Some times we add ‘forever’ to the end of our good-bye.
(Un)incredible Hulk dated me for two months, beat me for five months, manipulated me for fifteen months, threw insults and cussed me for nine months and was engaged to me for seven months. Not that I’m counting.
It was a whirlwind. It was a natural disaster that came to my Kansas in the form of a real live human rage-monster. Short-lived, but I’ve been rebuilding the ruins ever since. My twentieth year of life has all but defined my entire adulthood. It certainly thrust me into a trajectory of pain and healing that has taken time, effort and many relief workers.
It is not lost on me that many who might read this blog—those in the brotherhood and sisterhood of abuse recoverees— have experienced their circumstances far longer than I, far more frequently than I, and far more intimately than I.
Some people marry their abuser. They bear and share children and grandchildren. They still share a bed with their scariest foe. Their abuser is their aunt or uncle sitting across from them at Thanksgiving or their youth pastor teaching Sunday School at the church their parents still attend. It gets complicated and convoluted, crazy and confusing.
There are custody battles and the holidays to contend with. There are innocent kids looking up at you with all the love for the abuser because they don’t know or they don’t understand how someone so close and so intimate could do such harm. There are lawsuits and good ‘ol boys clubs. There are embarrassed family members who want to save the family name and churches & ‘christian’ institutions who want to save reputations and preserve full offering plates. It gets complicated and convoluted, crazy and confusing.
It is not lost on me that I never married my abuser nor bore his children. Thank God. I got caught up in the middle of the tornado but it didn’t carry me far. When the dust settled and the storm passed, I could walk away from the wreckage and never look back. I never had to see him again. I never had to speak to him again. I never had to hear his voice again. I could add forever to the end of my good-bye.
Yet, ending my engagement to (Un)incredible Hulk has always seemed reminiscent to a divorce to me.
I can’t even remember the where, when or why of our engagement. I *think* we were at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, just outside his rusty beater Ford Pinto, in the parking lot or on the steps. But honestly, that’s all I’ve got. It was a diamond ring that his old girlfriend had bought — rightfully hers— that he put on my left finger. I don’t think there was much sentiment to his words or his asking. It was flat and looking back, foreboding: like the skies had suddenly darkened and the storm loomed on the horizon.
The abuse set in immediately after the engagement. But breaking up is hard to do. We had the wedding, planned. The dress, bought. The date, set. The furniture, purchased. The future children, named. The abuse cycle, perfected.
In my faith tradition, breaking off an engagement was not something you did willy-nilly. I was already being prepped for the lifelong calling to be a wife. I knew the incongruence of planning my divorce while still engaged to him but I almost couldn’t bear it. In the end, my engagement came to a naturally organic end more than me breaking it off. That suited me because anything more than that would have not gone well for me.
"The statistics are that women in abusive relationships are about 500 many times more at risk when they leave,” said Wendy Mahoney, executive director for the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “Domestic violence is all about power and control, and when a woman leaves, a man has lost his power and control.”
Still, sometimes we add forever to the end of our good-bye. In the heat of July, I packed a little cardboard box with a diamond ring in it and sent it back to him. It had been the only thing he had been bitching and complaining about since May. And as his threatening increased, I decided it best to return the ring. I regret I didn’t sell it. But you know what?! I didn't want the dirty money or for that matter, be killed for it as he had threatened.
The next January, I saw him for the very last time. I spoke to him in the ‘trailer built for two’ for the very last time. I forgave him in the only ways I knew how back then. I said goodbye, forever.
It felt like my divorce was finalized.
I walked away from my turbulent Kansas.
I never looked back in wistful wonder — I only looked back in regret.
There is a place of which I am quite fond that boasts of an Indian lore that the Native Americans chose to settle there because no tornado will ever touch down in that little valley. It is the same town in which a peace treaty with the Native Americans was signed. It feels like the safest place on earth when storms roll in. One still takes cover but saunters to the basement. While in the basement, all you ever talk about is what the Native Americans told your ancestors over 225 years ago.
“You are safe in this town. Settle here. No tornado will touch down here.”
You may be in your Kansas still. You may be caught in the throes of a marriage or relationship rife with abuse. It may be complicated and convoluted, crazy and confusing.
You may never be able to add forever to the end of your goodbye.
But, you can find safety and you can settle where the real live human rage-monsters won’t get you. There is help. You can move inland. You can walk away from the ruins. You can find hope, healing, peace and joy on the other side of the storm.
I’ve always been afraid of storms. I still feel afraid knowing some of you are in a whirlwind of abuse— or in the early aftermath of rebuilding.
Truly, Jesus Christ— the Great Calmer of Storms— has been the safest place for me. He has been the ‘welcome wagon’, the ‘forever hello’; the One with outstretched arms speaking both ‘Peace, be still’ and ‘Come to me all you who are weary and burdened..”. May you find Him to be your Peace. May you find Him to be the place in which you rise above the constant cry. May you be safe in His arms, settled there, where no amount of wind or fury can touch your spirit cupped in His hands. It's no lore, His presence is the safest place on earth.
Because sometimes we add forever to the end of our good-bye.
This post is dedicated to my friend who is walking through Kansas.
Sometimes We Add Forever
Sometimes we add ‘forever’
To the end of our good-bye
And we grab for strength to sever
Our temporary tie.
It may have lasted six months,
Many years or even yet—
You touched my life just only once
And now good-bye means to forget.
I wish the promises that we made
Wouldn’t fall so hard
Upon our callous, barren hearts
That already seem so marred.
But, sometimes we add forever
To the end of our good-bye
And we grasp for each endeavor
To rise above the constant cry.