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i saw the play

June 18th, 2014

Image 1 It’s been thirty plus years since I left my abuser. Thirty years, and still, the reminder of one moment, all that time ago, can steal my breath.

Not any particular moment. There were a lot of bad moments back then. It can be just a random memory, even a sound, or a smell, but most of the time it happens in conversation.

People say things. People who know, somewhere in the back of their minds, that you had a hard time way back when. After all this time, no one would think that an offhand comment could do any harm. Why would they? It’s not personal to them.

A young person said to me recently: “I’m doing dead baby.” I guess it is slang for being non-compliant or uncooperative. I guess they think it is funny. Not to me.

Someone was talking about an upcoming award show, and a highly rated television episode where the husband steals the baby and the wife is running after the car, screaming… “Oh, she will get an Emmy for her performance!” Exciting, I guess. Not to me. I saw the play.

No, I am not the raw, open wound that I was thirty years ago. There are things that I will never forget, never get over, and never stop blaming myself for. Some things will always hurt. That’s my reality.

All I have ever tried to do with this writing is give strength, hope, and direction to those who might need it. I want you to know that it is possible to get away, to be free from fear, and to live a life that you choose. I can tell you that it is. Absolutely. I have done it and you can do it too. It won’t be easy and you will have to be strong for much longer than you think you possibly can. The bad news is that you have to get out in order to start over. You can’t do it in the middle of the war zone.

And I know that leaving is hard, too. I get that. I was battered for eleven of the twelve years of my marriage. The first year was just verbal abuse… which I firmly believe is a must-have for someone to be battered in the first place. If you still have your self-worth, they have a harder time bringing you down.

Why did I stay so long? I lost my baby son to SIDS about six years into the marriage, and I spent the next six years being crazy. But my cousin managed to get through on a “sorry, wrong number” call and let me know that there was a safe place to go. That hope started a fire burning in my soul and eventually got us out of there.

Anyway, I got off the track there. I wanted to say that I am better, stronger and almost entirely back to my old self. I have been better for a long time. I should say that. It isn’t a new phenomenon. I’ve worked at it. But there are still moments that cost me dearly.

So, don’t expect perfection from yourself. Don’t expect that you will never have a bad moment, and don’t, whatever you do, let a bad moment, or even a bunch of bad moments, make you think that you were better off before. I’ve heard women say that. You were not better off being abused. Absolutely not. It’s so easy to think that going back would take less effort than fighting this uphill battle called survival. He might be “happy” to take you back, but he will definitely get even with you for leaving. And, quite simply, you might not survive his revenge.



the winds of change

March 10th, 2014

red

The first rose of spring has opened her petals and fairly shouted RED to the universe. We have many rose bushes, red, of course, and peach and yellow and white and pink. They are strong, independent, living creatures with purpose and joy and love to share with one another. They are beauty, and I enjoy sharing my life with them.

I’ve said before that I don’t trim the bushes down so that they are just so, I love to allow them to be wild. I let them grow tall. The beautiful red rose I saw this morning was over my head. I celebrated that for her. She is reaching for the sun and the wind and the stars. And she is amazingly beautiful.

The flowers appear so delicate, yet they survive the spring rain showers (monsoons if the truth be told); the Santa Ana winds; and the extreme heat of summer. The best thing about roses is that they thrive on healthy neglect. I don’t fuss over them. Trimming here and there.

There are no “perfect” roses or rose bushes. Each bush lives with many different stages of life and death on each branch growing out from the center. The thorns are so mysterious to me. I wonder how that came to be?

I have written before about the aging of the flower; the wrinkles in her petals, and the fading of her colors. How beautiful she is, young or old, vibrant or fading.

Their freedom is special to me. I can not explain in words, I can only reach out to you with my heart, because if you read here, you know why I leave them wild.

I do not cut them. I do not bring them into the house, to die in pretty vases filled with water, simply for my pleasure. I encourage them to live. I talk to them. Sometimes I take pictures of them. I hope they don’t mind.

