Archive for June, 2012

Kiss with a fist

I’d like to make note on this before I post. I was wary at first of posting this publicly. It is highly personal. I wondered if this was something I wanted just anyone to be able to read. After some thought, though, I decided to.

Every nine seconds a woman in the United States a woman is assaulted or beaten. Everyday more than three women are murdered by boyfriends or husbands. Domestic violence is the lead cause of injury for women, more than car accidents and muggings.

I am not sure if people are aware that, statistically, they most likely know a woman (if not several) who has been the victim of domestic violence. I am not sure if most are aware of the ramifications of those numbers, of how damaging abuse (both physical and mental) can be on a person.

I survived and I have thrived, but it was only recently that I was comfortable discussing what happened. Maybe by sharing this, others will be confident enough to do the same.  Maybe by sharing this it while drive home to those who would otherwise be uninterested how prevalent and damaging violence towards women can really be.

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When we met I was relearning how to operate on my own chemicals. I was young and incredibly naive about people. I was shy, while you bounded out of nowhere to stand on a table and holler out your seeming joy to the sky. You were older than me by four years, and I am still not entirely sure how you finagled your way into school, being nineteen and all. Yet there you were, reeking of marijuana with the most mischievous grin on your face. I was flattered by your attention, despite the tentative attempts of friends to gain my interest. So, as these things go, we started dating. It was fun at first. We’d go out, smoking weed in various locations, basically being the irresponsible kids we were, or at least I was. The first signs of trouble were obvious and glaring, but I chose to ignore them, as the inexperienced are wont to do. You drank too much. I am pretty damn sure you cheated on me. I saw the note about my video camera and what the girl wanted to do with it (with you). I wasn’t a fool; I was going to break up with you. But you denied it so vehemently, and with so many tears. Then when I still didn’t believe you, you ran up the embankment towards the highway. You were threatening suicide if I didn’t change my mind. You said you were going to throw yourself into oncoming traffic. I believed you. A part of me still believes you would have. You were such a deeply disturbed individual. So I relented. I should have washed my hands of you then. Told someone. Got you help. So much would have been different if I had. Who knows what I would be like today, without the lessons you taught me? Who knows what you’d be like today, without the drugs and alcohol abuse? I have seen pictures of you now. You look terrible and I am embarrassed for you. You were beautiful, back then. Now, I am the beautiful one. But I am not without my scars, though you were always clever enough to avoid anything easily visible. Or lucky enough. You were blessed by my silence, my fear, my depression. For years. Four years I spent under your thumb and walking on eggshells lest you lash out at my seeming insolence. When did this happen? You got your own place, I remember, after you moved out of my dad’s house. You got a job at the liquor store and I stopped smoking dope. My social anxiety had come roaring back, and the weed wasn’t helping it any. You were so irritated and antagonistic. You didn’t want me to quit. You forced me into situations that made me nervous. Not dangerous situations usually, but you forced me to go to the store by myself. Yes, that was how bad my social anxiety was. For that, at least, I thank you. I learned to cope with normal everyday activities without having panic attacks. Not that I wasn’t constantly afraid. I can’t remember why you first hit me, or when, but I remember I was so shocked it didn’t sink it right away, despite my trying to get away. You knocked me down. I got up and pushed you away. I went for my purse and the door, but you grabbed my leg. Not in anger this time, though. You were sobbing, and begging, pleading for me not to leave you. Again, you threatened suicide. You swore it would never happen again, and you said you didn’t know what came over you. I knew you hitting me was wrong, but you were so pathetic. And I loved you, foolish git that I was. I pulled you onto my lap and we cried together. You laid me down and we held each other. I called in to work the next day. I couldn’t bear to have anyone see the look I was sure was in my eyes, a haunted look to match how I felt. I couldn’t have been older than seventeen, possibly even sixteen. After that things were good for a while, not that it lasted terribly long. You treated me kindly, we had fun. We drank too much on a regular basis and I stayed out too late.  My mother didn’t care as long as my grades were good and I made it to school on time. I don’t blame her for not noticing how unhappy I was. She had her own dysfunctional relationship to deal with and I never told her anything anyway. Not a word, not once. Not to her or any of my friends. Instead, I wrote about it, couching my confusion and despair in metaphor. I guess I hoped somebody would see behind my words, but no one ever did. Soon enough you started again. You didn’t beat me often, maybe four or five times all told. But you were verbally abusive. You threatened me on a regular basis. You frightened away all of my friends, and when they were persistent, you simply forbid me from seeing them. Once you even beat me before they came over. When I tried to lock myself in the bathroom you slammed me in the door, and when I fell you kicked me repeatedly. When they sat down you threatened me with a large knife while out of sight in the kitchen. You were afraid I would let something slip. Can you imagine how that feels? To be aching, horrified, and shamed, all while pretending to be just dandy? And you tried to tell me this was normal. When you weren’t terrorizing me you wanted me at your beck and call at all times. You had me so thoroughly cowed it is difficult to remember how I managed. I had shut down. I felt nothing unless it was fear or misery, but mostly I was just numb. I rarely did anything but work or go to class. I paid for everything short of your rent. You kept tabs on my bank account so you’d know how much money I had to spend. You pretended to magnanimous when you allowed me to buy something for myself. You were such a bastard. Towards the end, when you wanted me to move in, I somehow managed to sidestep you by moving into my brother’s. I said he needed my rent money more. If not for that who knows how long you would have had me in your clutches. Maybe I wouldn’t even be alive. Shortly after I moved, my brother and his wife hosted a costume party. I got smashed and wanted to talk with one of the men there. It was loud so we went upstairs into a vacant room. You demanded I leave the room immediately. I refused. You sprawled out outside the door, drunk yourself of course, to stare and glare at me. When I was done you drug me up to my room to chew me out. I told you to go fuck yourself. Multiple times. I left to go back to the party, and you, enraged, came barreling down after me. You shoved me, hard, right into my brother’s bedroom door. He was in his room, and so was able to see me as I fell backwards and slammed against the floor. You ran. He chased you only to catch you outside jumping on my car like a maniac. I wish I could have seen him beat the crap out of you, but I saw his swollen fist and it was nearly enough. I broke up with you the next day. I took the handful of things you set outside your door and never saw you again. For months afterwards I was was in a funk of confusion and shame. I was too raddled to feel relief. I was still afraid you’d kill yourself or kill me. You’d threatened it so many times. You never did, though you did break my car windows.

