I could root around in the terror, apathy and distraught moments of the last few months of my marriage, but instead – I am going to focus on the amazing women who brought me out of that dark place. Although leaving has been painful, it is like the bright, brilliant glare of a warm sun after being huddled in a dark, windowless, lightless room. My eyes are not used to the glow, just as my soul isn’t used to being cared for so lovingly.
Maintaining my friendships was never easy, but it was something I’ve worked hard at over the years. Often, when I went away for the weekend, or out for a night with my girls, he would stay home and drink (or make ‘fun’ references to being drunk). Especially in recent years. At the time I never put two and two together that it was an attempt to control me, and prevent me from going out altogether. He always said one thing, I don’t mind.’ and seemed to act another that put the lie to those words. Luckily, those tactics failed more than they worked, but I did fall for it some of the time.
But I digress. Because that’s not the point, entirely, of this post.
The point is that I have a superhero team. My mother made like Nick Fury, on the Avengers, and assembled them once I outlined who she could contact. coordinated with them, and kept us all on the same page. When I decided to leave, I ultimately had outlined a month. (I had originally wanted to avoid leaving too close to his birthday. Again, putting him first instead of me.) Yet after one day, I knew that while I might make it a week, there was no way I could keep up the facade for longer.
Every day, my mom gave me one thing to do. Something only I could do, that needed to be done.
Every day, this team of wonderful women, took turns checking in with me discreetly. Aware that my husband could get suspicious and find a way to read my messages as he had a handful of times in the months prior. Although I tried to lock things down hard, I was tired and might make mistakes. We planned events. Outings. I made sure we went out to game a night on Friday. I took off for a friends’ the following day where I happened to ‘have too much wine, so had to stay the night’. The following day was an event at one my friend’s houses that we had planned on almost a year prior. During the week, they figured out protection orders, made plans of who would come to help me pack, where we would go, how I would get there.
They were on call. Each one was there when I reached out in a panic, not sure if I could follow through. The night before I left, I was so anxious and spun up, and freaked out that my Ex would notice, that I laid in bed until he went to sleep. Then carefully got up. Went into the bathroom. Turned on the shower, and huddled in there so I had explanations for my face being wet should he get up. One of my friends messaged with me for about 45 minutes, helping me to calm down, reassuring me I was doing the right thing.
I was a mess. But they didn’t care.
The point of this, is that a woman I have never met in person is flying in tonight to meet me. We met each other online, and somehow, we’ve become like sisters. I’ve helped her through some stuff. She helped me through some stuff. She was a part of my team, keeping me sane, coordinating and supporting those physically closer.
And Saturday? All eight of us ladies, including my mom and I, are gathering together. Food. Cards Against Humanity. And I get to thank them all in person. They get to see all the faces that go with the various names flying by on Facebook, then e-mails, and the voices on the other end of the phone. They supported each other, as much they were supporting me. We are going to eat. And laugh. And maybe cry (I’m sure I will, a little, my emotions are all over today). And make some new memories. I feel so lucky, to have these people in my life. Without them, I would still be there, in that dark and unhappy and unhealthy situation.
While I know it isn’t always healthy to take care of others no matter the cost to yourself, on some level, loving unconditionally, and offering support to people like these ladies, returns five-fold. People like my husband will take advantage and abuse personalities like mine. But not everyone is like that. And these ladies are living proof.
I still struggle with accepting help. I don’t like being a burden (I still feel like one). I don’t like being reliant on anyone else (I try to have a small ‘footprint’ of need). But I recognize how very lucky I am. And I don’t know how anyone does this, in much worse situations than mine, without all this support. I know some do, and I think they must be pretty darn amazing.
I hope I’m able to pay it forward, some day.