I quit drinking in my twenties and attended 12-step meetings for support. I remember hearing someone compare the difficulty in changing behavioral patterns to a rubber-band that’s lain twisted thirty years on an attic floor. If you untwist the rubber-band, it goes right back to the position it was in all those years, but if you keep untwisting it over and over—one day it relaxes. It’s no longer twisted.
I identified with that. It’s hard to change.
One twisted way of behaving I learned growing up was to remain mute and unresponsive when family members did something abusive to me. Sometimes I justified or rationalized their behavior. Almost always, I buried the event—consciously or unconsciously.
This way of behaving was pretty twisted, but it was how I survived.
When I tried to break out of that pattern of behavior as an adult, the fallout could be rough. It felt sacrilegious to stand in my truth and say unequivocally, “What you did was wrong.”
Within twenty-four hours, I’d second-guess myself and start feeling really bad as if I’d done something terrible. I’d think maybe I should’ve just let it go, especially if the incident in question happened long before.
But this was just ordinary fallout for committing a sacrilege.
I think it was Robert Kennedy who said, “There’s no statute of limitations on evil.”
So after thirty-three years, I called someone out on an evil thing they did to me.
They said they couldn’t remember it, so they couldn’t address the issue.
An acknowledgement of wrongdoing or apology was less my goal than standing up for myself, so I felt calm and happy at first.
But I told Jack, based on the past, I expected some kind of emotional fallout—anxiety, sadness, self-doubt, despair. There are consequences to breaking taboos.
I woke up with bad stomach pains the first night. I knew it was emotion. About four in the morning, I went into our den/library. I sat on the couch in the dark and talked to the spirits of my deceased parents. (FYI, this incident had nothing to do with them.) I was crying and glad to be crying. I knew the stomach pain would go away then.
I talked about a lot of things with my parents. I also asked for a sign I’d done the right thing.
I got back into bed and slept until noon.
I went about my business the next day feeling heavy and down, but fundamentally okay.
I slept fitfully the next night. I woke in the early morning to relieve myself.
I went back in the bedroom and was just about to get into bed when I saw this.
It was a rubber-band!! An untwisted rubber-band!!
I couldn’t believe it.
I stood there absolutely stunned.
I broke the pattern. I untwisted what was twisted. What was crooked had been made straight.
Any time we stand in our truth and speak up for ourselves, we do the right thing. How people respond reflects who they are, not the rightness of what we’ve done.
When I can count on myself, the world seems a less dangerous place.
Can I share the growth of my basil babies? Only a few short weeks ago, there was just one tiny seedling sticking its head out of the dirt. Now there are lots and lots of glorious little faces. I like to remind myself they had to push their way through the darkness, trusting only their instinct, before they found their way into the light.