Normalizing what shouldn’t be

Something I’m beginning to realize over the past couple of days is that I’ve been practicing a form of denial, normalization. This is probably not a surprise to those who may have been following this blog for the past couple of years.

I’m sitting in the family room of the couple who have opened up their home to Luna and myself. I’m trying really hard not to cry as I see photographs arranged on the walls. The ones in front of me depict the many places, throughout the world, the husband and wife have been fortunate enough to travel since they got together thirteen years ago. Below that cloud of snapshots, is a U.S. map. It’s laminated and has a little black, dry-erase marker attached to the lower right corner. Several of the states are outlined in that black marker, representing the states their two daughters have visited.

This is not a show home. It’s a lived in home; clutter free, but not sterile; orderly, organized, and clean, but comfortable.

There is an Elf on the Shelf who gets moved around at night after the girls go to bed. The living room area is the playroom. The old carpet was ripped out when it became too worn. Instead of putting down more carpet or other standard flooring, they put down material that the girls were able to draw, color, and be creative on.

Luna is thrilled that there are three cats, one of whom visited us last night, when I couldn’t sleep and woke Luna up. So, Luna was awake in the middle of the night, fixating on cuddling, petting, and loving on a fat, black cat named Soba, with a loud purr and a determined presence. It only took an hour or so before the cat tired of the attention and demanded to leave, then Luna lay down and went back to sleep within another half an hour.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I absolutely know that not everyone who I might consider “normal” gets to live in what seems to be a real-life movie set for Lifetime.

The pictures and knick knacks are cherished memories, displayed as reminders of the good times and important memories of the moments in the lives of their children and their coupleship, their individual and unified histories. The order and organization which exists seems to be a natural part of the ebb and flow of daily life.

No one is “stressing” when the gloves are missing and take a few moments to locate, at the bottom of tote bag being carried to work. When the Tom cat dirties in unacceptable areas, bedding has to be laundered, and the room has to be deodorized, there are sighs and chuckles of frustrated acceptance instead of grumbling, snarling, cursing.

When one spouse is receiving texts, the other isn’t questioning who it is they are communicating with. When that spouse chooses to share the frustration of what the relative who is texting has experienced in a situation in her life with her spouse, no critical, insulting, labeling statements are being made about the person on the other end of the story who made the mistake and created the problem.

How many people live in this kind of normal?

Will I ever be able to live in this kind of normal? Will I ever be able to do this for Luna?

This was the kind of normal I have seen in various homes with various other families over the course of the past 25 years, since my two year old son watched his father almost break my neck, on December 12, 1988.

I’ve never understood it. I’ve always wanted it. I’ve always wanted it for my children. I never thought I could achieve it for myself or for them.

I thought it’s what I would get when I got together with Keith. Partially because he came from, or I thought he came from, the religious/spiritual subculture that I thought produced this kind of normal. After all, on the surface, this is what I thought I saw when I looked at his family home.

It’s the kind of normal I kept trying to show my son and oldest daughter when I chose the in-home child care providers and engaged in the different church communities during their childhoods. It’s the kind of normal I saw in the man and woman who became my adult son’s legal parents last year, when I first met them back in 2003 and wanted for him to experience when I asked/supported his request to live with them during the last year and a half of his high school years. It was the kind of normal I knew he would need when he transitioned out of military incarceration two years ago and why I kept them apprised of his situation and made sure he had their contact information and knew they wanted to hear from him.

It’s the kind of normal I was much less successful in connecting LaLa to.

The kind of normal I’ve lived in, learned, integrated, and perpetuated is a normalization of stress, trauma, anger, and conflict.

Over the past couple of days I’ve heard the term, trauma brain and been told it’s very likely I experience PTSD and that most of the psycho-social and behavioral difficulties Luna has been experiencing are a result of being conceived, gestated, and born into an environment of stress, trauma, anger, and conflict, which she has spent the first five years of her life living in.

Abba,

I don’t want this kind of normal anymore, for me or for my children. But, I don’t know how to make choices and decisions for any other kind of normal. I need help.

Help me. Please.

