No closure to be found there

Today is a tough day for my family. We’re saying goodbye to our father, brother, husband and uncle. These past few days leading up to the memorial and cremation had me reflecting on the nature of closure. With death as with separation of any kind, humans tend to seek assurance from the other. We want to ask questions, to gain understanding before we can move on with peace in our hearts. It’s almost pavlovian, considering the psychological definition of the term…

Closure or need for closure are psychological terms that describe an individual’s desire for a firm answer to a question and an aversion toward ambiguity.

 

When dealing with the living, our tendency is to want to converse about events, to get answers. Why me? Why this? How could you? Why didn’t you? More often than not, the responses you get are all sorts of horse manure, yet our minds and hearts are wired to want to grasp at anything and call it the truth no matter how much it hurts to internalise. Often, we immerse ourselves in dishonest feedback that sets us back, rather than introspecting and learning what we can from the experience before moving on. Funnily enough, the only person who can give you closure is yourself yet this knowledge does little to give you what you seek so desperately. But the isolation hurts, and so we seek out others and their words to help us unblur lines and muddy our reality.

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But what of the dead? Certainly, you can ask questions but you will likely get no answers. No last conversation, no sense of finality through a two-way dialogue. The nature of death, its suddenness and finality are so devastatingly conclusive. So here we are, drinks in hand lamenting and wishing. Wishing for one last word, one final opportunity. Yes, we lived each day like it was our last, but we did not know it would be our last together. Had we known, we would have never wanted the day to end. And now that the sun has set and we’ve had no choice but to wake up and face a new dawn that’s a little less bright, to walk the empty halls with hollow eyes putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward one step at a time. We have no answers and no real sense of closure. Can a hurt so deep ever really close? Time will numb the pain. The next dawn will be a little bit brighter.

Maybe.

I wish I had delegated September, it was so exhausting!

Ever wish you could just opt out of something all together? I mean just delegate it completely? Copy and paste onto someone else’s life? If only it were that simple, I’d delegate September. Yes, the whole month.

September is the equivalent of silly season in my life. The sun is out and it’s warmer for the first time in months, which means that social calendars get filled very fast. I tend not to pass up an opportunity to socialise, because of cats, a parrot and the stench of animal piss. And here, I’m just talking about adult things like sundowners and evenings out without the winter annoyance of having to dress in so many layers that you have to balance your beverage consumption with the amount of time it’ll take to disrobe in the toilet cubicle.

September is busy enough with adulting, but for non-parents/ aspiring parents, what you don’t know about is conception season. Rewind 9 months… get it?

So basically everyone who conceived because ke December is birthing in September. I would know. Bunny is a September baby.

Aside from the frustration of trying to find clothes in the appropriate size (apparently 2010 had a lot of September girls if the racks at retailers are to be believed), September used to be easy until birthday parties started 3 years ago. Now, the whole month is a complete wash. Every weekend, sometimes twice a weekend there are parties. It’s hours of mostly forced social interaction with strangers for the benefit of your offspring. Every weekend.

It’s October now, and I’m done for the year. I made it through mostly unscathed (no mention of that missing blog post) with a little help from my friends. Aside from the parties that we either divided between us or attended together, there was a superhero birthday party we threw for Bunny. Terrible weather notwithstanding, it was a boss party, if I may say so myself. We had a surprising turnout, and I only say this because we were expecting certain people, but others arrived unannounced with their entire families in tow (p.s. it does not count if you phone to RSVP on your way to the actual event). We shame ourselves and inconvenience others with such blatant disrespect and lack of consideration, but I’ll park my rant about people and their lack of understanding of the importance RSVPing for another time.

Throwing a birthday party is a tonne of effort, though. Years earlier, I had hoarded Disney Princess paraphernalia thinking that we would get much more bang for the buck on it, but alas those days came to a swift end when Bunny announced that she wanted a PJ Masks theme this year. PJ Masks is great, it makes superheroes out of ordinary boys and girls in their pyjamas. However, it is not quite on the market yet, so we had to DYI everything. To make our lives less chaotic, we broadened it to a superhero party / training boot camp. We rented an open air venue, an obstacle course because we are warriors, and did an insane amount of cutting, pinata prepping and out of the box thinking. Below is also a snapshot of the day. There is more inspiration to be found on my Pinterest page.


