What felt like the bitter end was really the sweet beginning.
The sweet beginning to a new life.
The bitter end to oppression.
The bitter end to patterned, repeated, intentional, and willful systematic oppression.
The sweet beginning to freedom from suppression and systemic fear.
But maybe not the systematic oppression you would typically assume when you hear the phrase. Most of us think of systems of government, power, control, racism, sexism, ageism, or ableism. But the bitter end that I reference speaks to a different kind of systematic oppression. As we as a nation examine dismantling more commonly known forms of systematic oppression in our culture, we might also consider looking into our own family and community systems as well.
This bitter end meant no longer being controlled, dictated to, put in a box, or into a metaphoric cage, like a caged bird with a song, forced not to sing. But as fate would have it, the unapologetically, radically fierce, and freeing sweet, a new beginning could not come without the bitter end.
One could not occur without the other.
A life called freedom. It came at a cost. In fact, sometimes becoming the person you were always meant to be, and living the gloriously abundant life you were meant to live, will cost you nearly everything to cross over into it. Adding to that, if you happen to be one of the souls that is given the task being born into a system of power, control, secrecy, and strategic suppression, you become not only a member of that family or community, but rather, you become an object for use, to fulfill the prefabricated narratives and image campaigns of that family system.
For many people, especially women, this means being taught to play a role. “Sit up straight.” “Act like a lady.” Be soft, but not a pushover. Be strong, but let us cross your boundaries and keep you quiet at your expense. Tell the truth, but never your truth and never the truth that may set you free. Particularly if telling the truth means freeing you of systemic, egregious, and assaulting abuses by well-presented people, especially if those people happen to share your family tree.
But wait, there’s more. Let’s add to that, “Don’t forget to cross your legs, always say please and thank you, be polite, be forgiving, tolerate anything—as long as you do it with a smile. And by all means, remember, what happens in this house, stays in this house.” The problematic “art” of sweeping things under the proverbial rug and then learning how to navigate the rug of secrecy once it becomes full gets in the way every day.
It becomes a game of facilitating what, one could argue, is one of the greatest public relations campaigns constructed. Except this campaign is meant to socially market false images of morality, kindness, religious piety, and intellectual brilliance, all to sell a cover story for people that prefer to permit and commit atrocities in darkness while selling benevolence, philanthropy, entrepreneurship, altruism, and religious piety in the light.
You risk walking away from a sandcastle in the sky, which crumbles under the weight of just one grain of sand “getting out place.” When the castle crumbles, so do the lies. When the castle crumbles, the people desperate to keep up appearances go to lengths to keep you quiet, mischaracterize you, diminish your credibility, and erase or mute your voice. That is the bitter end.
The sweet beginning is safety. Physical safety from the threat of harm. Mental and emotional safety from constant criticism, gaslighting, shaming sarcasm, and the steady dosing of words that tear away at the fibers of who you are and what you wish to become.
When your soul wakes up, you begin to know that sticking around this kind of systematic oppression doesn’t fix anything.
The only path to freedom is to kindly communicate clear boundaries and make peace with bringing your role of continual victimization within the system to an end.
The end is bitter, but the beginning is freedom you only dreamt of, the confidence you only wondered if you could have, and life of autonomy, love, and healing friendships and relationships that were just across the ocean of life. Across the ocean of life that you could only access once you courageously decided to set sail from the life you knew, having the courage to bring it to the bitter end.
This Red Tent Writer wishes to remain anonymous. It is our privilege to create a platform to honor her voice and protect her identity.