Loneliness

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Assignment for class:
List one thing you are experiencing that you never expected when you left your abuser, explain.

Flipping off the lights I listen to the humming of the overhead fan. As I crawl into bed, my head lands on the big white fluffy pillow the day’s events randomly run through my thoughts. I turn to speak stopped by the emptiness of the other side of the bed. Remembering no one shares my covers with me anymore. Turning back I continue listening to the fan until my mind stops and falls into a restless sleep.

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The evening news has a ridiculous report I call out your name to share the stupidity, abruptly I stop, recalling no one is here. Gossip at work, craziness downtown, something broke my heart, stirred feelings of happiness; these go unshared. Hours of being alone watching TV, discovering new music, no hand to hold, no lips to kiss, no snuggling on the couch or smile that melts, these are the moments you don’t realize you will crave.

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You get a divorce thinking life will be peaceful and satisfying when loneliness pounces on you like a lion. A majestic roar deafens your sense of accomplishment. The nothingness sinks its teeth into everything you do; feasting on your contentment. Lying in the shadows he watches waiting to creep into the darkest the deepest depth of your soul. Borden sets in attacking any glimmers of hope and shredding any peace. While the shadows of night fall, Loneliness snarls.

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It’s Just Us

On St. Patrick’s Day I always make Corn beef and cabbage. It’s kind of a tribute to my Irish heritage. A week before St. Patrick’s Day I asked my son if he could cook it because I work a 10-hour shift. He replied, “Ok, but it will be just us are you sure you want me to cook it for just us?” I told him he was right it made little sense to cook a holiday dinner for just the two of us.

I went to work, and it kept gnawing at the back of my mind. So what are you going to do Teri quit celebrating holiday’s because you’re not married anymore? What about Christmas and Thanksgiving?

Friday night at D.V. group I was still irritated with the situation. When my turn came around I inquired how other ladies handle holidays. The answer was disheartening, most had similar reasoning and agreed that it didn’t make sense to go through all the hoopla for just them and the kids. They were too tired, or it cost too much and how they can’t do everything. After several women gave their opinion Karen asked what I thought of the feed back. Weird question from her.

My forehead scrunched up with confusion, “Why? Did we only do it for him?” I was staring at the light hanging from the ceiling. “Yes, I can see now that even after we leave, they still win. We quit living.” Taking a deep breath I looked around, “Why would I be too tired to do all the hoopla when I just have my children to celebrate with and not be too tired when I am living with someone who drained the life out of me?” I looked at Karen, “Why is it if we are no longer with our abuser we are no longer a family?” Slightly shaking my head, “I’m sorry, I really think I need to live even if he isn’t there. My family is me and my kids right now! Why would I give us less than I would him? Personally, I will not let him win by only existing without him.”

Karen smiled at me, “You are learning a new way of thinking.”

My son and I feasted on the Corn beef and cabbage he made. It was just us and we had a great dinner.

Oregon, My Soul

In the 8th grade, my parents moved us from Myrtle Creek, Oregon to Carlin, Nevada. My Uncle Jim owned a drilling company and my father would work for him. During the move, Dad and I rode in a U-Haul truck on an endless stretch of a deserted highway.  In the distance, I spotted Doherty Summit or as my family calls it Buzzards Gap. The summit stood massive and barren. Looking, I wondered ‘where are the trees?’ I turned to dad asking about the trees. He responded, “there aren’t any, just sand and rocks”. My expression prompted dad to say, “it’s not very pretty, is it?” I shook my head no.  He proceeded to tell me how things will look different in our new town. As he talked, I began to understand how much my father loved Oregon. He wasn’t talking about where we were going, but what he was leaving. He painted a picture of Oregon’s beauty, joked about the people, shared his family connections and memories. In my 12-year-old mind, I began to grasp the deep love between my father and Oregon!

