Written by Margery Williams and first published in 1922, The Velveteen Rabbit is a beloved British children’s book that has withstood the test of time. The words are still as meaningful, beautiful and haunting as they were when it was first published just a decade after the Titanic sank. Margery’s voice is strong enough to transcend time. I think it’s safe to say that children’s books just aren’t written like this anymore, and it’s a shame.
The Velveteen Rabbit offers many life lessons for children and adults alike, and is discussed in philosophy circles to this day. Although there is much to discuss here, the quote above has always spoken to me in particular, and I suspect that many of you reading this feel the same way. I chose this passage to write about today, because this blog is still in its infancy and I feel that many of you still need to get to know me a little better. So, fair warning, this post is going to be a little on the intimate side, and may make some people uncomfortable.
Being “Real” to the velveteen rabbit means being alive. To me, being “Real” means that someone has “been through the ringer,” so to speak, and has come out the other side as a stronger and wiser human being with a better sense of who they are as an individual.
Like everyone else, I have faced plenty of challenges in my life. I won’t pretend that the struggles I have been through are unique or extraordinary; instead, I hope they have made me relatable and humble. One of the most harrowing experiences of my life, however, was being in a physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually abusive relationship with a man for almost six years. During this time, I slowly lost little pieces of myself without ever knowing they were missing until much, much later. Over the course of our relationship, my hair was “loved” off, my eyes dropped out, I became loose in the joints and above all, very shabby, so to speak.
I will never forget locking myself in my car one night to escape the abuse and, unsure of what to do and having never reached out to anyone about the abuse before, I called an anonymous domestic abuse hotline. The woman on the other end asked me some questions, then paused. She informed me that my partner had the highest markers for homicide, based on what I had told her, and that if I stayed with him, he would kill me. Hearing this from a complete stranger somehow made it Real. Things shifted after that.
However, things got a whole lot worse before they got better, and although I knew I had to get out, it took several more horrifying experiences, living in a car and paying to shower at truck stops, dealing with his heroin addiction and nearly losing my daughter because of the abuse before I finally got away from him for good.
Now, at this point, I was feeling very shabby.
But, for the first time, I felt Real.
I felt as if my soul had been stripped down to bare bones and nothing remained but my core, which I had learned was as strong and unmovable as a granite boulder. Something in me “just wouldn’t quit.” All that remained was Real and raw. But imperfect. I had to rebuild myself as a human being from the ground up. It hasn’t been easy to learn how to trust again, to learn how to build a healthy relationship, to feel good about myself and to stop using substances to numb the pain (to actually FEEL the pain and learn from it). But I persisted. Now, I feel as if I live a truly beautiful life. I have a loving partner, a beautiful home, two awesome kids and three “bonus” daughters. I have enough money to buy whatever I want for groceries, and to spoil myself and the kids sometimes. I don’t have to hide the unsavory details of my life from those closest to me. I’m Real. I sleep in a king-sized bed and can have a hot shower whenever I want. To me, these things denote success. More than anything, I feel content. I’m starting to feel happy again. I’ve become Real, because I know who I am, and I like her.
I’m not sharing this to garner sympathy or to get likes, and this isn’t an easy thing to share. I hesitated posting it. But one of my favorite one-liners is (you’re going to hear a lot more of these if you keep following this blog- sorry, not sorry), “Everything you want is on the other side of fear. -Jack Canfield.” I feel that the only way writing is worthwhile is if you have something to say that is authentic and relatable. I also want people to know that, whatever you have gone through, or however impossible things seem at the moment, things do get better if you get better. Maybe eventually, you can become Real, too. And if you already are, celebrate your scars, your loved-off hair and shabby joints.
Because, like the Skin Horse says to the Velveteen Rabbit:
“…these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
Thanks for reading! I hope to share more of myself and my work with you as we continue on this journey together. The novel I’m currently working on deals with domestic violence, but puts an entertaining spin on it (I hope!) So, if you liked this post, stay tuned for excerpts!