This is the year you win your emancipation from the House of Incest. Hard to believe this could ever happen, for the abuses you’ve suffered under that dreary roof seem never ending.
You will reach the point of no return. There won’t be any big dramatic scene that drives you to the breaking point. You will simply wake up one day and know with certainty that you can’t continue living with a pedophile and his protector.
I see you in my mind’s eye going through your automatic routine of making your bed, brushing your teeth, helping get breakfast for your younger siblings. A growing anarchy gives new energy to your movements. Without any kind of warning or dramatics, you feel emboldened by a new steely resolve.
How easy it would be, you think, to walk to the nearest pay phone and call Dad. Ask to move in with him.
This is all you can think about today: the possibility of escape. And if he should deny permission? Unthinkable. You don’t even consider how you will meet that obstacle head on should you be faced with it. You’re so unaccountably convinced that freedom is just around the corner, simply a matter of taking care of last minute details, that you can’t waste time on what ifs.
You scribble a note to your best friend, informing her that you are moving in with your real dad. Because you’ve been grounded again for some minor offense, you bribe your little brother to take her the note. The first hastily scrawled note lies crumpled in your wastebasket, for in your excitement you wrote it sloppy.
You stand in your room surveying its contents, feeling a sudden sense of detachment. All these possessions you’ve spent a lifetime collecting are now void of value. You are impatient to leave them, to bequeath them to your siblings so that you can start your new life unencumbered with relics from the House of Incest years.
I watch as you stand in a daze, taking mental inventory of what to take with you. It won’t be much, clothes mostly, some books, your record player and records. You are poised on the brink of escape, your senses keen and heart racing with anticipation.
What comes next? The details aren’t of much importance. You leave for school. In your absence your little sister will pilfer your room and dig out the original note to your best friend. She will run to give it to your mother with the lopsided grin of a toddler pleased with herself. Your mother will read your scrawled Declaration of Independence with anger as cold and hard as your steely resolve.
You get out of there, is the thing. You numb yourself to your mother’s guilt trip as she bawls you out for making such plans without informing her. You are not thinking of her or her words. You are remembering that once upon a time in the land of early childhood, you stood whole and free. You were loved by your father, adored by your older brothers. You knew no real fears. You are going back, returning to the tribe. Your mother’s words can’t hurt you; no power in hell could keep you here now that you’ve formed your resolution.
Do you imagine life will revert to its earlier magical properties by reuniting with your lost loved ones? I cringe a bit, knowing that you do. Knowing what awaits you. You will have your first real boyfriend. He will break up with you because you are not pure. You will then wander around in a daze, numbly giving yourself to any boy who lies about loving you. You will trip on acid, get high on pot, drink yourself sick. Your father will not know what to do with you, this daughter/stranger who has suddenly exploded into his life with emotional pain so vast there is not room enough to house it in the cramped two bedroom apartment.
You will begin dating a 25 year old Viet Nam vet who secretly gifts you with his ex-wife’s jewelry, hiding it in your trench coat pockets while kissing you goodnight. You run across the jewelry days later, your fingers a tangle of silvery chains and fake diamonds.
You will attempt suicide.
You will live in a fantasy world comprised of the sweet anticipation of meeting Mr. Right. You know he’s out there, you simply haven’t stumbled across him yet. He will fix everything in your little universe. He will adore you, heal you, live to provide you with love and safety.
You will argue with your father over one boy in particular, a hippie you think just may be the one. You will drop out of school, spend days alone in a world of loneliness so raw you feel as if you are one big bleeding wound.
You will not have a clue about anything. Leaving the House of Incest solved one problem, just one.
You are not equipped to live in the world, you haven’t the tools for it. This isn’t your fault, any more than the sexual abuses of the past 8 years were your fault.
Life terrifies you and there is no one, absolutely no one to tell that to.
At 15 you think you’ve found your freedom from the pain and sufferings of your childhood. I wish I could warn you that this is not so. You will be in your late forties before you even begin to heal from any of this, and the healing process will be one long, slow journey.
At 15 you are about to gain your freedom from a dangerous situation that has dragged on far too long. (You couldn’t have moved in with your dad any sooner though, as you were denied contact with him until recently.)
You will live in a dream world. You will slit your wrists. You will all but beg someone to love you. You will understand nothing about life. Things will happen to you this year that will make you wonder why you even bothered leaving the House of Incest. You didn’t know there were other dangers in the world, other predators.
You didn’t know.
It will be a long, long time before things begin to look up for you. But they will. You will make it through this year; you will begin a family in 2 years, you will end up raising your sons alone. You will love them unconditionally, for they are your very heart and soul.
You will survive. You will live beyond survival to experiencing moments of pure joy, and oftentimes a sense of thriving. You will begin writing about your childhood pain. You will not slit your wrists again, but you will expose your bleeding heart to inspire others with hope.
You still don’t know what any of this means. Life is in many ways the same mystery it was at 15. But you will sense yourself healing and growing.
At 15 you can’t know any of this, for at 15 you have a long road ahead of you. You will walk it with the same degree of determination it took you to escape from your mother’s home.
This much is certain: you will make it all the way into adulthood. Battered and bruised, yes. But alive in ways you never thought possible.
You will make it all the way from a redheaded stepchild to a Beautiful Dreamer.
I wrote this letter to my 15 year old self from the vantage point of my fiftysomething perspective.