As I am getting ready to face another heat wave in my area, I pondered about the fact that I really can’t stand heat. Well… THAT heat. Too warm for me, I am more a winter girl than a summer one… as I was thinking about the discomfort of the physical heat, I came to think about the fact that the emotional one, or the psychological one don’t bother me at all. Probably because some arsons put me into ashes more than once in my lifetime…. but I rose from them. Stronger, different, grown. Each and every time.
edit: I took some time to write and post what follows… I pondered whether or not I would share these very personal experiences… But well, I guess that if it was time for me to share them, it means that it was time for you to read them too… so now you know where I come from…. you don’t need to read my rambling if you don’t feel like it, you can also go directly to my card at the end, I won’t mind, promise!
The first arson was probably high school system I had to live through. I didn’t fit. And I didn’t really want to fit either… Think about a middle class country teen thrown into a prep school where money were all that mattered. Well, you get a pretty good image of what it was, even if it was a public downtown elitist high school. You were assured to get your final exam there (what they don’t tell you, is that they would throw you without any remorse before that, if they thought you couldn’t be an asset… We were only success percentages to these people…. elitists as I said). Anyway, the first months there were pure hell. Peer pressure, subtle ways to make me really feel my non belonging to the place, administration pressure, who only saw percentage of success to the final exam in each of us. If we were considered unable to fulfill the goal they had, they did all they could to make us leave… Nice people, really… Anyway, It put me into ashes, purely… I was denied the right to be who I started to be, I had to fit in this mold by all means… Thing is, I wasn’t the submissive kind of kid… so they tries to break me… and they succeeded, to a point, for almost a year… But I came back, with the will to show them the abuse of their system, and that I didn’t need them (my so called peers and/or the system they built there) to succeed. My senior year, I just used textbooks, I didn’t care about the lessons. I went to each and every class I was supposed to go, but only because the setting was perfect to study my own way. Yes, I was that weird girl lol. I made some friends in the process, other outcasts, as well as a place to hang out with them and have good coffee…. and some protection from bad asses that I saw as the teddy bears they actually were. So yes, at first, the whole system crushed me. Burnt my soul. But I learned how to fight. As they say, to beat the system, you have to understand it first. So this is when I learned to step back and observe. And I saw how I could survive in it without belonging to it. I was on the edge, but never broke a rule… They couldn’t fire me, and I was a constant reminder of what they didn’t want to see/be. I learned how to fight with my mind, how to look at people for who they really are. How to cope with life, really. And who I wanted to be. I also realize that WHAT you are wasn’t as important as WHO you are. I set my priorities, and I became stronger that I ever expected to be. And for those who wonder: yes, I passed my final exams, with distinction. And I don’t owe anything to anyone but me for that. This is what I call my first rite of passage… And if it nearly destroyed me (I considered suicide several times, and I know that I wasn’t the only one, this institution really had its way to crush teens…), I had within this will to live and to rise above my own ashes that gave me all I needed to go on and get out of there. And see… it backfired on the system: I am now a teacher for more than 10 years, making sure that each and every kid feels welcomed and takes pleasure to learn in my classroom, for the year they spend there with me. I refused the system I had to go through but armed myself mentally to face it and to find its weak point… I make sure to plant seeds of self confidence, of openness, of mutual aid so that if they have to face something similar at one point of their life, they have the tools to face it too. And beat the system too, if needed. When you are face to face with an arsonist who lacks the most basic human values, you show it what being human means! And let it backfire at them.
The second arson I had to deal with was cancer… And it took place the year of a huge heat wave… so I was both burning outside (remember, no air conditioning here!) and inside (chemo literally burned my veins, and rays burned my thyroid, among other parts of my body). Cancer put my body into ashes… Before treatments, I was rather healthy (if you forget about this golf ball growing on my left shoulder). At the end, I was so week I couldn’t really focus on anything, I had to really need to go anywhere to be able to move my body to go there, I was in constant pain, and my self esteem was at its lowest point. I live with my new husband at my parents… And I soon realized that « I » had to care about them. They didn’t handle the fact that I was sick very well… My husband had to deal with living in a new country which language he didn’t speak, my parents were too devastated (my mom once told me « it’s worse for me than it is for you »… huh, mom, I don’t think so, but… whatever, while my father couldn’t watch at my bald head, so he just avoid looking at me at all). I quickly understood that I could only count on me. I even tried to help them cope as I could, but I was fighting for my life and I had to focus on that first and foremost. I kept as much as I could to myself so that I didn’t have to deal with having to help them too… A lonely lonely journey… that taught me that I had a real deep core will to live… And that it was stronger than anything else. It harden me too. Psychologically. I remember, a months after my last treatment, I went to a place to make what they call a competence check up, to see which career I could think about… I didn’t talk about cancer, and I took the test… a coupe of day later, one of the persons asked me to come and talk, he had something he wanted to talk about in my results… One of my results was really awkward, he only saw it once with a veteran after 3 years in the legion corp (one of the hardest army branch you can find). I smiled which I guess scared him a bit more, and I told him I was just done with a 9 months war against cancer… that I won, but I still had to come back to a more civilized life, which I was working on it, but that it would take time to digest what I had to face and take lessons fro that experience. I will never forget the relief on his face. No, I wasn’t a sociopath… I was just a survivor, a warrior on my own… Sadly, what I learned through the process is that I couldn’t rely on those closest to me when faced to a real crisis… they just can’t handle that. It’s not their fault, they just aren’t wired to do so. I discovered that I was, on the other hand. I then was ready to face anything… or so I thought….
