Up until age 10, when my mother remarried, I grew up in a violent home. I remember waking up in the middle of the night to fights—terrible screaming and yelling. I saw my mother being abused at the hands of my biological father. Unfortunately, I saw things that no child should ever see.
This morning, I awoke filled with gratitude in my heart, grateful that my children have never had to witness the things that I saw growing up. They have never awoken in the middle of the night to shouts of anger and rage, dishes clanging and furniture moving, the fear of not knowing the magnitude of violence the day would hold. Looking back, I believe that my father suffered from undiagnosed mental illness. The things my mother endured from the hands of that man ... I'm sure that I don't know the half.
I remember being afraid to sleep at night. I was afraid for my mother, my sister, myself. I didn't feel safe. I remember hiding knives and anything that could do harm. That was my way of feeling safe. I remember thinking in my 10-year-old head that if I remove those things, no one would die. People would still be hurt, but no one would die. I would hide the knives underneath my bed, afraid.
This morning, I awoke grateful that my children have only seen a father that adores their mother. They have only seen hands that protect, hug and provide amazing massages. I am grateful that they have seen a father that nurtures, and speaks only sweet and beautiful words. Along with those beautiful words, my children have seen how to resolve conflict in a healthy manner. Parents disagree—people disagree—and that’s OK. My children have had the opportunity to see HOW to disagree and still love.
This morning, I awoke with gratitude resounding in my heart. Did this gratitude appear overnight? No. Truthfully, it took work—a lot of work and the deep realization that I am worthy of all the good that has manifested in my life. I have felt unworthy, undeserving and fearful of receiving love. When you grow up in an abusive home, there is a level of unsteadiness that exists. Love is temporary. Consistent love is temporary. Violence can happen at any moment.
This morning, as I watched my 18-month-old sleeping peacefully, I spoke to my 18-month-old self, my 5-year-old self and my 10-year-old self, and whispered, "You are safe now."
I took long breaths, breathing in the smells of our bedroom, the smells of the peaceful home that my husband and I have built for our children. I took long, deep and intentional breaths, breathing in the smell of my sleeping toddler who will never feel the fear that I felt growing up. This particular morning, I took courageous breaths for the little girl who couldn't catch her breath and would hold her breath out of fear. I exhaled the unworthiness, the anxiety, the fear. I exhaled the statistics stating that by default, because I grew up in an abusive home, I should have married an abuser. I exhaled all that no longer served me. I exhaled the guilt of not only surviving a childhood riddled with domestic violence, but thriving. I exhaled and I let it go.
This morning, I awoke grateful. This gratefulness is mine. I will hold on to it. I will not only breathe it in daily, but I will allow it to permeate my lungs and seep into my bloodstream, so that I can pass it along to my children and my children's children.