Letting Go

Photo by YURI MANEI from Pexels

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.

Boo to the Bubble

Photo by Lucas Insight

Some bubbles are good bubbles. Like hubba bubba and the types in spas and champagne.

But some bubbles are really, really bad. Like these covid response Australian ‘border bubbles’.

I don’t like these. At all.

I understand the importance…and to be honest it’s reassuring to know my interstate family and friends are safe. But I’m one of those on the outside, wanting to pop them.

The moment border restrictions became a ‘thing’ (I seriously never knew they even served a purpose other than to take my fruit in the Riverland), and then an even more serious ‘thing’ when Victoria went to Stage 4, I cried.

I was triggered and I felt trapped.

It reminded me that I had once been told it was my duty as a wife to leave my home state when I didn’t want to. It reminded me that the move had not been easy. That my marriage was not ideal and I had been isolated from my support people. It reminded me that my sacrifice had not paid off and my family situation had not gone to plan. That I was still outside the border bubble, even though if I’d had the chance, I’d be safely encapsulated inside.

Since leaving my home state, travelling the country roads or taking off into the skies on weekends or school holidays has been my way of finding the rainbow lining.

When I left my home state, my marriage was tough and it deteriorated further after the move. Dreaming of the next getaway to see family or friends, would help me hold on, in the knowledge that I would soon have care and love. I could get help with the children. I could get things done for me. I could be around people that knew me well and could see the situation for what it was without me uttering a word. Travelling interstate kept my head above the murky water.

Another reason getting away was imperative to surviving this difficult season was because there were never any dramas when we were around others, particularly friends. There could be a surface level facade of love, public displays of affection which were otherwise very rare, all the while creating some happy memories with the children. These would later wreak havoc on my perspective of the toxic dynamics that usually occurred, however for this time, they could temporarily be put aside. Holidays with others meant guaranteed safe family interactions.

Following the disintegration of my marriage, travel continued to be an important aspect of my healing. I could hold together my single-woman powers, as long as I knew when I could drop the superhero act and get care from friends and family once every so often. More importantly I could also control my movements with new agency. I could choose where to go and when! I could hit the country roads packed up with kids, luggage and the dog and relish in the achievement of getting this to work from the finances to the planned activities, to the accommodation. I could create authentic, happy family memories. I could be proud of the adventures me and the kids got up to and laugh at the things that didn’t go to plan. Road trips as a divorced, single mother, gave me the temporary illusion of freedom from my circumstances.

I also developed an appetite for flights and weekends away on my own, when I didn’t have my kids and the loneliness hit badly. I relied heavily on this to not feel the sting of being a part-time mother of my children. During these times I morphed into a lady of leisure…with her coat, leather boots, scarf, and cute cabin luggage. I became comfortable at hanging out alone in airport lounges, drinking lattes and reading a book. I would take off for a weekend or week, indulge myself in fun things, then come home to single parent life, content and refreshed. Loneliness crisis suitably averted…for the time being.

Travel has also been a suitable mode of escapism. Marriage break ups are hot gossip especially, and unfortunately, in Christian communities. Divorcee’s are often subject to assumption and judgement, which regrettably often displays a lack of understanding of complex relationship dynamics and the effort that may have gone into overcoming them. Then there are also the accompanying court orders, co-parenting dramas and social intricacies of managing post-divorce acquaintances who may have their proverbial feet soaking in two foot spas. Getting away from the local community, to a place where I could just be me, not the ‘divorcee’, ‘single mother’ or alleged ‘bitter one’ or ‘unforgiving ex’, was a true blessing.

A common trait of post-traumatic stress is the need to have a lifestyle that kind of floats around, like bubbles in a gentle breeze. Those who have been victim to abuse, often have a hard time maintaining deep connections to people and situations. Travel is the perfect antidote for this. They also find incredible hope and confidence in the ability to make their own choices and to have control over what they do, when it has not been an option in the past. Travel can be a healthy way to manage trauma.

So for people like me, for whom travel has been a method of dealing with what life has squirted at me, travel has been a life-saver. The closing of state borders is an unnerving experience. It has forced me to learn a new way to manage the trauma triggers related to my past, by instead finding solace at home and within myself.

I will continue to work at this but I will breathe a huge sigh of relief once the bubbles are burst for good!

Please share a comment if you have experienced any of these feelings in relation to border restrictions.