they loved me growing up. I still don’t. When they say it, I can’t believe it based on their actions and their words. How do you ever get past feeling like your parents despise you. They wanted a baby. They wanted a boy. So they didn’t get a boy. Big deal. If the two people in this world who are supposed to love you unconditionally don’t, what is there? How, if the people who wanted you and purposefully brought you into this world end up hating you, are you ever supposed to feel worthy of love?

    Like

    • I call this my mom-shaped hole. (With a nod to Anne Lamott and Plumb and the term God-shaped hole). It seems bottomless, right? My therapist says I can now mother myself which I think blows big time. But all this to say, Me, too. I feel you, sister.

      Like

  16. What a wonderful post! I have always felt that abuse as a child permanently writes on the slate of who you are. Thirty plus years of therapy and I still haven’t been able to shake it or the PTSD and anxiety disorder that it delivered. I read what you’re saying and shake my head in agreement, but can’t seem to connect my intellect with my heart and my fear. I am printing this one so I can keep reading it and I want to share it with my therapist. Thank you for your vulnerability and honesty.

    Like

  17. I so, so wish it was as easy as putting down a hand of cards on the table. Literally folding. Every time I think I’ve finally ‘surrendered’ and put those cards down, I find myself having fiercely grabbed them right back up, just to be in the same patterns of destruction and despair. And yes, it is exhausting. I’m so gravely tired. But tonight, I raise a glass to perhaps reaching a day where the cards will finally be surrendered for good and where a new and foreign land of self-protection and voice will be entered. A new hand of cards swept up to carry on in this game of life. Love you sister. Keep blazing forward bravely and beautifully.

    Like

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