Temporary Darkness

Credit: www.creativetimes.co.uk

 

She stood in line at the cafe’; nearly anonymous in her cloak. Her hands in the front pouch, her movements silent and slight.  She nourishes herself  in the feeling of wanting to be hidden. To shroud herself in the hood of her over sized sweatshirt.  To comfort herself in the October night’s darkness and seek the void.  Mint tea and chocolate were necessary and perhaps a better alternative to a glass of red wine or a shot of tequila. She wasn’t drinking these days anyway. Hadn’t had even a sip of lightning in over a year.

She spent the day being stripped of her dignity. Questions asked.  Barbs and jabs. Silent jeers. Scoffs and sneers from across the table, trapped in that room for hours. It was about as soothing as walking barefoot on gravel. His false accusations and twisting of the truth had her seeing red. Was this once the man who made her heart sing?

She knew it was just another step in the process. Probably the worst or most unlucky bit of the situation. Positively draining.  Self-comfort was necessary. When she placed her order, the sympathetic manager touched her hand and leaned in as if to give her a hug.  She handed her the tea and treat. “It’s on me,” she said. Her eyes brimming and her throat in a grip, she managed to eke out her welled up appreciation.

The hole of blackness still overwhelmed her. But somewhere -not too deep inside herself- were the beginnings of the path toward that pinprick of light.

 

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This week’s prompt from Kellie Elmore was a five word bank. I had started writing a story last night without seeing this week’s prompt ( By 9pm last night I was tucked in listening to The Moth Radio Hour-great storytelling show, by the way!). Her words fit perfectly into what I had drafted. This piece was born of a small trigger; I was removing my hoodie sweatshirt when a flash of memory came flooding back prompting me to get the ideas out of my head before they festered!  The word prompts from Kellie are below:

Red – Mint – Gravel – Sing – Unlucky

The Aftermath

Credit: www.submit.manscostyle.com ( “A Wounded Heart” by Tim Dwyer)

 

In the dark recesses of my mind

I hear the gunfire of your wounds

Land mines of domestic destruction

Improvised explosives shrouded in verbal volleys 

Scattered shrapnel

Stinging pain from your  scoffs

Mocking my every move

 

In the dark recesses of my gut

I taste the heaving

My attempts to digest your vile invectives

your vicious vitriol that holds my virtues in a vise

 

In the dark recesses of my heart

I feel the agony of your aggression 

the abscess of your abandonment

 and the anguish of your annihilation

.

 

For those known and unknown who are experiencing abuse. Mine is past but the pain is sometimes present.

Witness

Hunger by TessCummings

Credit: howtheotherhalflives.deviantart.com (Hunger by Tess Cummings)

 

The list resides on a yellowed pad

Necessary nourishment for the coming week

We stop here first before our feastive task

Caffeinated fuel and friendship

A 21st Century Communion

In the shop’s short distance

A dear friend is spied

A light touch to greet her

Deep hugs and hushed whispers

Our minds meeting for a minute and more

 

But ensconced in the corner

Nearly unnoticeable from view

Sits the Serpent Sipping sumatra opposite a slender lass

His head a crusted flesh

 

For me: a glimpse of recognition

A trickle of fear

A tiny rat-a-tat-tat of  the heart

But for the first time a small measure of sincere safety, a healthy emotional distance

A graceful departure

 

This crinkly creature

This squalid stranger once starved three loving souls

Sacrificed them for his vision quest

 

Yes, the memories linger still

Days of bare cupboards and hollowed tummies

Secret stashes hidden from him

Stunned into silence

Bullied and Blamed by the Beast

A Buried Hunger hidden from everyone and ourselves

 

At present day an unfilled refrigerator and a paltry pantry give rise to a familial panic

A sign of a decade’s old deprivation

 

