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The Way Through is about finding a way past life's most difficult obstacles.
By the time I was eighteen years old, I had survived years and years of emotional, psychological and physical abuse, at the hands of my father, a controlling and often psychotic tyrant. Because of my father, I experienced starvation in a tent in Mexico, dehydration in a desert in Utah, hypothermia during a blizzard in Cleveland, a botched suicide attempt and several bouts of clinical depression. (And I didn’t even mention the writing on the wall or the axe stuck in the front door. Oh it was a wild ride for sure!)
Like so many who suffered through childhood terror and trauma, I was determined to escape and create the kind of life that I had always envisioned, one filled with stability, love, peace and happiness.
Why was it then, that after growing up, graduating from high school, college, law school, getting married and starting my own family, I still suffered from a deep and profound sense of emptiness and grief? Fear, pain, anger and depression seemed to follow me everywhere I went, no matter what my achievements were or how successful I appeared to be. Was it me? Yes, it was me. I kept looking outside for answers, but the answers were inside of me.
“The only way out is the way through.” What does that even mean? The Way Through is my personal narrative about how I moved from a life of pain and grief to healing, health, peace and happiness. I found my way through! What do I want to do next? Show you!
Preface: The Writing on the Wall
When I was thirteen something terrible happened to me.
I was at a brand new school. A prep school, in fact. I’d gotten a scholarship. I’d been tasked with meeting all of the challenges ahead, but I really couldn’t focus. Jonah had other plans.
“You stupid, fucking, worthless, pathetic, bitch! I hate you! Raymond whore! Oh call your daddy! Call your daddy like you always do!”
I was tired, fucking exhausted actually, because these psychotic rampages of Jonah were nothing new. They happened at least once a year, beginning in September, reaching a insanely violent crescendo around Christmas time. When he was like this, he was determined to kill my mom. During these times my mom would take me, and my three younger siblings to hide. Sometimes we hid at my grandparents’ house. Sometimes we hid at an uncle or an aunt’s house.
I’d said my goodbyes to both of my parents many times. It seemed inevitable that one day he’d kill her. Then he’d be so afraid of the consequences, he’d kill himself. I was tired of waiting. I just wanted it all over, however it was going to end.
I was thinking: Stand up to him Saundra, say something! Stand up to him, damn it! But she never did. In red magic marker Jonah had written messages to me on the walls:
Die, die, die in the 13th year you fucking devil demon bitch. I will slice your throat open. I will slaughter you like the lamb. Red blood, little, big lamb. Your jugular vain will bleed and your blood will spill three levels high! E=MC2 x 3cc =4 Ф/35, 89 Ϡ + H2O and Carbon and Hydrogen and ŷ 76 beyond ʒЭ7 and Ў Щ but not …. REMEMBER! The blood of the lamb runs red, red, red, red redrum, murder…
On and on and on…every inch of my four bedroom walls was covered with symbols, pentagrams, formulas, poetry, prose and profanity. I was so angry with my mom, I almost wanted him to kill her. He was a psychotic, ranting, raving lunatic but she never did a damn thing about it. She ignored it. For this, I hated her deeply, almost as much as I hated Jonah. I got out of bed and looked into their bedroom. She was cowering underneath him, shivering and crying. I wondered where my little sister Star was. Star was only eight; my brother Zeus, six and my youngest brother Raymond, three. I always tried to protect them knowing how terrifying it was to be so small and caught in the middle of this craziness. But I had to sleep. Everyone had to sleep, except Jonah.
“Jonah please, please, I just want to leave. Just let me go-”
My mom was completely terrified of Jonah. Well, when Jonah was like this, he was terrifying. In all of my thirteen years of living, I had never stood up to Jonah. Really the only thing left was to run.
But I was tired of running, exhausted actually. And so, it was time for me to take a stand. I was as big as I was ever going to get. Bigger than Saundra, almost as tall as Jonah. I refused to continue living like this, running, hiding crawling, cowering. I grabbed my heavy brass floor lamp, ripped the cord out of the socket, walked to the threshold of my bedroom door, feeling woozy from all of the adrenaline rushing to my head, and tried to speak. My heart was beating wildly against my chest, and my throat was parched. I grabbed the lamp tighter, swallowed some spit and figured, today was as good as any, to die.
