The Tender Fender-Bender

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I spent some time the other day rereading some of the journal entries that I wrote during my relationship with Edward. I won’t lie: I felt pretty sick to my stomach afterwards. I feel sorry for that girl that I was. I wish I could go back and give her some sound advice…not that I would expect her to listen to me.

The following is a paraphrased and edited version of one such journal entry:

 

 

Edward and I had been out running errands together all afternoon. It was a warm summer day, so on our way back to my place, we made one last stop to grab smoothies. We left the smoothie place and were pulling into the shopping center in front of my apartment complex when we found that there had been a fender-bender in the lane we needed to take.

Edward was always his worst self when he was driving in traffic. All control of his tongue and temper would go completely by the wayside. And I hated driving with him when he was upset. It was always disconcerting, and sometimes it was just downright scary. My only hope of preventing the anger he was directing at the “stupid” drivers around him from being redirected at me was to keep as quiet as possible and pray that he didn’t find any reason to take notice of me. But the A/C was blowing hard on my bare arms and legs, and with my smoothie cooling down my insides too, I was getting very chilly. So I adopted a nonchalant, soothing tone that didn’t match my actual inner trepidation and spoke up.

“Would you like to roll down the windows and turn off the A/C?” I asked.

He responded with only a scoff.

“It’s just–I’m getting chilly. But you don’t have to roll down the windows if you don’t want to.”

He rolled them down and said with disdain, “You’ll be hot again in two minutes.”

Okay. Whatever. I let it roll off my back. Traffic was pissing him off and making him get short-tempered. I could be understanding.

Several long, traffic-laden minutes later, we were finally approaching our turn. I said, “We should stop by Blockbuster and get those movies we were wanting. I can get them.”

He had the music blaring loudly and was facing forward, so when he said something back, I couldn’t understand him.

Anytime Edward said something that I couldn’t understand, prompting me to ask him to repeat himself, he inevitably would respond harshly. It always made me regret asking him to clarify in the first place. Over time, though, I got pretty good at knowing what to expect.

 

The Three Hazardous Steps of Asking Edward to Repeat Himself:

Step 1: I adopted the practice of first asking myself whether or not it seemed like what he had said was important or might come up later. And if I decided I could probably live without knowing, I just wouldn’t ask. (Truthfully, it was a gamble either way.)

Step 2*: If I did decide to ask him to repeat it, he would always repeat it at exactly the same volume, though with clear frustration running through his voice this time. The background noise would generally still be the same, too, which meant that I was often still unable to understand what he was saying.

Step 3: If I went so far as to ask him to repeat himself a third time, I would already be cringing internally. Because knowing the hurtful thing that’s coming doesn’t make it any less hurtful when it comes. He would then repeat it a third time at a drastically increased volume just a few notches below yelling, using his “how-could-you-not-understand-me-the-first-time-you-moron” tone of voice.

*Alternative Step 2: Sometimes, when he was already irritated, he would completely skip the regular second step of slightly annoyed indifference and jump right to the third step of full on frustration.

 

I sensed that this was an Alternative Step 2 sort of situation, so I decided to not even try to discover what he had said.

We got to where we would have needed to turn to go to Blockbuster, and he went right past it. Confused, I asked, “Are we not going to Blockbuster?”

“NO! You just said!”

There it was. That tone of voice. That tone that so clearly pegged me for an obvious idiot. I was wounded, but I did not respond angrily. I was resigned to be meek and not be an instigator. Oooooh! I thought. That must be what he mumbled—that we could do it later or something.

Out loud I said, “Oh. I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you. I couldn’t understand.”

“You just said that you would go get it, not two seconds ago.” He retorted.

Oooooh! I thought again. When I said, “I’ll get it” he thought I was saying that I would go get it. I had just meant that I would pick up the tab for it if we went right then. What a misunderstanding! It was important to me that he knew I hadn’t lamely forgotten my own words spoken not a minute earlier and that we’d just had a miscommunication. So I spoke up.

“No no, I meant that I would pay for it, not that I would go get. I mean, I don’t mind doing that. I just thought we could go ahead and do it while we’re out now since it’s not far from here.”

“I have to be to work in an hour and a half! Can’t you just do it while I’m at work? I mean, what else do you have to do?”

I allowed the implication that I had nothing productive to do with my time while he was away to pass without comment. “Well, I have plans to go hang out with your sisters…But I can pick up the movies on my way out.” I said, still trying to appease his already flared temper. “…But I thought that maybe we would want to watch part of one of the movies before you left for work. I mean, we don’t have any other plans for the next hour and a half, so it just seemed like a good option.”

He immediately began to clearly lay out for me why it was such a dumb idea for us to start a movie when we knew we wouldn’t have time to finish it—even though we’d done that very thing a few times before…when it had been his idea. Then, he started detailing all the reasons why it was a much better idea for me to pick up the movies while he was at work than for us to go get them now.

While he was talking, all I could think was, How did we get here? All I had tried to do was explain that we’d had a miscommunication. I wasn’t trying to argue the wisdom of me getting them on my own later. I wasn’t trying to peg him as a loser for misunderstanding me. I didn’t even mind going out to get them myself later. But I did mind when he turned it into a tear down match by saying sarcastic things like, “I’m sorry I didn’t interpret your meaning correctly.”

He kept insisting that I had said I would “go get them.” When I corrected him that I’d only said I would “get them,” he scoffed at how insignificant the lack of the word “go” was. He used this opportunity to point out to me—as he often did—all the ways in which I was a bad communicator. I just wanted us to agree that we’d misunderstood each other and to be given the chance to explain what I had been trying to say. That’s it.

But what actually happened was much more complicated and painful than that.

As he was carefully detailing for me the myriad reasons why it was better for me to go get the movies on my own later, after about Reason #4 I threw my hands up and said, “Fine! It’s fine! I don’t care, let’s drop it.” My patience had finally been exhausted.

“I’m just trying to explain why I think that’s a better idea! Why don’t you just listen to my reasons instead of interrupting me and telling me that you don’t care?!”