Self-congratulations for surviving September. I’m exhausted, though. I feel such a great sense of relief that the month is over, I could run through the hallways naked. Holiday anyone?
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Is conception season a thing for me only? Which months have you in a death grip and why? Leave a comment to let me know!

Don’t worry, you’ll be a great mother

Memories are nothing if not a constant reminder of past ignorance. I laugh at memories of debates I used to have when I was younger about when the best time to have kids is: when you’re young and can bounce back bodily and run after your kids; or when you’re older and well, you’re just older. Nearly 6 years in, I don’t actually think there is such a thing. The probability is that you were hoodwinked by the awesome two-some that are Mother Nature and hormones, sneaky little fucks! One minute, you’re minding your own business planning your life on an excel spreadsheet then next you have the urge to procreate. To top it off, offspring are cute enough to make you forget the one-two punch that the awesome twosome dealt you, so you do it all over again.

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Source: Google

 

We’ve come a long way, Bunny and I. This past weekend, I came across some photos of us when she was 11 months old, just a few days before I walked out of my marriage. It made me think about our journey as mother and daughter and the ever-changing balancing act. When I was pregnant, I had it in my mind that parenting as a couple would be as smooth as the Jamaican 4×100 meter relay team baton interchanges, but my experience in that relationship was to the contrary. If I think about it, I guess it was easier being single because then my focus was solely on mine and Bunny’s needs. Anything else was an unwelcome distraction. I had a lot going on at the time – divorce, full-time work, a Masters degree, relocating further from work. At 25, I was trying to climb the career ladder, and was working in an unforgiving environment, so everything was precision planning. Wake up, get ready, leave Bunny with her grandfather, sit in morning traffic, work a full consultant day, sit in evening traffic, cook dinner, bath and feed Bunny, feed myself, settle Bunny for bed, work on Masters assignments and thesis. Weekends were all work and Bunny. Reflecting on it, I don’t think I had a social life then – there was simply no time between all of that and the legal battle that was waging.

 

Now, 5 years after that photo was taken, I’m noticing that things are not any easier. I actually have more balls in the air than I did back in 2011. We’ve all seen those posts about how we all have glass balls in the air, where no one on their deathbed has ever wished they had worked more, and family is the only glass ball that can’t be fixed when it gets dropped (you know the one!). All of that is valid, but curses reality! Tough decisions have to be made on a daily basis on how to prioritise my time. Back in 2011, when I was trying so desperately to find some sort of formula for keeping all these balls in the air, I went the academic route and asked some of the successful women in the office what they did. “Outsource it”, they said. “It’ll be easier that way”, they told me. But my mama didn’t raise no slacker! I knew immediately that it was not how I wanted to raise Bunny, seeing me for dinner twice a week. I wanted to be present and accountable. Maybe not the best choice for career progression, but Bunny is really cute so that was a no-brainer.

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Source: Google

 

Our needs change constantly, so I have an annual general meeting with myself to check and amend decisions (it really is that formal). As she has grown, so have her needs. But what mattered in 2011 doesn’t necessarily matter as much now, e.g. I don’t have to bath her because she can do that herself. I did eventually take up some of the advice I was offered, and let others handle what I was comfortable relinquishing from my iron mommy fist. I hired a live-in nanny who ensures that both of us are clean, dressed and fed because let’s be honest, she’s my nanny too. I have a great support system nearby, which eases some of the logistical challenges I have working so far from home, like extra-curricular activities and afternoon school runs. I’ve designed a well-oiled machine that can work independently of me, and it has to for Bunny’s life to be uninterrupted. It sounds pretty awesome because it is. I have time for the gym, friends, a relationship, evening classes, work dinners etc.

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But, I have had to also put on my big girl panties because the Bunny assembly line has its pros and cons. On the one hand, I can accelerate my career again. If I have to travel, work late or work in remote destinations, life goes on. On the downside, the show does go on. That hits me where it hurts most because I’m mom. It’s one of the most important roles I will ever fulfill, and it’s a one-time right kind of gig. I experience the worst kind of working mom guilt because she is old enough to ask tough questions. “Where were you”? “Why can’t you ­­­­stay for show and tell like xxx’s mom”? It’s hard to hear “I missed you” and to explain to a 3/4/5-year-old why you have to work so hard. I’m that mom who gets texts from other moms reminding her not to forget something for school. It’s not an aspirational position. Whilst I do not ever want to be bake sale mom, I hate missing milestones and school events. It’s been a tough lesson in ego though, because what I know for sure is it’s not all about me.