They grow more beautiful and vibrant every day; until they begin to tire and long for the next stage of their becoming. I let them pass to the next world exactly as they have lived. Freely. In the sun and the wind and the rain.


brutal honesty

January 16th, 2014

carmel beach treee

your brutal honesty
and painful truth
are no excuse for being just plain mean.

do you think that you are entertaining?
or, did you really mean to say those things?

I think that i will never understand
why some folks have a need to be unkind.
Does it make you feel more powerful?
Or more important,
to have some private laugh at my expense?

and then, about that time,
my emotional museum dregs up some dusty piece of trouble
from a basement closet
that opens inward, but not out. . .

blows off the dust,
shines up the lies, and those many precious good intentions,
so that I have today and yesterday to handle
all at the same time.

No, your mean spirited truth can not destroyed me,
nor will I fall apart while you slice the very air with the
sharpened knives of your unkind words.

I am older and much wiser now,
no longer will your brutal honesty break my heart to pieces.
I can live with ugly truth,
It is the lies that I find difficult to bury,
tossing my shovel full of dirt onto the hollow casket
of your love.


stalemate

July 31st, 2013

IMG_7098

I had a dear friend once. She was originally from “across the pond.” She had a uniquely marvelous perspective on the American world. She was one of the few truly honest persons I had ever known. I loved her within minutes of meeting her. 

I came to learn that her husband was terribly critical of her. He found fault with everything she did or said. They seemed to love having company, but he would embarrass her mercilessly in front of guests. Having “been there, done that” I watched her face as he denigrated on her in the company of their friends. She put up a brave face, but I saw the tiny wrinkles in the corners of her eyes, I knew she was crying inside. I also knew that there was trouble brewing.  

At the time, I was still recovering from my life as a battered wife. I knew that the minute someone was kind to her, she would fall victim to a new problem. I couldn’t find a way to share this with her. It seemed completely out of line for person so new to their lives to be projecting the downfall of their marriage.  I did, though, share this feeling with my companion, who had known her before I did.  How do you tell someone you barely know that you know what is in her heart?  I couldn’t. I didn’t know where to start.  Today, I would have tried. Then, I wasn’t capable.

Eventually it happened. A charming man came out of the blue and swept her off her feet and out of her marriage. Unfortunately, I reacted badly. I “knew” that he was a “creep.” He had a wife he “couldn’t leave,” adult children who would criticize him if he left, and the whole miserable “will you be content to be my mistress?” package.

It was too late, she was “in love” with this man. She was, truly, helpless to ignore his attentions. She moved out of her home, filed for divorce, and took up with him. The only thing I could do was to tell her that married men don’t leave. They just don’t leave. They never leave. This I absolutely knew to be the truth. The whole situation was hopeless in my mind. But, she was peaceful, at long last. He didn’t criticize her. He didn’t embarrass her. She was happy to be second best in the life of a kind man. 

I thought she was better than that, but what did I know?

Unfortunately, I passed judgment. I didn’t like “the creep.” I thought he was using her, and when I was finally able to tell her this, she rejected my judgment. I lost my friend, trying to protect her from a man she loved. 

I wish i knew the moral of this story.  I believe that when a woman is battered (emotionally, verbally, physically, or in whatever way) that she is no longer in control of her own heart and mind. She is confused, overloaded, beaten down, and without the necessary ego sensations to protect herself.  

On the other hand, if she needs a friend, and you are her friend, it’s better to remain her friend than to criticize her judgment. Don’t leave her alone. Be kind to her. She needs you. Now, many years later, I wish that I could tell her how much she meant to me. I wish that I still had my friend.


bullet

June 8th, 2013

downtown

“If you leave me, I will hunt you down and kill you.”

Once we have found a safe place to go, taken the terrifying step to run for our lives and leave everything behind, and rested our bones for a short time, we must then find a way to go on with our lives. That means working to support ourselves, and our children; finding a safe place to live; and trying to make as normal a life as possible for all of us.

In my former life, as a battered wife, I had not been allowed to work (or for that matter, leave the house without him). So here I was, back in the job market. My skills were rusty, my brain was addled, and I jumped at every loud noise. I took whatever I could find for a while. Each new job brought new responsibilities and experiences. Finally, I was confident enough to go after a really good job. To my amazement, I got it. The pay was good, the drive was lousy, but we would be better off.

