The day my husband left us, I watched him drive away. I craned my neck to see him turn right on the highway and disappear around the street corner. And I stood there, looking down at my beautiful toddler playing, and thought “what now?” What should I do? I looked down at my phone. Do I call anyone? Tell them it’s over? I haven’t spoken with anyone about this. What… what do I say? He was traveling hours away to another city, ready to start a life that he yearned to have without us. Wedding ring off, family [partially] forgotten.
I felt like the moment deserved some punctuation. I wanted to reach out to someone and scream it with cautious joy. I thought for a few minutes about what to do… invite a friend to visit? Potluck? Bingo night? Margaritas? Fireworks? Tissues? A tear rolled down my cheek at the thought of being alone and realizing he didn’t love me anymore. I was in so many different corners of my heart, and in all of those corners at the same time. Instead of a pop-up potluck dinner, I put my phone away and sat down with my son. I looked into his beautiful brown eyes. “I love you” I whispered to him. “I love you too also mama” he put his hand on mine, the other holding a truck. “You play with me?” I turned my back to the window overlooking the road on which my husband drove away and took the truck he offered me. “Yes of course my sweet boy. I will play with you.”
Years of emotional abuse had put me here. I have spent hours and hours over the last few months searching about stories concerning people that had dealt with (and survived) narcissistic, emotionally immature and unstable people. I scoured blogs for a story that fit mine. The truth is, to no surprise, there are so many people out there have been torn down by mean, ugly selfish people. It unnerved me a little. Why had I never ever ever heard about it or thought about it? Emotional abuse. I looked up a million definitions. Narcissism. I looked up all of the personality traits and checked them off, one by one. Emotional Immaturity. I didn’t (and still don’t) feel like I deserve to say it – that I was emotionally abused. Others call it psychological violence. It would be so much easier to say that he hit me with fists. But instead of broken bones and bruises I am left with nothing to show for the pain – the manipulation, the aggression, the yelling, the mean, vulgar words and the guilty emotions.
Today was a banner day. It was probably the most alone I’ve ever felt, but the most free, too. I felt my faith renewed in God that he has plans for me if I stay my course. I felt so very free.
Free to leave my dirty clothes in the bathroom after my shower without hearing his mouth about how messy “we” are and that “we” need to try harder. Free to leave my hairball in the bathtub drain without hearing his mouth about how even though I don’t like hairballs, I really need to clean my hair out of the drain when I’m done (and besides, who loses that much hair anyway… you need to fix that). Free to leave a can of soda draining in the sink so I could chase after my son and throw the can away later, without him yelling at me about how gross I am and that he didn’t know we were using the kitchen sink as a trashcan these days. Free to give my son a bath and not have to cleanup all of his toys right then and there to avoid hearing about how cluttered and miserable and small the bathroom is with all of those toys (you really need to fix that, too). Free to not worry about the next drama that he would create, the next personality he would bring home, the next problem he would have with me, or the next smart ass comment he would make about me, my intelligence or my weight. Free to not catch his anger when he comes home and is looking for something to explode over. Free to not watch him continue to kick me with verbal insults while I lay crying and broken in front of him. Free to not be faced with his drinking and his driving while drunk. Free to not worry about picking the wrong subject to talk about and causing him to shake his fists at me as he angrily yells things that make no sense. Free to not worry about homeowner repairs as he threw tools and cussed and screamed at us, sometimes punching countertops or walls. Free to not worry about sex and that he’d want it, even after all of the verbal criticisms and outbursts of the day, the week, the month. Free to not hear his criticism that I’m not good enough, and free to not have to make an excuse or feel like less of a person because I am who I am. Free to not worry about which promise he was going to break today. Free to not worry about what promise he is going to make tomorrow. Free to not have to change him to keep our family together (I failed) and free to not have to demean myself to keep him happy.
After my shower, I looked down at my dirty clothes and joyfully kicked them into the corner. A smile crept over my face. My son’s toys were everywhere. And I didn’t clean them up. I hung my towel on the main towel rack, where HIS had been. It will dry properly now. For the first time in 10 years, I looked in the mirror at a body that was mine and only mine. My cheating, selfish, emotionally unstable husband had given what was left of me back to myself. My body was full of my many beautiful and sad stories. Worn down and stretched by childbirth, months of breastfeeding the most beautiful baby in the world, the haggard “mom” face, aged from countless nights of baby illness and snuggling comforts for my son; the sadness and loss I’ve suffered from losing friends and loved ones to illness; and a full 11 years of taking the emotional manipulation and abuse from the man I thought would love and be with me forever. I had truly lost myself in those stories. And looking at myself in that mirror today – I had no idea who I really was. My husband had chipped away at me, broken me. In the last 6 months of our marriage he never made me cry from his arguments or drinking or insults because he had already broken me. It quit hurting. It quit bothering me. I quit worrying. But at the same time, there are so many things that were on autopilot for me. Serving him and his happiness, staying out of his way, protecting my son from his drunken rants, his harsh words and his emotionally unstable thoughts and actions. I truly was stuck. I knew what I didn’t want to be. But who am I now? Who do I want to become? I felt like I was in first grade again and a teacher was asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Except now I’m 40 and am trying to figure out how I’m going to grow [up] and trying to understand exactly how this will change me.
The house is empty. My son is sleeping in the next room and it is just us. It is quiet. There are no lazy promises, no angry words, no heartless insults, no lies and fake apologies, no aggressive threats, and no one yelling “I just can’t make you happy and that’s your problem.” No one accusing me of being too high-maintenance, too sensitive or too emotional (your period, right?). This is the new here and the new now.
In my letter that I penned to myself, the mantra that I kept repeating was to be enough. Let myself be enough. Not more striving to be someone I wasn’t. No more stressful days trying to please someone that can’t be pleased. The new here and now begins with being enough for myself and my son. And that I am.