Bonfire

I left in such a hurry. I moved out of his house on the Thursday evening and left the country on the Saturday morning. I had a searing desire to ignite everything that had a memory attached to him. First on the bonfire would be all the wedding pictures and my wedding dress. This yearning was strenous to appease, but I managed to file it away in a bespoke cabinet at the back of my mind which was despair proof. As the plane ascended, I was consumed by angry thoughts of having to leave my island home Dominica and dealing with the fact that all my memories that should be burned still existed in my bedroom at my parent’s home.

Approximately eleven months later I returned. My sister was getting married in Dominica. There is a common misconception which I must clear up straight away. My island home of Dominica must never be confused with the Dominican Republic. My island is much further south in the island chain and is situated between Guadeloupe and Martinique. It is only because I love my sister that I made the effort to attended. I wasn’t emotionally ready to return even though I missed my family, friends and  the island itself. I was barely holding on to my mental health, I was uneasy about how going back to the scene of the crime would affect me. I wasn’t mentally equipped yet, but for my sister I would have to put it all aside. She deserved to have the entire family in attendance. I owed it to myself to face the demon.

So guess what put a smile on my face each time I thought about flying home? Yes, my long awaited bonfire. Now fire is fire right? But I mused about how hot the fire would be and visualized everything going up in smoke. It was almost sadistic, but the image gave me pure pleasure. Looking back that was a sure sign of pain. Even if I had enough time back then to have my bonfire, the chains of abuse would still have had me bound. The physical breaking of chains is no substitute for the unchaining of the mind and soul. That is what truly sets you free from the grief of abuse.

The wedding was early July so I went back for the entire summer. As I knew there wouldn’t be any teaching jobs during the summer holiday, there was no logical reason to run back to the UK until September. That would leave plenty of time for my  inferno. I thought about it everyday but purposefully made myself wait until after the wedding when things would be quiet and calm.

The perfect day arrived. Not a rain cloud in sight, no danger of being asked to do anything and I had nothing planned. I sat on my bedroom floor and made two piles; too burn & not to burn. I hummed as I worked. The movie ‘Waiting to Exhale’ came to mind. Angela Bassett plays the wife of a man who is unfaithful. She gathers up all her husband’s belongings, every suit, jacket and tie. She puts them into his favourite car. When she’s done she stops for a cigarette break. She takes a lighter, lights the cigarette and takes a puff. Angela takes the rest of the cigarette and throws it through the car roof. The gasoline drenched assets go up in smoke. The scene ends with a look of pure delight on her face.

I took the bag of stuff outside and gathered a small pile of dried mango leaves and twigs. As I struck the match my adrenalin kicked in. I took the items one by one from the bag and threw them into the fire. I looked at each picture for the last time before being witness to their demise. The whole thing was utterly gratifying. Now I could move on.

Our lives are filled with numerous chapters. Some we revisit time and time again, filling our belly with laughter. Some are solemn and cause us to sigh. We flip back and forth as memories are triggered. We have no control over vivid memoirs. There are other chapters which we file and throw away the key. Having said that, can we ever truly completely forget? Perhaps not. Maybe that’s a positive thing because it serves as a reminder of what not to do. Sometimes for some people. The bonfire incinerated all physical trace of my wedding, but the back-up file in my mind, though it has eroded and will continue to do so over time, will always exist.

This reminds me of sin, forgiveness and God. I suppose no one can calculate all the wrong they have done since birth. What we do know is that when God forgives us, He casts (our sin) them into the depths of the sea and remembers them no more. Isn’t that amazing? He won’t hold our past against us and His treatment of us isn’t clouded by memories of our past indiscretions. God has no retrospective reflection of our sin because His bonfire incinerates the file. There is no back-up. Hallelujah!

You’ll stamp out our wrongdoing.

You’ll sink our sins to the bottom of the ocean. Micah 7:19.

