Wednesday, August 24, 2016

#500wordsaday: I'm Not Afraid Anymore (spoken like Kevin McAllister)

1) A time you lied
2) A time you were hurt
3) The last time you were happy for a week straight
4) Family
5) How you wish you started your day (and then why you aren’t doing that already)
6) Your most authentic moment
7) When you really loved yourself
8) When you were scared
9) Why you long for love
10) Something about you that you’re hoping people don’t notice   / Something about you that you’re hoping people do notice

500 Words a Day: When You Were Scared

A time I was scared?? I don't know...I can't think...

**fast forward 3 hours**

According to one of my girlfriends, I have writer's block on this subject because I don't scare easily. Which is true; aside from monkeys and outhouses, of which I have real fears, I just don't find myself all that afraid, all that often. Plus, I have written several blogs about facing my fears, overcoming fears, and the I felt that to make this a different post, I really needed to think of a specific moment of being afraid, not a general fear.

But I still can't think of one. Because I have writer's block, hence why I needed this blog challenge to get my wheels turning.

**fast forward another hour**

It's no secret that several years ago, I found myself smack dab in the middle of an abusive relationship. After he smacked me in the face with a Tupperware plate only a few weeks into dating, somehow I was moving into this guy's apartment, then buying a house with him, cooking all of his meals, raising his daughter, and living in a shadow of what I used to think was my life. It was weird.

It's still weird, after a lot of time and a lot of therapy. I'm the opposite of the "type" of woman who gets abused by a guy. I'm tough. I'm strong, confident, and stubborn. And at that time in my life, I was also controlled, manipulated, and bullied. I made decisions out of fear, constantly on edge and trying to avoid starting a fight. I was certainly not myself.

There was a summer when we were together, that two of my cousins were getting married, just a couple weeks apart. Of course, being the typical abuser, my boyfriend hated my family and didn't want to attend either event. We compromised though, and he agreed to attend the first as my date, and that the second - in which I was the Maid of Honor - he'd skip.

Clearly, I actually think not attending a wedding with your girlfriend makes you an absolute douche bag, BUT at the time, and in my state of mind, this seemed fair enough.

So the day of Wedding #1 arrives, and I am really excited; I borrowed this sexy vintage wrap dress of my mom's that I worked out tirelessly to fit into, and I am so excited that he's finally coming to something with me. I spend an embarrassing amount of time getting ready, curling every one of my individual ringlets so they're perfect - even though I have natural, bouncy curls - and perfect my makeup. I come bouncing out of the bedroom, ready to go, expecting that he's ready and waiting for me - as any decent man would be.

He's in basketball shorts on the couch, watching basketball.

"Are you going to get ready? We need to get going in a few."
"Nah, I'm not going...there's a Lakers game on."
" said you'd go with me to this wedding."
"I don't want to."

My obvious disappointment is showing on my face, and I get upset; I find myself practically begging him to take me - my family was waiting, I was really excited for him to come (who the fuck knows why). And now 10 minutes from go-time, he literally is like, nah.

Angrily, he throws on slacks and a shirt and walks to the car, as if I have somehow done something wrong. I blindly follow and get in the car, and am already pulling up the directions to the church in my GPS before he's even out of the driveway.

We've not quite made our way from the house to the freeway, when my gut signals my brain in a way that I can't quite explain. You know the feeling you get when someone is following you in a dark alley? It's like that. A sort of light-headed, uneasy feeling, like all I want to do is dive head first out of the car. I don't say a word, just sit patiently and still, letting the GPS in my phone direct us from the southbound freeway, over the Fremont Bridge into downtown Portland. He's been yelling since the freeway on-ramp. I'm ruining his life by expecting him to miss this basketball game. I clearly hate him and want him to be miserable. He hates me, his daughter hates me. I'm fat and ugly, and I disgust him, and maybe if I didn't have these horrible tattoos he wouldn't be so embarrassed to take me out on a date or to a wedding.

And while he's yelling at me, I'm just sitting in the car, listening to the GPS, trying to keep myself composed. No reason to cry, no reason to yell back - that will only make it worse.

"You need to turn right at the end of the bridge."

And in a second, he went from yelling at me, to a white-knuckled, brow-furrowed silence. Because you know, repeating GPS directions is a clear no-no. As he aggressively flipped his blinker, I flinched, and with that, he snatched my phone out of my hand, and from less than a foot away, threw it - full steam - at the side of my head.

From the second the hard plastic hit my temple, I didn't move an inch. He didn't say anything else, nor did I. I picked my phone up from the floorboard, and we sat in dead silence, with the exception of Siri's voice, directing him to the church. My heart was racing, my lower lip trembling, my eyes staring straight ahead; I don't think I even blinked. My throat was dry, and my thighs were trembling, until finally he pulled up at the curb about a block from the wedding venue.

I don't know exactly what came over me, but I practically leaped from the car. The second his foot laid on the brake, I had my purse and cell phone in my hand, and slammed the passenger door in his face, and was halfway up the block before I exhaled the breath I'd been holding for what felt like an hour. I didn't turn around, didn't look back, just walked as quickly as my inappropriately high heels would carry me towards the church, as he drove towards Vancouver, probably seething.

This was a turning point in our relationship, as I could no longer deny what was happening. I was being abused. I had just had a cell phone thrown in my face, and had then been left on the side of the road in downtown Portland, by my boyfriend, who I had been scared to get into a car with. This was a moment of true domestic violence, of which I was an obvious victim. I knew, walking into the church, that my family knew something was wrong. But I still didn't say a word. And I still had a great time at the wedding, danced all night with the groomsmen at the wedding (and considered going home with any one of them, if just to prove a point), and got incredibly drunk before getting a ride home at the very end of the party, in the wee hours of the night.

While the fight we had when I got home was far more heated, far louder, an far more physical, it was nothing like the part of the evening where I was stuck in the car being verbally assaulted by someone who was supposed to love me. I wasn't scared at home, fighting, being slammed against the front door. I wasn't scared of that, because that was routine in our house. It was far scarier being stuck in a vehicle with him, while part of me wondered if he was considering driving it off the side of the Fremont, just to avoid me getting to spend time with my family.

This would sadly not be the defining moment in our relationship, where I would realize I could never make it better and needed to leave; that moment was still more than a year in the future; but this was a defining moment in which I realized I lived with someone I was afraid of, and whom I deeply hated. I would never ask him again to attend an event or party with me; we lived essentially separate lives from that night forward, two people in the same house, who rarely even made eye contact unless we were fighting.

Ideally, I would never have met this guy, and would never have fallen victim to a manipulative narcissist, but several years later I can at least look back confidently. I know I suffered a lot, tolerated a lot, and was bullied a lot - but I did learn to always stand up to what I'm scared of. It's easy to think of things that scare you, or moments you were afraid of something - but what really matters, is that you are able to overcome it all.

And that you don't allow your fear to keep you from forging ahead. #nofear