A few years later came the third arson… a toxic, really toxic one. My husband was bipolar, and became an alcoholic. A lot of things led him to that. Thing is, he wasn’t alone. I was took in the descending spiral, as well as our daughter. A spiral of pure, constant, hell… I had to face daily violence (never went physical though, probably because he knew I would reply and that he would be in big big trouble…). It took years for me to take things on hands and to call for help (well, years and a dramatic event when he reached my breaking point). I reached help from everybody I could think of…. and was left alone dealing with his disease. You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped…. so I could only try to protect my daughter as well as I could, while trying to get her father medical assistance… and working full time to be a teacher (this is when I took the decision to take the competitive exam, in order for me to support my daughter if I had to be a single mother….). This fire burned love, trust, self esteem, taught me to ignore people reactions… It also gave me the opportunity to build my determination. I wasn’t alone this time, I had to take care of my daughter…. When he finally went back to the USA, to his family, I had to deal with the feeling of a total fail… My whole world had been crushed, put into ashes. I had accepted more that I would have ever thought, I had to provide safety and stability to my daughter. I put her first. I knew I wasn’t done with her father disease, that I would have to fight… and I had to be ready to do so. But this time, I couldn’t go full warrior. I had to be a loving caring mother too… So it was probably the hardest: I went out of my comfort zone, for her, to offer her a peaceful and safe childhood. It became ugly with her father… death threats, harassment, for years. I was safe anyway, as he was an ocean and a continent away… I forgot about myself… I was my own arsonist, putting me into ashes to let the warrior rise from it, to be able to be a mother, a protector and a provider…. nothing else mattered… And I guess I only now recover from that time, 11 years later. It took me that time to even thinking about eventually letting anyone come into my life. It took me that time to reconcile with the woman in me. And let her rise above all that, at last.
But before that I had to face the worst nightmare of all… My daughter’s disease. While fighting to protect her, I also had to fight with her crisis… Rage crisis. Who could happen anywhere, at any time, in front of anybody… nice, huh? Of course, as I was a single parent, the blame was put on me. I didn’t know how to raise her, I didn’t do anything right. people closer to us could witness the struggle and were very supportive. I did all I could to help her. I looked for help, I did researches, I tried everything I could…. Nobody could explain why she was behaving like that… But I learned to see the warning signs and ho to defuse them… well, sometimes… it took years, with weekly therapy, and monthly family counseling (yep, I still was responsible in the eyes of society). Then her health decline…. and I took her to the hospital where the diagnosis was brought to me quickly… DIPG . I remember doctors face when they told me… and their surprise when I remained calm… I just realized that all the energy I used to protect us from those bigots all these years could now be used to support her and live each and everyday she had left to live at its fullest. Which we did. And let me tell you, those 2 years were the best of our life together. We truly lived. The only times we let ourselves go were when the IMR results weren’t good. We cried for an hour, then looked at each other and she usually told me « Ok, now that’s enough, let’s don’t let the tumor to have more place in our life than it deserves… » and we went back to fight, laugh, live, love. Her thirst of life fueled mine. My strength fueled hers. Nothing was taboo. We talked about everything. I never hid her anything… She could also see her father in person, and I know this moment was important for both of them. I am happy they could have it. But no one can fight forever… I won’t go further here, not yet… maybe one day I will be able to tell you about her last months.. i am not ready yet…. And on march 29th of 2016, at 6:15 am, I was put into ashes, again… My whole world, my whole self, everything was burned that day. The survivor in me took control for a while, to keep me alive… then the warrior in me took over. I made her a promise, I had to keep it. My word is my bond.
I kept on living under my warm, safe ashes pile for year, A cocoon from which I rebuilt myself, gathering my pieces, putting them back together, caring for that tiny flame that kept burning….
3 years later, I am ready to rise from it. Fully. Realizing that this time, ashes are behind me. This is probably the last time I do it. I am done with fire. It is part of me now, I fully accept it and let it burn if necessary. But I won’t be put into ashes anymore, until the day I am done with life. I don’t need to go there anymore, I’ve learned what I needed to learn the hard way, to be able to go on my path in peace. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t softly. But it made me the one I am now, and I am ready to help others to rise too. See, I am not afraid to go into a blaze to help. Fire can’t hurt me. It can only change me, make me stronger, wiser, more compassionate, better…
So today, I am rising from my ashes, again, and for good.