The Message Bible

Court

On the night that I left my husband’s house, and after all my belongings had been safely placed inside my parents home, I returned outside to thank the police for helping me, not only because my Amber’s husband’s vehicle had run out of space which left me no choice but to put my remaining items in their pick-up but also I knew their presence kept the peace and kept me safe. I was grateful but also tired. I think that sometimes emotional tiredness outweighs physical tiredness. I didn’t know if I would fall asleep, but I knew I needed to rest. As I turned from the police vehicle to go inside my parent’s home, the officer stopped me.

“Tomorrow morning without fail, find yourself at the magistrates court and file a restraining order. This man is known to us.” I stared at him wide-eyed. The warning rendered me speechless. I nodded. “Now I need to see you walk into your parent’s property so that I know you are safely inside. He has been parked over the road all this time watching you unload your personal effects. Remember now, first thing tomorrow morning.”

It was a hard pill to swallow. I put it to the back of my mind. There was enough on my emotional plate, I couldn’t add any more. Inside I thanked Amber and her husband. I hugged her tightly holding back my tears which threatened to fall. I didn’t know if I would see her again. I don’t know what aggrieved me more; omitting the fact that I was leaving (effectively lying), not being able to say goodbye or not knowing when I would see her and many others again. I knew I was leaving my island home, but I had decided that it was best if only my immediate family knew that I was travelling back to the UK.

The next morning, Neriah and I took the bus to town and headed to the magistrates office. I rang the bell on the counter and heard a familiar voice say “Coming!” I felt a bit sick. The only reason the voice could be familiar was because it was someone I knew. The dread was quickly replaced by embarrassment. I almost didn’t want the voice to identify itself. Sigh. I was relieved when I saw Sister Taylor from my church.

“Sister Taylor, I didn’t know you worked here”. I had never had a reason to be there, so why would I?

“Morning Byooti. Yes this is where I work.”

“This is my friend Neriah. Neriah this is Sister Taylor.” They greeted each other with warm smiles.

“So why are you here?”

I just stood looking at her. How was I going to explain this? “I need to get a restraining order against my husband.” The rest of the information all fell out in a jumble of words. And then I took a deep breath and exhaled. There. It was done. Outside of my immediate family, she was the first to know about my abuse. It felt odd making the brief confession. An abusive relationship is such an impassioned experience, but my brief confession was a mere factual précis.

“I’m so sorry to hear that. I thought that things were going well between you. Anyway you are doing the right thing. Court is full today, but I will make sure you are seen today.”

She handed me a form and talked me through how to fill it in. Then she briefed me about what would happen next. I would have to stand before the judge and explain why I felt I needed a restraining order. Since my case was sensitive, I would only be heard after all the other cases were heard and the courtroom was empty. I remember my hand not being steady as I filled in the form. My chest felt tight, my head was light. After I had filled the form, I handed it back to Sister Taylor. Neriah and I went through to the court and sat and waited my turn.

When the courtroom was empty, the judge asked me to come forward to the stand. What I wanted to do was run. What would she ask? Would I need proof? Witnesses? How long was I going to be there? And after all I would say, would I actually be granted a restraining order? My heartbeat was truly making it’s presence felt.

I recounted the first incident that came to my mind in as much detail as I could. I felt sick as I spoke. I didn’t want to be there. Just like before, it felt like I was reading a documentary script about someone else’s life. I felt horrified that I had lived through the incident. Neriah didn’t know about the incident. What was she thinking? Again I took a deep breath and exhaled. The judge looked at me, I was hoping that she didn’t want more information. I didn’t want to talk about it anymore. I wanted to cry. The judge granted me the order much to my relief.

I have been speaking publicly since I was eleven years old. Speaking to a new audience can be unnerving, but my jitters don’t last long. Standing before the judge, just one woman is the most terrifying audience I have ever had. I guess when I break it down it was probably because I didn’t know what the outcome would be. After having to explain such a humiliating episode, would I be given what I needed? Would it all be for nothing?

There is another day in the future which will be similar to that awful nerve wrecking day. The bible says;

Sooner or later we’ll all have to face God, regardless of our conditions. We will appear before Christ and take what’s coming to us as a result of our actions, either good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5: 9 & 10

The Message Bible

We will all stand before The Almighty Judge one day to account for the life He has gifted us. The difference is we won’t have to worry about His judgement because God is a righteous judge. His findings and verdict will be just and fair. We have no reason to believe otherwise. When He has deliberated each of our cases, and gives His verdict, they will be final and binding. They will be well deserved.

