I didn't know what to do. Oddly, climbing into the back of the closet in the master bedroom, arranging the hanging clothing over me so I could not be seen, made sense. I sat with my knees drawn up to my chest, hugging them tightly. A shoe or boot was wedged under my bottom, creating a dull pain and slight tingling sensation from localized numbness. I didn't move it to get more comfortable. The constant ache was comforting because it meant I was still alive, still feeling, still real.
I sat in the closet for what seemed like hours, in the darkness, listening to myself breathe. I tried to think. I couldn't. All I wanted to do was sob until the end of time. I had gotten myself into a real jam and I didn't know how to get out. Well, I did know. I just didn't think it was an acceptable life path. I feared further human disdain.
Fear. That is my Shadow. Gandolf the Grey didn't want to go into the Mines of Moria because he feared Shadow. He was so paralyzed that it nearly claimed his life on the tower in his confrontation with Sauron. Uncertain of his strength, he allowed Frodo to decide the path the Fellowship would take when they were being tracked by the eye of Sauron. Frodo led them into the mines. Shadow took Gandolf into Darkness on that journey.
I knew, sitting in that closet, breathing as quietly as I could so I would not be heard or found, that one day I would survive and, though scathed, become like Gandolf the White, having conquered my Shadow. I knew it. I didn't feel it, couldn't see it or taste it. I only heard my heart pounding in my ears as the fear consumed me once more. Because he found me. And demanded to know why I was hiding, that I was being childish - wives don't hide in closets from their husbands, they deal with the issues at hand. Husbands don't make their wives so afraid that they need to hide, bad wives run. Bad wives ask for a divorce. Bad wives call things abuse when they are afraid because they don't know any better. And that is slander and ridicule and how dare I accuse him of such an offense and didn't I know how that looked for him and how it made HIM feel?
Not once did he ask what would make me so upset that I felt like hiding was the best option. Not a hug, not a "we'll sort this through", not "i love you. Let's get help". Not a back rub or a warm meal or a pot of tea. No comfort. No love. Just more hate and hurt.
That was six months into my marriage. Christmas Time.
Fifteen years later, I finally had the strength to go into the Darkness and take back my life. Christmas Time.
Why didn't I fight for my freedom sooner? Because of religion and abuse. Divorce is against God's way. Divorce means marrying another is adultery. Divorce means sin and unforgiveness. Divorce means I made a mistake and didn't follow God's path for my life. I didn't know that divorce because of abuse absolved me of all of that. I didn't understand that my fear of confrontation and what he kept telling me was just my simple misunderstanding of his needs, was actually because the relationship was abusive. I didn't understand that every time I was happy and he got angry or sullen, it was abuse. I didn't know that abuse had eight levels. I didn't know that I suffered on all levels. I didn't know anything beyond I was being a bad christian because I was hurting and seeking an answer that wasn't God's Way.
What I ultimately internalized, inadvertently, is that religion is also abusive.
In the nine months that this blog was inactive, I was still finding my way out of Darkness. I didn't know it would take me all the way down to seeking the end of my life. The finalization of the divorce was very difficult. The judge was cruelly unfair. Not one person doesn't still shake their head in a preponderance of confusion over the judge's final decisions. It left me stuck. Stuck to continue facing my tormenter, in my home, three and four days a week and for weekend visitations with the children every other month. It has me bound to this house with his name still on the mortgage. It has me paying accrued marital debts. It cut me to the core of faith, of hope, of everything that gave me reason to live.
On the eve of my annual trip to Orlando with the ETAAM/BeTA group, I begged to die. I was left alone in my house with the children, my self-help reminders, written, taped and painted on my bedroom walls serving as one more reminder that I was never to be happy. Never. I'm not allowed to be happy. I'm not allowed freedom. I'm not allowed hope or health or healing. I had written Phil 4:3, "Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and petition submit your requests to God and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
I went to the garage, grabbed a can of white paint and a brush and proceeded to blot it out, starting with "submit your requests to God".
I proceeded to the bathroom where I had painted, "Change = Good" and "Live, Laugh, Love, Pray" They were blotted out too.
I tore down all of the mandalas I had colored for therapy.
I ripped up my "Who Am I" poster.
I scratched out all the proverbs and verses I had written in pen on whatever spare patch of wall I could find.
I paused when I ripped the drawing I made with the Chinese proverb, "my barn having burned to the ground, now I can see the moon"
I had employed tools from every faith and walk of life, every religion, every positive ounce of energy I had collected like broken shells and river rocks with marbleized patterns and it gained me nothing. I was trapped. Stuck. Never to be free. Justice had not served me at. all. Mankind, MAN, had failed me once more. And religion? It didn't save me either.
I was back in that bedroom closet, hiding, sheltering myself from a storm I couldn't protect myself from. A storm that had no end. My honesty, my kindness, compassion and hope meant nothing. It gained me NOTHING. Why be good? Why pray? Why believe? Why? There is no out. If you are meant to suffer in this life, then suffer you will.
I ripped up the drawing in a blind rage. Shreds. There was nothing left but tiny scraps to gather later. I collapsed in a heap and sobbed for hours. I was convinced I would never be happy. That it was my lot in life to suffer and endure and pay for my past sins from a former life or for someone else in my ancestry or just because the cosmos willed that I should be in the fire until I disintegrated, literally burning until I ceased to exist.
The next day I drove to the airport to pick up one of my friends from the ETAAM/BeTA group so we could drive to Orlando together. She slept in my bed with me that evening, the torment and pain still very fresh on bedroom walls. She let me cry. She didn't stop me. She didn't tell me it would be O.K. She was just there.
When we arrived in Orlando, I went to my room in the Villa, crawled into a corner of the room, half under the bed, and sobbed, begging to die.
Another amazing woman got me and held me until I could breathe.
A third woman slept in my bed for the weekend so I wouldn't be alone because I was afraid I would hurt myself.
A fourth woman gave me her beautiful scarf.
A fifth woman said I had such a peaceful nature about me, and she meant it.
I made it through the weekend. I drove home. I drove my friend back to the airport. I resumed my life. For better or for worse.
I took one day at a time, sometimes one minute. Sometimes I could go a full hour without needing to call someone for comfort and love.
The days turned into weeks. The weeks turned into a month, then two.
I was still living. Still surviving. Still breathing. I had made it through Darkness. I had conquered Shadow. I had become Jennie the White. I didn't even know it had happened. It just did.
In May I redid my bathroom and my bedroom, the hallway and replaced all the doors. All of the holes my ex had punched in, patched. The broken door jamb from his angry slamming in one fight, repaired. The house became mine. I breathed it in - my beautiful energy created beautiful things in my home. And that was only possible because I am beautiful, to my core. Despite what I have suffered, I am beautiful to my very last cell.
Summer came and with each day, as I closed and opened my new doors, as I slept in my new bedroom and showered in my new bathroom, as I swam in the pool with my children, as I breathed and lived and laughed, I found happy. A tentative, cautious, careful happy. A real happy. A happy I had never had before.
Hope followed it.
It is Christmas Time. I am not inside a church because I haven't figured out how to reincorporate that element yet, but I have life. I am happy.
If there is one gift I can give, it is that you find this HAPPY somewhere. Anywhere. Please. Just find it. And don't let it go. Do all you can to keep it. Forever.