Boyfriend. He does not yet have a name here. I don't want to name him here just yet. Let's call him "William." After my grandfather and my uncle, who are two of the most warm-hearted and loving people you'll ever know, with just a splash of wicked humor and a lot of reserved spunk.
He listens to me recount the events of my life, and most often shakes his head in disbelief. "Jesus, what did they do to you? You've overcome so much."
In my broken moments, and in the moments when I couldn't see clear of this path, I didn't understand how he could hear these stories and not see me as weak and broken. He has always seen me as strong, smart, and resilient. I was not able to see what he saw.
I was only able to see the wounded little girl, cowering in the corner from life, and everyone in it. I was only able to see the hurt and the abuse and the loneliness. I was only able to see someone weak and sad, broken by a lifetime of abuse and injustice.
And in this past year with him, I have begun to see what he sees. Someone who didn't submit to defeat, no matter how gross it got. Someone who fought, every step of the way. Someone who continually took steps, no matter how small or frightening, to do what needed to be done to survive, overcome, and prevail.
And I have.
I have cut ties with the people who hurt me. I have refused to allow anyone to stay if the couldn't treat me with respect and dignity. I have forgiven, moved forward, and refused to allow a lifetime of cruelty turn me into a hateful, vengeful, or otherwise unpleasant, unhappy person.
If that's not strength, I don't know what is.
And I am so in love with the man who came into my life, and showed me these truths about myself. Who loved me at my weakest, and hung around long enough to see me at my strongest.