This blog has no title, because some things just don’t deserve the designation of importance.

Victim.

Look at that word. Absorb it; think about what the definition is. Merriam Webster, Collins, Oxford; use whichever you wish. Then, think about what the word means to you.

Are they two different things? If they are, then maybe you will be able to understand what I’m going to write here today.

I’m ambivalent about that word. If one takes it too seriously, one can become the very definition and be consumed by it. All it takes is too much dwelling, not enough examining, and too much isolation. I have, on many occasions in my life, been an isolationist and a runner. I will simultaneously sink down and away from reality (i.e. humans, sunlight, conversations, responsibilities) and run as far away as I can from the problem – or truth – that has caused me to isolate. There is a vast, dark chasm for me to run into, where I will stumble and fall in that inky darkness, making myself bleed and bruising myself, as I seek to escape what sent me in there in the first place.

I’m no dummy, despite my very real concern that I have not yet figured out how to not do dumb things. At 52, I really should have harnessed that beast and caged him. Spontaneous reactions are sort of a problem for me, and they are usually very bad and very consequential.

Running is my go-to spontaneous reaction. I’ve perfected it from a very young age; it saved me on more than one occasion and so obviously, I decided to use it indiscriminately. Enter the consequences of using it as a sort of crutch.

But here it is, in the warm, Fall-tinged light of today: I am a victim.

And yet, I am not.

I have related here that my marriage to The Husband is not my first. It is the only marriage I wish to acknowledge, embrace, claim, and celebrate. That makes things difficult, because my children are the fruits of a previous, first marriage to a very bad man. In trying to disavow myself from that first marriage, I have to edit lots of things out. Think of it as a sort of Photoshopped past; only me and my kids remain. Unfortunately, there are things that cannot be cropped out. Things he did to us. Each one of us.

When I say “bad man” I do not just mean that he was just a garden-variety asshole. I mean that he was – is – evil.

That’s Webster’s definition. If you’re religious, you probably think of it in terms of your Book of Outrageous Fairytales. That’s okay; it can apply and I won’t hold that against you. He isn’t evil in a supernatural way, either; he doesn’t wear a striped sweater and a fedora and chase me in my nightmares, slashing me to bits. Oh, he is in them, but I wish it was in that way, because I can fight that. The way he is actually in them leaves residual effects of anger, helplessness, and frustration that I have to see him at all, in any form. I feel like I need to immediately shower when I open my eyes; I feel soiled and achy and the stench of his presence – even facetiously – takes hours to wear off.

The things he did to me were not physical. I was not a battered wife in the sense that he used his fists. He saved that abuse for others. I wish, every day, that he had hit me. Maybe then he wouldn’t have done any of the things he did to others. Certainly, I put myself between him and the intended victims on numerous occasions, essentially volunteering myself as tribute. He never took the bait. And I couldn’t always be there to stop him. And that, right there, will be a dagger in my heart until the day I die.

No, my abuse was emotional, mental. Its residual effects will never totally be gone, and that pisses me off. It’s like he gets to keep hurting me; his power over me is still tangible.

It is in the way that, 20 years later, I still feel guilty if I am having a good time.

It is in the way that I still feel like I need to ask permission to do things with friends.

It is in the fact that I am still amazed that I have friends, and that they actually want anything to do with me.

It is in the way that I feel I need to account for my time spent on my own interests, as if I was being too selfish.

It is in the sadness I feel when I realize that all those years when I could have been creating and writing in the little bit of spare time I alotted myself, when not being a mother, are gone.

It is in the way I react when someone I love gets angry, or cross with me. The cold sweat washes over me and then the crimson heat of shame and I know that I have only two options: run (retreat) or do anything that I can to repair things and to make them like me again. It is anyone’s guess what option I’ll choose. It is a rare occasion when I will react the way I truly want to, with a dismissive “How about you fuck off?” When that happens, the fear accompanies it. The fear that they will actually fuck off.

It is in the way that I still find it hard to shut the bathroom door when I have to go, because we never had doors in that life, so that he could see us no matter where we were in the house.

It is in the way that I still feel the internal need to account for every moment of my day, in case I should be quizzed.

It is in the way that I have to recall every moment that he hurt someone else and that I was too weak to stop him.