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Source: Google

 

I have to constantly remind myself not to take things personally. My individual set of circumstances mean that I have to reconcile myself with the fact that I will not always be physically present. My heart does not break when she calls the nanny’s name when referring to me. Rather, I am thankful that we have such a competent and loving person looking after her. I can’t be mad when the offspring wants a bedtime story read by someone else. I hug and kiss her goodnight and appreciate the few moments of silence I can get before opening up my laptop. I try as hard as I can. I do the best that I can with what I have available. I don’t always get it right, but I am always trying. I am ambitious for both myself and Bunny which means I have to work extra hard. Because I work extra hard, it means that the little time that I get to spend with her is that much more special and it is not wasted on social media or mindless television.

 

It’s a constant shuffle. When she was younger, I prioritised bedtimes. I was there to tuck in and read stories every night. Now, it’s mornings. I am uncompromising and unapologetic about my school run. Everything waits until our morning routine is complete, then my day can run its course with my mind and heart settled. Trying to find a workable balance as a mom is like finding El Dorado – it’s a city of gold we’ve all heard of but no one has actually seen. I consider myself blessed to have all kinds of great mom’s in my circle, so when I say that balance is as elusive as the end of a rainbow I mean that for moms who are single, married, stay at home, part-time or full-time employed. What we can all agree on, despite our differing circumstances is that this is no cake walk.

 

I’ve made peace with the fact that the juggling act never gets easier, the hustle just changes. When she was a baby, I thought it was tough going. Looking back at it, I just laugh because right now, at this moment is the simplest it will ever be. There is so much more on my plate now and I sleep well at night knowing that I am doing the best that I can with what I have. We’re figuring it out as we go along. I’ve become a MOM (Master of Multitasking). I work hard and I play hard. I am a happy mom, disciplinarian mom, doctor mom, encyclopedia mom, taxi mom, chef mom, playmate mom, bed mate mom… I am also a sister, daughter, friend and lover. I am a manager and a warrior queen. I am a Superwoman!

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It was never a dress…

 

This post was originally posted on a well heeled woman blog as part of a working mum’s life series.

300 books in the trash: my rejection of patriarchal love

I’m a die hard romantic and have always been. If I think back to when I first started choosing my own books in the bookstore, I gravitated towards bubblegum reading. I loved sweet valley high; so much drama, so much romance. In my teenage years, I was a bit of a loner, so it wasn’t unusual to find me with my nose in a book. It got to the point where I moved to the advanced reading section reserved for seniors after 1 year of high school, and would typically go through a novel a day. I mostly lived in a fictional world, and it was nice.

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My reading habits all but continued undisturbed into my adulthood. And then one day, I just got fed up. It was hardly surprising to me because my life had evolved, so it would stand to reason that my reading would too. What was unusual was the suddenness of the evolution. Literally, I was reading something and immediately got annoyed at the female protagonist. I started asking myself questions about her strength of character; why was she so weak, so needy, so dependent? Why did she need to be rescued?

 

The formula for romance novels is more or less the same. Girl meets boy, falls in love, is emotionally abused and broken down (all disguised as fighting for love or just plain miscommunication), lovers reunite, a few sweet nothings uttered, then happily ever after. I have over 300 Mills and Boons (or rather had), and countless other romantic novels, and have read each of these more than once. But by-God, what the hell is up with that formula? It got to the point where I was desperate to read something with a female protagonist who had more will-power than a leaf of wilted lettuce. Or at the very least, one who started and finished the story strong. In general, there is a lot of misleading stuff, she starts off as a boss bitch, then the minute she meets this guy all her power just evaporates. Poof, and she’s a hot mess begging to be reassembled by this man?!? Nowhere in this book does she actually remember that she was whole and fully capable before she met him. There was the one gem I loved reading in high school about a southern belle of great beauty who was kidnapped, raped (read seduced), kidnapped from her initial kidnapper and raped again (also read seduced), then was gratefully rekidnapped by her first kidnapper – then they fell in love and lived happily ever after. I’ll let that sink in…

