Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day 8 - Someone who made your life hell, or treated you like shit.

From Thirty Days of Truth

Of course, the easy answer is "my parents." But let's be clear. They treated just about everyone like shit. The difference between 'other people' and me and my four sisters is that we were subjected to it starting from birth, through our childhoods and our teens, and they even attempted to continue to perpetuate it into our adulthood. We could not escape it. We did not have that choice. 'Other people,' meaning grown-ups, could merely say to themselves (or directly to my parents, which happened periodically), I don't have to take this shit, and they could move on.

Also, in the spirit of full disclosure, I do not speak for my sisters' experiences. Because of our dissimilar personality traits, birth order, input and experiences with friends, relatives, teachers, etc., our perspectives are significantly different from one another even though we grew up in the same home. I only speak from my perspective, as I experienced my parents and my sisters.

Since I've written about my relationship with my family before as recent as yesterday, it would be redundant to do it again. I will simply reaffirm that they made my life a living hell before I grew up.

That said, my transition from kid to grown-up was rocky at best. I welcomed some pretty weird characters in my life and cultivated friendships with people (mostly boys) who would treat me with very little regard, so any semblance of maturity and emotional health escaped my grasp until my 20's.

My first conscious awareness that I was choosing to perpetuate angry, abusive relationships came when I was just 18 and dated a boy named John. I look back now and I wonder what the hell I saw in him. When he walked, his stride was stiff and forward leaning, his hands formed fists. His demeanor, if nothing else, should have been clue #1. He never wanted to do anything with my friends, only his friends, but most often just the two of us (clue #2). He was extremely jealous, confrontational and verbally abusive. I know. I had more than enough hints and I think at some level I was aware of the sickening familiarity, but my denial blinders were fully engaged. I was willing to overlook nearly everything in order to be "loved." But, after about 3 or 4 months I became increasingly uneasy. He hadn't hit me yet, but there were times I felt threatened and those times were all too familiar. In my head I could hear my own voice equating the two men in my life, John = Dad, John = Dad, John = Dad, and I thought, "If you are sick of this crap from your dad, why the hell are you taking it from John???!!!" I decided I'd had enough and the thought of looking for a guy who was "kinder and gentler" seemed a much better alternative (God forbid that I exist without a man in life, even for a short time).

The day I broke up with John, I waited until he was driving me home from his house where we had eaten lunch. I approached the subject cautiously, telling him that I really liked him, but that my parents were giving me a lot of crap and I really needed to break it off for awhile until things cooled off at home. That approach didn't work.

John became instantly enraged. His face and neck turned bright red and he started yelling at me, calling me horrible names, then crying and threatening suicide. He held on to the steering wheel with his left hand and was flailing his right arm when, in an instant, his right fist came at me full force and he punched me in the stomach. Then, all at once he became very quiet, put both hands on the steering wheel and drove silently for a few seconds, but just as a car approached in our direction in the opposite lane, he steered our car head-on into the lane of an oncoming car and at the last second just before the on-coming car swerved to the right to miss him, he swerved our car back into our own lane. I know, at some point during those few seconds, sitting sideways in the seat, one hand holding the back of the seat, bracing myself for a crash and pounding on the dash with my other hand, I was screaming his name, screaming for him to stop it. I caught a glimpse of the two girls in the oncoming car as they passed our car and the lunatic sitting next to me. One girl, the driver, was crying and the other was clearly terrified. I was sick to my stomach. We did not speak to each other for the rest of the drive home.

I never saw him after that, but one night at home the doorbell rang. I was sitting in the living room closest to the front door so I was the first to open it. I opened the door to a fire on the front porch. I screamed, slammed the door shut and began to shake. My dad came running and I screamed, "There's a fire!!!

The fire was a large grocery bag filled with poop and set ablaze on the doorstep. Although my dad didn't see anyone in our front yard or down the street, I knew it was John. He was the only one I knew who was dangerous and dysfunctional enough to risk setting a house on fire just to scare the hell out of somebody in order to make a point.

John was my first conscious realization about myself. My parents hated him. They didn't want me to date him. I almost relished the idea that I was doing the exact opposite of what my parents wanted and I insisted on continuing my relationship with him, even with my uneasiness. I chose to subject myself to John's abuse, hoping he would be 'the way' out from under my parents' control. From one form of control and abuse to another - a palm to the forehead moment.

I didn't really fully mature in that instant, but it was a monumental step.

In the relationship that followed, with the father of my first child, there was no physical or verbal abuse. He was self-centered, cold, distant, disconnected, irresponsible, lazy and a liar, but not abusive. And I was a little smarter and more aware and it made it easier to say very quickly, "I've had enough."

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