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Blog

These are my thoughts, yo.

Filtering by Category: Blogging About Life

A Letter to My Mother's Inner Child

jasmine banks

Hi Susan,

I want you to know that you are beautiful and powerful beyond measure. I want you to know that it is time to heal and thrive. Before you can heal, though, you need to hear some things. 

I'm so sorry that your family didn't believe you when you were brave enough to tell them what happened to you. I am sorry they didn't give you what you need to feel safe. Nothing that he did to you was your fault. You deserved to be believed, to be supported, and to be protected; it was wrong how much your family failed you. I'm sorry for the lies they taught you about yourself. You are not the troublemaker, the outcast, or the dramatic one. No. You were the family barometer. You know how butterflies and bees are the first to feel the impact of toxic environments? That is you, Susan. You are that powerful tender creature that alerted everyone that there was an overload of toxicity. Those folks thrived in the toxic environment, though, so they tried to crush your wings. 

But you survived.

I'm sorry you didn't have what you needed. I am sorry that you felt the constant anxiety and pain of not having enough to eat, the clothes you needed, and the warmth of routine and structure. You deserved safety and good love.  I'm sorry that you didn't feel like you had the option to follow your creative dreams. I want you to know that no matter how old you grow you always have permission to embrace your creativity. You are an artist. It makes sense that you abandoned art and creativity-- your fear and pain wouldn't let you imagine new worlds, so you abandoned it. You'll need to give yourself space to imagine again.

One day you'll marry a man and have two children. You'll use your resiliency and power to teach your two children how to navigate this world. You'll raise them to honor their Blackness. You'll teach them to fight injustice. You'll show your daughter, in particular, what it means to be a fierce woman and mother. Mother's aren't perfect, though and you'll hurt her. A lot. You won't believe her when she tells you about her sexual assault. Hurt people, after all, hurt people and you'll be confused about how to advocate for her-- you weren't given an example of that. She'll spend her teen years and twenties trying to reconcile her deep love for you with the deep wounds you've created. By her thirties she will understand you. She will understand why you made the choices you made. She will understand how your family and the world conditioned you and other sexual assault and incest survivors to self-blame and dismiss; to sweep the unsightly parts of abuse and violence under the rug. She will forgive you and move into an unshakeable respect and grace for you. You'll need to forgive yourself, though. That will be your most difficult task. You'll need to believe that she forgives you. She does. You'll need to tell yourself that you deserve grace, despite how heavy the weight of your regret is. You'll need to release the wonder and gnawing question of "what if I had believed her, what if I had acted differently?" The constant "what if" you put yourself through is further victim-blaming. You didn't know what you didn't know. You'll need to know that she advocated for daughter and protected her daughter like you never did for her. Like your mother never did for you. How astounding that you raised the daughter who would correct the family course and bring healing to all the women in your family who were never believed, protected, or fought for.

You did that, Susan. YOU birthed and raised and nurtured that warrior.

She was born from that pain, and now has a daughter who can thrive because of her actions. While she is healing, and her daughter is healing, it is time for you to heal too. Heal Susan. Release your regret. Let it float away and in its place let glorious hope, love, and grace fill in the cracks from the absent pain. May you be held together by the promise of what her daughter and her daughter and her daughter will do to transform the history of your suffering into deep and unmovable redemption.

Love Jasmine

The Night We Left

jasmine banks

It was dark and he had her pinned up against the wall. He pushed his face to her face, nose to nose. "There isn't anywhere you can run that I won't find you," he threatened. I believed him. She turned her head to the side and locked eyes with me. I winced and tried to ask her if she needed me to call someone. Not the police. Last time they came the beatings just got worse. I was the witness... the watcher... as he held her pinned to the wall. I was always the watcher. Even when he beat her behind closed doors I could hear her quiet pleas that he not wake up me and my brother. She was worried, even as her body was being used as a punching bag, for the tranquility of her children. "Let them rest. Let them not hear or know." Her incantations and utterances failed, because my sleep was never deep enough to ignore her, our, reality. 

 I could see her flesh turning red from his grip around her arms. That night after he left to wherever he'd go after he was finished raging, my mom shook me awake. My brother was in bed with me, our two small bodies buried under the blankets and still shaking from the fearful scene we witnessed earlier. It wasn't the first time, but my mother resolved that it would be the last. "Jasmine... pack a bag we are leaving," she whispered, and then she swept out of the room and I heard rustling in her bedroom. She was packing. We were leaving.  I knew what to do. I'd practiced it several times already in hopes that I might run away, though I never planned far enough to know where I'd run away to. I packed my things and my brothers things, making sure not to forget his E.T. doll. The fur of the doll was matted and worn down in places and the eyes were full of scratches and marks from where Isaiah dragged E.T. across the floor. I grabbed Strawberry Shortcake because she smelled like dessert and childhood and maybe a nice home with no stress about not having enough food stamps. We arrived at an nondescript building. It said "Y.W.C.A" on the outside and I had no idea what those letters even meant. My mom rang a doorbell under the florescent lit awning. A old white woman answered the door, looked around, and then ushered us in with a confusing sense of urgency. "He didn't follow?" she asked my mother, as if she knew her. "No. It is just us." That was the last night we saw him, my father, and the first night in a long string of nights to sleep in a homeless shelter. 

My mom did it. Something snapped in her and that beating was too much.  The first time he hit her I was 6 months old and in her arms. His hair trigger temper was tripped and he picked up a chair and slammed it across her back indiscriminately. She said I went fly, and thankfully landed somewhere soft, though years later her body still ached in places where the chair struck a blow. That beating wasn't enough. She stayed, stuck with a new baby, and tried to hold her marriage together. Years later after my brother was old enough to form words I remember him bravely screaming at our father to stop hitting hurt. My brother was full of courage. I was more calculating and spent my time thinking of ways I wished he would die. I don't know what was different about that night. Maybe it was how her eyes fixed on mine. Maybe it was because this time she knew I knew. I'm not sure. For whatever reason that moment was enough. Something inside welled up with bravery and she found the strength to leave. She resuced me and my brother. That was the night we left.