In my dreams, my husband loved me. He looked at me with desire, he wanted to know what I thought. He cared about me.
Then I would wake up, and know it wasn’t real. My heart would sink into the loneliness of my bed as he left in stony silence for work, or was already gone. No morning hug, no kiss goodbye, the most a grunt, a hassled sigh.
“I’m not happy.” he said, “I’m angry and I don’t know why.”
“Will you go with me somewhere to find out? To try?”
“No.” His face darkened like a storm was brewing. “I am who I am.”
Unkind words came, making me smaller, sneering and patronising until I stopped fighting back, and tried to creep inside of myself for safety. I watched helplessly as the chasm widened. The floorboards rattled with his stomping steps and his fist smashed through a wall near my head in frustration. I saw my things swept from one side of a room to the other. I felt his grip on my arm, squeezing so hard to convey his anger. I had to laugh and pretend it was so ridiculously absurd it was funny when friends noted the bruises that looked like finger prints.
I felt his rage. His rage at life. His rage at me. And his anger that no one worked as hard as he did, or could measure up to his capacity. I bore his disgust that I couldn’t come close.
He would not touch me, he would not look at me, he refused to love me, to punish me for his own dissatisfaction at his situation.
I felt so lonely, so incredibly alone and lost. I longed to connect, to smile and laugh together like we once had, but it was all gone, and my attempts to bring it back were met with “not now, I’m too busy… Do you have any idea how hard I’m working!”
I did know. He made sure I did as I hovered around his temper, trying to show him love and light. But he pushed me away, again and again…yelling, snapping, snarling…and I retreated further into myself and felt he must be right. I must be incompetent and unable to hold my own in the world, or survive on my own.
I felt tiny and sluggish, like I didn’t belong. I felt unseen and unheard and humiliated. I felt like his shadow, slinking around his ego, or his puppet, with him yanking the strings. I felt like his servant, fussing around his needs, and tip-toeing around his temper. But no matter what demands I met, no matter how hard I tried, it was never enough to reach inside his heart and soften the dissatisfaction and wildness of his tortured soul.
Then one day it happened. With the blackest eyes and booze in his veins, he spat at me with venom, “We have nothing in common!”
My heart kicked from my chest; it slithered away into a dark murky corner of the room, whimpering quietly while the rest of my body stood frozen in shock, staring at a man I barely recognised. A man so brimming with unhappiness and anger he looked empty and haunted. Tears ran down my face and he stared back impassively, wanting me to hurt, wanting me to be as miserable as he was. Why should I enjoy life if he has chained himself to work and commitments and responsibilities? Why should I ever be allowed to rest or smile, or create…or just be?
My heart wouldn’t come back, it cowered in the corner and refused to come…broken and bleeding and wounded beyond repair.
So I called for my courage. It came slowly, pressing quietly against me side as I packed my things with shaking hands and an aching hollow agony in my chest that threatened to overwhelm me. My legs gave way, I couldn’t breathe. A panic attack, they call it. How would I survive? Where would I go? What would I do…it was all so huge and scary and empty and grey and bleak. It was all too hard…but staying was harder. Staying was lonelier. Staying was emptier.
I told him I loved him, and would come the minute he wanted to seek happiness with me, to find a way to soothe his soul and hunt down his demons. I told him I’d do anything, if he’d just try to save us.
“I am who I am.” His eyes no longer met mine, “and I’ll never change.”
I did not leave my husband because it was easier. I fought every way I knew how. With words of love, and hours of prayer, messages, old pictures to remind him of who we were before the anger seeped in and destroyed us.
But I knew. After so many years, I knew. You cannot force change on a person who doesn’t want to change. Love slides off, it doesn’t seep in, against a heart of stone.
I went to the corner of the room and collected what was left of my deflated heart, stuffing it back inside me, even though I thought it was damaged forever, and would never beat the same again.
I left with fear at my back, and despair settling over me like a heavy cloak. There was no joy left inside me, no stability, no assurances in life that anything would ever be okay again.
But there was one tiny emotion left that enabled me to force one foot after the other.
It was hope.
The only thing could get me out of my bed day after day and keep me going. Hope that one day I would feel strong. One day, I would feel like me again, and be happy with that. One day I would feel worthy of love again. One day I wouldn’t be broken anymore. That I could put myself back together, and be stronger for it.
One day is hope. And one day I will find my way again, whole and hopeful and knowing who I am in this world.
I am not worthless. I am courageous. I did not give up, I fought to the end.
I am not done. I am only beginning.