“Spare the rod and spoil the child.”
I believe this was the principle behind my mother’s love. She was a single mother raising three children on a low income. We moved a lot, and every new place brought new stress. It was the foundation of my life. I didn’t have a best friend for life. I had, let’s be friends until we move. Maintaining a lasting friendship is problematic for me. I have two people I consider real friends. We rarely talk, but when we do, we pick up right where we left off. Poverty was a colossal nemesis in my life. I always heard, “We cannot afford that.” This statement left an impression on me. I grew up telling myself I would never be able to afford things. Being poor was my destiny. But none of this affected me as much as the daily abuse I received. Mentally and physically, I received beatings. It was hell. And this is the topic for today.
Hunger was a way of life. If I got too hungry, I’d tighten my belt. I was that skinny kid who sat in the middle of the classroom, not too close to get chosen by the teacher and not too far away to get picked on. I was an easy target for bullies. I never had any loose change to give, so I had to learn how to take a beating. School lunches were my primary source of nutrition. Although I tried to sit alone, there was always some troublemaker coming by and swapping his empty tray for my full tray. I received enough abuse at home, and now it was happening at school.
Being malnourished meant I was always tired. I wanted to sleep a lot. People thought I was lazy. I seriously didn’t have the strength to defend myself. Yes, I got beat up a lot. The only time that I didn’t get bullied was when we lived at 816 Meridian St. It was near the school, so my walk was short. I was in Middle School. My mother’s anger, at this point, had grown. She was always angry, and the daily beating was intense. Her voice was like a banshee at times. Everyone in the neighborhood heard her screaming and thrashing, including my classmates. I knew they knew of the abuse. Every student left me alone. I had no friends there, but I also had no enemies. I was that odd kid in the corner with the mean mother. Just as I was getting used to this misfit reality, we moved.
I don’t know why? Perhaps, it was because I was getting older and more daring with my words, but the abuse increased. I remember getting my head stomped into the floor or getting punched in the mouth right before school. I bled almost every day. Mental games became a new trial to overcome, and I had to learn quickly. “You should play with your brothers.” She’d suggest. Thirty minutes later, I’m getting yelled at for playing like a little kid with my brothers. I learned quickly how to give a proper answer. “Tell the truth, and the truth will set you free.” This phrase was yelled at me every day. I wasn’t a liar; I was trying not to get beat. The bearings and screaming happened when I told the truth because she thought it was a lie. There is the truth, and there is the answer, and there is a time for each.
Most children in my situation would turn to suicide. However, I had this nagging curiosity to see how bad it was going to get. “Is this the worst day of my life?” I would lay in bed to see, wondering when the pain would start. Every day the yelling would begin within the first thirty minutes of her waking up. Looking back, it makes me smile. We all change. Who we were then is not who we are now. The same applies to my mother. I refuse to hold a grudge for the abuse I received. That person isn’t around for my retaliation. So, like many troubles in this world, I let it go.
I am grateful for what tomorrow brings. It’s hope. It’s the dream of sunshine warming our backs. Remember, life is not good nor bad. It simply is. How we choose to see it defines our perception. It’s not always easy to know the path or to take that next step. Darkness and exhaustion can consume the soul leaving us empty and hopeless. But if we wait it out, we will see the sunrise again. The night never lasts forever for those who persevere. Did I ever see my worst day? Yes, I’ve had several worst days. When we hit rock bottom, we only have upward to go.
Today, I live a successful life. Bear in mind what we call “successful” varies from person to person. But, I am happy for the first time in my life. Not the quick happiness that fades at the end of the day. No, this happiness reaches from day to day with no end in sight. I do have moments of reflection when I sit alone in the dark. Silence has a way like that. I could have done everything differently and better. But that’s what hindsight offers. We either regret not doing, or we learn and do it next time. We were meant to be happy. We deserve to find happiness.
No matter what mountain stands in the way, we can overcome it. Quitting life is not an option. It’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Hurricanes never last forever. But two hours in a category five can feel like an eternity. But, it will pass, just as the abuse, I endured passed. Never be afraid to reach out to others. The loss of a friend is more of a burden than our problems. Together we can face the trials of life and see what tomorrow brings.