Monday, March 19, 2012

Part Three... Or, Redemption Song

For the back story, please read parts one and two

In 2004, the Boston Red Sox were playing in the World Series.  I, along with the rest of the country, was at the edge of my seat watching.  The Sox hadn't won a championship in 86 years and while I wasn't a huge baseball fan (at the time, I didn't even have a favorite team), I wanted to watch history in the making.  It was Game 3 and the Ex came home to find me watching baseball.  He immediately grew suspicious and wanted to know who I was "f****** on the side."  His logic was that because I had a sudden interest in baseball, I was obviously having an affair with a baseball fan.  I immediately reacted and we began yelling at each other.  He was standing in the kitchen and I was in the living room when argument began.  He got so angry that he ran at me while I was sitting on the recliner.  He had his fist raised and swung at me, stopping millimeters from my face. I jumped up and braced myself.  If he was going to hit me, I wasn't going to be sitting down while he did so.  The air was thick between us and we squared off, like two warriors ready to do battle.  

"Just do it already," I heard myself say.  My voice wasn't defiant or angry.  It was exhausted and weary.  "Just get it over with."

He did.  I must have closed my eyes because I don't remember the look on his face or seeing his hand cut through the air as it connected with my left cheek.  I only saw his arm raise.  Instinct didn't tell me to jump out of the way but rather, I stood frozen.  I don't remember feeling any pain because I think I went into shock.  Time didn't move slowly but rather it felt like everything sped up.  The next thing I remember is looking up at him from the floor because the blow was so hard it knocked me down.  He was so angry and the look of hate and rage on his face made him un-recognizable.  He told me to call the police - almost like he was daring me to do it - and then I heard the sound of his truck tires crunching on the gravel as he drove off (to this day, the sound of tires on gravel makes me cringe).  The baseball game was still on and I sat on the floor and watched it for a few minutes.  The Red Sox were beating St. Louis.  My husband had just hit me.  

I didn't call the police.  I didn't cry.  I finally got up and studied my face in the mirror.  My cheek was red, but there was no blood, no bruise and no black eye.  I called a friend and told her we had a fight and lied that he had thrown the remote control at me.  I couldn't bring myself to tell her he had hit me.  He returned less than 30 minutes later, crying and begging for my forgiveness.  I held him as he cried and soothed him.  I felt defeated and dead.  I felt tired.  After that incident, he never touched me again.  We stayed together two more months.  

This is the part where I should tell a very dramatic and valiant story about me leaving him.  The story should be inspirational and display just how strong and brave I was.  Movies like Enough and Sleeping With The Enemy tell us that abused women are supposed to escape their abusive marriages with the help of an unlimited source of funds to help them start their lives over.  They heal quickly and even fall in love with the perfect man.  They eventually kill their abusers and live free from fear (in all reality, women who kill their abusers see prison time, regardless of the fact that they were defending themselves).  

Unfortunately, I didn't gather all my strength to rise above the abuse.  After all the shit he put me through, in the end, he left me.  There is a certain humiliation that goes with that part of the story -  he left me.  We had an argument one morning and he threatened to leave.  I didn't beg him to stay.  It was just that simple.  Later, he would explain that he left me in order to scare me - to show me what life would feel like without him.  His ruse didn't have the desired effect because I never took him back.  As I wrote last week, it was me or the marriage.  Prior to him hitting me, I was able to swallow the abuse and convince myself that things were going to get better.  When he hit me, I realized things between us were only going to get worse.  While I didn't leave him (due to a combination of fear, guilt, and more fear), I made the choice to stay separated.  The minute he left, I was free... and very damaged.  

After we separated - and subsequently divorced - I didn't know what to do with myself.  Of course I began going out with friends (almost every night) and enjoying my freedom.  Healing from the abuse and the damage wasn't something I was ready to begin doing - so I just pushed all my feelings down and put on a happy face.  My response to everything was "I'm fine" and I didn't let myself feel anything otherwise.  I made a lot of mistakes - bad relationships, serial dating, and the abuse continued - only it was I who was beating myself up.  The pain was dead weight on my soul.  

Mural, Balmy Alley, San Francisco, CA

For a very long time, I had no idea how to forgive.  

Forgiveness is such a hard concept to understand. The old adage to err is human; to forgive, divine has a lot of truth to it.  I feel like forgiveness is a state of enlightenment.  One has to reach a certain level of peace in order to forgive.  It is so much harder to find peace than to hold on to anger and hurt.  Forgiveness is the willingness to let go and move on.   Forgiveness is a higher level of living and often times, we say we forgive someone when really, we don't.  Forgiveness takes time and patience.

When I finally began dealing with the marriage, divorce and abuse, I spent a long time trying to forgive the Ex when all along, I needed to forgive myself.  I blamed myself for the abuse, I blamed myself for staying, I blamed myself for lying and I blamed myself for the biggest failure of all: I couldn't make my marriage work.  To this day, I still have no explanation as to why I stayed; I can't justify it but I can't make apologies for it either.  I can't change the past, I can only forgive it and learn from it.  Therapy helped, writing has helped, the Strike definitely helped.  Once I faced the abuse head on, I felt my heart open up.  I forgave myself for the mistakes I made and I even forgave myself for staying with him.  I lent myself the same compassion I would lend to a friend.  

The Ex has never apologized and never really acknowledged the abuse.  While we were together, his favorite line was "just get over it already" so I stopped trying to forgive him - I don't know if he ever acknowledged that what he did to me was "abuse."  I don't wish the Ex any harm, but I don't wish him well, either.  I hear snippets about his life from mutual friends but I really don't care about what he's doing or how he's doing.  When I see him out (which is rare), I don't feel like I owe him the common courtesy of "hello."  If I never see him again, I'll be fine and I'll never wonder "what if?"  

I was terrified to publish last week's blog post because I was afraid that some how, some way it would get to him and there is a part of me that is still afraid of him.  Sometimes I dream that we are back together and I wake up horrified.  I don't know how or when those feelings go away.  Writing about him has helped and I  have to remind myself to stay in the present: I am 33 years old.  I am a writer, I have wonderful friends and family, I am in a healthy relationship and I finally know that despite being a survivor of abuse, I am whole and complete.  I am not damaged goods.  

I still watch the World Series.  I am now a San Francisco Giants fan and I am alive.  All told, life is good.    

Next time: A Normal Relationship 

Authors note:  Thank you for the comments, e-mails and re-posting of last week's blog.  Telling my story was a little less scary because of you, Dear Reader.  Onward!  


  1. halle-fucken-luiah! and i mean that with respect! for surviving even if not "brave"ly, writing so clearly, and sharing so bravely (yes) AND now being a Giants fan!

  2. It's over and you have dealt with it and THAT my friend is what truly matters. You are alive and you are thriving, that is what counts.

    No, you are not damaged goods. You took responsibility for your past and forgave yourself for the part you played. You didn’t deserve how he treated you, what he did or any of that. But so often things happen to us that we don’t deserve. It is what it is. But we do have control over the now and how we let that affect us NOW. You cannot change the past and what you did then, all you can do is deal with the fall out from it and move on. You are doing that now that you have dealt with that all and it has set you up to be in a healthy relationship. I’m proud of you for sharing. I’m proud of you for being so brave. I’m proud that you love yourself enough to face your past. Hugs!