Timing is key. I looked at the clock, calculating time. I needed time for the oven to run a full self-cleaning cycle before I had to leave but I also had to get the birthday cake done. There was no leeway. Good thing I did have the brown sugar in the pantry as I remembered. I turned back to cutting the cherries to make sure I had enough to do along the edges of the cake as well. I had plans too for the full time the oven was doing both its baking/cleaning things and kept moving to make sure everything was done. When I left the house and locked the door, birthday cake under my arm, I gave a long sigh and squeezed my eyes together to block the uncomfortableness. No time for pain. Keep moving.
I got the kids from school and kept them busy until it was time to drop them off. I drove to my husband’s work and unlocked his car. I gave them quick hugs and handed the oldest the cake, “I bet he will really love this cake, it’s his favorite. Have a great birthday day with dad. Remember where the gifts are so you can surprise him?” He did. I quickly said goodbye, again driven by time. Any minute he would be out of work and I needed to be gone. I didn’t want to leave the kids alone but I needed to be gone. I drove away suddenly lost. I had spent so much time, so many years, devoted to trying to make my husband’s day. I didn’t know how to do anything else. Now what?
Emotional abuse is strange phenomenon. It can get you to a place where you are so controlled that, even when it’s just yourself, you play out the script. My husband’s birthday. I offered that he have the kids on that day although he had never asked. I took them to buy gifts, I wrapped and hid the gifts, I cleaned the entire house from top to bottom, I made his favorite cake. My brain had an alarm bell going off somewhere inside, long muted and muffled by the abuse. Somewhere my brain remembered how he treated me. My brain remembered that I had asked that I could be the one to stay in the house and he had told the counselor, “it’s MY house, it’s like I built it from the ground up with my own two hands!” Somewhere my brain put together that I was arranging flowers beautifying a table that I was not welcome to sit at. I had in fact made family dinners from scratch nearly every night for years and years and the truth was the dinners were accepted but I was only just allowed to sit and was now it was clear that I wasn’t welcome. I was no longer even allowed. The planning was done. I did all the juggling and preparing and made everything perfect but now that the time was here to appreciate the work and celebrate on my husband’s birthday I wasn’t allowed. So I was drifting. Lost.
Why do we treat each other the way we do? Why do people like my husband expect everything but are appalled at the idea of giving anything? Why do people like myself give everything but think deep down inside there must be a valid reason that we really do deserve nothing in return?
Why do we keep doing what we do and what makes us finally stop? And, perhaps most crucialy, how do we go on in life after the “stop.” Who are we without the businesses of trying to fill the black hole of shame with birthday cakes, clean ovens, and flower arrangements? Who are we?
That’s what this blog is about. I’ve been discovering that although my experience is just as unique to me as yours is to you, so many things end up the same. As we work though the questions we may just find a lot of the same answers.
photo credit: Ian Webb (jukebox) <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/14279070@N05/33343339856″>Time</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>