Some people seem to think they have it all figured out.
For them, the way of the world is found via the path of power, prestige, wealth, education, and status—as well as the status quo.
They see many people as pawns in their game, to be used to achieve their goals—and damn all the rest. Their lust for more things, more power, and more status leads them to believe it’s okay to step on another person’s neck to obtain their desires.
Look at our current state of affairs here in the USA. We have come to a sad and wretched time where the next leader of our country will be chosen from two dour choices—and it’s all about who can be the most ruthless I the end. After all, the highest office of our nation is at stake. What’s more troubling, it seems people reflect, and even embrace, this ruthlessness all the way to the grass roots level.
I was taught to respect my elders and those in authority, show deference to them and agree with what they say and do. I was also taught that men were in charge. Strangely enough, I was taught all of these so-called “truths” while also witnessing how men and women hurt one another at every turn. They cheated on each other, drank, drugged, and satiated all their hungers without any thought as to how it affected the children for whom they were supposed to be a good example. Grown men got away with molestation, abuse, and neglect. Grown women turned their heads, leaving their children to fend for themselves. All of them showed zero respect for themselves or anyone else.
My desire to please others was strong when I was a child and younger woman. I wanted to make others happy. That’s all. Just be happy. Enjoy what you have. Be grateful for your family. I wanted everyone to see that we had it made, really. We may not have had all the comforts that can come with more money, but we had a lot and we had each other.
When I married the first couple of times, I tried to please those men, too. I wanted to make them happy, to help them know they were loved, and that I would take care of them AND our children. And by God, I did so to the best of my abilities.
What did I get in return?
One left me, cheated on me, and divorced me. He ridiculed my tears and so-called “weaknesses,” those he perceived when I bared my soul to him. He took our child and, because he had more money (well, his parents did), I had to take what I was given. He said he was my friend, but he was not. He did not want to hear my fears, needs, or truth.
My second husband expected my silences as well. Though a nice guy, and a great father to our children, he came from a world where women are not quite as important as men. As this was not unfamiliar territory for me, I went in with this knowledge expecting that maybe—just maybe—the man who said he loved me would accept me for who I was and listen to my story and my truth. He wanted no part. I was more of an embarrassment than anything, in the end. Eventually, I took all the blame for the death of our marriage.
I carried blame well, after all. It was something I had been groomed for my whole life. Even the man who molested me when I was 11-years-old told me, in no uncertain terms, that what was happening at the time was indeed my fault. All abusers assign blame to the victim. I know this now.
What I did not know, and could never expect, was that for the rest of my life I would still be blamed, and not by him or myself, but by society—for speaking out against that abuse and other wrongs.
My youngest child’s father took full advantage of society’s habit of blaming the victim. He was successful in breaking me down and then taking away all I cared about—my child.
To add insult to injury, two of my own children have turned their backs on me.
Many do end up against you, especially when they feel they are losing their power or they aren’t getting their way, or ones truth offends them.
Eventually, I began to fight against a system that had worked tirelessly to ensure my oppression and silence. When I began to speak out, I was reviled. It’s happened many times, and I regret to say it has happened recently.
Everywhere I turn, there is an inherent lack of respect for women. Such disregard is more prevalent for a woman like me, one who has been divorced more than once, who has children by different men, who makes mistakes in relationships because she never had the opportunity to learn what a healthy one looked like, who doesn’t make a lot of money or hold some powerful position in what is considered a “good” job.
A woman who speaks out against the injustices of sexual abuse, domestic violence, misogyny, elitism, workplace injustices, ungrateful young adults who take clear advantage of their parents and their surroundings, or who stands up for herself—period—is lower than whale shit in the eyes of those who don’t want her to claim her power and her truth.
Life is more than things, or houses, guns, cars, trucks, jewelry, or the next high. Life is more than saving face and being ashamed of your own because of something you did to them, or what someone else did to them—and leaving a person you love to vanquish in their grief and despair.
Life is more than keeping your mouth shut to maintain the status quo and avoid shaming the family.
Life is messy. It gets gritty down in the ditches. There are sorrows some may never know—and I don’t begrudge them that, because I would not want even my worst enemies to know them. Life is hard. People are unpredictable, and they hurt one another all the time.
And I’m supposed to stay silent in the face of it? I’m supposed to take everyone’s shit because, according to some unwritten law, I don’t deserve otherwise and I’m supposed to know I don’t?
Is this our lot in life? Are we, singularly women, supposed to stay silent in the face and aftermath of such disrespect and injustice?
No. This is not my journey—not anymore.
I don’t cow-tow to the mob mentality these days. As much as the wish to please people still lingers inside, down to the marrow of my bones, I know who respects and supports me. Even if they disagree with me, I know those who love me and I know those who don’t.
And you know something? I really don’t give shit one about the masses, or the select few, who believe it is my place to take their abuse and disrespect lying down.
The other day I was talking with my mom on the phone. I don’t get to see her much. She lives in Florida, so I try to stay in touch and let her know I’m thinking about her.
We were discussing a situation wherein someone we know and love is not happy, and this person takes a lot of crap from someone in her life. As soon as my mom began to speak of the one who is so disrespectful to the person I love, the words came out of my mouth, “I hate him.”
Mom laughed. “Boy, Kim, when you’re done with someone, you’re done!”
“Yes, Mom. I wasted too much time and energy on people in the past who didn’t deserve it. I don’t mess around anymore.”
After reading this, I realize my use of the word “hate” is pretty strong. It’s not my true nature. However, I do detest humans who would take advantage of another’s kind nature.
The thing is, I will show respect, care, and love for everyone with whom I cross paths. I will go above and beyond to help them, give my time and energy to make them happy, and make their lives easier. It’s part of who I am. I have a huge heart and I love without abandon when I let down my defenses and love. It’s what my Aunt Cindy calls, “Going all in.” She says I’m quite good at it, and she’s right. Yes, it’s a curse and a blessing, sometimes. The good thing is, today I know a lot sooner who deserves that kind of devotion and who does not.
Instead of getting trampled upon time and again, only to end up being left holding nothing and no one, I no longer stand by and take anyone’s disrespectful bullshit anymore.
I don’t care if you’re the Queen of England, the President of the United States, the freaking Pope, my own mother, husband, family, in-laws, children, co-worker, or boss.
At the first whiff of disrespect and attempts to shame me or someone I love, I’m going to stand up for myself and for them. And if I get even the slightest hint that I’m in a snake pit, you better believe I will walk away, but not without my dignity and truth intact.
No one is going to hold me to a legacy of silence anymore.
I’ve got some meaningful and serious shit to do, and precious little time left to do it. If the would-be censors of the world don’t like it, that’s their problem, not mine. Not anymore.
This is who I am. Warts and all.
Take it or leave it.
Kim Bailey Deal writes Women’s Fiction, short stories, poetry, and non-fiction. She is currently revising her first novel and finishing her second, as well as co-editing an anthology. Publications: MORE Magazine’s Member Voices, The Pull of Strays; Issue 3 of Firefly Magazine, A Journal of Luminous Writing; Writer’s Digest as part of editor Robert Lee Brewer’s blog. She lives in Chattanooga, TN and is the mother of four grown children, three boys and one girl, and “Nim” to her husband’s grandchildren. To connect, she can be found at kimbaileydeal.net, Kim Bailey Deal Page on Facebook, @wordjunkie1966 on Twitter