These are but a few after-effects of being married to a narcissistic sociopath who controlled everything. I have worked hard to quash a lot of them lest they overtake my life. I vacillate between wonder and dismay at The Husband’s encouragement that I be independent. He allows me to be myself. That he doesn’t see it that way – as allowing me – is still sometimes a puzzle to me. In our earlier years together, I was massively damaged. I sought to have control because I had been told, by “educated people with my best interests in mind”, that I deserved that. I both wanted/rejected being a cohesive, 50-50 couple because while I knew that was the goal, I couldn’t help but be afraid that I would again be disappeared. That he was much more passive than I had experienced was both a blessing and a curse. Yes, I needed to find me in our life together, but I also needed some direction, some validation, and to be cared for even when I resisted the gesture. I might have been able to handle the last year or so had he taken a slightly heavier hand with me and redirected me as far away from the past as he could.

There are others’ stories to tell; they are not mine. I am a character in each one, so what I can say about them is that each story tells a tale about just how evil my former husband is. He has done unforgivable, unspeakable, irredeemable things.

He still does them. Others have come after me and mine; another wife, girlfriends; more children for him to break, to damage, to savage and to twist into his own image of deplorable behavior. He is unrepentant and lays waste to everything he touches. He will continue until he is stopped. I should have found a way to stop him years ago; that is my sin, and my penance is to see the damage caused by the pain he inflicted. I have, however, banded together with others he has wounded; we may bleed, but we are not victims.

Recently, a very bad thing happened to someone within the family because of his influence. The rest of us were momentarily reeling, but now, all we want is for there to be a resolution; justice and healing. Many hours have been spent with authorities, both law enforcement and investigators into incidents both recent and past. It is necessary and it is exhausting.

My go-to reaction to adversity has been necessary over the past couple of weeks. I’ve spent time dredging up the past and it has left me tired and feverish with self-revulsion. I cannot revisit the days, long ago, when people were urging me to take the path away from him, because to have done that would have been to never have known the honor of creating and loving five of the absolute best humans in the world. As much as I wish I could sand him out of the woodwork of my life and paint over those memories, I cannot.

What I can do is always be better. I can be loving and supportive. I can be a member of the squad that ensures that the people in this scenario who need help receive it, and the people in this scenario who deserve punishment receive that. I can continue to keep working on the parts of me that he broke; and by fix, I mean actually mend and heal, not jerry-rig with tape and Elmer’s Glue. He is a master at such things; nothing ever got fixed the right way when it was broken in our lives then because he insisted he “knew how to do that” and would come up with a temporary bandaid that always, always fell off. I will not allow my life to become a bad metaphor for that time.

It is time for him to become a teeny, tiny footnote in a life lived on my own terms.

I’m gonna need lots of help with that.

[POST-SCRIPT]

Tomorrow is going to be a sort of tricky day for me. I decided not to write a blog commemorating my mother’s passing because really…..what is there left to say?

She left us 7 years ago. There’s no changing that. I cried until I thought there could not possibly be a single tear left. Turns out that maybe I actually did go over the lifetime limit, because just look at me now, unable to conjure a single drop even while rewatching The Walking Dead and seeing my beloved Hershel die, once again, at the hands of the dastardly Governor.

What an ASSHOLE.

I’m trying, Hershel. I’m trying.

So, there it is. I’ll always miss her, and the day isn’t going to be less reflective or painful if I dedicate a missive to her memory. I’m still a bit put-off, given the discovery of her letter a few weeks ago. Yeah, I’ll be “off” tomorrow. But life is for the living, and I have plenty of that to do.

When I woke up today, suddenly, nothing happened.

The last few weeks have sucked. There’s just no other way to put it. I channel all of that suck into my writing, because it helps me to get outside of it for a while. It also helps to be able to revisit my suck-ass times and to either marvel at my ability to overcome, or to flush crimson with embarrassment – because not only was I pathetic, but I allowed you to see me in my great, big, wretched, whinging flesh suit of pitiable humanity.

Let’s get something straight right now: I never, ever want pity. My main focus, in writing about what a piece of depressed feces I can be at times, is to share it so that the like-afflicted can empathize, or realize that we co-exist on this earth together.

That we, the mentally wounded/decompressed/deranged/medicated/barely-stable aren’t alone, even though it feels that way sometimes.

That there is a stark contrast between being clinically depressed and just feeling sad.