Amen

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10 comments

  1. I am new to your blog, I wandered over when Betty from Narc Raiders reposted one of your posts. the one where you say you hesitate to call yourself a victim. First I would like to say I was a victim of domestic violence. Please note the “was”, my view on the issue is this, how ever we ended up in an abusive relationship we did not ask for the abuse nor did we stay because we liked it.
    I was a strong independent woman who at the age of 41 had never been in an abusive relationship, I had always been very vocal about what would happen if a man ever dared hit me. Haha never say never. I stayed or went back for 10 years until he had sucked everything out of me financially, emotionally, and spiritually. He beat me down with words and his hands, he destroyed my possessions and relationships. When he told me he had had enough of my bullshit, kicked me to the curb and told me I should kill myself because no man would ever want a suicidal, psycho bitch like me and I had made his life hell for 10 years. Now he was with the love of his life who was nothing like me, she was calm and rational. I failed at my suicide attempt and at that point I started the slow process of healing and putting my life back together.

    I want to share a couple of things I learned on that 3 year long journey back from hell. Number one and the. most. important. thing. is no contact. If you want to heal you can not have any contact with him whatsoever. You are not strong enough to deal with him, he is not your friend and it is not possible to be his friend. I fought the concept of no contact for almost 2 years and he kept hurting me even after he had this other woman. He will continue to hurt you as long as you let him. Once you are away from him for a long enough period of time your mind will clear and things like boundaries, normalcy, joy, contentment all become evident in your life. Remove the negative and it will be replaced with positive.

    I was a victim, choosing to stay a victim is my choice and mine alone. To go back, to continue to communicate with my ex would mean I was choosing to remain a victim. We are the only ones who can stop the abuse, and it can be done.

    For 2 years I woke up every morning and thought, “I can not do this one more day”. I lived in hell holes no human should live in, I slept in my truck with my dog, I lived with no running water for year in a place so cold my dogs water dish froze. but you know what? I did survive every one of those days. People say I am strong, I suppose I am, I look back and think I must me to have survived it but not one day, not one hour of that time did I think I was strong enough to do it. We never know how strong we are until we are tested.

    Because I had gone back so many times and people got sick of it or I was too ashamed to talk about it to anyone I had no one for support. |My mother disowned me when I went back the last time (he told me he had been given 6 months to live so I went back, he’s still alive and its been 4 years), I had no friends, he had destroyed my business. Although I had raised my son for the most part as a single mom and he only lived with my ex and I for a few months a couple of times in the 10 years I was with my ex there was an immense amount of damage done between my son and I, we were still talking and I know he loved me but he didn’t know this woman, he didn’t trust me to keep myself safe, to not go back. He kept asking why do you take this mom, you were always stronger than this.

    Its has been three years since my ex and I split, I am no longer a victim, I have a new relationship with my mother that is based on honest communication. I had a heart attack and she came to the hospital, it wasn’t fixed over night, we both had to do a lot of work. I had to communicate honestly, not blame her but I had to be honest with my feelings, something I had never done with my family, I had always been the strong one for everyone in my family. I had to tell her she let me down and she had to admit a few things and I had to forgive her and know she did the best she could with what she had to deal with. She also had to put aside her preconceived judgments about abusive relationships and I had to patiently explain why it happens. You see my mom was raised in an abusive home, my dad was abusive, yet she judged me for being in an abusive relationship. She is with a good man now but we all have to be accountable for our actions in the past. I had to apologize to my son, and then I had to let go of the guilt in order for us to grow. Now I have the best relationship I have ever had with my son, I can feel his respect, and I could not be prouder of the man he has become in spite of the mistakes I made and I tell him often. My mother and I have a new found respect for each other. It has all taken time and some times the other person wasn’t ready when I was or vise versa, but, relationships are repairable and usually are much stronger for it when it is all said and done.

    I have a confidence and compassion I never had before and I love me, more than that I like me. The only thing I had left after my ex and I split was my honesty and my integrity.

    You are a good person, and you will survive and you will have your children back in your life and your youngest will have a wonderful childhood if you approach this with honesty and integrity.

    Good luck on your journey, it is long and hard but believe me, it is so worth the effort. I’m shining a light at the other end of the tunnel, can you see it?

    I will stop by to see you from time to time to see how you are doing.
    Hugs
    Carrie

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    1. Carrie,
      Thank you for sharing your story and your experience. To have experienced that kind of abuse and subtraction of self and be able to work through it in three years to be where you are, is an amazing testimony.