Smile!

So maybe I’m a bit weird that way; maybe you do the same thing, maybe you even know someone who does the same thing. I actually smile sometimes when I’m angry! Yes I wear the normal one that everyone has when happy and content, I even wear it as a greeting to friends and total strangers, however, sometimes I smile even when I’m angry. Freaky right? I don’t know where it comes from or when my emotions and facial muscles had the meeting about doing this paradox, but they did. It was voted on and put in motion without my consent. It’s a little hard to explain to someone that you are bothered about something when you’re beaming. I would find it hard to take me seriously if I were on the other side of the smile too. Ever read of the deadly terms used by women? I remember when I was forward the following on social media, it sure made me laugh and still does.

I suppose that sometimes it probably looked more like a smirk than anything else which may have made it hard to decipher my true emotional status. Having said that, it rarely matters what your emotional state is, it will be misconstrued and manipulated by the toxic person anyway. So I remember my normal smiles at compliments and in times of harmony. Then there were times when I wore my anger smile at him. In my head I would be saying “If you only knew what I was thinking you would actually run a mile babe.” I can’t really say the last time I wore my sadistic smile, maybe back then was the last time, but thinking back I think it was part of my defense mechanism. It helped me keep outward composure though I was boiling and hurting inside. I didn’t always want to give him the satisfaction of my volcano of emotions, but smiling (yes even sadistically so) helped me keep in check. Besides, it helped give the impression that the assault of destructive words didn’t faze me, but more often they cut deep like knives into my soul.

Do you know who else wore a smile in the face of adversity? Job. Job was tried in a way that no one else in the bible was. When he lost his possessions and his children he said,

 Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him. Job 13:15

King James Bible

Smiling may not take away the pain of a difficult situation but it may at least bring a semblance of peace.

Even if I say, ‘I’ll put all this behind me,

    I’ll look on the bright side and force a smile,’ Job 9:27

The Message Bible

Happy Father’s Day

Even at my age, I respect my father as being the head of the family home. I always have and probably always will. He is wise, fair, a keeper of his word and the family priest. He is quite traditional yet has a wisdom that has evolved with time. I know I am truly blest because there are many whose father’s were unable to be a part of their children’s upbringing.

A father’s provision is not only the physical, it includes life skills and he is the provider of adventure! He imparts knowledge and wisdom and lives by the principles he instils in his children. His offspring look up to him.

Although Father’s day is a good time to spoil and honour our dad’s, we should honour him everyday. Happy Father’s Day dad’s!

Listen with respect to the father who raised you . . . Proverbs 23:22

The Message Bible

Surrender

http://www.lenkaclayton.com/surrender-flag

I withdrew from our marriage and communicated on autopilot. I was ‘living’ life without engaging with it. He always read our morning devotions. Most of the time he never bothered to ask my opinion on what he’d just read. He would just waffle on while I listened  . . . or pretended to. If he did ask, I would gently say that there was nothing to add. After that it was easy because he often disappeared outside to wash the car, the same car he washed in the evening when we got home from work. At least this gave me space to breathe while I cooked breakfast and lunch before showering for work.

The drive to work and back home was also easy because the radio was always on. There was no need to communicate. I answered any question he had, and I spoke to him when necessary, but that was it. After a few days he started asking me if I was ok. I would look at him, frown slightly and then answer ‘Yes’. What did he care?

I was wary of non descript arguments, above all I just wanted peace. However, I don’t know which is worse,  being ignored by your spouse or ignoring your own existence. Self-preservation says there should be balance, but how do you achieve this when you’re married to a narcissist? The answer? You don’t because you can’t. I put my ‘game face’ on every single morning and took it off as I fell asleep each night. There was very little feuding, and if I sensed one, I apologised profusely and rectified the wrongly perceived slight. This behaviour eventually feels like you have denied and abandoned your own self. You’ve revoked your very existence, what a traitor to you! Ironically you find yourself hurting over your treatment of yourself and how your narcissistic spouse is treating you. Self abuse?

