Sometimes something happens that you know you need to share with friends or family or anyone who can help you let go of the worst of it.
Help you figure out how not to be paralyzed by it.
And sometimes those same things make you want to shut your mouth for a long time.
Because you can’t believe you just had to live it.
Because it’s one more thing on top of all those other things and then piled atop all the things we’re all muddling through in this weird, bizarro time.
Because you know the people who love you and your daughter will be so sad for you (and even more so for her) that it can feel incredibly selfish to pass on the misery in order to feel better yourself.
Today, my daughter and I were continuously run over to the side of the road by her father. For nearly three miles.
Because he was late for his visitation with no communication at all about it and I left home to avoid any drama over him forfeiting his visit for that reason.
Only I left about one minute too late.
As we were leaving, he came shooting down our road and swung sharply into our driveway to try to block me in and force a handover.
I pulled out of my neighbor’s driveway, doing a turnaround in my narrow driveway and partially wheeling over the sidewalk to try to remove my daughter from whatever rage – subdued or not – he was in at that moment.
He followed us.
Pulled up next to us at a red light and told my daughter to get out of my car and into his car.
He was directing her to open her door and waving her over to his car. As we were in the middle of a busy road.
She didn’t. She didn’t even try, thankfully. Even though she couldn’t really understand why we weren’t stopping, why he was chasing us, why it was all so weird and scary.
I ended up driving about three miles, with two different police departments on the line, before following a police car and getting their attention for help.
For miles, he would straddle the lane divider and try to push my car to the side of the road.
He would do this and then angle the front of his car in front of the corner of my car forcing me to stop.
In the middle of a busy road in Oakland.
And he would get out of his car to, I guess, try to pull our daughter out of my car.
Once he stepped out of the car, I would start driving again and hope he would give up.
At one point, at a red light, he pulled up on the passenger side, the side my daughter was on, and was so close he could reach out and touch my car.
He did. He punched my car twice. Held up both hands and flipped me off and called me a fucking bitch.
As my daughter cried. As our daughter screamed to go with daddy so he would just stop.
As she swung her arms to try to get my attention, like that’s all that was failing in this situation. Like I just couldn’t hear her pleas.
Once I started following the police car I came up on, honking and flashing my lights, he fell in line behind me and just followed us.
I am sure he was thinking that once we pulled over, he could weave a tale that would make those officers make me behave.
Yet again, he would instantly shift from rage to calm, victimized father and convince them I was bitter and vindictive.
Lots of couples have a song that’s their song. Many of us who get out of these relationships realize that this song and dance is what our song was all along.
This is the second time in a month the police have been involved in him demanding something he has no right to demand. In a way that is scary and startling and beyond inappropriate.
In a harassing way. In an (only-barely-coercively) abusive way.
This time I knew the drill. I told the officers that he was not within his court ordered rights and that his proper recourse is the court system.
By this point, one officer had helped us move to a place out of x’s line of sight. So I could calm my daughter.
She was afraid for her father. For his fate.
I assured her that he’d be fine. They would just talk to him. I asked an officer to tell her the same, so she would know that it wasn’t just mama trying to make her feel better.
The cops finally asked him to leave. They made sure he did.
When he stopped next to my car and tried to talk to our daughter, an officer stood between his car and mine and asked him to go.
A cop car followed me almost home.
My daughter and I got lunch and I bought her a pony for her American Girl knockoff doll. All we needed was toothpaste, but she was going home after what we just went through and deserved a horse-sized distraction to occupy her mind until she was ready to talk about it.
I can’t make her life as right as I want (the one true heartbreak of my life) so I justify that horse. I can give her one thing she wants. For 34.99 plus tax I can do that.
She spent hours building it a stable out of magnetic tiles. And then piling up lego after lego after lego to make a super-tall ‘hay bale’ for it to eat. She called it Mable and then Barbie and then went to bed with it still nameless, dreaming of where we will ‘permanently’ build the stable in our living room.
Instead of asking for youtube or a cartoon after dinner, she said let’s watch Rory and so we snuggled on the couch and watched the Gilmore Girls until we were ready for sleep.
Before all of that, I asked her if she was mad at me. If she understood why I couldn’t just pull over right then and let her go with Daddy. She said she was but now she wasn’t.
She said she was only mad because she wanted it to stop and thought she could stop it by going with him.
