Walking long in darkness

When it comes to human sadness, very few seem to have much patience over time.  If a loved one dies, people extend condolences, and some feel empathy because they’ve experienced loss before.  Then some times passes, and people don’t want to think about it.  Not really.  Some will feel fresh compassion if they’re reminded of your loss, and try harder to share your grief.  Some just distance themselves until you’re ‘more yourself’ again.  As though you can get over your grief like a lingering flu. 

The truth is that I still miss loved ones that died.   It hurts differently over time, but it still hurts.  The missing goes on.  The memories and ‘what ifs’ and ‘wish I had’ can linger.  The change over time that I’ve found with grief from the death of someone I loved, is that where it once felt like I was in the middle of a dark lake and trying to tread water, now it’s more like the unpredictable and intermittent stabs and shudders of missing them, like a wave that comes from behind and momentarily carries me to my knees.

It’s different with a sad and painful marriage.  The only people that I know that understand and don’t judge, are those who have lived in that dark, lonely place.  I don’t have any clear cut answers.  I wish I did.  Even those that I’ve known who have left a painful marriage and gotten to the other side of it, didn’t offer platitudes or cliches or false promises.  There is no ‘make it all better’ when you’ve gone down this path.  There is ‘make it better’, but there is no ‘do over‘. 

I’ll never be young again, and so I will never know the innocent and passionate beauty of a man loving that season of my life. I spent my young adult years with a man whose need was (and apparently still is) creating and keeping distance.  Push me away, reel me back, repeat.  His need to be dispassionate slowly crushed my hope of being passionately desired.  I’ll never know what it is to experience a pure, unsullied joy and celebration of intertwining my body, sharing a child, running at a mountaintop together, and sharing wild, carefree, crazy young love.  Because I won’t ever be young again.  Bittersweet reckoning! There is no looking ahead to hope for a silver or golden anniversary with someone else, or sharing children together, or grandchildren.  If you wonder sometimes why someone stays, this is probably part of it.

To be sure, I have some good memories.  But I doubt I can find one that’s untainted by the presence of the shadow of the pain.  The hurtful dynamics that are part and parcel of a passive aggressive man are in all my memories.  Every pregnancy, birth, death, holiday, anniversary, the various homes we lived in, new jobs, milestones, navigating joy and grief, all of it impacted.  If the memories were photographs, you’d see it there like a photo bomb.  This means every happy memory I retrieve to savor or reflect on, includes pain and sadness.  This contributes to the present day struggle of being able to feel happy without simultaneously feeling afraid.

Those of us who have walked long in pain look ahead with some pragmatic trepidation. We could reasonably hope to have a peaceful, blended family.  Step-kids who might accept and like us.  Sharing step-grandchildren mutually, and hoping we’re appreciated and not resented for loving the children and grandchildren of the man we love.  We could hope for love itself, to be loved, and to find someone we can rejoice each day to share life with.  Maybe we could hope for twenty years together.  We could hope for the love that supersedes wrinkles and gravity.  We could hope for someone who would passionately and deeply love our essential being, because we can no longer offer our youth. 

Maybe this is why those of us who have walked too many years on this path can come across as so black and white in our advice to younger women.  We want to scream at those in an abusive relationship, “Run, run, run!” and if they do run, we want to cheer, “Don’t look back!  Be safe!  Be wise! Be thankful, and be as happy as you reasonably can in this world!”

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4 Responses to Walking long in darkness

  1. chosetobehappy says:

    It’s so amazing how you can put everything I feel into words. I love to read what you have to say, it’s well written and it’s right on point.
    I look around my house and I am reminded of all kinds of events that took place, some good but mostly not. It’s difficult to be anywhere in the house or places that we have been and not feel some kind of pressure from the past. I wish I had more great memories but the fact is there are none. I am not though giving up on living a fulfilling relationship some day, free of the kind of stress that comes from living with a pa / ca husband. It doesn’t matter how old and no for sure you will never get your youth back but youth is in your mind, youth is when you feel alive, youth if when you do the things that you want and you get joy from them. To be wiser is much more important than youth as well, for me the age is just a number, the feelings are more important and if I do only have 20 years left, I certainly hope that they are the best of my life. I wish the same for you dear.
    Your last paragraph is exactly what I was thinking this weekend, I was shopping in a big box store, I was shopping in one aisle and there was a young couple with children in another. The woman was trying to explain to her husband why she wanted a particular thing, only for the husband to turn around and give her crap for wanting such a “useless” thing as he said it. I felt awful for her, her face said it all, she looked like a small child who had been caught being bad. I could instantly tell that this woman is obviously under the “spell” of a passive aggressive / covert aggressive man. It brought back a lot of memories of such situations with my pah and it made me wonder if someone had noticed that kind of display and why didn’t they tell me. I wish someone would have told me. Of course I didn’t go up to the little family and tell the lady. What was I supposed to do… I ignored it, I shouldn’t have but I did. Poor young woman and those kids too, will she wake up 20 some odd years from now and wonder what happened, will she know? I hope someone is brave enough to tell her and I hope she is brave enough to do something about it.

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  2. WritesinPJ's says:

    chosetobehappy, Thank you so much for all your validation and encouragement! Almost every time I blog, i still wonder if I sound as crazy as I feel.

    I’ve watched scenes like the one you describe. It’s awful when you can see something, but you’re helpless to do anything but observe and feel sad and triggered.

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    • chosetobehappy says:

      Exactly… as much as I feel helpless in my relationship, how could I give anyone advice on theirs… plain ridiculous really when i’m stuck in ambivalence myself about my own, I’m in no great place to offer any advice or a warning of things to come.
      PJ, you totally do not sound crazy, in fact you are very much sane and I can read you like a book or I can see you like I’m looking in the mirror. I thank God every day that I have access to some many great people living through the same thing because it keeps me sane and it keeps me going 🙂 xo

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      • Exodus says:

        Happy, I disagree that you are not qualified to offer compassionate advice to someone that you believe is in need of it. Just because we are in a pickle doesn’t mean that we are incapable of offering sage advice. Actually, we are the experts. Of course, there are times when it’s probably not appropriate to offer advice. A couple of years ago I was walking out of the grocery store to my car and a complete stranger, a woman, came up to me, touched my arm and said, ‘ Sweetie, are you ok? I know that look, I’ve been there myself. How can I help you’. I began sobbing in the middle of the parking lot and literally soaked this woman’s coat. I didn’t even care if anyone was watching me. In that moment it felt wonderful to be held. I wasn’t sure what to make of all this though..I mean, part of me felt ashamed that my abuse was visible to others and that I must have looked ugly and sad, wilted and worn. Part of me was glad that my abuse had become visible since I never have the bruises or other physical scars to show what I deal with. She told me a bit about her abusive marriage, about how she managed to get out by claiming disability and how she had found a job. She gave me phone numbers to call. I did call the numbers but nothing panned out as I had hoped. Nonetheless, for someone to notice me, to recognize my pain and to reach out made a difference. For those few brief moments, I didn’t feel so alone and afraid.

        I agree with you about PJ’s writing…it’s absolutely beautiful , well organized and well written. She needs to write a book. Perhaps that is her calling, her ticket to freedom.

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