My throat is dry, my voice is shaking. It feels alien to me, as if it isn’t my own. It doesn’t sound like me. It sounds childlike. Fearful. I am uncomfortable. My solar plexus feels as if it will implode and somehow take me with it. How can I still feel so afraid? I feel fourteen again. I want to cry.
No, this isn’t a flashback to when I was attacked. I guess you could call it a memory of a flashback. I was lost in this particular memory as recently as last Wednesday.
Last Wednesday marked 21 years, 7 months and 4 weeks since a masked intruder walked into my family home, held my mother and me captive for three hours and committed a multitude of crimes against us; rape, attempted rape, serious sexual assault and theft.
Last Wednesday also marked a point in time in excess of 15 years since I have spoken about it with anyone face to face, unless to a close friend or family member, although as some of you know, I have written about it on my blog. I have also tweeted about it.
Last Wednesday, I set off from my apartment and drove to the train station. I was to meet a man called Karl. Karl was travelling all the way from England just to talk to me. You can read about his journey too. In fact, his journey is a crucial part of this story. This wasn’t to be a “standard” interview. Karl isn’t a journalist or a reporter. He is interested only in dialogue. And what took place last Wednesday was unlike any other dialogue I have ever had.
Karl is the founder of an organisation called The Dialogue Project. His current project is based on conversations he is having with people about sex. And that was precisely what Karl was coming to Switzerland to talk to me about.
I did not “prepare” for this conversation. Karl had been kind enough to send me several recordings of conversations he had already had with other people, so that I could get more understanding of what The Dialogue Project was about and what to expect. I didn’t listen to them. My gut feeling was that it would be less nerve-wracking if I knew as little as possible. I also wanted the conversation to be raw and unrehearsed. I wanted listeners to get the real me. But also, I wanted to get to know the real me too. That might not make sense to many. I am a great believer in reassessing and consolidating. This dialogue would be a chance for me to do just that with this particular aspect of my life. What would I say? How would I react?
All of these questions were answered for me, as they will be for you too if you decide to listen to the conversation when it is ready. (Karl is currently editing it. I think he might be having a spot of bother. I did warn him I like to talk. A lot. There may be a short AND long version.)
The conversation was powerful, graphic, emotional, funny, intense, upsetting, horrific and hysterical. It was real.
Of course it helped that, when I met Karl at the station, I instantly knew who he was, despite never having seen a photo. It helped that we hugged immediately and nattered all the way to the lakeside restaurant, where we sat together on the jetty when the Swiss were cosying up inside and got blown to bits because of our shared love of fresh air and being outside. It helped that we were both gasping for a beer. It helped that we were “carnivore kin” and quickly decided that we would both have the steak and chips with Café de Paris sauce and a mountain of chips on the side. It helped that I could look into his eyes and recognise a kindred spirit; a lover of people, a conversationalist, a creator, an artist, a Dad, a funny man, a man not afraid of his emotions. It helped that, almost instantly, I felt that I might just have found another friend for life.
It was to be a day of revelations and powerful emotions. Many revelations I will save for those who want to listen to the interview. Emotions? I can only say that I would put last Wednesday up there with several of my most memorable times in life. The births of my kids, the day the perpetrator of the attack went to prison, the day I met Jason, the day I walked out of a week-long life-coaching course and finally believed what other people were telling me; that I was OK (that was the same day I decided I had wasted enough of my life not liking myself). Another one of those days when you feel as if you are seeing colour for the first time in a long time.
But it was an important day in more ways than one.
After the conversation, Switzerland went on to win their match in the World Cup. The street outside came alive with car horns, music, flag-waving, Vuvuzelas and people literally dancing in the street. It was magical.
I celebrated too. I danced in the garden with the kids, waving a Swiss flag and drinking wine. But I guess you could say that I was not only celebrating the Swiss win. I was celebrating I had survived. I was celebrating life.
This blog post is dedicated to Karl, founder of The Dialogue Project and a friend. Karl, you keep thanking me for “letting you in” to my life and for our conversation. But truthfully, you have done more for me than you will ever know. I didn’t have to “let you in”. The subject matter might have been traumatic, but talking to you about it was easy, because you allowed me to feel safe. You are one in a million. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.