Out of the blue one evening he suggested we sleep at his office which he had turned into a bunker. We hadn’t done it for a long time. I agreed, though silently I wished he had gone and left me to have the house to myself.  On the journey there he asked a few times if I was ok. Each time I said that I was. Eventually he said that he knew me well enough to know when something was wrong. I asked if he had noticed that we had not argued for some time. He had noticed. I asked if he was happy about this, again he said that he was. I concluded the matter by saying that as long as he was happy and that his needs were being met, life couldn’t get any better. He didn’t say anything to this.

When we arrived at his office, he turned on his computer and told me to find a film we could both watch. Before he left he stooped down in front of me and asked me to tell him what was wrong. I shook my head and brushed him away. He headed to the kitchen to make a light supper for us. When he returned he tenderly swung my chair round.

“Byooti, there is something wrong and I want to know what it is.”

I stared into his face and was crushed. His handsome face was filled with concern, but I had been betrayed by that look too many times before. Without purposefully wanting to, I started to cry. I stated that he never listened to me and that he never compromised. I declared that the only reason we had experienced a period of peace was because I had done everything he wanted with no thought of myself. I wept because although he held me close in a long tender embrace and promised to do better, I knew it was never going to happen. I also knew that I wasn’t going to sacrifice myself for my marriage any longer. I prepared myself for warfare.

Only Christ should be the recipient of our complete surrender because we owe Him our all. Without Him we are nothing. The beautiful thing is, He doesn’t even demand it from us, He gives us the choice to be His or not.

https://www.heartlight.org/cgi-shl/todaysverse.cgi?day=20180126&ver=niv

Faith.

‘Goodness of God’ is a popular gospel song amongst Christians and with good reason too! Anyone who has gone through a trial can testify to the goodness of The Almighty. Nowadays I get goosebumps when I hear it. It reminds me of how He took me through the darkest phase in my life. God rescued me, hallelujah! I must NEVER forget His goodness!

I often ask myself how those who have no belief system cope with the tragedies, stresses and calamities of life. Where do they leave life’s burdens? Who strengthens them through their storm? Where does their reassurance come from?

If I didn’t know God, I would have surely unravelled. Most times I didn’t have to say much to Him because I couldn’t always articulate my thoughts. That didn’t matter because I know He knew what was on my mind. He knew how I felt every step of the way. God is so intuitive. God is just so awesome. There is none like Him, praise His mighty name!

The puppy

I like animals. I like pets. I’ve yet to work out whether I am a cat or dog lover though I think I’ve had more interactions with the feline world. Cats Vs dogs! Anyway I digress.

I don’t actually remember what specifically led to my decision. It may have been an icing on the cake moment or the specific argument itself, but I was beyond angry. I had often told Mr. Impatient that one day he would push me too far, his usual response was that I was strong enough. Well it was time to show him that I had had enough and I wouldn’t be pushed around anymore.

I had a cousin who rented apartments, she just happened to have one available. She said I could stay for as long as I needed, then I asked her brother to help me move my stuff. I had to think about how I was going to execute my plan of moving out, without arousing the suspicion of Mr. Impatient. Unfortunately, I was obligated to travel the thirty minute journey to work with my ex-husband that morning. It was better to stick to the routine. As soon as he dropped me of at my workplace and drove away,  I headed back to the bus stop to get a bus back. My adrenaline was pumping, it wasn’t likely that he would spot me but it wasn’t impossible since the town isn’t the kind you can get lost in. On the way I called my  cousin so that we could arrive at the house at the same time.

The apartment was only partially furnished, so I took some essential stuff and bought a mattress to sleep on. I figured that once my ex-husband realised I wouldn’t be bullied, we would go to counselling. I was hoping that the fact that I packed up and left him, he would be more mindful of me as a fellow human being, as his wife. Later that evening he called as I knew he would when I didn’t show up at home. In his true Dictator fashion he demanded that I return home. I was unnaturally calm throughout the discourse. No, I wasn’t coming home. No I wouldn’t tell him where I was.  No, I wouldn’t tell him when I planned to return either. He threatened, he quarreled but I stood my ground. He asked if we could talk the next day. I agreed to meet him at The Botanical Gardens. It was a public neutral place where he’d be unlikely to do anything too stupid to bring the attention of the public to us. When he showed up, he had the cutest puppy in tow. It was a cross between a German shepherd and a Doberman. I resisted the urge to scoop it up and play with it.

