Friday, May 20, 2011

Proudest Moment

Warning: Very personal post.

Recently, while at work, a coworker mentioned that her proudest moment was the birth of her daughter. Another said hers was the first time she officially became a homeowner.

They then, of course, directed the question in my direction. I stuttered something about winning the state championship my senior year of softball (first softball state title in my high school's history, mind you), but I was lying. This is definitely on my list of proudest accomplishments, but my true proudest moment is something I was sure neither of them would understand. So I smiled, and kept it to myself.

I'm not upset I didn't share at that place and time what I am about to share with you now. This memory is incredibly personal, and I don't think work is the place to have to explain it. But just for the record, I want it to be known that this particular event was hands down the proudest moment in my entire life.

First, it's necessary that you know that my childhood was, to put it lightly, a bit dysfunctional. The fact that my adopted father was a diagnosed psychopath (36 out of 40 on the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, for any curious psychologists out there) meant that punishments in my home were slightly Forgetting to brush your teeth meant you slept in the laundry hamper for 3 weeks. And that was the "nice" option. Needless to say, openly challenging his authority was not encouraged.

So one night, when I was about 14, my father and I got in a fight that went the same route as mostly all of our fights. After roughly 6 hours I was left sitting on my bed in the middle of my room, surrounded by the debris of everything I owned. My dresser had been dismantled, the contents emptied, and the wooden pieces smashed over his knee one by one. Any trinkets I had been foolish enough to have on display had been shattered, and anything he could carry in one generous armful to the backyard was smoldering in the firepit.  My head ached, I had cuts on the bottom of my feet, a curling iron burn on my left arm, and I was alone. Broken.


But then while scanning my room of remains something caught my eye. My radio/alarm clock/CD player. Now this thing was my life. Earlier that year, a handful of friends had all pitched in to buy me a birthday present and this is what they chose. They also bought me a CD (Natalie Imbruglia) to go with it. It was the first CD I ever owned. To me, these two items symbolized people that truly cared for me. Besides my softball glove, I loved them more than anything else in the world. Unfortunately, there it was, sitting against the wall, completely destroyed.

I went over and picked it up. Random pieces fell to the floor. It was strung out to around 3 feet, bits of wire, metal and plastic holding it together. A fallen soldier on the field of battle. Next to it was the Natalie Imbruglia CD. In perfect condition. Hmm...

I was going to fix my CD player.

Now keep in mind I was 14, didn't know the first thing about electronics, or the fact that this sorry heap of parts and pieces was about as far gone as most characters lying in a soap opera mortuary. But also, like all the delusion of a proper soap opera, it didn't matter. Anything could happen. In a true plot twist, it could still come back to life! Unrealistic, yes, but I guess sometimes focusing on one thing helps to forget everything else going on around you. So I went to work.

And I worked for hours. I used paperclips and hairpins (stripped of their covering) to hold wires together (probably dangerous, but come on, I was 14). The lid was already broken off, so I used it to wedge the little laser (used to read the CD) in place. I took the speaker apart and put it back together. For the buttons (play, skip, etc.) I was quite creative.

See the original buttons were flat on top, and then had a prong on the bottom that would go into a tiny hole. At the bottom of the hole was a little clicker. This is what needed to be pushed in order for the button to work. Being as most of the buttons were torn off, I bunched up tiny pieces of paper until I filled each hole, then taped the top to not only hold it in place, but to also create a little bump. Push down the bump and the paper compacted and pushed the little clicker on the bottom. Bam; working buttons.

Finally, around 5 in the morning, I felt I had done all I could do. This thing looked like it had come straight out of a Terminator movie. You could see all the working parts and moving gadgets. All but one side was completely removed, and the others were taped back on to keep the contents from spilling onto the floor.

I put the Natalie Imbruglia CD on the little spinny thing above the laser. I pushed play. It spun. I waited. This was the moment of truth...

It worked. 

I was ecstatic. It didn't even skip! The music carried throughout my room. I turned the volume up as loud as it could go, and it filled the house. I sat on my bed and faced the door. I protectively held my C3PO CD player in my arms and waited for the sound I knew would come. Soon it did. Footsteps.

One at a time, coming down the stairs. Heavy breathing. The door flew open and slammed into the wall behind it. He turned to me, furious. We locked eyes, and glared. Pure hatred from the both of us. After what felt like an eternity, he lowered his eyes to musical pile of junk I was cradling in my arms. He looked back up to me and in that instant, I saw a small flicker cross his face to the tune of, "How...?" I braced myself.

Nothing. He turned and went back upstairs.

I sat on my bed, held my radio, and cried. I won, and I have never, ever, been as proud as I was in that moment.

Now perhaps someday something will top it. Maybe the birth of my first child, or the day I pay off the last of my student loans, or maybe just the day I find my way to Walmart and back without having to call someone for directions. But until then, this will be the standard, and I'm happy for it.

