"You were born an original. Don’t die a copy".
-- John Mason
"I've learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things:
– a rainy day
– lost luggage
– tangled Christmas tree lights
I've learned that regardless of your relationshp with your parents, you'll miss them when they're gone from your life.
I've learned that making a "living" is not the same thing as making a life. I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back.
I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one. I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.
I've learned that I still have a lot to learn. I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
– Maya Angelou
Though these are Maya Angelou's words, they could easily be mine. Life goes on no matter how much pain and suffering we experience. We are given second chances every day to make our life what we want. Take full advantage of the time you are given. Learn to forgive others and yourself – anger and bitterness destroys you not the person you are angry with. Don't be afraid to love the people in your life and and don’t be afraid to laugh. Laughter keeps the spirit alive.
My life has been filled with difficulties and though I longed to tell my story, I also agonized over exposing my life to the world. Eventually the pain in my heart overtook my fears and I began writing. It was one of the most therapeutic things I have ever done.
It took me almost five years to write Keeping Laughter Alive. From the beginning, I believed I had a story to tell. Not because I wanted to hurt, embarrass or expose "family secrets." Rather because I needed to make sense of all the things that had taken place in my life. As I wrote, I gained insight into the psyche of my father and my ex-husband. Miraculously, the pain I had lived with for so many years began to dissipate. For the first time, I understood the helplessness they must have felt when they were subjected to extreme abuse as children. I do not excuse the fact that they, in turn, became abusers and inflicted their pain on many people, however, it did give me a better understanding of the anger they carried inside.
By the time, I finished my book I had uncovered a heartbreaking cycle of abuse that had been prevalent within my family for many years. I know that living with abuse as a child is difficult to overcome, nevertheless, we must not forget how ignoring abusive behavior can affect future generations. Most especially, when it happens to little boys. They have more of a tendency to hide their pain and carry their anger inside. Left untreated, their anger eventually rises to the surface and abusive behavior permeates every aspect of their life and greatly affects the people closest to them.
That's what happened to my father and my ex-husband. Make no mistake about it. I am not giving them a free pass for the pain and abuse they inflicted on me. Rather I give myself the free pass – after all these years, I now realize it was not me! No matter what they said, I now know – it was not my fault! I did not cause them to be the way they were. They were abusive by choice – but it all started when they both endured serious abuse as young children and no one stopped it or did anything about it. It was ignored as if they didn't matter. No one stepped up to help them and their anger greatly affected many lives.
It doesn't have to be that way. Instead of becoming passive or continuing abusive behavior, we must find a way to deal with our pain. Help is always available. The first step is finding someone you can trust and talking about all that happened. No matter how embarrassing or difficult it may seem, talking it out will help release the pent-up frustration and anger. I know it's not fair. Abuse is never fair. Nevertheless, we each have the responsibility to deal with the pain in our hearts in a way that doesn't bring more pain to others or to future generations. We also have a responsibility to expose abusers because hiding the abuse allows it to continue.
For those of you who have never experienced abuse, it may be uncomfortable hearing or believing that abuse exists. You may even have difficulty reporting abuse. However, it's a fact of life that many people deal with the aftermath of abuse with every day. The prisons are full of people who have been abused. Lives have been destroyed. It's not a pretty picture. Just remember – if hearing someone tell about the abuse they experienced makes you feel uncomfortable, imagine how they – the victim – must feel having to live with that pain every day. It’s a pain that never truly goes away, but we must do everything we can to help find a way lessen the aftereffects.
That is why I started Hope for Brighter Days, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. Our goal is to help victims of abuse rebuild their lives through education, indepth counseling and personal mentoring. You will find more information by clicking on this link, HFBD or by going directly to the website at: www.hopeforbrighterdays.org.