“Cute puppy, whose is it?” I asked by way of greeting.

“Yours.”

Inwardly I groaned, you’re so hilarious, I thought to myself sarcastically. “How’d you work that out?” I asked.

He explained that his counsellor suggested that having a pet was a good opportunity to help couples bond. She clearly didn’t understand the kind of man he was. “Great” I said, with zero emotion. Now I have two infants to deal with, what could possibly go wrong? I sat on the concrete stairs and played with the puppy. It was the first and last time I allowed myself to do so. I  couldn’t trust that Mr. Impatient one day in the future, wouldn’t harm the dog to spite me, or that he wouldn’t use the dog as some kind of scapegoat for his whims. If I remained emotionally detached from the puppy it would be ok. My folks had gotten a German Shepherd once when my siblings and I were teens. She was fiercely loyal and protective. Suppose I became this dog’s primary carer, and my ex-husband and I got into one of our animated arguments? Suppose it attacked him to protect me? I couldn’t allow the adorable puppy to make me or itself  vulnerable. I shutdown my instinctive disposition for all things cute and cuddly.

The moral of the story? The narcissist will prey on your Achilles heel. What that may be is of no consequence to them. As far as they are concerned, it’s another way to control you, an alternative way to enforce their will onto your own. They fail to realise that even The Great God Almighty gives every human being the freedom to choose to serve Him or not. Even though rejection hurts Him, He respects the choice. If the great orchestrator can respect the choices of His subordinates, why can’t a fellow human being?

Fools are headstrong and do what they like; wise people take advice. Proverbs 12:15

The Message Bible

Happy Mother’s Day!

I laughed as I sat in church and watched the familiar video clip play. A man had set up interviews for the position of ‘Director of Operations’. The clip was a compilation of all the applicant’s reaction to how demanding the job would be. Long hours including public holidays, no breaks, the occasional all nighter and all without pay! Then he confessed to the applicants that there were many fulfilling the post globally; the job of mum!

Mothering is the highest calling in the world because we all came from one. She produces Presidents who run countries, doctors who treat the sick and farmers who feed the world. She feeds confidence, gives support and is the number one fan of her offspring.  Sometimes she is blessed enough to partner with a significant other who helps create this product.

The bible says ‘Her children rise up and call her blessed; . . .’ (Proverbs 31:28), not because she is perfect but because she gives her best!

Keep doing what you’re doing and remember to cut yourself some slack, you are blessed and highly favoured!

Her clothes are well-made and elegant, and she always faces tomorrow with a smile. When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly. She keeps an eye on her household, and keeps them all busy and productive. Her children respect and bless her; her husband joins in with words of praise . . . Proverbs 31:25-28

The Message Bible

#ican’tbreathe

No one will ever forget his handsome face. No one will forget his name.

I kept flicking through the news channels because I wanted to know the very second that the jury had reached a verdict. I hoped and prayed that justice would be served with a guilty verdict. Like the lawyer said to the jurors, “what you saw is exactly what happened.” Abuse of power. Once Sky News announced that the jury was ready, I was glued to the sofa. If the door had knocked or my phone had rung, they’d have to wait.

For an hour and a half before the verdict was given, I was torn between the two possible outcomes. Of course he would be found guilty, the whole world saw the slow asphyxiation of George Floyd, the expert talked us through his excruciating slow death. The officer had to be found guilty. Right?

