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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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.

 

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.

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.

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

Change

Change they say is the only constant in any individual’s life but how many of us are accepting and welcoming towards change especially if it is not to our liking? Even though we might not like it, one cannot avoid change. Bury your head or turn away, change will take its toll on life and everything surrounding it.

It sometimes creeps into our lives slowly allowing us time and space to adjust to minor and major changes but most of the times it is thrust on us especially in case of spouse betrayal and the ensuing divorce. But there are times we are forced to wake up and make the changes ourselves to our situation irrespective of how bitter a draught it is.

Change is like quicksand, the deeper you try to sink in your feet for a fleeting sense of security the more quickly you are sucked into it. The question then arises of how to navigate change you are not prepared for or never wanted. Separation and divorce taught me that accepting change albeit grudgingly sometimes helps navigating the stormy waters, but ignoring change will result in you being left behind while the rest of the world moves on. Recovering from such a situation can be costly, emotionally and physically.

Despite the fact that I fought change when it initially brought divorce into my life, in retrospective it was one of the best things that happened to me in recent times. It has shown me the qualities I possess of which I had no prior knowledge, helped me become stronger and be more receptive towards the lessons life has to teach. Change showed me the larger possibilities of life which I could not ignore especially if I wanted a certain standard of life for my family and me. The vision of my next few steps are clearer than ever before and never in the past have I been so excited about my life and all things I wish to achieve. I have my peace of mind and more importantly a confidence in my step which I lacked before despite the many accomplishments in my academic and professional life.

So, the next time you face change, wanted or unwanted, handle the challenges with confidence, seek support if you need it, explore the possibilities change offers and finally enjoy the change to the best you can. They after all do not say for nothing that whatever happens does for the good!

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.