 

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Source: Lovepanky

That novel was a mess but as a young and impressionable girl, I used to lap this up! I would curl up under my blankets all afternoon during the week, and all day during weekends consuming similar reading material. It’s no wonder my past relationships have been so messed up. If my model of romance was the epitome of unrequited love or being ignored, hurt, browbeaten into submission, abandoned, falsely accused, lied to/about or undermined, then it’s no wonder I couldn’t see the signs of catastrophic relationships early on.  I mean, think about it. If all you consume is garbage, then you wouldn’t know if you were being led into a dumpster because being surrounded by the stench of rot is an everyday standard of normal. The day I got fed up with the weak-ass females I was subconsciously programming my mind and modelling my relationship behaviour with, I decided to start throwing out each book the minute something seemed off kilter with the female protagonist. Nothing was different about the books, it was me who had changed. Or rather, the lens from which I was reading with had changed due to my own life experiences. As I grew into my own, I started questioning the actions of the women I was reading about. No longer did I find the journey thrilling. In fact, I was rather annoyed that someone could be a spectator in their own lives to the extent that a “billionaire” or “tycoon” or “sheikh” could literally hold you ‘captive’. I mean, really? I had had enough. It left me with very little to read, but I could no longer stand consuming literature that did not build, encourage or even just echo real life in the slightest.

 

Honestly though and underneath all of the annoyance, the main reason I had to throw out all my books is future-focussed. Bunny is learning to read, and whilst she may be a few years away from picking up my books with any kind of interest, time flies. If I postpone it, in the blink of an eye, she will be curled up on the couch reading one of the books off the shelf. It’s riveting reading material but because the romance novel model is so messed up, I cannot imagine that influencing Bunny’s worldview in that manner. I started reading at a very young age, and would read anything I could get my hands on. I do not want her to get her hands on this vitriol. I want her to read Jane Austin and Maya Angelou. I want her to read autobiographies of women who are pace setters and warriors in their own rights. I want her to read Mario Puzo and John Grisham. I want her to write her own story of struggle and victory without the subtle influence of written words that normalise abuse, even in the most subtle of forms. Left to her own devices, if she decides to consume romantic literature then she needs to buy it herself. That will not be my legacy.

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Source: Pinterest

 

What legacy do you want to leave for your children, and how are you going about making it a reality? Let me know in the comments section.

Blogging for Beginners: Lessons from the 1st year

I thought I’d give the post a week challenge on gratitude a brief hiatus to share some of the things that I’ve learnt on my blogging journey. I can’t believe it’s been 1 year already!

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I’ve made my fair share of rookie mistakes along the way and have had to use google to fix most of them. With the internet full of free advice from well-meaning people, I thought I would add my 2 cents worth.

 

Why are we here?

Answer that! Are you trying to make money, get famous, or simply sharing a personal journey? By being clear on the purpose of the blog, you will be able to name and ‘market’ it appropriately. You are also likely to retain readers because people know what kind of content they are plugging into, therefore what to expect. On the topic of marketing, almost everyone has a blog, but not everyone is comfortable sharing publicly. If you want to write just to keep an online diary, make sure your blog settings are private. Also, the ‘about’ page should always have something in it. Nothing puts off potential subscribers than encountering the default. That’s a rookie mistake. Don’t make it.

 

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Source: WordPress

 

Names matter.

I’ve mentioned before that I started blogging on a whim, so one of the biggest brain blocks for me was settling on an adequate name for the blog. I was quite stuck because there are so many cool names, but they are ever so specific to motherhood, lifestyle, fitness etc. I then had to really apply my mind to the things I wanted to blog about. I was very sure that it was not a motherhood blog, nor was it one about my career or ‘lifestyle’. I ended up on a site that suggested the first word be a verb or feeling, then the second something that defined you. I settled for delightedivorcee, partially because I made a mistake when registering delighted divorcee and had to permanently delete it from the WordPress domain.

Add that to lessons learnt: pay attention when registering the domain / blog name. In any case, I quite liked the ring of the single ‘d’ version of the name and it was quite relevant to the topics I intended to cover.

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Consistency is key

If you want the people to keep coming, you need to give them something to constantly come back to. Enough said.

