Still Here

I’m still here. Still trying to be anywhere but here, still not sure I will ever be able to be anywhere else. How many times can you let yourself believe this time will be different, this time I can finally have what other people take for granted, and have it pulled out from underneath of you at the last second? This time was bad, y’all. This time I really let myself believe the crap coming out of my own mouth. I really thought the happy bubbly person I pretend to be could actually become the person I really am. So close. So damned close.

People think I am giving in. People think I’m quitting too soon. Maybe I am, who knows. I know I have been fighting for my entire adult life. I know I am called many things because of how hard and long I’ve fought. Ice princess, unfeeling, strong, a bitch. What am I really? Im tired. I am so damned tired of “fake it till you make it” and ” never let them see you sweat” and all the other stupid crap I tell myself every day to move forward. So unedited honesty. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I can’t be a good mom. Does that mean he won ? I don’t know, and right now, I really don’t care.

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Truly, Truly Blessed

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It was a rushed morning. I had volunteered for an early shift at the pharmacy where I worked part-time. I had rushed to get 5 children and myself ready, pack backpacks and diaper  bags, and get my 3 oldest kids to school. I loaded my youngest 2 into my van and headed for Paula’s , she was babysitting for me that day.

I turned onto the beltway and into a horrible traffic jam. I vaguely remember hearing of a car accident somewhere up ahead. “Perfect,” I thought, my stress level climbing even higher. A local radio station was playing tapes of outlandish 911 calls. My mood brightened as I laughed along. I remember noticing for the first time how beautiful it was outside, and thinking that I would take the kids for a walk after work.

The DJ came on, his voice no longer jovial. He had just received word that an airplane had crashed into the World Trade Center. “It had to have been an accident” I remember thinking. “Why were they flying so low?”

I finally reached Paula’s house. She met me at the door in tears. I looked at her television and together we watched the second tower get hit. Standing in her living room, I saw for the first time what would be burned forever into my memory. We couldn’t fully process exactly what we were seeing then, but I remember thinking what I was looking at was hell on earth. Eventually, I stopped watching and left for work.

By the time I got there, the owner had already decided to close for the day. I recieved a call to pick up my children from school, as they were closing as well.  I retraced my steps from just a few hours earlier, in a world that was forever changed.

Over the next few days, I heard the stories. I heard about the firemen, walking resolutely up the stairs to save people, the look in their eyes telling that they knew they were walking to their death. I heard about people jumping out of windows, knowing they would die, but chosing to die on their own terms. I read about hundreds of people who lost loved ones to hatred on that horrible day, and I prayed. I prayed for them, and for us all, then and now. May God bless America.

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Why Do They Stay

Last week, a conversation filled the newsfeed of my Facebook page that I haven’t been able to get out of my head since. It was between several women I went to high school with. These women all still live in the same area in New Jersey where we grew up, in a very upper-middle class neighborhood. The topic of this conversation? Domestic violence. They were discussing why women don’t leave when they find themselves in this situation. Their answers angered me, and have haunted me ever since.

“They don’t want to downsize.”

“They are afraid to start over with less, or they aren’t willing to do whatever it takes to get out.”

“I believe there is always a way out, but it just may not be as glamorous as people would like. So they trade in their happiness for wealth or financial security.”

In a rare display of restraint, I didn’t add my opinion to the conversation. Honestly, I am intimindated by these onetime friends and classmates. They went to college, got degrees, married men with degrees, and live lives much like the one I once lived. My story is much different, but on this topic, I have a lot to add.

The man I married is a blue collar man. He is also an abusive alcoholic. I wasnt prepared for living with very little money. I was even less prepared for dealing with drunken outbursts and violence. I learned over the years to hide bruises and feelings, learned how to flash a smile and say “I’m great, thanks” with conviction. I learned to cover up, defend, and above all to protect my abuser.

I have wanted to leave for as long as I can remember. Be assured, I was never once afraid that life on my own would be “less glamorous” There has never been anything glamorous about life with my husband. No electricity, not enough food, and the constant threat of eviction were my reality.

So why stay? So many reasons. Most abusers isolate their partners. I have never been permitted to have friends. I live 2 states away from my nearest realitive. I have done everything I can think of to save money, only to have it discovered and stolen. I have called the police, and they have done nothing. Shelters close their doors at 10 pm, and I work at night. Less glamorous? I would welcome it.

I suppose you could say I stayed for the sake of my children. Not because I think they benefit from living in a home where their mother is abused, but because I refuse to force my children into homelessness. I stay, simply because any shelter is better than no shelter for them. If it were just me, I would choose homelessness.

I know the “why women stay” question has been asked for years, on talk shows and in magazines, and yes, even on Facebook. I really believe, however, if we change the question to “how can we as a society help women leave” we could make this world safer, if not glamorous.

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Elephant Girl: A Review

I became aware of Jane Devin when someone on Twitter posted a link to her blog. From that first blog post, Jane had me held captive. She challenges me, with her raw honesty, and her remarkable courage. When she began talking about her upcoming book, I knew I had to read it.

I received my copy of “Elephant Girl” on Wednesday night, after a long night at work. My plan had been to read a chapter of it before bed, and read more on my day off. By the end of the first chapter, I was in tears, and  I knew that I would not be sleeping anytime soon.

Jane has this remarkable way with words, her voice is at once raw and eloquent, and always brutally honest. This is not an easy book to read. This is hard, and painful, at times even gut wrenching. I lost faith in mankind in this book, and then it was restored.

