The last time I spoke about the distinction between me and “real people” (that is, people who haven’t lived through domestic violence) I got pretty soundly critiqued: in calling others “real people”, I was implying that my experience was somehow unreal, not grounded in reality. I was, I was told, denying my own experience.
I can see where the person was coming from, and it was said from such a place of respect and care that I had to take in on board. But (she says, justifying herself just a little bit) I’m not entirely sure that I agree. “Real” is a word, and yes, I agree that it comes with its own meaning and implications, and I agree that a person could quite easily read into it more than is there. But in making the distinction between me and real people, I’m not judging or disparaging myself; I’m not judging or disparaging them. I’m not making a comment on the nature of my experience, or the nature of theirs: it’s simply shorthand, easier than the more cumbersome term “those who haven’t been there”.
There is a distinction between me and those who haven’t been there (see what I did there?), and in engaging with people who are also survivors of violence, I value those points of connection – responses, sensitivities, dark humour. I value that sense of a shared story, a shared view of the world which is more dangerous – and yet more beautiful – than a lot of people realise. Sometimes, “me too” is the most powerful phrase we can hear.
I am a real person, and so are those people for whom violence is something that happens to other people. The girl in the bank was a real person, and there was some comfort in her horror on my behalf, in her sense of compassion towards me. It’s nice to know that people care, that people are touched by a story that I take for granted.
I appreciate that.
On an unrelated note, apparently I’m being challenged on a post I wrote recently, about my Grandma (who is doing well – I don’t know that I’ve met a stronger, more profoundly faithful, more gracious person). Apparently she’s challenging my statement that she has six-hundred-odd teddy bears. I don’t know if she thinks I’ve over-quoted, or under-quoted, the actual number of bears. The next time I see her, I may well find myself counting noses…