I see you. I see you for all you are now.
The little hand in my hand felt warm as I sunk myself into the gaze of two deep brown eyes looking up at me. Stepping along the pavement together whilst avoiding the cracks, my three year old chattered about her first day at nursery. Every word was filled with laughter, varying emotions dancing across her face, merging from one to the other in fleeting snapshots. There was nowhere, nowhere at all, that I needed or wanted to be in that very moment in time. The sun warmed my skin, my anxiety was at bay, I had the love of friends all around me.
I realised and felt in that moment what many people have said, what I have tried to find myself in a place to say, I have treasure so great nothing else matters. I have the love and every precious moment with three incredible beings. It does not matter how many hotels and bars my husband is repeatedly spotted in. How many people pander to him as he sits on his throne in his paradise of glass. Despite having to buy uniforms, pay for trips, music lessons and every form of paraphernalia the children need, whilst he drinks the money he cannot spare for them away in various London establishments, I do not care. It is a struggle, it is a cause for concern and late night anxiety, but at a fundamental level something has shifted.
The final awareness, the words that have been repeated to me by those who truly see it all, " it is not you, it is him" have come to settle in my bones. In the tired body that day in day out works for three little people, only laying down at night to have the nightmares come and join me for company; those bones, the muscles that entwine around them are finally learning a new memory, a new story.
With every day, every minute that passes from the moment my husband walked away I have found a peace descending upon me. I have awful nightmares, anxiety attacks, music haunting my thoughts, and have found myself in places I have no memory of journeying to. However every night as the children arrive home from school, I lock the door with no uncertainty. Our time is now our own, No more waiting for dinner, waiting to hear where I am in the pecking order of the day, no more telling the children to wait till I speak to their father, the disappointment apparent on their expectant faces as though know how long it will take me to broach it with him, and even longer for him to decide. We now are the definitive. Our answers are there for us, our decisions each day based around exactly how we are feeling. I have for the first time begun to do exactly what I want to, what I need to for myself day by day. That freedom came at a great cost, but in the darkest moments, when the sheer terror visits me I know I have on the other side a new feeling to greet me. A feeling that bubbles up in me with an excitement that makes me giddy. It is not the churning I felt that kept me up at night wondering what I was uneasy of. It is not the tightening I felt when I could not put a finger on why his words hurt me as he said them so politely.
It is a feeling I have not felt since I was a child.
A feeling of anticipation, of wonder, of pure eagerness.......what is out there for me? Something inside me tells me what I have had taken from me is now in my reach, and now I am strong enough to grab it, take it and earn it for myself in a way no one can ever question it away from me. That is a feeling of power. Perhaps unfounded, perhaps delusional, but the words have not stopped flowing since that first few weeks. With each moment of terror kissing away each hurt I feel another moment draws closer. I sat with friends last night and laughed. Laughed in a way I have not done in years. Unashamed, unhindered, and myself. The me, the self that is going to emerge as I listen to my inner most thoughts though these months and years ahead.
One morning this week as the children ran around double checking their uniforms and I convinced the youngest that brushing her teeth was still a necessary task this morning, and the tooth fairy would not be visiting if she stopped brushing them so they all fell out, I was also dealing with the shadows of my nightly ghosts. Every morning as the light casts itself through the curtains and across the floor I find myself easing my mind and heart away from the grips of the phantoms that held tight for that night. On this morning amidst these occurrences I became aware of another sensation. Stillness.
Stillness among the chatter, the splashing water, and tupperware boxes. There had been many mornings like this, I no longer felt something that had always been there. An uneasiness of what the day held. Of a phone call, a text that would leave me hanging on at the whim of someone else. There was no more care taking. I did not need to check if my husband had done what he had promised, follow up on things he needed me to do, fix any crisis that had occurred out of sight, and been bought to light when no other solution could be found. I have stepped out each day my face absolutely bare, no jewellery, a spritz of the new perfume a dear friend gave me to signify my new beginnings. With every single thing no matter how minute to others I feel emboldened and lighter.
The glass cage that was built around me as I lost myself, my true voice, the choices that used to make me who I was was open. There are many things that still hold me, many tendrils from each filament that wind around my thoughts. But on that day something happened.
As he sat from room to room, the same routine of silence, of words that kept coming out as if just spoken, but so well structured only someone who had given them great consideration could have spoken them. The same pain as I felt the all too familiar pattern hit me. If I push back it will get heated, if I stay silent so will he, for hours. Due to leave for a concert, our anniversary gift to one another, I was desperate to undo what was happening, to snap him out of it, to go and dance our hearts out and remember the connection we have. To feel each reverberation of sound take us further away from this painful place we were in.
But the words kept coming, the feeling kept staying the same. He knew what he wanted, he knew the outcome he was ready to achieve. As he furtively glanced at his watch, and kept leaving to go to the bathroom I knew he had already checked out.
With this absolute gut feeling I asked him. Why is it always about you? Why have we never stopped things and looked at and supported me? It has been your career, your job losses, your family, your friends, your depression, your feelings, your manhood, your shame. When have you ever stopped to look at this other person in this marriage?
The cold glare. The silence. The pieces of every moment sliding into place behind me. Then I said the words, the words I to this day do not know I had the strength or ability to say.
" You can walk out, you can do what you have always done best taking with you the years of tears and support that has gone into holding you up. But be sure of this. I will not fall. I will take those children, I will hold them tighter than I ever have, and we will come out of the other side of the flames you are dousing us in. We will stand taller, stronger, and you will never be able to hurt us again".
As he packed his bag, as he attempted to reengage me through my silent tears, those words from a stranger inside me held me up.
Those words made me call a friend who rushed out of her house to be there for me, and was dumbfounded when I said I will not be locked in anymore, I want to go out and to cry through every song if I have to, but I will not let the voice of Stevie Wonder floor me each time I hear it for the rest of my life. We sat in the cool summer air in Hyde park, as I cried through every song in plain sight of the world. My friend wiping my cheek when she could bare it no more to see me burning so hard. But is worked, for the rest of the summer as the songs have been played, as people discussed the hours he played for no sudden tears have sprung. One phantom was vanquished.
Whatever happened when I found those words, which I lost again the weeks following his departure, as I watched and held my children through their own personal heartbreaks, their little bodies heaving with pain I will never forget. That was swallowed up in the grief, the self doubt, and self hatred that plagued me for months. The questions, the confusions, and then the darkness slowly lifting to show me another view in a new light being shone from a different place. What ever happened that created that place of shifting moments for me is finding it's was up again.
It is from this place I said the only words I needed to say when he finally resurfaced but refused to explain himself.
I see you. I see you for all you are now.