I retreated into silence the rest of the way home. Back at the apartment, I grabbed my book and went immediately to the bedroom to read. I was so hurt. How could he have treated me like that and talked to me like that? But I was done fighting. I just wanted to withdraw into peace and quiet where I could lick my wounds and regain some of my equilibrium.

Oh but Eddie had other plans.

As I was in the bedroom stewing over what had just transpired, he came in and demanded, “Why do you always do this?”

Truly bewildered, I said, “Do what? Be hurt?”

Then he started talking about how I treat him so “disrespectfully” and never consider his feelings. I was taken aback. Those were precisely the things I was so hurt about!

As we argued, my voice grew louder and louder in volume and higher and higher in pitch, while his became stiller and quieter. I was officially the hysterical half of our pair. Every point I tried to make and every opinion I attempted to offer got shot down, twisted, thrown back in my face, and invalidated. I finally saw that we were both just determined to “win.” Except that for me, “winning” meant feeling sure that we both felt understood and valued and had agreed upon a fair solution. I don’t know what it meant for Edward, but I would bet money that in the heat of that argument, his idea of winning was vastly different from mine.

At the edge of pure hysteria, I begged him to stop, to please drop it right now, and we would talk about it later when we were both calmer. I could see that every little thing we said only made things worse and escalated the situation.

His response?

Silence.

Then, with ice in his voice, he quietly said, “I’m gonna go to work, and I’m not coming back.”

“Why?!” I wailed. “Why would you do that?!”

“Because that’s exactly what you’re doing. Running away from the situation.”

I insisted through my tears and sobs that I wasn’t running away! I just wanted us to wait to talk about it until we were both calmer so that we might actually have a productive conversation. Finally, seeing that my pleas were getting me nowhere, I retreated out onto the patio to sob to my heart’s content.

Out there, I cried out to God. “I don’t understand! How was I disrespectful? I was trying so hard, and it still turned into this! How, God? How?” I decided that, without being in my head to understand my build up of feelings, Edward could have felt disrespected when I interrupted him in the car and told him to just drop it. But before that? I’d been so careful! I couldn’t think of anything. But that doesn’t mean I hadn’t said something unintentionally that may have hurt him without my even realizing it. So I went back inside. He was lying on his back on the bed, staring at the ceiling.

Like a child apologizing to a parent with the hope of not receiving further punishment, I recited, “I’m sorry if I treated you disrespectfully at any point. It was not my intention. And I’m sorry for the miscommunication.” I retreated once more to the patio.

It was some time after that when he opened the patio door and stood there for a good 30 seconds without speaking a word. Finally, with no expression on his face and in a flat tone, he said, “I’m sorry for getting upset with you.”

When I finally lifted my eyes to meet his, I just nodded and said, “Okay.”

He leaned down and kissed me on the forehead. “I love you,” he said. I just nodded again in response. Then, he shut the patio door and left for work.

While he was at work that evening, he texted me to say that he wanted to have some friends over to hang out at the apartment that night. I struggled with not wanting to anger him by saying no and with not wanting to have to pretend like things were ok around his friends when they certainly were not. I considered just packing up as many of my belongings as I could and going to my parents’ house five hours away for a while. But I knew that such a sudden, unplanned trip would cause me to lose my job, my only source of income, and then I really would be running away, just as he had already accused me of doing.

 

 

The last thing I wrote in this journal entry was: “I don’t want to choose to keep walking down this path of hate-filled words and hot tempers. But I feel powerless to stop it. I can only control myself, and even then, only for so long.”

 

 

I would like to be able to say that this story took place after Edward and I had already gotten married. I would like to be able to say that I would never have knowingly gone on to marry a man who could have treated me this way. The unfortunate truth, however, is that this happened just one month before we got married. And it is merely one example of many such conflicts that we had both while we dated and after we got married.

It’s true when they say that we accept the love that we think we deserve. When you already feel pretty bad about yourself, as I did in my early twenties, and then you find yourself isolated in a relationship with someone who also tells you why you should feel bad about yourself…well, it’s hard not to buy into a perspective that’s coming at you from within and without.

As painful as they are to read, I’m grateful that I have some of these specific events recorded in my journal entries. As the years have passed since my divorce, I’ve begun to notice some gaps in my memory. There are whole periods of time, and one 3 week period in particular, which I distinctly remember as being horribly painful. Yet I can specifically recall mostly just the things that I recorded in my journal during those periods. Everything else is like a muddled Pain Fog in my brain. I find myself wondering if, in the aftermath of living in what was essentially an emotional war zone, this Pain Fog that developed over some of the worst parts was my psyche’s way of protecting itself from what happened back there when I had no other protection. Perhaps the Pain Fog clouding those periods of time will clear up someday, and I’ll be able to tell those stories with the same clarity of detail that I was able to tell this one. Or perhaps I’ll never fully remember them.

Honestly, I’m not really sure which is better.

I’d like to leave you with a few words on a topic I’ve been mulling over a great deal lately: hope. Hope is an odd thing. It can be like an elusive wisp of smoke, teasing you with its possibilities, or it can be like a brick wall, demanding your full attention. It can seem like a bitter enemy who never gives you what you think you need, or it can seem like a sweet friend sustaining you in the darkest times. Sometimes it feels like hope is for the foolish because who would remain hopeful when life has proven to be so bitter and harsh?

When hope dies in someone, a cynic is born. But I stand before you as one who has experienced much, much worse than the scenario I described to you in this blog and who still finds cause to hope. Somehow, I was able to find a way to take all those bad experiences I had, and instead of curling up into myself and growing meeker, I used them to build the hard-won strength I was painfully lacking back then. And somehow, as the result of much hard work and many beautiful friendships, I didn’t become a person defined by bitterness or cynicism. I might have my moments (Don’t we all?), but on all but my grumpiest of days, I’m still the same hopeful, cheerful romantic, who prefers to see the good in people, that I’ve been since I was a child. Except that now I’m also stronger. And wiser. And braver.

