For years, I could not have cared less. I didn’t have the energy. I listened to people go on and on about elections and politics (thank goodness Facebook wasn’t a thing yet…at least not for me), I heard of natural disasters, 9-11 happened, family members passed on, life-long friends got married and had children, and time kept ticking by. But me? I woke up each morning and went to work, came home to cook, clean, and deal. I was numb to everyone and everything. People needed me, but I didn’t answer the call. I was invited to events that I did not attend. The sun rose and the sun set while I slowly dwindled into a person I no longer recognized.
I had no anger, no drive, no empathy, and definitely no sympathy. My soul was dark and void of most feelings, at least feeling one would want to have. Why should I worry about you when my life was a living hell? Why did your hurt deserve time? You were having a bad day? Seriously…who cared. I was sure you had no idea what a bad day looked like. You were getting married? Good luck with that. What did you do to deserve a loving partner? You were pregnant? I couldn’t even deal with you. Why were you so special that the heavens shone down on you and blessed you with a good man and children?
My heart was full of bitterness and my soul was simply adrift in a sea of misery. I could not see beyond the horrors of my own life and I surely did not have the energy to encourage or be happy for anyone else. I put on a smile, walked out the door, and put my best face forward. I said the right words, made excuses, and cried myself to sleep. I considered ending my life, but was too scared that something would change and I would regret it (like I would be able to regret it).
But nothing changed. I was still married to a man who emotionally, psychologically, and physically abused me. I was trapped and I would never find the happiness others so openly bragged about.
Fast forward eleven years and here I am. I am happy, I am loved, and I am free. I am, by no means, perfect, but rather a constant work in progress. After years of therapy, self-work, and trying to find emotional stability in my life, I came across a new-found interest in doing something good in the world. Using the abilities I have, I do what I can to create change. Due to my history, and my strong desire to not see others suffer, most of my work is focused on educating others on domestic violence and supporting those who have been touched by it.
Through my healing and my work, I have learned – as most of us do as we grow older – what is important to me, what is toxic, and what is freeing. I’ve realized that I thoroughly despise conflict and have very strong feelings about those who use their words and actions to control others. What surprised me, however, was how many of these individuals live in our society.
When I started Forget Me Not Advocacy Group last year, the first roadblock I noticed was how little people care about domestic violence. The support I received from loved ones was minimal, the push-back I got was unreal, and the comments (from strangers and those who knew me alike) were, quite honestly, shocking. It is, quite simply, a topic that people shy away from. I have a number of theories on this, but I’ll leave that for another day.
But even more so, I notice that there seems to be a complete oversight in our society to the bigger picture. I look to social media daily as part of my awareness campaign routine, and I’m bothered more and more by what humanity has turned into. We are at a place, in our world, where hatred and unkind words are the norm. People will argue for the sake of arguing, yet very few even know what they are arguing about. People are rioting, spewing hatred, and forgetting who we are as a nation.
Verbal abuse, via the comments section, seems to be absolutely acceptable behavior. People attack complete strangers over political, religious, or societal beliefs. Everyone is insulted over something and if you don’t agree with their stance, then you are (insert insult here). Instead of coming together to create a better world, we are buying into the hatred that is tearing us apart. Individual entitlement and self-centered beliefs are creating a divide that will not be reversed anytime soon. We are feeding fire with fire.
I read, and hear, words coming from people in public that I once thought were relegated to an abusive home. They were words to be ashamed of; unkindness that was perpetrated behind closed doors. Even abusers knew that this kind of behavior was something that fell outside of the norm. It was hidden from society and used as a control mechanism over an individual they believed they had ownership over. Now, however, it is not only acceptable to attack individuals who think differently than you, it is being touted as what should be done. There are so many who believe this is the only answer and the only way to get what they believe is just.
Verbal abuse is no longer something to be ashamed of, it is seen as a way of getting what we want, proving a point, or as a form of protest.
And all the while…real people are suffering. Suffering due to very real situations. Suffering while we yell at each other about who is right and who is wrong. We have been fighting online bullying in our schools, telling our children that bullying others has dire consequences, yet adults are attacking each other in the name of free speech. Bandwagons are rolling through town and individuals jump on when the spotlight shines and off when it doesn’t serve a more self-righteous purpose anymore. Women’s March anyone? Another topic for another day.
You don’t have to pick a side. It is possible to show love and compassion to your fellow human being, support their life, their dreams, and respect their beliefs simultaneously. We do not have to agree to show love. We do not have to be right, in the eyes of everyone, to have success. We do not have to be followed, adored, or supported to be doing something good. And, we most definitely, should not be OK with verbal abuse being the new norm for dealing with those who do not agree with us.
There will always be people who disagree or don’t understand. There will always be those who believe their cause is more important than your cause. There will always be those whose beliefs and behaviors you do not agree with. Does it matter? No. At the end of the day, it is the human cause that is important. Be kind, show compassion, do what you can do, give your money and time to the things that matter to you, and leave a place in your heart for those who see the world through a different lens. In the end, love will win.