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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Spreading My Wings...Part II

I got a call from my brother this morning and the first word out of his mouth was "Congratulations". I had just posted on Facebook that I was only four pounds away from reaching my weight loss goal and was about to begin body building so I assumed his call was in response to my post but I couldn't help I chuckled and said "thank-you, is that for my weight loss or my divorce?". We both laughed and he said "both". Oh, I love my brother.

It has been a month since I officially left my husband and I am not sad at all. People keep asking me how I am doing and to their surprise, I feel amazing. I feel like an incredible weight has been lifted and I can breathe again. No one should have to live the way.

Because of my husband’s unpredictable behavior, I knew I would have to have a solid plan in place before I filed for a divorce. The last time divorce was mentioned (which was a year ago), I found myself pinned down on the bed with a gun pointed to my temple and he said, "I will give the cops a reason to kill me tonight". Those words did the trick he intended and I pretended I was happy. I knew when I was going to make my move that I would have to have a plan that would keep me safe.

I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason. I felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff and I was waiting for my husband to push me off. Whether good or bad, God puts  us in places and situations for a purpose to learn a lesson. I am a praying woman and despite the fact that divorce goes against the Bible, I knew that God would not want me to be tortured or treated like that. The events that took place the night I left my husband were put into motion almost effortlessly on my part and took it as a sign that the time was right.

I was at my friend's house, which was just two doors down from mine. It was a Friday night and we were celebrating the fact that we had just survived a near death experience (we came "this" close to being crushed in a head on collision). We were pretty shaken by the ordeal so we each took a shot of alcohol to calm our nerves. I had invited my husband over to celebrate with us. He did not come over. Instead, he left. I saw him come and go from our house several times that night.

Not too long after the last time I saw him leave, I received a phone call from my son. He was quite shaken and yelling at me to stay away from my husband and to not go home. The tone in his voice was filled with panic so I knew to trust his words. He was at work and apparently my husband went down there and caused a scene telling my son that he was going to "beat my ass." The reason for this "beating" was because I had withheld some information from him regarding my recent promotion. I did not tell him that I would have to eventually relocate to Texas within two years. In my own defense, I chose not to tell him because I knew I was going to leave him before my relocation even happened. I also knew that if I told him about it, he would not have let me accept the offer.

My friends and neighbors overheard this conversation between my son and me. They escorted me to my house so I could pack an overnight bag because they did not want me to be there either. I quickly packed a few things, grabbed my purse, and my briefcase. I went back to my neighbors and had no intention on returning that night.

Within 30 minutes of talking to my son, my husband showed up at the neighbors. He was trying to convince me to go home with him. My friends kept telling him that I was having a good time and to leave me be but he would not. Knowing my husband was a ticking time bomb my friends kept me in their line of sight. At one point, my husband noticed my bag in the corner of the living room and snatched it up, including my purse and briefcase. He ran out of the house and took it home. My friend, who is a big guy and not afraid of anyone or anything, looked at me and said "well, I guess this is happening tonight." and he followed my husband back to our house with two other
friends and myself in tow. I was shaking in my boots.

I do not know what words were said in the beginning but when the shouting began, I started shaking. It all happened so quickly. My husband was trying to keep us from entering the house and at one point he went for a butcher knife. When my big friend welcomed this gesture, my husband went to release my dog (who is a VERY protective pit bull) from the garage. I slammed the door before she could enter the house though. My friend kept telling my husband that I did not want to be here anymore and I did not want to be with him anymore. He told him to let me get my things and to let me go but he was refusing. Both of these guys are big but my friend was bigger. In the end, he had to restrain him so I could get the bags I had packed earlier. I ran out of the house and never looked back.

That took place on the Friday before Memorial Day. He refused to leave the house after nearly begging him to leave so I stayed with my friend for four nights. I left everything there. I left my dog, my cat, my cars, my scale. I was done. I could no longer live like that. I could no longer feel like a prisoner in my own home.