And I honestly believe that if there’s hope enough for me still, there’s hope enough for you, too, whatever your circumstances are or have been. Maybe you think me naïve, but I’d rather be accused of naivety than let any spoiled relationship steal all the hope from me.

Yes. I think I’ll keep my hope. It makes for such nicer company than bitterness.

Tidal Wave: Follow up to the Consequence of Sounds

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Last night, I took the most glorious shower of my life.

Let me back up and explain.

It felt as though I spent this past week Spring Cleaning my entire life. I capped it all off yesterday with two one-on-one coffee dates (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) and a short hike at a local park with three other friends later in the day. So when I got home that evening, I was feeling exhausted and blessed–with a rich life full of amazing people.

You may remember that my last blog was about my (mostly) unsuccessful fight to be able to listen to Owl City without being overcome by melancholy memories of my honeymoon. Well. Last night, right after reading a really lovely comment that someone had made about my blog, I decided on a whim to set up my iPod to play Owl City while I showered.

As the songs from Owl City’s Ocean Eyes album played, I slowly began to realize that I didn’t feel sad at all. On the contrary, I felt JOYFUL! It was incredible! I suddenly found myself laughing, dancing, crying tears of joy, and singing along with total abandon. I know I probably sound like a crazy person right now, but that’s ok because I’m pretty sure if anyone had seen me last night, I would have looked like one, too!

Seriously, you guys. I had a religious experience in the shower. Really now, how many people can say that without it meaning something creepy?!

Did the songs still make me think of driving in that convertible with my newlywed husband in Hawaii? A little bit. But it didn’t paralyze me. It didn’t cut me to the core. It didn’t even hurt! I was able to overcome the pain of those flashes of memory with the joy of all the really amazing relationships I have in my life now, four years later.

 

HUGE BREAKTHROUGH!

 

So why, you might ask, did this breakthrough finally come after all this time? And right after I wrote about the effect Owl City’s music always has on me, no less? My theory is that there really is something to be said for giving voice to your suffering. I guess my silence was the final thing that needed to be broken off in order for me to move past this small, but significant, hurdle.

I leave you now with the eerily fitting words of Tidal Wave, the final song on Owl City’s Ocean Eyes album:

 

I wish I could cross my arms and cross your mind
Cause I believe you’d unfold your paper heart and wear it on your sleeve
All my life I wish I broke mirrors instead of promises
Cause all I see is a shattered conscience staring right back at me
I wish I had covered all my tracks completely
Cause I’m so afraid

Is that the light at the far end of the tunnel or just the train
Lift your arms, only heaven knows where the danger grows
And it’s safe to say there’s a bright light up ahead and help is on the way

I forget the last time I felt brave, I just recall insecurity
Cause it came down like a tidal wave and sorrow swept over me

Depression please cut to the chase and cut a long story short
Oh please be done, how much longer can this drama afford to run
Fate looks sharp, severs all my ties and breaks whatever doesn’t bend
But sadly then, all my heavy hopes just pull me back down again

I forget the last time I felt brave, I just recall insecurity
Cause it came down like a tidal wave and sorrow swept over me
Then I was given grace and love
I was blind but now I can see
Cause I’ve found a new hope from above
And courage swept over me

It hurts just to wake up whenever you’re wearing thin
Alone on the outside
So tired of looking in
The end is uncertain
And I’ve never been so afraid
But I don’t need a telescope to see that there’s hope
And that makes me feel brave

 

The Consequence of Sounds

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I’ve heard it said so many times that the sense of smell is the sense most strongly connected to memories.That may be true for most people…but my sense of smell is total crap.All of my close friends and family can attest to this fact. Subtle candle scents, barely spoiled milk, the faint difference between a dish with oregano and a dish with thyme…these are all things that tend to escape me. Don’t get me wrong though. I can smell fresh pizza, a ripe fart, and overly applied cologne with great ease. It’s the slighter scents that my olfactory receptors tend to miss out on.

For me, it’s my sense of hearing that transports me most quickly and vividly to the memories stored in my brain. It can be random, seemingly inconsequential sounds that do this for me. For instance, the sound that the hydraulics on a certain door at work makes when I’m pushing it outward always reminds me of this random moment in a Foster the People song. Or there’s the way the sound of a copy machine spitting out images often reminds me of how I used to hum along to the pitches that the machine at my old job would make. I would pass the time as I waited for my copies by singing the same notes as the machine and then take it a step further by harmonizing or creating dissonances with them. (Don’t worry. I already know of and embrace my innate weirdness.) Or when I listen to the little known song The Background by Third Eye Blind, it transports me to being in seventh grade and playing Tetris on our old desktop, while listening to a borrowed CD and pining after the first boy I ever thought I loved.

Sounds. Sounds transport me.

Edward and I got married on July 31, 2009. For our honeymoon, we were given the use of his family’s timeshare in Maui, Hawaii. Once there, we rented a convertible. We spent a large portion of our honeymoon driving from place to place in that convertible: top down, sun shining, my hand in his. And while we drove, we listened to Owl City. Over and over and over again we listened to that music.
It’s hard for me to remember that I wasn’t always miserable with Edward. There were times, even midst red flags and brief hurtful moments, when I was happy. Truly happy. And I thought I would always be happy. Driving in that car in Hawaii on our honeymoon while listening to Owl City was one of those times for me.

After leaving Edward in 2010, I went through a conscious process of attempting to disassociate things from him. Edward and I used to watch the Office together. So I binge-watched episode after episode of that show with one of my friends shortly after leaving him until I was certain that watching it in the future would bring back memories of watching it with her instead of watching it with him. Our favorite shared movie was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. So I introduced my new roommate to it shortly after we moved in together. I discovered that even seeing the name “Edward” on something as nonthreatening as a business sign (e.g. Edward’s Video), made my heart jump into my throat. So I began using his name all the time, in writing and in speech, not allowing myself to substitute it with “my husband” or “my ex.” My mom jokingly told me once when I used his name, “You know, we don’t say that name around here.” I firmly replied that I hoped they would begin to say it because I would not allow a name to hold any power over me and neither should they.

