While I was making breakfast this morning I caught myself telling an imaginary audience of one that the way I survived my mother’s abuse was by making sure she felt powerful and like she never had to go out of her way to ask of me or tell me anything, and this included going to the bedroom and staging myself for a good flogging without her having to ask me to go there.

This I continued to explain to myself while putting on the hot water for my oatmeal was why to this day I still find myself trying to make sure the women I work for and with don’t have to ask me to do anything, and why it’s so important I set healthy boundaries around permissions and sometimes talk back to them and sort of ask why they just didn’t do whatever it was themselves and also acknowledge they are not my mother and may actually be asking for my help in doing something they truly need help with,

and as I added nondairy creamer to my coffee I shook myself out one last time when I recalled how, when I was 8, and was finally free of my mother with the support of the courts, she wasn’t allowed to see me anymore, she’d called me to her car idling in the street outside our driveway. I remembered how she demanded I run to her or else, and how I let my vicious weasel-head lean out the front door like the protagonist in one of those first-person shooters, and let her have it by firing a few names in her direction the way I couldn’t when I was trying to survive her.

Taking my morning pills and vitamins with a last swig of French roast I couldn’t believe how the well-educated and reasonably adjusted adult I am could still be learning from such a horrible situation and in a way, could still be a kid with a very justifiable world-sized bone to pick, having taken my power back so long ago, when most kids who went through a version of what I did weren’t as lucky as I was to be able to set boundaries upward against my mother with the backing of Justice, which I guess I always considered my real one, I could have sworn I was back there at our mobile home cursing her from the porch and reveling in how my neighbors threatened her back into her car, me in my Superman underwear lighting up the porch, my fists socketed into my hips, my chest pushing toward the all-loving sun, a demigod who’d no longer stand for crime. Well, for someone like me that wish never ends, I guess.

Because now I just want to stand back and see the fruits of my labor, watch how the inklings of criminal behavior can’t find a foothold and wait to watch them fall over themselves, pick themselves back up and learn. Except crime, and abuse especially, has this awful way of reestablishing itself behind an always revolving sphere of child care lies that sometimes come off as sunshine and other times like a year-long hope you have to wait for while it slowly seems to come back around like the beginnings of trust seen from the eyes of a boy in some foreign country caught behind enemy lines in a war where the 20-year-long flashing edge of a knife is sometimes as bright as it gets.

It’s why the whole survival versus thriving debate is so hard to reconcile within the self and how I’ve decided if survival is going to be something I keep returning to through no fault of my own, it’ll be on my terms that I reenact it, so that maybe someday during this thing called a life, I’ll have rewired my brain and won’t catch myself reliving my abuse during breakfast the way I usually do in order to prepare myself for the workday, and just have breakfast, just have a simple, one-layered breakfast and be able to look up in the sky, and think, with a vague adjective as dull as my no-longer-needed defenses, what a nice sun.