I filed for a domestic violence restraining order and a move-out order on Tuesday, picked up the temporary orders on Wednesday, had him served with the orders on Thursday, filed for a divorce on Friday, and served him with divorce papers on Saturday. I was spreading my wings and taking my life back.

In order to make the restraining order permanent, I had to go to court and testify. I had to show proof of abuse, which I had. I also brought my son with me to testify as a witness to the abuse. I knew this would be hard on him but he was there to support me. I was hoping my husband would not even appear for the hearing but when I stepped off the escalator he sitting there right in front of me.

In the two weeks that has passed since I initially left, I had been stress free and my body learned to relax. When I saw him sitting there, all of those negative feelings and tensions that I used to have when I was around him filled my body immediately and I could not stand it.

We had to testify in an open and public courtroom and I was nervous. I am not great at public speaking and I knew I would get emotional. We had to testify for two separate judges because the first one knew my son and it was a conflict of interest. Apparently, this judge likes to frequent the fast food restaurant where my son worked quite often so they had gotten to know one another. My son had no idea he was a judge. The judge was very polite about it. After I had called my son as my witness, the judge looked at me and said, "I am very sorry but I can no longer here this case. I know your son. I know him quite well. He is a good boy". In light of everything, I was experiencing that day, my heart lifted with his comments.

I chalked the first testimony up as practice because it gave me the confidence I needed to get through the second. During the recess, I composed myself and carefully wrote down the questions I would have to ask my son on the stand.

  1. Have you ever heard "Mr. Smith" make a verbal threat against me?
  2. When was the most recent threat?
  3. What was the threat made?
  4. Have you ever witnessed "Mr. Smith" get violent with me?
  5. What have you witnessed?
  6. Have you ever called the police on "Mr. Smith"?
  7. Have you ever filed a restraining order on "Mr. Smith?'
  8. Why did you file?
  9. Do you feel threatened or intimidated by "Mr. Smith?"
  10. Do you feel he will harm me?
Now, I knew the answers to all of these questions but what I didn't know was the details he would give. I had no idea my son had witnessed so much violence over the years. He was there for the most violent of acts, which I knew, but I didn't know he had seen all the other stuff. I thought I had protected him from it. Turns out I was wrong.

I broke down in tears when he responded to question number five, "what have you witnessed?". It is gut and heart wrenching to hear your son talk about how he had seen his mom get choke slammed, choked while being pinned up against the wall, had things thrown at her, and watched in horror as a gun was held directly to my head as he told my son that he was going to blow my brains out. I listened as he described being threatened himself, which I didn't know about but explains the real reason why he filed his own restraining order the previous year. I praise Jesus that there was a sheriff in the courtroom or else I would have leaped across that table and beat the crap out of my husband right then and there. No one messes with my baby.

Before we could do closing arguments, the judge decided to immediately grant my permanent restraining order and she even included my son under the protection order as well.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I feel like an incredible weight has been lifted. I am now free. Everything that night happened in a way that kept me safe from harm and was enough to file for a domestic violence restraining order and escape the torture.

God put me at the edge of a cliff for a reason. I thought I was going to be pushed off to my death but it turns out that God put me there to learn a lesson and I most certainly did. I learned that when push came to shove on the edge of a cliff, God would either catch me as I fell or He would teach me to fly. In this case, He gave me wings and turned me into a butterfly...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Me...In Pictures...

Anyone who knows me knows that I am an avid photographer. I have been taking pictures since I was about 10 years old. I loved being the one behind the camera because I never liked being in front of it. Long ago, my subconscious decided that if I did not see myself in a picture then I could not see the damage I was doing to myself...essentially I lived in denial. If I was in a picture, I would Photoshop the heck out of it to remove rolls, shrink my cheeks and neck, shave 20 pounds off my thighs, etc. Photoshop and I have an excellent relationship.

Over the last few months, I decided that I really do like having my picture taken. I find myself giving my camera to others to take pictures of me. My inner butterfly wants to be released. I do not share many pictures of myself so I thought it would be fun to include a few recent celebrations. And...these have NOT been Photoshopped.