I was determined that I not allow him to take any more from me than he already had: small stuff included. So I waged my own guerrilla warfare, fighting to remove the pain these things brought me and make them mine again.

Owl City was the only thing I couldn’t get back.

When I started my new office job in 2011, I would listen to Owl City on my work computer for hours on end. My roommate and I would also play it while driving around town together. I would play it while I showered or did housework. I listened. And I listened. And I listened. And always it made me so melancholy. No matter how much or in what setting I listened to it, I would be transported to driving in that convertible with the top down, holding my husband’s hand, and believing without a doubt that I would always be cherished, always be cared for, and always be loved.

April 4, 2014, was the 4 year anniversary of the day that I left Edward. It is a day that I celebrate every year. The first year, my roommate got me a cake that said “You Escaped!” The second year’s celebration included another cake that said “Star Runner.” The third year, I took myself out for a nice dinner, and this past April, I spent my fourth anniversary singing an original song of mine live, for the first time, as my friend walked down the aisle at her wedding. (A love song no less.) The day you run away from your abusive spouse may seem like an odd event to celebrate, but when you’ve been where I’ve been and you’ve fought as hard as I have for a second chance at truly living, then you start to understand why something like that can so easily come to represent my own personal VJ Day.

I listened to Owl City just last week, in preparation for this blog. And yes, it still makes me sad. But not as acutely as it did 3 years or even 1 year ago. And then today I watched the video of my wedding reception for the first time ever. There was one moment, when I saw such tremendous sadness filling my mother’s eyes when she thought no one was looking, that I wept. No mother should be so afraid for her daughter that she feels that much sadness and anxiety on the day of her wedding. It made me grieve afresh for what my choices put her and the rest of my family through. But then the grief subsided. And I watched Edward and I cut our cake and take our wedding photos and kiss and laugh together…and it didn’t cut me nearly as deeply as I thought it would. As I know it would have at any other point since I left.

Maybe four years really is enough time to get it all back. Well…almost. I’m still working on Owl City.

A Story Worth Telling

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I’ve long debated with myself about whether or not to write about my experiences in my marriage and subsequent divorce. For some reason, I’ve always felt that eventually I should. It’s been a difficult process to figure out why though because even now, nearly 4 years later, the task seems so huge and scary. Some of the most painful, intimate details could really only be told one on one to very specially chosen people. But the vast majority of the stories I have to tell about that chapter of my life are much more universal than that.

Then what am I so afraid of?

I never want to be seen as someone who sensationalizes my life experiences, airing all the smutty details, in order to get attention or to defame another person. Yes, in my opinion, my ex-husband and his family did some really terrible things to me. But I have no desire to trash their reputations or air their dirty laundry for all their friends and colleagues to read. This is why I will be using only fake names when I write, and why I’ve already removed my full name from my first blog. Thankfully, I already cut off contact with him and his family years ago.

I don’t want to hurt anyone by writing about this topic. That being said, I realize that I may not get to make that choice for myself. This may very well escape my control at some point. Some friend of my ex’s that is still friends with both of us could read this and decide to share it with him or his family. Or in some way that is unforeseeable to me, he or his family could find or come across this blog. And I have to ask myself: am I strong enough to handle it if and quite possibly when that happens? Is it worth it?

This brings me right to the other thing that has held me back: plain ol’ fear. Fear of what people will think of me after they hear this unattractive part of my story. Fear of what people will think of me for sharing it at all. And fear of my ex and his family. Of what they would do to me if they found out I was writing about my experiences in a public forum. Truth be told, they would probably only level loaded words at me. But they have incapacitated me with such ammunition before. I know I’ve grown much stronger since they last had opportunity to do that, but will I ever be strong enough to take that kind of attack without crumbling emotionally? Maybe not. And there is always the possibility of legal action being taken against me, too. I would think that writing about people without ever advertising their real names would certainly fall under the protective shade of freedom of speech. But these people are powerful and wealthy enough that should they decide to attempt such a legal attack, I would never have the financial means to combat them.

So why even contemplate doing it?

When I ended my marriage by leaving my emotionally abusive ex-husband, I was starving. Starving for some way to make sense of it all. I looked and looked for books and articles and websites and blogs that could give me something, anything to relate to and help me not to feel like such a lonely freak. I didn’t need information about the “falling out of love, who cheated on whom” kind of divorce–for which information seems to be a bit more plentiful. I needed information about the “brain and heart turned to mush after months and months of psychological beatings” kind of divorce. And I found my reading options to be shockingly limited. Many of the books I did find missed the mark in one way or another. Some focused on the psychology so much that they missed the heart of my pain. Others focused on the heart so much that they missed the areas that were outside of my control. And still others talked about my experiences with an air of knowledge when in reality, they clearly just didn’t get it.

So maybe being a woman in relationship with an emotionally abusive man just isn’t a common experience? Maybe that’s why there’s so little written about it from a first person point of view?

Definitely. Not.

In contrast to the limited amount of reading material I was able to find, I did, however, find that there were SO MANY real, live women who knew exactly what I was going through–because they themselves had also experienced it. I found that any time I shared my experience with another woman, even just briefly, more often than not that woman would then share about her experience in a similarly toxic relationship. I was shocked to find out how many women had been in my shoes! How could that be possible? And why did I only find this out after I had first shared my own experience? I know that in the vast majority of those instances, if I had not first shared my experience with them, I never would have known about theirs.

So why don’t we want to talk about it? What is it about emotional abuse that makes us feel so uncomfortable? Why do we prefer to ignore its existence or talk about it in hushed tones in smaller groups instead of talking about it as openly and boldly as we’ve come to talk about other forms of abuse?

