get out alive

I let his opinion of me dictate my behaviour for so long.

he would tell me I was insecure; I was weak, and broken, and the only reason I didn’t trust him was because I was unhappy with myself.

and that’s bullshit.

it was all so meticulously calculated. the way he would strip my layers and poke at the wounds. the way I would feel naked, and cold in his presence; the way that didn’t bother him. he once told me his ex-wife accused him of being emotionally abusive, and for the first time in a year, I felt sympathy for her. because holy shit, yes. so much yes. so much emotional damage, and so little care for how it made me feel. suddenly, I remembered what it felt like to wake up next to someone and feel more alone than ever. I remembered what it felt like for it to hurt to say “I love you”. I remembered the taste of bile in my mouth every morning when I’d wake up, and how the only way for that feeling to go away was to sleep it off, but lord knows I still haven’t learned to sleep.

I try to remember the good days, the early days, when he looked at me like I was the only person in the world. when I would wake up to his mouth on my neck, and his arms wrapped around my ribs. I remember the way he would kiss me, and I wonder what happened for him to fuck me with his eyes closed. I wonder what I did to make him jump out of bed the second he was awake. I wonder when he stopped calling me Lulu, or why it hurt so badly when he did.

I wonder a lot of things, really. I wonder why I was willing to sacrifice so much of my happiness for somebody so negative. he blamed a lot of that on me, but the second we severed the ties, that little black cloud above my head disappeared. and so did the heartburn. and the nightmares. and the feeling of waking up empty. it all went away when he did, and it all seems so perfectly clear, now. I stopped losing my hair, and I stopped crying myself to sleep, and I stopped feeling like the biggest piece of shit on the planet.

I opened my heart to life, and to love. I enjoy the sunshine, and the unknown, and the simple pleasures. so many simple pleasures. I finally feel free to be the human being I know I am, and I’m finally lucky enough to get to do that with somebody who appreciates me. all of me. my neuroses, my heavy heart; my light, my need for adventure. he says “yes!” when I said “let’s do this!”, and he puts his whole heart into every single thing we do. he wants to go places, and do things, and meet people. he wants to wake up next to me, on top of me, inside of me. he looks into my eyes, and he kisses me with his tongue, and I had almost forgotten how good it feels to have a person. I almost forgot that your person should never make you feel the way he had made me feel all those days, all those months, over a year.

moving on has been the easiest thing I’ve done to date. letting go is always the hardest thing to do, until you do it. and then it becomes the easiest, most natural thing in the world. there isn’t a day that goes by where I want it back. there isn’t a day that goes by where I miss the blue of his eyes, or the taste of his skin, or the smell of the home he threw me out of because he needed independence- because he was too proud for love.

I think he may expect me to be sad, or hurt, or jealous. the truth is I’m just happy the nightmare is finally over and I have his hands off me.

nightlife

there’s a sadness that lives in my chest.

you’re a knockout, he said.

and I felt every little piece of me crumble.

the love of my life has come in and out of my world four times. we have picked up pieces and packed up memories. we have said our hellos and goodbies so many times I forget how to mourn the loss anymore. I’ve said goodbye and I’ve asked him to stay away, finally. I’ve asked him to stop coming in and out of my life if he isn’t prepared to love me indefinitely, unconditionnally. I am incapable of giving myself only to have nothing in return, anymore. loving him was the loneliest I’d felt in years, and every night as we slept, I could feel him drifting away.

I love you, but

I love you isn’t enough. love should never be enough.

happiness has always been an uphill battle for me. I wake up broken every single day and it takes everything out of me to put my pieces back together only to fall asleep and have to start over again. I am aware of this. I work on this very, very hard. I absorb other people’s pain so they don’t have to, but I can’t save everyone. I can’t love someone who doesn’t love themselves.

I have come a long way.

I’ve built a home out of a tiny little house. it’s lonely, it’s quiet. it smells like coconuts, and I wrap my faux fur blanket tightly around me to stay warm, in the evening. the air is cold these days, and the french doors that lead to the balcony aren’t insulated. but I haven’t felt a peace like this for a long time. I haven’t felt safe or free until now. until I said goodbye, forever this time, and felt the weight lift from my shoulders, from my heart, from my home. I loved him, I did. but in loving him, there was a very palpable, very dark cloud looming above me, and it exhausted me to wake up to him every day. I know this, now. I understand the weight of my sadness, finally.

when I look back and think of the sound of his belly laughs as we lay on the couch, or the way his voice sounded when he told me I was beautiful, it hurts. it hurts in a way I was not at all prepared to hurt. I miss our drives out of the city, and drinking coffee in cafes, or how safe it felt to fall apart in his arms. but a very important person once told me I had to stop looking for happiness in the same place I’d lost it. fuck, that person is smart. and thank goodness for them because had I not had a safe place to run to, I’m not sure I could have made it out when I did.