Jane’s story and mine are vastly different, yet frighteningly similar. I found so many commonalities between her and me, that at one point I considered sending her a tweet and asking if she would please get out of my head. Things I never told another human being on this planet, things I thought only I ever thought or did, were in this book.

Jane makes no excuses for her life. She fearlessly admits to bad decisions, and moves forward. That is one of my favorite things about this story, even at her weakest, lowest points, she moves forward. That inspires me, and gives me hope for my own life. For that, I owe Jane a debt of gratitude.

I think everyone can benefit from reading this book. You will be challenged, you will be humbled. You will bear witness to another human beings soul, laid out for all to see, and just maybe, you will find pieces of yourself.

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My Story

I want to tell you a story.

A story about a woman, desperate to start over. The mistakes she made were relegated to the past, she attempted to make amends, and wanted nothing more than to move on and make a good, honest life for herself and her children.  At times, it seemed an impossible crazy dream, but dreams have always been her specialty. One day, she found a place, a starting point to make those dreams a reality. All that stood in her way was money, or so it seemed.  So she  worked. Hard. She worked as many hours as she possibly could, and saved more carefully than ever before. When she wanted to quit, when exhaustion made her doubt her ability to ever achieve her goals, the cries of her children, begging her to get them out of the situation they were living in carried her on. It was a long, hard summer.

Finally, the woman was close, very close, to her dream. Two paychecks. That was all it would take. She found herself smiling more, singing. She began to pack. Her children started to believe that she was going to get them out, to a better place, and they began to dream as well. There was one child, not a child anymore, who grew afraid. She wanted to stay with her father, but didn’t want to see anyone else leave. So she stole her mother’s credit card number, and shared it with her father. In one afternoon, all the woman had worked for was gone. All of her dreams were ruined, and the devastation on her childrens’ faces hurt even more than the betrayal of the child she loved so dearly. She was left, trying to cling to rapidly disapating hope.

So what can she possibly do now? She can continue to work, and teach her children to never give up. She can envision her dreams, and tell her children stories of one day soon, and dry their tears.  She can come back here, to this place, and ask for advice from the people that she admires and respects so much. Above all, she can never, ever give up.

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There comes a time, when something inside clicks, and you start to see things for the way they are.  Slowly,you move beyond the daydream of “one day” and learn to deal with the stark reality of today.   You brutally and honestly asses your life and yourself.  You take a deep breath, and decide to stop.

Stop screaming, and crying and wondering why.  Stop fighting, and clammering to hold on to a dream that in reality died long ago.  Stop wishing, and hoping, and praying for a change in someone else.  As the sobs of your latest tantrum subside, you look at the world through new eyes. This is your moment of clarity.

You begin to realize that you are not, and never were Cinderella, and there is no Prince Charming.  There are no fairy tales, and any hope of happily ever after must come from you, and only you. Once you can finally embrace that truth, and embrace it with your whole heart, there will come true peace.

You stop worrying about who you are supposed to be, who you are supposed to love, who you are supposed to allow into your life.  It doesn’t matter anymore what “they” say. Where you should shop, what you should weigh, what you should eat. Who are “they” anyway? Suddenly you wonder why you ever cared to begin with.

You begin to accept the fact that you are not perfect, and you cannot be everything for everybody, no matter how much you want to.  Like it or not, not everyone is going to like you all the time, and eventually that becomes okay.  You begin the work of liking and respecting yourself, and learn to require that same respect from those around you.

You look at friendship in an entirely new way, and see that friendship is a two-way street.  You begin to extract from your lives those that are only looking to fill a void in their lives, without ever caring much about yours. As painful as the letting go can be, you realize that to obtain the peace and serenity you so desperately desire, you must let go of the toxic people in your life.

You learn that success can only come from hard work and perseverance. You define success in your own terms for the first time, instead of someone elses, because for the first time, you realize that you are smart enough to define your own life.

You face the obstacles that you have avoided for so long and realize that they aren’t as insurmountable as you once thought. You accept the fact that you are strong, and your strength has been there all along, just waiting to be discovered. You face starting all over again from scratch, and although it is scary, and there are people depending on you, you know you can do it. You give yourself permission to be afraid, and move forward at your own pace, and believe in yourself like never before.

Then you begin to consider the possibility of love. Once so frightening a thought that you swore never, ever again, you realize that it doesn’t have to be that way.  You learn that you can’t look to a relationship to fill your needs, and you cannot fill anyone elses needs. You cannot be responsible for anyone’s happiness, and you cannot make anyone responsible for yours.

You picture instead this lover of your dreams.  Someone who will talk with you for hours about literature, and poetry, and music. You fantasize about a cabin in the woods, with a lake and a fireplace, and a Golden Retriever at your feet.  You daydream of long walks together, canoe rides, and time alone to write, content with the knowledge of your lovers closeness.  You dream of hands of someone who cherishes you despite your flaws,caressing you and teaching you to respect and love yourself in the process.

You stop working so hard to deny your feelings. You put aside once and for all the facade of the cold woman of steel you worked so hard to perfect.  It’s hard to let that facade go, it has been your only protection for so long, but the compassionate, caring feeling person underneath all that steel has been buried for far too long.

You learn to deal with the painful negative feelings as they come.  You learn to redirect anger, bitterness, and hostility before they have a chance to become implanted, and risk building a bridge instead of a wall.  You take joy in the simplicity of everyday life.

Finally, as the sun sets on another day, you will stand in quiet gratitude, thankful that the Universe allowed this clarity into your heart.  You see the steps you need to take to make a life worth living, and with a deep breath, you begin.

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