I can testify that there are definite feelings of shame connected to being a recipient of emotional abuse. I used to find myself wishing that my ex-husband would just hit me already. (Doesn’t that just make you feel sick?!) Then I could have a bruise to show the world, some physical proof of the things that were happening to me behind closed doors. I don’t at all say that to make it sound like those facing physical abuse have it so much better. Often times, physical abuse is paired with emotional abuse and even sexual abuse, but even when it’s not, it is a horrible thing that no one should have to endure. But when you’re caught in the maelstrom of an emotionally abusive environment, it feels like it’s your fault, like you should have known better. And it’s very easy to tell yourself–as your partner is probably also telling you–that it’s all in your head, that you’re blowing everything out of proportion, that this is a normal way for relationships to function. I mean, why would anyone stay in a relationship where he or she is not being treated well? Yet men and women alike do this very thing all the time. I used to cast judgment on these people for making what I saw as such weak, simpleminded life choices. And then I made those same choices for myself. And when I came out on the other side, I had the hardest time making sense of why I would have done that because I didn’t know where to go to get answers.

Immediately following my “Great Escape,” and even shortly preceding it, I started reaching out to all sorts of people that I hadn’t seen or talked to in years, telling them all sorts of intimate things about my bad situation. I look back now, and I feel embarrassed at my behavior. I think those people must have been thinking, “Why is she telling me all of this? I haven’t talked to her in years.” In fact, some of them said as much. Some just didn’t respond at all. Others gave me the support I so desperately craved, helping me to overcome the single greatest trial of my young life. I see now, though, that after effectively ending all relationships in my life with everyone except for my ex-husband and his family, I found that I had nowhere to go for support and comfort when the proverbial shit hit the fan. So I made a few new friends, and I started grasping desperately to renew old friendships. I sought out all the relationships where I’d felt any safety in my lifetime and begged them with my TMI stories to give me that safety again. I needed relationships that would give me the courage and strength I lacked at that point in my life, and since I didn’t have any relationships like that left, I exhausted all my memory banks looking for them in old places.

I can’t really fault those who didn’t respond to my blubbering attempts at salvaging old, forgotten relationships. I can’t really fault those who responded with confusion instead of reciprocation either. I understand why they must have felt the way they did in light of my emotional mess spilling all over them. But it made me wonder, what it is about this topic that makes people so uncomfortable? Was it just discomfort with my awkward relational grasping or was it also, in part, discomfort with my plight? Why do we feel embarrassed for the woman who makes a bad relationship choice and then has to deal with the aftermath? It’s so much easier to ignore her and let her be someone else’s problem than it is to comfort and seek to understand her. That too is something I can understand.

So I learned not to talk about it unless I was asked. And most people…they don’t ask. Sometimes it’s because they don’t want to overstep or make you feel uncomfortable or sad all over again. Sometimes though, I think it’s because people don’t know how to talk about or even listen to this topic yet. Or worse. Some just don’t want to try. They believe it’s a weak problem for weak people, and they’d rather not give this issue a minute of their time. (Thankfully, I have found that these people are not the norm.)

We are doing the human race an immense disservice by not talking about the prevalence and destructive power of emotional abuse. Whether our reason for doing so is embarrassment, judgement, social propriety, or any of the other myriad possibilities, no one is benefiting from this silence. Except for maybe the abusers.

No matter how scared I am, I cannot in good conscience perpetuate anything that encourages insidious things that should be brought into the light to remain in the dark. I want to look back at the end of my life and be able to say, “Yeah I had hard times. But I survived them and thrived in their aftermath. And even better, I used them to help others.” I think that’s a much better legacy than, “I was too scared of what people would think and what would happen if I talked about my experiences. So I didn’t.”

I could have really benefited from someone like me talking frankly about what she experienced. So. Maybe I can give that to someone else who really needs it. That somehow makes all of the scary possible repercussions seem very, very worth it.

So allow me to give you a little background information as a start to this story-telling process.

Before the man I will call Edward Hyde (a name I definitely chose for its appropriate allusions to a certain Robert Louis Stevenson character) came into my life, I was prepared for him, so to speak. I don’t mean that I was prepared to stand strong against him. Rather, I mean that I was weakened over a course of several years so that when he came into my life I was more susceptible to him than I ever thought I could be.

College was a really weird, hard time for me. It wasn’t any one factor that made it so, just a lot of little things that when combined made me come out of college much more of a mess than I’d been when I started. I moved from small town Indiana to a warm Texas city after I graduated hoping to escape my loneliness and self-loathing. Instead, I ended up feeling lonelier than ever and managed to reach an all-time low on the self-hatred scale. Somehow, my great self-actualizing, coming-of-age, cross-country adventure had failed miserably.

It was at this point in my life that Edward popped up. Quite literally: In the form of an AOL messaging window.

But that is a part of the story I will save for another time.

My stories here won’t necessarily form a linear trip down memory lane.  I may tell a story from the end of my relationship one day, a story from the beginning of it another, and a series of stories all relating to a common topic on an entirely different day. In fact, it may help to think of these stories more as vignettes. Though cathartic at times, it’s not an easy thing for me to share these memories that have made so deep and private a home in me these past 4 years. So I will allow myself a bit a pass here, as I hope you will too, and tell each tale however and whenever the time feels right.

Thank you so much for reading. I hope you’ll keep on reading as I continue this scary but hopeful journey. And I hope you’ll share this blog with others, especially those who may need to hear just such a story as this.

A Quick Update

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After a long hiatus, it seems appropriate to begin this blog by saying happy (belated) New Year, dear ones! Though my absence from writing was not altogether intentional, it was very full of life and living. And I promise never to apologize for living life instead of writing about it. 

Since my last blog in October, I’ve been working on several new songs. I’ve also accepted a “commission” with my friends Mayowa and Brenton to write and perform a song at my dear friend Shalicia’s wedding in April.

Also, my roommates and I threw another successful Christmas party. This is the 3rd year in a row we’ve thrown this shindig.  It’s kind a big deal. It’s an ornament party…where the guests come dressed as the ornaments! We provide the “hooks” for their heads, take everyone’s picture in front of the tree, print out the pictures, and hang them on their own special fiber optic revolving tree…thus turning them into ACTUAL ORNAMENTS! It’s totally great. Photo proof can be seen here.

