To whom it may concern

You think that you knew me so well, but you just saw what you wanted to see.  And I’m guilty too.  I only showed you what I wanted to show you.  The truth is you never really knew me.  You knew one small part of me and you made up the rest to suit your fantasy.  And now that the pieces of that fantasy are falling away, you’re angry.

But please, enough is enough.  You’re calling me names and you’re accusing me of things that are just absurd.  It’s laughable when you think about it, really.  I’m a “head case” yet… You stalked me to the point of insanity.  You called me and messaged me nonstop for months.  When I finally blocked you, you created a new email address and a new Facebook profile just so you could continue to message me.  You called my work and you messaged my friends.  You commented on every single blog post, knowing that I would delete your comments without reading them.

Even now, it’s so important to you to have the last word.  You message me then quickly block me.  Then message me on another platform and quickly block me.  You’re still liking these blog posts even though I have asked you repeatedly to leave me alone.  Yet at the same time you are asking me to not contact you again for any reason.  I don’t think you’re hearing me.  I don’t want to contact you.

It’s gotten to the point now that your fiancee is messaging me.  That’s right, your fiancee.  Because you’re engaged and yet you still cannot leave me alone.  I still get to wake up to terrible messages calling me horrible things, only this time it’s from your fiancee and not you.  Well, allegedly from your fiancee.  I can’t believe that any woman would say those things to another woman, so honestly it seems pretty apparent that you are the one sending these messages.

Don’t think you’re some big hero.  Don’t tell me that you are trying to save me, or protect me, or fix me.  You said that you are the one who gave me the courage to leave an abusive marriage.  Are you serious?! Do you want to know who actually gave me the courage to leave an abusive marriage? Me.  I gave myself the courage and I gave myself the strength and don’t you dare try to take credit for any of it.

There was a point where the stalking got so bad that I contacted the police.  Thank goodness you never had my address.  I contacted the police once and please don’t think that I won’t do it again.  I’ve worked incredibly hard for this life and I will work just as hard to ensure that you get nowhere near it.

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It doesn’t take a talent to be mean, your words can crush things that aren’t unseen

I’m probably hard to date.

I’ve been seeing articles shared on facebook like “how to date someone with a mental illness”, and “how to treat your depressed girlfriend” or whatever.  I’ve never been shy about my struggles with mental illness – I have been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive tendencies, and sensory issues.  These articles are likely helpful for some, but I really don’t like seeing them posted all over social media.

Mental illness is not just some one-size-fits all blanket.  There’s no instruction manual for dating someone with a mental illness, any more than there’s an instruction manual for dating any man or woman.  Every situation, every relationship, and every person is completely unique.  I wouldn’t treat any two people in my life exactly the same, and I would really hope that the people in my life aren’t going to treat me exactly like someone else – especially if that means they are going to lump me in with 25% of all the people in the entire world.

Instead of looking at me and thinking, “What do I need to know to date a woman with mental illness?” I want a potential partner to look at me and think, “What do I need to know to date this woman?”