I’m still learning so much.

I’m learning that it’s okay to walk away if it doesn’t feel right. that I have the right to demand what I want for me in this life, and to feel confident in turning my back on it if it isn’t. I should never compromise my happiness because I’m afraid of starting over for the millionth time.

2014 was a big year for me. I’d experienced more loss in twelve months than I have my whole life. I have to stop blaming myself for that. I wouldn’t take any of it back. I never knew love like this. it was real, and it was intense, and it ripped me apart- and my god, was it ever worth it. I have a better sense of self, and more clarity. I feel good, and strong, and able. I loved with every ounce of me, and found the courage to leave when it became toxic. if my past has taught me anything, it’s to acknowledge the strength I have inside of me, and to not ever let someone dim my shine.

don’t dim my fucking shine.

i built you up so high your head was in the clouds (too bad you never looked down)

pain is seeing your abusive ex-boyfriend’s newborn baby nestled quietly in his fiancée’s arms.

that could have been me.

thank god it wasn’t me.

what if it had been me.

i count my blessings : health, family, friends, income, coming out of this alive.

that last one gets me. alive is one thing- unscathed is another. relationships are hard. they certainly can’t beat his worst, but they’ll never come close to his best. everything is a comparison, and everyone i meet has the unpleasant misfortune of attempting to meet my imaginary checklist’s standards.

a few months ago, i’d fallen (hopelessly, madly) for a man. his behaviours were manic, he was a recovering addict- on a steady diet of ephedrine and energy drinks. he slept like shit, and he ate like shit. he was arrogant and obsessive. vain and evasive, and jesus christ, i was sixteen all over again- falling for the bad boy with a broken heart and awful habits. and he needed me- he needed my home, and my money, and my heart.

and i gave it all to him.

and i lost everything.

the steps i’d taken forward, and the path i’d finally paved for myself… all of it was destroyed. he came into my life as quickly as i’d thrown him out of it, and i wasn’t at all prepared for that kind of damage, that kind of heartache.

he is trying to make sense of it all- how i could end it, how i could leave him to fend for himself- homeless and broke and without wheels, because he crashed his motorcycle, and i wasn’t there to pick up the pieces. he’d made his bed, and i wasn’t about to sit around and watch him die. i wasn’t going to let myself become who i’d been.

things have been constant, if not stagnant. i am not unhappy, but i am not elated either. i am in this very obvious, very real state of just being, and surprisingly enough, i am completely okay with that. i am often bewildered by my state of mental sobriety- so very sober from this sickness that is my weakness. maybe that’s why i associate myself best with addicts- me entire past feels surreal : how did so much happen in such little time? how were the most important years of my life plagued by sadness and hurt and regret? how were they plagued by such hatred and misfortune and unhealthy lifestyles?

i was fourteen when i started fucking, fifteen when i’d seen crack and ketamine for the first time, sixteen when i started drinking heavily, seventeen when i moved in with my junkie boyfriend, eighteen when i aborted my baby, nineteen when i had the shit kicked out of me by said boyfriend, twenty when i was raped, twenty one when all of those years finally started to sink in, twenty two when i hit bottom and contemplated a way out, and twenty three when i’d risen from the dead.

i’m twenty four now.

i’m twenty four and i have an incredible job, a beautiful home, and a retirement fund. i’m not over exaggerating when i say i died and came back to life. i was given a second chance to start over and not fuck it up beyond repair. i was given new hope and a breath of air and i kicked my own ass into gear to get here and finally do it right. falling for him was a momentary lack in judgement. it was a moment of weakness. he was the apple and i was very, very tempted. briefly.

i’ve stopped bending over backwards for people. whatever goodness that’s been left in my heart is going entirely into getting back on the horse i was shot off of. i am a victim of my demons, and i am my own enabler, but for the first time in my life, i actually have too much to lose to be reckless. there’s too much at stake to take such absurd risks. i’m worth more, and i deserve better, and i owe it to myself to use this second (third) chance, and do it properly.