We returned to Oregon a year later after graduating from high school I moved away, returning in less than a year. A short time later our family moved back to Nevada where I married someone who didn’t share my love of Oregon. My next trip to Oregon was 20 years later with 3 more visits in the years to follow. As my massive family slowly dwindles, my continual prayer is to go home.

The minute I enter Oregon I become overwhelmed with emotion. It never fails as my car climbs the winding mountain passes tears will brim my eyes. Sitting in the passenger seat I’ll watch the trees grow stronger and taller. The forest grows thick only allowing me glimpses of her deep blue lakes. The sights, the sounds, the smells begin to confuse my thoughts with a mixture of memories and familiarity.  I try to share what’s happening, but the words choke in my throat. Climbing down the other side of the mountain, there are farms with rows and rows of freshly tilled land. Cows will be gathered in the corners of pastures. The closer I get to the town I call home the worse it gets.

This town holds my youth, my history, my childhood dreams. As I drive around, I see the past. My schools. My old homes.  Every corner brings familiarity. A wrong turn brings back lost memories. If I look closely, I can see ghosts. In our old home, my mom tends her flower beds while my brother’s tinker with their bikes. At my grandparent’s farm, grandma is feeding her chickens while grandpa mows. There’s the cafe I worked at in high school if I gaze there’s me as a teen waiting tables. In the green grass in front of my high school, my friends and I sit laughing, teasing, living out the day-to-day drama of teenagers. The foundations of my opinions were shaped here. What was to become my life was started here.

The first place I usually go is to one of my many Aunts houses. There is nothing better than being wrapped in someone’s arms who unconditionally loves you.  A woman who’s genuinely happy to see you.  A person whose eyes bring back pictures of ancestors long-buried. There will be laughter, food, and stories of days gone by. The stories I’ve heard a million times, but my soul longs to hear them a million more. I will be made to feel important, cared about, and loved beyond measure. I am connected.

Another place I will visit is the Roseburg Memorial Cemetery, I know weird! I love that I can go to one cemetery and visit both sides of my family. I sit by my father’s grave and visit. I say hi to my grandparents, uncles, and aunts; it’s strangely comforting.

Eventually, time runs out. Reluctantly, I start my trip home with every mile my heart grows heavier. By the time I reach the state line pieces of me are missing. Once again I’m disconnected.

Why aren’t you afraid?

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Almost every Friday I set with a group of women who like me are victims of emotional and physical abuse. This is a closed group with strict rules: be faithful, honest, and listen to the feedback.  It’s a tight group with a committed core. I sat perched waiting for the talking ball to be passed to me. I usually come in and say little, but tonight there was a plan, I wanted to vent…..

I received information that D is setting himself up as a victim. He told his transgender group I am leaving him because of his chosen lifestyle. He’s never mentioned to them his conviction of domestic violence. I’m sure his affairs or the years of gaslighting me until I began to believe I was crazy never came up. He told his family that I am leaving him because he doesn’t make enough money. Twenty-nine years of marriage and over twenty jobs with years of unemployment, yes money was an issue!

Yesterday was the last straw I damaged my van, the second I pulled up in front of my house he was waiting on the curb. I watched as he paced around the van, arms crossed, eyes glaring at me. I joked with him, “Aren’t you glad I’m getting the van in the divorce?” It was met with a cold face as he muttered, “I haven’t got any divorce papers.” His response is confusing, it’s illogical. One would assume only the person making the payments on the van would have an interest in the damage. What isn’t understood is that D thinks of me as property and anything of mine is his.

I sat listening to a young woman who had attended about three meetings. We had spoken a couple of times after group. As she spoke she reminded me of myself about 10 years ago. I was thinking, I hope she gets out sooner than I did. With no warning, she looked me in the eye and asked: “why aren’t you afraid.” She tossed the talking ball to me. Startled I half-heartedly laughed, “I’m afraid, very much so.  I’m afraid of everything: to write a blog, of losing my job, of not paying bills, of what people say, of disappointing my family, of my kid’s opinion of me, of the silence when I enter the church, of his silence.”