Slowly the damage you did faded, so that now those years are like a blur, a handful of memories from some other person.  Honestly, in a sense you succeeded. You did kill me. Whoever I was going to be shriveled under your watchful glare and eager fists. Now I am something else entirely, but I happen to like who I am- the person I have become in spite of you and because of you.

Not that I am completely healed yet. While I’ve given up my shame and guilt, my fear of saying the wrong thing or of getting close to people lingers. I continue to walk on eggshells no matter the person. Asserting myself makes me nauseous. I am closed-mouth about things that matter to me, for fear they will be used against me. I don’t fear physical violence, but I understand the importance of protecting myself from any verbal damage. I know just how lethal words can be.

But you know what? All of these things have made me a more empathetic person, even towards you. I haven’t hated you for years. I understand the situation better. You were so broken you almost couldn’t help making me broken too.

In conclusion, because of you I have a gentler hand, use kinder words. I am loathe to take things personally or judge people prematurely. I accept people for what they are, and strive for forgiveness and patience. While I fear the vulnerability of love, I care deeply for all people. I understand that everyone has had at least one truly horrible thing happen to them and so deserve compassion.

I have also learned that I deserve the same from other people.

Maybe I would have learned these things without you. Maybe I would be a stronger, more ambitious, more confident person without you. At this point, though, hypotheticals are unimportant. What is done is done, and I am more than glad to work with what I have.

And what I have is a lot.

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Ties

I’ve had a rather large number of relationships for someone my age. Not as many friendships as I’d like, but several partners, lovers, flings. So, while I am not adept at endings, I am at least familiar.

Over the years I’ve broken several hearts and crushed a few spirits, though to my credit never intentionally. I’ve thoughtlessly injured lovers, kept them at arm’s length when I wasn’t smothering them, and basically been a grave disappointment. In turn I’ve been battered both physically and emotionally, given my heart away foolishly and been thoroughly disillusioned. I’ve suffered through relationships, exalted in them, drowned in them, and drugged myself with them. These relationships have ended in many ways- with violence, relief, desperate grasping, and sometimes complete understanding. I’ve left feeling both the victim and the asshole. My partners have been left feeling angry, frustrated, lost, and occasionally deeply reprieved. I’ve remained friends with some of them despite the hurt, jealousy, and feelings of inadequacy initially experienced because of the parting. I find this preferable, though not always possible. Even clean breaks don’t always knit properly.

So, with a heart heavy with parting, a soul riddled with guilt, and a mind gagging on rationality, here is some advice from the more pragmatic side of myself. If only I’d pay the fuck attention.

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You know that ache in your chest, the sore spot that makes it hard to breathe? No one can make it go away. No one can fill the void for you. It is like stuffing a square peg into a circle. If you do manage to jerry-rig another heart to that gaping emptiness, to placate the sorrow with a fond portrait of another you will only be disappointed.
Rather, learn to love yourself, to deeply appreciate life. Only then is it nearly safe to appreciate another.
People are fickle. Hearts, desires, lust and longing are ephemeral always. Even those who care for you, those with the best of intentions can wound you deeply. Often more so.
Therefore it is best to never give your heart away completely. Love is beautiful yes, and people of course are lovely, but both are as perilous as they are dear. So always keep your bearings and don’t forget your friends, your responsibilities, your interests. You are not the relationship.
Never make promises regarding passion. There is not enough fuel in the world to keep some fires burning.
You cannot fault honesty. Be honest with yourself. If you aren’t, you can never be honest with another.
Always walk with a soft tread, speak lovingly, and touch with a kind hand. Only cause another pain when absolutely necessary. Remember that compassion and empathy are priceless in any situation.
Relationships are ever-changing. It is pointless to demand them to be the way they “used to be”. Learn to appreciate them the way they are now, change something, or let them go. Accept that sometimes letting go is the only solution.
No matter how painful, messy, consensual, or respectable the parting is it will still be difficult. It will still hurt. You will feel all those things you never wanted to feel again. You will, yet again, be that person you never wanted to be. It will pass. I assure you. You may even carry the scars for years, but they will fade. Learn from the experience and you will be a deeper person because of them.

In conclusion, to everyone I have ever disappointed, gravely injured, loved and lost- I am sincerely sorry.  With all of my heart I wish you the best.

For all of those who have caused me pain, made me rethink my image of myself, and taught me how to treat those I care about- thank you so much for having been in my life. I am the better for it.

Namaste.

Sierra