When I was a little girl I went to the museum. There were what looked like card catalog drawers in one room. I distinctly remember the moment that I opened one of the drawers. As soon as I opened it I could barely move. There were butterflies pinned down on these cards with the names of the butterflies on them. I was horrified. I frantically started pulling out multiple drawers at a time only to find more of these beautiful creatures dead and put on display. I remember thinking, ” Who would do such a thing?” In my mind as I replay that memory, I go to open the drawer, and there is daunting dark music playing as I do. I also remember thinking, ” Does anyone care that these were killed?” Similar emotions emerged when I went to the zoo. My heart felt saddened as I looked at these animals in cages. An almost unbearable sadness came over me when I first went to the circus. Yet I was confused. Everyone around me was so happy and so mesmerized by these animals. Have you ever had a slow motion memory where you remember what you were thinking and then you look around you at what all the other people are expressing and there is such a vast difference in emotions that you feel like you must be an alien? When I was a young girl still, I picked out parakeets only so that I could open their cage when we got home. Those parakeets tore at my soul though. I looked at them when they were in the cage and couldn’t ever overcome this feeling of cruelty at putting an animal who can fly in a cage where his wings were bound. We often opened the cage for them to fly and I took them out as much as I possibly could. At a very young age I felt that human beings had a sense of entitlement over other things that they deemed less worthy of freedom and that gnawed at my heart until this very day.
My neighbor stopped by with his dog last night. He is an entomologist. He had a container to collect bugs to label and present in a class he taught. I had forgotten about my drawer opening experience until that very moment when I saw his containers. Even now, as a 44 year old woman, I thought, ” How can you capture a flying butterfly and kill it for your class?” I proceeded to tell him in great detail the lengths I went to save a moth who had flown into my house one night when I let my dog out. I’m not sure what I was trying to accomplish by giving examples of my saving insects at all costs when he was killing them. He was actually fascinated by moths and butterflies and talked about all of their intriguing characteristics. To learn about something that makes us curious do we have to kill it though? To advance as humans must we imprison and kill earth’s inhabitants? In talking about nature we switched to the birds of prey that are so prevalent in our neighborhood. He went on to tell me about speaking to a specialist from the audubon society who told him that hawks eat mostly lizards and frogs. Here, I thought, is what is wrong with limiting yourself to knowledge based on other’s opinions. While I kept thinking, can we not just be watchers and listeners!!! I cannot compete with the knowledge of some expert in the bird field, but I can tell you that I have sat in my front yard and watched hawks pluck squirrels from the ground on a regular basis! PFT I say to them only eating lizards and frogs!
This friendly neighbor was chatting about nature and in my mind hundreds of thoughts were racing back and forth. I went from the museum, to the zoo, to the circus, to my parakeets, and back numerous times. My focus, in my thoughts, was not so much why others do what they do with animals and insects( and people for that matter), but more so why it affects me so intensely. Why do I hurt so much for the suffering of others? Why is my heart so fragile? How can I continue to feel passionately without it affecting me so negatively?
I have always had a gentle docile nature about me. I am sure it came as quite a shock in the last few years for my friends and family to see me outwardly vocalize my anger about the abuse I endured and everything surrounding those events. This change happened in me when I had an awakening and realized that my gentle heart and quiet ways made me easily dismissed and ignored. I went from inward to outward overnight. When you turn your insides out you can feel even more vulnerable and exposed.I didn’t know this when I first switched the switch from inward to outward. It truly is a raw and vulnerable feeling BUT it was risk I needed to take in reclaiming my life and my identity that I felt was always influenced by other’s need to manipulate and control me. It is like turning a shirt inside out and imagining that all your emotions that were kept in are now in full visual of the world. All the sadness, anger, fear, disappointment are all there in full view. I have allowed myself to feel all of these exposed emotions. In my life I have allowed myself to feel deep sorrow for others. I have never allowed myself, until now, deep sorrow for myself. The more I learn about myself through this deep introspection the more I know that I will not be able to harden my heart to the things I find unconscionable. I cannot change my heart. I can let my words flow freely now carrying years of suppressed emotions. I don’t have to have a fragile constitution just because I have a fragile heart. I can stand my ground and demand respect for the person that I am.
I have often blamed my personality for the abuse that happened to me. I thought, “If only my heart were different then these things would not have happened,” and ” If I acted tougher then he would not have preyed upon me.” I feel differently now. In a world full of so many hardened hearts I am glad mine has remained the same as it was as a child. Years of abuse and pain did not change that part of me. My heart remains untouched. I now cherish my heart. To blame a personality or a heart for another’s choice to abuse is the same as saying a woman asked to be raped by wearing a short dress to a party. It’s absurd.
We cannot allow abusers to change who we truly are or alter how we continue to view ourselves and live our lives. We are not to blame for what they did. We are not to blame for the choices other’s made after the abuse. We have no blame in ANY of it! We must remain true to ourselves, honoring who we are, and cherishing all parts of us. For me it is knowing my heart is not to blame for anything that has ever happened to me and choosing to love myself again that has moved me forward. When we do not blame who we are for what has happened to us then we are reclaiming control.Reclaiming our inner child. Reclaiming our inner soul.
On my quest to be healthy and whole I continue to discover things about myself. In moving forward there are things I know that will not change about who I am and that is okay. My heart will always be saddened by a butterfly in a net or an elephant in the circus. Watching the news will never be something I can do without knowing I will have great sadness in the suffering of others for days to follow. Having a sensitive heart is something that I am proud of. It makes life very hard though. I must embrace all of me though. I cherish all of me. And I reclaim my life as my own.