The winter of 49. (Chapter #)
“Another shit day in a life that is passing me by,” Sarah thinks to herself as she brushes her teeth, looking out of the window at the moon.
She isn’t feeling sorry for herself. She stopped that ages ago. Now it is more of a confirmation of where she is at. Still. When will it end? She has recently realised that the answer to this question is… never.
This is because real acceptance takes time. It is never a straight road to the T-junction of acceptance. Or where the path diverges from the one taken and, finally, a decision has to be made to change direction. Hope is not always helpful, on a journey such as this, if it is hope for things that simply can’t happen. The impossible. But, to be honest, there is still a tiny glimmer that he will change. So tiny it flickers out completely some days and perhaps this is a good thing, because Sarah is now considering how to get her affairs in order. and deciding what she will say in the letters that she leaves for her children when she dies.
Most days she accepts that things will never change because she understands now that people like her ex-husband do not seek peace and reconciliation. It goes against their grain. It is the antithesis of the both the personality and the point of the behaviour. People such as this thrive only on absolute power and control. And they only get their fix through ongoing engagement and their ability to “win” at every turn. And to watch their victims squirm. Contact can only be maintained if agreements already in place are broken so that re and re-negotiation can occur. Sabotage helps as well. A “lost” pair of school shoes. A “forgotten” school book. No. Only if there is chaos is there cause for contact. And contact is the point, because then the door is open again. It will never stop. Sarah has accepted that now. In full. Peace and reconciliation is not the, or in the, nature of this particular “beast”.
This is a different kind of “beast” entirely, in fact. Hard to fathom if you have not been in direct contact with it over some extended period of time and you have not been educated on how it works in full. The behaviour is confusing for most people, simply because of how unethical, how unfair, how malicious, how un-empathetic, how entitled and how destructive it is. These things and the absolute logistical intention of it. Hard to fathom that there are people who enjoy hurting other people. This is difficult to believe for most “normal” human beings. So difficult, that they simply choose not to acknowledge it, in fact. And yet, it is not as uncommon as one would think. Still… after more than a year of trying to get help from various professionals and government departments, it has become clear that they do not understand the nature of this particular type of “beast” either. And they too, do not know how to make it stop.
In fact, they have also been mislead, misdirected and just plain bamboozled by the perpetrator and, instead of being accountable for their mistakes and, possibly, saving a life or two that they were put in place to protect, they too have chosen to lie, cover their tracks and rewrite history to protect themselves. But Sarah has recently learned that this is common practice as well. Not the stuff of Dreams and Principles 101. Lots of 101’s this last bit. Sarah is about to graduate though, she reckons. Not much shocks or hurts her any longer. She has seen and heard some in her ramblings around court corridors and support groups for people similar to her with dealings with exes, departments and experiences similar to hers. And some far worse. Growing up time for Sarah. More hard truths from the proverbial School of Hard Knocks. Tough lessons. Learned the hard way. She had been clueless when she had entered the system. Blind with naivety. She really had believed that the people who worked in the fields that she had needed help from were in those positions because they had been “called.” Seriously? Called to be of service, I mean. To help those in need of protection. To fight the good fight for the weak and vulnerable. This, as it turns out, is not the nature of reality either.
Sarah is tired. So very tired now.
But still, she is standing her ground. She is now fearless. She has lost everything and, in doing so, has inadvertently found herself. No more fear at all. No more desire to use any kind of substance to not be fully present – a gift of recovery from of the shit that she had to walk through to get where she is now. A natural outcome of the process life walked her through and some what accidental, although this was her intention from the beginning so accidental only in the manner in which it was imparted. Or, perhaps there really are no accidents and she got what she had asked for all along. Brutal though. Be careful what you wish for, because you always get it. It was never the substances anyway. She knew that from the beginning of her journey into recovery. So now she has dealt with herself. And look. No more fear. Of anything. No more desire for oblivion. No more need to self-medicate. Even though she is in some kind of hell some days. Mostly it is the isolation of this type of experience. People really don’t understand and, understandably, really can’t empathize. Unless they have survived it themselves. She has met some who are trying to survive such experiences now and both offers and receives support. But she is still often lonely. It is a lonely road indeed. One that needs to be traveled alone for the first bit because it is how to grow up fucking fast. And how to deal with oneself fucking fast. No more distractions. The real deal. And Sarah has had to get it quickly because she is running out of time.
So. Lonely at times. But no longer afraid. Of anything.
