Since I was fifteen years old I've been in some form of hiding. From an actual person.
My first 'real' boyfriend turned out to be exactly the dangerous sort that I was drawn to, and I faced down years of stalking after the relationship ended. It was a pretty young age to have to deal with that and it formed me in a way that probably has me trust men a lot less than I could if it hadn't been part of my experience. I hid as best I could on social media, and otherwise never thought of it, except that it was there, in my cellular memory, quiet. Last weekend a mutual friend let me know that this old boyfriend had died. I mostly felt nothing, but was aware that there was something. He had a lesson to teach me, that I had been carrying, which was to beware my bright light, that I was going to attract men for the wrong reasons, that there was something in me that was prey. And I've had the rest of my life so far to transmute that teaching into something empowered. The tiny remnant of my fear of him lived in me all this time, quiet as it was, and his death shines some light on exactly what I did during that young time in my life to enact a sense of powerlessness. And he had another lesson to teach me, a light shining on all the places I couldn't say no, and by that light I can trace each yes that was really a no through my life.
And here's what I came away with.
I've always felt like a strange combination of numb and unbearably full of feeling. Where I should react a certain way, where I should care because everyone else does, I don't. And yet, where I should stand up for myself and set a boundary, I don't or I politely digress while disappearing so as to not have to be explicit that this is my boundary right here. It's a weird combination. I've been turning over in my heart the idea that my deep caring is actually there, alive and fully formed in the enactment of my boundaries. I don't need to think about whether it's yes or no or maybe, as long as I act on it. I can be certain that I've already forgiven myself for anything and everything. My deep caring is something that was hard for me to see, it's been masquerading as integrity and I didn't recognize that. So many of us humans enact our caring in the form of caretaking, and I've been curious inside myself whether this is just something I can't do much of, the caretaking. Stalking is really a form of possesive caretaking, and to experience it gave me a first hand account of what caring is not.
In fact, turns out my caring is the setting of boundaries, it's the releasing of posessions. My caring is in taking up space, doing for my own sake alone. It's in giving no thought to hiding from anyone. It's in so many things. My brain says, yes of course, but the last remnants of the Nice Girl in me say, oh my god. I figure that's good. And carry on. This person's death didn't set me free, which is good, because that means I was already somehow free. But it shifted me into claiming more of myself, and forgiving for real that girl who couldn't say no, who didn't want to say no, who had absolutely no fault in the matter because there was never a problem to begin with. That is the empowered state of the girl that I was. She can be free.