A Solitary Act








Writing is a solitary act. I think that's why I like it so much, why I liked it from the very beginning when I was still a child. Reading, too, is a solitary act. I enjoyed being by myself even though I also enjoyed spending time with my cousin or with a friend or two. I was never a social butterfly; I never craved the company of large groups. If I had to be part of a crowd, that was fine. But for the most part, I wasn't interested in noise and fun so much as I was interested in sharing and intimacy in a smaller group. I was comfortable amongst my peers, I was known, and if I was in a group of three or more, I think I was usually more of a listener and responded to whatever was said.

It is different these days with my husband. I suppose it is different when one has lived with someone for a few years and if there were just the two of you, it would be quite difficult to keep your thoughts to yourself all the time. I did -- and I do -- talk more often, sharing more openly. But with a certain subject matter or if I happen to be in a certain mood, sometimes it would be like pulling teeth, trying to get me to open up more, to be more succinct, to finish what I started to say instead of leaving it open-ended, and leaving the listener guessing or trying to figure out what it was that I wanted to say.

So it is easier to write than to share openly in a group. It is easier to be anonymous whilst revealing my experiences and thoughts rather than shed my anonymity in front of others with similar experiences. I have never shared openly with other survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I never saw a need for it although there were a few times in my life when I felt that I needed to share my secret with a few individuals. Even then, it was a little hard, for I felt that I was taking a risk. But I did take that risk a few times and I have not regretted it.

Why am I still writing about incest? Much has happened over the years and as late as it is, now that I'm heading into my mid forties, I can honestly say that incest is a part of my past but it doesn't define who I am. Yes, it triggers memories, it affects certain areas of my life and it also influences my writing. I do not have to necessarily write about incest or sexual abuse. All I have to do is write and I know that some fragment of my past -- happy or sad, a fantasy or an actual experience -- is somehow woven into the story. No one else need know but me. And that's enough, really.

Some time ago, I watched the documentary, The Healing Years. I had come across it by chance whilst researching something else online. Naturally the subject matter intrigued me and after some inner debate, I decided that I would throw caution to the wind and purchase a copy of it.

Unless it was a segment or a documentary on television, I was not one to seek out such documentaries or even books. Part of me resisted, I think, as I felt that I didn't want to be reminded of it. Yes, I write about it. And yes, I even think about it and wonder what I can do to actively help others, but to read more books or watch more documentaries were not activities that I eagerly pursued. If anything, I had a tendency to stay away from them. I knew that I was an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I knew it. And that was enough.

Something broke through my resistance that day when I decided to purchase it. Some time later, I ended up watching the documentary with my husband. I asked him if he would like to. He said yes. I think I wanted him to watch it as well because I wanted him to understand me better. It wasn't about being self-absorbed or me, me, me. It went deeper than that. Yes, I experienced it. Differently, perhaps, from those women in the documentary, but it happened to me as well. And a part of me -- whilst wanting to watch their stories and their paths to healing -- also wanted a little more understanding from my husband.

I think it's because I still feel alone sometimes. I can share till the moon turns blue. I can keep writing pages and pages of my experiences, directly or indirectly. But I still feel alone. And I feel that no fuss should be made. And no fuss has been made. For my story is one of hundreds of thousands. My story isn't as severe as others. And most of us -- or even all of us -- struggle with something in one form or another. Mine just happens to be incest. And yet I still feel that the word is so big, and encompasses so much, that it does not fit me. And maybe that also contributes to that feeling of aloneness.

The documentary was interesting and I didn't regret the purchase. And it was one segment in particular that affected me. I wanted to watch it objectively. I wanted to be an onlooker, like I usually was. One segment featured Marilyn Van Derbur giving one of her talks. She invited members of her audience -- those who had been sexually abused -- to stand up. I had already read about it somewhere else and I was curious as I watched. I saw a few people standing. Then more people stood. And I didn't know why but I felt a lump in my throat. I wanted to stand too. Or I think I did. If I had been at such a gathering, would I have stood? Would I stand and look around at the others? Or is there a part of me that is still a little afraid to stand up and be counted?

There are so many of us that we would probably be surprised to find out who else has been sexually abused. And maybe it is such a personal experience -- however if affects each of us -- that there are those amongst us who would prefer not to talk about it so openly.

As I grow older, I am very aware that five years becomes ten years ... becomes twenty years ... and on and on. Healing doesn't happen with a flick of a switch. I know that I'm still healing. I know that I'm an incest survivor. They are written in lower case, no caps. Incest isn't such a big word anymore. Not for me. (Perhaps I do contradict myself yet again.) I still hesitate to say it loudly. It belongs in a corner somewhere. It is not hidden. It is still there, in the written word. Unspoken.

I can be alone with my experience. It's not a bad thing. And maybe one day I will be brave enough to attend a seminar for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. And if the speaker should quietly request incest survivors to please stand, maybe I will find it in me to stand with some of the others. It certainly would be interesting to find out. And if that should happen, I wonder if that feeling of aloneness would disappear, if only for a few moments.

I think ... sometimes ... I want my husband, even my brothers, to understand me a little better. To understand who I am now and who I was as a teenager. And now that I think about it, perhaps my husband and I, as well as my brothers and I, all need a little understanding from one another.

Reading and writing are both solitary acts. That's quite all right. I enjoyed them as a young girl. And I enjoy them now.


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