  1. I have down days.  One of the articles I read said that if your girlfriend has down days, make her go dancing anyway.  Again, I’m sure the author of that article had the best of intentions.  Perhaps that is what works with his girlfriend.  But not me.  I do have down days.  I have days where I’m just sad.  There’s no particular reason, and I can’t explain it.  When I feel like this, I don’t need to be pushed to do things.  I’m a pretty on-the-go person.  I like to be doing things.  Even when I’m sitting at home watching TV, I’m working on some side project like knitting or writing.  So when I do have a down day and I feel like doing nothing, let me.  Look at it as my time to recharge.  Instead of trying to convince me to get off the couch to go to the mall or out with friends, just get on the couch with me.  Sit with me.  Watch TV with me.  Maybe even sit in silence with me.  Just…be with me, and trust that I’ll be okay.
  2. I’m sensitive.  Dear Lord am I sensitive.  Most of the time it’s irrational and I know it’s irrational, but that’s when it’s the worst because I’ll try to talk myself out of hurt feelings.  I’ll keep it myself and I’ll tell myself that I’m being too sensitive, too overdramatic, too whatever, and I’ll keep it in.  I know this isn’t good for me or for my relationships.  If someone who cares about me hurts my feelings, it’s probably a safe assumption that they didn’t mean to hurt my feelings.  And it’s probably for the best that I say, “Hey, that hurt my feelings,” so that we can talk about it and move on.  But instead I’d rather hold onto it and let it continue to make me feel like shit.  For example.  My boyfriend got me this really pretty ring, with a really sweet meaning behind it.  I wear it on my right ring finger.  But you know, I have other rings that I like that I’ve bought over the years.  And sometimes I want to wear one of my old rings, but I don’t want to take off the ring that my boyfriend gave me because it means a lot to me.  So sometimes I will put whatever old ring I want to wear on my left ring finger.  It doesn’t mean anything, it’s just the only other finger onto which that particular ring fits.  I was on a date with my boyfriend this weekend, and he happened to notice the ring on my left hand and was shocked.  “People are going to think things!” he said, or something along those lines.  That hurt my feelings.  Like what, people might think you like me? Oh no, can’t have that.  It’s just a stupid ring on a stupid finger.  But of course I didn’t tell him that this hurt my feelings.  I just shrugged it off and here I am still hurt by it.  After I left today he messaged me to say that he missed me, and that he didn’t want to go back to reality. Logical part of my brain says, oh that’s sweet, he misses me.  Irrational part of my brain says, am I not your reality? Am I just some break from your normal life? Do you not want me in your real world? I know this is not what he meant at all.  But I’m sensitive.  And that’s just how I am.
  3. I need validation.  My ex-husband once told me that I have “an overactive need for constant validation”.  I think that’s a bit extreme, but I do admit that I like to be validated.  Who doesn’t? I like to be told that I’m doing a good job at work.  I like to be told that my new duvet cover looks nice in my room.  I like to be told that my hair looks good this colour, or that I look pretty today.  I don’t think that’s too weird.  But yeah, if you’re dating me…I need validation every once in awhile that I’m doing an okay job.  That you still like me.  That you think I’m smart or funny or pretty or whatever.  If I don’t hear that from you in awhile, I’m going to start to think that you don’t think those things about me anymore.  Again, irrational, but that’s me.
  4. I have weird boundaries.  I don’t understand them myself.  For example, my front door.  If I know someone is coming over, I don’t expect them to knock but to let themselves in.  But if I don’t know someone is coming over, even if they’re my very best friend, I don’t want them to just let themselves in.  In my kitchen…if you’ve been here more than once, I kind of expect you to help yourself.  I’ll offer to get you things, but if you decide later that you want a glass of water, you know where the glasses are kept and you know where the tap is.  But I’m still really guarded about my things.  I don’t want even my best friend to go through my drawers or my desk.  If you ask me, hey can I borrow a pen or whatever, I will absolutely say for sure! Check my desk.  Or maybe you want to check out my necklaces.  Yeah! They’re in my dresser.  Even though I have no issues sharing my space or my things, I have huge issues with permission.
  5. Sometimes my anxiety just says enough.  Sometimes I’ll be at a party and I’ll be having a lot of fun celebrating with my friends and then all of a sudden I’ll just need to go home.  I might be in a crowded grocery store and be completely fine minding my own business, but then suddenly I’ll need to checkout and go home even if I only have half the things I went to the store for.  Sometimes there will be a reason, like a flashback, or sometimes there will be absolutely no reason whatsoever.  It will just hit me and I will need to leave.  I might just need five minutes alone outside, or I might just leave completely.  It’s not you.  It’s not my friends.  It’s not the situation.  It’s me.  I feel that I’m pretty in tune with myself and I try to listen to what my mind/body is telling me that I need.

I’m probably not only just hard to date.  I’m probably not the easiest person to be friends with.  Sometimes when I feel the need to run away from a situation, I just go and I don’t tell anyone where I’m going or why.  I get that I can come across as rude sometimes.  I’m quiet and introverted and not socially confident so a lot of times people think I’m a snob and that I think I’m better than everyone, which could not be farther from the truth.  But I do feel that I am becoming more self-aware every day.  And knowing these things about me and acknowledging them and talking about them will hopefully help me overcome them.  I mean I’m always gonna need the TV volume on a multiple of five, and I’m always going to chew popcorn equally on both sides of my mouth.  I’ll always rub my foot on a soft blanket to soothe myself to sleep, and I’ll always say the same ridiculous prayer I made up as a kid every time I hear a siren.  But maybe I won’t always hold onto hurt feelings about someone’s semantics, and maybe I won’t always think that someone hates me if they forget to invite me to a playdate.

