4 incident reports filed against me with my local PD.
Three kicked-back harassment claims filed against me at work.
Too many lies told and posted on social media to count.
Hundreds of messages calling me psychotic and a liar.
Several sharpie-on-paper-towels ‘notes’ stuck on my front door with duct tape.
$0 in child support.
Thousands owed for childcare with ever-changing demands for what I need to provide for him to pay what the court already says he owes.
Two cracked fillings and a cracked tooth.
One child covid scare and him calling the cops to my house at 9pm and ordering me to ‘hand her over’.
Several texts to my father attempting to make him make me ‘behave’.
365 days of a home free of gaslighting within the walls.
365 nights of thanking god or the universe or whatever, out loud, for the calm and quiet of my bedroom. The room completely redone to be free of anything he touched.
365 days of guarding my daughter’s best interest like it’s the ancient artifact in an Indiana Jones movie. Or the Hope diamond. Or the most precious painting left in the Louvre.
Because it’s more valuable than all of those things.
On day 351, I came home from work on the first day of a new woman watching my daughter while I work. Two days a week I can manage to afford this even though I really need it five. I need it now that school is all virtual and I have to also work on-site full time to pay the bills.
I came home and she was happy and full of energy and bouncing around in her stocking feet and tutu’d waist as her hair spun out from her head while she spun circles around me.
She and I played hide and seek (her request) for half an hour and then chased each other around the house in tickle-tag (also her request) for fifteen minutes before snuggling and reading (yep, also her request) on the couch for the last fifteen minutes before her dad came to pick her up for one of his two hour weeknight visitations.
After she left – after one of the send offs I’ve now perfected that make her feel safe and loved while giving x no possible chance to see me or poke at me and make her uncomfortable – I made myself dinner (something I’m only recently consistently getting back into the habit of after the upheaval of the last year) and then sat outside on the rooftop to read.
Like I don’t have chores or things to do. Like I live a life of leisure.
Something I found nearly impossible to do before my brain came back to me in the last year.
Keeping busy can be a trauma response, and, finally, a year out, leisure feels cozy again. No longer like the panicky stillness of a body housing a mind still scared of every quiet second.
My business district street is still quieter than it used to be pre-pandemic, but there was the whir of cars and the chatter ten feet below of people standing (six feet apart) in line to buy craft beer at the store across the street that I’m so happy to see still surviving this all.
The sun was right at eye level from where I sat and I had a sun hat on while I tried to hold the pages of the book still as the breeze whipped them up, the sounds like a shuffle of paper from some elementary school memory deep in my brain that I paused, briefly, to try to identify but gave up on, because, well, I’m old and I forget the specifics, but not the sensations.
Wisps of my hair kept blowing into my face and I tried holding the book pages open with one hand and my hair out of my face with the other before just setting the book down on my lap and giving in to just sitting still and staring at my street.
It was the perfect temperature outside. And for the first time in weeks, while the air is still smoky and hazy from all the California fires, the smell of smoke was faint enough, in comparison, to not feel like the whole world was ablaze.
I thought about how it’s been almost a year since I started this single mom life in earnest.
I realized that one year to the day before (day negative-fourteen), I was dizzy with confusion. I had asked x for space. I felt lost and like my head was full of wadded up fabric and my heart was pushing against my chest wall constantly, starting to feel how I felt that one summer I spent my birthday in the ER with heart attack symptoms and had to face later that I really was just so beaten down heartwise that I was about to break.
Day negative-fourteen. Cliche or not, it absolutely feels like a lifetime ago.
We had been living apart for months by then and I was not only realizing he would never move back in (by his choice and mine, though he didn’t know it wasn’t just his choice) but I was also fully realizing that he would never really leave.
Not on his own.
Not in any final way.
Not in the way I needed so I could avoid the decision I somehow seemed literally unable to make.
I had discovered, only days before, that just one of the many repulsive things he was currently doing was chasing after, as a fifty year old man, a twenty-three year old bikini barista.
Seriously. One who posts on social media for money and followers. As though she saw him as anything but a pathetic part of her paying her rent and making her car payments and gaining traction financially and virtually.
I remember staring at my daughter as she slept after I put her to bed on day negative-fourteen and begging her, silently, to somehow understand and be ok and to forgive me for the reality of her life and mine, of what it was about to become and for what it had always, despite my delusions, been.
