What I felt were the flames. Reading Minnie’s post for WYAO April last week reignited a fire within me, licking that all-too-familiar question against my conscience: What if, What if, What if? Minnie’s post told a story similar to mine, pulling me down the rabbit hole only to slam me to my chair at the end with an abrupt, hard, STOP!
I have to applaud Minnie for her effective use of the word stop, both in her narrative, and in the retelling of it. It was jarring, to say the least; not only for me to read, but likely for her to say, and, I hesitate to mention, for him to hear.
I still felt that tiny spark in my stomach after reading her post for the third time. What was incipient soon became a full inferno. A fire raged at what could have been, crackling with what if’s and why me’s. Could I have stunted the damage by a few years? Would Denise or Justine or the any of the other little girls after me have reached the same fate had my story been punctuated like Minnie’s? Stop.
It is fair to applaud Minnie for having the courage to scream. It’s not fair to scold and scald myself for not doing the same. I can’t reverse time. I’ll never get to tell him to stop. And there are millions of girls and women who, like myself, didn’t scream. What there isn’t is a handbook, and erudite manual on what to do with that fire, what to do when when the shame sears your stomach like a branding iron. So, I’ll write it.
This is your chance to say stop. To yourself. Cut the shit. Abscond the habit of blaming yourself. It never helps, it always hurts, and you are going to need you on your side.
Rule number one of tending to your fire: never, ever, let it consume you.
You’ve been marked, branded, set apart, and set ablaze by your past. But you needn’t be afraid of that flame. Let determination be your bellows. Dare to fuel that fire and let it fuel you.
Gather your kindling. Take the guilt, the shame, the blame, the coulda, shoulda, and the wish I wouldas and scorch them. Watch the smoke from their singing snake toward the sky. Take a deep breath and let all feelings of fault rise with the smoke. This is the beginning of freedom.
Get comfortable with your inferno. It doesn’t disappear when you ignore it. You can’t extinguish it like a lamp when you don’t need it. It is always there, always on, always burning. Don’t be afraid of it. Don’t attempt to hide it. Those who need to be ignited will find you by way of your light. Let people take from your flames all that they need.
Your fire is a privilege and a curse, and sometimes more of one than the other. Sometimes you’ll burn incense, other times, rubber. But we, the people, the writers, storytellers, and survivors who carry a fire must be dutiful in our burning. By burning we build, by sharing we heal.