Age 27, taken while I was still with my ex-husband.
Ours was a cruel love.
A picture holds a thousands words. Equally true is we see in others only what we wish to see, filtered through the beliefs we project.
You may see a lovely, young girl. I see a woman drowning in the slipstream of her husband’s shadow.
He used to call them “sister-wives”. He’d say, “Baby, it’s for your own good. This way, the pressure to make me happy doesn’t fall completely on you.”
Aside from his taste for other women, he had a flare for rage. He never once hit me though. He attacked plenty but never lay a hand. Every night, we slept curled away from each other, as if our very skin recoiled from the other’s nearness. The distance between us grew wider with each breath, an ocean without an end. I lay awake night upon night, wishing that he’d actually hit me. Then, I’d have something tangible to point to. The thing about emotional warfare is it’s inflicted with far more stealth and elegance than abuse delivered by touch. Making it easier to accept, excuse, ignore, forgive, page after page. Elongating the vice-grip of the abuser.
“It’s for your own good.” “It’s only because I love you.” “You make it so hard to love you.”
Lyrics crooned by every abuser, spanning continents and generations. It’s like they share the same blood.
We lived deep in the belly of the woods, so removed from civilization that we didn’t have cell reception. Every time he boasted of a latest woman, I kept myself from shouting, crying, arguing - the last thing I needed was to be beaten senseless, without another soul for miles. I’d watch him pace, roar, the man I once loved receding into dilated pupils and a thick fog of rage. Using every tool I knew as a writer and actress, and from having to grow up with my father, I would calm the creature that replaced my husband.
I’m lucky such tactics worked; not all are as fortunate. He’d loom over me, I’d counter, all the while my heart racing, my inner child terrified, sobbing, shrieking, crawling, clawing for the nearest door.
Finally, I told him, “Enough. Your hunger for chaos and other women have everything to do with you and nothing to do with me. You are but a few years of my life. My story is so much bigger than you.”
Courage begets courage. I write these words because somewhere out there, sister, I hear you weeping.
Dear love, he is angry because the magnificence of who you are scares him. You were born gifted with extraordinary power not for it to be wasted on the care and handling of unworthy men. Use your talents to leave. Use your magic to create a world that mirrors your beauty.
Your fire is stronger than his shadow.
It has been six years. The best thing about my life without him is everything.