Take the Radio

I recently bought a car for my two teenagers.  Nothing fancy.  Just a solid and safe car for them to use with all the back and forth of being children of divorced parents who have places to be and things to do when said parents are at work.  They were very excited (and appreciative) about it and it will make everybody’s life a little less hectic to get to school, activities, jobs and such.

I was talking to my best friend about getting the car and she told me how she had scrimped and saved to buy her first car back in the mid 90’s, a brand new green Jeep with a tan top.  One night, her car was broken into.   The radio was taken.  The gear shift was torn off.  The mounted speaker bar was pulled down and the speakers were destroyed.   The plastic windows were cut and the buttons were pulled off the dash.  So instead of just taking the radio, whoever did this decided to destroy her perfect new car.

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Thinking about that gave me great pause.   My bestie’s Jeep?   That’s me.  I am the Jeep. Before any abuse began,  James could have just said, “You know what, Jenny, this isn’t going to work out.”   He could have simply broken my heart.  Because guess what?  I can fix that.  I’ve had my heart broken enough to know that it hurts, sometimes a lot, but it heals.

The things he took from me?  My sense of self-worth, my safety, my confidence, my ability to say no in many situations and my feeling like I was good enough to be loved.  All the while keeping me off kilter, making me doubt my sanity and leaving me a shell of the person I was?  It’s like he took my inner core.  The very Jenny of my Jenny-ness. What was the point of that?  It was senseless, heartless and completely unnecessary.

How many souls does James need to eviscerate before he realizes he is repeating the same disordered story over and over?  And to what end?   Forget James Dean, this James is the real Rebel Without a Cause.  For as highly educated as he is, how can he not see how pointless this all is?  Or want to make some type of amends in acknowledgement of the cruelty that he inflicted?

James?  YOU ARE NOT THE VICTIM!  You are the perpetrator.  At some point in your younger life, yes, you were likely a victim.  I truly do not believe you were born this way.  But that does not give you the right to continue to leave destruction wherever you go.  You cannot keep searching for people like me to fill your empty bucket.  You cannot handle (and I would say you actually despise) any kindness, sincerity or genuine love.  And that part is okay and understandable.  But what isn’t okay is the path you take where the minute you are offered those things, you begin to destroy the very person who loves and cares about you the most.   Just take the radio, James.  Leave the rest alone.

And She Said Yes

I met Molly, James’ ex wife, at one of their children’s birthday parties last fall.  Right before cutting the birthday cake, she walked up to me and said, “I hope you know that James is putting on quite a show for you.”  I nodded and replied, “I know he is” and then I started to cry. When the party ended, we quietly exchanged cell phone numbers.

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Several days later, I told her what was happening and through sobs asked, “Did he do this to you, too?”  And she said, “Yes.”   What I learned from Molly is that I was not alone.  You cannot begin to imagine what a gift that was to me.

That simple word.  Yes.  It changed everything for me by providing validation and planting a seed of hope. There was no more of the thought that lingered in the back of my mind that maybe I was wrong about James abusing me.  And as much I wished it any other way,  I was not wrong.

Molly said something else during that conversation that left me speechless.  She said that she gladly took any verbal lashings from James once I started dating him because she hoped that by her doing so, she was protecting me. I’m still in awe of that.  And it wasn’t just words, she really did that for me.

This month has been really hard.  And when I get to a place where my thoughts turn inky black, I replay her “yes” in my head.  Because that means, as awful as it is that we both were hurt, I am not alone.   I hope she knows that I love her with my whole heart.  That she is one of the strongest women I have ever met.  That her “yes” was like winning a golden ticket to starting a better life as I saw her bravely do.

I sometimes wonder what I would say to James’ queue of broken hearts.  If I was asked, I would give them my own version of the “yes” Molly so graciously gave to me. I would tell them to trust their instincts and walk away from the disaster to come.  There is no question that the shes exists. And whoever they are, I love them.  They do not deserve this either.

The Upside Down

Yes, I am a huge fan of Netflix’s Stranger Things.  There is a creepy little world/alternate universe in the show, the Upside Down, that’s inhabited by a monster.  If you haven’t seen the show, let me do a shitty job of describing the Upside Down to you. It’s very dark, lots of floating particles, viney, pulsating and scary.   One of the characters describes it as “a dimension that is a dark reflection, or echo, of our world. It is a place of decay and death, a plane out of phase, with monsters. It is right next to you and you do not even see it.”

theupsidedown

Of course James is the monster sitting beside me. I mean, please.  But the Upside Down itself?  Kinda reminds me of the court system.  While there are so many progressive and enlightened judges, there many who are not.  Waging war against a narcissistic in court? Not for the faint of heart.  Add in the fact that one of the professions with the highest population of people with narcissistic personality disorder is law, judges (and lawyers and police officers) specifically?  You’ve got yourself the Upside Down, albeit with less fluff floating around the air.

I’ve talked a little about going to the courthouse.  First to get a temporary order of protection and then later to make that order more permanent.  It’s a grim thing to face and extremely daunting.  I think there is a false notion that getting one is easy.  It’s actually not.  (Please do not let this dissuade you from seeking an order. Most jurisdictions have you meet with an advocate at the courthouse to help you navigate the process.  I urge you to trust your instincts if you feel you need protection.)  You have to first meet with a case worker who reviews your situation, file paperwork, present compelling evidence, have a judge review your case and speak with the judge directly in a courtroom full of other people and attorneys seeking orders.  When I obtained the temporary order, I saw three cases before mine denied.

