Tag Archives: abuse

These jars that we are…

Ever been in a situation where you’re travelling, you’re done packing…or at least you think you have, and then you realise there are a few precious items you forgot and there’s no more space left? Normally, the first instinct is to try figure what’s not so important, so that it (they) can be taken out to create space for the more important things.

Essentially, that’s how we human beings are fashioned. We’re like jars; and as is common with jars, they do fill up at some point. So the million dollar question is, what’s your jar filled up with? Are they things which under normal circumstances you would want to get rid of? Personally I know there are so many things I would want to get rid of.

A couple of days ago I got a chance to listen to one of Joel Osteen’s enlightening sermons. It was edifying, Joel likened human beings to jars. He said that if one’s jar is filled with guilt, self-pity, anger…etc. there will be no room for good things like peace, love, confidence…

Every once in a while when I’m talking to my sisters, I’ll remind them that if one’s worrying too much about something it diminishes one’s faith, because one can’t believe in God and be afraid at the same time. That’s the same thing Joel said; if one’s jar is filled with anxiety, that takes up the space for peace and serenity. If one allows their inner voice to convince them they’re always making the wrong choices, then that takes up the space for confidence.

If we want to receive God’s blessings, then we must create space. So, like that suitcase we need to empty out to make space for a few valuables we left out, we need to empty our jars to make room for the good things God needs to fill us up with.

Empty out the anxiety, the anger; empty out that self-pity, that self-loathing; let go off of the remorse that has been burdening you…for all those things happening in your life that you don’t understand, let go off the thousands of questions which have been tormenting you; and God, who’s got everything in control will fill you with peace that surpasses all understanding.

It’s only by so doing, that we’re going to receive God’s blessings in our lives. Life’s too short to dwell on the negatives, and much as we may all agree unanimously that being happy is an uphill task, emptying out all the negatives will create room for joy and cheer.

Joel Osteen made me think of something I’ve never thought of before. In a hypothetical setting, Mary the mother of Jesus, bumps into another woman in heaven; the mother of Judas Iscariot. If you were Mary, how would you deal with her, taking into consideration the painful and humiliating death her innocent son was subjected to, thanks to Judas’ betrayal?

Most of us usually strive to get over the painful moments we’ve gone through in life. That might be a very high bar that will likely put us under so much pressure. Truth is, we might never get past the pain and the hurt, but we should endeavour to get past it; and gradually we’ll get to a point where that pain doesn’t feel like an earth-shattering experience. It’s just a matter of getting rid of the bad things, so that we can create space for the good things.

Like Joel said, we shouldn’t go through life looking through the rear-view mirror. The voice of the enemy will be there, reminding us incessantly of the failures we’ve had in life; the wrong choices we’ve made…but that’s the past. If we hold on too tightly to it, we won’t have space in our hands to receive the immeasurable blessings God showers upon us.

So when the enemy reminds you of your past, remind him of his future; he ain’t got one, because God’s got it all in control.

Father forgive them, for they know not what they do

Jesus crucified

In life, there will always be times when every person is wronged by another (s). That’s just the way life is. It could be an innocent child, molested by a man/woman they thought was their protector; a father for instance, and they’re too young to comprehend what happened to them, until much later when they realize they were raped.

It could be a very loving and faithful wife, married to a very abusive husband, who comes home late at night, wreaking of alcohol and spewing insults, annihilating the woman’s self-esteem in ways so unimaginable, so she never feels worthy of mingling with other human beings. Occasionally, the woman will be walking around with a swollen face, marred by bruises put on her by the man she loved or still loves.

It could even be a naïve faithful, taken advantage of by someone she thought was her spiritual guide; a pastor, who was supposed to help them attain salvation.

It could even be an emaciated kid, wandering the cold, unsafe streets at night in sheer solitude, simply because their mom abandoned them when they were still infants…or because they couldn’t stand their father’s abuse at home and therefore chose to flee.

I could only think of so many instances… the list is endless.

As human beings, when we’re in the hands of our tormentors, we curse them and ask God to avenge us. That’s only normal. In recent posts, I’ve mentioned how lately dad has become so heartless and egocentric. He flagrantly shows up in the house in a drunken stupor, staggering sometimes and he starts hurling insults at us.

