Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My Not-So-Great Escape OR My Anniversary of FREEDOM

Today, February 24, 2009, is the four-year anniversary of the day I left (read: escaped) my abusive second husband. It was a day, not unlike today... sunny and seasonably warm for a Utah February.

Because I had chosen to stay with him as long as I did, I had lost two jobs, my two older children, a house and a cat; had TWO cars repossessed and another paid off car sold for scrap; been evicted from two apartments; had gained a criminal record; had sold or pawned nearly every piece of furniture, appliance, electronic equipment, video, dvd, cd, and piece of jewelry I had owned; had been reduced to rummaging in garbage cans and dumpsters for aluminum cans to recycle for cash; and worst of all had very nearly lost my SELF.

Because I'm not feeling up to re-hashing all this today, I've decided to post the first two parts to an autobiographical short story I began writing over three years ago. Note: The cards that are mentioned in the story are cards in the "Osho Zen Tarot" deck my ex was completely addicted to (meth-induced psychosis) during the months preceding my leaving him.

(Rebuilding a Life in One, Ironically Simple Step)
Part One - In the Taco Bell House

He’d lost his mind. No question about it. Megalomaniacal fantasies; paranoid delusions, the whole big, hideous ball of wax. She had plans to leave; spent most of her days packing. But there was always something! Something that kept her there just a few more days. The days had stretched out into weeks and then into months. The children were gone now (until she could secure a place to stay and move everything). Lucky them! She had brief reprieves from his psychosis. He would periodically leave her to go on his “adventures” – sometimes with other women. She was almost beyond jealousy now though. She almost wished he would find someone who could put up with the constant constant of him and save her from having to be the cold, heartless bitch that she was building up the strength to be.

She knew for weeks she must leave, lest the insanity obliterate her also. Sleep deprivation and hunger distorted her thinking. She was oh so tempted to fall into the “can’t beat them – join them” thinking error that was partially to blame for the situation she was in at this moment. She couldn’t afford to; not with the children hanging in the balance. She was perpetually responsible that way and she hated herself for it. No sense in bemoaning the pathological personality that simply was her cross to bear. It was part of her core – couldn’t be changed. She’d spent most of her life in a constant state of worry, as if she had the power to change the natural course of fate. It seemed to be both her pass-time and passion, the worry. She trusted no one now, including herself. There was a time, in what seemed to be her previous life, when decisions were easy for her. Never one to ask for advice, let alone take it, she simply made her own way. But now – now she couldn’t even decide in which box to pack the summer clothing. She was paralyzed with fear and worry. She kept going through the motions despite it all.

And throughout, he was there, like a mosquito buzzing in her ear. A huge, malaria-carrying parasite draining her of all she once was and all that she may have been. Everything was a battle with him. Everything took so much longer and was so much more difficult and unpleasant. His latest whim was that his deck was tainted. She let him rattle on; it was easier if one did. It seemed as if maggots were crawling behind her eyes and under her skin. Not a damn thing she could do about it. No car; no money for the bus; winter outside. She was trapped again. The cards needed to be cleansed. This was the priority now, and she would simply have to humor him if she wanted any small amount of peace today. He instructed her to draw a card; it would be her card; hers to keep. This roused her interest a little. She thought that she would love to draw one of the important ones - one of his favorites – and forever leave a void in his deck. She was good enough at this “game” she thought she just may. She almost hesitated, thinking that with her luck she would most likely draw Schizophrenia and be metaphorically hanging by her fingers and toes from those cliffs forever. She carefully turned the card over and saw that it was Trust. She thought that this had to be some kind of cruel, ironic joke at her expense. Of all the cards, she drew Trust! She reminded herself that the cards don’t lie. She was meant to draw it, as strange and inappropriate as it seemed. It most certainly wasn’t one of “her” cards by any stretch of the imagination. However, she was somewhat pleased with herself for drawing one of “his” cards. She wore a little self-satisfied smirk on the inside when he stated that he didn’t know how the deck was going to work without Trust. She personally didn’t give a flying fuck how the deck was going to work. She had grown to hate his obsession with it long ago.

Part Two – With Strangers and Family
After a frenzied and exhausting move of her possessions, she arrived at the shelter with her two youngest children, looking much like a survivor of some disaster. In many ways she was. Fearful of living among people she did not know; of not being independent; of leaving the warm comfort of the chaos and bedlam to which she had grown accustomed, she accepted an offer of help from one of the volunteers to help her take her things to the room she would share with her children. This in and of itself was a huge step for her. She almost never asked for help and rarely accepted it when offered. She prided herself on her fiercely independent nature. But now was not the time for pride. If she were to ever see the light at the end of this tunnel, she would have to force herself to impose on others just a little bit.

As she unpacked her belongings and those of her children, she came across her "Druid Animal Oracle" deck. She couldn’t think of the reasoning behind her bringing it instead of storing it along with most of her things, but she unwrapped the cards and there on top of them was Trust. It stood out as it was smaller and much more worn than her cards. She kept it out as she rewrapped her deck. She placed Trust on the top of the small dresser along with a blue stone he had given her. Just a fish tank stone really, but it held its sentimental value despite. There the card remained, as a daily reminder for her to “trust”. Some days it was almost laughable due to the fact that she was hiding so many secrets from so many people that she felt as if she could trust no one. But she made friends easily in this place, and she reached out to them a little. She began to divulge in her once favorite hobby (worry) a little less and began to smile a little more.

After a month, her time was up. She left her new-found friends and she moved into a motel; then another. The card had once again been wrapped up and packed with her deck and she did not bother to set it out as she knew these “homes” were extremely temporary. She had one weekend left in this motel and had hesitantly made arrangements to stay with her brother and his family for a few weeks. There was a knock at the door… papers served… "FAILURE TO PROTECT" they read... and the floor began to crumble under her feet.

She spent two days at her brother’s with the children before the court date. Another blow. Her babies were gone. Déjà vu, only not. The floor disappeared from beneath her; the walls fell around her and the roof caved in. Six years fell like water and she was here in the ruins of a life she did not even recognize. Homeless, childless, jobless, penniless and without a vehicle. She wanted to give up; give in; fuck up and forget everything. As always, that voice of responsibility in the back of her head began to nag at her and her will to fight returned almost as if it had never left her.

She reluctantly accepted her mother’s offer to clean her house although the very thought of spending time in that house with the woman who had taken her two oldest children made her nauseous. She told herself to suck it up; she needed the money. It seemed that she spent her days of April and May in the rain walking to and from and waiting at bus stops while attempting to accomplish all that “they” expected of her before her youngest two children were to be returned. Some days her pants would be soaked up to the knees and her toes numb through all three pairs of socks. She didn’t mind much; the physical discomfort was nothing compared to the emotional and mental anguish she cycled through daily.

She looked for work and would begin to have panic attacks as soon as she left the agency. However, each time the episodes would be shorter and less intense. She got into the habit of telling herself that when the time was right and the right job came along, she would be hired; that she could indeed make it to all the appointments and counseling and classes “they” expected of her; there was a way, and it would all work out. She reminded herself many times daily that as long as she kept moving forward in the right direction, she would be taken care of. Don’t think she didn’t cause herself many, many setbacks by continuing to have contact with him. Her addiction to him and his trauma and drama seemed to be her biggest weakness. Most times when she chose to spin her mental wheels and exhaust herself with worry, it was over him.

This is a scan of my Trust card. I still have it. My trust (or FAITH) in my Creator is the only thing that saw me through these dark times.

God, grant me the SERENITY
to accept the things I cannot change;
COURAGE to change the things I can;
and WISDOM to know the difference

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