Monday, May 9, 2011

From the Dungeon to the Skydeck

School was a very distant memory and I was out in the world still trying to find my feet as an adult. Before I had the chance, I was swept clean off them by a mysterious man of European origin (sounds like a cliche, I know). I was a worldly 19 years old and he was, well let's just say a little older. He was romantic, giving and really got involved in life. He had lived enough of life to know where he was heading, what he wanted and he wouldn't settle for anything less. I was the little lost puppy melting in his eyes looking for a master to serve - and God knows I found one!! (Not to belittle him too much because there were some good parts too, but as i said in the beginning, this story is about my journey and what my experiences have taught me.)

I was wined, dined, spoiled rotten with fantastic holidays and new clothes and experienced a life of 'nothing but the best'. This lasted for a pleasant 3 years before things started to change.

Initially, as with most young girls, every waking minute revolved around this man sent from heaven. I would wait with baited breath for his call or for him to meet me. I wouldn't plan anything on weekends just in case he wanted to spend time with me - and to his credit, he did, all weekend every weekend. Friends started to give up on me and eventually the invitations got less, and then nothing. I had enveloped my whole being in this one person and it wasn't me! After a few years of isolating myself in the relationship, I began to notice that our relationship seemed to take on a whole new chapter when I was ready to spread my wings and spend time developing new relationships with friends.

We would fight. Not just ranting and raving, but really fight. Things got smashed, thrown into walls (along with a few fists), parts removed from cars etc. It was ugly, really ugly and yet it took quite some time for me to realise that this behaviour is not what a normal relationship is all about. It became too much trouble to have my own friends so I just gave up on the idea. I really loved this man so why was I being so selfish and creating situations that got him so angry? It wasn't like I didn't have friends - WE had friends and I could hang out with them without any issues, so I should just let it go, keep the peace.

Not for another few years, a wedding and a baby later, did I wake up. I have limited memory of those last few years because I was so empty and really just checked out of my life mentally. I still managed to go through the motions because I had a child who was relying on me.

It was the words of a total stranger that woke me from my dungeon. I didn't normally talk to strangers because if word got out...well let's say it wasn't worth the reprocussions! I was people watching in a casino (one of the few pasttimes I still maintain) when this stranger sat next to me and began to crack jokes about the sights we saw. For awhile, I just smiled politely and nodded inagreeance keeping to myself as much as I could without appearing rude. I have to say, the stranger was extremely funny and very observant too! It didn't take long before I let out a hardy belly laugh at the shinnanigans that I was witnessing, all with comic commentary. I realised how foreign this felt - I laughed so hard I thought I was going to lose control of my bladder and I hadn't done that in many years.

The stranger told me I was much better looking when I was happy, then commented on how deeply sad I had looked when they walked over. In their words "You looked like someone had broken your soul in two". I will never forget that comment and how deep it hit me.

For the next 3 or 4 days, I contemplated these comments and racked my brain trying to work out why I was so miserable. To my friends my life seemed a dream. I had a supportive, caring husband who was a great father and took us away on fantastic holidays, we never went without. So why was I so miserable? Then it hit me. My life, away from prying eyes, seemed to be that of a princess, but reality of it was quite the opposite. I was living in a prison without any walls. The more I tried to justify to myself that this marriage was worth saving, the more ridiculous it became. My parents were together, I was raised in house of strong ethics and morals and only a failure would walk away from seemingly a 'perfect marriage'. Well, apparently I was still growing up, still lost in life and still no idea who the hell I was and what life is really all about. My deciding factor was when I removed the focus from myself. What sort of a role model was I being to my child?

By continuing on this destructive path I had created for myself, I was teaching her it is ok to be treated poorly, isolated from family and friends, and to live a lie. That broke my heart. I thought about what it would be like to watch my own child endure the pain and suffering that I had experienced. I felt bullied, controlled and regularly ridiculed (especially in public) and had such little self esteem, I figured nobody else would want such a flawed women, hence I had stayed as long as I did. I couldn't bare the pain of watching my own child go through this yet by tolerating it I was teaching her that this is what a relationship is about, it didn't make sense. I packed our bags and with a lot of grief, ended that chapter of my life.

In the months to come, I began to discover who I was and started to see that the world was my oyster. I had never felt so free in my life now that the shackles were gone. Obviously, when you end a relationship as hostile as that one, there are substantial reprocussions but in the long run, they were worth it. It did open up to me some home truths about why "Justice is blind" not to mention the copious amounts of holes in the Legal system, specifically Family Law. Apparently a parent can take a child from wherever they like whenever they like if the primary carer wants to keep it out of the courts and doesn't formally file for access orders. So again, I learned the hard way (trying to keep the peace) that you need to get access orders sorted with courts regardless of how amicable you think the separation might be! If you are both mature parents with the welfare of the kids as your priority then consent orders do the trick and are a quick and painless operation! I know this will stir up emotions for some of you, but remember, I'm speaking from own experiences and those I have seen around me. If you are both mature parents then everything works well and best of all - the kids get 2 happy parents!!! After all, isn't that where the focus is meant to be?

Back to the story - Out on my own (but with support from my wonderful parents), opportunities started to open up for me everywhere I looked. For the first time in my adult life, I had choices!! I went where i wanted when I wanted and wasn't answerable to anybody.

I was free (yes, even with a child in tow!), I was happy from my core and I was being a great role model for my child! Afterall, isn't finding our inner happiness what we all strive for?

I was on top of the Skydeck screaming - "This life is my own!"