Posted in anxiety, Dreams, family, kids, Life, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, random, relationships, women

Even After all this time

verbal abuse quotes Beautiful Domestic Violence Awareness Get The Facts [Infographic]

I woke up at three o’clock this morning, and I couldn’t go back to sleep. I’d had a terrible nightmare, the kind that seems so real, where you wake up breathless- like you were running straight out of the dream. Honestly, I could cry just thinking about it right now. I dreamed about a man I haven’t laid eyes on since I was 15 years old, a man I hope I never have to see again. But for a long time, he was part of my life, and part of my family. He turned what might have been a happy childhood into years of walking on eggshells, afraid to say the wrong thing, or make the wrong face. He was my stepfather, and he was a terrible man.

In my dream last night, somehow, he was back in our lives. We were trying to get away from him- I remember desperately thinking that I should call from a different phone, pretend to be a different woman, convince him that he should meet up with me, but…even in my dream I was too afraid he would recognize my voice, too afraid of what would happen if I were found out. I was standing in my kitchen, in this house, and I could hear the sound of that particular kind of “fight”- the kind that isn’t really a fight at all, but a man overpowering a woman. I know that sound intimately. I rushed out to find him holding my mothers arm behind her back, as she swayed on her feet, looking dazed. He had his arm pulled back, ready to punch her again. My heart was in my throat as I rushed to her side, wedging myself between them, and somehow he didn’t resist me, he let me lead her into the house. This was not how the story went in real life, of course. I was little then, and I couldn’t do anything at all to help, no matter how much I wanted to.

I don’t think my mom likes it when I talk about this. I know these are terrible memories, and she wishes they didn’t exist. But I want to point out how remarkable it is that, at the age of 43, almost 30 years since I’ve even seen this person, my mind, my heart, my consciousness, can still recall exactly the terror and the pain and the helplessness I felt as a child. I want to point out that, even if I never spoke of this again, these feelings still exist in me, whether I acknowledge them or not. I do not think of this man- almost never. I don’t waste my time hating him or being angry about what he did. I figure his biggest punishment is walking around in his skin, with his memories and his broken mind.

But do I ever feel sad for the child I was, who certainly didn’t deserve to have to live that way? Of course I do. Do I ever wonder how much that contributed to my years of drug abuse and dysfunction? You bet your ass I do. How could I not? Do I blame my mother? Nope. We’ve talked about it, many, many times. She was a very young woman, trying to provide a life for her children, and she simply got in over her head. She didn’t know how to get out. The mental manipulation that goes hand in hand with physical and verbal abuse makes it very hard to tell which end is up. There are good days in between the bad days, and remember…this abuser didn’t start off being a monster. You are always looking for the man inside the monster. Sometimes he is wonderful and charming and fun. Towards the end, as I recall it, the monster consumed the man. We left because my mother began to truly fear he would kill us all.

Though he was not my father, he left traces of himself on me. I have had to learn that people aren’t supposed to erupt in rage, or terrify littler people into submission. I have had to learn how to love others without harming them. I did not know how to fight fair. I did not know you didn’t have to fight at all, not like that. I would never tolerate a man putting his hands on me- I made that promise to myself, and I have kept it. But I became the tyrant, at least sometimes, and that has been hard to know about myself. It has been even harder to overcome.

As for my mom- she has gone on to bigger and better things, and she has been successful and happy and done so many wonderful things. But for a long time, she couldn’t talk about those years, not really. I needed to talk about them. I will never forget the night we drove out along the beach, the two of us in her car, and she finally opened up to me. She told me everything I thought was real, my memories were indeed as I remembered, and she said the most important words she’d ever said to me: “I’m so sorry. I wish I could go back and change it, but I can’t.”

Forgiveness was a lot easier after that. I don’t know how to end this, so I’m just going to say this- if you are in a situation where you are being abused, and you don’t think your kids are being affected, please believe me when I tell you that they are, and they will be for many years to come. Even if it seems impossibly hard, you can leave. There are so many organizations that can help.

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

 

Posted in Dating, fun, funny, Life, love, Musings, People, relationships

A Long Time Alone

alone
Seriously, this is so true.

 

I was talking with a friend of mine last night about how hard it is, at the point in my life that I’m at, to meet someone I’d actually like to date. I mean, it just seems like so much work…basically, my best option seems like it is probably online dating sites, which I’ve tried before and it is so incredibly overwhelming that I generally peace out within a matter of days. I’m not good at having more than one conversation at a time, I don’t like it when strangers get overly familiar with me, and it’s very easy to be hyper critical when you have so many choices…and, there is the fact that I have a notoriously bad picker. I will like the wrong guy, Every. Single. Time. I used to joke that if you lined up five equally good looking men, all dressed identically, I would naturally gravitate to the one that is on parole. I don’t know why that is, but I promise you, it’s true.

But you know, a big part of why I have stayed single for so long is that, after going through SO MUCH drama in my last relationship, I finally developed some self preservation in the area of the heart. Emotionally, I’ve just been very, very wary. My judgement failed me so hard this last time, so many times in a row with the same dude…I have to admit, it’s not only alarming, but somewhat embarrassing, too. You know, I had this dream about where we were going, the life we were building, and of course looking back I can see that it was never going to happen, but I believed it for a long time. I think letting go of that dream was far harder than letting go of him. I remember, after I had found out he had been cheating on me since two weeks after our daughter was born- I think she was six months old when I finally confirmed what I already knew in my heart- I remember pulling over in the parking lot of a Round Table Pizza, and just crying in my car. I had no idea what my future was supposed to look like anymore. I thought we were a family, I thought we were heading somewhere, and suddenly everything was gone. It was awful. I just couldn’t get my head around it.