I’m not 25% of people.  There isn’t a guide to me and there isn’t a guide to any of the people in my life.  We’re figuring it out along the way and I’m just hoping I do an okay job of it.

When I can’t sleep, I think I’m funny

As I’ve written about before, I only started dating in recent years.

I met my ex-husband at 13, got engaged at 19, and married at 21.  Thinking back I’m like why didn’t anyone tell me how fucking stupid that was? And then of course I’m like…oh yeah, literally everyone did but I was 19 and knew everything so clearly I didn’t listen.

When you date in high school it’s a very different game.  As an adult you date for awhile and then decide if you want to put a label on it; in high school you label it first, date later.  So when I entered the dating world, it was essentially for the first time.

And so of course when you enter the dating world for the very first time in the 21st century, you do it online.

Which, really, is so great for an introvert because I can sit at home on my couch in my pyjamas and judge the fuck out of people.  I can make decisions completely void of actual human interaction.  It’s just a swipe here, a swipe there, everywhere a swipe, swipe…and then a dude shows up at your house and you fuck him.  That’s how it works, right? Right, guys…?

My therapist at the time (the one who most recently fired me) likened it to ordering a pizza.  At first I found that incredibly offensive until I actually thought about it and determined…yeah, it is like ordering a pizza.  We need to come up with an app that’s like a cross between Skip the Dishes and Tinder.  You go on, you find what you want, you order it, and then you track it’s delivery via GPS.  But instead of watching the little car move across the map on your screen, it’s a dick.  And then when it’s one minute away you get a notification that says, “your booty call is almost here.”  Patent pending, my friends.

I did actually have some real dates.  I had some good ones…or, good ONE, singular, and I had some bad ones…pluralize that plural.  This one dude, he was close to 40, took me to Tim Horton’s for our date.  I say he took me, but in reality he doesn’t have a driver’s license so I had to pick him up from the two bedroom apartment he shares with his mother.  His room is super cool though, guys.  He has bunk beds for when his son stays over.  Legit.  40 year old man with bunk beds.  You cannot make this shit up.

Anyway, we get to Tim Horton’s.  Of course buddy calls it “Tim’s” as if that makes it classy or something.  Yes, I get that a coffee shop is a good first date option.  It’s short, it’s public, and who doesn’t like coffee.  (Murderers, that’s who.*)

*Have not fact checked this.

But yes, a coffee shop is fine but at least put some effort into it by picking a nice local shop or something.  I digress.

We’re in line and he graciously lets me go ahead of him.  I place my order, which is a medium black, and he makes this big show of saying, “Oh, no, I got this.”  And he’s not saying this in an ironic, ha ha let me lavish you with this expensive gift of burned bean water.  He actually legitimately thinks that he is making this grand gesture of paying for my $2.00 coffee.  What, am I supposed to be like… “Oh, he paid for my coffee, I better let him stick it in my ass.”  No.  Not gonna happen.

And it’s not like any one app is better.  You can use Tinder, Bumble, POF, Match, whatever.  They’re all the same.  Do you want to know the difference between the free apps and the paid apps?  It’s simple, really: the dudes on the free apps are just looking for a hookup, whereas the dudes on the paid apps are just looking for an STD-free hookup.

In the first days of me having any of these apps, a guy opens the conversation by sending me a gif.  No explanation, just sends me a gif of Jason Momoa with his hair blowing in the wind, and a caption reading, “u dtf?”

Well…no, I’m actually not dtf.  I mean the new season of The Good Place had just come on Netflix so obviously I have plans for the next six hours.  But hey, I can play along.  So I send back a gif of Emma Stone looking all innocent saying, “Who, me?” And he comes back with another gif, just boobs bouncing up and down.  At this point I’m stumped.  How are you supposed to respond to that? Is there some kind of algorithm? Rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper, what beats bouncing boobs? I got nothing.