My radio has since passed on, but I still have the nightstand it rested on. It's the only piece of furniture he never broke, so I think it's earned it's place in my eternal belongings. I also still have the CD of course, and listening to it always provides me with an overwhelming feeling of triumph. There has still been times when I have been taken advantage of, mistreated, and used as a complete doormat, and I know I still have a lot of work to do when it comes to standing up for myself (which I am improving on, see this post). But anytime I'm scared to do something, I just go back to when I was 14, sitting on my bed, and I think, "I know I am strong, and I know can do it, because there was this one time when I was unbreakable. And I proved it."

So tell me, what is your proudest moment?


  1. Thank you for sharing this story. Your childhood sounds very stressful, and I am sorry for any carefree moments of being a kid that you were denied.

  2. I am so sorry that you had to go through such an experience but clearly it has taught you that you can overcome and win with really difficult obstacles. Good for you.:)

  3. I thought it was only me who had bad memories during childhood (not in the hands of my separated parents though, but with our psycho neighbor). But it was a long story that sometimes I cant form words to blog about it. What I wanna say is that, it became my stepping stone to reach what I am right now - a lot better than them.^^

  4. I find myself very upset that you had to go through things like that as a child, but I also find myself very proud of that 14 year old version of you.

    Thank you for sharing this with us.

  5. I don't know you, but I'm so proud of you, too! Thanks for sharing what must have been a difficult post to write.

  6. hello newest follower from the hop look forward to reading your blog

  7. That's a wonderful thing to be proud of.

  8. You so deserve to be proud! That is the saddest yet most beautifully hopeful story. Thanks for sharing.

  9. I cryied as I read your story, Im sorry you had to experience this as a child. Thank you for being able to share this with us. You are a very strong women, And I wish nothing but the best for you and your future!!!
    Following back..
    Many Blessings to you.

  10. What an accomplishment! I can't begin to imagine what it must have felt like when the CD played!!! What a wonderful reminder that you can do anything you want to and need too. I too am so sad that you had to endure the childhood you did, but, wow, what a strong, wonderful person you are. Wishing you a present and past that surpasses your biggest dreams! Much love to you!

  11. Thanks for sharing your story,I can understand why that is your proudest moment. Thanks so much for dropping by WV Stitcher I am here to return the follow. Have a fantastic weekend.

  12. U ROCK!...That is very inspiring.: )
    For me becoming a homeowner and becoming a mother are amoung my proudest moments but surviving and rising like a phoenix...that is in a category all on it's own!
    Thanks for the glady following your awesome blog.
    Have a Blessed weekend!

  13. Wow! While scary and sad, it is amazing! I can see why it was a proud moment! I can totally relate. While my dad was not a psychopath, he was a drunk and I have had many things smashed, doors kicked in, etc. I won once, and it felt good!

  14. Amazing! Thanks for sharing.


  15. Wow, such an inspiring story. Following you back this morning from the hop.

  16. Wow thank you for sharing such a personal story. I'm sorry for all the pain you must have suffered as a child. that's so amazing you got it to work!

  17. Marlee, I'm so, so sorry that you grew up this way, in the hands of a psychopath. No one should have to endure such cruelty, especially a child who has no recourse except to take it. But it sounds to me like you're a fighter, much like that radio you so painstakingly pieced back together at the young age of 14. You were broken but you taped, glued, rigged yourself back together and reclaimed your life. You may always carry those scars within you, but every day you live and thrive, despite the violence of your youth, is proof that in the end you've won.
    Thanks for the follow, just returned the favor, glad to be here. :)

  18. Marlee, There are many people who choose a wrong path of self distructive or criminal behavior because they went through tragedies in childhood. You were born with something wonderful to protect your "self" and become a wiser person. You will most likely be an phenomenal mental health worker because of your insight and compassion. You will no doubt find yourself helping people throughout your life with your strength and understanding. Big things are in store for you. I could never dismiss or lighten the horrors you experienced...those demons will be your to conquer throughout your life as they pop up along the way. I wish I could give the you as a little girl a hug and take you away from there. Thank you for sharing and for making a better world in spite of that man.

    I always feel a little bit of fright mixed with a bit of excitement when things cycle from good to bad in life...this is because the crappier things get at times the bigger the oppotunity to learn and grow and gain wisdom and personal strength. Then when things cycle into "good" again I just try to live in the moment and coast happily for awhile and reflect on what I have gained.
    Much Love,
    jenny at dapperhouse

  19. Wow! I am just in awe! I am so proud of you! Thank you for sharing about your proudest moment. You inspire me. Thanks for following. I'm your newest follower. So happy to meet you! Have a great weekend!

  20. Sounds like he was the child. That's awful! I can't believe an adult acting that way and am sorry you had to grow up with that kind of abuse.

    I'll be glad to follow you too.


  21. Hi there! Wow! What a story! Thanks for sharing!

    Following from the Finding New Friends hop! Hope you can stop by and follow back!

