Dark green vision-blocking curtains covered the window in the living room.
Homemade frosting covered the window on the front door.
I sat in absolute, motionless silence as the repeated, incessant knocking continued, not getting louder, but not stopping either.
I could hear my heart beating as my hand vibrated, yet I didn’t move; I was in full on primary response. The stuff Abe Maslow talks about—fight, flight, freeze…I was frozen in place and that damn knocking continued until finally–silence.
I peered through a small opening in the curtain to see the car drive away and a deep sigh of relief escaped my ruby red lips. I might have peed a little but everything was too tightly puckered for that.
That was me 2001; the terrified, hidden, alone and lonely person. Oh, I had friends, but no one “knew” about Char then.
Goal one: open the curtains–partly. That took a few months to accomplish. I would open them a hand width, then the length of my arm elbow to wrist to allow myself time to adjust. In time, my “I don’t care” mindset grew. Over the course of a few months, the curtains were left wide open all the time.
Goal two: get outside and stay within the boundaries of my own property. Surely I was safe there, and the worst anyone could do would be to say something negative or hurl insults at me; they didn’t. Soon, I was walking around my yard (one small town block) dressed as I pleased. Terrified yes, I was feeling the fear and doing it anyway; it was one more step to freedom and courage, one more step away from feeling like a victim.
Goal three: our local post office is a 1.5 minute walk from my front door. If the wind is right, one good stone’s throw could hit the wall. The goal was to walk there, collect the mail, and return home safely. This was a huge, because there was potential risk of a stranger (one of the “good ole boys”) showing up while I was digging the mail out of the PO Box. I live in a community of 50 people, farmers, welders, and other tough guys all around me. In fact, any one of the local women could take me out with one punch; they’re used to throwing 80 pound bales!
Okay, fast forward to a few years ago, I was asked (by the locals), yes, the very ones described above to run for Mayor of our little town. I did, and I won; I served. We don’t care what you wear they said, just solve the local troubles.
Next goal: drive to the next town, the next city, expand the size of the playpen one tiny bit at a time and one day you’ll look over your shoulder and see just how far you’ve traveled outside of your comfort zone.
Nowadays, I wear the breast prosthesis, pretty tops, skinny jeans, and my beautiful aqua sketcher sneakers. With earrings and hair done, eye shadow and mascara, I travel to other cities and go into shops. Oh yes, there are twinges of the old fear, but certainly not immobilization anymore.
Growing into myself thus far has been the greatest challenge of my life. I’ve come this far by doing two things consistently, being persistent and doing it slowly.
By setting small goals to achieve, such as opening the curtains, answering the door, walking outside, walking to a friend’s house four doors down, or to the post office, and so on I’ve expanded my world and quieted my fears.
I’ve found success by being gentle with my child self and allowing the child to get comfortable with each new step before moving onward to the next step. No rush, no force just gently leading my female child self to freedom, as the adult me learns and practices the life skills needed to take care of her safely.
I wish for you the very same exciting adventure my friends.