Freedom is Just the Beginning

I have been quiet on the blog for almost a month now, though my mind had been buzzing with numerous ideas for posts I barely got the time or the energy to pen them down and post them. But what dominated the thoughts of posts was the ordeal faced by the freed women in Cleveland. I first came across the news on twitter and did not think much of it till I turned on the TV. 

As Amanda Berry’s photos with her sister and daughter flashed across the screen I could help but going back to the torture and trauma I had faced not so long ago. The thing with power play and abuse is that they start almost in a similar manner but in different situations and are of different intensities. The underlying psychological games of making the victim feel worthless and powerless without the abuser remain the same. The flood of physical and mental abuse, though might vary in intensity, is present in every abusive situation. 

As I thought about the way I submitted to the psychological manipulations of my ex and his family I could almost imagine the trauma these brave women endured. The worst part of continued abuse is the fact that it can be very difficult to adjust to normal life at a later date. By normal I mean enjoying the rights provided to every human.

There are still times when I jerk out of any leisure activity be it sleeping, watching TV or reading a book, guilty and fearful that I should be pleasing my ex and his family so that I do not have to listen to their tirade of abuses. It takes me some time to re-orient and realize that I am in my own house, to do as I please. This surprisingly was echoed by Elizabeth of the Fritzl Case when she found it difficult to sleep on a soft bed after being held captive and raped by her father for 24 years in a dungeon.

This makes one realize that attaining freedom is just the beginning of a whole new arduous journey of healing through every bit of trauma. It also includes dealing with the moving on of life, as Berry did with the passing away of her mother, when the life of victim was made to stand still by cutting her off from her support system.  My heart goes out to them along with prayers that their healing period is short and sweet to propel them into success later on. 

Start at the Beginning

The last couple of weeks have been absolute mayhem, torture and have turned my life topsy-turvy in every manner possible. But as they say that system is born from chaos:

A few nights ago I had a really odd dream. I was living with my ex on good terms with him and also his family. The dream followed all the routines my life did when for the first few days things seemed good. In my dream my ex was preparing for his GMAT and I had the brilliant idea to prepare along with him but was confused as how to go about with the preparation process. So after this (hold your breath) the golden words of advice came from none other than my ex “start at the beginning”.

I had this dream the day my divorce case in the courts went crazy and the Family Court Judge wanted me to go back to my ex despite knowing the abuse and violence I was subjected to. The Indian courts and the society has a very funny way of victimizing the victims and not ostracizing the perpetrators of crimes against women. So basically for the Judge I was an uncultured, uncouth and ill-mannered woman (mind you, not lady) to be asking for a divorce from my husband who provided a roof on my head, clothed me and fed me despite the regular instances of domestic violence. These according to the Judge are obligations from my ex to me and not basic human rights which must be provided to everyone.

I listened to this lecture for 45 minutes seething in anger all the while and finally came to the decision that I will not tolerate this humiliation and nonsense anymore. I walked out of an abusive situation earlier and I chose not to remain in another. This essentially means that I will not be bothered about what turns my divorce case takes anymore. I also do not care if my ex gets out a decree against me. I do not need an idiotic judge telling me whether I am sane or not or even whether I am a good or bad person.

My life has been restructured since and I have decided to go back to school to upgrade my skills which I will require to survive in the corporate world. So as of today I will be starting school from next month and working at the same time to build my life- this time completely on my terms. I am also taking a holiday next week to remove every remnant of stress, tension, depression, pain and frustration from my system. I need a fresh start and a clean slate. This break will provide me exactly that.

So I start at the beginning after advice from my subconscious conveyed strangely and ironically through my ex!

Overcoming Bitterness

The months after separation I was racked with overwhelming bouts of bitterness. Whenever I went out I saw happy couples, I looked out of my window and I saw young mothers around my age playing with their kids while greeting their husbands returning from office. These scenes played out in front of me every day and the bitterness refused to go. This continued till I found an anonymous quote: It is best to leave your ex’s where you found them.

Bitterness is like poison, it spreads through your body, mind and life. Before you know it, you will be a slave to the bitterness, spewing in anger at everything you lost because of your ex rather than working towards achieving what you want. Bitterness feeds on anger which takes over your life making it difficult to let go and start afresh. During the time I was fighting the bitterness that was in me I came across several people who had hung onto theirs for years, one even for 10 years. Astonishment does little justice to describe what I felt because most of them could recall every little detail of the emotional trauma they had experienced even if it had taken place decades ago and every decision they took in their life after that originated from the bitterness that had festered over the years. I hardly need say that their lives were not happy, which made me realize that bitterness begets bitterness and not happiness. Life has an uncanny way of teaching important lessons, grab onto them when you can!

