I used to tell my kids that monsters weren’t real. They would be afraid of the shadow in the closet, or the creaking tree outside the window, or the tap-tap sound coming from the bathroom. Monsters, they’d claim. But I was able to convince them otherwise – usually by simply exposing what was actually there. There’s no such thing as monsters, I’d tell them, we are safe.
I lived in a world remarkably free of monsters for the first twenty five years of my life. My core belief was that people were essentially good, and the ones who had strayed were just waiting to be loved back into who they really were. I don’t believe things without reason, so I’d conducted plenty of research… and I found that not only was I onto something, but I could provide the love that brought them back home. I sought to make the world safe for the dangerous and the endangered by acknowledging their forgotten goodness. I hope that makes sense. I never thought I was special, but I did feel different (as most empaths do). The only catch was that if my strategy didn’t work, it wasn’t because they were incapable or unwilling to change or be loved. The reason could only be that my love was somehow lacking. I wasn’t good enough.
I didn’t understand why at the time, but people like me tend to attract quite a few predators. You know, the narcissists, bullies and emotional vampires. I also appealed to a lot of incredibly wonderful, passionate and loving people, and it wasn’t always easy to tell the difference. But there was always a moment in which the mask would come off and I’d make my escape. Not always unscathed, either. But I blamed myself every time — I was inadequate and ineffectual; they were not to blame for the wounds that had shaped them.
Now I know better. Now I understand that while they do not choose the trauma, at some point there is a disconnect from humanity and conscience. They cease to know and love, and instead control and consume. That sounds a lot like a monster to me.
I married one. I was with Drew for almost twenty years and we brought four children into the world. I love my children with every fiber of my being, and I know I’ve dealt them terrible wounds for which I don’t know how to forgive myself. I told them there was no such thing as monsters, and I was wrong. All their lives they have watched their father tear me down and beat me up, without ever laying a hand on me. I left once when the first two were still little, and I most remember the fear I felt as I fled without warning one day while he was at work, hoping the restraining order and ex parte custody would protect us. Trauma bonds, however, are no joke and any abuser worth their salt knows how to mend and repair what they’ve cut or broken. Eight months later I was back, believing his apologies and sobriety, believing he’d changed. The reality was that he never forgave me for momentarily relieving him of his power and control the day I left, and he would have plenty of opportunity to make me pay. Our children would witness most of it, and learn. I did my best to instill a moral compass and solid ideas about right and wrong and dignity, kindness and respect… which I know they carry with them. They also carry the knowledge that their dad thought all my “hippy parenting” was a bunch of crap ( not the word he’d use) and that I was just screwing them up because the real world wasn’t a democracy. His parenting style was aimed at undermining mine – or simply finding ways to get out of parenting, quite honestly. And I stayed and allowed it to happen, because it wasn’t really a big deal. None of the hurtful things he did over and over were that important. Every marriage has its challenges. Especially when you’re married to a monster.
I would like to tell my kids the truth, and I tried, because I love them and hate to see them get preyed on, but I guess I was pretty convincing all those years ago. No such thing.
It’s going to be a process, figuring out where to start and stop with my posts. I don’t want to plan it all out, but I don’t know how to find a tidy and-that’s-all-for-today place to end. So I’m doing a force- quit. See you soon.