My last blog addressed courage that rises out of fear. There is another kind of fear that is difficult to accept, especially those abused as children, the fear of change. When I was twelve years old my parents had gone out for the evening. When they didn’t arrive back home at the time they said they would I become distraught, fearfully praying my rosary, pacing the floor, and checking every few minutes to see if their car had pulled into our yard. I just knew they had been killed in an accident. By the time they came home I was a basket case sobbing with relief. My mother tried to comfort me by saying the old platitude “No news is good news.” She said they were sorry they were late but had run into some old friends and assumed we were all asleep and wouldn’t be worried. Not me. I think the word worried was invented so I’d have a place to store all my fears. The thought of losing both my parents (this was before my dad started his nighttime rape raids) threw me into a state of terror that threatened to swallow me whole. Where would we live? Would we have to move? Would my siblings and I be divided? (Although in the case of one of my sisters it would be a blessing) What would happen to our puppy? I had just graduated with honors into the field of full-blown neurosis. In the coming years being fearful of change would alternately be a blessing and a mind blowing horror.
Fear of change is a huge problem. My husband hates change. When we were first married he didn’t like it if I put the wrong spoon in to his coffee cup. It turned out he liked the one that had a slight dent in it and he would quickly place the rejected spoon back in the drawer and take out his treasured one. I thought it was so silly. I had just sold my lovely and spacious home to be with him in Colorado, left my four children and many grandchildren to say nothing of the friends I left behind, quit one job and was preparing to start a totally different one, was going from the frolicking fun of being single where I went to the theater with friends, dances, plays and just plain doing whatever I wanted and he was grumbling about having to use a different spoon. I toyed with the thought of shoving said spoon up his whatever.
By that time I had gone through recovery and knew how to handle change. My husband obviously needed a bit more time on that subject. Today he could care less what spoon I lay out but I could set the clock by wherever he was going to be at any given time in a day so I guess he’s in it for the long haul.
People who were abused as children forever seek a safe haven. They pray for a knight in shining armor. I have known children who preferred being with an abusive parent to making the change to a pleasant home. Some people thrive on change but the majority I have known do not, especially survivors of child abuse. It might be abusive but it’s still steadfast. Dad may come home and beat us but at least he comes home. There is a sort of stability in our world of abuse. Even if mom started defending us it would be so out of character that we would be fearful. It is as if we want constancy, dependability, inflexibility and other worlds that have strong boundaries so we never have to worry about change. Therein lies the rub. When we are children we see our parents as dependable and constant. We live in a box so the borders are firm. But inside the box is a smoldering fury, violence, ill-treatment, sexual, emotional, physical and mental abuse even sadism and cruelty that lives alongside the constancy. Change takes courage and in the lives of child abuse survivors just making it through a day robs us of whatever courage we have.
I’ve thought long and hard on the word “change”. Why is it so fearful? How can we learn to take delight in change? We all love the change of a vacation from work where we can forget our problems and feel free. But in the day-to-day things we lose our courage. Once you go through recovery you will find that change is not the bad guy you thought it was. It may take baby steps to adjust to this new world. As I approached the end of my Bridge of Recovery, I wrote the following words.
Change has always loomed
Like a demon in my mind.
It pounces sharp on all my plans,
The treasures that I find.
I hate it when it comes to me,
A smile upon its face.
Disguised in goodness and character,
Dressed up in pearls and lace.
My life is set in front of me,
Predictable and fast.
How dare this wayward, orphan child
Stray me from my task.
It flounders, wanders, oscillates
With its persistent, nagging voice.
Bent upon surprising me
With growth and will and choice.
But I can see through all of it,
This aim to tempt my fate,
And call adventure to my door,
When I’d really rather wait.
For deep inside my cautious heart
There lurks a frightened child,
Who doesn’t know if she can cope,
When change makes her riled.
What if I stumble, lose my way,
Fall and skin my knee?
What if life, who brings this change,
Becomes an obstacle to me?
But I must play the advocate,
With deep humility,
I must admit that without change
I’m never really free.
When you are ready to Repair your life it will take courage and it will require change. Some people think better the devil we know than the devil we don’t. I can tell you from first- hand experience that the changes you will go through in Repairing the damage done to you as a child will be your knight in shining honor and the devil you know will disappear.
Good luck with your recovery.