© 1993 Michele Toomey, PhD
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Having a black eye wasn't the worst of it, she mused. It was the sound. The crunching noise of bone hitting bone, of flesh crumpling under the pressure, of skin tearing from the blow. It was the vision of a closed fist being thrown at her face, bare knuckles blurring at close range. She hated the fist. It was an enemy. Her enemy.
"What shall I do?" she pondered. "What can I do?" she asked. Just then the bellowing jarred her into the house. The raging voice jumbled through her ears, never formulating any words as it roared in and then out of her head. There was no mistaking the message, however. She knew what she was being told. She knew what she was to do, and what she was to expect. The fist and the voice were a colluding gang. They were two marauders intent on pillaging her spirit and violating her body. She hated them. They were enemies. Her enemies.
Again the fist. Again the sight and sound of brute force aimed at her face. The power of it suddenly propelled her through the window, and the velocity of it catapulted her into the air. She yielded to the force and suddenly found herself soaring through space.
First she couldn't breathe. The speed frightened her and the force of the wind caught in her throat. Gasping for air she thought she was going to suffocate and die. She stopped struggling. Death might not be so bad. After all, she wasn't sure whether death was her enemy or her friend. Gradually she relaxed and yielded to the wind. It felt warm and moist and strong.
Slowly she opened her eyes as the warm, moist air refreshingly massaged her face and soothed her blackened eye. She grew aware of a humming in her chest that began to move into her throat, until gently her mouth opened and broke into song. It was a wordless melody that resonated throughout her body. Every bone, every muscle, every sinew and every vein vibrated as it coursed throughout her entire being. Her body and her soul were immersed in song. In fact, she was the song. "I love this" she thought. "I love it. O please may it never end."
As she cherished the awesome feeling of oneness tears spilled out of her eyes, streaming down her face. She welcomed the salty rivers into her open mouth. They joined her voice in gurgled melody, a free form of song and sound. Never had she known such peace. Never had she felt so safe. With abandon she glided toward the sun, the moon and the stars. Freely she moved through time, unfettered by fear or concern.
She stretched her legs and felt the flow of wind and water washing over them. She stretched her arms like wings and moved them up and down in rhythmic motion. Her heart began to pound and her body pulsated. About to burst with joy, she thought "This is joy unknown 'til now. O may it never end." Her speed and her joy were harmoniously propelling her ever further into space.
Then out of nowhere came the awareness. A choice had to be made. "I am in charge" she cried out. "My life is mine! My destiny is in my hands!" she shouted. With that she looked down and saw her arms outstretched before her, her fingers wide apart. Carefully and deliberately she clenched her fists and brought them toward her face. "These fists are mine." She took a deep, deep breath and with her right hand still clenched, she thrust it toward the earth and shook it fiercely. "Never again" she cried. "Never, never, never, never again."
Now her body shook with rage. The pulsing, heating energy thrust her forward and sideways, jerking her head and reddening her face. Her black eye bulged and throbbed. She had to choose. But she felt blinded and unable to see. "Look inside," a quiet voice whispered. "Look inside."
She turned her eyes inward, the burning rage was red and strong. As she stared at it, she felt the hot energy from its fire circulate through her veins. Soon its heat and strength were smoothly coursing through her body. She began to breathe deeply and perspire. Perspiration flowed over her, washing her body with salty warm water that energized her spirit and refreshed her soul. "I am strong," she thought. "I am safe with myself, in myself, because I am myself. I am my suffering and my joy. I am my anger and my desire. I am in charge. It is mine to choose."
With that a stillness fell over her. She loved her new found freedom. Her new found strength. She would gladly choose. Slowly and deliberately she continued to glide toward earth. "I choose to live," she said. "I am not ready for death. I have not yet lived, I have not known." She paused and closed her eyes as she thought, I do know now. I knowingly choose life. My life." Her heart sang and her spirit soared. Once again she was immersed in song.
No one could fathom it. No one knew why or how, but she stepped out in front of the fist without fear. She held up her own and walked past, never to look back. She had chosen. She never once looked back.
Physical and emotional violence are, indeed, "a colluding gang ... two marauders intent on pillaging our spirit and violating our bodies." We should "hate them. They are enemies. Our enemies."
In this tale I try to address the evolution from the immobility that comes from fearful acceptance of violation to awareness of choice that leads to convictions and liberation. I take the position that there must be anger and rage and intolerance for violence before we can choose liberation.
As women we are taught to tolerate whatever happens to us because we are told we have no power to change it. A valiant woman is one who, traditionally, does not complain. She endures. And for that she is admired.
I ask you to ponder what you tolerate and where you draw your lines of intolerance. Only when we have lines and live by them, is it safe to step out in front of them. I would ask you to consider why she needed to "step out in front of the fist without fear."