It is important to understand that it is up to us to clear up the bitterness. Your ex will be long gone, least bothered and will be living it up while you wallow in bitterness and make a further mess of your life. Even if you are not ready to forgive you must learn to let go of the bitterness to be able to appreciate what life can offer you. Once you can do this you will see that life is too short to feel angry or bitter. Life offers so much to see and do, even with the dwindled resources post-separation/divorce.

Start by keeping yourself busy even if it means taking time off to volunteer at an animal shelter or homeless people’s shelter. The unconditional love you receive from the homeless animals and the gratitude from people in the homeless shelters will do wonders for your healing process. This positive beginning will help you forgive yourself and get rid of the bitterness.

Try writing out your anger. There is something therapeutic about seeing your emotions in black and white which will help you accept them, let go and move on. Vent on paper or speak to a close confidante. It is important to write/ speak out the bitterness and anger you feel. In time you will find yourself feeling better and less bitter.

It is essential that you cut out the root of bitterness from your life or else your life will be intoxicated with hated and anger. Speak out, accept and let go, that is the only cure.

 

The Hardest Thing To Do

In the months after facing domestic violence, abuse and infidelity the hardest thing to do is love yourself and stop blaming yourself. The months of abuse leave you emotionally dried up and you usually blaming yourself for everything that has or is going wrong.

It is hard not be able to look beyond the failure of your marriage and realize that even if you were given a chance to redo everything the chances are still quite high that the marriage would have failed. I literally tore myself up with the ‘what if’s’ and ‘could have’s’. I relived every incident wondering if I had reacted differently would my marriage have survived. I questioned my thinking, sometimes even second guessing whether my ex was right.

The situation becomes tougher when your spouse starts playing the victim and blames you for everything. I got blamed for every little thing but I did not stop to realize even for once about what he was doing to me, how he was slowly destroying me even when he called me a liar and said that my lying stopped us from coming closer when all the time he was the one dealing in lies. He lied to his company about his marital status by saying that he was single, only engaged, planning to take one of his many girlfriends on a business trip abroad as his fiancee, and all the time he called me a liar.

Once the marriage broke down I was racked with guilt that I did not do enough to make him love me till one day my rationality practically kicked my emotions out of picture bringing me back to my senses. It was then I realized that no matter what I would have done my ex would have never loved me. Love, was an emotion too profound for him to understand.  Neither any of my actions redone a million times could have saved the marriage. That began my healing process. It was not me who was at fault it was solely my ex who was at fault, who not for even once was committed to the marriage in any manner whatsoever.

Accepting that I was right allowed me to bring some amount of peace to my mind, knowing that I gave my best to the marriage and there was nothing more that I could have done. The peace of mind slowly turned into confidence allowing me to confidently take decisions concerning my life for the first time since the separation. There are still times when I tear myself up with the ‘what if’s and could have’s’ but this time it is about asking myself why I did not have the courage to confront the emotional manipulation of my ex and why I did not have the guts to walk out earlier for my own well being. But I know that with time even this will pass and I know that with time again I will gain the confidence to walk away from any situation that is in any way emotionally manipulative.

Candyfloss Romance

Candyfloss romance is a fair weather friend. In it, all things are pretty and perfect. The girl is perfect, gorgeous and poised, the boy is tall, dark and handsome and they live happily ever after.

What most do not realize is that happily ever after is a continuous state of being requiring constant work and effort. Marriages might be made in heaven but they are  endured and worked upon on Mother Earth. In reality we realize that diamonds might be forever but love and marriage are not always so, platinum love bands can help you find your day of love but not make it last and gifting chocolates and roses on V-day does not necessarily signify true love.

Hence happily ever after is finding your significant other standing by you through thick and thin, loving you in sickness and in health for richer or poorer. Happily ever after is finding that steady hand on your back supporting you through the journey of achieving your dreams, holding your hand allaying your fears of reality and nightmares, being told that you look gorgeous when you look your worst, laughing on the silliest of jokes and still hanging onto the phone to talk through the night like teenagers despite being married for years.

I have seen two fabulous marriages before me, one which lasted over 4.5 decades and the other 3 decades and still counting. These marriages were long before V-day celebrations, diamonds or consumerism made their appearance in India. They showed me that love is like wine which tastes better with time and maturity. True love and commitment do not require gifts delivered to each other through cash-on-delivery on V-day or birthdays or flowers for expressing the love; they will make their presence known through the small gestures that matter the most.

So with another V-day around the corner poking its candyfloss romance into my eyes I make a promise and commitment to myself of loving and cherishing myself. I may not be important to my unfortunately-still-legally-married-to significant other, but I am important to me and so on this V-day I just might gift myself flowers and chocolates to reaffirm the promise and commitment made.

Accepting the Pain

Pain is bestowed in generous amounts by break-up, separation and divorce. Sometimes the pain is blinding, heart crushing, breath-taking in a twisted way and finally numbing. During the early days of my separation I could not feel anything, not even the remotest hint of pain or tears. I was numb, but as time progressed the pain made its presence felt and I found myself gritting my teeth, gasping for breath, shuffling my feet and simply dragging myself through the day. I tried taking one day at a time and if I could not even do that, I took one hour at a time till I managed to cross the 18 waking hours of my day. This I think is what they call the pain of a broken heart.