Recently, I heard a story from a friend about someone she knew who was denied an order of protection.  Why?  Because of the very common Back and Forth.  What is the Back and Forth?  It’s when a victim returns to her abuser.  Reasons for returning include feeling obligated, being pressured to return, fearing further harm if you don’t return, being financially dependent upon the abuser, confusion about whether the relationship was abusive and out of love for the abuser.

So in the instance of my friend’s acquaintance, it was out of feelings of love, as it was for me.  The court looks at this and thinks, hold up.  You can’t be that afraid of Mr. Asshat because you were willing to go back.  Well, yes, she can be that afraid of Mr. Asshat.  But she can also feel obligated, fear further abuse or she may even feel tender towards him. This is why abuse is so messy.

In my ideal Rightside Up world, the courts would be more educated on the nature of abuse. It is possible to fear someone greatly and love them.  However insincere that love is on the part of the abuser, it is very real to us.  It’s what keeps us in the grasp of our abuser.  Love and confusion and the Back and Forth.

I went back and forth with James in quick succession about seven times.  I could pour through messages, text and phone records to pin it down exactly. But I’d prefer not to and say about seven. Which, coincidentally, is the average amount of times it takes for a victim to leave their abuser.  That’s a hell of a lot of Back and Forth.

I know what you are thinking right now and it’s okay.  Why, why, why would you go back to someone like this?  It makes no sense.  Certainly you knew better than return to someone who was abusive to you in unspeakable ways.   No, I did not.  What I knew is that I loved a man who was as smart and charming and kind as he was cruel and humiliating and vile.  And so I went back.  Again and again and again.  This doesn’t mean I wasn’t scared of him.  Or that an order of protection was unnecessary.  If anything, it speaks very loudly to the contrary.

I want to scream to anyone who will listen that abuse is not at all what you think it is.  It’s muddy and messy and confounding.   I wish with my whole heart that it wasn’t so hard for people to understand that an abused brain stops processing things as it would when not engaged in survival mode.  And that the boundaries of what is love and what is abuse are blurred.  In my perfect world, the courts would have an entire training manual dedicated to the Back and Forth and how it’s actually a classic sign that the person standing before them is absolutely scared and absolutely the victim of abuse.

Girl in the War

I feel like I don’t have anything to say.   And that maybe I didn’t really have anything to say before either anyway.  Thought by now I would feel better.  And I don’t.  I’m in this weird phase of having long since been James’ prey and no longer his victim, but not yet a survivor. Which would mean that I’m what?  An exister?  That’s messed up.

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It’s been suggested that I go away for a little while to address the trauma.  I’m not going to do it.  I refuse.  I will scratch and claw and do whatever I can to make it through each day. That’s what an exister does, right?  I’m guessing time does a pretty good job of healing wounds.  So I’m putting my money on time and not someplace where I can sit quietly with my thoughts.  I do that all the time as it is and it’s getting me nowhere.

My list of You Must Not Fall Deeper is comical to me now.  Blackberries?  What the actual fuck was I thinking.  And my Kindle can go fuck itself.   Jane Austen?  You can’t help me. And guess what?  Mr. Darcy meets the diagnostic criteria for a sociopath.  I’m sorry.  I’ll stop.  Can we fast forward like 2-3 years?  I’m so on board with that.  Because these days I don’t know how I feel about much of anything.

Paul said to Peter
“You gotta rock yourself a little harder,
Pretend the dove from above is a dragon and your feet are on fire”
And I got a girl in the war, Paul the only thing I know to do
Is turn up the music and pray that she makes it through

Dear James, Part 9

Dear James,

Happy October!   With the change of seasons from summer to fall, I was wondering if you’d had a change of heart and thought at all about apologizing to me?   No?  You still think you are the victim?  You have millions of miles to go, my friend.  So do I, compliments of you. Because we both kndomesticviolence2ow your part in why October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

October of 2015 was a busy month for me.  Off the charts abuse in Japan.  Scheduling a visit to a women’s shelter.  Feeling humiliation and despair over accepting the fact that I loved an abusive man.  I mean, who loves someone who treats them as if they are literally and absolutely nothing?  Oh right, I do!  I don’t think I realized then how much Domestic Violence Awareness Month would mean to the both of us.  Look, we still share something!

Quick question for you.  Is that something you incorporate into your resume or, even better, your online dating profile or messages to prospective dates?  You know, you being an abuser?   Or more specificially, a narcissistic sociopath.  (You should really look that up if you haven’t already.  I keep meaning to tell you that.)  Anyway, if you don’t, let me help you.  I’m pretty good with stuff like this.  Let’s see. I’ve got it!

Uber urban and scholarly dad who is adept at twisting the fuck out of your mind, body and lovely soul.  My charm, attention, future faking and flattery will surely win your heart as it has all the women in my life .  I love keeping up with your day-to-day.  But don’t worry, you don’t need to tell me where you are or what you’ve been up.  I’ve got that covered and will keep an eye on your every move.  Think of me as a Romeo of Big Brothers.  Buckle your seatbelt, sweet girl.  You are in for the ride of a lifetime.

Okay, so that’s not my best work.  I know I could sprinkle some extra pizzaz on all the ways you are truly a scholar in being domestically violent.  Let me count the ways!  Maybe specifics on why that seatbelt needs to be fastened so tightly?  And why the ride of a lifetime might actually render that sweet girl paralyzed?

You want to know something?  You are so fucking good at what you do.  I wish I could offer you a hearty round of applause startng with a slow clap.  I am so glad that there is a month to celebrate YOU!  I hope you enjoy every single minute.

Sincerely,

Jenny