this is me letting go

turning the leaf

m was recently arrested.

a friend called me to tell me the news, and i cried, and screamed, and swore. maybe this is the beginning of the end. while my sleeping patterns are off, and my mood shifts constantly, maybe this finally means putting some of my demons to rest. it means tattooing a tombstone to my elbow, and sleeping with the lights off, and opening the pieces of my heart that i’ve cut off for so many years.

i have officially been living in my apartment for one year. no overnight moves, no roommates, no sketchy activity, no drugs, no arguments, no yelling, no fear. i haven’t packed up my belongings, and i haven’t rented moving trucks, or storage locations. i haven’t fallen off the wagon, or gone to work shitfaced, or let someone hurt me beyond repair. i’ve had the same job since february 2012, that’s almost fifteen months. i’ve gotten significant raises, and benefits, and a new office. i’ve lost weight, and i’ve changed my eating habits. i cook to relax and unwind. i plan meals, and i buy organic, and i don’t eat meat or dairy. i spend weekends with my family, i go dancing with my friends, i watch documentaries, i bake pies, i do weekly crafts, i sew my clothing, and i buy new furniture. i treat myself, and i do it often. i get tattooed, and i go to the salon, and i buy clothes in smaller sizes. i have clothing swaps, and i cook for two, and i mop my floors, and change my bed sheets, and paint.

the seasons are changing.

i am paying off some debt, and i am working hard, and i am living honestly. i’ve been smiling, and i have felt weightless and light. i can’t remember the last time i felt so hopeful. and most importantly, i can’t remember the last time i felt this good about me. about my progress. about my ability to move forward. people constantly told me that i am independent to a fault- that it is ultimately the downfall of my relationships. but i am finally realizing that maybe the men i have been dating were too insecure to see the bravery in that. the strength and the will. they were too insecure to understand the damage of abuse and the hope in survival. they were too insecure to ask me what happened, and more importantly- to accept what happen without seeing me as damaged goods. and fuck that. fuck all of that, because my independence is not a flaw, and i am not broken, and i will be stronger and better than this, and them. i will talk openly about the hell m put me through, and about my ups and my downs, and shamelessly so.

because that is healing, and that is healthy, and THIS is progress.

leaving is not enough

leaving is not enough.

there are pieces of an old me, of an old life, lingering still in the present- in my presence. he helped build a piece of me i don’t know how to outgrow. people still refer to him as mine, and i as his, and i hate it. there wasn’t anyone before him, and there hasn’t been anyone since.

i mean… there has.

but not like that.

he was hands, and mornings, and breakfast and sunshine. he was the only way i knew how to start my day if i wanted to finish it at all. he was daytime phone calls, and afternoon naps, and evening bubble baths. he ran the water, and lathered the soap, and washed my hair. when i sink to the bottom of my tub, sometimes i can feel his perfectly manicured nails grazing my scalp, as i slip into a daze, this half-slumber, numbed by the heat of the bath water i always run too hot.

he was farmer’s markets and healthy meals and drinking enough water.

i worry that i am incapable of loving anyone the way i loved him, once. before the anger, and before the abuse, and before he ruined the only good pieces of me i had left. i worry he broke the working parts of my emotional brain- the parts that allow me to feel, and to fall, and to be weightless in love, and in life. the parts of the brain that aren’t clouded by agony. and yet they are. and i can’t fix that.

i worry that strangers can see the tiny black cloud above my head, or the void in the ventricles of my heart. it shrank, that void. it went from gaping vortex to pinhole, and yet i can still feel the breeze. i can still feel the leak. and i worry that nothing could bandage that kind of loss.

people tell me they see independence. they see strength, and courage, and they see the battles i have fought, the struggles i am trying to overcome. they see a warrior. a fighter. a five-foot tall feminist… with eyes sharp like daggers, and words harsh like the first frost. and i feel that. i feel it in my bones. i feel tough, and i walk with conviction, and fuck with confidence.

but when i collapse into the comfort of my own home between my walls full of secrets- and i peel the layers of a me i’ve perfected, all that’s left is this damaged, sad, broken little girl, with eyes black like night, and words soft like clouds. my frail little limbs peeking out from t-shirts that have become too big. my knees bruised like peaches, and my lips cracked like january ice.

