Howard Stern wants to interview me. He just finished reading my book Darkness Overturned and wants to know who I am NOW.
Finally, I think. Someone gets it that being a survivor of child abuse and, later, domestic violence isn’t an identity. It’s a beginning.
Oh, wait . . . it’s only a dream! Not the identity part, but I woke up this morning form this vivid dream about Howard Stern. Who would’ve thought! Just the same I feel deeply grateful, somehow, as if I was going to be given a chance to let a lot of survivors believe in the hereafter –the normal life they can have after being ground down to nothing.
I understand it doesn’t happen overnight, and for too many it doesn’t happen at all. Being a survivor can be addictive. People tend to hover over a survivor, to encourage them, to offer to do things for them –not a bad thing to begin with. But when a survivor attains a sort of celebrity in a community, it can be pretty heady stuff for someone who isn’t sure who they are anymore or who never had a chance to develop a healthy self-identity in the first place. A community that wants to be known as caring can inadvertently freeze-dry a survivor into a poster child for bravery, even heroism. It becomes who they are rather than what they’ve been through.
Writing my book was cathartic, not just for me but later for my children who sadly were drug under the wheels of my wagon. After the book won an Angel Award (under its original title) I was asked to tour with it. Having written it under a pen-name, I declined. I didn’t want my life to become a tabloid of sorts while my kids were still vulnerable. Later, having missed the opportunity to make a name for myself as an award-winning author, I felt cheated.
It took several years for me to realize that it was a blessing in disguise to miss out on fame at that time in my life. Most likely it would have freeze-dried me as a survivor and as the young, overly religious woman in my story. Now, some 20+ years later with several successful job identities in tow (editor of an alumni magazine for a 4-year liberal arts college, executive director of a community foundation, to name a couple), I know who I am. And though I choose to reach back to other women who have not yet found their way completely out of the shadows, it is what I do, not who I am.
This truth is reflected in my mantra:
I AM A POWERFUL, PASSIONATE, SPIRITUAL, LOVING WOMAN!