I had purposely not reread the script before we went to see the play. Maybe because of that or maybe it was just the head space I was in that made the watching of the play so painful. I worked out beforehand with my therapist what I needed to do to feel safe. I chose a seat in the theatre where dearest one was on one side of me and a railing on the other. (No, it wasn't so I could jump if I needed to.) I just didn't want a stranger to sit beside me while I watched. I needed to feel in control of something and where I sat was about the only option.
If you're a parent you know you say the same stuff over and over again to your kids. Some of it might even sound cute or evoke a laugh, a groan, a rolling of the eyes. Some of it might not. The mother in the play held her body in such a rigid way. It matched her words perfectly. Two minutes into the play I heard my words coming out of an actor's mouth. Dysfunctional, control freak lines, 98% of which, had come straight from my mouth at one time or other. (Oy, fucking, vey.)
What hadn't was my daughter's responses. Lines full of anger. Seething anger. I got to hear what would have been healthy and necessary responses on her part had she been given the chance as a kid. As I sat there shaking in my seat a thought flashed through my mind, "At least she's found a way to give voice to her story in a way I haven't been able to do with my mom." That single moment of clarity would later inspire me but at the time I just wanted to put my hands over my ears. And my heart.
At one point in the play the mother relives being raped. My daughter knows none of those details of my own but the scene was so vivid it was as if I was being raped all over again. Damn. I sat there and sobbed as quietly as I could. My body just wouldn't stop shaking. There's nothing worse than being glued to your seat while your brain is screaming, "Run, you fool, run!"
But you know what? I survived.
Not only the initial rape but the triggering of it, too.
I can write that now because I've had 6 weeks of distance between the play and today. It wasn't my initial response. Initially I was on automatic pilot. In survival mode because the pain was so intense I wanted to escape my body. It took several trips of walking around the small town where only daughter lives, before I could work the shakes out of my body. I dreamed that night of the play and the rape and woke up the next morning absolutely drained.
By the grace of God
I didn't binge.
I didn't drink.
I didn't numb out in sexually addictive behaviour.
I stayed in the feelings.
It wasn't pretty.
There was no perfection
other than being
perfectly fucked up.
I came home more determined than ever to face what needs facing so that the abuse loses its punch. I may be at this the rest of my life, my therapist assures me I won't. She assures me that healing can happen to the extent that I won't always be triggered by my past.
As I face telling my story in the radio documentary I'm working on I realized last week that only daughter is the one who has paved the way for me to have the courage to do it. Here is what I wrote to her last week:
"What I really wanted to tell you is that you are the one who is paving the way for me to have the courage to do my story for the radio. That you trusted the creative process over hurting family members with your play and how that really is breaking the cycle for who knows how many generations... of not revealing family secrets or at least not talking about them in such a public way. Not that I think my sexual history is such a secret but it was a very brave piece for you to do and you found the courage to give your story a voice despite my voice echoing in your head. ..... at some level the abuse has to be alluded to in the piece and I am breaking a huge taboo in my family by doing so. And because the communication is not open about the abuse there is no way for me to prepare my parents about what the piece is really going to be about. So I feel like I'm jumping off the edge of a cliff willingly. Or possibly tying my own noose. Yet I know I will be okay no matter what the backlash could be. Anyway I just wanted you to know that I am taking courage for my story and for using my voice from the precedent you've set. And it makes me very teary to type that because watching your play was one of the most difficult things I've ever done. But there really is a bigger picture in life and now this is all unfolding in my own. It doesn't mean that I feel all that courageous yet my gut instinct tells me I have to be true to the story. That it isn't an accident that my pitch was accepted, that the producer poked and prodded in the interview to uncover the abuse and how I felt about the land and that this is the direction the piece is headed. Father Charlie is always talking about the ripple effect in our families when transformation happens. I am very grateful for the ripple effect of your transformation on me."
God help me be a good steward of my pain.