On Day One, I swung myself out of bed around 5am after not sleeping at all. My eyes were puffy and sore and I had cried, on and off, all night.
I knew I had the task of telling my child that Daddy wouldn’t be in our house at all anymore.
I knew I had his venom to deal with – both personally and also that very day at work.
He had lobbed such horrible texts at me the night before that I tried blocking him on my phone only to discover all that does is mute the notifications.
I instantly asserted that he could only email me and that was it. I put up the first of the walls that were necessary – and all of this early wall building ended up suiting me well as I navigated his irrational acts and words and the family court system.
I went to work frazzled and exhausted and muddled in my brain. But also relieved. Very relieved.
On Day 366, my first day of a second cycle of the earth without him in my home, I woke at 4am and couldn’t get back to sleep. But I felt good.
My eyes weren’t stinging. My body wasn’t aching. My mind felt at ease. It’s like my body remembered and woke me early to honor the day somehow.
Like it was paying respects to what was lost but also giving me time – that quiet, dark time of pre-dawn when the world feels slowed and easy – to feel the difference: in me, in my body, in my mind, in my home, in my entire world.
So I got up about 4:30 and made tea and sat outside on the rooftop and breathed in clean air. We had our first day of marine air pushing in from the coast since the worst of the fires revved up again a couple of weeks ago and it felt good to sit outside in the damp, cool air. The cool drops against my arms made it clear that fall is still coming whether it feels like summer has just disappeared from 2020 altogether or not.
My daughter stumbled awake early, too, and we fed the dogs and made breakfast and sat together and told knock-knock jokes as we ate our eggs.
She got dressed and brushed her teeth and her hair and still there was all kinds of time before I had to leave for work.
So I let her watch TV – breaking the no TV before school on school days rule – and I went and sat outside again.
When I left the house to get into my car, I actually, without thought, did a little two step shuffle as I turned onto the sidewalk. I felt light. And I laughed at myself when I realized that I was wishing I had a hat to toss into the air, Mary Tyler Moore style.
A lot of people – women in particular – in my situation, question whether leaving was the right decision. Not because they forget the abuse – in fact, when you leave a narcissistic person and share a child, it’s pretty much impossible to ever forget the abuse as they keep doing it on and on and on via the child(ren).
Not because they actually miss the person they left (or who left them) – again, once you leave, you see a person so unmasked that they become alien and completely separate from the person you thought you were with (we all do sometimes miss that non-existent person but we can not miss the actual person we finally see for who they are…).
Not because they think it will be different or better or morph into a healthy relationship.
They wonder and wonder and wonder if they should have just still stayed because at least they could always be present and protect their children from the narc and his (or her) games and emotional neglect.
We wonder, frighteningly often in the beginning, but even many months out, if we should have stayed and sacrificed ourselves as shields for our children.
Bear the brunt so we can literally stand between them and the other parent.
Think about that.
Ponder it for a minute.
The after can feel so awful (for us, but mostly for our kids, which is what makes it that much more painful for us) that we think taking the abuse on behalf of our children would be better.
When my one year anniversary came, I had seen at least three or four of those kinds of posts in the week prior.
Women desperate to make the abuse stop. For their kids.
Desperately pondering how to appease the abuser to make the lashing out softer. For the sake of their children. For their own sanity.
I can cry, again, right now, thinking of how that doubt feels and the urge propelling those thoughts.
Of putting your mind, body and soul back in that cesspool if it means less damage to your children.
Protect your child. Destroy yourself to do it.
If that’s what it takes.
I kept trying to figure out why I haven’t struggled with that exact dilemna since ending it this last time.
Sitting outside, I was reminded that it’s the way my body feels in each moment now. Alive, awake, assured.
The way my thoughts are clear and direct – even in the hardest of times when the thoughts are painful, they are no longer turned upside-down and muffled.
The way I can wake up early and enjoy knock-knock jokes with my daughter instead of being in the bathroom trying to put enough cool water on my eyes that the bags underneath won’t give away my night of crying.
The way I don’t park down the street anymore, on my way home from work, to brace myself for home.
My daughter now has one healthy parent (even if that parent is constantly a little bruised from the battle to protect her and raise her with will and certainty and respect for her self and her needs).
I could never counter his effect while in it. Not for me or for her.
It’s an illusion that we can, just like the illusion of the person we bought into in the beginning.
Pure fiction. A 2D projection on the wall.
It’s a nice fantasy that we could go back and take the pain for our children. It is.
If you give in to that illusion too long, it becomes downright alluring.
I would do it if I thought it would be right for her. No question.
But it’s not right. It won’t help her. Being in that world even longer will only hurt her.
On day 366, my daughter had one of her weeknight visits with her dad.
I waited out back for her to come home and she ran from x’s car down the length of the driveway and through the gate to me. She turned around and yelled to him, as he walked around his car to get in, “Bye, Daddy! You’re the best!”.
He said, “I am.”
And then got in his car and drove away.
I pulled my lips between my teeth and bit my tongue to keep what I wanted to say from coming out of my mouth.
So much in that small response. It carries the whole world of how he moves in the world. How he parents. How he sees the world and his place in it.
At bedtime, with heavy eyelids, as I tucked my daughter in, she said, “I love you, mama. You’re the best.”
“No – you are,” I said and our normal routine went on and we repeated that exchange a couple more times before she rolled over and pulled the sheet tight up over her shoulders and fell asleep, fast and hard, her breath deep and full.
My job is to remind her that she is enough. Better than enough. And that her job is not to prop us up but to be steadied by us, held upright by us so she can grow into herself.
The best human she can be.