So I send back this gif of a dinosaur, the one with the big long neck.  What’s that dinosaur called? You know the one.  Anyway, the gif is of that dinosaur eating leaves off a tree.  I dunno.  If you can’t beat ’em, just be awkward as fuck, you know? It’s my thing.  #awkwardaf

Um…hashtags.  And the “af”.  Do I say “a-eff”? Or do I say “afff”? Like I have no idea.  Help me, people.  I am aging rapidly and it is terrifying.

I’m 31, so I’m basically like menopausal at this point.  I’ve started looking at coffins, writing my own obituary…you know, normal things.  But shit really does start going downhill at 30, doesn’t it? The first time I went to get my eyebrows done after I turned 30, I went to the same place I always do.  The woman asks me if I want my upper lip done too.  What.  The.  Fuck.  I have never been asked that before.  Never.  It’s never even occurred to me.  And I mean, I still get terrible acne, and my first bra in grade five was a C cup so trust me, I’ve had lots to be self-conscious about in my lifetime.  But my upper lip? Never fucking occurred to me.

Another thing about turning 30 and venturing out onto my own, I have to cook.  I’ve never been a cook.  I don’t like it.  I don’t like the passivity.  Waiting for things to preheat, waiting for sauce to thicken, timing everything to be done at the same time.  I don’t like it.  I just want to Get.  Shit.  Done.  It takes too long.  But at this point in my life, I really need to start cooking more.  I do.  You know you’re pathetic when the doorbell rings and your kid yells out, “Supper’s here!”

And I mean especially when you get the GPS Dating App confused with Skip the Dishes and you’re expecting pizza but you just get some horny 25 year old named Matt.  It’s just no.  Not good.  I mean in my defence his screen name was Italian Stallion which legitimately could be a type of pizza.

So yeah there’s still some work to be done on my GPS dating app, but don’t worry.  It’s coming, guys.  #delickery.  It’s not delivery, it’s dick.  Just reach into my warm bag, baby.

Okay I’m grossing myself out now.  Goodnight, guys.

Defining moments

I wasn’t looking for love.

In fact, I’d reached a point where I was decidedly against looking for love.  I’d been looking, and if you’ve followed my journey via blog you’ll know that I was most definitely looking in all the wrong places.  I didn’t want a relationship.  I was finally comfortable being home alone on weekends, running errands or tinkering.

But isn’t it always the case that you find what you’re looking for as soon as you stop looking.

I was cautious.  I tried to keep my heart to myself and be casual.  I approached the situation as if I was making a new friend, and that is really all I expected.  And then of course there’s that rush of…whatever it is.  Hormones, lust, “romantic obsession” as Gary Chapman puts it.  Whatever it is, that’s what I had.

I pride myself on being pretty freaking logical, and so I was very self-aware in the fact that this wasn’t “love” but instead a rush of emotional…whatever.

Here we are now, and there have been some bumps that have felt like crushing avalanches.  There have been lows but there have been so many highs.  Thinking about this, I’m trying to determine when exactly I fell in love.  It’s kind of a fun process, to relive the relationship and try to pick out the exact moment.  And I mean according to Gary Chapman the “romantic obsession” stage lasts a couple years, so hey maybe that’s still where I am.  Who knows.  But I do know that there are three specific times that I can pinpoint as pivotal moments for me.

The first is a few weeks after we met.  I could feel myself getting pretty smitten, and I didn’t trust my judgment after the last few…ahem…princes I had met.  And so I decided to introduce him to some of my friends and have them decide for me.  Yes, apparently I’m 12.  But I wanted the people in my life to meet this new person in my life and give me their painfully honest opinions.  I didn’t want to go down the rabbit hole again and end up hurting again.

I organized a “honey roast”, in which I invited people to my house to meet him under the stipulation that they say nice things about me and then leave quickly.  I’m so modest, hey? At least I’m upfront about it.  So some friends came over and met him…and stayed.  Some left quickly as intended, but some…did not.  They just…stayed.  I’m not one to kick people out of my house, but he and I live an hour apart and we were still new and we didn’t get to see each other a lot.  So I wanted to be spending this time with him, alone.  Then my friends decided that we should play some games.  A game of Twister magically appeared (I don’t even have Twister) and they went at it.