In one particular episode, about a month ago, he was sitted on the couch sipping on some beer. A while later he started arguing with mom and before long, he was on his feet. Grabbing the bottle, he walked to the entrance door and did the unthinkable. He tipped the bottle, emptying its contents on a floor that hadn’t dried completely since I’d mopped it only recently.

It was a Sunday evening and, I had been breaking my back since I came from church, trying to clean the house. By the time I was done my back was in pain from accumulated fatigue since I have classes six days a week and I hadn’t been resting.

I could barely contain my rage. “Why have you become this unfeeling?” I asked him. “I’ve just finished mopping”.

“It’s my money,” he replied, “I can do with it as I please.”

“How could you do that?”

To my utter disappointment, he didn’t seem remorseful one bit. “I can still spill some more,” he threatened.

Incensed, I barked. “Even the mightiest people know when to say sorry”.

“Just get out of here!” He ordered, his words slurred.

“Money has made you this arrogant,” I continued, my voice raised. “May God take it all away. And you see how you’ve been treating us like worthless trinkets? You’ll come to us, crawling on your knees, asking for forgiveness”. I was feeling so hurt at such haughtiness, that I was shaking, my fists tightly clenched. At that point I know I could have done something so drastic. It’s no wonder nowadays I always avoid getting involved in any altercations with him because I fear I could do something bad. God-forbid!

“You’re talking like that because I already paid your school fee,” he argued. This is because he cut my two sisters off and said they shouldn’t even call him dad.

“Money’s not everything,” I countered vehemently. “Respect’s a two way street. If you want us to respect you, you should also accord us the same… and right now you’re not doing that.” With that I left, just to go cool off.

A while later, while he was spewing insults, like he’s being accustomed to, I heard a dull thud, followed by my sisters’ giggles… and I got all curious. While I was about to head back to the living room, I heard them say amid laughter, “See?”

Apparently, he had slipped on the wet floor, courtesy of the beer he had spilled and had fallen on the ground. Knowing my sisters, I knew the laughter wasn’t malicious. Dad naturally hates it when we laugh, so they just wanted to drive a point home; that in his arrogance he had poured the beer on the floor, only to end up on the same floor; that he had erred by pouring that beer and worse still, seeming so unapologetic about it. When he got back to his feet, he opened another bottle and emptied it on the floor again…

Today’s Easter Monday. Last week was a Holy week, where we celebrated the Holy Triduum (three holy days) starting from Holy Thursday evening, when Jesus washed His disciple’s feet before celebrating the Last Supper with them in preparation for His Passion; celebrated on Good Friday when He dies on the cross, the Easter Vigil Mass, on Holy Saturday; to Easter Sunday. Yesterday, we celebrated His glorious resurrection, when He triumphed over death.

On Good Friday, when the priest was giving his brief sermon, he emphasized on forgiveness. “Jesus didn’t curse His tormentors for putting Him through so much agony when He was entirely blameless. Instead, He asked His Father, ‘Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do’”.

Just like Jesus forgave His tormentors, we’re also called to forgive those who make us suffer unjustly; as opposed to cursing them. Speaking from my own personal experience, it’s very difficult forgiving someone/people who torment us incessantly; but following in Christ’s footsteps, I’m making a personal effort to forgive my dad and all those I feel make my life miserable.

I’m not in the habit of wishing ill upon others but unfortunately, that is something that’s growing on me from the constant conflicts I have with dad. I ask for God’s grace to do only, that which pleases Him. It’s really not easy but I have to try. We all should.

Jekyll and Hyde: Part 2

The entire time I was thinking, uh… duuuh… we’re the ones in the car. Obviously we’ll get there first. But I didn’t want to exchange nasty words with him on the first day of the year, so I bit my tongue. As we were exiting the court gate, he took more than enough time signing out and at that point we were all regretting why we thought he would be different that day. He’s pulled his delaying tactics one too many times but every time we fall for it, thinking he’ll do things right.

While we were nearing the junction, he saw my sister ahead of us so he used the opposite route. My big sis asked him to act like a Christian for once and do the right thing but instead he just stepped on the accelerator, speeding up, blatantly ignoring the estate’s 20km/h speed limit. I was afraid we were going to crash.