Sarah no longer trusts anyone either. She has seen too much now. There are no heroes, in this story, as far as she can tell. This, in truth, still surprises her somewhat – although this no longer hurts her quite so much. Someone that she loved a lifetime ago told her that she was unique. The giving without expectation of return. Secretly, even, because adulation or praise always had embarrassed her. The putting of others welfare before her own. Her naive, blinding honesty and her belief in the inherent goodness of people. She looks back now with some embarrassment at this alone. She sees now that she was wrong all along. She is uncertain, still, whether this was a part of her “addiction” or whether it was a good thing to have so much “faith.” Still unclear where the middle line is and no time to worry about that right now. Anyway. It still surprises her when people are selfish, shallow or cruel. But it not longer hurts or disappoints so much anymore. She smiles wryly now when well meaning humans make suggestions on how she could change this situation. No. She did not make this happen. She does not “ask” for the abuse. Nothing she does can “change” the way that somebody else behaves. Ignorance – again. Tantamount to telling a rape victim that they should not have been wearing a skirt. Yet still unrealised in the general populace. She can forgive them now, because she understands that this nightmare was facilitated and abetted simply due to lack of awareness of “how it works.”
What do ten thousand battered women have in common?
They just don’t fucking listen.
Not all abuse is visible though. And it has taken her over ten years to finally accept wtf just happened and she was in it. Yes. She can forgive now. She can stop taking it so goddamned personally. At last.
But no. Sarah does not trust anyone right now. Not fully. Not blindly. Maybe never that way again. Perhaps after seeing the abuse of power, the casual dishonesty and the corruption, as well, that she has witnessed first hand in departments that have such words as “protection” and “justice” included in their names, she never fully will again. Now, at times, she wonders how she will move forward from this place and time to find peace again when there is so much “wrong” with the system and the world at large. Ignorance was bliss. Education is paramount, she has decided. Or things are never going to change for anyone.
At times, now, she thinks she is not going to make it anyway. It is the year of COVID-19. 2020. The year Sarah finally grew up a little too late. Although, to be fair, she is walking through the zombie apocalypse without much concern after her 2019. Nothing much fazes her anymore. But her lungs. And the virus. And no medical aid now. Gone with what had been her life some time ago, along with everything else in her fight for truth and justice in a world bent on following an entirely different script. Every day is a risk. Every outing a possible ending. And still she is in busy courtroom hallways where social distancing is not only ignored, but simply impossible. There was a case of the dreaded virus reported there last week. And yes. She had been there again last week to enter her Responding Affidavit to the Clerk of Civil Court in yet another case started by her ex-husband, unnecessarily. Learning law on the fly now because she has chosen to fight the new false allegation and to defend herself. More lies. More pressure. But no fear now. No more. She can not afford a lawyer. Everything gone. He will not stop. She knows this in her heart of hearts now. He has known about the Emphysema for two years and he has still kept on coming. Refusing mediation. Refusing time away for health. Refusing to adhere to agreements. Using the legal system to force his hand. He just keeps coming.
Sarah jumps every time the doorbell rings these days. Wondering what is coming next. But she is no longer afraid. Of anything. For herself.
She is afraid of leaving her children unprepared for a world such as this. She is afraid of them being told that she was “crazy.” “Unhinged.” A liar. This is what she has been called for a while over the last year or more. This no longer bothers her either. But she would not like her children to remember her so. And the knowledge. The lessons that she wants them to know before she dies. The things that she may not have time to share with them that she feels may hold them steady in a sometimes brutal world. She worries about that. A lot. She knows now that she has been such a bad example to them for so much of their growing. Until so very recently. Children learn not by what we say, but by what we do. And Sarah as been afraid. Of everything. For most of her life. She has been a shitty role model. Hiding behind appearances. Doing what has been expected, mostly. Keeping the peace – to her own detriment, health and even sanity at times and at the cost of her principles, beliefs and dreams at others. Always settling. Often just getting by. Never really living. What a fucking waste of a life.
She wishes that she could teach them what she now knows. She feels that time is running out. Because now it is dangerous and she fucking knows it. But still. She can not give up the good fight. This is, also, now not only her fight any longer. Over a year now. In the Department of Social Justice. Searching for the truth and justice to prevail and for protection and stability for the people that she loves. Still no investigation done. Protocol broken. The law, at times, broken. Officials moved around. Disappearing acts. New officials on the case. Emails unanswered. Requests to remain silent. Files not shared and people not held accountable for corruption or simple human error. Auto responders, suddenly activated, when her questions became to hard or too incriminating to answer. That actually made her laugh, to be honest. The auto responder mid email conversation. That was fucking funny. And so bold. So obvious and bold, both. Sarah has continued to look at every avenue possible. And she has continued to speak her truth. And. She has, steadfastly, been ignored by anyone in a position in her government that could help. A year of no investigation now. Over a year. Emails dated back in time clearly asking for help. Domestic violence. Let’s call it what it is for fuck’s sake. Let’s remove the stigma. Let’s open some real conversation and get it out on the table. Because this is not only Sarah’s story now. And this has become all to clear.