 

Know your zone

Like anything else you put online, potential backlash and ramifications can be far-reaching. Think twice about what you are sharing because you could become famous for all the wrong reasons. And because it’s on the internet, faux amis are a reality. Remember this:

  • Haters will look for things to hate
  • Not everyone will be happy for you (no matter what you write)
  • You are allowed to speak your truth

Noting the above, limit the things you post to those that you are comfortable with people knowing.

 

Hammer Grammar

Nothing is quite as off-putting as badly written pieces. I think we all inadvertently turn into grammar police at the first sight of bad English. I’ve had one or three grammar snafus, so I check in triplicate before posting anything. I have grammarly installed both on Word and in chrome. I spell check, and before I post, I paste the entire article onto google translate and listen to the audio. That’s my winning tri-factor – yet to fail me.

 

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Source: funnyand.com

 

Shift happens

We grow and we change. That’s ok. If you blog about it, be sure to update the look and feel of your blog, the “about” section, and consider a name change. A year ago, I was a delightedivorcee, now I’m Rue on Adulting. If my life was the written word, you would have noticed a visible shift from bold and capital letters to soft italics. I’ve grown and I’ve changed. For the better.

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Thank you for walking this journey with me over the past year. I look forward to continuing adulting with you all!

 

Things to leave in 2015: half-assed parenting

I don’t believe in making new years resolutions because they tend to slip on the priority list by the time Valentines Day comes around. I usually make decisions about what to start, stop and continue long before the midnight hour. Topping the ‘start’ list for 2016 is being a more conscious parent. It’s one of those ‘continuous improvement’ things that always gets me thinking. Recently, I’ve really started worrying that I’m going to screw up my kid. A painting that Bunny did depicting her family triggered this particular round of this specific insecurity. The painting had mum, maternal grandparents, the nanny and the cat… but no dad.

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This really got me thinking about co-parenting and the relationship that Bunny and I individually have with her dad. Our agreement is crystal clear on access and the corresponding responsibilities so technically he should be in the picture she painted. Alas, humans get the feels, which complicate what should be a straightforward legal arrangement. This makes drama free interactions with the ex a proverbial unicorn. But I still think about it, and wonder if there is something that I should be doing differently so that Bunny is as well adjusted as possible.

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It’s tough having to change the way you relate to a co-parent once they become an ex, usually because the relationship is now so different from what it used to be. I’ve been told that my exes have it hard… I’m a cancerian with pretty low EQ. It manifests such that I really care until I don’t. When I care, I do so very deeply. My love is a real and tangible thing that will overwhelm you with its beauty. On the other hand, when I don’t care, it’s Siberia in January. You’re out in the freezing cold with your nose against the windowpane trying to get close to the fire. In short, I compartmentalise very well. In my opinion it’s a strength, but I can appreciate the difficulty someone would have adjusting to life on the outside. What I am struggling with is why this should matter. Is being friends with the ex a prerequisite for effective co-parenting? Should the feelings of estranged adults towards each other determine how well they co-parent?

 

I suppose part of the reason one would co-parent is because the relationship deteriorated, quite likely as a result of not seeing eye to eye. With that kind of background it’s probable that people would have difficulty reaching consensus on a vision about raising children. So no, we do not have to be friends. We just have to be effective co-parents. Effective, not good. Good is a subjective standard and yet another proverbial unicorn. Effective (in my mind) means that you are both considerate of your child’s needs and fulfilling your individual roles in making sure those are met.

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Look, I get it. Co-parenting with an ex is not easy. We’re human and likely to stuff things up every so often. Sure, there are prototypes that have managed to crack the code, but there are also a lot of others who haven’t gotten it right. Ultimately though, co-parenting is about making a conscious decision to come together in peace and partnership to raise children. Failure to partner leads to so many unintended consequences for children because things slip through the cracks as one parent tries to cover the distance of two. This is where we fail our children. This is where I’m failing Bunny, and I’m worried about it. I worry that by having to play such contrasting roles I’m screwing up my child. I am both nurturer and disciplinarian, I am bacon provider and fryer. I worry that the dichotomy of roles is schizophrenic and she won’t be able to reconcile them. I am  ‘sole person manning ship’, but I am also human. I get tired and I have needs. I have to take time to care for myself so I can be a present mother. I worry that I’m being selfish.