I have this thing where I hate to be rude.  I hate to ask people to leave my house, I hate to ask to leave someone else’s house early, and I hate to complain if I’m not happy with a situation.  So if I want people to leave or to leave me alone, I…pretend to fall asleep.  I know, super mature.  But that’s what I do.

I was serving alcohol this night, as that’s what I do when I have people over.  Offer drinks, snacks, etc.  I was a little tipsy, but it was very easy to pass myself off as much more inebriated than I was.  And then I decided to lie down on my couch and “sleep” while they played Twister.  He sat with me and he played with my hair while I lay there.  When Twister was over, someone suggested playing another round or getting another game out.  My new beau saw that I was “passed out” (since he didn’t know that I tend to do this) and suggested that we end the night so that he could take care of me and get me to bed.  My friends agreed and everyone left.

And then I popped up from the couch, revealing my parlour trick, and said “Finally! I thought they were going to stay all night!”

What I remember about this night is how caring he was.  How he sat with me and rubbed my back and played with my hair.  How he kindly suggested that my friends leave, and how he took responsibility for looking after me.  This is when I knew that it was more than just a friendship or a fling or a casual whatever.  This is when I knew that what I was feeling, or even a part of what I was feeling, was real.

The second thing was much, much later and is a much, much shorter story.  There was a weekend that he was spending with me.  He got to my house and knocked at the door.  I answered it and he didn’t give me a hug or a kiss.  He barely said hello to me before he took off his shoes and walked directly into my bedroom carrying a Home Depot bag.  I followed him in, wondering what the heck was going on, and watched as he took out that plastic insulation that you put on windows because I had mentioned to him that my bedroom was always so much colder than the rest of my house.

This is something that I’d mentioned once, maybe twice, and he just decided to fix it for me.  It was this little thing, this simple act of service, that showed me that damn…this guy is for real.  This guy listens to me and cares about me.  I feel like it’s all the little things that matter in life, and this was a really big little thing.

The third thing took place at my birthday party.  Why yes, I did throw myself another party for my 31st.  My 30th party did not exactly go as planned and so I wanted to have a do-over.  And it was a great night.

I don’t even remember how this last thing came to be, really.  I know that I was sitting next to him at my kitchen table, and he was talking to two other people at the table.  I can’t remember who they were or even what they were talking about.  I just know that he mentioned that his kids were with their mom, and the person on the other end of that conversation asked if our weekends lined up.  He said, “Oh I made sure that they did.”

And that.  That is the moment that I went, wow.  I love this man.  I really, actually do.  Again it’s just a small thing, a trivial comment in a conversation that I can’t even remember.  But that one comment showed me how much he cared about me.  That he thought about me when I wasn’t around, that he thought about us and made decisions that would benefit our relationship.  That’s when I really knew.

I don’t know why I’ve put this much thought into what the defining moments were.  I just know that right now I’m really happy and I’m so happy that I’m really happy.  I’m just happy to be so content in my life right now and I’me excited to see where it goes from here.