There’s always a point in the evening at this party every year that I look out over the sea of faces, both familiar and new. I see people milling about with “hooks” on their heads and bits of not-yet-fully-discarded costumes on their frames, holding drinks in their hands, eating Christmas goodies, and talking and laughing with one another. And I think to myself, “Look at all these people that we love, enjoying themselves in our home. Being silly and being free. Brought together by us.” It’s always a really great moment that makes my heart feel so full.

Someone asked me recently what I “geek out” about (other than music), and I realized that I totally geek out about throwing parties. Themed parties (like this), small game night parties, big hang out parties, parties for other people, anything will do…I just like hosting people. I like inviting people in. I like being a connecting point for lots of different groups of people. It brings me a lot of joy.

I’ve also been doing a lot of crafting and creating, discovering with my (still relatively new) free time and limited budget a capacity for creativity that I had never really known was within me. I spent a lot of time before Christmas making decorative mobiles from recycled bicycle wheels. My plan is to keep making more and then sell them on my recently opened Etsy shop and/or sell them around the city. The problem is that each one takes a significant amount of time to make, so I’ve only made 4—one of which resides as a focal decorative point in my bedroom and another that I gave to a friend as a housewarming gift for her first apartment. I also made some birds’ nest earrings for my roommates this Christmas (made from wire and beads) that I would also like to make more of and include in my crafty sales. I’ll be sure to let everyone know as soon as more of my items go on sale.

I’ve also been working really hard on a new direction for this blog. The next blog will be a little different than these last three, so stay tuned for something new! Possibly (hopefully) very, very soon!

Mimsy by the Sea No More

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Just 3 months ago, Rachel and I were forced to move. This was the second house we had lived in together as roommates, and it was so heartbreaking to have to leave because we had really allowed ourselves to get comfortable there.

Before I get too far, you need to understand how cute this house was to us initially. We named it Mimsy by the Sea, and we filled that house with laughter, friendship, and some really adorable decorations. It was a huge step up from the first house we lived in together…It had a downstairs claw foot tub, beautiful linoleum all through the first floor, a cute and colorful exterior paint job and woodworking, beautiful dining room and kitchen light fixtures…We were blinded by its cuteness! Little did we realize when we moved in, however, that all these aesthetically pleasing features were just cosmetic tweaks to mask the shoddy work hidden all over the house.

I won’t get into the details of all the problems we had there because that would make for a VERY, VERY long post. But suffice it to say, the final straw came when we received a $1300 gas bill for one month of usage. No, I did not type that wrong. $1300. No, it was not a mistake made by the gas company. That was our actual usage for one month. Were we keeping the upstairs and downstairs thermostats on 98 degrees that month? No.  At one point during the winter our upstairs thermostat was set on 75 degrees while the actual temperature in the 2nd floor of the house was only 41.

We finally found out that the cause of the sudden spike in usage was that the upstairs furnace had a makeshift top made of cardboard and tape. This cardboard top had blown off, which was making the heat from the furnace blow up into the attic and escape through the holes in the un-insulated, crumbling siding instead of blowing down into the second floor. The maintenance people said that the combination of the inadequate top for the furnace blowing off, the poor insulation in the attic, the holes in the siding, and old debris that had been blocking the upstairs heating duct is what gave us a $1300 gas bill for that one month.

There’s a whole lot more to this sordid tale, but ultimately, our landlords wouldn’t do anything to help up pay this gigantic gas bill, even though this bill had come as a direct result of poor work done on the house before we even moved in. They did, however, offer to let us out of our 18 month lease early, and we jumped at our only opportunity to remove ourselves from that terrible situation.

That’s when our new friend, Katy, became our third roommate. We found a house about 7 blocks away that was in MUCH better condition and moved as soon as we were able.

Now for the point of this blog: I have a confession to make. I allowed this entire situation to fill me with a great deal of bitterness for quite some time. I couldn’t understand how, if He really cared for me at all, God would allow this to happen. I had just put in my notice to quit my full time job to go into low paying, part time work when this gas bill came. Our move into that house had been my 9th move since graduating from college 5 years earlier. If you count my moves since graduating from high school, it was my 19th move. We moved into Mimsy by the Sea determined that we would never move again–unless one of us was moving out of state or getting married. (I’m not gonna lie. Part of me was determined to die an old maid in that house just so that I would never have to move again.) I was so sure when we got that gas bill and discovered that it was all because of maintenance issues beyond our control that we would be able to work something out with our landlords in a reasonable, civilized fashion. I mean, we had been such ideal tenants for them. We always paid our rent on time, we were polite, we took as careful care of the house as we would have if we’d owned it, and we often refrained from asking for minor things to be fixed because we felt bad about having to bother them with so many major repairs all the time. Who wouldn’t want to keep us as tenants? We freaking rock as renters!

But even after they wouldn’t work with us, I kept holding out hope that somehow, someway we would be able to stay there. I didn’t want to have to uproot my life yet again. I felt like I had earned the right, after all I’d been through, to stay put if I wanted to stay put. (If you’re imagining me stomping my foot in immature frustration, that would actually be a pretty accurate picture of what my internal struggle looked like.) But no matter how diplomatically we attempted to handle the situation, it didn’t make any difference. It became impossible for us to keep living there.

So we moved. Again. And I grumbled quietly (sometimes) the whole way. I huffed and I puffed as my wonderful roommates tried to make the best of things.  I was so glad to have Katy added to our numbers, but I still didn’t want to be packing boxes, unpacking boxes, organizing a new space, decorating all over again, and paying all the steep, unavoidable fees that come with moving. My small savings was completed depleted within a month of taking on my new job.