Effective co-parenting is as important to me as it is to Bunny.

When one whittles it down to what really matters, effective co-parenting does not require friendship or mutual like and admiration for one another. All that is required is a level of maturity that enables people to set aside their personal differences for the sake of the child. It’s not about you, or me. It’s about what’s best of that child and what is reasonable and practical. Does your ex need or want to know about your business or your struggles? You tell your friends what’s happening in your life, and they’ll tell theirs. All that’s required of you is to show up for your kid when you’re supposed to and pay what you’re supposed to so that your kid gets what they need. It sounds cold, but that’s the bare minimum of what you should be doing for your offspring.

 

Speaking of bare minimums, I’m going to Segway into rights & responsibilities here. These are two sides of the same coin. One counterbalances the other. Honouring or not honouring responsibilities is what separates fathers from sperm donors, and mothers from incubators. I’ll just leave that there to marinate…

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With my not so unique co-parenting arrangement and Bunny’s family portrait, it has occurred to me that we need to do better. Having a part time parent does more of a disservice to a kid than a completely absent one would. It’s a controversial opinion, but honestly, nothing hurts more than watching your offspring monitor the window all day waiting for dear mum/dad, who has had something come up and is no longer coming. Then to top that off, one has to field the “mummy/daddy doesn’t like me because she/he doesn’t visit me” statements. I have peers who have vivid memories of this. No one wants that for their offspring.

 

Here’s my proposal to derelict dads and mum’s alike: either show up consistently or don’t do so at all. If you don’t, we’ll even be gracious enough to preserve your memory by ‘killing’ you in some heroic way. Maybe you died fighting for human rights, or drowned while saving kids from a flood? Your choice, but know that it’s a tad difficult to bury you when you randomly pop up a handful of times a year… However, should you decide to show up, then do so in every way, shape and form. Be a super co-parent! If you do so, maybe the next time your offspring paints a family portrait you’ll be in the tree next to Lola the cat.

Think about it…

What I Wish You Knew About… Being In An Abusive Relationship

I was an ambitious little girl. Growing up, I wanted to be married to Michael Jackson in addition to being an actress or a lawyer. I’m now considered a grown-up, who unfortunately did not get to marry Michael. I do well in my career, I have a home and some pretty awesome trappings. I am also an abuse statistic.

I never thought it would be me. For the most part, finding myself a part of that kind of screwed up statistic was devastating. The ‘sisters with blisters’ club is not one you voluntarily sign up for. And yet there I was, an adult who for the most part adults quite well. A self-sufficient lady who was highly regarded by some and could hold her own out in the world. Looking at me, no one knew the weight of the shame I carried on my shoulders and the sadness I hid behind my bright smile. Did I deserve it? Did I have it coming? After all, I am a rational adult who should’ve known better than to have stayed. I signed up for this and gave up the right to be called a victim when I stayed after the first time. Right?

Here’s what you ought to know…

Leaving is not as simple as standing up and walking out of the door. If it was, no one would stay past the first time. The psychology of abuse is not black and white. The cycle is not that simple. From the outside looking in, I can see why you would think that. I used to as well, though I never imagined it would be me living through the experience. Abuse is for others, I used to think. Until it was for me. 4 years into a loving relationship, he hit me. By that time, I was already invested. Our lives were intertwined. Whilst we did not have any shared furniture, we had memories. Great ones. And we had plans.

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Even if your abuse isn’t served daily, it’s difficult to reconcile the beau you fell in love with, to his version of Mr Hyde – the one whose presence you dread. Maybe your beau is physically abusive, maybe emotionally, maybe verbally. I hit the tri-factor. I soon learnt that the saying about sticks and stones is absolute crap. No type of abuse is better. Fists, backhands and cables hurt. The wounds from those heal, sometimes leaving scars on your skin. Words hurt like a thousand paper cuts. Those wounds bleed eternally as your subconscious mind spits them out at random, a constant reminder that you are a failure.

