Sunday, May 25, 2008

Love, trials and abuse

I've had pneumonia since the end of April. It has given me good reason to appreciate simple things like breath, like being able to walk and take care of day-to-day things. It has also been an opportunity to be in love with the man who stopped work to fly in and take care of me...even without the basic tools to do so.

The strange thing about this illness is that I believe it was brought on by the continued post-traumatic stress I experience from the demise of my 20 year relationship with emotional and physical abuse. It is just plainly a confusing, confusing experience. There is nothing clear-cut about it. Nothing. It would seem from the outside that I could not possibly still love the man who hit me over the years and made me believe everything that went wrong was my fault. Yet, as our 20th anniversary day, for our wedding, approached I got sicker and sicker because I missed the comforts of a "stable" relationship. I missed having my children in my home every morning. I missed knowing that I would be inevitably disappointed by the celebration of my endurance, disappointed in whatever paltry offering was given to me to show some sort of appreciation for years of service. I missed having the purpose of endurance, of doing it because I loved him and believed in his goodness even after all of the counter-evidence.

I also missed his actual goodness. There is that. He is not a simple monster. He is a man with failings. I know he loved me as he could, and that it wasn't enough for me, which then makes me feel like the failure, like the uncompromising person. Why couldn't I have given him one more opportunity to evolve? Why did I decide two years ago that he'd used up his chances? The fact that he is having more financial success now, that he's traveling with his girlfriend, and seems to be inserting himself in the parent groups at school more successfully than I am, makes me feel wrong and makes me second-guess myself. Maybe I am the wrong one, the one who made life miserable? I'm sure that is what he "shows" everyone, because he is a reconstructionist if nothing else. Here I am, continuing to endure his abuse silently and without defenses. It feels neverending.

There is the story of the Buddhist Nun from Tibet who was tortured by Chinese guards before escaping and building a life again. She, years later, sees one of the guards and after she speaks to a crowd, he approaches her and apologizes. She asks him what kind of life he's built for himself now, and he tells her it is a good life, with family and financial success, and she says she forgives him not for what he did to her, but because he's built a decent life and become a force of good.

I wonder if I'll ever get to the point where I can be that magnanimous. I resent the goodness I see in my ex-husband's life. I wonder why he couldn't muster that for me? I feel like he does good things as a competition with me rather than for good itself. Especially, when he won't pay for our son's antibiotics refill when he's spilled the medicine and won't accept responsibility for it. Especially, when he withdraws paying for our daughter's therapy, and complains that he doesn't have enough money for them because he has to pay child support (less than $200 a month) and won't give me a copy of his taxes so I can find out if he should be paying more. That isn't very compassionate of me, is it? I feel petulant. I feel it is not fair. I don't know if I'll ever make it to enlightenment from here. I feel much less enlightened on the outside of abuse, than I did in the midst of it. Isn't that strange?

The strangest expression of my post-trauma is my obsession with the abuse of women in general around the world. I cannot skip any article on google that illustrates how little women are valued. The Fritzl case, the FLDS case, the fact that Hillary gets picked on for everything that comes out of her mouth as being "shrill" and her experience and steadiness and feistiness is largely ignored by the press, for instance, have become my obsessions. I know reading this stuff is not improving my outlook and yet I cannot stop myself. I have written letters to the women of the FLDS, and to Elisabeth Fritzl to encourage them to break free. In my 102F fevered delerium, I lay on a hospital bed sending mental prayers to Elisabeth Fritzl to know that she was not alone, even if what she experienced was extreme, and that somehow she'll recover. Was it not that I was sending that prayer to myself?