Every workday I drove the hour plus into downtown from our small apartment in the south bay. My car was a clunker, absolutely on its last wheel. But it was mine. I had paid for it, and no one could take it from me.

I parked at a cheap lot several blocks from my office. I would get out of my car and start the walk. Each step was a victory. I figured that if the bullet got me, I would probably never know it, but I was saddened at the thought of my two young daughters having to go on without me.

It is still painful to remember those times. I have a really good life now. But for a long time I was still making the same mistakes with the men in my life. Oh, nobody hit me, I wouldn’t stand for that, but they controlled me in so many ways. It was easy, I was practically a professional victim. I was “wired” for it.

Deciding to walk in front of the bullet was a victory for me. Taking control my own life has been more difficult even than that. Domestic violence hurts everyone it touches. So, here I am, years later, remembering and writing, hoping to help even one woman save her own life and the lives of her children.

If someone is telling you that they will hunt you down and kill you if you leave, please, please get some help, call a local shelter, call Safe Horizon, get away. Anyone who says this is not stable and may, in fact, do great bodily harm to you or your children.



dandelions and fireflies

May 18th, 2013

dandelion

My early memories of spring in Chicago are filled with dandelions, fireflies, and early evening stars. Dandelions and stars were for wish-making. Fireflies were for dreams and imagining what lie beyond the blue sky and the amazing white clouds that became dragons and horses and so many other pictures in our minds.

What child hasn’t taken that deepest of breaths, spoken that private-most wish in their heart, and blown the puffy white cloud of dandelion dust as far as possible?

I don’t remember my wishes. . . but I do remember making those wishes. l remember dreaming of days wrapped in fairy dust, stolen from dragons, and filled with the most dashing of princes on strawberry horses with shields and swords made of paper mache.

I do not wish for my childhood. It is well and truly gone, never to return. However, tomorrow, being another day, allows access to the heavens, and clouds, and secret dreams.


stupid, worthless, fat/skinny, ugly bitch

February 1st, 2013

twisted trees

“Nobody will ever love you like I do, you fucking bitch.”

If you have heard this, you are being abused.

If someone has told you, repeatedly, that you are worthless, stupid, fat/skinny, ugly, and/or completely unloveable . . . will you, in the end, believe this? If you have been continually abused with words, hatred and violence, will you, at some point, begin to believe that you deserve this treatment?

Abusers use repeated verbal attacks to break down your self confidence and strength. If you just hadn’t done that (whatever) . . . It’s your fault that I had to do that. . . Why did you have to go and say/do (whatever) and make me do that . . . ? It’s all your fault!

You are not any of those names he calls you. You do not deserve to have black eyes and broken bones. Google “shelter for battered women” with your zip code. There is someone, who has been there, who is willing to help you. If you call them, they will do everything they can to help you. If you can’t find a shelter, call your local police or sheriff’s office, they may be able to put you in touch with someone who can help.

I think that my dehydration was instrumental in my failure to fight back, speak up, get out or take off for the hills. Living on sugary brown liquids does not hydrate the body. When the body is dehydrated, all kinds of terrible things happen. I was weak, dizzy, and exhausted. Not a good place to come from if you need to fight for your life. So, please, learn from my experience. Hydrate your body, it will help you to see what is really there; hear what is true; figure our whether you need to leave, and live your best life.


the view from within

December 19th, 2012

s.rose

Domestic violence is not limited to gender, social status or income level. At this time of year, when stress is high, and higher still due to the poor economy, unemployment, looming holiday obligations, etc., domestic violence increases everywhere.

Many women do not know what to call their secret, little problem. It must be my fault. I must have done something. No. Abuse is a problem within the abuser, not the victim.

Does this torture have a name? Am I actually being abused? Is this verbal abuse? Mental abuse? What if your partner just twists your arm until you cry – that’s not hitting, is that abuse? I want to try to crack open the door into domestic hell for you, and let you get a little peek inside. That way you can decide for yourself and at least not wonder about what is happening and, whether you are simply crazy. Perhaps you will get help if you are being abused. That would be the best thing. That would be the perfect thing.

