My husband and I just returned from a few days in my home town, a small farming community in northeast Nebraska. They were celebrating their 125th anniversary. For three days festivities included a BBQ, a parade, an outhouse race, a car show, a gun show, best beard contest, home and garden shows, a carnival, a museum of historic clothes, an old time baseball game, fireworks and in the midst of it all a class reunion. I felt as if I had taken a three-day happy pill. It was a time for reminiscing, a time for updating, a time to feel happy as all of the memories washed over me. A time to bond with my childhood friends. We were in our motor home at the town’s park, a park that had everything, two baseball diamonds, a children’s playground, a tennis court, a basketball court, an RV park and a basketball park.
It was also across the highway from the house where we lived when my father raped me when I was 13. I shoved those memories out of my mind and struggled not to wander down that dark passage of my life. I wanted nothing to interfere with the joyful time I was experiencing. On the last day there I drove out to Rae Creek, a forested area a half mile from town. It had been my sanctuary when I lived there. It had died, torn apart and thrown asunder, in 1982 from a tornado that took most of the trees, from an elm disease that took the rest and left the creek, without any shade, to dry up. I crawled underneath the barbed wire fence and headed along the creek which showed signs of returning. I was startled to see so many cedar trees growing, springing up willy-nilly, some already 20 feet tall or more. The elm were returning, some now two stories high. Wildflowers grew in abundance, clumps in colors of yellow, lavender and white. Thick green foliage followed along the path I took, created by a herd of cattle that I chattered away happily to, much as I had done as a young teenager. Rae Creek and its forested land was recovering, now moving back not only to what it was when I lived nearby, but in some cases even better. For years I had compared, in my mind, the demise of Rae Creek to the demise of my innocence. It had been my place of refuge. Once there I had left behind all of the horror of my home life. To me it was the mother and father I yearned for instead of the abusive ones who lived in my home.
I thought about sexual abuse and how it destroys the heart and soul of its victims. I thought of the damage a tornado can do, destroying the heart and soul of communities and forested land. I knew that after completing recovery, going through my own REPAIR program, I had come back, healed and strong. I had never dared dream that Rae Creek would too return healed and strong. Now, as I wandered along its paths seeing so many signs of life where previously there’d been only desolation, I felt exhilarated; I felt joyful. I had always known that the answer to all of the questions we have about life can be found in nature and now I rejoiced that the two trampled ways, the life of a child abuse victim and the life of a forest could both come back again and this time in richer, deeper shades.
One must never give up on a dream or a goal. Believing in recovery is vital. We must see ourselves as whole and healed. I had seen Rae Creek and its forested land in 1982. It had devastated me. But in my mind, in my rich imagination I saw it as it was and wished to see it again as it was, wished without even knowing that wish could one day come true. Even as when I began my own journey into recovery I had wished for complete and radiant health without even knowing I would one day have that as well.
Winston Churchill, in the throes of World War II, had been asked to speak at a community event. All eyes were on the great man as he stood up and walked to the stage. All ears waited to hear the wisdom he would impart. He began: “We will never, never, never, never give up.” Then he sat back down.
You too must never, never, never, never give up!