There is a moment, hiding there in the darkness. A turning point waiting for us as we shiver at the bottom of the well, praying to whatever can hear us to Please Help. We do not always realize when that moment hits. Sometimes we’re so blind with fear, with despair, that even as that first light flickers into being, we do not see it. Our nightmares are too large around us. And yet that barest flicker, that tender, curling flame of light is the first leaf of a new branch in our lives. We can look back and see it, of course. But when it’s happening? That’s harder to do.
Fourteen years ago I was in a toxic relationship during the early part of December. I was young, naive and trusting. I did not see the warning signs. I didn’t realize that I was being controlled, my personality edited. Surely he only wanted me to make those changes because he was trying to help me. Certainly, being a different version of myself must be better than who I was naturally. I thought he was just trying to smooth the edges of a troubled young woman. I made excuse after excuse. My own self-doubt and low self-esteem meant that I believed him. I let someone dictate to me who I was, what I liked, what I wore, how I behaved. I allowed this theft of Self to happen. I sank into the darkness. I forgot myself in the night.
We were at a Christmas party when it got really bad. He got drunk, couldn’t find me, then got angry. I’ll remember what the kitchen of that house in Japan looks like for the rest of my life. He started screaming at me. He called me a whore. He demanded that I go outside with him.
I told him no. So he grabbed me by the head and tried to drag me outside.
And in that moment of fear, of being touched in anger, touched with violence by hands I trusted, everything changed. I wrenched myself free. I told him he was done. I ran out of that party, down to the main drag and found a cab. I was barefoot, but I had my purse.
I had something else, too. I had that faint, early light of dawn inside me. I was terrified, but in that dark, helpless place, I somehow found the turning point. I ran. I did not look back.
It was right before Christmas, but I left.
I was downtrodden and weak, but I left.
I believed then that I was ugly, that I was worthless, but I left.
I was afraid to go home. We lived in the same barracks. I was afraid to set foot anywhere on base. Jay, my husband, let me stay with him. We were just friends then. I avoided leaving his room, so frightened to be by myself that I holed up there for days.
And yet the light was growing. That little flicker began to spread, like dawn bringing the first blush of light to the sky. The fear was not the only emotion I felt. I began to feel others: self-determination, self-worth. I could hear my Mother’s voice in my head, ‘If a man ever touches you in anger, you walk out, and you do not look back.’ I felt pride that I did what she’d always told me to do. Those spreading beams of light were taking over.
On the day of the Solstice, when all the world fought through the long darkness to the pale dawn on the other side, I realized that Jay and I were not only friends. He already knew, of course. He’s always been wiser than I am. The light that dawned that morning was the most beautiful I have ever seen, casting a golden glow over a new love. A love that turned 14 today.
I know it’s dark out there. I know you have shadows, battles that you fight. I know that sometimes you are your own enemy, and slip into destructive habits, ways of thinking, patterns…
But I also know the light is coming. The turning point is here.
May you find your light this Solstice. And may that flicker bring you out into a radiant day.