Half the time, it’s almost as though you dreamt it. It happens fast, the apology is sincere, and you carry on. Wash, rinse and repeat. And whilst you aren’t looking, your self-esteem becomes eroded. And then the strangest thing happens. You start to feel shame. Shame that you, a grown person, who is rational and capable is in this terrible situation. Shame becomes your companion, an ever constant presence. Where shame resides, nothing rational grows. Hiding your shameful secret is the shackle that keeps you there, because once you leave the cats’ out of the bag. The questions come, hitting you like hailstones on a tin roof. “Why did you stay?”, “didn’t you know he was like this?”, “why did you marry him?”, “wasn’t there a sign?” Thank you for your morbid curiosity, but your questions are of no help. And so you stay because you have no rational answers to irrelevant questions and no strength to deal with the curious onlookers. You stay to put off facing the critics and the bystanders with their looks of pity.

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Then you start to change in tangible ways. The chemical balance of your brain readjusts as you try to cope. Death or prison are everyday options, much like chicken or beef served on a flight. You know that the way things are deteriorating, one of you will end up dead and the other in prison. You’ve come to terms with that. I was in fight mode for 3 years. I did not realise that I had become a shell of a person during that time. There was no light in my eyes and I had stopped laughing and smiling. I only noticed that in retrospect whilst looking at old photos. My flight response was triggered by the birth of my daughter. Only when I was entrusted with the life of another, did I realise the value of mine. I rediscovered my inner core of steel. But I was still in resting state, not ready to make any moves. Watching and waiting in the hope that he really was sorry and that he really would stop. But he hadn’t finished fixing me. I still wasn’t better. And so I learnt, they never stop. You do.

Enough’ is not a uniform standard. I remember years ago I was watching the movie Enough (the one starring J-Lo). My father was reading his paper on the couch, and would occasionally glance up at the TV. Then at one point where she was all bruised up from a beating, he looks up and says “she hasn’t had enough”. That was sadly prophetic, because fast forward a few years and I’m in the same situation. I stayed because I hadn’t had enough. I often tell this to people who talk about how they wish someone they know would just leave. Each person’s ‘enough’ is different, and you cannot impose your standards on anyone else. For some, it’s the first threat of violence, it’s when he bloods you up, when you lose your hearing or sight, or when you’re six feet under. We all leave when we’ve had enough. 

I love you. You can’t leave me. If you do, I’ll kill her”

Let’s say you’ve finally decided that you’d had enough, and you’re ready to come out and face the critics and onlookers. You want to get a protection order because you are afraid for your safety. All you’d have to do was relive the horror of your abuse by documenting it word for word on an affidavit. But only if it’s physical abuse. The verbal and emotional stuff is a tad difficult to document. No visible scars, you see. After that, you have to tell a Magistrate what happened. He gets to be there to deny everything. If you’re meticulous about taking photos and recording conversations, you’ll get your protection order. If not, the magistrate may just look at you and say “oh, he only hit you three times. That’s not enough. You also have no proof of the threats to your child”. When that’s over, you get the additional pleasure of him telling you how much of a failure you are, and how vindicated he feels because you didn’t get a protection order. Just because a Magistrate didn’t think it was enough, doesn’t absolve him of the abuse he inflicted. Pity he doesn’t realize that.

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Until I was ready to leave, I said nothing. I once had a bloodshot eye from a backhand and someone jokingly asked if he had hit me. I turned around and said yes. This was a good friend, who shuffled around awkwardly and immediately pretended as though I had said nothing. I did not speak of it again. Some things are just too heavy for friends and family. When I was ready to leave, I sought the help of a professional. I left all the drama on her couch, and by the time I walked out of my home with my bags and baby I had no weight on my shoulders. I was not angry, I was not depressed. I was hopeful. I was able to process the divorce from a place of rationality because I had processed the pain and had come to terms with my role in the demise of the relationship. I had walked my journey therefore no amount of in-law intervention could convince me to go back. Our African cultures tend to fail us in that regard. There are just some things that can’t be fixed with sorry.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is real. I will never be the same. Ever. I have healed and moved on. But lurking in the background of my psyche are memories of that time. Memories and intense feelings of inadequacy that can be triggered by an insensitive comment and leave my mind in foetal position for days. You’ll never know because I’ve perfected the veneer of normal. Well, new normal, that is. New normal smiles and is happiness personified. New normal trusts people, has intimate relationships and loves without limit or restraint. New normal no longer suffers fools. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice there is no twice, you don’t get a second chance at me.