Yesterday was my birthday. I am forty-seven (we’re pretty sure; long story).
I don’t feel forty-seven—or at least I don’t feel whatever I imagined this would be back when it was just a faint notion. My hair has tiny streaks of sliver starting to sprout amid the waves, and while I am blessed with a thick Scottish complexion, my cheeks aren’t defying gravity any longer and no one is ever going to card me again. My children are all capable of feeding and bathing themselves, and in some cases, are currently considering collegiate options. I am deeply in love with my spouse, and we navigate our individual imperfections imperfectly, but always centered back on that abiding love. My dog thinks I am a good person.
So why did this week undo me?
I’ve been mildly politically active my whole life—you don’t grow up on the San Francisco peninsula with hippie parents and not learn about protesting, campaigning, or fulfilling your civic duty. One of my first memories is seeing my mom on the local TV news. I was in kindergarten, and she was lobbying against public-school closings in our neighborhood. One of my first jobs was canvasing neighborhoods for CalPirg. I am not blind to my privilege, but I also haven’t been isolated in comfortable white-woman oblivion.
Like so many women across America this week, old memories buried deep percolated up in painful waves, bursting the surface of my pretty nice life. My hands have been shaking, and I’ve been low-grade nauseous, even while I tried to avoid the bulk of the really toxic news. My spouse has done his level best to be supportive, but the scars that suddenly flared up were old and faded and two decades behind me; I didn’t expect those dusty bones to suddenly hum and rattle. I wasn’t prepared, how could he be? I spent the night on the phone with my mother, compelled to share for the first time what happened to me twenty-three years ago. No mother wants to hear those stories. No mother wants her own dry bones to hum and rattle.
After telling my mother, I never plan to tell my story again. I don’t owe my pain and sorrow to anyone. Tearing my wounds open didn’t help me, it didn’t help my family, and it didn’t do anything for the countless women like me, who are nursing their histories with a mix of agony, grief, depression, sorrow, and rage. It did nothing. The only way to move forward is let those bones rot and disappear into nothing. There was nothing I could do about it at the time, and there is clearly absolutely nothing I can do about it now. The message has been received.