On The Outside Looking In

On The Outside Looking In

I remember when I was a teenager, maybe 17 or 18 years old, hearing about abuse and saying something like “I wish a man WOULD try and put his hands on me. I’d leave, no questions.”

I remember when I was 21 years old and witnessed a dear friend get assaulted by her boyfriend.  He and I played tug-o-war with her body as he tried to drag her down my apartment stairs, eventually pulling her out of my grasp. My then-boyfriend did nothing– “It’s none of our business”, he said. The next day she apologized to me (yes, SHE apologized) and I hugged her and asked her why doesn’t she “just leave”. She told me it wasn’t that simple and for the life of me I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t.

Imagine my surprise and humiliation when I found myself in a full fledged abusive relationship by the time I was 30. Humiliation because I was embarrassed to be “weak” and surprise because I couldn’t pinpoint when and how exactly I got HERE.  I remember feeling both one particular night as I picked up all of my belongings and my pride from my abuser’s backyard during a quiet snowfall. What I can tell you about abuse is, the world looks so much different from the inside of a snow globe.

When you’re on the outside looking in, it’s so easy to say what you would do if you were in a particular situation. It’s so easy to judge someone for their decisions if we haven’t had to face those same decisions ourselves. I’m not just talking about abuse. I’m talking about people struggling through any type of hardship: trauma, addiction, depression, financial strain, grief, heartbreak, etc. So many people are suffering in silence because the coulda/shouldas from the people they love are too loud.

I was 30 years old when I realized I wasn’t the friend my friend needed me to be one fateful moment nine years earlier. And it wasn’t until I was standing on the other side of a very quiet and lonely snow globe.