Despite what you might call it, the pain is overwhelming and hence the importance of accepting the pain, working through it. Working through the pain involves letting go a major part of it. This in no way means that you must forgive if you are not yet ready to do so but that you are allowing yourself to become stronger and heal. Letting go of the pain also does not mean that you must forget the experiences but accept them as a part of your life and remembering the lessons they taught you.

I strongly believe that accepting the pain and working through it also means that not only must you let go of bitterness towards your ex but also let go of resentment towards yourself. There are many of us who have been betrayed by our spouses and we have tortured ourselves into thinking ‘what if’ or admonished ourselves that we did not see the signs of betrayal earlier. Letting go hence must be holistic and accepting that betrayal is not a failure of our perceptions.

For a long time I practically kicked myself that I did not have the courage to confront my ex earlier or walk out earlier as I would have saved myself a lot of pain and trauma. But over time I realized that no matter what I would have done I would ending up getting hurt, my ex is after all a serial cheater. The only difference would have been that the hurt would have been slightly less, the pain would have remained nonetheless. This helped me forgive myself to an extent but forgiveness has never been easy neither will it ever be. It is and will remain an ongoing process.

The Fleeting Satisfaction of Revenge

Revenge they say is a dish best served cold. This dish becomes even colder and fraught with every ounce of bitterness you can garner, in case the revenge is against a betraying and cheating spouse.

I too started out on my path of recovering from the betrayal of not just my ex but his entire family, swearing revenge in every form I could. I have always strongly believed that-

Nothing can inspire forgiveness quite like revenge.- Scott Adams.

But the experiences ever since I started out on my path of revenge have taught me that revenge can never be enough. Through the days of suffering of my ex and his family, because of many things I quietly set into motion, I was never satisfied with practically anything. I would find myself feeling satisfied for just a few minutes and then again restless at what I could do next, to increase their sufferings to match what they had put me through. But what could I do to make them suffer to the extent of what they put me through for a year, one against six of their family, with scars that would last for a lifetime?

Honestly, nothing. Even if I tormented them for the rest of their lives it would mean nothing to me. This started the process of realization which also jolted me into seriously thinking about my life. Did I really want to spend the rest of my life plotting and scheming against them? During this time I was also hooked to the primetime soap opera Revenge. Anything mentioning ‘revenge’ during this time and I would be hooked. As the show progressed I started questioning myself even more about whether I really wanted a life like Emily Thorne, the protagonist of the show? Even though the answer was clear, my mind was disturbed with another thought. What was I without the revenge? What would I be after the revenge? The answer was clear and extremely disturbing- nothing better than my ex, a person who plots and schemes to destroy someone else’s life and in the process destroys his own life.

Floundering like a survivor adrift in the sea I started looking for something to give my life meaning to go on. Embarrassingly I even Googled ‘how to get the best revenge?’ The answer which I had known for long stared at me through every search result-live your life well, do not give others the satisfaction of watching you suffer.

Following this unfortunately takes a lot of time and effort especially if you have lived your life doing for others, looking for happiness by making others happy and admonishing yourself if the other person is not happy. This made me learn that the hardest thing is often saying sorry to yourself and loving yourself, sometimes even putting yourself before others. Nonetheless, stumbling and faltering on a path that was completely new to me, I started on a journey to live my life for myself for the first time.

At first, it was difficult, to say the least, but slowly as I found my footing, things got easier. Within months my appetite was back and more importantly my peace of mind. I could sleep peacefully at night, enjoy my hobbies once again and also enjoy shows/movies that did not center around revenge. Given the short span of my marriage, there were times I feel as if it never happened. Though I refuse to let this prevail, since no healing can be complete if one has not accepted reality or wishes to completely ignore the hurtful episode.

I had started not just living my life, but enjoying it, despite the fact that in the courts I was still fighting for it against all odds including character assassination. Then came a time when for the first time since the separation I came face to face with my ex and his family. I could see them from a distance waiting eagerly to see if the divorce had taken a toll on me or my family. Their eyes searched for signs of depression, frustration, weight loss, despair, hurt, anything.

But there I was, happy,  plump-if not overweight, pampered by my family, confident and completely at peace with the happenings around me. On the other hand, what my ex’s eyes searched for in me, astonishingly I saw it clearly in him- sunken eyes, hollow cheeks, weight loss, tensions, bickering within the family, despair and frustration.

That is when it hit me that despite everything I had done to them in the previous year to make them hurt nothing surpassed the feeling of being able to live my life on my terms, in a way I wanted right in front of their eyes. This was the best revenge ever-living the life they so badly wanted to snatch from me, and surprisingly the satisfaction remained, for now my life will continue even after the court cases are long over.