“I can see what’s going on around me. I sense the escalation; his panic with every box packed. He yells at our kids, my dog, and inanimate objects; anyone, anything but me. I’m like the forbidden fruit. His anger management class training is being stretched to the limits. I realize if he crosses the line he won’t stop. Knowing he feels he’s losing control and all of this adds up to a ticking time bomb.” The talking ball rolled back and forth in my hand I sat silent for a while before continuing, “I made a choice some time ago, that no matter what he did I would stay with him until my children were out of college. I wanted them to have a chance at a great life. I wanted them to have choices. I chose not to tell anyone what was happening. If people regard him as a victim and they can’t see through the layers of lies; that’s their problem, not mine. Don’t know what will happen in the next couple of months if he’ll let me slip away or if he will snap. I am afraid” I stopped and focused on trees outside the window.  Lowering my voice I continued, “I also made the choice he wouldn’t do it anymore. God gave me peace with this decision, my pastor blessed it. For this change to happen I kept moving forward with my fear.” I looked her in the eyes, “You need to keep moving forward with your fear. The fear we share is of the unknown because we both know it can get worse. How many times have you said ‘it can’t get any worse’ just to go to a new level of hell? I came here tonight to vent, but now I realize it was a step backward. People will think what they want. If I stress over my ex’s behavior it won’t accomplish anything except maybe make him happy.”

She asked, “How are you moving forward?”

I shrugged my shoulders, “I don’t know. I pack hoping God has a place I can afford.  I pray though in my heart I believe God favors D. I force myself to do things that will make me more independent. God whispers and I listen that’s it.”

After the meeting, we exchanged phone numbers. I promised to text her every day.

I left focused: my fears in one hand, my goals in the other, and my ears on God.

Who does that?

After working a day shift then covering the graveyard, I crawled into bed at 5am. Luckily it was still dark. My goal was to fall asleep before the sun rose. I can’t sleep if the sun is shining and I had to be back to work by 11a.m.

7:30: I woke up to “What time are you getting up?”

I mumbled “10”

“I need to wash the pillow cases”

Seriously! My eyes flew open, dam, the sun!

I lay silently as he strips his pillow cases. He must have thought better than to even try to touch my pillows. Glaring at the ceiling I knew I might as well get up. All I could think was who does that?

Smile Sis, life is just waiting on you

 

 

When you get a divorce you worry. How am I going to pay bills? How am I going to repair the van? What will people at church think and how are they going to act? Do I care? Then you focus on how you failed.

The day before I filed these were my thoughts. However, on the day I filed I realized that women like me have a whole different reality – we are alone. We have no close friends. There will be no one deciding whose friend they will be, mine or his. There’s no shoulder for my tears. I needed contact with people I knew wouldn’t judge me, so I text my brothers and called my sister. She encouraged me that I was doing the right thing; that this will give me a chance to be happy, but I couldn’t touch her. I needed to look in her eyes. I sat in my car searching my brain for one person to share my sense of loss. I wanted someone to hug. Someone to listen.

What do I mean by women like me? I spent 29 years married to a man who was abusive, mentally and for a while physically. For reasons not to be discussed here, he wasn’t able to make and keep friends. When I had a friend visit he was in the middle of everything: our conversations, projects, or he pouted about being ignored. I learned to have my friends over when he was working but when I went to work that was no longer an option. Over time, my friends dwindled away.

As I drove to work feelings and thoughts rushed into my head. Are you crazy? There’s no future for you! Is this better than staying?  Is this my life now? For months I prayed, planned, debated, and agonized.  I dreamt of the sense of relief that would come on this day – but instead, I felt isolated and overwhelmed.

After work I attended group, watched a movie with my children, trying to adjust to what I was sure to become the new normal. As I crawled into bed, my phone lite up. It was a text from my brother, Matt, saying “Smile, Sis. Life is just waiting on you.”

Then I realized I needed to find my life, instead of waiting for it to find me, I needed to find……’me’.