there are a few constants in my life.

in november i became an aunt, and everything i have ever known evades me. she (she’s a she!) has brought light to a life shattered by darkness, and i feel whole when she is in my arms- my brother looking at me lovingly, knowing that this little bean has saved me.

i almost left.

it was the summer, and i was in lust with a man in love with someone else. he was five hours from home, and i left a part of me in my city every time i went to be with him. when i finally left, and picked up my pieces back at home, she was born and i was saved. and that was that. my brother sent a message me, thanking me for being here. thanking me for coming home. thanking me for being a part of his daughter’s life.

it all sounds so cliché.

yes my family is incredible, and yes i am luckier than most, and how could a baby (that isn’t mine) change me? but she has, and she did, and that’s that. there isn’t an answer, only a reason, and for that i am grateful. this is progress.

this too shall pass.

 

i’ve lost so much… and what if no one can make up for that?

i don’t know when it’s going to happen for me.

life, i mean.

a few months ago, i was standing in my parents’ kitchen, trying desperately to catch my breath, trying to find the words to explain something i’d been trying to hide from them my entire life. and despite my love for language, and words, and how i know i can twist something ugly into prose that could make someone’s heart stop… it doesn’t change the fact that sometimes, there is beauty in simplicity. there is understanding in blatancy.

“i’m not happy”

i don’t know how many times i can repeat this until it fucking sticks.

i don’t know how to explain to people that a pretty house with nice things, and an incredible job to pay for those things, and a kitten, and friends, and love interests… none of it fills the void. there are holes in my life, there are secrets i’ve locked up, there is discrepancy in everything. i’m a fucking train wreck of a human being. and i ignore it so perfectly.

i don’t know how to reverse the things i was forced to believe. i don’t know how to fucking turn off his voice inside my head, or the fear inside my heart. how is it that i could leave the house, and move on with my life the day after he choked me out? how could i act so normal with his hand prints on my neck and the wobble in my knees from having him shake me so hard? and now, years after i’d left him forever… i sometimes get scared to leave the house, or look in the mirror, or be in certain parts of the city. i won’t pick up phone calls from unknown numbers. i can’t hear a fucking song that reminds me of him without crying. just when i think i’ve started to forget, i remember the black of his eyes in the sunlight, or the pink of his lips when he’d tell me he loved me, or where his pants would sit on his hip line- carelessly.

and it makes me fucking sick.

a few weeks ago, i had dinner with my mother. we sat silently across from one another, and she started crying.

“you loved him, didn’t you? you loved him more than you’d ever loved anyone…”

i lowered my head and nodded.

“he was so handsome”, she said. “how could he be so handsome, and so evil?”, she wanted to know.

i’d like to know that too.

i’d like to know how i was able to look into his eyes and simultaneously see the man i wanted to spend the rest of my life with, and the man i knew i was going to spend the rest of my life running from. how i could look at him and be living both ends of the spectrum so fiercely. how i wanted to hold him and love him, and feel the rightness of his body against my body, and how i wanted to push him away, and hate him, and rid myself of the repugnant feeling of his skin on mine.

how do you make sense of that? how could i feel such a magnetic pull to someone who lived to harm me?

a few years ago, i ran into him at a bar. he was walking out, and i was walking in, and we literally bumped into each other. i froze in terror, as i saw his lip curl upwards. he looked down at me, smirked, and said, “that’s right… RUN.”

and i did.
i fucking ran.
because he told me to.

that same night, i found myself sitting face to face with him at some shitty 50’s diner. it was pouring rain, and we were holding hands, and he told me i was pretty. he told me i’d always been so pretty. and he just sat there, looking at me, hands shaking, and crying. he told me he loved me… that it had always been me. and i knew he was right. it had always been me, and it will always be him. i don’t think i could ever love another man the way i loved him- not after having it ripped from me the way he did. i don’t think i could ever let myself love someone like that ever again… whole-heartedly, and without even trying. honestly and without regret or condition.

at his best, at his worst.
in sickness and in health.
in richness and in poorness.
until death almost did us part.

because  i knew no other way.

because i still haven’t a fucking clue.