And so, I made the first of many mistakes. I left him for a while, but he kept coming back, and I let him, for a myriad of reasons. I loved him, sure, but I know now I could’ve gotten over that with distance. But also, I had a teenage daughter and a tiny baby, and I needed help. Then there was the fact that I just didn’t want to be alone, and even more emphatically, I didn’t want him to be out there, having fun, while I sat at home miserable. No, he could be there with me, miserable together. It got pretty dysfunctional. I turned into someone I did not like. And I stayed that way for a long, long time. It took even longer, after we finally split, for me to stop being so angry and bitter. I can see now that I had a part in all that happened after the first transgression- I could have walked away and I chose not to. I chose to let the heartache fester and turn into something much uglier.

So I finally broke free. And you know what I did, instead of worrying about men? I went out and I fucking got my shit together. I kicked ass at life. I got clean (again) and I worked on myself, and I worked on myself some more, and I got my finances in order, I became a great mom, I got a routine, I paid my bills, I figured out that I can hold it down…all by myself. And, as I talked to my friend last night, that’s when it hit me- I think, for most of my life, I stayed in relationships because I kind of had to. I truly was in a position, most of the time, where I only kept my head above water by the contributions of my significant other. When that is the case, it makes a lot more sense to keep trying to work it out. Certainly better than living in your car, most likely.

That’s not the case anymore. I can let go of all that past shit, because, not only do I not NEED someone, I am not the same person anymore. I think I might even be able to trust myself to choose more wisely, now. So, maybe I will, maybe I won’t. If there were some way to jump from the awkward beginning right to the comfortable middle, where you can just leave your makeup off and hang out on the couch all weekend watching TV together, I would definitely choose that. Like, skip over the hard parts- first kiss, first naked encounter, first nerve wracking disagreement, right into the comfort zone. Wouldn’t that be great?

In the meantime, if you know of anyone great, around 40, good sense of humor, kinda nerdy, kind, and SUPER patient…not hideous is a plus, but I’m flexible- send him my way. I really don’t want to do online dating.

 

Posted in family, friendship, kids, Learning, Life, love, Musings, People, relationships

Fallout

Fallout: 2. A secondary and often lingering effect, result, or set of consequences.

THE-PAST (1)

 

I have been dealing, lately, with the next wave of fallout from my choice to end my relationship. It’s weird, because it’s been nearly a year now, and I often think that if I am not totally over it, I am pretty close. Then, something will happen- a song will come on the radio, my daughter will ask me an innocent question, and a wave of grief so startling will roll over me that it is nearly panic. It leaves me questioning my entire set of choices between now and then…which is, of course, ridiculous. Anyone with eyes can see I have been a million times happier since I finally put an end to all of the chaos and fighting, the drugs and the lies, the anger and upheaval.

I am proud of myself for trying so hard, out of real love, to make something difficult work. Sometimes I beat myself up for pouring so much into something that could never have worked, but I didn’t believe that while it was happening, and the truth is, I had to know that I did everything within my power before I walked away. I think before he and I were together, I really believed that if two people loved each other, that was all that really needed to be true for a relationship to work out. I had to learn that there is so much more to it than that- for two people to be happy and healthy together, they first need to be happy and healthy as individuals, and then they are charged with the very difficult task of somehow managing to maintain that, while figuring out how to build a life together. You can love the shit out of each other, and if one or both of you is a mess, or wanting a different version of the same thing, or can’t see eye to eye in certain critical ways, it just won’t work.

I am even more proud of myself for finally finding the strength to get out. It was one of the hardest things I ever did in my life, much harder than the familiar misery of staying together. I was used to hating who I was when I was with him. I was used to being angry, insecure, mean, erratic, volatile, and sad. But it was killing me. I don’t think that when he moved out the last time I really thought it would stick- how many times had we been down that road? But I kept holding out another day, then another and another, until finally I even started believing myself when I would say ” We are never getting back together.” (Credit: Taylor Swift, LOL)

I would not have it any other way, now. As I said in the beginning- I am so much happier now. I could not undo what has been done if I wanted to, anyway. What we were, for better or worse, is over. We couldn’t go back if we wanted to.

But Autumn is upon us- my first one alone in over seven years. I don’t know about you, but Autumn is the season for families, in my mind. Spring and Summer are fantastic times to be single, but the minute Autumn rolls around, I start looking around for my security blanket. In this case, I guess mine is a two hundred pound man. Who knew?

I woke up two days ago, thinking…maybe I am ready to start dating again. Maybe it is time. That night, I was at a meeting, watching the fire crackle in the hearth, and the candles flicker on the mantle, and I thought how nice it would be to go home and crawl in bed with someone…but not really someone. Him.  Yesterday, I was out with our daughter, and I picked up some food and headed to the beach. I pulled into the parking lot just as a song came on that reminded me of him, and some horrible times he put me through. I realized that the beach we were at just then was where he had been working a construction job when we first started dating, and I would bring him lunch, we would sit on the beach and flirt with each other.

We had no idea, then, that seven years down the road we would be this- more broken than we started out. A child between us that we both loved desperately. A mountain of bad choices  and broken promises trailing behind us. A bad taste in our mouths over each other, and two broken hearts. I sat in my car and cried facing forward so my daughter didn’t see me. And I realized that I wasn’t really ready to date, not yet. I am still in mourning for what I gave up, as hard as it was, and as sad as it was, it was still very significant to me, and it was a loss I felt, and still feel deeply.

I certainly will not go back. But I will honor my grief and myself until I am ready to move on.