And midst all of this, Rachel and I were still paying on that one huge gas bill. We worked out a payment plan with the gas company that required us to pay $200 each upfront and then $90 each every 2 weeks. When we moved into the new house, we asked the gas company to re figure our payment plan. This is when we discovered that, in the 2 or 3 months we lived at Mimsy by the Sea following the initial $1300 gas bill, the amount we owed the gas company never got below $1000. Even though we were paying so much every month, our subsequent gas charges were still so high that the amount owed kept getting bigger and bigger with every pay cycle. Following our move, I talked to one very kind woman at the gas company who took pity on our plight and offered us a much lower monthly payment plan extended over a longer period of time. This was much more feasible for my skin and bones bank account, even though it means that we won’t be finished paying for our utilities in our old house until April of next year—13 months after the bill that started it all.

One of my favorite books of all time is a true story called the Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. In this book, Nazis send Corrie and her family to a concentration camp for hiding Jews in their home during World War II. At one concentration camp, Corrie and her sister are placed in a room packed to the brim with women crammed into bunk beds covered only in straw. They soon realize that the straw is full of fleas. Corrie is horrified, but her sister insists that they must thank God for the fleas because they must thank God for everything—even if they don’t understand why. She points to 1st Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” After some bickering, Corrie finally agrees to give thanks for even the fleas.

It’s not long after this that they realize the guards never come near them in the barracks. They are able to read out loud, to the entire room full of women prisoners, from the tiny Bible Corrie has so dangerously smuggled in because the guards give them such a wide berth. Why? Because of the fleas! This little ray of light in such a dark place gives them hope, encouragement, and some tiny degree of respite from the otherwise extremely dangerous guards. God used even the fleas for their good.

If you haven’t read it, you should. It’s a wonderful book.

My plight was considerably less awful than beds full of fleas in a German concentration camp. Yet I couldn’t think of any reason to thank God for that $1300 gas bill and for hardhearted landlords who forced me to leave yet another home unwillingly. So I didn’t.

Fast forward 3 months. My roommates and I now live in a wonderful home that, thanks in very large part to all of their hard work in preparing things in time for my birthday party, is now much cuter and much nicer than Mimsy by the Sea ever was in the entire year that Rachel and I lived there. And we love each other immensely. There’s a lot of silliness and laughter in our new home, as well as heart to hearts and the occasional bout of healing, cleansing tears. Rachel and I have always been sister friends, but unbeknownst to us, Katy brought with her a piece that we didn’t even know had been missing from our puzzle. Our home is somehow, finally, more complete than it has ever been.

Not long after I’d finally let go of the old house, something even crazier happened. Two days ago, when I was leaving work, I decided to text Rachel and ask her if she needed me to pick up anything from the store for our friend’s birthday party, which we were hosting at our house that evening. She did need some things, as it turned out, so I took a different route than usual to make a detour to the store. In doing so, I ended up driving right past Mimsy by the Sea.

It looked like it had exploded from the inside out.

The siding on the attic was mostly gone, all the 2nd story windows were gone, and debris covered the front yard and the front porch. Stunned, I circled the block and and went back to pull up in front of the house. As I was pulling up, I rolled down my window to ask a woman who was just crossing the street to her car what had happened. She said that no one had been hurt, but there had been an electrical fire the night before caused by exposed copper wiring in the attic. I told her I had been one of the last tenants to live there. We exchanged information, and I agreed to come back the next day with Rachel to walk through the burned out house and talk to them further.

That could have been us. Our lease was up on September 28th. The fire happened on October 4th. We could have still been in that house when it happened. But because of that $1300 gas bill that I allowed to shake my faith, we had gotten out 3 months before that fire. I just canceled my renter’s insurance a month ago to save money. Rachel doesn’t have renter’s insurance yet. The college students who were living in Mimsy by the Sea when the fire occurred have family with connections and means to take legal action against the negligence of this rental company who immediately moved in new tenants without fixing any of the dangerous issues we told them needed to be fixed. Rachel and I didn’t even have money for legal representation regarding the gas bill. If that had been us in that fire, we would have lost everything and had no means to do anything about it.

There are certainly a lot of “ifs” and lot of different ways this could have played out. But I am telling you that I would absolutely NOT have moved again if money had not been the factor that it was in this scenario. Even if our landlords had still been total jerks, if dollar signs and a dwindling bank account had not forced me to make the only choice that seemed feasible at that time, I would have dug in my heels like dog who won’t go near the bathtub.

So yes. It’s a little late, I know. But I absolutely am thanking God for the $1300 gas bill that we will be paying until April. I absolutely am thanking Him for loving me through all my stubbornness, all my freaking out, and all my fist shaking at heaven. I am thanking Him also for taking me kicking and screaming away from a situation that could have been—would have been—much, much worse and into the most beautiful season of my life yet.

Man, you guys. I still have goose bumps just thinking about it all.

This is a game-changer for me.

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An Invitation For You. Yes. YOU!

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Hi.

My name is Megan. And I have a really spectacular life.

I don’t say that to brag or to try to make you feel bad about any tough times you may be experiencing. I say that to give glory to a God who has brought me through some pretty tough and horrible times and to give him praise for loving me through my worst moments and giving me so many chances to have another go at the things I’ve screwed up along the way. I say that to give you hope that the dark periods in your life can get better, too, and that opportunities you never thought you’d be brave, strong or talented enough to take on can begin to look small and surmountable.

About 6 months ago I embarked on a bit of an adventure. I quit my full time job of 2 years working as an Administrative Assistant for a powerful local branch of a well-established nationwide school food services company…………………..zzzzzzzzzzzz…

Sorry. I got bored again just describing it.

Basically, my office managed the lunch ladies for a large school district, and I was the go to girl for lots and lots of very boring, tedious tasks. I got paid more than I’ve ever been paid before, I had decent health benefits, I had paid vacation time, I rarely had to work on Saturdays and never had to work on Sundays. And I was miserable. There’s a lot more to that story, but I won’t go into that now. Suffice it to say, the longer I worked there, the more miserable I became.

Now, I work in a museum gift shop. I’m a shop girl! I get to work downtown at a really cool place where awesome people are doing interesting things. I also spend long hours on my feet, sometimes I deal with grumpy customers and bratty kids, I make about half what I was making at my old job, I no longer have any health insurance or benefits, and I struggle to pay my bills every month. Why did I do it?

