This was me in 2008 before everything in my life was turned upside down. I look at this picture now and no longer have any idea who this person was. It’s almost like looking at a photo of a stranger and getting that nagging feeling you may have known them once upon a time… somehow… some way. I feel like there should be a sense of loss attached to it, because I now know the chaos that was to come and how drastically everything in my life changed.
I had freedom, but I don’t remember it. I had friends, but I cut them all off because I didn’t want them sucked into the abyss with me. I had plenty of things I liked to do, but one by one they were later ripped away from me until I was just a shell. I don’t think there was one thing I did while I was with my ex that I wanted to do. It was pretty much out of rote necessity or being forced, and sometimes those two things blurred heavily together and can be categorized interchangeably.
So after I left, people started asking me, “What do you want to do?” “What kind of life do you want for yourself?” “Who are you inside?” Questions that most people can answer. Inquiries that most people don’t have to think twice about. But they were asking me, not those other people, and I stared at them blankly. “What do you mean ‘what I want?'” You must be joking! Every little decision made that affected my life in any way was made for me, because he said he knew better. I was merely expected to comply because I was his property. It was not an easy adjustment for me from the beginning. If I was given a penny for every time I was punished for non-compliance, I would have no debt hanging over my head right now. Do and not think. Just do what I tell you, and I won’t have to do that to you.
One week from today, it will be four months since I left. In some ways, I still cannot answer that question, and it disturbs me. Some things I have relearned about myself only because once I was out from under his thumb, I automatically started doing them without thinking about it. Some things I didn’t have to relearn because they were so integral to who I am, not even he could erase them. To what kinds of things do I refer? Silly things, like spending entire days power shopping, going out to dinner. Not-so silly things like researching something for no reason other than I can, reading, writing, being around people.
Here I am today, still trying to figure everything out. I had a wonderfully busy weekend, having spent my entire day out in service and my normal Sunday meeting – lunch – Bible study – dinner – random things routine. I was announced officially as unbaptized publisher Thursday night, and as soon as the meeting was over, I was swamped by everyone wanting to congratulate me and stake a claim to scheduling some time out in the service.
So as of Saturday, it begins: telling and re-telling my story of how I got to where I am today. And obviously receiving incessant apologies for no reason, as I volunteered the story to them. But no one who has any compassion for others wants to hear about someone suffering in the way I (and a lot of women, children, and even men) did, but they listen because of that compassion. I think, however, they were so concentrated on their shock at what happened to me, that they had a mini meltdown and did not know how to react.
I spoke to the sister I was out with in the afternoon while the brother was leaving literature with someone. I am at the point now where I am concerned how I will react when I get an answer at the door and I just know the woman standing there is being abused. I know I will somehow do the the right thing, but a part me of will struggle. Because as a human being and a woman who has suffered and made it through, I will be distracted…
And that is one thing I definitely do not want to be.