Image Credit (here)
In the last week, I had one of those Facebook “Day in the Past” reminders, and it was a day five years ago, a picture of my babies dressed in matching cotton dresses, DD2 really just a baby, toddling around barefoot, with her palm tree pony tail sticking up from the top of her head. DD1 still in preschool, her cherub face grinning, she would be bridging to kindergarten, just a few months later…
And this particular day had a profound impact—it was the beginning of the domino effect that got me out of my abusive relationship with my ex husband.
See, the picture was taken at DD2’s first birthday, a huge celebration where I live, akin to a wedding, where family and friends will come, some having flown in from thousands of miles away.
And the night before that picture was taken, my Ex had a huge fit, yelled and screamed at me, accused me of locking him out of the planning (?!@$ we’d been talking about it for months, I’d run checklists by him for weeks). After the children were in bed, he laid down in the floor in our spare room, looking at the ceiling, refusing to acknowledge my presence, or discuss details (his extended family were here, and my extended family had just arrived days before), and I was crying, begging him to please forgive me, that I was so sorry I made him feel that way. He never relented, I went to bed alone, not knowing what I’d wake up to. (Actually, quite mild in the grand scheme of things).
The next morning, we went to the birthday party, and it was a huge success, because all of my people were there helping, emceeing, or doing the prayer, or doing the fortune telling game with DD2, who could pick from four items (a piece of money-wealth, an abacus-scholar, a feather quill-artist, yarn—long life), and she picked the money, and the ex was so happy and everyone laughed. All the pictures from that day showed a “normal,” loving, happy family.
Except, I knew it wasn’t true. And with my extended family weaving in and out and being surrounded by their loving faces and kindness, something in me switched.
When the festivities ended and people got on their planes and flew away, I slowly started reaching out to them, my friends who I’d known for years and years and years, and my family. I asked them, what was it like when they argued with their husbands? What was it like when their husbands got angry, how did they express their anger?
1) No yelling, or very little yelling.
2) No name-calling.
3) No swearing.
4) No breaking things.
5) No hitting.
6) No pushing or kicking the children.
7) No choking or throwing family animals.
I remember one girlfriend of mine told me that her hubby—was so aware of his size (ex-football player, in fact, he left his varsity team in high school because he just wasn’t into hurting people) and how scary that could be to other people, that he was extremely careful on how he expressed himself when angry.
I still, to this day, feel like this can’t be true somehow, that it’s some kind of illusion. Doesn’t everyone yell, swear, hit, throw, scream, when they’re angry?
But I believed them. I got myself back into therapy. I started sharing with my therapist and closest confidantes what was happening. I shared with two of them my diary of all the explosions since DD1 was born. They told me it was frightening—I remember that word, “frightening” as a jolt. And one friend referred me to my attorney—and so began a long and tortuous journey, which started with the TRO because of his threats to put a bullet through my head and murder DD1 in her sleep; and one where I now have full physical custody of the girls.
But that picture—it was taken five years ago. FIVE YEARS. I sometimes laugh, thinking, gosh, by now, a shiny, healed Jane 2.0 version would be out. And yes, I’ve come so far, maybe not shiny, but definitely not as broken, and at other times, a word, a text, a nasty comment, will send me reeling. Back to these old days.
I still ask: is it true the people express anger without violence and nastiness? Can people really not yell and scream and swear when they’re angry?
So I guess that’s what I mean about fumbling towards healing. Doing my best. I don’t have the answers, but I’m beginning to learn that these types of behaviors are the exception to the norm.