The yellowed pad travels with us

The list an act of defiance

A shout out loud

A second slaying of the dragon

And always a Harvest of Hope

The Heart of the Matter

Credit: We Heart It

“Where we choose to be, where we choose to be–we have the power to determine that in our lives. We cannot reel time backward or forward, but we can take ourselves to the place that defines our being.”
―     Sena Jeter Naslund,     Ahab’s Wife, or The Star-Gazer

Long I ago I ceased wondering and worrying and feeling ashamed of decisions I had made regarding my life’s choices. Like if I didn’t get married 24+ years ago maybe I could have avoided the heartbreak, abuse and eventual diminishment of myself that the union ultimately gave me. Maybe I would have had a different career, different partner, different house, different community, different friends. Maybe it would have been better?  Really, who cares? I made the right decision at the time ( no one had objected, everyone loved him) and I stayed longer than I should have. Even I don’t know when the right time would have been after so much time has passed. And really, who cares? I have two beautiful, grown sons and a pretty satisfying career as a result of being their mom. I got to raise boys who are becoming contributing members of society as a result of my hard work.

I used to think that I was failure because I became a divorced woman. Like the marriage’s demise was a reflection of my own inability to maintain a commitment. When my father told me that he was proud of my decision to obtain legal help and move out of the relationship while protecting myself, it affirmed that I was doing the right thing. People often said they were sorry that my husband had left. I was not. Really, I did not care.

As time moved on, I was acquiring the abilities to become a more independent woman. I got my Master’s degree in the midst of all the turmoil while still working full-time. I took on my former husband at every obstacle he put in my way. Sometimes they were pebbles. Sometimes they were boulders. But, really who cares? They need to be moved and surmounted on the road I was building to a better life.

Today I stand at a crossroads. I have proven to myself that I can be on my own and very happy. I have made amazing financial decisions that secured my present and I hope my future. I have moved out of the past to the point that it seems like it never existed. I am working on being present in my present life, letting go of things that I cannot control and planning a new life with the man I love.

I would not be writing and living my life if the pain of the past had not occurred. I am grateful to have gotten out of it. My experience-through publicly writing about it here at WordPress- I hope has given others inspiration and the seeds of strength to create their own lives and speak their own truths.

Open your mind. Open your Heart. Speak your mind. Speak from your heart. Live by your instincts. Live your life.

Post inspired by Kellie Elmore’s:

#FWF Free Write Friday: Quote Prompt

Slaying the Dragon

credit: www.levycreative.com

For those of you who have been reading my posts the lately, you may have noticed a theme or two.  Current and past real life situations have informed those pieces. If you don’t know it already, I was once verbally and emotionally abused during my first marriage. When I finally realized that it was happening and stood up for myself one time too many, he wanted out. It was the best gift he ever gave me. Truly, there is nothing more powerful than one’s independence and freedom.

Today I live my life on my own terms.  I have confidence in my career. I cultivate healthy relationships. Love has found me again. I am a whole and happy woman. As I ready myself for the next phase in my life, I am also purging and grieving some things from my past. Writing is at once a great unburdening and a form of standing up to the fight-a means to work through any residual pain. Ultimately, I hope I can help others gain the strength to leave their situations and heal themselves.

Last spring during a home renovation, I came across a series of journals buried deep in a desk drawer. I was giving the over-sized roll top away to a woman who really needed it. I was forced to clean it  out once and for all. So there they sat. Three journals from way back when. Some had poetry. Another contained lists of information that were important at the time. Still another had examples of the verbal abuse that was being hurled at me. I  put them on my bedroom bookcase to sit once again. As I was putting them away, a lone piece of paper fell out of one of them. Hotel stationary. Three words: “I Love You” and the initials of my now fiance’.

I couldn’t figure how that missive had landed in journals filled with negativity and pain.  No matter. I saw it as a symbol of how love exists in the midst of chaos and grief. The man I love came into my life quietly. He loved me and supported me through years of challenges with my children and with my former spouse. His love is a burning fire AND a simmering heat.

The road out from abuse is filled with potholes and boulders and other hazards. But the struggle to be whole and happy always makes you stronger.

