Saturday, September 15, 2007

The courage to speak the truth

I am in awe of the human spirit. In Ishmael Beah's, A long way gone, memoirs of a boy soldier, he recounts the story of his life after rebels destroyed his village in Sierra Leone when he was twelve. In the beginning of the story, Ishmael wanders aimlessly through the country looking for answers, for peace, for something other than what he's got.

While lost for a month, alone in a jungle, he does everything he can to avoid thinking. Thoughts are frightening, he says, they only carry images of what he's lost and the horrors of what he's seen on his journey. One thought, however, that keeps him alive is filled with his father's words when he was small. "If you are alive, there is hope for a better day and something good to happen. If there is nothing good left in the destiny of a person, he or she will die."

Powerful words.

In the beginning, when I was with Conrad, I kept believing there was something good that could come out of that relationship. As time moved on and I was drawn deeper and deeper into that living hell, I came to believe there was nothing good left in me. Whatever goodness there was had been drowned out by the evil incantations of his lies. I wanted to die. I willed myself to die. I willed him to kill me.

And then something good happened. The police walked in and arrested him and set me free. I quit dying and started living again.

Four years four months after that relationship ended I look back upon the road from hell into the light of loving myself and my life every day, and I am in awe of the capacity for the human spirit to heal, to survive, to fly free.

Almost every day I receive emails from women, and sometimes men, who have had an encounter of the sociopathic/psychopathic kind. Caring, loving, giving women and men who cannot understand what happened to their lives. Why the one they loved turned from Prince Charming into the prince of darkness. They can't understand why it hurts so much to heal from abuse. Why it takes so long.

It takes as long as it takes. There is no endpoint in healing. There is only the journey.

My journey away from the darkness of Conrad's abuse has not been just about healing from what happened with him. It's about digging into my roots, pulling out the rot permeating the soils of my freedom so that I can step free of fear and anxiety, desperation and self-loathing.

I didn't truly love myself before I met Conrad. Now I do.

Before I met Conrad I was on this journey. I have always wanted to know, who am I. I have always wanted to love me.

What an amazing gift to come to this place where I love myself, warts and all, fearlessly, completely, always.

Yesterday, I had coffee with a friend whom I have known since my teens. He was travelling about Europe. I was working and going to school in Germany. He was enchanted by me. I was frightened of his enchantment.

The story of my life to now. Men have always held a love/hate fascination for me.

Because I never had clear boundaries, or even very good life skills in dealing with men and dating, friendships and relationships, I have often treated men unkindly. Buried somewhere deep within me was the belief that if they liked me more than I liked them, I couldn't tell them the truth. The truth would hurt them. In my fear and belief that truth would hurt them, I stayed silent. In my silence, I hurt them and me. I was being untrue.

In my life I have been blessed with countless opportunities to make amends. To be forgiven and be forgiving.

With my friend yesterday, I was given the gift of being able to apologize for my bad behaviour. In that apology is the gift of forgiveness.

It took courage for him to tell me about the times when he knew my silence was speaking volumes, but because I wasn't being honest, he kept hoping maybe things could be different. In my lack of honesty, I hurt him.

I am grateful for his courage. He wasn't blaming me. He accepted responsibility for his role in what happened. In his truth, he helped me see how my lies caused him more pain than the truth ever would have.

In my life, it has never been my intent to cause someone harm. Often, however, in my fear, in my desire to avoid speaking the truth, I have caused others harm through the lie of my silence.

The truth is very powerful.

Yesterday, my friend had the courage to speak of things that pained him.

Yesterday, I was given the gift of his truth, and in his gift, I was given the opportunity to treat him with the respect he deserves by giving him my truth in return.

It takes courage for a young man like Ismael Beah to write his story. It takes courage for a man who has been silent for years to speak his truth.

As long as we are alive, the opportunity for good to happen in our lives, is always there. The power is in our truth when we let go of the lies we tell through silence.

Thank you J. I am honoured with your friendship.

The question is: Does fear keep you stuck in silence, or do you let fear open you up with courage to speak your truth? Is silence keeping you stuck in fear the past will never die, or do you speak your truth without fear so that the past will lie quietly in yesterday so that you can step fearlessly into today?


Anonymous said...

does writing about Conrad and those abusive times, virtually every day, help you move forward or does it keep your head in that period of the past? . . while I appreciate the catharsis takes time, do you do yourself a service or harm by dwelling on it daily? . .


M.L. Gallagher said...

I don't know what is true for you Mark. I'd like to hear your experience and perspective.


Anonymous said...


you answered a question with a deflection . .


M.L. Gallagher said...

Yes. I did.

In your question, I detected a note of judgement rather than a need to understand. I realized that whatever was the impetus for your question -- it's not about me -- and thus today, I looked at your good question and wrote about it.

Thanks for the impetus. I'd still love to hear what your experience is.