Yesterday was fine, a short day. Today was a very long day. I was tired from the second hour, made it through lunch, followed by a very difficult client. Not that she was particularly difficult, but her disabilities are making it a real struggle for her to stay on task, stop lying and it is stressful for both of us, to be sure. However, we finally did some decent work and it is my hope that I have encouraged her to be more comfortable with her truths, instead of taking whatever refuge she can find behind the wall of lies that helps her to avoid dealing with everything.
This work is exhausting. I love it, even when I can barely drag myself home at the end of the day. Oatmeal with cream, my new favorite. I have been eating lots of oats whilst I have been sick. It is super easy to make, is filling and comforts me when nothing else can.
It has only been a few days since I poured that first, luscious layer of half & half on top of a steaming bowl. It was amazing. I mean, how can I have gone more than six decades without knowing the divinity of dairy and grains? Who knew? Why has no one ever shared this with me? Why? Why? Oh, why????
Anyway, I never would have had the stuff around except that it was my intention to make my version of that Tuscan (I think...maybe...pretty sure) creamy potato, kale and hot sausage soup. I never felt well enough to do more than shop for the ingredients, so there is the half & half, just sitting there, going to ruin and eventually down the drain, every gloopy, sour, separated drop. Yes, I know what it would have looked and smelled like. I have wasted cream before.
But, not this time. Man. I had it for dinner again tonight. There is an unequal relationship between the remaining oats and the carton of half & half. I will run out of oats first. Then what? Buy more oats. Then need to buy more cream. More oats. More cream.
How long does it take to have the oatmeal and cream come out even? I am already old and am wondering if I have sufficient years left to bring this to resolution. I suppose that I could start having some of the cream in my morning coffee. Gah! No! Sacrilege!
Wow. That was a close one.
I went back to attending the domestic violence support group last night. I am still afraid of being outside when it was dark. I am still struggling with not only dealing with what happened to me, but it is so distressing to listen to the stories of the other women. I promised my therapist that I would really and truly try to go back, and I did.
I am certain that this is supposed to make me feel proud or strong or some damn thing. I admit, grudgingly, that I do in some measure. Doing this again is surely better than not doing it. I get that. Several months ago, when I was doing decent work on all of this, was getting close to some of the worst of it, well, it was too much and I quit everything. When I was ready, when I thought I could get back to doing what I needed to do and put an end to simply going along and stagnating, I did reenter therapy and last night was my first time back to the support group.
If I am going to stay honest about all of this, I have to admit that last night was fine. Maybe more than fine. The woman who leads this group asked me some pertinent questions about my process of recovery as was related to what two of the other women were sharing. I answered as clearly as I could and it helped the discussion. I am one of the few women who return to the shelter for these groups and I could see last night that my experiences have the potential to help women who are going through similar circumstances and situations to what I did.
One of the most troubling aspects of this whole thing has been how alike my experiences have been to those of other abused people. I include not only my ex-husband and other monsters like him, but women as well. I do not personally know any women who are abusers, but they exist. I know this because during these long months I have made every effort to educate myself about what happened to me. In the process I have learned some terrible things, but every word, every book, every conversation is helping me to heal. Not much, at this point, but each little bit is forward movement in my healing and I am grateful for all of it.
Back to similarities. You know, or perhaps you do not know this, every murderer is often quite different from other murderers. Even serial killers are unique in their practices. Same thing goes for those who rob people or homes or businesses. Ditto for all kinds of terrible people and the terrible things they do.
Except for abusers. It is stunning and terrifying how nearly identical abusers are in how they groom and abuse their victims. I really sort of hate, like really despise, the word victim, but nothing else applies for those who are mistreated, misused, neglected, abused and often killed by those who are most responsible for loving and caring for them, the victims that is.
The people most trusted to love and care for us, to have our best interests at heart, who are supposed to protect us,are the same people from whom we are in the greatest danger.
You know that saying about how happy families are alike in their happiness, but unhappy families are unique in their suffering? Something like that. Well, that is largely true, but it is the exact opposite for abusers and their families. They are singularly alike in how they abuse. How they groom their victims so that the abused finally believes that they are totally responsible for whatever befalls them. How none of them, despite the rare and sad exceptions, take any responsibility for their actions. How they never believe that they have done anything wrong.
There may be those exceptions. Maybe. I have never heard of one. Ever. If they exist, no one is sharing that with me.
All I hear about, see and read are the women who are killed. The ones who stay and no one knows how they have been forced to live until their bodies are found or their husbands get careless and the neighbors and police get involved and the women still die. The women who finally find a way to leave, get divorced, get help, get restraining orders and they still die because restraining orders never saved one of those women.
Just like court orders that are defied. There is not any effective enforcement when someone in a divorce proceeding decides to not do whatever the court decrees, as in my case, so it is for restraining orders, and the saddest part is that obtaining that order is often the one thing that sends the abuser over the edge.
This country is full of women and children, men, elderly parents, disabled persons and others who live with daily, often moment-to-moment fear and pain and despair because they have been conditioned, brainwashed if you will, to believe that they are responsible for what is happening to them and that there is no help, nothing to end their suffering, nothing to save them.
They do not tell because they believe that no one will care or help them, that everything is their fault because that is what they have lived with and they do not tell because they are ashamed of their failure to just get something right, do the right thing, do or not do something, just figure out what will make things right, help them.
And, I know, with absolute certainty that some of them have tried to get help, have shared what was safe to share and have asked for someone, anyone to assist them. And, I know this because in the last few months, when I knew that I was going to die, I reached out to one of my husband's sisters and her husband for help. I shared some of what my life had been like. I asked for advice. I asked for help. I begged them to help us, to help me. They believed me, but told me that they did not know how to help. When I told them that I needed their assistance in finding help for my husband, her brother, they refused to be involved.
For me, that last moment, when I knew that that day was going to be the day on which I would not recover, not escape, that I would die, something helped me out of that house. I think that the only reason that I made it out that day is because I had never tried to leave before. I never argued or protested, never talked back, just tried to survive whatever happened. I think that I escaped because it was the first time I said that I had to leave and then I just did it. Had I hesitated, or delayed or gone back for my cats, I would not be writing this now.
And, no one would have ever known what my life was like. Most people would have been surprised, shocked by my death. They would have been the people on the news interviews who say that they never had any idea, that he was the best neighbor, the nicest person, a great guy. His friends would express disbelief that he was capable of such a thing, insist that there must be some mistake, some misunderstanding, some terrible accidental something that happened. My friends would be shocked as well, because my shame at being such a complete failure in my marriage kept me from sharing anything with them.
I am a fairly smart person. I am educated. I do important and significant work in my community. I have created programs and organizations. I have championed and supported many social service activities and programs in my town and the surrounding areas. I have won awards, for christsake. None of that public life kept me safe, nor did it facilitate my being able to seek outside help.
This work towards healing and understanding and finding compassion for myself and my ex-husband might be the most important work that I have ever done. I might not be stronger every day, but most days I try my best. I now have a life that I never, ever even dreamed might be possible. CoolCat and I are doing well, like really well. I no longer settle, but I am content to settle into my new life. I have a long way to go. Yeah.
It is enough.