“Leave her alone!”
Jonah turned to me, with that wild-eyed look. Still, I refused to back down,
“I hate you! You are crazy, crazy, crazy! ”
And even though he was crazy, Jonah knew. I meant every word. I was done being afraid. He charged at me full force, like a bull going up against a matador, yelling, cursing. I stood my ground, thinking: I will stand right here and die, before I take any more shit from you.
“I’ll kill you Jonah! I swear to God I will!”
And I meant it. I would have killed him, if I could. As Jonah descended upon me, I realized that he was much stronger than I’d anticipated. He was, after all, a man, a manic, wild, crazy, man. He lunged for the lamp and snatched it out of my hands. The he taunted me:
“Oh, so you think you’re a bad bitch! Hathaway Brown Bitch! You think that you can kill me? Ha! Well, how about I kill you! Are you ready to die? Are you ready for me to bash in your fucking head in?”
Bitch? Bitch! He had called me a bitch! Maybe I should have been fazed by his death threats, but they didn’t faze me anymore. He was always telling me I was going to die if I didn’t do whatever he wanted me to do. He was poking me with the lamp and backing me into a corner. My brain struggled to find a solution and so it was whizzing, clicking, searching for options, quick, quick, quick, because in this desperate moment I realized that even though I had thought I was ready to die, I didn’t want it to be like this. I didn’t want to be bludgeoned to death, while being called a bitch by a mad man who was incidentally was my father. Next, something absolutely miraculous happened. Saundra came out of nowhere, with a strength and conviction that I’d never seen before!
“Put the lamp down Jonah! You won’t hurt her! I won’t let you.”
I was so completely and utterly shocked that I wasn’t even watching Jonah anymore. I was watching my mother, which was like watching Lazarus rise from the dead. Jonah, stunned, turned around and asked,
“So you want to die, too?”
No one could believe what happened next. My mother, who had spent her entire adult life running from Jonah, finally said,
“Jonah, the only one who will die today is you.”
He must have believed her, because he took off running. The police arrived soon after, because Star had run to the neighbor’s house, barefoot and in her pajamas, begging them to call my grandfather. She had to run to the neighbors because my father had ripped all of the phones out of the walls. Call my grandpa, my sister pleaded with the neighbors. Please hurry up and call my grandpa because my father’s going to kill my sister.
So, right now, you may be thinking, that this book is going to be all about me whining, crying and blaming Jonah for a fucked up childhood. But, it’s not. It’s all about me taking responsibility for how my erroneous perception of Jonah, almost ruined my life. How? Well for starters, years and years after it happened, I carried that day with me. I felt like that day was every day of my life. Can you imagine how depressing my life was? It wasn’t that I thought about it every day. In fact, I completely erased that day from my memory, acting as if it had never happened, not quite realizing, that was probably the worst thing that I could have done. By doing that, I would ultimately become everything I hated and feared.
What was it about this day that made it so powerful and so devastating all at once? Why did I allow it to destroy everything good about me? As my friend Melanie told me, (twenty years later), Lisa, some people’s daddies fuck them in the ass and leave them for dead, and even they have to get over it. I know it’s hard, but you have to. You just have to get over it.
And I knew Melanie was right. It wasn’t as if I didn’t hear this all the damn time! Just get over it. Just get over it. Just get over it. It’s time to get over it. Let it go. JUST GET OVER IT! I wanted to snarl back at the people who offered up this worthless parcel of information: You just get over it!
Who in the hell did they think they were to tell me something like that? Had any of them lived my life? Had they even seen my fucking shoes? Never mind tried them the hell on, never mind walked in them! No! I was all alone in this and I just couldn’t get over it! It wasn’t that I didn’t want to. I really did, because I wasn’t so stupid that I couldn’t see that holding on to this day was destroying me. I knew that. But what I didn’t know was how to get over it. Guess What? One day, I GOT OVER IT! And this is my story.