I don’t really care about Lorde one way or the other – I can enjoy a song of hers if I hear it but I’ve never been pushed to buy an album. Last night, I watched Storm Large play one verse from one song in one of her quarantine Pajama Session concerts that was like a punch to my sternum.
I tried to finish the Storm Large video first but then abandoned it to finish it later and went straight to look up the song. And I listened to it twice, crying in a way that I haven’t in months over those eight years of my life that I’ve finally left behind.
One year ago today, I got out of bed, after not sleeping at all, to get my daughter ready for preschool. We had both watched her father walk out of the house at ten something the night before. To never ever live in this house again.
It had started, that night, with me getting out of bed to go get water, instead of start crying right there in bed. If I had done that, he would blame me for being hurt by things he said or did. Spin the words and make salad of them until I gave up, exhausted and broken. I couldn’t do the deflection game that night and I wasn’t ready, lord help me, to get off the carousel yet.
I was still too terrified of what he would do when I really ended it.
Turns out, just standing up to leave the room and not play the role I was handed was enough anyway.
Head games, he said.
I don’t need these bullshit head games.
And he packed up his work clothes and left.
As I held my daughter in my arms.
The only time ever she woke to see us at odds.
And after I called him several times – all the calls dismissed straight to voicemail – and said it doesn’t have to end like this – he sent a text at eleven something pm saying I’m done. I can’t do this anymore – I went to bed and tried to force sleep.
It didn’t work.
We’d split before. Always him walking out because I held some unreasonable boundary. Like truth. Like honesty. Like fidelity. Or, heaven fucking forbid, counseling.
But I had told him that if he walked out again, he couldn’t just come back. No way.
When my daughter woke up that morning and I had to get her ready for school, she asked when daddy was coming home. And I had to tell her that he wasn’t.
I held her as she cried in my arms. As tears ran down my own face.
Left to do the hard stuff all alone.
It took me four months and twelve days to really, really end it after that.
Hope may spring eternal, but an abused woman, trauma-bonded and clueless, will prime that pump until dust shoots out.
I hoped, still, that the family I thought I had would miraculously appear out of thin air.
But I didn’t let him move back in. And I guarded my space and my self like a lion.
So, of course, it ended. After I made an exit plan. After I held one too many boundaries.
After I had removed my spare house key from his key ring while he slept. The one I had given him for one night watching Vivian two months before and he hadn’t returned. Had just started using to walk into the house instead of ring the bell when he came to visit.
I knew asking for it back would cause a fight.
Even though I wouldn’t even let myself finish that sentence in my own head.
Because that would mean it was what I was trying to pretend it wasn’t and I wanted to plug all the ears in all the world to not face that.
And so much of my life, once I started to really prep to end it, was about avoiding any conflict with him. Which was hard. Like getting through a timed laser maze without causing even one alarm sound.
So hard that even walking out of the room for a glass of water was offensive enough to him to attack.
I am still making sense of why it took me so long to give up. And then that long after to end it myself, to say no more.
There’s a lot at play. Anyone who’s never suddenly found themself a sad little Patty Hearst, in love with their tormentor and attached to making that come out ok to avoid the excruciating truth – hallucinating a happy ending from a hostage situation – should count themselves lucky.
Very, very lucky.
That Lorde song, though. Fuccccck. So simple. And so right.
(Go ahead. Listen to it. I’ve linked it at the end of this post. I’ll wait right here.)
I am my mother’s daughter.
But I will be a different mother. Come hell or high water.
I can tread water a long time.
I will hold my child up.
My legs kicking wildly. Just below the surface to keep us both afloat.
I bet you do regret kissing that writer in the dark. And regret trying to blow her world up.
If there’s one thing writers know how to do, it’s how to build new worlds out of nothing.
Out of absolutely nothing but fiery will and fierce imagination.
Happy one year anniversary of our saddest morning, my little growing spitfire. My mother’s daughter’s daughter, who gets a very different mother than she could have had if her world had stayed poisonous and unified.
May we never see a night – or morning – like that ever again.
I will hold you up and never make that same mistake again.
This, I promise you.