So the Hebrew people were freed from their enemy by the hand of a woman.

They danced in the streets and the women were crowned with olive wreaths.

(from Judith 1-15 verses 14 & 15)

Tainted*

credit: psychopathyawareness.wordpress.com

Slimed by your words

Blemished by your presence

Soiled by your twisted truth

Diseased by your self-deception

Stigmatized by your need to cast blame

Infected by your manipulation and devaluation

 

You are a parasite that fed off me

Attempting to eat away at my strength

Sapping away at my emotional energy

Draining me

Sucking me dry

Wearing me out

 

My spirit was once corrupted but never broken

I have found another path

It led me to a healthful place

Where I could mend

Reenergize

Feed my spirit

Heal from your wounds

Be free from your disparagement

Today I walk hand in hand

With loving others

On a path of utter truth and righteousness

 Feeling, tasting, touching, smelling, hearing

And being present in a world

Cleansed by holy and faithful words

Of love and peace

*(Author’s note: I found this poem earlier tonight while looking for other material for a story that has been bouncing in my head. It was originally written on March 19, 2008. I have changed a few things-like verb tenses- leaving most of the piece in tact. It was nice to see that I had a poet in me back then and most importantly, to know that I was indeed a strong woman!)

Gimme Shelter

credit: ladysilver2267.deviantart.com

Oh, a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away

~Mick Jagger/Keith Richards

The last time she saw him was when he called her a bitch.   It was a dark, late winter evening.  She was upstairs, still in her work clothes, installing a new thermostat in her bedroom. Then the doorbell rang. Who could that be?,  she wondered.  She called out, “Who is it?” as she descended the stairs. Turning on the back light, she saw his profile as she looked out the window.

“What do you want?”, she asked, standing by the kitchen window.  “Is Peter home?” he asked.  It was their son’s 21st birthday and he was out celebrating with friends. They had already had a surprise party at home the previous Saturday (in fact the mud room door and kitchen were still decorated) so the actual birthday night was a quiet one. She replied that he was not.

“But I have a present for him,” he said.

“Leave it in the back hall,” she said. He grew enraged, tossed it in and loudly spoke his epithet as he left.

She had not realized that she was holding her breath for the entire encounter. She listened for his truck’s departure and quickly called her girlfriend (who offered to come over). Her son had not seen or spoken to his father in over two years.  He had grown tired of his ill-treatment after living under his roof for most of his teens and arrived back home on a black February night-his car full of his life.

Since then, family life had resumed a harmonious and healthy rhythm. She and her two children had come to an understanding of the various forms of emotional abuse experienced under her former spouse and their father.  They no longer saw themselves as victims. It was as if he did not exist. And because he did not exist, it was as if the abuse had never happened. And because the abuse never happened, it was as if their past life with him had happened to other people.

This is the place at which you eventually arrive with time, help and healing.  Emotional and verbal abuse is hard to put  a finger on. The former is  an invisible fortress built over time by the one in control. The verbal abuse helps fill in the cracks to keep it hidden. Eventually, you become relegated to a cage with your role in the relationship strictly enforced. Through the eyes of the abuser, nothing is ever done right. This includes every aspect of your life and your very being- your career, housework, driving, raising the children, your identity. You never look quite right either. Something is always wrong with your body. Even when pregnant, the snide comments slip out so you are made to feel fat and unattractive. So, no matter how hard she worked to please and keep the peace, he was never satisfied. Any “mistake” was met with either a derogatory remark or stony silence for days. Any attempt to break free of that role and speak her truth was met with “punishment”.  The abuse only worsened and became more and more obvious.  She eventually learned that her part was simple. Keep her mouth shut and her legs open. Ironically, her wish was not for the relationship to end-only for the abuse to stop.

The implacable mistreatment continues even when the relationship ends. In standing and fighting for the needs of herself and her sons, she was met with false charges of neglect and abuse.  He attempted to take away her shelter twice. His goal was to make her “Scratch, Crawl and Suffer.” These words from his mouth only made her more willing to never back down.  Each meeting with him during this process was like taking a bath in dirty water. It took days to purge herself of the emotional hangover he wrought.

