Alive to Thrive: Season 2, Episode 1
Video is 7 minutes long.
For 20 years now, I’ve gone through a season every December that is wrought with emotions that I can never quite put my finger on. Ultimately, I have to settle on “it’s complicated” because it is a mushy jumble of feelings that aren’t quite this or that. I am caught in a whirlwind that is not sadness, not happiness, not relief, not disbelief, and not grief. People ask if I’m okay and I just have to say I am because I think I am, and I am not, but I cannot answer as to why not no more than I can truthfully answer to why I am.
Twenty years seems like a long time to be in such a complicated relationship with memories of the past, but it is what it is. Each year, I attempt to unravel the spaghetti mess of feelings, and every year I end up sitting back and letting myself feel what I feel. Like flashes of lightning, I am at peace and then not. I am in 1997 and then not. I am in 1988 and then not. I am happy and then not. I am sad and then not.
The more I talk with other survivors, the more I see that this is a common experience that we struggle to define. We shrug and pet our feelings as if to give them comfort, yet we have no idea what we are trying to comfort because we aren’t sad or mad or happy or glad. It just is…these feelings…these things we have survived.
It’s complicated to explain. It’s complicated to understand. It’s complicated to carry.
The world says move on and don’t live in the past, and we aren’t, but parts of us go back without our permission. Hearts pound as we notice the date, as we pick up the scent of another decade, a time in life when survival was a real thing, not just something we now talk about. My breath catches when I hear a gunshot ring in the night and I cannot not see a body at the bottom of the stairs. Life has moved on, and yet I chew on these complicated feelings on autopilot, willing my brain to choose something better, to move into the beauty that is today.
The calendar makes it complicated. Twenty years cannot erase the pain and fear and new beginnings that all arrived in one complicated night of terror. I cannot celebrate being alive without the complications of the loss of life, and I cannot grieve the loss without the complications of joy for being here to live.
I’m not a therapist, but I know what I know, and I know what I feel, and trauma is just complicated, no matter how much time has passed, no matter how many times I’m told I should move on, no matter how much I should be grateful to be alive.
I am grateful. I am excited about life. And yet, here I sit on what is the last day of the complicated first two weeks of December, and I bounce through emotions that all mush together, and I want the day to end, and I want to reflect, and I want to have never had this story to begin with, and I want to use all the story to save others, and I want to be left alone, and I want to be close to people, and it’s just all so very complicated. Yes, 20 years later, still…
Read my story here: The First 22 Years Are the Hardest
“We really are one. We are really in this together.”
I recently had the honor of working with Cassy on her vlog project. This month, we talked about domestic violence and she asked questions that sometimes people are afraid to ask (or don’t know how to ask).
People keep asking why I released my book for free, and the answer is simple —
Because I wanted to.
I could end my answer right there, but there truly is more to the “wanted to” part of it.
I shared with a friend that I was just going to release my book on my website, an idea that had been swirling around in my head for a long time. I knew that if my latest agent response was a no, I’d do it.
And then the latest agent response was indeed a no. I moved forward with my plan and my friend, knowing how my story goes, asked:
“Do you ever get hate mail?”
I thought back over the years, over the numerous websites and essays I’ve written on teen pregnancy and domestic violence and child abuse and sexual assault.
“Oh, all the time. And releasing my book this way will likely bring in more. I might hear from family, or I might hear from strangers who don’t like me talking about uncomfortable things, or I might even hear from writers who point out all my errors. But I’m much more concerned about who I don’t hear from — those I know need to know they aren’t alone, who don’t have a voice yet, and who just need to see all the ugly parts of another person’s life so they don’t feel like absolutely no one could ever understand all the ugly parts of their own lives.”
But when I do get genuine hate mail? I just kinda shrug. I would rather release my book and get hate mail than sit on it and ruffle no feathers, keep everything buried, never help at all.
“We lived in a place where you buried what you didn’t want anymore — trash, waste, truth.” –The First 22 Years Are the Hardest
I decided to release my book because I am more afraid of growing old with an untold (so to speak) story than to wait to be picked, than to keep reworking the same story over and over. It’s not that I don’t want to be published; it’s that I want to help more.
I’m not trying to be noble — just honest.
Because the truth is, my past isn’t pretty and people look at me differently sometimes when I share pieces of it. This isn’t even the whole thing and it’s U.G.L.Y. all the same. I still feel compelled to release my story, to set it free with all its imperfections, so that I can also be free in a way, and I can help others by sharing it, and I can have permission (from self) to move forward with the next book and journey.
We all have a story to tell, and we all have a journey we’ll take in how we share it. This is why I did so this way. Chapter by chapter, I released the story, I released the past, and I released the pain, hoping each day that someone else reads and thinks something like, “I would never make that decision,” because yay, that might make all the difference; or, “Can’t she see all the red flags?” because yes, if you see them in my story, maybe you won’t miss them in your own life; or, “Wait, abuse doesn’t always mean hitting?” because too many people think domestic violence is purely physical, and I know my story gives a different look at how abuse entered quietly before it ever became physical.