What I Want

  1. A bigger bed.  The bed I currently have is a hand-me-down from my daughter.  When I moved in the place I’m in now, I bought bunk beds for my girls since they now share a room.  And so I got my daughter’s double bed.  It’s just me in my bed and yeah, I don’t need anything bigger.  But I’ve always wanted just an enormous bed.  I don’t know where I would put it.  But once I get my gigantic bed…Ahhh.  That’s when I’ll know I’ve made it.
  2. Happy daughters.  More than anything, I want my girls to be happy.  Of course I want them to be healthy, and successful, and smart, and productive, and all those good things.  But most of all I want them to grow up to be really, truly happy.  I want them to be kind, genuine, big-hearted, strong, happy girls.
  3. A career.  I love my job.  I love it so, so much.  But it isn’t great.  I work really hard and I am good at my job.  But I feel under appreciated and I know I’m underpaid.  Ultimately I would love to stay at my job, and I would love to grow in my role.  However, I am recognizing that this may not be an option and I should start looking elsewhere.
  4. My forever home.  The place I’m living in now…I haven’t been here very long.  But it feels more like home than anywhere I have ever lived.  I feel so comfortable and at home here.  But I rent.  I won’t be here forever.  I have enough saved up for a down payment on a home, and a mortgage payment would be less than my rent, but my income will not support a mortgage approval.  One day.
  5. A romantic proposal.  I’m not saying that I want to get married again.  Then again, I’m not saying that I don’t.  It isn’t the piece of paper, or the ridiculously expensive party, or the legal implications of a marriage.  I don’t need to call someone my husband or my wife.  But I do want a partner.  I want someone to commit to me, to really and truly commit to me.  Not today, but hopefully someday.  Even if it’s just a quiet exchanging of rings at home.  No legalities, no fuss, just me and my partner committing to each other…to working together to build a life that works for both of us.  Not committing to rainbows and butterflies and stars in our eyes forever.  But a realistic partnership between two people willing to put in the work.  And yes…I want some sort of romantic proposal.  I never had that, and it may be selfish, but that’s what I want.  A romantic moment with someone telling me that they want to be with me forever.  I don’t need some giant, over-the-top, extravagant display, but yeah.  I want to feel special and loved and spoiled.

Even hearts made of steel can break down.

I’m angry.

I’m angry that I live in a world where I never have to wonder if my daughters are going to be sexually harassed or assaulted.  I’ve never wondered that.  I have never stayed awake at night asking myself if men will treat them as objects, will degrade them, will talk down to them, will hurt them.  I have never asked if.

I ask when.  I ask who.  I ask why, and how, and where. 

How old will they be when this happens? Will they be 12, as I was, walking to the mall with a friend and counting how many honks or hollers we got? We were proud.  We thought it was flattering.  We were 12.  We were children, and we looked like children.  We were two young girls walking in broad daylight down a street we’d walked countless times.  Being honked at, whistled at, hollered at by grown men as they drove by.  And we thought it was flattering.

Will they be 17,as I was, afraid to tell anyone that a boy at school stuck his hand up their kilt? That he took her hand and forcefully put it on his penis? That he offered to give her a ride on a stormy day, but only if she blew him in his mother’s van? Will she come close to failing a class because she can’t bear to be in the same room as him?

Maybe they’ll be 18, as I was, held down by their boyfriend and raped because they tried to break up with him.  Maybe they won’t tell anyone because it was their boyfriend, and they’d had sex before.  They said yes once, that must mean yes always, right?

Could it happen when they’re 29 and they try being careless for the first time in their lives, as I was? Will they think to themselves, it’s happened so many times that there’s no way it could happen again, right? Statistically speaking, they’d be safe, right?

And maybe they’ll be 30, as I was, when they thought they were past all of that.  When they’re happy with their lives, when they’re doing well.  When they’ve grown into themselves and finally feel comfortable and at peace with exactly who they are.  When they’ve embraced the strong feminist being within, when they’ve stood up for victims and protested attackers.  When they’ve told more than one friend or family member, it’s not your fault.  You did nothing wrong.  You could be plastered and naked and no still means no.  Maybe they’ll be at this point in their lives.

Maybe they’ll invite a friend over to watch a movie, and maybe they’ll have half a bottle of champagne left over from dinner. Maybe they know that this friend has been attracted to them in the past, but they’ve made it clear that they aren’t interested, and this friend had seemed accepting of that.  Maybe this friend is married and has a child, and just genuinely seems like a nice person.  And maybe that bottle of champagne is already open, and it’d be a shame to waste the bubbles.

Maybe their married friend holds them down while he touches them everywhere.  Kisses them everywhere.  Leaves his mark on their chest.  Maybe this strong feminist breaks for the millionth time.  Maybe she blames herself, after years of telling everyone else that it’s not their fault.  Maybe she tells herself she shouldn’t have opened the champagne, or that she shouldn’t have worn a tank top, or that she shouldn’t have had the lights so low.  If it had been brighter, maybe he wouldn’t have touched her.  Maybe he thought she wanted it.  Maybe he thought her protests were a game.

Maybe she has a boyfriend at this time, and maybe she is absolutely terrified to tell him.  Maybe she’s afraid that he’ll see her differently, that he’ll think she’s weak, that he’ll think she cheated on him. 

