Domestic Violence

I was interrupted from my early morning insomniac reading by what sounded like a woman crying and talking in a very rushed, upset voice. It sounded like it was coming from nearby, but outside. Then the doorbell rang three times; I thought, who could possibly be ringing the bell this early in the morning? I’m not answering it! But then Fox came into the room and said he didn’t know what to do, he’s not officially a member of this household yet but it sounded like someone was calling for help. I was off the couch in an instant – if someone needed help, I wanted to help them.

I went to the door to find a woman on my (enclosed) porch holding her dog. She was crying and shaking with her cell phone between her ear and shoulder, already talking to the local police department. As soon as she saw me she started apologizing and explained that the door to the porch had been unlocked, so she ran in to get away from her boyfriend. The boyfriend had been drinking, hit her, and threw her dog across the street. She was convinced that if she hadn’t gotten away he would have killed her. “Thank you so much for keeping your door unlocked. It saved my life!”

I let her in and locked the door behind her and checked that the other doors to the house were also locked. Sure enough, the boyfriend came and was banging on the door to the porch to be let in. I assured the woman that the most important thing to me was for her to be safe. Mom came over and tried to comfort her as well; that helped me feel more confident that I was doing the right thing. The cops came and arrested the boyfriend and took her in for questioning. Before she left I looked her in the eye and said, “Don’t go back to him under any circumstances.” I really hope that was helpful.

From what I’ve learned, by the time physical violence becomes part of an abusive relationship, the victim’s self-esteem is often so damaged ze has great difficulty living without the abuser – everything from believing hir safety is more important than the abuser to being able to perform basic tasks to care for oneself.

The woman on my porch kept apologizing, said she was “stupid” for staying with the boyfriend for two years, and said she owed me dinner. At the time I interpreted all that as low self esteem, but she seemed very, very agitated – very scared and grateful for safety and compassion. She was able to say that “he makes [her] look like a liar.” She was able to run away and call the cops and assert that she didn’t want to ride in the same car as the boyfriend; these facts give me hope that she will choose to stay away from him, and hopefully avoid abusive relationships in the future. But I’m worried about her, and I don’t feel safe living across the street from an abuser. I was shaking myself for a good half hour after everyone had left.

The whole thing was so surreal, I’d think I’d dreamed it if I didn’t still smell like the woman’s perfume from hugging her. It reminded me of dreams I’ve had in the past, where I tried to run into the house to escape some unknown but terrifying danger or run through the house locking doors behind me (often to no avail). But this really happened – to someone else – and I was a brief witness to it. I provided comfort, a haven, maybe even some hope.

At the time I put my needs aside to help someone in crisis, but now I need to tend to my own needs. Writing this post is part of it but I feel like there’s more – I’m not sure what, though. I think I’m still a bit too shaken to try and sleep. I have a letter I want to mail and a massage appointment I’m thinking of rescheduling. The former is an attempt to reach out to my cousin whose father died in late March, letting him know I love him and support him in doing whatever he needs to take care of himself on Father’s Day. Writing it (yesterday early morning, when I couldn’t sleep) was therapeutic for me because I was able to be honest in it while feeling like I might also be doing some good. The latter is a deep tissue massage intended to relieve the tension in my back, but at the expense of physical pain, emotional upset, and soreness lasting a few days. For a massage to be helpful today, I’d need its focus to be purely on relaxation – not the specialty of my currently-scheduled therapist. I think I’d rather cuddle with Fox, maybe even do something to try and express the crazy mess of emotions I’ve been feeling trying to block out by playing Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion all hours of the day and night.

Grace

I was really hurting last night. I didn’t even recognize it until I was selecting tags for my last post. I looked at my most used tags, even though I already knew which ones I wanted to use, and found myself clicking on “guilt.” Maybe there was something my subconscious knew that I did not, so I went with it. I even kept it, over other possible tags that seemed more logical.

That post was about guilt. Even my “little bit of positivity” was about guilt. So much of my life – probably, most of my academic achievement – has revolved around guilt! Namely, trying to appease the universe and my inner judge. “Look at all the good things I’ve done! Can’t I please have some forgiveness, comfort, peace?” … And if what I’ve done isn’t enough, I can do more. I can go without sleep. I can torture myself emotionally.

Last night I tried to do something to help myself fall asleep – namely, listening to relaxing music on Songza. Focusing on the music helped me stay linked to this reality – held my anxiety at bay – and occupied my mind enough that I couldn’t torture myself. But, eventually, I had to turn it off to actually sleep. And then I was alone with my pain.

I lay there desperately wanting the comfort of a mother, the comfort my biological mother will probably never be able to give me. She might have done at some point when I was little, but now she has too much of her own baggage. I needed so much more than I can ever ask of her; I needed it straight from the Source.

And it came.

The Mother said, “I’m here, and I love you.” She wrapped herself around me and filled me with her love, her peace. Every part of me relaxed; I felt as I imagine a baby must feel while being held and loved and fed by a mother: completely at ease, trusting, nurtured, loved, whole. Fully one with the Divine. It only lasted a few moments, but that was all I needed.

Even now, the memory of that moment fills me with peace.

I’m no expert in theology, but I think this is the kind of thing Christians are referring to when they talk about grace, particularly in the context of grace vs. works. It’s having the courage and confidence and humility to ask for what you need, knowing that you are already worthy of it – and that whomever you are asking (whether human, divine, natural, etc.) is willing and able to give it. I exercised grace when I opened up to my loved ones last Saturday, cried on their shoulders and allowed them to meet my needs.

You don’t have to do anything to have your needs met – you don’t have to get straight A’s or maintain a successful career or be the perfect parent/spouse/child/sibling/friend/entertainer/etc. or write beautifully or invent something spectacular or save the world.

You just need to believe – not in any particular religion or deity, but in yourself, your own inherent worth. Maybe religion can help soothe the logical part of the brain that requires justification for why you are worthy or how you can possibly be worthy; Christians believe Jesus already died for their sins, a choice freely made out of love and desire to have a meaningful relationship between the Divine and humanity. My worldview has tended toward perceiving the Universe itself as the Divine, so as part of the universe humans (individually and collectively) are inherently divine – as are all things, living and nonliving, including the very planet on which we live. But these are just explanations; they’re not important in and of themselves. Any explanation that doesn’t justify mistreating others will do. What’s important is the belief.

Depression attacks this belief. The U.S. healthcare system tears this belief to shreds. Mainstream media are equally if not even more guilty. Please don’t get me started on politics.

So much in the world humans have constructed for ourselves demands works – demands that we measure our worth by what we have done (e.g. how much money we’ve made; how physically beautiful we’ve made ourselves; how many followers we have; etc.). Worse, it turns us against each other, into harsh judges of each other’s worth. We tear our own ability to know and value our inherent worth to shreds.

But maybe it doesn’t have to be this way.