Growing a bit weary but making decisions

The past couple of weeks have been really draining to me in terms of work, especially. I wrote a post recently that mentioned my difficulties in working in an office situation, and today I made an important decision in that regard.

I’m currently interviewing for a new job that would allow me to telecommute part time at first, leading to full time if things go as expected. If I get this job, I’ll at least feel like I have more control of my time (I’ve telecommuted in the past, so I know what it’s like) and can really do excellent work — I’m sure of that. I don’t want to jinx it, but it’s looking like this job will happen. The only real question is the pay, whether it will be acceptable or not. As of today, I’ve completed the interview process and am waiting on an answer.

But here’s the decision I made today. If I don’t get this job, I am going to ramp up my own business — something related to writing, or a combination of things — and have it making money by September.

Why September? Because I need to be able to quit my current job by then. There is no way I can last there any longer than that. Frankly, I’m not sure I can hold out that long. I’ve worked in hostile environments before, but this one tops them all. My supervisor is a passive-aggressive, mean and controlling bully. She is ruining what I thought would be a great career opportunity for me because of her lack of management skills. I’ve never heard anyone say the things the says to the people in my office: demeaning comments, threats … it’s disgusting and totally unnecessary.

Even if I get the telecommuting job, I’m going to write on the side. I’ll continue writing my books for Kindle under my pen name, and I’ll do some other writing, too — maybe for clients, maybe additional books. I’ve considered publishing an online magazine for people who are or want to be self-employed (especially women “of a certain age,” as they say).

So while I’m feeling a bit tired of all this upheaval, which includes dealing with my husband’s depression right now, I’m also moving forward, one day at a time. I’m getting closer not to an end goal, per se, but to the person that I really am. The woman who might still be able to achieve something.

What could I have achieved? What CAN I achieve?

One of the hardest parts of recovery for me has been asking myself the question, What could I have achieved if I hadn’t been a victim of domestic violence?

The answer is: a lot. I know it’s true, because I know how strong the core of my “self” is. Even my therapist, Kris, remarked to me that something within me kept me going at a high level of competence, despite everything that happened to me. She pointed out that I am, by far, the exception, not the norm. I didn’t become an alcoholic or drug addict, I didn’t get depressed or commit suicide, I didn’t become physically disabled due to illness — and all of these are common “side effects” of being a victim of domestic violence.

Especially at the level I experienced, she noted specifically.

I grieve what might have been, every single day.

Some days, like today, it makes it hard to look forward. I feel like my life is already over, and I have nothing to show for it. I’m 51 years old, and I’ve achieved nothing of note except, what, survival? What sort of achievement is that?

As I grapple with trying to make my life meaningful in some way before I die, I continually ask myself this question: What can I do now? Who can I BE now?

Over the past few days, I’ve thought about some possibilities:

  • I could “come out of the closet” about domestic violence and become a speaker on the topic. A scary option, but one that could help people.
  • I could continue writing fiction and hope that, someday, a real publisher will take notice of me. Unlikely, but not impossible.
  • I could start my own online magazine about making life changes quickly, as I’ve had to do.

I could envision myself doing all three of those. But they all pale in comparison to what I believe I could have been had my life not been so derailed by my first husband’s psychosis. I believe I could have been a professor, either in English or music history, and written many, many books. As it is, my daughter is on the professorial path, which makes me both happy and sad. I’m happy that she is finding her way in this life. I’m sad that I didn’t have the chance to live my life. MY life.

The worst part for me right now is that I’ve had to come to all these realizations, as desperate and grief-stricken as they are, without the love and support of my husband. Instead, I’ve also had to deal with his depression, with mood swings that have sent me reeling back into PTSD time and time again. How much could I have achieved even just over the past two or three years if I had had the support of a loving husband?

If all this sounds like a pity party, I don’t mean it to. But here’s the one thing I know for sure: I wouldn’t be sitting here, typing out this message, if it weren’t for a strong personal center, somewhere inside me that I can’t see, that may be more hearty than any high achiever’s. That part of myself is the only thing that makes me proud to be me.

So what can I achieve? I have no idea. Maybe nothing. Maybe something. This is the year I’ll find out.

