Often abuse survivors tell me, “I feel abuse is the end of my life. I see gloom.”
The abuser abandoned them.
Then, they abandoned themselves.
Have you abandoned yourself?
I met Karan and Vijay at the traffic lights selling flowers on a rather busy Saturday evening at a major traffic light where they were sure of securing good business at the time. Already peeved with the city lights, noise and traffic, I was eagerly driving towards the relief of reaching home.
Yet, the Rajnigandha (Tuberoses) flowers — a favorite - that the boys held, brought a twinkle to my eyes! Mesmerizing fragrance!
With that quick mood change, I couldn’t help but roll down the car windows at the traffic lights. My interest quickly caught their attention. They ran joyously towards my car hoping for a hefty sale. I intended to buy.
Our interaction quickly went beyond the transaction. My curiosity in their behavior, their motivation and contagious energy of their little bare feet made me forget that I had wished to reach home quickly.
Just when we began to chat, the traffic lights were turning green. So I asked the boys to meet me after the lights…in anticipation of a transaction they agreed smilingly and in enthusiasm of knowing them better, I crossed the lights and pulled over.
Karan and Vijay called the road their abode, had a physically challenged father who couldn’t work, and a mother who worked as domestic help. The boys did go to school during the day and sold flowers by the evening.
They were looking forward to earning enough to support their mother’s income so that they could pay the last remaining instalments of their new house — all of 20 by 25 feet for a family of four.
The boys knew that I would buy the flowers and didn’t ask for anything more than the price of the flowers.
I was stunned that despite all of their dire circumstances they had a sparkle in their eyes. They had chosen to take the bull by the horns and do all that they could in their early teenage might to financially support the family yet not lose sight of their education.
Karan even promised me that one day he would earn enough to buy a car like mine!
Overcome by emotion, I bought the flowers and drove off in reflection.
The conversation reminded me of the undefeatable human spirit of survival and hope.
Viktor Frankl gifted us a wisdom nugget — “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”.
With wet cheeks from the tears that rolled down, I covered the 10-minute drive home in gratitude — in gratitude that the boys are finding their freedom and growth — at such a tender age.
An encounter with them, reminded me that I had found my freedom too.
As an abused spouse I had felt abandoned and thereafter abandoned myself too, for a very long time. Not knowing what I would latch on to for a better life, a fulfilling and a purposeful one — I simply drifted.
I used the stimulus of abuse to release a beaten down response. My responses included overthinking, anxiety, stress, anger, resentment and guilt. The others may befit another blog!
And with this bundle of responses I found myself further beaten down with a spate of psychosomatic illnesses, spending years on end in umpteen doctors’ cabins and hospital stays.
Not aware, I was only getting myself deeper into the wretched responses. The responses became stimulus to further despair. And the cycle continued.
Also not aware, this self-abandonment didn’t at all serve me. The future was indeed gloomy — because I made it so!
And then responses started to change! Ah well, that’s an account for another blog post too.
I wasn’t really ready to live...mmm…drift like this for the balance years of my life. And I learnt that my responses were taking me further away from freedom and growth rather than towards it.
The much needed tweak was then made! Viewing the stimulus differently and applying inner work as my response, became the trick. The trick became sustainable when I became consistent.
And in that space I began to resurrect my life.
Karan and Vijay showed me their superpower — their zeal to build their lives just the way they visualized it!
The lads had not abandoned themselves simply because they had a physically challenged father, uneducated mother, a half-built house and the responsibility to be bread winners.
Despite their personal challenges, and potential easier choices of begging or stealing, their gait was dignified and they contributed fragrance and smiles to those frustrated from traffic at the lights.
The naysayers may point out that I encouraged child labor by buying flowers from them.
In my view and experience, I was feeding future kings…writing their own destiny, making their choices, and holding dreams bigger than themselves.
And that’s precisely why there IS a life beyond abuse and a life that you may not see clearly today but are capable of building…by writing your own destiny, making your own choices, and holding dreams bigger than yourselves.
With those Tuberoses beaming in the moonlight on the car’s dashboard, I drove off with a fragrant hope of you rising above self-abandonment and finding your freedom and growth, just like Karan, Vijay, and I did!
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