This is a comparison picture of me and my dear friend Michelle. The image on the left is us in 2008 and the image on the right is us in May of this year.

This is a dress. Every year, my company has a three-day conference and the last night is an awards gala. This is the first time I wore a dress and WANTED to wear it. The best part?? I only paid $11 for it at Ross.

This is me...155 pounds lighter...

And...for the grand finale...

The butterfly is a representation of transformation and rebirth. Setting and reaching goals are part of change and I will always be changing. celebration of this constant metamorphosis, I was recently inked with my signature phrase "Butterfly in training".


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Spreading My Wings...Part I

It is amazing the tolerances we allow ourselves to have when our self-esteem is low and/or null. Over the years, with those five little words echoing in my head, I have allowed myself to be taken advantage of, walked on, stabbed in the back, cheated on, lied to, and humiliated all because I thought I would get love and respect in return.

It started when I was in high school with baking cookies. My cookies actually became quite the commodity for the boys in the neighborhood. They would come by late at night when having their midnight cravings and I would get up and bake chocolate chip cookies...from scratch. I loved the feeling it gave me knowing it made them happy.

I was the girl who was always the biggest in class and was told that I had pretty eyes, a pretty face, or had a great personality. I knew I was big and I could not hide matter what I wore. I loved the attention I got from the boys when I made them cookies. It made me feel wanted and being a big girl, this meant a lot to me.

As time went by, I started offering more than just cookies. We got older and hormones started raging. I became quite promiscuous because I thought that was how I could get a boyfriend. As sad as it is, I felt that boys really liked me because of it. Even after I heard the heart crushing words "don't tell anyone" (because those words are the tell tale sign that he was embarrassed and did not want anything to do with me outside of sex), I continued to allow myself to be taken advantage of because I felt wanted.

This behavior continued and only became worse. I thought that if sex wasn't working then I could buy them things. I met my son's father when I was 19. He was not from my small town so he did not know anything about me. When he discovered that I worked, had my own car, had credit cards, etc. he became my buddy. I could drive him places and buy him things. He had been kicked out of his house and I felt sorry for him. He saw an opening of my weakness and took full advantage of it. I ran up my credit cards buying him clothes and shoes. We bought matching pagers (yes, pagers) and I let him use my car when I went to work. This guy was different. He did not just want sex from me so in my mind I thought he must really like me. We were good friends. Good friends…with benefits.

Just a month after I met him, I was kicked out of my dad's house because of him and we stayed in sleazy hotels for over a month. I liked him more than just a friend so I footed the entire bill for him and three of his friends. I became pregnant not too long after I was kicked out and I thought for sure he would all of a sudden grow up and become responsible but because I had this delusion and I had no more self-esteem, I tolerated it and continued to do so until after the birth of our son.

He was never violent with me but he was verbally abusive which for me is much harder to overcome. I could no longer be his friend so we parted ways and I tried to only speak to him when it came to anything related to our son. I knew he did not have much family in the area and because I still had a heart, I always tried to include him on holidays and family gatherings.

I would say he was a good lesson learned but I allowed myself to be involved with several more relationships that were just as destructive. I started thinking I could fix these boys. I could be their savior and they would love me for it. I tolerated drugs, alcohol, domestic violence, restraining orders, jail, prison, and a whole lot of heartache. All in the name of "love”, because I thought I could fix what was broken in them. Not even realizing that what was broken was within me.

Just before I met my husband I was getting out of a long relationship with a man who could have been my soul mate. He knew everything about me and could tell what I was thinking just by looking at my face. We enjoyed the same music, movies, games, and we both ate popcorn and strawberry soda together. He told me how beautiful I was and could carry on a conversation that was not about him. He was not ashamed of me and introduced me to his family and friends. I was so caught up in this new feeling that I allowed myself to overlook all of the horrible things about him. He was a criminal, was a drug dealer and liked to smoke a lot of weed, he spent five years in prison for pistol whipping another man (and I happily traveled across the state to visit him on a regular basis), and he had four kids with four different mothers.

