I have a goal of writing more often. I’ve had this goal for a long time, and yet I continue to post only sporadically.
There are some obvious reasons for my silence. I have a demanding job. I’m a sole parent of two kids. My list of things to do is never-ending.
But the truth is, all these things existed a few years ago when I was writing full bore. I wrote anyway, because writing was something that brought me satisfaction and connection and a measure of hope in a world that had become very dark. I needed to write. It kept my head above water.
So what happened to change that?
The truth is that somewhere between then and now I became afraid to write openly and honestly.
When I began writing about my experiences with abuse, I broke a decade-long silence. Abuse is about power and control, and when I started speaking out, my then-husband fought to silence me. With a restraining order preventing him from having any direct contact with me, he had to find another arena to exercise his control, and that became the courtroom.
Whatever brought us into a shared courtroom, whether our divorce proceedings, hearings to determine custody and visitation, or his criminal trial, he used it as an opportunity to attack my writing.
I never quite figured out why his attorneys kept weaving my blog into their arguments. It was never made explicitly clear. I didn’t understand what my writing had to do with whether or not my ex-husband was guilty of possessing child pornography.
The best I can figure is that it was a red herring. He had no credible defense. I was a key witness, responsible for discovering and handing over evidence to the police. At the very least, it was in their best interest to discredit me as a witness.
The other factor which contributed to my silence was that during the couple of years that I backed away from blogging, the blogging world underwent a change. In Australia, where I was most closely connected, the blogging scene exploded in growth. With that growth came increased competition and monetization and jockeying for position. What had once felt like an inclusive and supportive community now felt larger and more impersonal.
Now that the dust is beginning to settle from my ordeal and I consider writing freely again, it is into this changed atmosphere that I venture.
My experience taught me many things. It taught me that life is a gift not to be squandered. It taught me to take risks, to speak out, to embrace my truth and not back down. It taught me to open my heart and love fully, because a partially-closed heart offers no protection, only the illusion of protection.
However, it also taught me that there are often legitimate reasons to feel fear. I am now slower to trust and quicker to assume a defensive posture.
It is this mixed bag of gifts that I carry forward with me as I consider my next steps.
In my conversations with him, I shared how much that support had helped me. It lifted me out of the emotional chaos of my marriage and provided me with clarity and a perspective that was grounded in compassion. It helped me bridge the isolation. It was a hundred sets of hands holding the corners of a net that caught my freefall.
I remember sitting in my room, a week after the assault, debating whether I should write about it. I wanted so much to simply tell the truth, but I feared the repercussions. I feared exposing the messy and unpalatable truth of my life. I worried that it would impact my safety. Once I hit publish, there was no going back.
In the end, of course, I shared everything. The whole excruciating and liberating truth. In the words of Anais Nin, the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk to blossom.
There is some irony that now, three years later, I sit pondering essentially that same choice. The risk of speaking openly versus the (perceived) safety of silence.
The trial is over, but I still feel the resonance of the fear and intimidation that hovered over my shoulder for so many years. The lingering ghosts of abuse are often as insidious as the abuse itself.
Brene' Brown, author of Daring Greatly, tells the story of when she was waiting backstage to give what was destined to become one of the most popular TED talks ever. She was terrified of baring her soul to an audience of strangers, of failing to adequately entertain or enlighten them. In the end, as she walked on stage, she asked herself, "What's worth doing even if I fail?"
Thank you for showing up and catching my fall when I needed it most. Your concern and support was a point of light in what turned out to be a long and very dark night. And thank you for your patience as I venture back onto the stage and find my voice again in this new landscape.