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. 

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The Beauty of Love

My holiday is long over and I am back to face the reality of having to build up my life from scratch while healing from past hurt and pain. This holiday has been much more than I ever intended it to be.

I faced many of my fears including going back to the city in which I lived with my ex and his family. I achieved my goal of letting the city be as it is and not be marred by the negative experiences. I also found it in me to actually look back on the negligible good times that I had in the city during my marriage due to the few lovely people I came into contact, without any regrets, pain or bitterness.

But more than anything else I saw the sheer beauty of love.

Visiting the Taj Mahal was always on my to-do list but never did I expect the experience to be overwhelming in the manner it was. The day I landed in Agra, my dad, who had visited the Taj previously pointed it out on the banks of the River Yamuna as we made our way to the hotel. As I saw the white dome gleaming in the sunlight I was almost instantly moved to tears. Little did I realize that this was the precursor to what was coming the next day.

On my dad’s suggestion we made our way to the Taj Mahal just after sunrise. The gentle cool breeze and the sun trying to peek through the parting clouds of a storm that should have been, proved to be the ideal setting for my first glimpse of one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

The Taj Mahal has one main entrance from the fore complex through which you can see the entire monument. But nothing prepared me for the immense beauty and grace of the Taj as I came face to face with it for the first time.

First Glimpse of the Taj Mahal

The Taj epitomizes a husband’s love for his wife and there I stood a wife betrayed by the man she loved, moved to tears by the sheer pristine beauty of love. I was mesmerized by a man’s labor of love of over 20 years for his wife. The countless photos of the Taj Mahal do absolutely no justice to the immense and almost overwhelming elegance and grace of the monument. The strange quietness and the slow ebbing of the River Yamuna were practically addictive to an extent that I did not want to leave.
Taj Mahal

I could have just sat there for hours simply staring at the Taj without even a hint of regret that I did not experience even a minuscule amount of the love due to a wife. The beauty of the monument simply took over my mind, body and soul. I think for the first time in my life I was in trance like state, completely at peace with my surroundings and without any desires but to stare for hours at the gleaming marble monument of love.

As honeymooners had themselves photographed ensconced in new love, I sat down for the customary photo in front of the Taj Mahal on a bench now popularly known as the ‘Lady Di Bench’. But I sat with my head held high thoroughly enjoying my freedom and solitude. The photo is a testimony of how far I have come in my healing.

This trip has made me appreciate the beauty of love and like the Taj Mahal it is something that I will never forget.

 

 

 

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.

 

My First Award

The first two awards were given to me by Godess Unleashed and a huge thank you for them. I cannot express how humbled I am to find that someone finds my blog addictive and inspiring.

This blog was started in an effort to reach out to those in pain and let them know that they are not alone in their pain and confusion. I remember the times I was desperately looking for something to help me heal in  my times of pain. So as rules of the awards I will be nominating 5 blogs that have helped me heal immensely and find the strength to help others and also provide 6 six things about me which others do not know, which is tougher than I can proclaim!

Rules (courtesy: Goddess Unleased)

Award Rules:

  1. Thank the person who awarding you and link back to them.
  2. Share 6 things about yourself that we don’t already know about you
  3. Display the award on your blog.
  4. Nominate 5 other bloggers you feel deserve the award

6 things about me:

  1. There was a time I wanted to pursue a career in forensics but given the lackadaisical approach of the Indian judicial system, I decided against it. 
  2. I am a sucker for all crime shows. ‘Criminal Minds’ is a particular favorite because of criminal psychology aspect of it.
  3. I am also a sucker for history and art. A trip to all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites would be a dream come true.
  4. I used to be a sketch artist. Being an animal lover, I simply loved sketching animals.
  5. Wearing makeup is the least of my fortes. But due to the changes appearing on my face with stress and age I am trying it out, but still mess it up 8 out 10 times.
  6. I would love to own a pet shelter, a library and if possible an art museum.

The blogs I am nominating are truly addictive and inspiring in every aspect. The strength and perseverance of these women never cease to amaze me.

Lisa Arends at Lessons from the End of a Marriage is particular favorite of mine. I found her blog just two months into my separation and still reeling from the pain. As I read through her blog I felt the pain she endured of being abandoned by her husband of 16 years by text . Later I lost the link to her blog and Google did nothing to help me. But soon she found her way to mine and since then I have been a regular reader of her blog. As Lisa puts it, she’s ‘lost and found’!

Divorced at 50 is also among the blogs I read early into my separation. This blog is another favorite, even though outside the folds of WordPress. Divorcedat50 helped me deal with not just the pain but also accept it as a part of my life and overcome the bitterness. It has helped in times of frustration and overcome depression.

I found Alone but Strong a few months ago and since then I have been hooked. I cannot help but admire her courage and patience at keeping things cordial with the ex for the sake of the girls.

Surviving Eventually 2012 astonishes me every time with her courage of finding in herself to forgive her husband and work on saving her marriage. I cannot begin to imagine how much courage that takes.

Almost Spring has put every lesson learned from divorce so eloquently that its almost as if she read my mind. The 40 inspirations and 40 quotes are like guiding light in a dark and gloomy night.

 

Help That Heals

I have not been able to post anything in the last few days due to several uncertainties in my divorce proceedings and they are still far from sorted. But the last few days have allowed me to think clearly about the various experiences and situations I have faced since the separation and divorce proceedings started.

I have come into contact with people from different walks of life experiencing the same pain as me, seeking support when they find it and helping others like them. The people I meet during the court hearings have been almost an eye opener to how similar instances of betrayal and the pain can be. But what has stood out in the last few months ever since the ordeal began is the importance of having help that heals.