That we truly deplore our inability to rise above the pall of gray that clouds the surface of our days.

I do know this, and it has come to me with a sort of shocking clarity: the last few weeks haven’t sucked because of anything other than my inability to totally disconnect from my past. By disconnect, I mean to sand off the suckage – the parts where I acquired painful splinters – then varnish over it, leaving a shiny new surface. I don’t seek to forget; I seek to forgive myself for bad decisions and to only see the beauty of a life that I lived.

I have to do that, somehow.

It is hard.

There are moments, and even whole stretches of time, in my past that are categorically joyous. If I psychoanalyze my past, it becomes obvious to me that my life has been a treasure chest; there are jewels and strings of gold, silver, pearl; filigrees of precious metal threads woven throughout the fabric of my life.

There is also black mold and deadly rot that has polluted the surface of some of the rich contents, and has obliterated some of the chest with its malevolent destruction.

I can scrub, disinfect, and polish the surface corruption because these are the priceless contents:

My children. My supportive family members. My good friends. My achievements. My happiest memories.

This husband.

This face alone calms and reinforces me. It also makes my knees weak and that’s after 20 years. If he keeps this up, he’s going to cause my first broken hip.

The mold and rot has permeated into my human hull, and some of it, I don’t think I will ever be able to completely wash away; not even with time, which is the best power washer there is.

The vague feeling of being temporary; that knowledge that I was, in the beginning, a bargaining chip and not a fervent wish or plan that two people made together as part of their love and desire for a future.

So what, right? I’m not the first, and sadly, I won’t be the last. This fact sees me through the moments of uncertainty and helps me to survive shitty reminders, like that notepad I discovered with my mother’s thoughts written within. You know what else? Fuck her. Fuck her for her ability to be cruel to her own child. Fuck her for fucking with my head every time I resurrect some old photo of her quite obviously loving me in my infant form. They exist. I see the pride, the love, the care. So really, fuck my dad for using her, and making her love him even though he was and is undeserving of that love. Because he took it, contaminated it, and twisted it into something unrecognizable.

Ah, fuck’em both.

The years of not being comfortable within my skin; the nerdiness, the poverty that forced me outside society’s acceptance, and the awkwardness that only dropped to the floor in my 30s, when I discovered that I was pretty.

I have been the proverbial ugly duckling; it took me decades to transform into a swan. I still see that homely, chubby girl from time to time, and I sometimes find that cloak of awkwardness pulled back up around me, but with age, you learn to embrace your unique dorkiness and sometimes you even celebrate it. So you know what? Fuck every kid who teased and bullied me.

Especially fuck that one kid in 7th grade, Joe-who-doesn’t-go-by-Joe-anymore, who told me I was “so ugly” that he couldn’t understand why I would want to even live; “You need to just kill yourself.” Thanks for the suggestion; I tried to take your advice a few months later and failed – just like you have failed at every, single thing you have done from that day forward. 52 years old and the only talent you have is for self-destruction and waiting tables. Bravo.

Fuck the family members who had difficulty with a compliment or who couldn’t keep their voices low enough so that I wouldn’t hear them say, “She’s still so homely” and “Maybe if she took better care of her skin” and the devastating “She’s gotten a little fat” (when I went from a size 8 to a 10 one summer #OHMYFUCKINGGAWDTHEHORROR). You’re all dead now, you judgmental fucks. None of you was perfect. And that ugliness was way worse than a blemish or 5 extra pounds. You bestowed upon me a lifelong distrust of anyone human, and no, I don’t thank you for that. Some of you drank too much. Some of you smoked and you smelled like ashtrays. You (yeah, you know who you were) were so damned skinny your bones were like sharp objects digging into my flesh when you would hug me. You should have eaten all the donuts. Apparently, I could have shown you how.

And some of you were racist, prejudiced motherfuckers. Your shit stank, just like mine.

Just fuck’em all.

The lack of self-esteem that led me into the arms of truly one of the worst humans who has ever lived. And then I compounded that mistake by marrying him.