    Amy @ Render Me Mama

  22. Marlee that is completely inspiring. I never would have had the courage to attempt something like that - especially at that age. I am so glad you found the courage to share your story and I know by the numerous comments that I am not the only one. Rock on girl and thanks again.

    PS - Proudest moment is surviving 18 hours of labor with an epidural that had worn off.Not reccomended by the way...

  23. Wow thank you all so much for the nicest comments! My hope in sharing this was that someone in a similar situation would remember a time they won. It's funny, but everytime I think about that moment I just start grinning from ear to ear.

    Thanks again to all of you, and thanks for sticking it out and reading till the end! You are so fantastic and compassionate people, and I am so grateful for all of you!

    And A.A. that's exactly how I see it. In the end I came out better than him :).

  24. Thanks for stopping by Nifty Mom! Now following and can't wait to read more!

  25. Thank you for sharing such a deeply moving story. You did good!

    Thank you for stopping by and following. I'm a new follower!

    Feel free to come back and enter some great giveaways. Low entries and family friendly!
    Whirlwind of Surprises
    Award Winning Children's Book (US/CAN) 05/27
    Learn Spanish with Speekee TV giveaway (WW) -06/14
    TheraBreath Prize Pack ($25) US only 06/12

  26. That was a very moving glimpse into your life. What an amazingly strong person you are!

    Thank you for stopping by my blog. I am a new follower of yours. :)


  27. No wonder you have such a good sense of humour and insight into human nature. I suspect these would have been key survival skills in your home. What ever happened to your mother? Is there a story there?

  28. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog on Friday's hop! I'm your newest follower and I want to invite you to link up to our Super Stalker Sunday blog hop - the linky just opened so you can get a good spot if you link up this evening! :)

    Have a great night!


  29. One word - INSPIRING. Thank you for sharing this victory with us Marlee. May you have so many many many more!

  30. Hi! I am sooo glad you followed my blog so I could find you and return the favor. You will have many things in your life to be proud of. I am looking forward to you sharing more of your life with us. I think you are a very inspirational woman who will have many more conquests in your future:)

  31. I've only read this post, but I'm already in awe of you--you are so amazingly strong! And you're even strong enough to write it on the internet where anyone can read. I'm sure so many thing won't be forgotten, but know you have a billion blog friends who are proud of you and praying for your strength. YOU GO GIRL!

    I found ya (and following) via the QT GFC hop--hope you'll visit me an follow back!

  32. I'm continuously in awe of every post. I'm proud to know you're my bloggerfriend and that you embrace the strength within you to form these personal posts that encourage and inspire all of us. Thank you for sharing!!

  33. Wow. You are brave to share this story. You have a right to be proud and good for you for sharing it. I stumbled your post.

    My proudest moment is when an online friend threatened suicide and he was half way across the world and I knew almost nothing about him. I tracked down the website of the police for his hometown and emailed them with what I knew, including his website address and they were able to track him down, stop him and get him help. He later thanked me.

    Also new follower from Blog Hop Till You Drop

  34. Whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger! And you my dear, are a strong, strong person. Be proud! Thanks for linkin up with us at the S&R weekend hop and for posting the button. Thank you for sharing your story.

  35. Wow! This is my first time to your blog and that was an amazing post to read and VERY inspiring! First off I want to say You Are Awesome for standing up like that-sometimes it's the smallest triumphs that make the biggest impact. And secondly thanks for stopping by Newlyweds on a Budget! After that post I'm for sure your newest follower!

    Newlyweds on a Budget

  36. What matters most is you were able to surpass those moments. =)

  37. I found your blog through the hop. Thank you for sharing something so very personal. As I sat here and read, I have tears rolling down my face for that little girl. But, I am very proud of you and what you have become! Your life could be an inspiration to many. Stay strong!

  38. What a heartbreaking yet hopeful post! After reading, I had to hop over to your About Me page and was happy to see a smiling, productive person. Congratulations on all your victories to get to this place in your life.

    I'm visiting with NOBH from Doorkeeper ( Blessings!

  39. You should write a book about your life. For realsies. I'd buy it. And this post made me follow you.

  40. Wow! I'm speechless! Not only did you put that radio back together, (CROWNING MOMENT #1) but then you threw it in his face, too!?! (CROWNING MOMENT #2) You are the woman! It's heartbreaking that you had to deal with all of that in your young years. I'm so happy you're the strong person you are and you came out of it smart, successful, and incredible. I am honored that you shared this on my blog site. Truly honored!

  41. I'm back visiting from the Crowning Moments hop and I remember this post well.


  42. Wow! You are amazing and strong and I'm sure proud of the 14 year old you! I too am very sad you had to go through those things as a child. Thanks for sharing.
    My proudest moment. Crossing the finish line after a grueling 5 hours and 55 minutes and 55 seconds of my first marathon.


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