While we were nearing the main exit gate, we pleaded with him to go back for my sister. The roads looked so deserted that morning and the road to the church was lined with pubs. We were therefore afraid she would bump into a nasty drunk along the way and there would be no one to defend her if God-forbid anything happened.

Maliciously, he refused to slow down on all speed bumps. I really wished he acted like the grown up he was. But I never really bank on people acting their age, because as the adage goes, “If age imparted wisdom, there would be no old fools”.

Eventually he agreed to turn around. When he saw my small sister though, he slowed down, almost to a halt that, even a snail would have beaten us to the finish line.

“You see how she’s walking?” He derided, mimicking her walking style. “I know she’s going to meet up with a boy.”

By then it was around 8.30am; a half hour since mass began. We requested him to drive a bit faster because we were getting late. When we were drawing close to her, my big sis rolled the mirror down and started calling out her name. She didn’t know we were behind her.

We should have known better though, because the instant we got to her, dad branched, driving to the opposite direction. My big sis and I shouted in protest, asking him why he was being so mean. She and a cousin of ours were sitted on the back seat, holding some mirrors that had been taken from the cabinets in mom’s beauty salon, but had been left in the car. They had cost so much money and my big sis was afraid they would break. Mom was already too stressed about closing up her salon and we figured the last thing she needed was to have any of her items break.

We agreed with my big sis I was going to catch up with our small sis, so she wouldn’t walk alone. At the time I was so mad at her because I was thinking if she had waited patiently for dad to get done with his crappy delaying schemes we would all have gotten to church in time for the mass. We’d wasted so much time on the road chasing after her. That however, I would deal with much later. All I needed at that point was to get to church.

As I was getting out, I realized the door couldn’t open, so I would have to use the co-driver’s. I rose from my seat, trying to get to the front but dad stepped on the emergency break and my head rammed into the dashboard. I wasn’t hurt as much as I was pissed.

“I can’t do anything to avenge myself dad,” I told him, “but remember, God is always watching.” With that I got out. I walked the remaining distance to church, huffing when dad just drove past me. He was clearly doing to me the same thing he’d done to my sister. I walked behind my sister all the way to church because I couldn’t catch up with her.

By the time I got to church, all the readings plus the gospel had been ready and the priest was giving the homily. I had missed much but I was glad to be in the house of God. I was mad and hurt, so I took a while to meditate, in an attempt to calm myself down.

My sister and my cousin made it to church way after we had given our offertory but I was happy they had made it. Turns out they had gone back to the house to take mom’s mirrors.

When mass ended we all walked back home sharing our morning experiences. Obviously, my cousin was so shocked by the whole incident. “Is this how we’re spending New Year’s?” He’d asked. Luckily we had already given him a crash course on dad’s misbehaviour in case our old man screwed up while he was still visiting.

Dad was sound asleep when we got home. The morning had just been a weird one. When he woke up in the afternoon, it’s like he had morphed into an entirely different person in his sleep. He was jolly and meek, and even agreed to take mom shopping for some household utilities. When I served him fries for lunch he didn’t complain even though he’s always saying how much he hates them. Later, he asked for some more. We couldn’t help but wonder if that was the same man who had sabotaged our church going. It was all too unreal.

I couldn’t help but think Mr Hyde had screwed up with our morning and Dr Hyde had spent New Year’s with us. One person; but totally different personalities. One thing I know is that dad has some good in him, only that it surfaces very rarely. Unfortunately for my family and I, Mr Hyde is the one who’s in control most of the time.

Jekyll and Hyde

The first time I came across the phrase ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ was in the Oxford dictionary; and the images that first sprung to mind were the people who had split personalities that I had watched in various movies and telenovelas; people, whose personalities shifted from saintly to villainous in varying circumstances. The thought was very intriguing, mainly because it was incomprehensible, how one person could have two personalities that were as patently distinct from each other as night and day.

The most recent case I have come across on TV is in vampire diaries, where Aleric Saltzman, a mere mortal, dies; but with the help of a magical ring he comes back to life. He’s killed one too many times in the show that at some point his constant encounter with the underworld has him transforming into a hard-nosed hunter. Apparently, a spirit in the other world (who we later find out is the mother of the originals) was grooming him to become a hunter of the supernatural beings. Due to that, his personality keeps shifting from the good to the evil Aleric, who slays unremorsefully.