Look, that part of my life could be a book. It might be, someday. It is the part that damaged me in ways that I fear I will never totally repair. It sowed doubt into my fabric, and frustration, and indignation. It isolated me, and that isolation continues to rule me in many ways. When you are conditioned, over many years, to look to one other person, and forced, throughout that entire time, to put him first, it is hard to break out of that Stockholm Syndrome of abuse. He minimized me and my feelings and even made me feel ashamed. He slept with another woman the night our first child was born. The writing was on the wall right then, 10 feet tall and neon, but I let myself listen to his denials and insistence that the people who told me “had it in for him.” I came to hate how he controlled me, and I hate that, even 20 years later, I still withdraw inside of my fortress to avoid being hurt like that again.

When I found myself finally free after years of hoping, wishing, and trying (because he found another victim and she did not know, truly, how fucked she was), I simply didn’t know how to act. What were the rules? How far afield could I go before I’d hear the dogs coming for me? What’s even worse is that he was such a lying fuck that I didn’t know how to differentiate between what was true and good and what was false when it came to allowing someone else to love me. And so I’ve made others who entered my life pass ridiculous litmus tests and I wait, every day, for the other shoe to drop.

As an aside, who the fuck came up with that analogy? Waiting for the other shoe to drop. Where are the shoes, and why are they dropping? Was there some sort of shoe factory explosion and shoes were raining from the sky and then becoming lodged in trees and on buildings and every so often, a lone shoe would fall from its perch and scare the shit out of somebody? Did they look at it, say, “Well, that’s the left shoe; where’s the right?” and scan the sky overhead? Because I truly cannot think of another scenario that explains waiting for a shoe to drop. Why not “waiting for the bass to drop”? It makes more sense.

That’s some rotten shit to try and overcome. In 20 years, I’ve managed to mask my overall discomfort with freedom pretty well; at least on the outside. There’s only one person who has been inside my fortress (that’s not slang for my vagina; you can find that lot here) and who knows how it really is with me, and he’s that handsome man pictured above who I waxed (okay, gushed) poetic about. He has seen the darkness, and since he has owned a castle of his own, he understands. He knows there are poorly-lit halls that take you around in circles and about the bats that fly into your face when you’re ’rounding a corner, and he even knows about most of the secret passages that descend into the bowels of my fortress (again, not my vagina). He hasn’t run away in fear (yet) and he has even promised me a dragon for protection.

What he hasn’t figured out yet is that I already have a dragon. No, it isn’t one of my cats, although Sirius

makes a fine Toothless-esque dragon (albeit with the teeth).

It is him. He is my protector, my fire-breathing dragon. Some girls dream of a prince or a knight in shining armor to carry them off; I say fuck that if you can have a dragon.

He is everything that the Destroyer was not. And he has helped me to clean, disinfect, and restore shine to my jewels: memories and my children. All the corrosive damage that the Destroyer inflicted on them (because they were his victims, too, and that is another reality of complicity/guilt I need to come to terms with) is being gently tumbled away, like a rock tumbler creating shiny Cape May diamonds.

They are my diamonds, and they are his now, too. He can’t take away the traumas of the past that have plagued all of us, and I imagine that it has been hard for him to simply lead by example: that men can be kind, and good, respectful, and principled. Strength is not always proven with fists or force; it is found in the gentlest hugs, countless rides to school, to the store, from parties; it is in his presence, unwavering and dependable; it is in the knowledge that all any of us needs to say is that we need him. He is there.

If I can be healed, he will be the one who finally accomplishes that.

My head may be in a weird space for a few more weeks; my mother’s death anniversary is drawing near. I have been thinking that feeling sadness and reliving that time isn’t the best way to honor her nor does it promote the healing that I need. Auumm is my time. I need that back. She may have taken a lot from me; but she is dust now. If she takes any more from me, it is because I have let her. I can’t keep paying for her sins. And yet, I’m not sure how I will honor her.

A weekend of debauchery: sex, drugs, and rock and roll?

A bonfire, a la Wicker Man, where I sacrifice her crush, Barry Manilow, by burning him in effigy?

A naked, midnight dance in a cemetary with a snake?

A couple of birds flipped cheerfully out into the universe?

Nah.

Maybe I will plant a tree. Green was her favorite color. And then maybe I will get on with this life and do it well. I think that’s a good plan.

There’s a song by one of my most favorite artists in the world, Colin Hay. He was the frontman for Men At Work and I was cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs over that band and specifically, him. He has a quality in his voice that reaches into my soul and cradles it gently. I swear, he wrote this song for me. I have a feeling he wrote it for some of you, too.

Waiting For My Real Life To Begin