One year and about eleven hours ago (almost to the minute, depending on how long it takes me to write this post!) I left my marriage.
That’s such a simple statement and the reality of it was that it wasn’t quite that simple. The decision itself – weighing up the consequences, for myself and for him – was agonising. It was the hardest and most painful decision I have ever made. In hindsight, it shouldn’t have been. Two nights before I left, I’d had a kitchen knife held against my throat. I turned up at my friend’s house, at twenty to eight on a Sunday morning, with a suitcase, a pink plastic folder of choral music, and the beginnings of a black eye. It shouldn’t have been a difficult decision to make – but it was.
It has been a year of wonders. A year in which I’ve been forced to come face-to-face with the reality of all that was done to me, all the injuries and injustices and humiliations and anguishes that I’d survived but not felt. All the fears, all the violent, punishing, dangerous actions that my body had learned to expect – they live still in the nerves of my back and shoulders, in the deep layers of my mind. I still cringe to have someone behind me, flinch when I’m touched unexpectedly. I still feel a frisson of fear at raised voices, or the smell of alcohol on someone’s breath. I’m still assailed at times by flashbacks; my mind still at times takes retreat in dissociation as I watch the world through a protective layer of disconnection. My last panic attack was less than a week ago. I know I’m not out of the woods yet. There’s been a lot of healing done, don’t get me wrong. I’m not stalled in the woods, I’m not stuck. It’s just that the woods are much, much bigger than I’d ever anticipated. I will carry the scars of what was done to me for the rest of my life. I’ve been told I may never be entirely free of the automatic reactions to the threat of violence. I still have to face my anger around this.
But, even as I carry within myself the scars of something terrible, I also carry within myself the knowledge of just how utterly blessed I am. Not only do I now have a life of safety – no one has so much as raised their voice at me in a whole year now – I also live a life of rich simplicity. A life of peaceful solitude, and deep connection with amazing, inspirational people. People who care for me. Who love me. Who like me. People who allow me to be myself, and celebrate me for who I am. People who allow me to care for them and love them and celebrate them. One friend who took me in with a suitcase, a folder of music and a black eye. Many more who would have, without a second’s hesitation. People who have allowed me to heal and been with me – undemanding and loving, in simple rare friendship – while I did it. People who have loved me through it. People who have showed me the love and grace of God.
I am under no illusions – I do not deserve the blessings in my life. I haven’t earned them in any way. There is no way I can repay the Universe, the Creator and Sustainer, for the wonder’s of the last year. There is no way I can repay what I have been given by the incredible people who are my friends. But that’s the thing about grace: by definition, it’s un-earned. All I can do is be grateful for it, and accept it. And be my true self, the best self I can be, in the hope that one day I can give back what I’ve been given, and leave the world better than I found it.