That split second in which you decide, not by logic but by gut instinct, defines who you are. It highlights whatever training and indoctrination you may have undergone. For the observant, the vigilant, it can even serve as an insight into how another has lived, whether by choice or under duress and oppression.
Tonight, I got my insight into who I am. Some, or maybe several, doubts I may have had about myself resulting from my unplanned and regretted sojourn into domestic violence have been proven wrong. I thought that if I were ever in this situation, I would have reacted without thinking and consequently done something wrong to another person that I care about. In fact, I was fairly concerned I was almost doomed for this to happen. A choice between fight or flight.
Friday night is my night out with the parents, reason being that I am almost never home until fairly late at night almost every other day of the week. At first I think I was brought along every week like, toted under arm like a Chihuahua, so my parents knew I was safe. It was pretty much out of necessity in their minds, I suppose. However, it eventually morphed into the default night with them, because they hardly ever see me. I was the one who brought my older sister into the mix.
We go to the same place for dinner every Friday night, without fail, because it is comfortable for them. For me, it’s like watching the same movie on hundred times in a row, non-stop. But I digress, because if I allow myself to take off on this tangent, it will be like a runaway train without brakes, and the thought will be lost, because I will be on the newest, best thing. (I cannot keep up with my own brain and it wears me out.)
After dinner, my stepmother wanted to go to the store to pick up a few things. So we make our circle around the store, and on the way out they stop at the jewelry counter. They don’t have what my stepmother wants, so we start to walk away. In the midst of me walking toward the cash wrap (ugh, yeah I worked in retail way too long), apparently making like a five year old and using the lip gloss in my hand as a toy plane (don’t ask), I felt someone swatting at my right arm.
One second. This is all it took from me being ready to turn around and throw a punch to stopping myself to see who was actually behind me. It was a good thing that I did, because otherwise, my father would have been laid out on the floor. Yes, I had a good trainer, thanks for asking.
Now before you criticize my father by saying he should have known not to try to get my attention this way, let’s remember two important things. One, I am hard-of-hearing, which my father has had plenty of time to get accustomed to. He knows from years of experience that no matter how vocal he is behind me, I simply am not hearing it. So he adapted his behavior accordingly and responds in kind. Two, five months is not enough time for someone who has never dealt with their youngest child having gone through domestic violence to think and reason on even the smallest behaviors to adapt them to a special case. He has had no time comparatively to learn what behaviors are not acceptable in my case and apply them the same way he has with my hearing, or astonishing lack, thereof. I have had incessantly progressing hearing loss for three decades. And I didn’t reveal my secret about Kevin abusing me until I was 35. Thirty years is a lot of habit to undo, especially compared to four that he didn’t know about. So he acts and reacts accordingly.
And I respond in kind. Apparently. I say apparently, because I thought up until now that if something like this happened, the resulting combination of my being hard-of-hearing and a little overly wound up from building up defenses from being abused would cause me to recoil and release. Obviously, I was wrong. In the second, literally, that it took me to stop walking and turn enough to see who was behind me, a minor disaster was thwarted not by logic and reasoning, but by instinct. Oddly enough, I was in the situation with my abuser on several instances where he came up behind me and attacked, so logic dictates response by second nature. If this were the case, I should have hit first and asked questions later.
But I didn’t. So this tells me that while I am on the defensive, I exercise self control when and unexpected situation that does not allow for deduction arises. It also tells me that I am neither defenseless nor helpless, and I am no longer at someone else’s mercy. Lastly, it proves how deliberate I still am when I act and speak, which is something everyone should be. Too many people do without thinking, speak without thinking.
In another vein, I am still not so sure that people are comfortable enough with what happened to me to stop walking on eggshells themselves. Case in point, Thursday evening. I went to my weekly Ministry School / Service meeting at the Kingdom Hall with my “adopted” family. After the meeting is over, a large group of us go out to eat almost every week, without fail. So my “sister” (who a lot of people actually think is my sister by blood) and I get out of the van, and we were screwing around, because this is what we do. And I was giving her a hard time, because this is what I do. We get carried away, and she tells me to do something or she’s going to punch me. So I stop and get all serious, look at her and say, “Go ahead, I had lots of practice!”
