Your Voice

I Know Why

This piece is from a friend who, after writing it, feels “one step closer to fully releasing the past and starting a new narrative.”

Caving WallsSometimes I cry.

Why is this the story of my life? Why do I continue to do things that undermine my value, all the while praying—no pleading with God– that he, this man I have fallen for, is the one? The one who will bring peace to chaos, joy to pain, and quench my overwhelming desire to be his one?

But he can’t. He’s human. He cannot calm the storms of my life. He cannot make me whole. He cannot be what I thought I needed him to be.

And now I know why.

Why did he come into my life in this way, under these circumstances? Searching for an answer that brought with it the revelation of a past that has had a stronghold on my present.

My thoughts were confused. I thought I had matured. I thought I had been healed of the wounds of the past. Generation after generation afflicted with alcoholism, financial insecurity, and sexual abuse.  I have worked so hard to set myself free.

But unbeknownst to my conscience eye, I put one of them in my purse and carried it with me. It started out as a small pebble: a tiny thought that planted itself in the recesses of my consciousness. And I carried it wherever I went.

It spoke gently at first: “You’re so pretty,” he would say. But this pebble grew exponentially as he told me not to tell anyone; this white man who stole the innocence of my six-year-old self. “You’re so pretty,” he would say, as he touched parts of me that I didn’t even know existed.

And he convinced me that this, this touching, was love. But he said he loved my grandmother too, this white man who had no other family but us. And I remained silent.

To tell my parents would have been a crime. A crime committed by a loving father and mother to save their little girl. So I remained silent. Lose my innocence or lose my parents, worried that they would resort to violence if they knew.  I remained silent.

There was no one to turn to. No one to save me. Until I, at age eight, discovered the power within me to stand against this assailant. I mustered up the strength… No more!  It came to an end, this touch from a white man, but the seed had already been planted: There is no love where there is no touch.

This thought, this small pebble, turned into a heavy rock that I continued to carry with me. My first kiss in 7th grade, the first time a boy touched my breasts in 9th grade, virginity lost my freshman year of college… These experiences, while normal, fueled my warped sense of self worth. And this rock continued to increase in size, becoming a boulder that weighed me down as male suitors spoke words from the past: “You’re so pretty,” they would say. But those words had the same effect: to open me up to touch. And I acquiesced because touching meant love; I wanted to feel loved. And one day these words were spoken as a “friend” forced his way in. I was a body without a name, until he looked at me with tears in his eyes. How could he have done this? And I found strength again as I searched for the meaning of it all.

And sometimes I cried.

I just didn’t know why.

Why was this the story of my life? To be rejected by my son’s father only reinforced this thought: I was good for one thing. Why wasn’t he the one? Can I really do this on my own? Yes, I can. I had to break the generational curse. To raise my son with a strong sense of self worth. To protect him from predators who incessantly search the earth for victims. This diverted my attention, denying the power of the boulder’s grip on my life.  I could not carry it and care for my son at the same time, so I put it in my closet.

I focused on the things that matter: family, church, career. No time for me. No time to clean the closet. And life was… okay.  And from time to time, I visited the closet when I allowed men to jump over the wall I had built up. But there was always something missing, and I could never be fully me. I was not free.

Then he came. Quietly. Unexpectedly. He was a beautiful surprise.

I remember the first day I saw him. Graduate school is where we met. He walked through the door with a smile that lit up the room. His voice was soothing, and I was captivated. But he gave no indication of his intent. He did not pursue me. He did not attempt to touch me. He just liked talking to me. “It’s okay,” I thought. And I convinced myself that I wasn’t attracted anyway… to this man who made my heart beat faster and time stand still.

I left thoughts of him behind as I journeyed onward. Fifteen years in denial. But every email, text and phone call brought inexplicable joy to my heart. Denial was easier, though. It was easier to live in the shadows than to face reality of the boulder still hiding in my closet.

“I’ve had a mad crush on you for the last 15 years,” he said, about a year ago. How would I respond to this? I will have to face my fears now. Will I ruin this? Will I be able to ignore the boulder? Yes, I can do this. But it was the voice of the boulder that suggested I could. And I let down my guard and moved past denial. My eyes were opened, my feelings expressed. This man– intelligent, witty, and handsome. My heart smiled just like it did when I first saw him.  He stimulated my mind, soul and body.

But I was confused.

Why did he come into my life in this way, at this time, under these circumstances? Papers indicating that he belonged to another. I remember the day he said yes to her. I called him and wanted to tell him how I felt. Tell him not to do it. But I couldn’t. Who am I, after all? I didn’t have a right. I heard stories about what had been going on in his life, and I wanted to rescue him. This could be my chance.

I convinced myself to be open and understanding. And the voice of the boulder beckoned me to come. As if in a trance, I opened the closet, lifted the boulder, put it on my back this time, and carried it with me. “If he really wants you, he’ll touch you,” it said. I gave in to its suggestion, revealing my sensual side, more powerful after age 40. I touched him and he touched me; it was beautiful and different.

He looked at me.

It was as though he looked through the window of my soul, and I felt one with him. I wanted to experience this feeling again, convincing myself that I could move forward with him and wait for him simultaneously.  I longed for his touch. But I knew better. Frustration and impatience became my mantra and the voice of the boulder grew louder, its weight heavier than ever before: “Give him more. Solidify your position. If he loves you, he will touch you.” I believed these lies to be truth and tried to give him more.

And his body was saying, “yes,” but he had the strength to say, “NO!”

“I’ve been assessing and reassessing some things. I am not the man I want to be. And there must be order.”

Why is this the story of my life? Why do I continue to do things that undermine my value? Searching for an answer that brought with it the revelation of a past that has such a stronghold on my present.

I was blind, but now I see. I was operating under the old narrative; one that convinced me that love was conditional and based on a sexual encounter.

I learned so much about authentic love that night, a love not based on touch.  In that moment, this strong black man pulled up the weeds that had been planted in my mind by an old white man when I was just a little girl.

I drove away not feeling embarrassed, guilty or dismayed, but having an overwhelming sense of peace, joy and forgiveness. I felt God’s love for us both. “In due time, we will bear witness to the fullness of God’s plan for us,” I said to myself. And the boulder started to shrink…

Now I know, without a doubt, that I am NOT a body without a name. I am valuable. I am freedom. I am harmony. I am love.

I am the lesson learned, and I am writing a new narrative…

Because now I know why.


Out of the muddy water emerges a beautiful flower.


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