“One's dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.” ― Michael J. Fox
Never were truer words uttered! Life does not always follow the neat, white picketed fence or yellow bricked road which we may have internally intended, imagined or dreamed – in fact, it seldom does and internal growth comes from the learning of how to ride some of the biggest waves which roll towards us at often unfathomable speeds. Having been in two horribly physically abusive relationships myself starting at the age of 15 (one of which was my eight year marriage), and two other emotionally abusive ones, it strikes a rather tender and protective chord when I catch wind of someone else being exposed to the same – no matter if it is on a minuscule level.
I know what rock bottom feels like. I know what complete helplessness and desperation feel like. I know, that despite my own self-doubt, I eventually managed to pick my core up off the floor, find all the shattered bits surrounding me and put them back together in the spirit of Kintsugi. Ever heard of Kintsugi? It is an ancient Japanese art where they repair a broken object by enhancing its scars with real gold powder, rather than disregarding or hiding the imperfections, they highlight them and consider the ”flaws” strengths – a symbolism and practice for which I hold enormous respect.
Life can be incredibly cruel in its teachings, but one of the lessons I have learnt acutely - is that if you are receptive and embracing of the lesson itself – you will not only begin to evolve into a far more compassionate, empathetic and enlightened individual, but you will also cultivate an inner strength which becomes almost unconquerable, and ultimately - the beauty of this, is that the world truly does become your oyster.
Despite the amount of slander, accusation and demeaning commentary tossed in my direction by the men I was involved with over the years, I have learnt that pretty much everything they ever swung in my general direction – including their fists – had a lot more to say about them than it did about me. It took me a long time to process and accept that – but I got there eventually. The one thing I grasped early on is that there are very few men that can stomach, let alone handle a strong-willed woman. The ones who are able to see the beauty in this are truly one in a million. The critical thing however, is for the women themselves, to acknowledge that they are not the ones that need to change or adapt - they are not the problem! – The sad thing is, few women ever realise this.
“Usually adult males who are unable to make emotional connections with the women they choose to be intimate with are frozen in time, unable to allow themselves to love for fear that the loved one will abandon them. If the first woman they passionately loved, the mother, was not true to her bond of love, then how can they trust that their partner will be true to love. Often in their adult relationships these men act out again and again to test their partner's love. While the rejected adolescent boy imagines that he can no longer receive his mother's love because he is not worthy, as a grown man he may act out in ways that are unworthy and yet demand of the woman in his life that she offer him unconditional love. This testing does not heal the wound of the past, it merely reenacts it, for ultimately the woman will become weary of being tested and end the relationship, thus re-enacting the abandonment. This drama confirms for many men that they cannot put their trust in love. They decide that it is better to put their faith in being powerful, in being dominant.”― Bell hooks
This is just the thing! I know that was how I felt back then… and I was asked that question so many times, by many friends because my husband was not even discreet in his abuse. ”why have you put up with this for so many years” or ”why have you not left yet?!” People that have never gone through it - will never understand the endless justifications which you sell yourself. Why do you do it? – Because you are insecure and because you want to believe the best – That’s why!!!! So, whilst I did not have the confidence to “up and leave”, I did get out – and for that I am ever grateful – even if it was via the route of me creating even MORE disharmony and somewhat inducing disaster SO destructive that it simply HAD to end the situation. So, having said that - I have ENORMOUS respect for the women who have the strength of character to walk away the first time they are shown such disrespect - or even the second - it is truly commendable!
People do not realise how much strength this requires, for the simple reason, that women seek love, companionship and family - (not to say men don’t, but I think women are more naturally driven in this direction). Women want peace, love, stability and happiness in their home... (they are the home makers after all) – I suppose we are great idealists in that regard lol. We are ALWAYS selling ourselves the “prettier picture” – so even when the picture gets ugly, we pretend it isn’t happening, and that is how we end up at the bottom of the barrel.
“There'a a phrase, "the elephant in the living room", which purports to describe what it's like to live with a drug addict, an alcoholic, an abuser. People outside such relationships will sometimes ask, "How could you let such a business go on for so many years? Didn't you see the elephant in the living room?" And it's so hard for anyone living in a more normal situation to understand the answer that comes closest to the truth; "I'm sorry, but it was there when I moved in. I didn't know it was an elephant; I thought it was part of the furniture." There comes an aha-moment for some folks - the lucky ones - when they suddenly recognize the difference.” ― Stephen King
I know how miserable my abusive marriage made me. Many years "after the fact", I ran into two regular clients from my shop as our kids became the greatest of friends at pre-school. When they realised who I was, I could plainly see the disbelief on their faces! Their jaws literally hung open for longer than a comfortable second lol. They could not believe I was the same person. That man did nothing short of steal ALL my sunshine in the 8 years we were together. He broke me down, bit by bit, to a point where I hated everything about myself and I loathed any and all outside human engagement. I became a complete hermit. So finding the strength to get out of it all took every ounce of ALL that was left of me emotionally - and having to go through a divorce just two months after the birth of our son – made it even more challenging. I know I have spoken about this before, it is the kind of thing that never really leaves you, but you DO learn and grow from it. It is the one thing that broke me down to foundation level and was me greatest teacher, hence I share it.
“All too often women believe it is a sign of commitment, an expression of love, to endure unkindness or cruelty, to forgive and forget. In actuality, when we love rightly we know that the healthy, loving response to cruelty and abuse is putting ourselves out of harm's way.” ― Bell Hooks
At the end of the day, despite how impossible or hopeless a situation may seem – I implore ALL men and women who are stuck in abusive and toxic relationships (or friendships) to take the chance, make the leap and get the hell out of it! YES, you will feel hurt, lonely, confused, overwhelmed and a million other things too – but ALL of them will pass... and you WILL see the light of day again, and when you do eventually get there (which you will), you will be ever grateful you walked that springboard which at the time presented itself as a plank – and for that reason, I am sharing this in the hopes that those who need it, get a chance to read it and are motivated by it.
“You can recognize survivors of abuse by their courage. When silence is so very inviting, they step forward and share their truth so others know they aren't alone.”― Jeanne McElvaney
We live in a conflicting world. One where the traditional "hunter & gatherer" status has long since gone astray due to societal influence - but this does not mean that the inherent desire and gravitation for either gender has gone ANYWHERE! It is only natural that this shift in direction would cause upset and confusion on a degree FAR greater than I think any of us care to admit. You cannot "half" dismiss a value system... it either IS or it ISN'T. Our "half cocked" society is brewing abuse of all kinds because nobody truly understands who, what, where or how they stand anymore, so my advice... keep your focus, learn and KNOW who you are, where you stand and where your boundaries lie. Respect yourself enough not to let other abuse the love and beauty which you have to offer. Be BOLD and unafraid to share that beauty with the rest of the world because this place needs a LOT more of THAT!
I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.- Leonardo da Vinci
Until next time...
Much Love from Cape Town, South Africa xxx
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