That’s just a TV show. Now back to the real world. I recently discovered a real life Jekyll and Hyde; my very own father. He could give the real McCoy a run for his own money. Now I’m not just imagining it, or watching it from a scripted show. I’m watching a real life version of the proverbial Jekyll and Hyde and one thing I can say for sure is that it sucks big time.

I tried comprehending how one person could have two distinct personalities and until now it beats me. I know for some people it’s a clinical matter but in this case, I would say dad’s is totally a personal choice; to be good and alternately evil.

I would love to say his is an involuntary thing, but based on my deductions, he has full knowledge of his actions and how they affect us. I would attribute his behaviour to alcoholism and receiving wrong advice from ill-wishers, starting with his mom and siblings.

For starters, the other day mom asked him if he knew the things he does are wrong and karma would catch up with him at some point. It may sound hard to believe, but he said he did, with absolutely zilch remorse. That’s the easiest way to tell when someone’s actions are bordering on evil; when the person does them consciously and worst of all impenitently.

One Wednesday, for instance, only days after mom had closed down her business, dad came home unannounced. His office is located away from the city so he only visits during the weekend. He didn’t say why he’d come. In any case he said he didn’t want anyone asking him why he was home.

A week later, he was still around, making our lives miserable as hell. He would get home from the bar in the early morning when everyone was asleep and despite the fact that he has his own keys, he’d just ring the doorbell incessantly, just so everyone could wake up. One would be tempted to think it was a child who was greatly fascinated by the chiming of the bell.

If somehow we ignored him and he let himself in, he would go to the living room, turn the music on, playing it so loud and if anyone requested that he turned it down, he would maliciously turn it up. So now that we know that we never ask him. We just shut our bedroom doors and pray that God will intervene somehow.

Before mom closed down her business, she had asked dad to help with the house expenses but he had refused. Instead he’d callously scoff at her, saying he’d given her permission to use other means to make money; and that was him alluding to mom whoring. I couldn’t have been more offended by his words, because I felt he was scorning her faithfulness; he knows she’s been nothing but faithful to him.

silently, I thought if only he knew how many men hit on her; but she, like the conscientious wife, turns their advances down; not because she’s afraid of him, but because she values the sanctity of the sacrament of matrimony.

On New Year’s day, he said he was coming with us for Mass. Happy that we were all going to start the new year together in the presence of God, we didn’t question his motives. Mass was starting at eight and as the church is just a twenty minutes walking distance, we knew we would be there before it began.

At 7.50 am we got into the car, strapped our seat belts on and waited for him to step on it. Twenty minutes later we were still at the parking, waiting for him to record the mileage, even though I usually find the whole exercise pointless. Patiently, we waited as we didn’t want to set him off. At some point I offered to help him out as he didn’t have his glasses on, but he just pinned me with a withering glare.

My small sister got out of the car, deciding she was going to walk. We all regretted why we’d agreed to let him drive us. Luckily mom had already left as she had finished preparing before us. When my sis left, dad started complaining how he was being forced to go to church. Putting away the sheet he’d been filling, he pulled out of the parking.

“Your sister thinks she knows too much,” he carped. “We’ll see who gets there first.”

Letter to my husband: Part 4

Experience has taught me a few things. One of them being that there’ll be at least one person who judges someone for some misfortune that befell them; and personally, I’m not big on sob stories. In any case, I avoid circumstances that will make people want to pity me…or think I’m weird. In light of that I figured I couldn’t tell every guy I attempt dating the issues that cause me anguish. I also figured on the same note that if I explained this to anyone, it would be my husband. The man I hope to share my life with.

Looking at the events that have happened in my life, this doesn’t even get close to putting it all into perspective. All I know is that after living for more than two decades, witnessing domestic violence, I came out of it relatively wiser; but damaged.

Wiser because now I know many things I didn’t know before; things they’ll never teach in school. For starters, I know what I want in a relationship. I know the qualities I seek in a man; and money and looks aren’t it. If those two counted for anything, my mom would be the happiest woman on earth; but we already established she’s not.

And damaged because, of the things that cause me anxiety, relationships top the list. I have met some men, who would possibly have made wonderful husbands, but the instant they started exhibiting traits that reminded me of my father, I cut loose before it got too real. Such, is the extent of my ‘damaged-ness’.