I went to bed that night confused and muddled and knowing the right thing to do but not understanding the things at play (trauma bonds and dissonance and real, actual abusive mindfucking) that made me feel completely unable to take that leap. Actually unable.
Like I couldn’t physically say the words.
Like I might (literally I felt this even though intellectually I knew it was bullshit) disintegrate into nothing as soon as I said it and made it real.
He texted me thirteen days later (day negative one) how much he loved me and would focus on us and his family and how we mean the world to him. How he would do better. Would be better.
How he’d been at a bbq and saw all the families and knew we were what was most important to him and he loved me and all I do for us and the kids and and and.
The kind of message that was as predictable as my heartbeat anytime he felt me seriously pulling away.
One I no longer found pretty or shiny or enticing.
(Thank all that’s right in life for his sad attachment to that bikini barista for setting me free from the cloud of abusive desire that keeps pulling us back into the madness. After all the betrayals and lies and ugliness, it was that pathetic compulsion at that exact time that set me free from seeing him as anything but repulsive).
One day later I would tell him what I had seen only days before: messages where he was being catfished by the barista or an imposter of the barista (who really cares which) and that I couldn’t do this anymore. That it was sad and pathetic and broke my heart in a hundred different ways after everything I’d already forgiven. That it broke my heart to have whittled away so much of myself for such a lying, shameful cliche of a man.
He unleashed a torrent of venom. Attacked full force.
Accused me of ridiculous plots. Threatened to end it if I wouldn’t admit to the insane things he was accusing me of doing.
If I admitted it, though, he would stay and forgive me.
But I did it.
I ended it.
I told him I’d save him the trouble.
So. It was done.
I know he didn’t think I really meant it. Even when he texted me weeks later about how much he missed me, I know he didn’t think I’d just ignore that.
He believed it would lead to me sharing the same, bemoaning what I wanted and missed from him, looping us back into the cycle we’d been in for years at that point.
I am sure he never thought that message would go forever unanswered.
But it did.
I was done. I had done it. And I was done.
I did not disintegrate. Or vanish.
Thirteen days earlier I didn’t know if I could end it for real.
I wanted to.
I knew I should.
But I was still afloat and drifting on the fog covered island that years of this kind of abuse creates.
A kind of fog that you think, sometimes, is a version of sunshine. You really start to believe that.
On day 351, I left my book outside and walked back into my house for water. I looked at my daughter’s toys on the floor and all over everywhere and thought of her coming home in a bit and reading some more Ramona Quimby and then tooth brushing and more reading and then the bedtime snuggling she’s not yet too old for… her telling me she loves me more than I love her and arguing with me about it because she can’t know yet that there is no more love in existence than what I have for her.
I noticed the weightlessness of my sternum. The way my breaths came easy and full despite the still constant efforts he makes to shatter my world. Invade it. Disrupt it in any pathetic way he can.
I noticed the quiet in my house. The calm glow of the setting sun across the bed in my room down the hall. The sounds of a squirrel scurrying outside the bedroom window and the click-click of squirrel chatter as he leapt from limb to roof to power line.
Noticed, with a deep breath in and out, the steadiness I feel not just emotionally now but also physically. My legs and feet more sturdy. My mind so clear. My shoulders less rounded and not so tight.
That sharp pinch in my left shoulder gone for months and months now.
The pending restraining order and the money he refuses to pay and the nights of him pounding on my door and then calling the cops, on me (!), and the sign-off phrases he regularly throws on messages to ‘slyly’ call me a cunt can’t even touch the way my life has improved simply by taking that one, terrifying, muddled step 365 days ago.
One full cycle of the earth with clarity. And freedom.
And calm – even within the shitstorm of his anger and quiet rage and impotent attempts to ruin me.
That one final terrifying step. And then just all the ones after that aren’t so scary despite him acting in even scarier ways.
So my daughter can be clear.
So she can have a chance to not have the trauma I have from him.
To free her.
So we could relearn a way to live that doesn’t involve fog and confusion and mistaking abuse for love or toxicity for tenacity and commitment.
365 new days and now we move forward, repeating them year after year.
Each day from here on out an anniversary of a free day.