Alia Joy writes so powerfully, and digs deep – each blog post is pure pleasure to read. I love her words and her story – both are full of raw beauty. This is her God and Suffering story and it is a privilege to host it:
***Trigger warning: this post has explicit references to sexual abuse. Some may find it painful to read.***
I choke back the pounding of my heart. Tears pricking through my lids cause my eyes to burn. And I sob, each gasp of breath heaving my body violently. I do not do this. Lose control in front of others. I can’t see through the blur as I wad the Kleenex tighter and try to catch the flow escaping my eyes and nose and pull away black streaked tissue, my mascara trailing black scars across my cheeks.
I am dirty. I have always been, as long as I can remember. I am broken. If you only knew, I whisper. I can tell my secrets to this stranger. I don’t have to face the drawing of her brows, knitting together her face in worry and concern. She has the diplomas on the wall. Swirling calligraphy and official looking emblems that assure me she is a professional. This chair has seen its share of tears and stories of dark places you don’t talk about in grocery lines or dinner parties.
I don’t have to worry that truth shared here will leave me feeling empty and torn and unable to package myself back together and go on. Because after I stop crying, I will throw away my tears with the dirty tissue, I will go home, wash my face, and start over.
She tells me I was a child, a baby really. I was victimized. But I don’t feel victimized because I let it happen. One scream, one sentence uttered into my parents ear would have stopped it all. But I did nothing.
I didn’t tell. When I was little. When the door closed behind me and he guided me gently across the room. When the curtains were pulled tight to the light and I felt a gentle tug at my pants. When I felt my underwear being pulled down and his finger pushing inside me. When he opened his fly and pulled out his penis. I trusted him. We played together. I looked up to him. He was like a brother. And I didn’t understand but I knew there was something wrong. I felt the burn as he jabbed his finger in further and I pulled away. And then it was over, until the next time. He never manipulated me not to tell with threats against my safety or my complicity in letting him do these things. He never even told me not to tell. It was like he believed that I wanted it as much as he did. And for that I grew to hate myself.
When we moved and it all stopped, I understood I was different.
I lay on the floor of the apartment we were staying looking through the window onto the red light district. Amsterdam’s streets festooned with glass doors and in each a prostitute. It looked like a boutique of Barbies in their shiny plastic and cardboard boxes lining the toy aisle. I watched a woman with heavy sagging breasts peeking through sheer lace and lingerie that pulled snug across her hips. She pantomimed against the glass, tossing her head back as her hand caressed down her belly and between her legs, luring the passing man into her door.
And I understood it. At 5, I already knew what happened when the men went in and closed the door drawing the thick curtains closed. My mother came by and pulled me back from my view. Drawing the curtains closed, I knew I was doing something bad. I remember mumbling something about how many colored cars were on the street and how I was watching them. I walked with heavy steps into the other room to play with my doll, the burden of shame would be mine for the rest of my life.
And I’ve carried this burden as my body developed, my 5th grade form in need of a bra. I carried it when I saw my first blood and knew my body was betraying me in womanhood. I carried it when I had my first real kiss and felt his tongue slip into my mouth and felt both nauseous and exhilarated. I carried it when I let boys touch me, but only in some places and only on my terms.
I would never be that foolish again, allowing someone to blindly lead me.
I refused sex with the ferocity of the best love waits campaigners but I didn’t understand that kind of love at all. My refusal and disgust had nothing to do with purity or holiness because I was already dirty. The only thing I could do was keep it from happening again. I carried it as my skirts got shorter and the neckline of my tops got lower, the top of my breasts pushed up as an offering. I carried it as I tapped into the power of making boys turn and look and then men.
And I understood there were two ways to become invisible. One was distraction. Who could see this broken little girl behind the pouty lips and cleavage? I was vamped up and sexual to the point of being nothing more than a stereotype. I wasn’t the used girl. I was the one in control. I was the one who called all the shots and used up others before they could tire of me.
The other was camouflage. There is no better way to hide in our society. No better way to become a faceless stereotype than to be an overweight woman. I had found the perfect insulation from sexuality and femininity. In marriage and faith, I had renounced the overt sexuality and provocative spirit of my youth and had embraced modesty while the pounds increased steadily year after year. I am the funny one. The smart one. The anything but sexual one. My shame cloaks my body and bulges at the back of my bra and over my waist and as my belly pushed out, full birthed shame.
My feet step lightly on the platform, as if placing my toes softly will negate the heaviness I feel, the heaviness I see in the mirror day after day. The number flickers like a slot machine and lands on 260. Shame.
But grace. I am finding it. I am learning the hard work of belief and trust and healing. I am shedding shame not with pounds lost but with prayers lifted. With days on my face in tears and gut clawing honesty of telling a true story.
I am finding my way to beauty. I talk about the hidden things in a real voice, not a whisper. I close my eyes and dream. I finger the clothes in my closet looking for a way to show the beauty I am finding in myself as God calls me deeper into healing and relationship. I lay back and let my husband love me, deep and true, stroking my hair back from my eyes, looking deep and telling me I’m beautiful. I’m beautiful.
Alia Joy is a cynical idealist, homeschool mama to three little ‘uns, wife to Josh, book wormy, coffee dependent, grace saved, writer of random musings and broken stories, collector of words, attempter of all things crafty, lover of mustard yellow, turquoise, Africa, and missions. She lives in Central Oregon and loves to visit big cities because there are no decent Indian,Moroccan, or Vietnamese restaurants close by. Maker-upper of words. Disliker of awkward introductions and writing in the third person. She blogs at narrowpathstohigherplaces.com and tweets @AliaJoyH.
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