When I was in my early 20s I lived with a group of amazing women who loved thunderstorms (we have some doozies in the mid-Atlantic states). Each of us had our own trials in those years. We were sidetracked by lovers, leavers, stalkers, thieves, and a lot of downright idiots. But when a summer storm rose and electricity streaked across the sky, raising the hair on our arms, we were always drawn out into the melee, as if the unstable atmosphere reflected our own tenuous steps into a world where we tried to balance our dreams with the harsh realities of life.
We’d splash in the rivers running down the alley and twirl about in gauze skirts that clung, sodden, to our thighs and calves. I remember lightning striking only feet from where I danced. It shook the ground–it was so close–and I nearly fell. I’m not sure what, exactly, we ever got from dancing around in the pouring rain, but it energized us and we’d end up tumbling through the back door of the house we shared, dripping wet and laughing–all of our cares washed away for a day.
Those are good memories of what, looking back, seemed to be a happy time. We did have a lot of fun…did a lot of partying…tested the waters to the point where we were in danger of drowning…
So Michelle… what exactly does all this rain dancing stuff have to do with starting this blog?
For awhile now I forgot what it was like to dance in the rain. Metaphorical lightning has been striking around me so often that this time, it did knock me off my feet. I fell so hard and was hurt so badly that I nearly lost the love of my life–the written word.
I am a survivor of nearly three years of emotional, psychological, and professional abuse by a manipulative bully. One of the bully’s tactics was to verbally beat down everything I excelled at–to take my talents and make me question the validity of those talents by repeatedly telling others of my “failings”. After a lifetime of dealing with different types of bullies, I’ve found this to be a common tactic. This, however, was the first time that I suffered through it for such a prolonged period with so little available to me to escape the attacks or counter them.
My skill as a writer was bashed regularly. If someone puts you down enough, you begin to believe it–even if deep inside yourself you know they are spewing venomous lies. I started to question my abilities. At the core of my being I knew this was what the bully wanted. She took all joy out of the written word for me and her psychological attacks kept me on constant alert like a kudu approaching a quickly evaporating watering hole.
I countered the bullying with everything I had. My dad taught me to stand up for myself and to always fight back (although he was rather literal when it came to the word fight). It’s just not in me to roll over and play dead. I am my father’s daughter after all, and I’m not dead yet.
My nerves frazzled, my health suffered, but I couldn’t allow myself to give up. I couldn’t allow the bully to win. I was strung tighter than horse hair in a violin bow.
My existence distilled down to a few necessary actions. Eat. Breathe. Work. Fight. Repeat. (Notice that “sleep” is missing as well “create” and many of the basic things that give life joy…)
When you walk into each day braced for battle and every word, email, or glance has been forged into a weapon that is pointed directly at you, you tend to put up your shields. Shields may not let anything in, but they also don’t let anything out. You become trapped in them if you have to hold them around yourself for any length of time, and let me tell you, after three years, I was trapped.
So, again, why this blog? Why now?
I’m determined to hold onto what I feel made me the person I am today. My creativity plays a huge role in that. And this blog is a means to helping me rekindle my creative spark. I nearly lost it for good to years of bullying.
I’m working to reclaim what that bully tried to steal–my love of the written word and my confidence in all of my creative abilities. And this time, I get to do it on my own terms. My sandbox. My rules.
I have a small framed piece of fabric by my desk embroidered with a quote by Vivian Greene. It says, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass… It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” It reminds me that every step I take into the world can greet me with joy or pain, fear or excitement, a lightning strike that shakes me to my core or a gentle rain that washes me as clean as holy water.
I intend to make this blog my victory dance. And if the steps are a little tentative and sloshy and the thunder and lighting shake the ground–I’m just going to keep dancing. Care to join me in a few steps?