Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Grown-Up in My Own Story

Somewhere around day 2 after driving away from my marriage (He left me, just to be absolutely clear. It's just that he made me do all the work associated with that leaving. Great system.), I wrote the phrase "becoming the grown-up in my own story." I didn't realize, of course, that I had identified an important theme for myself, or that it would take so long.

But here we are. It's hard. I've recently realized something mind-altering. I was an abused wife. Without being libelous (he never hit me -or would ever hit anyone, I imagine), I was definitely abused. There's not a legal definition of emotional abuse; it's not criminal in the way that assault is criminal. Nonetheless, there are working definitions:

* name-calling or putdowns
* keeping a partner from contacting family or friends
* withholding money
* stopping a partner from getting or keeping a job
* actual or threatened physical harm
* sexual assault
* stalking
* intimidation

There are more examples; you can see them on the Violence Wheel. Suffice it to say that I was looking at the wheel (an old social work standby) for another purpose, and was flat-out gobsmacked at how many examples applied to me.

ME! How can this be?

Actually I am less interested in that question than in how to move forward to make things different. Sure, patriarchy had a role in this. Grandiose narcissism (not mine) probably had a role in this. My personality absolutely played a part -which isn't the same thing as saying that I caused it. My upbringing had, perhaps, a little role. Catholicism, perhaps a little more. There's a complex story to be told there, but it's already been done.

What's more important to me right now is to acknowledge that abuse infantalizes its victims. This becoming a grownup thing is profoundly NOT metaphorical. Rather, it is exactly the task in front of me.

I remember asking my mom once why people became grownups. (I'll tell you more about that story tomorrow.) Her reply was "they just have to." At that time she was in a complicated relationship herself, so a little fatalism was to be expected. But my toddler self wants to go back and say, "Nu-UNHHH, you GET to."

So now I get to become a grownup. I'm a work in progress, way back at the starting line. All this crashing around I've been doing -well, it will doubtless continue for a while. But the house, the physical fitness, the friends, the family, the job, school, the cats, the travel.... I've been crashing around experimenting with things the way a toddler does. "You mean, the world holds all this STUFF, and I get to try it ALL?"

Well, yes dear, it does and you do. Now you just have to be big enough and brave enough and graceful enough to figure out how to do the things you want, give back to the world, and say thank you all the time.

So, that's the project, for now.

1 comment:

Kimberly said...

That's a stunning realization.