      One thing I’m learning and growing in understanding is that there is a spectrum, much like what is being learned about and identified for things like autism. Because what I experienced and participated in didn’t look or feel like what it is assumed and perceived what domestic violence looks like, more like what you have described than what I have lived, my resistance to the terminology of Domestic Violence, is not simply a matter of denial and self-deception. It is also misperception and an imperfect understanding of what DV is: what it means, it’s causes, consequences, and how it is treated by others in the world around us.

      Because of the fact there was no physical violence and there are not clearly identified safety concerns, no contact is not an option, because we have a five year old child together to consider and I have to operate within the rules and guidelines of family law and the systems & resources which govern our lives.

      In our lives together, the dysfunction and it’s roots are not solely his wrongdoing. We both entered into this relationship expecting, needing, and wanting to be rescued by and to fix the other. Together, we created something which has become what neither of us intended.

      You are right, I have to make different choices and not go back to the relationship, as it was and is, if I am going to, if either of us can be able to, heal and grow and create lives for myself and my youngest which are healthier and more functional than any of us have experienced before.

      I appreciate your encouragement and the sharing of your hope and strength.

      Blessings,
      Kina

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  2. I think you have put your finger on a universal trait of human kind. When we live under conditions over which we have no control, we still have to go on living. Think of the people living in Afghanistan, Irac or any war torn country where violence can occur without warning. Their only way to adjust is to accept what happens knowing it would OR to escape by leaving their country and most of what they own to a place they hope and pray will be SAFE.

    The fine line seems to be between being powerless over conditions, or not powerless. We both know of some forms of behavior which are simply unacceptable between persons but so difficult to know exactly what to do when they occur. Some things are very subtle and seem to be cloaked in legitimate rational or widely accepted in our society which only adds to our difficulty.

    In my current life, I am still learning how I can behave differently so as to reject and not participate in the unacceptable. The one thing I am not powerless over are my own choices. I cannot change another, but I can change myself by learning new choices I can make and acting on them. I can only admit that it takes me a lot of practice, over and over, before a new behavior becomes well established in me.

    Don’t give up Kina, you are headed in a good direction, further understanding and knowing is sure to come.

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  3. Part of the battle is acknowledgement. The rest will come my dear. I am praying for you as you make decisions that will change your present and your future. God’s got this. I am so thankful that He saw fit to introduce you to this wonderful environment for your first step. Keep moving on in faith.

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  4. Someone sent me the prayer below at a time that I was experiencing difficulty. It made a huge difference to me and really encouraged me. I am now sending it to you with the hope that it will provide some comfort.

    Dear God:

    The lady reading this is beautiful, classy and
    strong, and I love her.

    Help her live her life to the fullest.

    Please promote her and cause her to excel above her expectations.

    Help her shine in the darkest places where it is impossible to love.

    Protect her at all times, lift her up when she needs you the most,
    and let her know when she walks with you, she will always be safe.

    Amen.

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  5. I hope and pray you leave for good this time. You are strong, you can get out of this fog and change your life forever, you can re-build the relationship that has been destroyed between you and your older two children, you can heal the hurt and pain that you have caused them, you can give your youngest daughter the stable, abuse free life all three of your children deserved. YOU CAN and I hope you do.

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    1. I believe it is for good this time. Unlike other times when I’ve made the attempt, I have the support of a community around me and not just one or two people who had little to know comprehension of what I have been going through or how to support me in the transition, and I had little comprehension of those things myself.

      To my understanding, I can progress in my own healing, to the point that when they are ready and able to do their healing around our mutual history and their relationship with me, I can be available to move through the process with them.

      They are adults and I have no ability to decide when they are ready or to decide how their healing happens.

      So, for now, I am focusing on my healing and becoming a healthier person and connecting to a community of healing and healthier people for my youngest while I figure out how to be other than what I have been.

      I’m working on trusting God to bring each of us to the healing points we need to in order for reconciliation and healing of our relationships with each other and the damage we’ve all experienced.

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      1. “To my understanding, I can progress in my own healing, to the point that when they are ready and able to do their healing around our mutual history and their relationship with me, I can be available to move through the process with them.”
        Yes, a lot of personal healing will have to take place before you can heal as a family. It will take a long time to heal and for the trust to rebuild. Owning up to your end of the damage done are a apologizing sincerely for the hurt that you caused. Also understanding why they don’t trust you and why they are hurt is a must (give them time to heal and see change). You can do this! I have faith and hope in you! It will be the hardest thing you have ever done, but you are strong!

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