I bet you didn’t know I was a table tennis champion at the tender age of 7. I had made the finals and for some reason it was a big deal at my Aussie school. The atmosphere felt mammoth. Everyone watching, cheering and clapping. It didn’t take me long to realise they weren’t cheering for me. I can’t remember much about the match, but I remember every time my opponent would win, the crowd was deafening. Every time I won, you could hear a cricket fart.
It was down to the last set/game (I dunno, just because I was a table tennis champ, doesn’t mean I knew what I was doing). I remember the girl’s face just before i served the ball. So focused. Calm. Certain. Next minute she ran off crying, while I stood there, the champ, amongst the booing. I remember one of the teachers looking around shocked at the crowd’s response. No one wanted me to win. She stayed silent. Finally they handed me my trophy, yep I got a trophy and I still have that baby to this day. By that time I couldn’t hear the crowd anymore. I had won, I had proof and as far as I was concerned they could all get fucked.
I remember kids telling me I shouldn’t have won, that I should give the trophy to my opponent because she was prettier.
I remember being asked if māori was the same as mouldy.
I remember feeling the stones hit my head as I walked to the bus after school.
I remember my parents fighting.
I remember breaking my dads heart when I screamed no as he reached his hand out to me to leave with him, after he punched my mum.
I remember being scared every time my uncle would jump into bed with me.
I remember my mum beating me until my brother made her to stop.
I remember my mum’s boyfriend telling me I couldn’t eat.
I remember lots of those kinds of memories.
If you had asked me about any one of these a month ago I would have responded with tears or anger, or both. I’ve had a chip on my shoulder since I was a kid and I never understood why I always seemed to get the shitty end of the stick. That was before I needed to choose between my kids and my partner. I want to take credit and say it was a conscious decision, but it wasn’t. I just did it and I did it on the spot. I chose my kids without thinking. It wasn’t until later in the early hours of the morning that I started to doubt myself. He couldn’t have done that, that’s not him..I’ve made a mistake. I’m just being ‘me’ again. Irrational. Angry. Silly. The only thing that kept me sane was knowing regardless of whether I’m right or wrong, if he came back my kids would never feel safe in their own home again. So I jumped out of bed at 1am and tested ‘all’ his excuses (as in plural, multiple excuses, that changed as he thought on his feet). They were bullshit and I could no longer ignore that I was right.
That was a critical moment. It could’ve gone in a completely different direction as I questioned myself. Why couldn’t I have just pretended? If I did, we’d still be together and I’d still be pregnant. We were happy. My kids loved him. He was a good man. Why did I have to ruin it? I wanted to be wrong so fucking bad. I wanted to be the irrational angry Donna he knew and loved. But I couldn’t, and I couldn’t because I remembered.
Fast forward and I’m beginning to rise to the surface. It truly has felt as if I’ve been drowning. I think now I’m more bobbing, arms flailing but I’m managing to get quick breathes of oxygen. I can begin to dissect every bit of this beast and after 35 years I think I know why I always got the shitty end of the stick. Every damaging experience prepared me for this moment. It could have easily gone the wrong way but it didn’t. Those times I felt abandoned, unwanted, unsafe, unloved as a child burnt their impression on the essence of me, shaping who I am today. I held onto the memories for a reason AND holding onto that shit is dangerous. The anger and resentment actively tried to escape and manifest into self-destruction and it succeeded, plenty of times! But as it turns out the biggest tragedy of my life, is also the moment I’ve been waiting for for so long. The moment that I can let it all go. The moment I can finally forget.