Sunday, February 5, 2012

Handle With Care

"Been beat up and battered round
Been sent up, and I've been shot down"

You may wonder what this story has to do with daffodils...

It started eleven years ago.  I was in college, and thought I had the world figured out.  I was an independent creature, and thought I had the country by its collar.  I had my destiny mapped out, and decided that I wasn't settling for anything less than what would be perfect.

An unfortunate event changed all of that.  I replayed the event thousands of times in my mind, and every time I thought of something I could do differently.  I think every victim of a sexual attack thinks of ways she can be less vulnerable.  If only I had dressed differently, talked differently, worked at a different job... You name it, and I thought of things that could have been different.  The reality is that I had zero control over what happened that night.  It was the first time in my life that I had no control over a situation, and it was beyond terrifying.

For quite a while, I was trapped inside a shell.  I shut myself off from the world, and thought if only I changed everything about myself--maybe then everyone would LEAVE ME ALONE!!  It was winter at the time, and my world was cold, dark and isolated.  I was beyond miserable.  I saw therapists that told me how to deal with my problems. I read books that were supposed to heal me, and I thought if I believed in a god, that everything would magically become alright.

"I've been fobbed off, and Ive been fooled
I've been robbed and ridiculed"

It's funny how I hadn't heard this song in forever, and it played on my random shuffle today.  This morning I jumped out of bed before the sun came up, threw on some clothes, grabbed my coffee and camera, and headed out the door.  I was hell-bent on capturing a few hundred pictures before sunrise, and today would be the day.  I am not certain what made me abandon my comfortable bed, what made me turn to trucker coffee for a refill, or what made me drive for hours and through hundreds of songs before I found the perfect shots.  As I passed a field, I pulled over the car and grabbed the camera.  I flung open the car door, and these lines were echoing out the door.
I was at the field where I had journeyed eleven years ago.  I remember the day like it was yesterday, and wish I could find the pictures.  I was traveling home, and to be honest I hadn't been out of the house in months.  I was curled up with my own misery, and there wasn't room for healing.  I was paralyzed in fear and loneliness, and I was certain that no one or nothing could understand.  By random chance, I had been driving down the road and passed a field.  For some reason the daffodils were blooming incredibly early, and there were thousands!  Luckily I had my old 35mm camera in the passenger seat, and I pulled over to take a few photos.  There was an old woman out in the field, and she was digging up bulbs in the center.  I remember the way her long gray hair was blowing in the wind, and I couldn't help but snap at least a dozen pictures of her.  The clouds were fluffy, the breeze was sweet, and for a brief moment I forgot my own pain.

Then she screamed at me.  Apparently she didn't want evidence.  She didn't belong on the land, and had in fact been stealing someone's daffodils.  She was rather disturbed that I was taking her photograph, and began waving her shovel about.  I remember that I snatched up a handful of daffodils, threw them in the car, and drove away as I yelled my apologies.

"I've been uptight and made a mess
But I'll clean it up myself, I guess"

I'd like to say that the next eleven years were perfect.  I'd like to say that I abandoned all feelings of insecurity, and put full faith in men again.  Well, even in humanity again.  The reality is that my life had many highs and lows in the past eleven years.  I will honestly say that I became the most uptight and withdrawn person in the world, then swung the pendulum to the most relaxed and uninhibited.  There was a lot of healing that had to happen.  There was a lot of forgiveness that had to happen.  I realized today that it was more about forgiving myself.  Society is tough on women--we tell them that they are ultimately responsible for what happens.  Even if a woman works a full-time job while going to school, returns from work, closes the door to her room and goes to bed, she is supposed to be a welcome target for a sexual predator.  And when an attack occurs, her life is scrutinized.  She is made to think that something she did made this happen.  It took me eleven years to realize that men that attack have control issues--there was nothing I could do to prevent the attack.  It will most certainly taint every relationship I have for the rest of my life.

So, what does this have to do with daffodils?  Beyond the fact that the early bloom brought me out of my funk and back into the world, I have always envisioned daffodils as such a strong and hearty flower.  They require the cold, hard ground to grow into beautiful blooms.  They overcome incredible adversity just to survive, and yet they THRIVE!  We marvel at these first signs of spring, and I remember thinking eleven years ago how incredible it was that they were ready to thrive in the dead of winter.  I think, at that time, my soul was ready to thrive again.  I was ready to join the land of the living. I was an incredibly tough, strong and capable woman, but I knew that I would also always be delicate, and need to be handled with care.

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