Holidays for many, bring on the excitement of spending time with family and celebrating all we have to be thankful for each year. Today they bring that excitement and gratitude for me as well, but for a long, long time that was not the case.
For many years they brought a lot of pain and sorrow when the holiday season crept in. Folks celebrating the leaves changing and their upcoming gatherings while I watched them all in envy. Why can’t I have that? What is wrong with me? I don’t have anyone to spend the holidays with, nor anywhere to spend them, nor did I feel I had anything to be grateful for. I would walk up and down the track in my flip flops from summer, now long gone. No jacket, weighing 100 pounds soaking wet, pretending that this was the life I wanted. This was who I was meant to be………right?
Reality was that I had to be whoever the buyer wanted me to be, for however long they paid to access my body, for however long they had paid to sexually assault me. Sometimes holidays would beget me a few extra bucks from my regulars and I would have to thank them profusely. Acknowledging how much they must care about me to give me an extra 50 dollars, knowing fair well what was expected for that extra money. I’m forced to smile while trying hard to hold down the vomit in the back of my throat, as I lie through my broken teeth, telling them how special they are to me, when I truly wanted to claw their eyes out. I felt as if nobody saw me, or if they did, they didn’t care that I was slowly dying inside, all the while praying it would hurry up and happen already. I just wanted to die already. Then I would truly have something to be grateful for, the masquerade that had become my existence would be over.
Today, and everyday I am exceptionally grateful, and not just on Thanksgiving. Each day I wake up in my own bed, safe………free. Free to be myself. Free to smile because I truly am happy, free to be angry if that’s what I am feeling, and free to be me, truly me. I get to say who I want to spend time with, I get to say who can touch me, and who cannot. My worth is no longer attached to a dollar value. I am not for sale today and I am grateful for that each and everyday.
I am grateful for the opportunity to reunite my body and my heart. For the ability to be present in moments of intimacy. To feel my son’s breath on my face in the morning, to wake up to that look of adoration, to know real love, true, messy, and imperfect. I am grateful to have a husband, a partner, and best friend, who knows my flaws, my fears, and my dreams. One who doesn’t question when I wake up afraid, one who consoles, supports, and walks beside me, allowing me to be beautifully broken yet finally whole.
I am grateful for my family who are not ashamed of what had happened but instead are proud of who I am. Who support me on my journey allowing my truth to be the freedom that I always craved, needed, and now thrive within.
I am grateful for my sisters who know me in a way that I think no one else truly ever will. The sisters that share in my nightmares and my dreams. My sisters who inspire me to be me without abandon. My sisters, whose love allows me to shed my shame and hold my head high. She is I and I am she, and for their friendship and sisterhood my gratitude is endless.
I am grateful for air, for I feel like I can finally breathe. I am grateful for love, which I am able to give and receive today. I am grateful for hope of which I have an abundance of today. I am grateful for life, today and everyday, and so long as I exist I will remain that way.
So holidays can bring joy but can also cause a swell of memories I wish I could forget. I am grateful I can look those painful memories in the face and know that what happened to me does not define me. This Thanksgiving I am grateful for a freedom I wish all my sisters could know and until they can we will continue to fight alongside them.