She froze, and I could tell her brain was trying to back pedal and figure out if she really heard what she just heard. So I repeated it. “I said, ‘Go ahead, I had lots of practice!'” Her mouth drops open and she starts losing her composure, because it clicks, and just before she apologizes, I start laughing embarrassingly loud in the middle of the parking lot. At which point, she realizes I got her all worked up and she starts laughing. Then we do some mock karate, her father looks at us like we’re crazy (don’t worry, we really are), and we go inside. I felt bad, so I pulled her aside and told her not to be so serious and that I am okay.
So before some of you become upset with me for my story, understand this: my mindset may not be appropriate in your eyes. Some of you may feel like I should still be stuck in the cycle, mulling everything over and being trapped in the pain. However, we all handle this differently. Most of you probably would not be able to joke around with others like I do, but be clear on the fact that I was always like this way before I met Kevin. He didn’t erase this part of my personality, it was just put on pause. And, I endured more than my share.
No, I did not end up in the hospital with broken bones or stab wounds or anything of the kind. All that means is time and again, I risked my safety to fight him off me so I had enough time to break the leverage and minimize the damage. That is not to say that I should not have gone to the hospital. That is not to say that I don’t have permanent damage from things he did to me, like the problems I have as a result from being beat across my legs and hips with his trusty metal bar, or trouble with my memory from being repeatedly and viciously hit in the head, or scars from cuts and punctures and numb spots and headaches and the like. Or the dark circles around my eyes to serve as reminders of what happens when I supposedly got mouthy with him. Or the nightmares and being more than a little neurotic about my privacy.
It does not mean that I don’t have flashbacks to the things he did to me. There are places I do not go at all or try to avoid going past when possible, because the memories attached to them are so overwhelming that I feel physically ill. That I get overtaken by the urge to escape. From a memory.
What it means is I had enough wallowing in the pain. After everything I suffered through, I could not do it anymore. I pushed myself to get through everything, so I could go on with my life without that dragging me down. I cannot help that my personality is the way it is, but I have been through more than anyone will ever know. And this personality has gotten me through a lot.
I hope that it does not make any of you feel offended or that I am mocking anything you are going through. Rather, I want to give you hope that, forever changed as you are, you can get life back and be happy. It might take longer to get through for some compared to others, but you can get there.
Believe it or not, you are allowed to laugh, joke around, and have fun.. to be a complete, whole, happy person who can love yourself enough to move on from here. To have and give love. To trust someone again. Trust. Touchy topic. But don’t get discouraged with a temporary condition. If I, the Queen Bee of wall builders herself, can allow someone in, so, too, will you, in time. Despite the fortress I built up for myself, my Kerwyn somehow made his way all the in, and even in all my vulnerability to him, I trust him with my life. Kevin tried to use a battering ram to break his way in and take over and replace Kerwyn with brute force. By lying. Manipulating, stealing, and cheating, in the same manner that was done to you. No matter what weapon he devised, he failed. Kevin underestimated so much about me, including my will to survive and how protective of myself and certain people (and the emotions connected to them) I can be.
Diametric opposites, they are beyond any and all doubts. Where Kevin was malicious, cruel, and hurtful, Kerwyn is kind, loving, and supportive. Where Kevin was enraged, provoked, agitated, Kerwyn is calm, patient, considerate, generous, thoughtful, merciful… I think about this and I sigh. How do you go from a man like Kerwyn to a monster like Kevin? This part here is not just my story and not something I am willing to share. Some things a girl needs to keep private. All you need to know, is that Kerwyn is back where he belongs. (Yes, with me! … Did you seriously have to ask?) 😉
I have a lot of living to do, and the only thing I can do that keeps him from retaining any measurable amount of control over any facet of my being is to just go on. Learn, adapt, and move on. And help others break the silence, get free of the violence, and learn to forgive themselves and maybe even sneak some self acceptance and love in there on the sly.
The forgiving yourself is the hardest part and the biggest irony of all. The truth is, logically we all know that we are not at fault for anything that was forced upon us. We were brutalized and stripped away against our will. No matter what people say. No matter what they think. Always, always remind yourself of that. It’s a contraction in terms for me to be able to forgive him for being a monster but not forgive myself for him being monster. This is my last major battle. And contrary to my natural inclination, I do it publicly so that you do not feel like you are on your own.