I could pay a professional shrink tonnes of money for them to tell me what’s wrong with me and how I could make things better, but as I said, I already figured myself out. Relationships are a hard limit for me. Mom’s miserable life makes me dread the sheer thought of vowing to spend the rest of my life tied to someone, because truth is, it’s not easy getting out when things start going downhill.

Unlike the younger, naïve version of me who hoped to be swept of her feet by a tall, dark and handsome guy, now I know what I want; or what I don’t want.

I don’t want a man who will take me for granted. I need someone who will love and cherish me for me, without hoping to turn me into something I’m not for his own convenience. I realized, if mom had her own money from the beginning, her fights with dad wouldn’t have been too frequent. They fought a lot because she was dependent on him; and he was too tight-fisted. I would love to have a career, and for it not to be affected by our family life.

I don’t want a man, who wouldn’t be moved by our children’s grief, when they’re hungry, or crying because he is abusing me. I would want a man who wouldn’t eat or go on a binge-drinking spree when our kids can’t sleep because they are too hungry.

I would want a man who smiles at least, when his daughter tells him she’s graduating magna cum laude, or seem moved in the least when another one tells him she’s done working on her novel. Sometimes people think it’s all about money, when all one needs is just a simple hug. I would want a man who can spare a thought for our children; how his actions affect them.

I don’t want a man who will fill our children’s heads with sad Christmas and New Year’s day memories, because he just couldn’t help throwing punches at me; and on the same note, I would want a man who respects my mother, because were it not for her love and sacrifice, I wouldn’t be there to be his for the taking in the first place.

I wouldn’t want a man, who makes our children develop anxiety disorders and some other stress related illnesses like depression and peptic ulcers because they are afraid he will kill me when they’re in school.

And when eventually we decide to get married, I would be happy to have just a small wedding with just us, our witnesses and the priest.

So, unlike my younger self, I’m not interested in looks and money. All I want is someone with whom I can spend a happy forever with; someone who will give our children the happiness I didn’t have growing up; the lack of which has caused me so much anxiety.

I don’t have any children yet, but when I get them, I hope to raise them in a love-filled home, so they won’t dread marriages and relationships like I do. Truth is, if I had to choose, I would opt for a life of utter solitude, rather than live the miserable life my mom has lived. It’s not one I would wish, even on my worst enemy.

All I want is happiness…and love…and some peace of mind.

My beloved husband-to-be, if you can give me that, then I too will go out of my way to make you the happiest man on earth.

Letter to my husband: Part 3

Why do battered women stay with their abusers? There could be very many answers to that. But I know one woman’s reasons. My mom’s. Most of the time she and dad fought, she would vow to leave. However, when everything had calmed down, she would take back what she’d said in a moment of heart-wrenching anguish. “I want you to have a good life,” she would tell us forlornly. “And right now I can’t afford your school fees. Only your dad can.”

She made it clear that if she left, she wouldn’t leave us behind; but therein lay the problem. She was jobless and finding one wasn’t easy. She never left. But that didn’t do anything to keep my nightmares at bay. In the dead of the night, when everyone was asleep, I’d be haunted by dreams of her leaving. Crying, I would wrap my arms around her leg, pulling her so she wouldn’t leave. Then I’d wake up to realize it had just been a bad dream.

As a child, the nightmare plagued me even in my waking hours. I was always anxious that one day dad would do something so dreadful that would finally push mom to leave. With all that worrying going on, I eventually developed an anxiety disorder when I was thirteen. I’d fall sick often and though at first it was difficult to diagnose, one doctor eventually told me it was anxiety. My life was never the same again. Everything made me anxious and panic attacks became a common occurrence.

By the time I was finishing high school, the anxiety was slowly morphing into depression and ever since, I fall in and out of depression with ease. Dad has never changed and the situation in the house is pretty much the same. Once I’d considered running away from home, but I thought against it, realizing I would only bring myself more harm because I didn’t have a backup plan. I figured maybe I would end up homeless, with a child I couldn’t take care of. Stomaching the violence at home felt like the lesser evil.

