There is a Buddhist proverb that states, “That which I do not forgive in you, lies unforgiven within myself.”
At the age of fifteen I had already faced many challenges in my life. One of which was sexual abuse at the hands of my stepfather when I was fourteen. My mother and father were estranged at that time and had been divorced for a few years. The lack of acceptance with this occurrence brought me to a place where I needed someone in my life that would be acting as the father I didn’t feel I had at that time. That happened to be the person who would be my boyfriend for the next eleven years, in which nine of them were spent in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship.
Through the relationship I had two lives. One was successful, working on Wall Street and meeting new friends. The other was covering bruises and consuming large amounts of alcohol to numb the pain.
On New Year’s Eve 1999 my ex-boyfriend and I went to a dance club in New York City with our friend Tony. My ex had begun drinking early in the evening, and because of his past I knew he wasn’t a nice drunk.
After an argument with a bartender at the bar four security guards threw him out of the club. It was a little after midnight, and during the cab ride home I was growing increasingly angry. My night was ruined and his behavior was just embarrassing. Regardless of my frustration, I kept myself quiet until we reached home.
We walked in our apartment door and I was unable to contain my anger any longer. “I just want you to know that you not only ruined my night, but you ruined Tony’s night, too,” I uttered.
I grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge as my ex glared at me with eyes barely open. Without saying a word he slowly took off his suit jacket and placed it on the dining room chair. I calmly walked into the bedroom to change out of my dress and into my pajamas. I was exhausted; all I could think about was drifting into a deep sleep and forgetting about my life—if only for a few hours. I had already taken off my shoes and jewelry, and I was in the process of getting out of my dress when my ex-boyfriend appeared in the doorway. He had rage in his eyes. I knew something terribly bad was about to happen.
He threw me against the wall—my legs and lower body collided with the exposed cast iron radiator, which spun me around toward the corner of the room where two walls met. The radiator’s edge burned my forearm, but I pulled away quickly enough not to be singed. I remained on my feet, but I was hunched down and doubled over in the corner of the room, my hands pressed against each wall to hold myself up.
“You ruined my night!” he yelled as he grabbed the back of my hair. He then kicked me in my lower back harder than he had ever done in the past. The pain was excruciating, especially with the hard wood-bottom dress shoes he was wearing. I was no stranger to this type of assault after he got drunk, following a night on the town, but tonight, his kick was followed by an array of punches to the side of my body—my back, arms, and wherever he could hit me. As much as I tried, I could not escape the corner of the room. Tears of pain streamed down my cheeks as I lay there, trying to roll around and protect parts of my body from being beaten repeatedly. It was difficult to do; I was afraid to remove my hands from my head and face from fear of the damage that might occur if he kept punching me in the face. I curled myself into a ball, taking his kicking and punching, until suddenly, he stopped.
After a few seconds I looked up to see him lose his balance and fall back on the bed. Instead of getting back up, he lay there for a minute before falling fast asleep. I stayed crouched in the corner, wondering whether he’d suddenly awake and continue his wrath. Through my tears, I looked down to notice a red spot on the carpet. “No, I’m not bleeding. I’m not bleeding,” I said, shaking uncontrollably. I watched as a few more drops of blood fell to the floor before I cried myself to sleep. I awoke the following morning, still lying on the floor in the same position in which I had fallen asleep the night before.
Upon my awakening from that horrific night, the defining moment came when I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror, like I’d done thousands of times before. Something was different this time, however. Beyond the bruises and a weakened body was a brave soul who was desperate to become free of manipulation and ego, and incapable of letting this abuse continue any longer.
On January 9, 2000 I left my ex-boyfriend for good and embraced a new beginning. Day by day I learned to accept the person I was, and who I so eagerly wanted to be.
Not until I took complete responsibility for my own actions, and forgave myself for my wrongdoings could I ever break free of this suffering. Many have asked why I should forgive myself if my ex-boyfriend was the one who was responsible for inflicting pain. It is within our purpose to live by our own free will, and be responsible for all that occurs – good or bad. I had to accept my part in the relationship in order to free myself from this destructive past.
It is crucial, especially in these times of uncertainty to live fully in each moment. Doing this relieves the mind of egotistical judgment and doubt. To make peace with one’s truth means to live in one’s own moment; and move passionately forward in joy.
Michelle Cruz Rosado
survivor, author, peace advocate
Co-author of “Pursuing Your Destiny” Michelle Cruz Rosado is also an inspirational speaker. After overcoming life-changing adversities she has devoted her life to her teachings through words of hope and perseverance.
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