I found out he was cheating on me when he ended up in jail again and his car (that I was the primary owner of) was left at her house. She wasn't going to give me the keys to it the primary owner, I took myself down to the Lexus dealership, gave them the VIN number of the car, showed them proof of ownership, and they ordered me a key to the car. Two days later, I went to this girls house, walked into her garage (which was left wide open with the car sticking out...shows how bright she was) and drove off (well ok, it wasn't that easy - very loud words were exchanged and fists were almost thrown). I took the darn thing back to the dealer, handed the sales guy the keys and told them to have it back. They laughed and happily took it off my hands. Who on God's green earth would tolerate that crap? THIS girl did. Why? Because I felt wanted.

Like I said, when I met my husband, I was just getting out of that relationship. We met at a concert I was photographing. I was backstage waiting for the artists to arrive. He and his friends wormed their way back there and acted as if they owned the place. I tried to be friendly but all he did was give me dirty looks. He was wearing a red suit and had a cockiness about him that caught my eye. I was wearing jeans, a hoodie, and tennis shoes. I smiled and complemented him on his suit. He did not even acknowledge me. He must not have noticed my multiple cameras around my neck because he really thought he was upstaging me. I laughed to myself because he had no clue that I was about to go onstage with the artists and I relished in the fact that I was going to upstage him.

After the show was over and I returned backstage he pulled me aside and we started talking. I shot a few pictures of him and his friends with one of the artists. We exchanged email addresses and I promised to email him the pictures I took.

I was going to be shooting another concert the following month so we decided to connect again. We became friends. We talked all night long when he was supposed to be working his graveyard security job. When he said he did not want sex from me, I thought he was gay. I did not think you could just be friends with a guy. As our friendship grew over the next few months, I thought that things were finally turning around for me. This guy was different than all the others. He had a job, went to church, he had his own car that I didn't pay for, he had his own place, and he got a kick out of watching me onstage taking pictures.

It wasn't until I let him move in with me four months later that I realized I was once again, wanting to fix what was broken within him. He was struggling to keep up his end of the bills with his roommate so I let him move in with me. His cell phone was going to get cut off so I added it to my plan. He had to give his car back to his friend so I let him drive mine while I was at work. I could take care of him and I felt wanted. If I knew then what I would have to endure over the next seven years, I would have ignored him backstage that first night.

The pain I endured, both physical and mental, over these last seven years was more than anyone should experience in a lifetime. How many people do you know who would tolerate being held at knifepoint because you refused to answer a question? How many people do you know who would tolerate being held at gunpoint with the tip of the gun digging into the back of your head so hard and because it was still hot from just having been fired you have a burn mark behind your ear all because you were talking to another man?

Or worse...being held at gunpoint in front of your child after they were told I was going to have my brains blown out in front of them? How many people do you know would then marry this person and allow this type of behavior to continue for three more years? If you are reading know at least one. Why did I tolerate this? Because I did not think I could do any better. I didn't think I was worthy enough. I thought he was the best I could do for myself so I stayed.

DISCLAIMER: I can't sit here and say all bad things though because we did have some great times together. You do not spend that many years with someone if you could not have something positive to reflect on. My posting here is not to bash him or cause harm to him. I did not write anything that is not a matter of public record either. It is to simply express the state of mind I was in and why I tolerated it for so long.

After losing 155 pounds, my self-esteem and self-confidence returned in full force. It took a two-week business trip for me to realize that I no longer needed to continue to endure the pain. I no longer needed to fix him. I needed to fix me. When I walked off that plane after being gone for two weeks and I looked into his eyes, I knew my marriage was over. I was done. I could no longer live in fear and I was not going to allow myself to be in a cocoon anymore. I filed for a divorce two days ago. I have taken pride in calling myself a butterfly in training for the past year and regardless of hitting my goal or not, it is time I spread my beautiful wings and fly on my own... here for Part II...
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