I have thought an awful lot about this man I call my father. He’s done outrageous things, but somehow, I can’t bring myself to hate him. Sometimes, when things get too intense I say it my head. I even tell my sisters what I feel. But I constantly ask God to help me, so there never comes a day when I shout, “I hate you so much,” to his face. I would be lying if I said we didn’t have some good moments in the past, but those ones have slipped into the background as they’ve been overshadowed by all the bad memories.

I have watched the relationship my parents have and honestly, there is nothing about it that makes me want to be in a relationship. The last time I tried explaining that to a guy who I liked and who was so interested in me, it didn’t go down too well. Everytime we talked, I had the feeling he was going to ask me if I was raped or something.

See that’s the thing. It’s difficult explaining this life I have lived to anyone because if I don’t delve into the details, it’s just another shallow story about a girl who grew up in family plagued by domestic violence. Normally, instead of talking I just clam up completely until I’m confident the issue won’t come up again.

That guy for instance, couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to be in a relationship with him simply because I had grown up watching my parents fight. I don’t blame him though. I never gave him a detailed account because again, it’s not easy telling it. Digging deep into a past that has turned me, into this damaged woman I fear I am, isn’t something I relish.

Letter to my Husband: Part 2

Most of the Christmas eves and New Year’s eves I remember were sad ones in our house. They were tear-filled. We would attend mass on Christmas and New Year’s Day with our eyes red and puffy from crying so much the previous night.

Dad would go out and come home drunk, unleashing hell on anyone he could get hold off. One time he got into our bedroom, where my late grandma was sleeping, and he brashly pulled her out of bed, so she could see how her daughter was behaving. He’d found out we had gone to visit one of his female cousins earlier in the day. I was only ten at the time and I remember panicking at the sight of it. Grams was only in a sheer nightie and he was shirtless.

In catechism we were taught to respect our elders, but what he was doing seemed anything but. I was traumatised; and the memory remained with me for a very long time, until he gave me new horrifying things to ponder over as I grew up. He always out did himself, sinking lower and lower at every turn. And it has been so to date.

I would wish the memories were good, but they’re far from that. Growing up, we cried more than we laughed. Mom has always been a social woman, friendly and all. So she made friends easily. Most of the time these friends would come to visit, but dad found fault with that. He couldn’t stand the thought of finding guests in his house. It didn’t matter that those guests were priests or nuns. All he saw were intruders in his house. In a bid to change that, he moved us to a very tiny house, so mom would never be able to host guests anymore.

As it is, they say one only knows her true friends when they’ve hit rock bottom. When we moved, very many things changed. Apparently most of those friends were not real because most of them stopped visiting. We became loners. I was always introverted, so I never socialized a lot really, but then the loneliness that ensued wasn’t something we chose. It had been imposed on us by a man, who was too selfish to care about his family’s well-being.

Given the unfavourable location of the house, mom and my baby sister developed a dust allergy. Everytime mom would visit some nearby clinic and the doctors would give the same diagnosis; allergy. I often wondered why dad didn’t care enough to move us back to a nice neighbourhood.

When all that was going on, mom and my sister falling ill constantly, friends ditching us, dad getting more violent… dad’s relatives, who had always considered us paupers, as apparently everyone else was pretty much moneyed, would show up just to see the kind of hell-hole we lived in. The sadists they are, they enjoyed every minute of our suffering. It wouldn’t have hurt as bad as it did if I knew dad didn’t have money; but he had.

Every time schools were re-opening, mom and dad would always fight. I was never sure why it always had to be that way every damn time. The fights would start in their bedroom, with them exchanging bitter words (that I slowly picked up on and used later to insult kids who rubbed me off the wrong way) and ended up in the living room or our bedroom, when mom fled, afraid he was going to hit her.

Once, when they were arguing, he threw my school fees at me and the notes scattered all over. I left the money and went to sleep, crying and traumatized after what I’d seen that night. In the morning, before I left for boarding school, I woke up to find the money and I couldn’t help the choking lump that rose in my throat as I realized some notes had fresh blood stains. I didn’t know where the blood had come from or whose it was, but the very thought was horrifying.

Every time our parents fought, my sisters and I would intervene, breaking them apart. Sometimes we even got hurt in the process. That had me wondering what would happen if we weren’t there to stop it. I always feared the worst.