Being decisive doesn’t mean being stubborn.
A year ago I made the decision to take a break from my relationship with my brother. I had reached a point where conversations with my brother became mentally and emotionally exhausting for me. Whenever we talked on the phone, I would hang up the phone feeling like I couldn’t be authentically myself. I couldn’t fully trust my brother and I didn’t feel completely supported by him.
After allowing myself some time to think about how I wanted to let him know that I needed space from him, I crafted my email. I let him know that his decision to carry on a relationship with my abuser—another member of our family—while still trying to have a relationship with me was something I could not accept. Having it in the back of my mind that he could tolerate the abuse that was perpetrated against me made it impossible to be my whole self with my brother.
I asked that he respect my decision. I let him know that I did not expect him to “choose sides,” but I needed to listen to myself and make an effort to protect myself. This is what I need right now. However, that may not be permanent.
Right now I am still reeling in the after effects of sexual abuse. I need the stability of knowing that the people I choose to surround myself with are supportive of me 100%. To me, right now, that does not include people who can tolerate supporting my abuser too. Maybe one day I will feel differently.
Being decisive doesn’t mean being stubborn—situations change, desires change, and we can become adaptable to these changes. It is empowering to know that I have that choice. Maybe one day I will be able to accept my brother’s decisions that I don’t agree with. My heart can change.
What is important for me to remember is to check in with myself. Every now and then I want to go back to pretending nothing happened. Maybe I can call him up tonight and launch into a mundane conversation as if nothing happened, and yes, I’ll feel like shit right after that phone call but we will be a brother and sister again. And then I hear that small voice inside me that is still growing that reminds me that I need more right now. That’s how I know that right now is not the time. Maybe I will check in with myself in six months and think to myself that his decisions are his own, and I accept his relationship even if I don’t agree with it. Maybe that will be the sign that it’s time to reconnect.
Just because we make a decision today to live a certain way doesn’t mean we are married to it. Life is fluid. People change. It is okay for me to stand my ground, and it is also okay for me to change my mind.
Janie Contreras Johnson, The Strange is Beautiful’s Staff Community Outreach, is a Mexican-American feminist working constantly to overcome sexual and childhood trauma.
Read her posts here.