Dear little me, 

 I write this on the cusp of entering my forties, a new decade of life.  

 It has been thirty-six years since you sustained the first wounds, and twenty-four years since you began consciously healing.  

 Language often seems so inadequate to describe our connection, but if we cannot communicate our experience to others, how can we find connection with others?  

 So I will try.  

 I used to think the wounds of rape, torture and psychic violence defined you (me). I know you feel so other, so ugly, so alone, so different, and strange. I know you spend a lot of time wondering why you have been chosen to suffer.  

 I want you to know – you are not what is happening to you. Your father’s shame is not your own. You came into this world complete, whole, and perfect in your human imperfection. You get to leave this world with your soul intact. The shift from innocent to knowing is excruciating, but ultimately a gift.  

 Violence and isolation are locked in a cycle of cause and effect. When you learn to open your wounds, you will release a flow of comingled blood and tears that will lead you to your kindred. For the sad and gorgeous truth is you are so very normal. Your pain is the most banal thing about you.  

 Release it, and the trickle will flow together with the blood and tears of everyone around you, rivers that race to the ocean, our primordial home.   

 I promise you, the day will come that you learn survivors are, and always have been, all around you. Your classmates, your playmates, your parents, your ancestors, your oppressors, and one day, your lovers and friends and colleagues – literally everyone is or knows a survivor.  

 You spend so much of your time looking for portals as an escape – maybe that tree, that cave, that shell, that crack in the ceiling will open into another world.  

 I want you to understand – the true portals are your wounds. By going deeper into yourself, you will be able to connect emotionally and spiritually with everything that is alive and organic. The goal is not escape, but embodiment. Not dissociation, but connection.  

 Everything in nature is here to teach you, if you can learn to open to the lessons:  
the ocean is changed but not defined by an oil spill.  
the wind is changed but not defined by a nuclear explosion.  
the dog is changed but not defined by the fighting pit.  
Healing is not a destination, but a practice and an understanding. One day you will learn to wear your wounds instead of being led by them. Your spirit will expand far past the edges of your pain. You will understand suffering as a universal human experience, and power as the ability to feel joy and pleasure despite what you have endured.  

 Most of all, your wounds will disrupt the experience of time as linear. You and I will be able to use them to connect across time and space, because the body (and the psyche) truly does keep the score. I will visit you many times over, integrating each moment of fear, by holding your hand, rocking you, letting you weep in my arms – I will grow up to understand how to love you in all the ways you always needed and never received.  

 One day I will look at old photos of you: skinny brown girl with the big head and bigger glasses, teeth too large, knees too skinned, hair too scraggly, gender too mixed – and marvel that what once looked ugly and spoiled looks only precious and tender and beautiful.  

 I will always be with you, just as you will always be with me, until each memory is felt and released, until we are truly one.

Dear little me,

I write this on the cusp of entering my forties, a new decade of life.

It has been thirty-six years since you sustained the first wounds, and twenty-four years since you began consciously healing.

Language often seems so inadequate to describe our connection, but if we cannot communicate our experience to others, how can we find connection with others?

So I will try.

I used to think the wounds of rape, torture and psychic violence defined you (me). I know you feel so other, so ugly, so alone, so different, and strange. I know you spend a lot of time wondering why you have been chosen to suffer.

I want you to know – you are not what is happening to you. Your father’s shame is not your own. You came into this world complete, whole, and perfect in your human imperfection. You get to leave this world with your soul intact. The shift from innocent to knowing is excruciating, but ultimately a gift.

Violence and isolation are locked in a cycle of cause and effect. When you learn to open your wounds, you will release a flow of comingled blood and tears that will lead you to your kindred. For the sad and gorgeous truth is you are so very normal. Your pain is the most banal thing about you.

Release it, and the trickle will flow together with the blood and tears of everyone around you, rivers that race to the ocean, our primordial home.

I promise you, the day will come that you learn survivors are, and always have been, all around you. Your classmates, your playmates, your parents, your ancestors, your oppressors, and one day, your lovers and friends and colleagues – literally everyone is or knows a survivor.

You spend so much of your time looking for portals as an escape – maybe that tree, that cave, that shell, that crack in the ceiling will open into another world.

I want you to understand – the true portals are your wounds. By going deeper into yourself, you will be able to connect emotionally and spiritually with everything that is alive and organic. The goal is not escape, but embodiment. Not dissociation, but connection.

Everything in nature is here to teach you, if you can learn to open to the lessons:
the ocean is changed but not defined by an oil spill.
the wind is changed but not defined by a nuclear explosion.
the dog is changed but not defined by the fighting pit.
Healing is not a destination, but a practice and an understanding. One day you will learn to wear your wounds instead of being led by them. Your spirit will expand far past the edges of your pain. You will understand suffering as a universal human experience, and power as the ability to feel joy and pleasure despite what you have endured.

Most of all, your wounds will disrupt the experience of time as linear. You and I will be able to use them to connect across time and space, because the body (and the psyche) truly does keep the score. I will visit you many times over, integrating each moment of fear, by holding your hand, rocking you, letting you weep in my arms – I will grow up to understand how to love you in all the ways you always needed and never received.

One day I will look at old photos of you: skinny brown girl with the big head and bigger glasses, teeth too large, knees too skinned, hair too scraggly, gender too mixed – and marvel that what once looked ugly and spoiled looks only precious and tender and beautiful.

I will always be with you, just as you will always be with me, until each memory is felt and released, until we are truly one.

Tani Ikedasurvivorloveletter