Tuning in, taking action

Moth or butterfly?
Photo by me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve written before about how difficult it is for me to hear my inner voice. For so many years, my focus was outward: other people’s moves, thoughts, needs, wants. From my therapy, I understand that it’s a major problem that develops from long-term exposure to domestic violence.

What I’ve found lately is that the more I listen, the more I realize that my current life is incongruous with what I need in order to be happy. I’m not saying the situation is irreparable, because it isn’t. But several things need to happen, need to change, in order for me to find peace, particularly as a married woman.

At risk of saying too much, I’m going to outline the realizations I’ve had recently, mostly because I want to see how many of them I can make happen in 2013:

  • My husband needs to get treatment for depression so that we have a chance at staying together. I realize I can’t make this happen, but I can do my best to support him throughout what may be a difficult process. Unless this treatment is successful, our marriage will not survive. The ups and downs of living with a depressed person, never being able to count on consistency, is too damaging to me. And I want a real sex life, as well. The only way that will happen is if I can trust my husband again, and that will only happen if his personality returns to the loving, genuinely caring man I married, 100 percent of the time.
  • I need space and time to myself on a regular basis. One thing I’d like to do is move into a larger home. That means selling our current small apartment, paying off our debt with the (small!) proceeds, and renting a larger one with two bedrooms. I need to be able to go somewhere and be alone to do whatever I need to do. I also need some vacation time on my own.
  • For my work, I cannot be in an office situation any longer. For many years, I didn’t — I had work I did from home, and I taught part time at a university. When we moved to NYC, I took full-time employment and have been doing that for nearly 6 years now. It’s not working for me. The stress of having to deal with difficult, sometimes bullying people on a daily basis has taken a toll. I need to find some sort of telecommuting arrangement — I’m working on that — and then later, find a way to work for myself so I can pay the bills.
  • For my physical self, I need to do some different forms of exercise so that I focus more on relaxation and centering myself. Group classes don’t work for me, and I can’t do yoga in a class, either. I feel way too vulnerable in these situations, and I’ve accepted that now. So my solution is to continue going to the gym and working on building up my strength and stamina, especially through swimming, and I’ll do yoga on my own at home. I also want to take more long walks by myself.
  • Creatively, I’ll continue writing fiction because it’s so much fun — it’s a real release, a way for me to express a lot of my inner turmoil. I also want to start playing the piano again and find more time to knit and sew.
  • Socially, I’m a bit at a loss. I crave being alone these days and have to force myself to socialize. I have a women’s dinner once a month that I’ve been going to, so if I can continue going to that, at least it’s something.

Obviously the big question here is my marriage. I love the man I married, but the man I’m married to right now bears almost no resemblance to him. I see flashes of him sometimes, which gives me hope that if he can get good treatment, all will be well. I’m praying every day for that outcome. He has an appointment coming up later this month with a specialist.

Although all of this seems daunting, I feel calm about everything most of the time. There’s no reason to spend my days feeling miserable, now that I know I can actually LIVE, not just exist. So I’m living every day and moving forward to create the life I truly want and need.

Finally, someone in the media writes about VAWA

In today’s Times, Nicholas Kristof discusses the expiration of the Violence Against Women Act.

Finally.

I have been so dismayed by the lack of media coverage of this topic, it’s been hard to stomach all the focus on the rape and death of that young woman in India as well as the media’s attention to gun control.

Do reporters and editors not see the connections here? They’re brighter than that, right? I suppose discussing the expiration of a law doesn’t garner the readership or viewership these other sensational stories do. Well isn’t that just too bad, that something as important as protecting women’s basic human rights in the U.S. doesn’t excite the media or our American population enough to warrant a front page headline.

Disgusting.

Apparently Congress had the opportunity, as well, to extend VAWA worldwide, at least symbolically: to call out other countries who fail to provide women with basic human rights.

But we can’t even do that here, in the U.S.

While I appreciate what Mr. Kristof writes in his column about the rising awareness of domestic violence in the U.S., it’s not enough. This is the year 2013, and we’re still struggling for basic understanding from lawyers and judges. From my personal experience, nothing has changed in the almost 30 years that I’ve been dealing with domestic violence, rape and child sexual abuse (22 years for the latter problem).

Awareness isn’t enough. Especially when our own “leadership” refuses to act even in the most basic way.

My shame grows. Not about being a domestic violence survivor, but about being an American.