Of course he won’t be found guilty. He’s going to walk away from this. There have been so many miscarriages of justice where people of colour are concerned. So much that we no longer believe in the justice systems of the country’s where we are the minority. Just recently in the UK was the anniversary of Stephen Lawrence, brutally murdered by his killers who walked away from court. History shows that people of colour have had more than their fair share of inequity and oppression. The Black Wall Street massacre 1921, Tuskegee Syphilis study (1932-1972) and many types of abuse have been tolerated because they are done by those in power. We have been powerless to fight back, and somehow those who can do something stand by and do nothing. Many things have changed, but here we are x amount of years later still being killed or harassed while walking dogs in a public park, being shot dead whilst jogging and for just being a living human being, for having a different skin tone.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/43793772

‘I can’t breathe’ such a simple hashtag, but it will never be forgotten. And there are too many around the world who identify with this, because they are a victim of abuse. Every time your freedom of speech is violated by your perpetrator, they are cutting off your air supply. Each time you are vehemently asked about your where abouts, have to seek permission to do, when your basic human rights are taken from you, you eventually feel like you just can’t breathe. It’s no longer a hashtag but a way of life. You adjust to needing less and less ‘oxygen’ until you are just a mere shell of a person; emotionally brain dead and comatose at the hands of your ‘Chauvin’.

We are all imperfect and live in a sinful deranged world. Some things are really out of our hands and control. We all deserve the oxygen of life. The bible says that the sun shines on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). If He can resolve to do that, who is anyone to rob someone of such an essential resource? No one has the right to deprive anyone from the gift of emotional or physical air. We are all His children.

The Spirit of God made me what I am, the breath of God Almighty gave me life! Job 33:4

The Message Bible

Facebook

One lunch time whilst on Facebook, I watched an interesting video clip and decided to repost it. It was an animated illustration of an abortion. It wasn’t overly graphic, it was just a factual clip.

Mr Impatient demanded to know why I had reposted the video. Before I could answer I was bombarded by questions; Had I been pregnant before? Had I ever had an abortion? Was there something I needed to inform him regarding any past pregnancies? Whom did I know that had had an abortion? Was I still friends with them? Though I wasn’t the one speaking, I felt the need to catch my breathe!

“The answer to all your questions is no, but if I had a friend who had an abortion and you knew them, I wouldn’t tell you.”

“Why?”

“Because it would be their business, not yours. Furthermore I see no reason to subject any friend of mine to your constant judgement.”

“You’re not being honest with me. You’re hiding something from me. I want the truth Byooti!”

“Same answer as before nothing has changed.”

“I want to know the truth, you . . . ” and on and on he went. Well I was in a good mood that day. I simply watched the big kid have his usual tantrum. He eventually ran out of steam.

“Do you believe in abortion?”

“No.”

“So why did you post it?”

“Well you must remember that I’m Facebook friends with a number of youth from church. I don’t necessarily know what they might be going through. I don’t know if any of them are struggling with deciding to have an abortion or not. Equally they may know someone who is struggling with the choice. This simply gives them a side of the story. I’m just sharing information. Ok?”

It wasn’t the first time that social media had become a topic of dispute. He had asked me once why I was always posting but never online. I explained that I had never really used Facebook’s messaging service, but if anyone dropped a message my appearing ‘invisible’ wouldn’t stop me from replying. He said I was being deceitful, that I must be hiding something if I never appear online🤷‍♀️. In another argument he stated that Facebook was for kids. I replied that I didn’t have any children as Facebook friends which meant that everyone I kept in contact with were adults.

That was when I realised that he was trying to control my social media life. The toxic / narcissist always seeks to control the circle of family and friends. I set up my Facebook account while I was doing my teaching degree years before we met. I was unwilling to deactivate it because it was the only way to keep in touch with all my friends who live all over the globe.

I  defied him. I often wish I had defied him over many other things, but firstly, you learn to pick your battles very early on and secondly, I’m not built or wired to fight everyday which it often feels like when you are married to a narcissist.

The old testament tells the story of King Jehoshaphat who was full of fear because the Ammonites and the Moabites were about to go into battle with the children of Israel. He sought God in prayer for he couldn’t see a way out of the situation and perceived great loss of life. God spoke through Jahaziel ” . . . Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” There is absolutely nothing you can do to make a toxic relationship work. Only God can change the tide. This battle isn’t yours so just give it to God.