Music. Creativity. Freedom.

Joy.

Even though in some ways, life is less fun now (a.k.a. “going out for drinks or coffee” is an offer I have to turn down a lot now so that I can afford gas and rent and groceries), in a lot of other ways it’s SO MUCH MORE FUN. And fun, in a life-giving context, is not to be underestimated, my friends. My life became richer and more colorful almost immediately after I chose this new course for it. I get to do some really cool stuff now that I had neither the time nor the energy to do previously.

A few months after my job switch, I started meeting up with these 2 really cool guys named Brenton and Mayowa who I met through a local artist collective, and wanna know what we’ve been doing together? Jamming. Jamming! No, we’re not making PBJs. We’re makin’ music, man! We’re actually collaborating and writing songs together. This is extremely exciting to me. It’s been a lot of fun, and I really think we’ve got something good brewing. We’re currently working on writing a body of original songs, thinking of band names, and laughing together—a lot. These guys…I cannot fully express how precious they have become to me. I’m so pumped to start sharing with the world the things that we’re currently creating together in the wee hours of the night between chuckles and beers.

I won’t tell you the whole long tale of my life right now, but the highlights reel goes something like this:

Once upon a time, I was born to be a singer.

I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a singer when I grew up. And then it just so happened that I had the voice to go with the desire. I grew up singing, singing, singing, all the time. I sang all the way through college, where I was trained classically and earned my Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance.

And then I stopped singing.

For a while, it was because I was burnt out after so many years of working so hard to meet the expectations others had for me when I didn’t really even know what I wanted for myself. I needed a break from goals, plans, and expectations. I never have handled those things too well.

But then…it was because I met a guy.

And this guy, he crushed my dreams a little. And I let him because I didn’t really believe I deserved better than that. Then I married him. And he crushed more than just my dreams. And then we got divorced.

When I left him, I took whatever pieces of my broken spirit that I could carry and I brought them with me to Indianapolis, where I began to put them back together with the help of some really amazing friends and family.

That was 3 years ago.  In these past 3 years, I’ve experienced so much healing and so much growth. I’m not the same person I was when I got married, and I’m certainly not the same person I was when I left my ex-husband. I’m open to sharing some of that story now, if that’s a direction in which God points my writing. But I’m finally ready to stop focusing on a forward trajectory solely for my heart and to start investing in a forward trajectory for my passions and dreams again. At the age of 29, I believe those passions were put inside of me for a reason and that if God wanted me to give them up, He would have removed them from my heart already.

I’ve never been very good at self-promotion. Now, don’t misunderstand me here. From a very young age, I’ve always had an innate craving for the limelight. As the youngest of 4 kids, I always knew I wanted to be on stage, and I found a natural home for myself in the glare of spotlights and at the center of attention. (My unexpected foray into the world of stage fright these last 6 or 7 years has been a foreign land that I’ve slowly and awkwardly been pressing my way through.) But in my personal life, though I can still be boisterous and outgoing, I’m much more reserved. For better or worse, I’m more concerned in my day-to-day life with how I’m being perceived by others. It embarrasses me to ask people to listen to my songs or read what I’ve written or look at my selfie. (Seriously. The whole “selfie culture” is so outside my comfort zone!) I’m embarrassed at just the idea that I could give anyone a reason to believe I’m self-obsessed or arrogant. But I’m finally realizing that I can’t live a full life AND be consumed with what others think of me. So I need to get over that shit. (Even now I’m fighting an urge to second guess my word choice for fear of what some more conservative readers might think. It’s never my desire to offend anyone, but I’d just like to put it out there right now that it’s my firm belief that yes you CAN love Jesus–and be loved by him–and still use the occasional curse word to add conversational umph where useful. War for self: 1, Legalism: 0)

How then do I bring people along with me on this journey, creating a name, a following, an interest? All necessary things if I’m ever to support myself, even partially, with a music career. AND how do I do it in a way that allows me to remain true to who I am at my core, giving a true representation of my heart, my values, and my sense of self-worth?

Hence, the blog.

I have two goals (Eek! Goals!) in mind for this blog. Both involve sharing and being vulnerable in a healthy context. #1: I want to create an avenue for sharing the things that God has been teaching me in my life. Not because I think I have a corner on wisdom but because if I can help one person realize his or her own innate, God-given beauty and worth, my time spent writing about hard to articulate topics will not have been in vain. What good are lessons learned if you don’t share what you’ve been taught? This can be one way in which I do that.

#2: I want to create an avenue for sharing about new musical endeavors as they happen. I might share scratch recordings of brand new songs (with permission from my awesome band boys, of course) or updates on our songwriting, recording, or performances, as those things begin to happen. Maybe this can be a start to a musical following for my bandmates and me. We’ll have to post some music first, true. (Soon! Very soon!) But in the meantime, the music that touches me at my core is always the music that comes from the most heartfelt and transparent place. So. This is me inviting you to come with me to that place.

I apologize ahead of time for writing like I talk. Lots of sentence fragments. And lots of sentences that start with conjunctions and end with prepositions that you’re not supposed to end with. 🙂  Even though I know all the rules of fancy, formal writing, I’m making a conscious decision to treat this as an informal conversation that everyone is welcome to participate in, should they so choose. So be prepared to witness this city girl’s small town roots. And feel free to leave comments if you like. I’ll try to respond whenever appropriate.

I hope you’ll stick around to witness this thing. I’m not quite sure where God is going to take me, but I’m really excited to find out! I have no illusions that hundreds will tune in to read my little take on life, but I’ve come through a lot to reach this point. So if somewhere along the way, my stories and my journey can help one girl in a bad relationship, one person with a dream they’ve let slip away, or one person who has begun to doubt God’s faithfulness, then this blog is worth my time. Maybe you’ll find that it’s worth yours, too.

P.S. Not all of my entries will be this long-winded, I promise…Some will probably be even longer. 😉 Read on, brave reader. Read on.