We talked about choices and actions and the right ways to try to right a wrong if you think there is one.
About people acting scary and making choices that make it hard for us to go with them.
And then: that pony.
And pizza and Gilmore Girls and ice cream.
I texted one friend, after hesitating, and told her what had happened. She cried.
And listened. And gave me support.
The people who love me and my spitfire of a child ache for us.
We need to share. We can’t stay silent.
But, sometimes more than others, sharing feels like handing them the knife that’s cutting us, blade first, and costing them all a little blood in exchange for comfort. A lot more like that lately since the whole world is sideways.
I didn’t call my dad even though I thought about it. It’s my oldest nephew’s birthday and they are living with him, still displaced from the Creek Fire even though, thankfully, their house has survived. And his other daughter is in a state that breaks all of our hearts. So I don’t feel like adding to it yet. It can wait a day or two.
One group of friends who have saved my soul so many times over the last year would no doubt have held me up. But they hear so much. And Portland is having a day of its own today with racists and violence and hatred seeping in to try to squash the spirit of protest. And one of those friends who is navigating her own tough time is finally househunting for her own place and a new start and to shit all over that with such unnecessary ugliness felt wrong.
They would have not felt this way. But I did.
I did also tell another friend whose partner just got out of the hospital because it was my excuse for not checking in about him earlier that day. But still, it felt like handing over a heaviness none of us can do anything with right now.
Here. Here’s some bullshit. With some rage and unfairness and sadness and a child just wanting to be loved by someone who really just can’t.
Here. Hold this with me for a minute. It’s easy.
So I write. My lawyer, myself for my documentation, and also here.
He’s already lit the gaslight and sent me a message that seems as though it’s a copy and paste of something he sent my lawyer or something. About how I kidnapped her and engaged in reckless child endangerment.
He swears he was there five minutes before he was and was not late.
I took a time-stamped photo on my porch, with my daughter, two minutes after he says he was there.
Yes, I did that. Knowing. Knowing I’d need proof that what I said is true.
Here’s the thing: when you are first being gaslit, you are so lost. You try to counter with facts and you get spun and spun and spun. Spun so hard you can’t remember if the facts were really facts.
Then you get better at it. You bring facts. And you get spun and spun and spun.
Then, you start anticipating that you’ll need facts. So you learn to document before you even realize that’s what you are doing.
There’s a basic meme that circulates support groups. It’s got many variations from hilarious to heartbreaking, but it’s basically the fact that you can confront a narc with facts and they say not true. So you present the screenshots. And they still say not true. And blame you for taking the screenshots.
Facts mean nothing to them.
So he won’t see that photo until the court does. There’s no point. He’s presented his story, which entails him just nicely asking me to pull over while I drive erratically and run stop signs and endanger my child (no facts in there at all, in fact). He’s told his story and so the official story is that no matter what.
I cannot counter his story to him. No matter how much evidence.
So my lawyer gets the photo and all the other facts. And the court will. Lord help me, I have to file again in order to make this madness stop. For my daughter.
Tonight, while getting ready for bed, she said, I wish we could go back to when daddy lived here and he didn’t break up with you and we could be like that again. When he wasn’t mean and scary.
My entire being ached.
Because she has seen the mean and scary.
Because I did such a good job keeping her away from the worst of him, of us, that she thinks he’s just turned mean and I could turn him back if I let him back in the house.
My child, my whole soul aches for you tonight.
It used to just ache and I have fixed that. I have saved us, in some big ways.
But you have a parent who will sell you out to have control. To win. And he thinks that parent is me. But it’s not.
I’ve already emailed my lawyer. I will go to the police station to get the report tomorrow.
I will go bike riding with my daughter tomorrow and get some work done that I was supposed to do today and then I will eat some ice cream with her.
She will tell me again, like she did tonight, that she loves teddy and me most because we make her feel safe, and for a moment, for the most pristine moment, my world will be right (while simultaneously being wrong).
The smell of her forehead, the roughness of her hair-covered arms as I massage her tension away, her heavy, heavy eyelids as she whispers buenas noches.
Tonight I share in type. I hold off on all the rest. Give those other people I love, who love me and that tiny little girl, one more day without my drama.
Silence is not the answer.
But sometimes. Sometimes.
It’s hard to send it out there.
Take this, I say.
Hold this with me.
I know how hard that is and I appreciate it.
More than you know.