The weather is beautiful where I live today. Spring is on its way.
It reminds me of a time, years ago, when I was still married and my firstborn was around two. My then-husband and I flew with her to Florida for an extended family thing.
Having left Missouri and its bitter winter behind, we were overjoyed by the Floridian sun and warmer temps. While it was still only spring, and on the cool side for natives of the panhandle state, it felt like summer to Midwesterners like us.
So much so that when we went to the local mall one afternoon, none of us wore a jacket. I’d guess we were in short sleeves, too.
As we crossed the lot to a main entrance, two women on their way out snidely commented to one another about my daughter — just loud enough, on purpose, for us to overhear.
“THAT little girl needs to have a COAT on.”
I wasn’t thinking fast enough to spit back any kind of reply, to explain or justify why we weren’t wearing an outer layer the way they were.
That their truth did not match ours.
I still feel myself fire up when I think about it, wishing I’d been more on the ball to defend myself as the caring and aware mother that I am.
Until, when I come back to my grounding, I remember it’s okay that I didn’t waste my breath,
because their truth didn’t affect or change ours.
The experience for survivors of domestic abuse is similar.
Bystanders are plentiful, even overwhelming in numbers. And they *think* they know what everything’s about, that they’ve got it all figured out, to the point they offer lots of hearty, unsolicited — often wrong — advice.
Just like the mall ladies, these bystanders lack context. Their view of our world is infinitesimally limited. Perhaps even superficial.
The majority of bystanders do not know the fullness of where survivors come from, why we settle on our decisions, and what prompts/triggers/conditions us to operate the way we do.
Guess what this means?
It means their truth does not match ours, nor are our truths affected or changed because of their deficit in context.
And we often get fired up, don’t we? We want to spit and justify and explain. We want to defend ourselves. Make people understand everything about what we’ve been through, and about our season of survival.
We’re not wrong to want this. The root is claiming reality, because we’re grasping it for the first time ourselves, and a need for validation, which has long been withheld from us.
Sometimes we must defend ourselves. Privately. Publicly. The fight is ours to determine.
But maybe sometimes we can save our breath, too, and find a certain release in that.
Part of the healing journey is learning we don’t have to explain or justify ourselves to anyone, least of all the simple bystanders who are not invested in or crucial to our daily living and long-term happiness. (And that is most people.)
We begin to find peace when we embrace our truth around learning not to care what others think about it—
our real truth, or their misunderstanding of it.
I’ll guess I’ll wrap by saying:
Thanks, mall ladies. You and your example have been a big help today, on this beautiful day, in this survival season, where I live and you do not.
(Photo is author’s from 2017.)