I released my book for free because I just want to help someone else never have a need to write a similar book at all.
Read my book chapter by chapter for free, starting here: The First 22 Years Are the Hardest, a memoir by Angela Giles Klocke
Coming Soon – ebook versions
Coming Later – print version
I’ve seen so many “me too” posts, but they don’t surprise me. It breaks my heart, but I already knew. What I love, though, is I hear a gentle rising battle cry.
We post the words and then look around.
I am seen.
And I see you.
But we can’t let the wave of “me too” fall back to a whisper. Those who are able must stand up and be a voice for those who can’t yet say the words.
You say it’s another worthless bandwagon. I say anytime the conversation gets started, we need to jump in. Maybe one more person finds healing by seeing others share.
We need to fight. One candle might light a corner, but a million will light the darkness. Let no act of assault hide in the darkness.
Me too, I will stand by you. Me too, I will walk with you. Me too, I will go into the trenches. Me too, I am ready for battle.
What’s your next step?
#metoo #survivor #unashamed #riseup
There are different kinds of anger. Let’s talk about anger that leads to action, to change, to advocacy, to justice. Let’s have a conversation.
Video is 7 minutes long.
Please join me every Saturday for a new episode of Alive to Thrive! Start at the beginning…
Back in the 90s, I listened to country music all the time. In 1997, I fell in love with one of Martina McBride’s older songs, Independence Day. The story in the song broke my heart, but it was the chorus that resonated with me:
Let the weak be strong, let the right be wrong
Roll the stone away, let the guilty pay
It’s Independence Day -Independence Day
I still can’t listen to this song without crying.
My Independence Day came in December that year. It’s been almost 20 years now. Twenty years of healing from that part of the trauma in my past. Twenty years of life that might not have happened. Twenty years of freedom and joy and love. But also 20 years of recovery that is sometimes truly physically painful.
Today I’m declaring a new Independence Day — a day of releasing fear of what others will say when I bare my soul to its very core about the pains I’ve experienced at the hands of others, but more, a day of giving myself the freedom to process it, to feel it.
Several weeks ago, I said to myself, “I’m ready to feel everything now.” It was a thought that made me cry, so I was off to a great feeling start. But the truth is, I really need to start feeling and processing the pieces I’ve pushed back.
My Independence Day was December 7, 1997. And to be completely honest, I’ve never stopped feeling an unexplainable drop in the pit of my stomach when I truly lean into that day. I’ve never stopped wondering if I could have done something different, if I could have run sooner, if I could have loved my ex-husband just a little more, a little more, a little more to make him good.
We had never discussed funeral arrangements for either of us. Death was only a possibility when he threatened it upon me. It was real to me, not to him. Invincibility ran strong in his blood. But here I stood, alive. And there he lay, dead. –The First 22 Years Are the Hardest
What I know and what I feel are two different things. I know that I couldn’t love him enough. I know that I couldn’t have run far enough or that running away was no real life of safety. I know that there might have been something that could have been done differently, but it wasn’t on my side of things.
Yet I still feel such a heaviness of responsibility that rather than face those feelings, I run from them.
It’s natural to want to be angry rather than sad. It’s an easier emotion to deal with. People resonate with anger, so you can garner more support with anger. Grab your pitchforks and let’s get ‘em! But sadness and regret make others avoid you, the same way you’re avoiding the emotions.
I am torn by the person that I am — I have great empathy for those who have pain in their past and then act out, and yet I accept no excuses for said behavior. My heart aches for everyone, and I become paralyzed with what feels like an inability to right any wrongs.
In McBride’s song, she says:
Now I ain’t sayin’ it’s right or it’s wrong
But maybe it’s the only way. -Independence Day
I’ve always maintained that I never wanted my ex-husband dead, but I’ve also always known it might have been the only way — the only way I could be truly free. I don’t know. I’ll never know.
Every year on the 4th of July, I don’t just hear fireworks. I hear gunshots, sounds that resonate through my body and shake loose the solid footing I work so hard to maintain each and every single day. A loud boom transports me to a time long ago when I didn’t know what came after, when I didn’t know that I was free yet. Others tell me I need to just let go and move on, but my journey is not anyone else’s to live. I remember because I need to never forget that I lived through something big, and I remember so that I always have compassion for others, and I remember because regardless of the situation, someone died that night, and I will never, ever forget who he was.
My Independence Day came at a cost that I can never repay. That feeling of debt may never go away. But I can live in the moment, this one beautiful life that I am still here for.
I walked to the door and looked down at him. This is how it ends, I thought. Nine years of hell, and this is how it ends.
I wasn’t glad he was dead, but maybe now I could begin to live. –The First 22 Years…
When was your Independence Day and how have you been healing and thriving since? I really want to know. firstname.lastname@example.org