these aren’t things you get… they are things which get you

it is hard to be brave when you’re only a very small animal
– a.a milne

i just forget what that kind of blissful happiness feels like

sometimes i think it took me so long to finally leave m because a part of me wanted so badly to believe that some sort of goodness could be restored. somehow i believed if i loved him stronger, or better, or if i held on less tightly, or showed independence that he’d change. i wondered if i kept the house perfect, and his clothes washed and folded, and if i answered all of his phone calls and text messages immediately and with full attention, that he’d realize how much i cared. i thought that by building a relationship with his family, and supporting his habits, and giving into the pain he inflicted (the pain he constantly inflicted) on me… he’d want to be better.

i was wrong.

i was always so fucking wrong when it came to him.

i constantly looked for love in all the wrong places- giving into people i didn’t want to give into, acting like a disconnected, skeleton of a human being. feigning emotion, and faking legitimacy so i could finally feel something (anything) but broken. so i could make these poor suckers believe there was enough room in my heart to care about anyone- make these people believe there was room in my heart at all. i became independent to a fault. i was a fortress, a tower. an unattainable bitch.

and it kills me to think of that now.

because i am soft, and emotional, and friendly. i exude happiness and i think of myself as genuine. i won’t lie. i won’t purposely hurt, or damage, or destroy anything, or anyone. not intentionally, anyway. it makes me physically sick to know i’ve caused anyone harm.

what change a few years can bring…

i guess i finally woke up. i realized i was being unfair, and selfish and awful. i’ve tried to rebuild whatever has been lost- within me, in my life… moving forward has been a constant up-hill battle. sometimes, i’ve fallen down, and other times i persevered… but dammit, it’s been rough.

i am terrified of rejection.

and i think i’ve been settling for relationships that didn’t allow any room for growth, or change… because i am so fucking terrified of success- of getting better. of being healthy, and happy. because a part of me wonders if i’m just programmed to perpetually fail. i wonder if maybe my fate has it written that i am supposed to feel this kind of sadness and agony forever.

and that’s bullshit.

because i am blessed with a family who loves me to the moon, and with skin tough enough to get me through anything, and a heart big enough to finally, finally allow room for healing, and change, and love.

when i was eighteen years old, i remember bawling my eyes out in a friend’s arms. she calmly stroked my hair, as she said:

“all this pain is going to be worth something beautiful some day”

… and as i cried, and cried, and shook my head, she whispered:

“you’re so brave”.

i remember that like it was yesterday.

and when i spent all those years, peeling myself from between my sheets, to carry on this bullshit life i didn’t give two fucks about… when i constantly cursed my alarm clock from ripping me from sleep, i would sit up, swing my legs over the side of my bed, and whisper to myself, “all this pain is going to be worth something beautiful some day”. i would drag my feet to the washroom, awkwardly look myself in the mirror, and say, “you’re so brave”.

and i was.

and i know i don’t give myself enough credit for that.

but for the first time in years… something inside of me has changed. i don’t cry myself to sleep, and i don’t get angry when i wake up. i don’t resent my failed relationships, or point the finger. i don’t envy anyone’s life but my own. because things have started to change, and i have started to gain confidence, and strength- things that have been lost over the years, two things that had continued to evade me in the months after leaving dan, and attempting to date brad. the more i gave in, and the more i settled for a potential future that would have made me miserable… the harder it became to see clearly.

all i wanted was a little clarity.

and i feel like each decision i’ve made finally makes sense.

loving m, and leaving him too. taking him back, and hiding from him. surviving the abuse, and healing from it. quitting jobs, accepting new positions. moving into new apartments, leaving hastily. dating close friends i wanted so badly to love- to build a future with, leaving them- or accepting that they wanted to leave me. making friends, severing ties… all this incredible pressure i put on myself to finally get things right, and to stop fucking up.

and when i stopped searching for answers, and i stopped looking for love, and i quit forcing myself to figure out my life… things started happening.

life happened.

an important job working for a french canadien not for profit organization, liaising with the french public schoolboard.

a half decent one bedroom apartment, located in my favourite part of the city i put a whole lot love and elbow grease into making it home feel like home- the first (safe) home i’ve had since moving out of my parents’ house in the suburbs when i was still in high school.

an incredible circle of friends who has (and continues to) love, and support me.. and be the backbone to the life i’m trying desperately to rebuild.

…and while i anticipate the next year being a whirlwind of chaos- a complete mix of desparation, positivity and change… i can finally say i remember exactly what this kind of blissful happiness feels like.

and it feels better than i could have ever anticipated.