This is the second-to-last Friday of November. Black Friday to some. Blue Friday to others. It is also, the second-to-last Friday of Family Violence Prevention Month.
Family violence kills. Spirit. Hope. Dignity. Trust. Life.
Last night, I attended a fundraiser put on by the Campaign Associates of the United Way of Calgary. It was wonderful to spend time amidst these caring and committed individuals who organize the events at which I speak almost daily. Many of them are ‘on loan’ from Calgary corporations for the 4 months of the fall campaign. All of them are funded by Calgary corporations. All of them make a difference.
What was significant for me about this event however wasn’t just the people, it was the place.
It was held at a venue where, once upon a time, I tried to end the relationship that was killing me.
It was fall, 2002. Life was spiralling out of control and I was falling. I had no money, no job, no home. My daughters were living with their father and I was falling further and further into the darkness.
‘The man’ was clinging to me in a desperate attempt to have life look as if it was normal. I don’t remember where he was living, but I was staying between the home of one of my dearest friends and at the time, house-sitting another friend’s house in the same townhome complex in which she lived.
I wasn’t sure what would happen next. ‘The man’ kept promising to make it all right. He kept promising that he would fix it, get my home back, get all my belongings out of storage, get me stable once again.
I didn’t really believe him but I couldn’t quit listening to his promises. I was so tired. So lost. So helpless.
And then, he made a scene. We had gone to a local pub (the same one as last night) for a drink and he acted out, accusing me of flirting with another man in the bar. Yelling at me for destroying his life. Calling me names.
I left. Grabbed my coat and walked out.
I walked and walked in the cold, dark night.
The pub was only a couple blocks from the river, about a twenty-minute walk from where I was house-sitting.
I walked down to the river and along the path that skirts its shoreline. I don’t remember if there was a moon, or if the stars shone. There was snow on the ground. The air was frosty.
I felt so hopeless.
I wanted him to follow me. I wanted him to leave me alone. I wanted him to disappear. I wanted to vanish.
At one point, I took a path down to the water’s edge and sat on a rock watching the water flow past. I imagined what would happen if I could simply fall into the water. I imagined what it would be like if I could disappear. I knew his presence was choking me. I knew being with him was driving me crazy, that there was no truth in anything he said. And I knew I was lost and had to do something to find myself again.
Somewhere in that relationship he had given me a heart-shaped ring set with tiny diamonds. I had worn that ring ever since he’d given it to me in the belief that as long as I wore it he would not disappear from my life and my daughters lives would be safe.
Sitting beside the river that night, I knew I had to let go.
I took the ring off and hurled it into the river.
I broke the ties. In that act I rebelled against the bonds that tied me so fast to his deceit and abuse.
I walked back to the house where I was staying. I let myself in and went to bed.
It was over.
And then, the doorbell rang.
I didn’t want to answer it. I told myself not to.
But he started yelling. Pounding upon the wooden barrier that stood firm between us.
I capitulated. I told myself I didn’t want to wake the neighbours. I didn’t want him to cause a scene.
I told myself I would let him in just so I could tell him it was over. I didn’t care about the money, the home, the stuff. I wanted free.
It would be six long, terrifying months before I got free again.
I remember that night. It was the night I gave up on me completely. It was the night he threw back at me everything I had ever told him about my life for which I held shame or sadness or regret. In the reminding me of all my misgivings, he affirmed my deepest fear. I was not worthy.
I lost my spirit that night. I lost my direction completely in the darkness of knowing, I was not worthy.
It is the reality of these relationships that take such a toll. To be abused we must believe abuse is all we’re worth. We must believe they are right, we are wrong. We must give up on ourselves, and give into the who they tell us we are, what they tell us we’re worth.
To be abused we must believe in the one who abuses us.
And it is in that belief we die.
Abuse hurts. Stop it.