When I walked out of my marriage many people rushed to comfort me, most of them with genuine concern while others were not so genuine. Since then till now I have been given all sorts of advice- good, bad to insensitive. There were some people who did their best to comfort me but were at a loss of how to do so. This also included my mother who did not know what to say to me for (thankfully) she as a wife had not faced betrayal. With me in that situation, she was dealing with a wife not her daughter. That is when I explicitly asked her and others to just listen to me as I literally spat out my anger, resentment and bitterness. I requested them not to give a single word of advice till I had removed every speck of overpowering anger from me. But there were others who were not so accommodating.

There are some things which one would rather not say to a person facing divorce since it is already an overwhelming time, it is best not to increase this feeling. If you know someone going through a divorce please know what not to say and if you are going through a divorce please tell others of what not to tell you. It is always best not to say anything if you do not know what to say. As Ludwig Wittgenstein said in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”

During the initial days of my separation I contacted a friend and confided my situation requesting the friend not to divulge the information to anyone in our common circle only to be told, ‘you are living in a bubble X, you need to get out of it’. This was just 2 weeks into my separation and I was barely getting out of the emotional shock. I abruptly ended the conversation and though an apology was tendered later it made no difference to the refreshed wounds.

The moment people heard of my predicament advice was free flowing irrespective of whether I wanted to hear it or not. I had a particular acquaintance give me ‘advice’ for over an hour just because the said acquaintance was in the ‘mood’ for doling out advice. Lest to say this person was never married let alone face a spouse betrayal yet was qualified to dole out advice. Again an apology made no difference in the light of the harsh words spoken previously.

I found over the course of time that most people cannot comprehend the pain one goes through due to betrayal and divorce, but this does not stop them from saying things they should not. There was another person who kept saying that I must become self reliant since everything is ephemeral. Sound advice no doubt, but the person in question chose to walk in and out of my life at sweet will. This was at a time when I needed stability in my life having been betrayed by the person I trusted my future with and then being abandoned by ‘friends’, known to my ex, who refused to help me. Over time I completely shut that person out from my life but I still cannot help but cringe at memories of compounded pain during that time.

The basic essence of providing help to a person going through divorce is providing stability and security in the fact that the other things will not change (even if it is for the time being). Never speak of things being ephemeral or about how you might not figure in the person’s life at a later date. If you feel you will not be around for some time to come, make yourself scarce from the very beginning without uttering a word. Please do nothing if you cannot help.

Last but not the least please do not ask a person facing divorce to watch a movie or worse get a spa date. When your life is shattering all around you definitely would not want to get a spa treatment or worse still watch a rom-com. Entertainment at that point of time is not an option when you are dealing with betrayal and planning how to survive with dwindled finances and sometimes kids on your hands. Also please refrain at all times from talking about your plans of the future. I had an acquaintance refuse help in the time of need but speak in length about future plans.

Even though these instances stick out like sore thumbs I have received enormous help from people known to me and complete strangers I met in the courts. The support I received from them has helped me heal and find my peace of mind. It has also helped me realize the importance of such help. So understanding this, please provide help that heals and not wounds, for these wounds are harsher and compound the pain by not just elongating the healing period but also making it excruciatingly painful.

Facebook Monologue

I joined Facebook (under my real name) way back in 2007 when it first came to India. I remember enjoying interacting on Facebook then even though it did not provide a chat applet. But since then despite a burgeoning friends list I have hardly used it to interact and instead it became a tool for only checking the happenings of other people’s lives and staying quiet. Over the last few days I realized that through this blog I have been welcomed by complete strangers with open arms, interacted with them, poured out my thoughts and feelings, found understanding and the much needed human connection. So right now I am in a good mind to shut my FB account under my real name and open one under WanderLustry Ramblings.

My Beloved Facebook,

Our relationship started like any other relationship, filled with love and hope in our eyes and hearts. You serenaded me into your folds. But I honestly think it was because of your high moral fiber in comparison to Orkut. I was taken- hook, line and sinker. I vowed that you would be special. You would be me my connection with family members and close friends, so that I would not need any excuse to visit you at any time of the day. You amazed me every time with your qualities. I spend hours looking at you, playing the many history and geography quizzes while exchanging cute pokes, hugs and kisses with my loved ones.

Just when everything was going great you brought others knocking  on the doors of our relationship. You called them ‘dear’ friends. Did you not realize that if they were so ‘dear’ to me I would not have ever lost touch with them. Yet you prevailed, teaching me etiquette of social networking on the internet. You told me that even if I was not ‘friends’ with them offline it was courtesy to ‘friend’ them online. So started the third persons walking in and out of our relationship.

My dear beloved, you still did not understand that I pined for the days it was just you and me not everyone dropping into my profile. When I told you, to add to my woes you brought in specialized privacy which I still find hard to understand and despise since it allows people to hide and cheat. So my dear beloved, on this Valentine’s Day while everyone is professing their love to people they hold dear, I am telling you that it is not me, it is you darling who welcomed the troubles I do not want to weather.

Despite my patience and understanding and your supposed warmth I don’t think this will work out. Even though you welcome me every morning with, ‘What’s on your mind X?’, ‘How you doing X?’, you wipe the smile of my face and steal the warmth of my cup of coffee with the next few lines. You tell me they are important. They after all signify the happenings in lives of my ‘friends’. So you hold me to you to let me browse through glossed perfect pictures of my ‘friends’, with their perfect friends, perfect families, in perfect locations, spouting the perfect smiles.

So darling please understand the current situation in my life, which requires that I genuinely connect with people who believe in just stopping by to say ‘hello’ and have a nice conversation. But you never know with the changes you bring in everyday you might just be able to serenade me back into your folds but till then it is a fond goodbye.

Love,

X