The abuse had a trickle down effect as it was meted out in various ways on the children. Eventually, they too, separated themselves from him.  Self-protection took precedence over the appearance of a normal father-child relationship.

Any contact with the abuser is risky and fraught with anxiety. Even with the absence of physical violence, danger can still be present. Sometimes an unexpected sighting of that person can lead to a physiological reaction. The heart assumes a rapid pace, the mouth becomes arid and the hands become unsteady. The mind races as it seeks a way out.

The universe has a special way of taking care of those of us who choose to move forward. We acknowledge what happened, seek help and eventually forgive. But we never forget.  Instead, we embrace life with a renewed sense of optimism, spreading positive energy and good karma to everyone we see.

The Bad Penny

credit: jellygator.hubpages.com

Sunday morning sunshine

Air alive with early morning briskness

My feet hit the pavement anxious with anticipation

for the quiet of a long run

My heart is bursting with excitement

as my legs move smoothly over the hills

At last at the crest of “The Killer”

I remove a layer

The heat of my arms basking in the high star

The finish is too soon, I think

Arriving home I hear the voices

of loved ones breaking the fast

We are renewing a childhood tradition

In a different incarnation

Grown-up, sharing the ritual

with the girls they love

We are filled with glee

Refreshed, we hit the road

But not before stopping for that cup of joe

And then the reverie is broken

He appears:

AN INTRUDER

INVADER,  INFIDEL

INFECTION, INFESTATION

Our blood was once on his hands

We grapple  with this infelicitous situation

My heart races and my hands shake

I move away yet stay put

My protectors keeping him at bay

Polite, they speak in superficial tones

Pretending to be mannered

All the while  seething at the reminder

of his emotional destructions

At last they come for me

surrounding me as we depart

We breathe deeply

Freed again

Delighted that the orchard awaits our pickings

Sipping and Singing and Celebrating

Moving onward and forward

Knowing our lives are full and empty of him

Old Words, New Words*

The young woman with big brown eyes

Born with a glint in her eyes

Always looking

Always questioning

Always laughing

The sun seemed never ending

She was full of romantic notions

and innocence about love

Presented with a trinket

betrothed and full of hope

The older woman with big brown eyes

Always scared

Always questioned

Always somber

She was full of anxiety

and suspicion about love

The rain seemed never-ending

Days, weeks and months

filled with the static of lies and abuse

The free woman

living with a new perspective in her eyes

Always smiling

Always present

Always embracing

Life to its fullest

Many thanks to Kellie Elmore for the Free Write Friday inspiration!

http://kellieelmore.com/2013/05/03/fwf-free-write-friday-word-bank-6/

Naked in the Bathroom*

Standing in the steam talkin’ to my ex

A forceful voice over the wireless

           I hear it now:

         My son taking sides

Being fed information based in lies

     The conversation drags on

      The steam disappears

      We start conversing

about what happened over the years

     The voice becomes softer

     The heat lamp goes on

I am trapped in my nakedness

As he turns the DENIAL button on

      It’s the same old song

Of course I’m the one that’s done wrong

      I listen to his “reality”

and the problems with my personality

     I choose my words carefully

I am getting colder, my clean hair lies flat

I want to put a stop to this endless chat

I hear his “love” or is it manipulation?

I need to get out of this sticky situation

I vacillate between trust, guilt and fear

Yet, through it all my decision is clear

The steam is gone, the heat lamp turned off

There is no hope for us now

He has not faced his “stuff”

It is time for my own life

    Enough is Enough

*(AUTHOR”S NOTE:  This a poem that I found in a journal from 2008- a year of tremendous personal upheaval. It is an actual scenario that occurred. I remember sending it to my now late mom who loved the truth and strength in it. I am sure that she would be proud that I am sharing it with a wider audience.)