Funny thing, time. One would assume that pain would lessen over time. That memories would fade and their sting become dull. But, it seems that as time goes on I feel more unsettled. When I first ventured out on my own, everything seemed like a bad dream. My recollections of what had transpired with my husband seemed fuzzy. Perhaps it was better that way, at the time. As I struggled through the semantics of living on my own, I had to focus on the task at hand. Now that I feel stronger, the memories are slowly coming back to me. And as I remember more, I have to think more. I think about how my husband was able to manipulate me into thinking that I couldn’t make it on my own. That, somehow, I was dependent on him to keep going on. I thought that I was totally dependent on him for support. Emotional support as well as financial support.
Today, there was an “incident” at the gas station. The large SUV ahead of me stopped in front of the first pump, without driving forward to the empty pump that had just been vacated. As it parked and I saw their car door opening, I tooted my horn so that they would move up, which they did. So, I pulled forward, parked and got out of my car to pump my gas. A man climbed out of the SUV and came towards me, “Was that YOU that honked?” he asked incredulously. I could see that he was itching for a confrontation. “What’s it to you?” I asked. “What’s it to me?” he laughed. All I could see was a man who thought it was acceptable to purposely intimidate a woman, a stranger, almost half his size. “Go to hell. Guys like you are a dime a dozen who think they can abuse women. I’m just glad I’m not your wife, or daughter or sister.” I said and then I turned back to the pump. I regretted it the moment I said it. It was pointless. He didn’t care. And, why exactly did I care what he thought, one way or another?
I think back to the years I spent with my husband. Despite all the unbelievably cruel and hateful things he said to me, I felt obligated to stay. Why is that? I have always asserted that it was because I wanted to do the right thing. I thought divorce was a sin, so I stayed. That was true. But, it’s not the whole truth. The truth is, I was afraid to leave. I was convinced that I couldn’t make it on my own. I thought that I was so financially dependent on my husband, that I could not support myself and my kids. I also thought that I was somehow reliant on my husband for my safety. I was afraid to go anywhere by myself at night for fear that I would be attacked. Attacked and unable to defend myself. It doesn’t make any sense now. I needed my abusive husband to defend me against unknown, imaginary assailants.
In my last counseling session there was a moment when my counselor asked me a question. I told him that I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to tell if someone was manipulating me. He asked me if I was sure that he wasn’t manipulating me. At that moment, a feeling of panic came over me. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I’m not even sure what I was scared of. I certainly wasn’t scared of my counselor. The fact that I couldn’t answer him right away frightened me. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to discern that a man I might meet is abusive. When I was at the gas station, I was afraid that I would let a strange man treat me abusively. That I would back down without a fight and allow him to make me feel worthless. Just like my husband used to make me feel. I felt like I had to prove to myself that I could stand up to a man who was being abusive. I could have handled it much better and tried to diffuse the situation instead of antagonizing him. But, I just didn’t feel like it. At that moment, I just wanted him to know that I wasn’t going to let him run roughshod over me.
Over the weekend I attended a ladies movie night with some women from the church I’ve been attending. They were all very pleasant and I had a good time. There weren’t any deep interactions. Just some light hearted fun. I find that I’m not very good at light hearted. Not any better than I am at confrontation. Relationships have always seemed like more trouble than they’re worth. I’m not sure what to say, what to do or how I’m supposed to respond to people. I have spent the last fifteen years just surviving. It seems that it’s time to do more than just survive. It’s time to start living. And if that involves messy, confusing, awkward relationships then so be it. I don’t know all the answers, so I’ll make it up as I go along. If I get hurt then I’ll pick myself up and keep moving on.