I don’t ever have to ask if.  I ask how.  How will it happen? Will it be crude comments at work, or catcalls on the street? I hope for these things.  I hope for my daughters, my sweet and innocent little girls, to be the recipients of harassment disguised as compliments – because maybe that means they will not be held down by their throats by a friend, or threatened and injured by a date, or raped by a boyfriend because they dare to stand up for themselves.  Maybe they’ll get the lesser of two evils.

But the thing is, the lesser of two evils is still evil.  Maybe Phillip Garrido is less evil than Adolf Hitler, but I still wouldn’t want to have brunch with him.  I want my girls to grow into strong, independent women and I want them to know what is and isn’t okay.  I want them to know that you can still be strong and independent and have bad things happen to you. 

It won’t be your fault, my angels.  It wasn’t my fault either.  And one day I’ll believe that.

Be the hero of your own story.

She had a pretty idyllic start to life.

She lived in a nice house, with two parents, an older sister, and a dog. She had a swing set, a sandbox, and a pool. Her mom was on the school council and her dad was always the most popular during Parent’s Week.

When it fell apart, it fell apart magnificently. Her dad moved hours away and had very little time to visit. Her mom moved in with a man who completely consumed her identity until the person posing as her mother had no resemblance to the one she knew.

She looked for escape wherever she could find it. She would join clubs at school that held no interest for her, just so that she could delay going home. She would choose to walk the forty minutes home instead of taking the bus. She would go for walks, exploring every street in her neighbourhood, looking into the windows of happier homes.

When she was old enough, she found escape in boys. She would spend most of her time at her boyfriend’s house, with his family. She would eat there, she would do her homework there, and she would celebrate birthdays and holidays there. She went home to sleep, but then would wake and do it all over again.

Once that boyfriend went to university, she was left alone again. They made plans for her to follow him to school the next year and move in together. Most weekends would involve her visiting him, or him visiting her. The fantasy of the escape kept her going for a bit.

But then the day to day dragged her down. There was nowhere to escape during the week. Her boyfriend wanted to know her every move, so she would come straight home from school and hide in her room until she could leave the next morning. She felt she had no safe space, and her escape just seemed so far away.

So, she found another boy who was willing to fuel her fantasy. She would spend time with his family, eating with them, doing her homework with them, and celebrating birthdays and holidays with them. Even when she went away for university the next year, she would come “home” to his house on every school break. It felt welcoming and it felt safe.

She left university after one year. She ran out of money, true, but worse was that she had run out of fantasy. She returned home, moved in with her boyfriend, and settled for a college program in which she had little interest. Her desire for safety, for security, and for the ultimate escape was greater than anything else. And so she was engaged at 19 and married at 21.

She waited for her happily ever after, but it never came.  She had spent so many years of her life in a toxic home and this had tainted her view on what was normal.  She thought love meant being controlled.  She thought that love meant losing yourself to someone else.  She felt her identity vanish as she was known as his girlfriend, then his wife, then the mother of his children.  But who was she?

Later, she would wonder…had the capability for abuse always been within him? Or had she planted it there? Was it her fault that he had grown into a hateful, bitter, and cruel man? Or had that man always been there, buried beneath false promises?

One day, she woke up.  She realized that she did not need to escape from her life – she needed to live it.  She was not just somebody’s wife or somebody’s mother.  But who was she?

And thus began a journey of self discovery.  A journey in which she ventured out onto her own for the first time in her life.  For the first time, she was dependent on no one.  She built her new life brick by brick, every day realizing the strength she had inside her all along.

She stumbled, of course.  She took some wrong turns and she ended up in some dark places.  But she realized that these mistakes did not define her; rather, they cultivated her.  She realized that it was okay to ask for help and to accept it.  She realized that there were genuinely kind people out there, and she had many of them in her life.  She realized that she was stronger than she had ever known.

She fought her way through the darkness.  She had witnessed abuse, and she had endured abuse, but she was not defined by abuse.  She did not need a white knight to ride in and save her.  She didn’t need the fantasy of escape.  She had the power within her, and it had always been there.  She was the hero of her own story.

 

Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash