In this blog, I have focused primarily on my struggle. Recovering from domestic violence has been a struggle unlike any other that I have ever encountered. It is a daily struggle to combat the memories, to fight against his voice that remains in my head, to tell myself that I am good enough, worthy enough, strong enough, lovable enough, that I am “enough” of anything.
I haven’t spoken much about where I am today because there are many days where I feel that I am not far enough along on this journey to offer any hope or consolation about what this journey has to offer, but in the past week, I had an experience that put things into perspective, and I have realized that I am enough.
I may not be enough for him, but I am enough for myself.
Last week, I went to Seattle for a writer’s conference. Last year, at this time, I went to the same conference in Boston. When I look back at this past year, I can’t necessarily pinpoint how I felt at a certain time. I can’t say “I felt this way in February,” but this major event gave me the opportunity to compare. And I can say, in all honesty, that last year at the conference, I felt much, much worse than I felt this year.
When I saw my roommates this year—who I hadn’t seen since last year—they both commented on how much better I look, how much happier I seem, how much stronger I seem. And I am. I am all of those things.
I am happy. And strong. And better.
Last year, at this time, I felt hopeless. Like most people, I have struggled with sadness in my lifetime, but I had never felt hopeless before that point. Hopelessness is terrible. If I hadn’t had my son who I needed to be strong for, I don’t know if I would have survived that feeling. I kept waking up in the mornings for him, but I would have preferred to stay in bed, to never wake up again.
I remember my counselor asking me what were the things that I enjoyed doing? I paused. “I enjoy writing,” I said.
She rolled her eyes. “Writing is your work,” she said. “What are the things you like to do for fun?” I couldn’t answer that question. I didn’t know how to answer that question. There was nothing in my life that I thought was enjoyable.
But, in the past week, I had so much fun. I went to Seattle. (I find travel enjoyable.) I presented as part of a panel on publishing nonfiction. (I find my career enjoyable.) I spent time with my friends. (I find my friends enjoyable.) I went shopping. (I find shopping enjoyable.) I went to good restaurants. (I find dining out enjoyable.) I went to Pike Place Market. (I find sightseeing enjoyable.) I returned home and spent time with my parents and my son. (I find my family enjoyable.) I went for a walk on campus with my parents. (I find walking enjoyable.) I cuddled up on the couch with my son. (I find cuddling with my son enjoyable.)
My life is enjoyable.
When I look back at this time last year, things were so different. At this conference, I inevitably run into friends of my ex-husband. Last year, at this time, I was still covering for him, still hiding what had happened when I ran into his friends. This year, again, I saw some friends of his. It was awkward. I don’t know where those friends stand on this issue, and I have realized that I have no desire to be friends with people who are willing to prop up an abuser. If you are still friends with my abuser, then I don’t want to be friends with you. It is that simple. Still, even though it was awkward, I could handle it. I have lots of friends. I don’t need any more. I don’t need to grieve the loss of people who make excuses for abusive men because my life is full of people who don’t. My life is full of amazing, loving people who are willing to take a stand, and I feel blessed every day with those people.
In the past year, I have reached out to my friends when I have felt hopeless. I have reconnected with people who I had lost touch with, and I have sought out new friendships. I have not dated. I have chosen to place myself first, and that choice has freed me from my hopelessness.
When I look at the life my ex-husband is living, it feels almost ungenerous to compare our situations. He is living a solitary, lonely existence. He, too, wants to be a writer, but like most abusive men, he struggles with a compulsion for violent pornography. I hesitate to use the word addiction because the jury is still out on whether pornography can be an addiction, but if looking at violent porn for twelve hours at a time constitutes an addiction, then the word addiction might be more appropriate. I don’t know; I just know that he has been unable to write for a long time because he can’t spend time on the computer without getting distracted. I feel compassion for him about this. I genuinely feel that it is out of his control. When we were married, I didn’t feel compassion about this subject. I felt betrayed and angry, but moving into a state of compassion has freed me from that bitterness, and bitterness feels, well….yucky. I no longer feel yucky in that way.
I also know that, for a long time, I held myself back from my own writing because I was concerned about hurting him. I didn’t want to have success because that would affect his self-esteem, and he was my priority. He once said that his number one resentment was “other people’s success,” and I felt that acutely. I chose not to be a success because I didn’t want to be another source of his resentment. But now, I can be a success. I can write anything I want to write. I can publish anywhere I want to publish. I can be anything I want to be. And I find that enjoyable.