I have stopped pretending that my experiences are solely for the benefit of others. That what I go through is all so I can have a testimony after a storm to help somebody else. I was tired of being a fly on the wall of my own life and pretending it wasn’t happening to me. I didn’t want to wait until I was in a hospital somewhere with burns or injuries to cry for help and I didn’t want to live with the knowledge I showed my kids that love would always hurt.
I am going to be selfish for a moment. This is happening to me, not someone else. It is my heart that aches, it is my self-esteem that gets destroyed, it is my life being threatened or it was. That was the reason I chose to file a police report against my ex-husband, it was why I chose to ask for their help to remove my things from his house, along with my children. That is why I am now a resident in a woman’s shelter.
Why was I even in his house? It’s the question I asked myself more often than I care to admit. That simple act declared my failure or at least that was how it seemed to others and to me at times. We had not gotten back together, it was simply the only option available to me again to be with my children. My attempts to find steady work seemed to be failing. I had just returned from two weeks in the Cayman Islands, speaking at a conference to women about finding good love. Yet I got on a plane coming home, knowing I had no place to live and I would either have to leave my kids with their father and stay with a friend or move in for the time being. It wasn’t to be forever, I planned to return to the Cayman Islands at the end of January. It was only one month, I could do it.
But one month turned into almost three and then decision day arrived again. The taunts, the insults the threats were back in full force and now he had evidence to prove it. After almost a year of being on my own without my family’s support I was still needing him for help. On the outside it seemed like he was right. I was living in his house, eating the food he bought and was driving his car. In fact, I should have felt honored to do so as which man would let his ex-wife drive his Lexus and not be getting anything for it.
He threatened often to stop supporting the kids if I didn’t sleep with him but I was determined to maintain my integrity in this area. I prayed and believed and stayed out of his way. When it got too much He just stopped coming home at nights. I didn’t care. I was relieved.
On the inside, I could now see that he did not know me and never did. He had only been successful at putting his own fears and failures off on me and I had grabbed them believing he was speaking the truth. Being in his house and hearing him speak, I realised I had won and he no longer could destroy me. It didn’t matter that that I had no money and all of my plans still looked like pipe dreams, I had won.
I know I’m crazy but you have to be to survive abuse. You’ve got to take what’s become normal and flip it back on your accuser. When they stand there listing your faults, you tell yourself they are talking about themselves because they can’t see you. They have been blinded by their own faults and shortcomings. The year away had given me a new perspective on myself. I was beautiful, I was loved and God created me just because He wanted me on the planet. When my children were away from me and I had no responsibilities other than to myself, it gave me time to see that I was important not because I was a mother, or a writer, or a sister, or a friend, but simply because I was breathing the breath of God.
“Who are you?” God would ask. “Who are you if you are not a mother or a writer? Who are you Nerissa?”
I’d always valued myself by what I did for others and never valued me just because I am. It took time and just trust and watching God feed me without a job and shelter me without a dime to recognize just as He promised, if a bird does not fall out of the sky without his knowing, how much more me who He declared was ‘very good” at creation?
So why then couldn’t God find a different way of caring for me? Why did I have to confront my demons again? Why wasn’t my knight in shining armor coming to get me?
Walking into his house didn’t simply mirror the events of the previous year, they mirrored the events leading up to the day we got married. It was if God was giving me another chance to make a different decision. Would I have the courage to make it? Several times my ex remarked don’t you see we are here again? I said, well that means we are making the wrong choices. He replied, it means you need to make up your mind to do what you are supposed to do. I said no, it means if last time I said yes, then this time the answer needs to be no…He couldn’t see that, he never could.
But it didn’t matter. I no longer needed his approval to be wrong or right. This was my life and I was making the choices. It meant the children and I had to do without things at times because he refused to give me cash if he felt I had not been “appreciative.” I wasn’t about to show my appreciation in that way.
When the beginning of the end came, it mirrored the first time he ever touched me that I can recall. It was over the same issue, food and its preparation. It quickly turned into my lack of abilities as a mother, housekeeper, lover. When he felt it necessary to put his hand in my face, I suddenly felt it very necessary to put mine back. I was under no illusion that I could beat him, I was simply making a point. This is not the woman you used to know.
It is amazing how your mind responds when you are under threat. I knew where each child was and I had assessed what weapons were on hand. I seriously contemplated using the base of an industrial-sized blender to stop his assault. He was slamming his hand into my chest and throat. He was hitting me in my face and he was grabbing my pussy, declaring this was nothing and had nothing to do with what he wanted from me.
I thought about it, rehearsed it in my head, all in a fraction of a second and then I heard the Holy Spirit call my name and said “no.” I listened. I knew the fight was over. I had won. I walked away…I just walked away and went back to washing up dishes. He kept cussing, kept ranting and I just washed the dishes. Moments later the kids were preparing for their shower and he wants to talk to me about a BMW he wants to buy me. We have a nice calm conversation with no mention of any of the events. He reiterated that he had intentionally called my children back into the room so they would know he was serious. That solidified for me that he really had no one on his mind but himself and getting what he wanted.
I put the kids to bed with a prayer and they were asleep in no time. What was very apparent was that they were unafraid the moment they could see that I wasn’t. He had left the house to go to a bar and shortly after called as I knew he would. I wasn’t even surprised at his questions but just played things cool, never giving away my intention to do the very thing he was checking to make sure I wasn’t going to do.
Morning began as normal and once the kids were in school, I took the bus and went to the police station. I didn’t go to the station because I feared for my life. I went to put it in writing what happened. It was my public declaration that I wasn’t going to deal with this anymore. The detective asked me if I wanted to return to the house because it would take time for them to investigate the things I told them and frankly my case wasn’t serious enough for them to arrest him. I just told her I was tired of the mind games and I no longer felt like putting my life at risk. I didn’t have anything to lose and I was ready to use all of the tools and resources available for me, not for someone else.
In the absence of fear is peace and I had it. It didn’t waiver in the weeks it took to hear anything from the police or having to send the kids back to school. It remained steady. I admit it was shaken for brief moments when I allowed other people’s words to infiltrate my thoughts. But finding myself in the secret place always made it dissipate.
I questioned myself about the differences in me from the year before. Why was I so much more assured and steady? I think that confidence had negative affects on others because they want to and expect to see you broken. But if you can remember that fear is an internal thing and that battle is won by changing your mind, then you are more than half-way there.
It is hard to write this without talking about the changes in my relationship with Jesus Christ. It is essential to my change. It is the only way I could stand up and face him and not be afraid of reprisals, not having a place to live or food to eat. How do I express how in love with Him I am because now I know He loves me regardless. In a year when I felt the most powerless to do my heart’s desires, He empowered me to go far beyond my wildest dreams.
He had showed me that I had too many masters. There was Him, my father and my ex-husband. Two of them had to go. I know the two who had to leave. I didn’t want my life to constantly be about two people who did what ever was necessary to made sure they won. I wanted to be with the Only One who had already won and only wanted me to be with Him. It is a romance after all. I fell in love with Jesus and I came to see He was there all along.
In the three weeks since I have been here, I have seen more doors open waiting for me to walk through. My prayer now is Lord help me to keep up and not to miss my moment. But I won’t worry, my moment is an eternal one. This is my time to shine. The past is gone and my future is ahead.