The New Normal

At Thanksgiving I had pulled a name for my Christmas gift (there are too many of us to give everyone a gift) that I wasn´t familiar with, it was someone about twice removed, and a boyfriend of that someone to boot. I knew where he lived, what his interests were, through heresay and so I bought him a gift card to a very popular hunting supply shop.

He was hugely impressed, it seems.

I told him I know how the town is and what the favorite pastime is there, having lived there myself for a year or so and he kept smiling at me and struck a weird posture. I stood there, trying to figure out what was going on and then I worked out  that he was trying to hug me, in that respectful sort of sideways style that young men would give older women. I was stunned, really, though I complied without much hesitation.

A few years ago I would have been beaten bloody for that. I wouldn´t have been able to walk for at least a week. I am sure it would have been worse than all the beatings I had endured before, because there was no provocation, no justification for any of them. I never looked at anyone, spoke to anyone unless it was a basic politeness, or went anywhere unless it was to obtain food or education for the children. Every beating I had suffered was because my ex had made up a story about me in his head, a fantasy of my imagined guilt. An excuse to hurt me, to punish me, for being in his life and being a package deal with his children when he had found someone he liked better- who knew nothing about us, his family. He would beat me, but he could not separate from me, because he had no reason to. I was doing nothing wrong, and his cultural norms taught him that a man had to take care of his chaste wife forever. So this would have thrown my ex over the edge, for sure- to touch a man, and a man I did not really know, at that. It probably would have been the excuse he was looking for, the excuse to kill me, in the name of his honor.

The intention of this young man was not bad. He meant to show appreciation. He is young enough to be my son, and he was being respectful per his cultural norms. Hugging is part of American mainstream culture, and it is becoming more common rather than less. But even without taking all that into account, it is not something that deserves a beating, or an unkind word, or even a sharp look. Showing affection, even between those who are unrelated, is a good thing. It is human, it is humane.

Today I was, after short work weeks and multiple days off due to the holiday, relaxed. I was relaxed, completely. I played with my children, for hours, and in the house, not out in the parks like we do in the summer. They sang songs for me and we got silly and I was truly enjoying them, not telling them I hadn´t time or that I had to do this or that. I had actually done all the cleaning I could. I was with them, in that moment, clapping in time to their songs and laughing with them.

It was one of few moments I have experienced where I have no symptoms at all of PTSD. It gives me a sense of freedom, of hope, and it is always bittersweet, because if I were so at all moments, all of the time, I know my children would heal better and faster than they have.

I spent the first eighteen months after we left feeling as if we were still there. I was afraid to smile in public, could barely speak, and I never laughed. I feel so sorry for that time. My children did not have it easy, either. We were all still trapped back there. I have been trying to talk about it, what happened to us, for years, but failing. The last few months I have not been trying at all and I feel better than ever. Supposedly I have PTSD because I did not process my trauma- that is the definition of PTSD. The first year after we left I did not even remember what it was like before, my mind would not recall anything of any abuse or any memory involving my ex, but my body remembered. I was always back there, always terrified, hushing the children from habit, so we would not be punished for the noise. I don´t want to remember. I don´t want to go over it with anyone, even my therapist. I want to continue to move away from it.

I want to continue to have these moments without fear. Not being afraid to receive a hug from a relative, no matter how removed, and not afraid to laugh with my children in my home. I love the feeling of being unafraid. I love it. It lets me show my children how much I love them, it lets me be myself. It allows me so much room to grow.




4 thoughts on “The New Normal

  1. Congratulations on your New Normal! It sounds like you and your kids are doing great!

    I wish I didn’t relate so well with your old normal- the walking on eggshells, trying to avoid his anger, the minimal social interactions (avoid eye contact and all unnecessary conversation with males), believing that if I didn’t do anything “wrong” he wouldn’t be able to accuse me, but even in the most innocent interactions have “caused” violent outbursts. Me talking to a male delivery person on the phone and being too nice was just cause for screaming, slamming doors, and divorce threats. Trying to avoid these things sometimes helps appease him briefly, but he is the one who imagines the ill intentions that he believes I have. It is a lonely, isolated, anxiety filled way of life. Whether physically or emotionally abusive, it has mainly been triggered by his perceptions of my supposed wrong doings in interactions with the opposite gender.

    Sometimes though, I remember a time when embracing a friend was just an innocent sign of affection, and how good that felt. I miss that.

    Your blog is one that I read because I have hope that I will have the ability to change my situation and sometimes I imagine how much better off we would be away from fear and anxiety.

    Thank you for sharing. May you continue to have many moments without fear.

    • I am glad you could reach out, and to me! I am honored!
      I always felt my ex was delusional, imagining intentions and happenings that did not exist… I know exactly how you feel. I excused it all by convincing myself it was a cultural difference- until I got into the shelter and every girl (from five different cultural backgrounds) was describing him in their own stories. Abusers all seem the same, as if they have monthly strategy sessions together. It is uncanny.
      You have to watch that stress, so your brain doesn´ t sustain permanent damage like mine did. Make sure you get enough sleep, if possible, and for sure get your vitamins.
      When you do get away from the fear and anxiety, it won´t register right away. But when it does start to recede, life is absolutely amazing. After such strife, you take nothing for granted, and it gives you an immense capacity for wonder. Sometimes you cry from happy.
      Don´t try too hard to appease, the more you try the more they just never stops. Try to indulge yourself in what you love, your hobbies and interests, it makes everything easier to bear, and it reminds you of who you are. Someone who you will be free to be, again!
      Thank you so much for reading- hugs and love from all of us!

      • I am glad I could reach out too, but it has taken me a very long time to even be able to do this-leaving a message on someone’s blog, and feeling that its okay to have that interaction with someone.
        I spent years justifying his behavior as religion and culture, believing that I deserved this because of my failure to be a perfect follower of religion, or because of mistakes I made before conversion. I had to rationalize and justify the things that he would do because I could find no other way to understand it. But you are right, it’s not culture or even religion except to the extent that it can be used to justify their behavior.
        You offered some good advice: sleep, vitamins, hobbies that I love. I have really been trying to make sleep a priority. I have been returning to some of my old interests too. So much of me has been buried for so long, but I am relieved to see I haven’t lost myself completely! Thanks for your positive words. It helps.

      • My life changed for the significantly better when I started sleeping a proper amount each night.
        It took me a long time to feel like I could communicate, too, even after I left I think it was a year before I could reach out to anyone.
        Just keep the logic going, and trust yourself. It is very common to rationalize away these things, and I see it especially among the educated. It is easier, somehow, to justify it than to admit our special someone is a jerk or certifiably insane.
        If you have not already, check out the symptoms of Battered Person Syndrome and Stockholm Syndrome, because if you have either you won´t know it unless you know what to look for.
        Best wishes for your process and please keep reaching out to me, as we have similar background. It means so much to me, to not be alone in this!

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