What, exactly, is domestic violence? It is just physical abuse? And what exactly is verbal/mental abuse? What does that mean? Is verbal abuse a reason to leave, even if your beloved has never hit you? What if he does hit you? Kick you? Deliver a well planned punch when you are not looking? What about slapping? Does your partner engage in frightening behavior and then demand obedience to his Biblical role as your husband? What about throwing things at you? (Yeah, the eight inch, twenty-pound phone book counts.) Is that abuse? In a word: Yes.

Does he frighten you for no reason (or for his entertainment)? Does he threaten to kill you? Or harm your loved-ones? Does he accuse you of infidelity and/or other “crimes” against him or against your relationship, for no real reason? Again, “he said – she said” is just my point of reference, domestic violence is NOT only a heterosexual problem.

Do you feel that you might be losing your mind? Have you begun to wonder if, possibly, he is right, and that you are, truly, any, or some of the names he calls you?

Have you given up trying to reach out for help? Does he intimidate your loved ones and friends, so that you are not sure that anyone would actually help you in a tough moment? Has he threatened to take your children away from you? Does he tell you that he will take them away and that you will never see them again? Do you feel totally out of control? Do you wonder what is wrong with you?

If your beloved husband/lover/boyfriend/partner creates an environment of violence and fear, such that you begin to doubt your sanity and your worth as a human being, you are, indeed, living with domestic violence.

Ask for help. Find a shelter. Run like your life depends upon it (because, in truth, it does). Please, don’t pack. Just walk away. Packing will slow you down and get you caught. Be safe first, the other stuff can be replaced.

blessings and love


my mother’s china

October 3rd, 2012

IMG_6970_2

Unpacking my mother’s china sends me back into her life so vividly. I wash and dry each piece by hand and put them away very gently.

My mother was a fifties woman. She did what was expected of her. She raised her children. She loved us in the only way that her duty to us would allow. Her words were reprimands, or instructions. The echoes of her so rare laughter are recorded in the twisted mental scrapbook of my childhood.

She managed, she got through. She raised five children. She taught us to be practical. Everything had a place. We all learned our work ethic from her. She learned to sew. She learned to grow tomatoes. She learned canning. She tried. She always gave it her best.

Our dad took a powder in my senior year of high school, and she was faced with looking for work after twenty years of being a wife and mother. She managed that too. I am proud of her. And I am so sorry that she is gone.

She was a battered woman. Mentally, emotionally scarred. Her husband was better educated, stronger and frankly, meaner than she was. The women of her generation were raised to be wives and mothers. If your husband told you were stupid, then you must be stupid. If said he was going “out” you didn’t ask why, or where.

In my mind, her life plays out in stark black and white snapshots with brittle edges. She gave everything she had, everything she was, to her family. She didn’t know how to ask for anything for herself. Who would she ask anyway?

I can’t even imagine how she came to possess these china dishes. They are so unlike her, these delicate pink pieces. There are six plates, two with tiny fracture lines in them, six salad plates, four honest-to-god saucers, and four little coffee-cups with tiny handles for only lovely, well groomed fingers to touch. I believe there once was a covered dish and a platter that belonged to the set, but I do not have those pieces.

My mother bit her nails and chewed on her cuticles until they bled. She smoked most of her life. She believed in a God who would save her. She had a life of hard work. How did she come to own this silly pink china?

As I think of it, it must have been a dream of hers. A princess sort of dream. My poor little mother, with pretty pink china, who never got to be anybody’s princess.

Lesson? Don’t give it all to your husband, or even your children. Save something for yourself. Save your honor, your strength, your true nature. Do not fold yourself into the envelope of his requirements. Do not become the empty, discarded piece of humanity that he tells you that you are.
Love yourself first.
Then, if you still have your mother, love her while you can.


butterfly spin

June 3rd, 2012

My body is not who I am.

I am not this ugly, fuzzy worm,

I am a beautiful creature,
 with wings, wait, you will see.monarch
I am a soul,
confined within a body. Or, perhaps, a body surrounded by a soul. . .
I am a soul,
 struggling to be free of this captivity.
I am a chrysalis, a worm, hiding in a small curled up space

I am ready
 to return to life, with beautiful wings, 
to wink at you, and fly away.