Perhaps she will write a book. To leave to them to read and to make more sense of their own journeys when they are of age. With the lessons included so that they save themselves time and pain. She has felt this pressure intensely for some time now as her health has slowly declined. But… there are black and white documents in the system now. She has made sure that things have been documented in black and white in all of the relevant departments. Her children will be able to find their history there. In full. This gives her a sense of peace now. There is less urgency to make this “right.” This “story” can not be rewritten and buried if she dies to soon for her children to understand that she never was the person that she is accused of being now. This person that she became because she simply forgot who she was before all of this began.
But going back in her own time. Because life is not linear, remember? And understanding and learning happens when we are ready to see the truth and accept it in full. And this has taken Sarah some time to do herself.
She had taken it personally and fucked up her own chance at getting assistance as well. She had not known how to go about things or, even, where to go to for help. She had not known anything about how the “system” works. And it had cost her over a year of time, resources and health. The triggered knee-jerk reactions to being studiously ignored by government and the private professionals she had reached out to for help. The lying and manipulation. She had written angry letters. Indignant. Desperate. Afraid. Aghast. Outbursts, really. Outrage. A lot. Naive. Still. That this is not how it is “supposed to be.” But she had also had to do some real healing and learning to manage the situation and come out of it “alive.” Although she is still fully in the thick of it, to be clear. And she has only partly come out of it alive in all honesty. A part of her has died in the process. She is titanium now. And she kinda looks like it too. She doesn’t get hassled in the street anymore. She is oozing focus and determination. She is fucking angry. Not the kind of reactive anger that made her look a little crazy as fuck before. Focused and constructive. Here we go. But a part of her has died. The gentle, kinda hippie, flower child has gone with whoever she had been before this. She could not survive in circumstances such as these and she was unable to protect herself, anyway. No place here for a soul like that. This is a battle for truth. No more fear. Of ridicule. Of rejection. Of judgement. Of financial ruin. Of isolation. Of pain. Even of death. Sarah has made peace with that as well. She has had to in this last bit of the journey. She has had to let all of that shit go. It is a gift. A real gift, in fact. But. It has come with a price. A certain cynicism envelopes Sarah now. She is guarded where she once was open. She is more distant where she once was warm. She is colder. Perhaps this will change when she is safe. Or perhaps one can not “unsee” again. Time will tell. But right now it is ticking and the only real fear she has in flashes and starts is for her children. Not all fear. Sorrow as well. I guess when you wear your hearts on the outside of your body you will always remain somewhat vulnerable. Sarah can not, however, submit again. That would be a shitty example. And her boy had, finally, in a somewhat accusatory tone said just a little bit ago, “Mom, you said that the truth would come out.” Sarah had stood and looked at him dumbly and had finally found the words to tell him that sometimes this took a long time to happen. No. Not on her watch. She would not stop now. She will be an example to her children moving forward. Of how to walk in peace through the fire. Of how to stand and fight for your truth, freedom, values and principles. With grace and dignity. Of how to say no with authenticity. What authenticity looks like. No to the things and people that hurt you. Of how not to walk on by. And of how to do it without fear. of course.
Nothing personal. Sarah had met with others on similar journeys now. Her story was far from uncommon. She had heard worse. Similar. And better. There is nothing surprising in these past pages if you have had first hand dealings with people such as Sarah’s ex and the professionals and systems put in place to turn to for “assistance.” Nothing surprising at all, as it turns out. And it is past due that these failings were fixed. Because when a system failure is left to it’s own lack of devices and people in positions of authority are not held accountable for a lack of ethics, lack of training, corruption or just plain laziness then there is simply no point in having them in place at all.
In fact, in the hands of the dishonest and cunning, they become weapons. And that is a very, very dangerous thing indeed. Sarah has learned a lot. She has gotten involved in support groups. She has been asked to head one in Cape Town. She has continued her learning and growth despite all of this and is almost finished a course in Recovery from “addiction.” She has found a way out, in full, of her own so called “addiction.” She no longer suffers from “anxiety and depression.” She has learned so much. She has healed so much. She knows more now about “how it works.” Yes. She has written more emails – now being acknowledged and answered. She has sponsored others in their recovery from psychological and emotional abuse. She can now spot a narcissist at ten thousand paces. Or within a few minutes of conversation. That is a fuck ton of research, learning and healing right there.
Some days, Sarah can even crack a smile again. And at some moments, there is even a glimmer of hope. And, in all the midst of the still ongoing madness of not her, she even finds moments of true peace and joy.
Someone once told her that “anything is possible.” Perhaps, it is.