Dear Me at 11,
This is a pivotal year for you, the year during which your mother discovers she's married a pedophile. The past 5 years have been overstuffed with heartache, shame and disappointments. But this year you will experience a sorrow unlike any other.
If I could sound a forewarning, something along the lines of, "The British are coming! The British are coming!" (only in this case it would be more like, "Your mother is going to discover your secret, but nothing will change!"), it wouldn't be of much help. No child could believe on the evidence of mere words alone that one's own mother could fail so miserably at her role of Protector and Nurturer. I close my eyes against the memory, against the stricken look which will mar your features, and that heart-wrenching moment in all of eternity when you empty yourself of all feeling and solemnly vow, "I'll have to take care of myself from now on. No one else will, ever." It doesn't occur to you to turn to the God of your childhood with this sorrow, for He is the oldest adult in existence, and you see clearly now that all adults will always stand together, against you. (Besides, how could you befoul His ears with this? Oh, unholy, unholy!)
How steadfastly you stick to your vow! This is hard, serious work, this looking after yourself. You've been doing it for 5 years already without even realizing it. Now that the vow has been made, you chastise yourself for every little stirring weakness, or the dreams which won't quite die a dignified death. Dreams, you know instinctively, are not safe. They make you weak and vulnerable. And so you begin shutting them out of your heart, refusing them admittance. You once dreamed your real father would find you, rescue you from The House of Incest? Not any more. You once dreamed that someone would tell your mother what was being done to you in secret corners, and that she would rise up in holy wrath and smite your enemy? Never again. That dream shattered beyond repair when she told you in a flat voice, "We could send him to prison, but we would have to sell our home and go on welfare."
My heart weeps for you, for the stoicism you wrap about your little self like a threadbare garment. For the nights you can't help but cry yourself to sleep, face muffled in pillow so no one will hear and rebuke you for your tears. You've promised yourself you wouldn't cry, yet there are times when it's your only means of falling asleep.
Oh, you don't even know that you are many, that inside of you resides an underground world of your own making. You won't know this for decades, but never mind. It's enough for now that these others are there for you, making it possible for you to function at all.
From my vantage point of 53 years, I want to tell you that you will get through this. You will live on to experience love and to bring 5 sons into the world. Oh, how you fall in love with them heart and soul in that instant when you first look into their sweet newborn faces! Amazing that you could feel such love, but you do. This is one thing you do right. You will live on to do many things right, but you won't realize it at the time, as accustomed as you are to thinking the worst of yourself.
You will write. That's one dream your mother's indifference and your stepdad's perversions couldn't quite murder. You'll be thrilled to know that you will continue writing, if fitfully, throughout the rest of your lifetime. Sometimes you will write funny stories and poems to make your friends laugh. Sometimes you will pen moving letters which are capable of bringing grown men (including your abuser) to tears. You will write things no one will see, words which have been percolating inside of you for a lifetime. You will never be comfortable writing down the truth about yourself, for your stepdad's tauntings about your writing will always be reverberating inside your head. But as the years go by, it will get easier. You will rediscover your own unique writing voice.
You will make new friends who refute the lies about yourself which you learned by rote in that dreary land of childhood. They will root for you, seeing what you can't see in yourself.
Though you feel with dead certainty that the torment of abuse will last until Kingdom Come, thankfully this is not really the case. Your torments will cease. You will leave that house of incest. And though you will reunite with your real father, making this escape possible, you will be your own rescuer. You have strengths you don't even suspect, and a stubbornness which has refused to give in to defeat. You don't even know how strong you are! There are inner depths you can't fathom, from which you will mine a steely resolve and stubborn refusal to lay down and die.
The time will come, though now it seems like a tale told out of school, when you will divorce yourself from your mother. With the best of intentions, you will hang on to your relationship with her for decades, assuming this to be your duty. But the time will come, I'm telling you, when you will rise up against her continued mistreatment of you as she never rose up on your behalf against your abuser's criminal misconduct.
You will live to laugh and dream; you will hold your grand babies in your arms and croon them to sleep, or coax them into sweet smiles. You will pick yourself up again and again, and have the utter audacity to keep on keeping on. You will close your ears to the dire predictions of your accusers, of those who wish nothing good for you and who take pleasure in your downfall. You will savor the little things in life, knowing their true value. You will dance to your own music, and relish the company of those who delight in your well being.
You will discover that an open (but discerning) heart is more to be valued than the stoicism at which you've become so adept. Yes, you will dare to get up each morning with nothing but the dinky mustard seed of faith wedged in your heart. Others will ask, "How do you do it?" You will shake your head, wondering that yourself. You will despair of life, you will embrace it; you will mourn lost dreams; you will find new ones. You will sorrow for your murdered childhood; you will invest in the well-being of your grandchildren. You will sigh. You will sing. You will dare to disturb the universe. You will.