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It’s amazing how one simple moment can mark so much more than the passage of time. Years ago, if I were reading a vivid description of a rape it would have poked and prodded at my buried memories, churning up a wellspring of emotions. I would have gone to my own dark place, simply allowing myself to relive those primal feelings of fear and shame alongside my own specific details. But today, 27 years after my own nightmare began and 15 years into various therapy stints, I read just such a passage in the amazing start of Alice Sebold’s Lucky while sitting on a crowded train and it tapped into an entirely different part of me.

My first instinct this time was not to embed myself in my own memories, reverting to that small, helpless girl I remember being. This time, I felt it from the point of view of my daughter. I felt the fear as she would, that bubble of panic that signals inescapable danger. And what I felt concurrently was fury. A fury that I have often had trouble accessing for myself whenever I’ve been under assault–be that physically, mentally, or emotionally. Yet when confronted¬† with even the fleeting idea of such a violation happening to my darling, I was ready to lash out at the first person I deemed a possible threat. It was so powerful an impulse that I was sure I had perceptible waves of rage radiating from me for everyone on the train to see.

This is how I know that I am no longer the person I once was. That that little girl may still be within me but the grown-up mother is way ahead of her. And she is running this show.

My ex’s grandmother died today at the ripe old age of 100. She is exactly the person we are all fond of saying lived a long full life: she was married to her sweetheart for more than 60 years, traveled around the world with him after he retired, and has literally dozens of descendants. She was the quintessential grandma. And she was one of my favorite people.

Before dementia set in, she was a feisty old broad. A New England dame transplanted to the midwest and back again decades later. A stroke nearly took her out at 85 but she battled back. I took care of her a lot during that time. As the years progressed, we went from having great conversations to having long loving looks that made up for the repeated questions. In truth, the fact that she was very rarely lucid by the time I split from my husband was a saving grace. It made it a little less painful to be separated from these people I’d called family.

But news of her death hit deep, stirring up all the other feelings of loss that I’ve dealt with for the past three years. Because of circumstances (namely the order of protection I happily have separating my ex and me) I won’t be going to the funeral. And for some reason that shifts my grief to a weird place. Not family per se, but not a stranger. And yet I still feel that loss just as deeply.

This morning I am simply grateful that an hour into my day I am following my plan. This is the plan that had a good chance of keeping me healthy and whole. I have done minor housework, eaten, am dressed for the gym, am writing and will go work out before the rest of my kid/work day begins. I am grateful because if I can follow this plan with a good degree of consistency, I believe I can follow the rest of my plans for growth equally well. I can go about my life as deliberately as possible without becoming too rigid. And through insight I can have true control–the kind that remains even in the face of things outside of my scope.

It’s funny. I chose this pseudonym of Imani because it means faith, yet I had no idea how much I would need my faith to move forward. Faith in God, in myself, and in the belief that no matter what I will be okay. But I’m learning.

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The Next Act