I know. It’s a deadly game to play; the “what if” game. But it’s tempting. Especially in the middle of the night when thoughts attack and memories haunt. When there is no light to chase away the nagging questions and regrets. No distractions. No escape. It’s hard to avoid endless reflection in the shadow time, when the moon is high and clouds cover the stars. When silence is so loud, it beats on your eardrums and causes your head to throb. It’s hard to keep from looking back and wondering what could have been, what might have been, if only… So in the dead of the night when I am most vulnerable to the temptation, regrets assail me. And I find myself giving in to the temptation… What if I had told someone what was happening to me when I was growing up? Oh, to be sure, I did try a couple of times. I told a teacher. Her big concern was not for me, but about how to confront my father and “verify” what I had told her. And I didn’t tell her much. Just that I was being fondled. Not that I was being raped. And everything in between. Probably didn’t say more because the words just wouldn’t come. They were distasteful in my mouth. So I minimized. And when I realized she wasn’t so concerned with me and getting me help and that she more than likely didn’t believe me, I told her I was lying to let her off the hook. Her relief was palatable. The second person I tried to tell was a pastor of the local Baptist church. He didn’t know my parents, but knew OF them because they were “respected pillars of the community.” I really didn’t want to talk to him, but I had been touched by an evangelistic group that was visiting the church. My neighbor took me to the event. I tried to talk to one of the young college students in the group and she immediately to the pastor. Who told her he would handle it, proceeded to shut the door, sat down and told me to shut up, go home and to never, ever, ever tell a hateful like lie like that again. So I tried to tell, at least as much as my timid and hurting soul would allow. I said the words…that I was being sexually abused. And I was ignored, blown off and left unprotected. What if I had not backed down? What if I had stood up for myself and not let them get away with turning me away? I would have probably been removed from the home. Put in some kind of foster care. What if that home had been a positive one where I received some concern and support? Maybe that’s dreaming too big and believing in a possibility that is highly unlikely. Could it have been much worse than what I endured? The rape, the pornographic reenactments, the fondling, the oral sex, the showers? Then there was the physical abuse. The hitting, slapping, dragging by hair. The anger. The rejection. The lack of medical and dental care. The fear and terror. The lack of security; that feeling that danger lurked everywhere. What would my life had been like if I had been removed from that and if I had received help to deal with the nightmare way back when? What if I had, as a result of being removed from my home, been able to go to college? I had a high IQ and SAT score. I knew I was fairly intelligent because I was tested up one side and down the other. My father was the person who did the various kinds of testing at the school where he taught. So I had to take every test. And they were used against me, as a hammer to hit with, because he knew what I was capable of. If I made a B+, it should have been an A. If I made an A, it should have been an A+. And I should never make anything lower than a B+. As a result, my GPA was high. So I could have probably qualified for some scholarships if I had been encouraged to pursue an education by any one at any time. I honestly didn’t even contemplate it because it was never mentioned as an option or realistic consideration. Throughout my life, I have had to work a lot harder to prove myself because of my lack of education. What would my life have been like if I had gotten a degree…in anything? What would my life have been like if I had been allowed to be a “normal” young adult at college? Just being able to experience that environment…one of relative freedom from the darkness that had so far enveloped my life…could have been a life changing experience. I might have found some acceptance. As an over-achiever and hyper-responsible person, I might have excelled. Found some approval instead of words that cut and fists that beat me. I might have actually enjoyed being a young person instead of being weighted down with so many issues and challenges. I might have been able to obtain some counseling through the college to help me with the events of my childhood that had so decimated me. Would I have married when I was 17? Probably not. And I might not have married when I was 25 either. Might have realized I was a person and not settled for being unloved and unwanted. Might have spread my wings, believed in myself, believed I was worthy of love. And maybe, just maybe, I would have found it. Would I have married someone who loved me? Been confident enough in that relationship and in myself to risk having children? Be a grandmother now? Not be trapped in such an empty life and desolate world? Would I have succeeded in a job, having become a healthier individual who held a degree in my field of choice? Would I be $30,000 in debt, fearful of losing my house and finding myself homeless as I enter my senior years? Would I still be in a marriage with a partner who accepted me, flaws and all, who I could share love and life with? Would I have friends and a social life, a family to love and embrace, a church where I was plugged in and a positive work environment where I was appreciated because I contributed to the overall success of the organization? If I could have discovered I was a person way back when, how would the paths of my life have been altered? What new roads would I have taken? What risks would I have felt able to take? Would depression have continued to weigh me down and burden me, sapping all of my energy and motivation or would I have been able to greet the day with a degree of optimism and hope? Would my more positive outlook have translated into a more positive future? Would I have achieved a few of my dreams…to write songs and books, to find love, to be financially stable, to have meaning in my life? I think the ending would have been far different…if only. If only. A helping hand from one or two people here and there at some critical junctures in my life could have totally changed my future. Thus changing where I am today. A few different decisions made with a healthier self-view could easily have caused me to be a very different individual now. If someone could have mirrored to me that I had value, worth, that I mattered, that I really didn’t deserve what happened to me way back when, I might have been able to accept myself and believe I didn’t have to settle for leftovers. For second or third or fourth best. That I could win. Overcome. That I was enough. And good enough to deserve love. Oh my goodness…what a vast difference it would have made to know I was worth something! To have someone take an interest in me. To have someone believe in me. To have them show me I was worth loving! Instead of abiding in darkness, there might have been a great deal of light and joy and purpose in my world. I might have reached a point of enjoying life. Believing it was worth living. That it held riches and treasures that were worth the struggles and suffering we often encounter throughout the years. What if…what would have been…with just a little bit of encouragement, acceptance and love? In the darkness of the deepest part of the night, my mind considers the possibilities and my heart is pierced by a pain so deep and wrenching, I am barely able to bear it. It is as if I am looking the person I might have been in the eyes and it rips me apart. Because she would have had evidence of laughter with the pain etched on her face. Of joy along with the struggle. Of victory with defeat. Of acceptance that goes beyond rejection. Of knowing that, in spite of inadequacies and imperfections, she was worth loving. Worth knowing. Of value. Was adequate. Not defective, but rather beautiful in spite of the brokenness. Perhaps even because of it. She would smile more than she frowns, wake up glad to be alive more frequently than she would wake wishing to be dead. Or wishing to have never been born. She would be healed, bearing scars, but far more whole than fragmented. She would embrace life. And she would tell me it had all been worth it. I want to know that person. I want to be that person.