Tag Archives: fear

Emotional scars: Part 2

A few weeks ago on Deutcshe Welle TV, I watched this show about women who, in an attempt to get past horrifying incidents of domestic violence which had left their bodies awfully scarred, had gotten tattoos to cover the scars. Therefore in place of a burn or big scar, one would have a beautiful tattoo. Though I’m not a psychologist, I can say getting ‘rid’ of the marks sought of speeds up the healing process.

Now with regard to that, I found myself wondering, what would happen to people whose scars are not physical but emotional? For instance, last Sunday I was talking to my big sister and she seemed to have this evident revulsion for all matters dad. Late last year she had developed this habit where she’d stay in her room the whole day, in an attempt to stay away from him.

This went on for weeks until dad, in one of his rare glimpses of responsible parenthood, asked mom about her whereabouts. He actually sounded concerned, and that happens rarely. He told mom he didn’t support that because if she went on like that for a while longer, there was no telling what she could do to herself.

Eventually, mom talked to her about it and after seeing how concerned dad was, she stopped ‘locking’ herself in her bedroom and even started talking to him. They didn’t just dive straight away into the buddy-buddy pool but their relationship improved remarkably.

However, to my horror, last week I realised she was sliding back into that habit. When dad’s around she’ll avoid all the places she knows she could bump into him. While I don’t quite think it’s the best solution, I sought of understand why she’s doing it.

I had a talk with her about it and she told me dad is the one person in her life who has ever made her contemplate committing suicide. Therefore avoiding him works for her because if he doesn’t see her, he just might forget she even exists and he won’t have to think of all the hurtful things to say about her when he’s drunk.

See, when dad’s not trying to be a good parent, and that’s who he is most of the time, he makes someone feel very uncomfortable when they are around him. He’ll just sit behind a newspaper, purporting to read it all day, and he might not say a word unless someone starts a conversation. From what I’ve gathered over time, he usually spends that time observing everyone, making his own little condemnatory mental notes.

It’s only when he’s drunk, or has only had a little to drink and is pretending to be drunk that he starts yapping, complaining about everything and everyone. He’s been doing that since I’ve known him and I abhor it.

To be fair, I’ll just give him the benefit of the doubt and say maybe there are times he has meaningful complaints, like this one time we were all busy and didn’t get time to pull down the Christmas decorations until February.

Nonetheless, my problem is how he raises those issues. He’ll go fill up on some dutch courage before he starts venting. Worst part is, he always does wicked things deliberately with the sole intention of hurting us. For instance, two weeks ago he suggested we should visit his mom the next day and we all agreed.

Seeing as we were supposed to leave very early, we thought we would use that Friday evening to prepare for the trip which had been suggested on such short notice. Disappointingly, he went to drink at around five in the evening and he didn’t come back till around three in the morning. By then we had all cancelled the travelling plans since there was no way we’d be going to his mom’s with him drunk.

When he came in at that very ungodly hour, he started shouting as usual but since we were all asleep, he figured he would force mom to have an audience with him. Though his loud monologues had woken her up, she didn’t say anything. When he saw she wasn’t flinching or acting all agitated, he just walked to their bedroom window, opened it, and started shouting, apparently addressing the neighbours who cared to listen.

Though I didn’t hear everything because I willed myself to fall asleep so I wouldn’t hear him, the things he said were very offensive, and not to mention hurtful. In a nutshell, he said mom must be a witch because she spends so much time in prayer… (I’ve always thought praying is a good thing). And regarding my sisters and I, he said he didn’t understand what we were still doing in his house.

Like I’ve said before, maybe sometimes he has genuine concerns, but the way he brings it all up is what really hurts. I’ve never told him, but my reluctance to get married stems from this overwhelming fear I have of ending up with someone like him. He’s subjected us to so much misery, and though he’s clearly oblivious to it, I have an anxiety disorder to show for it… I have suffered from depression…and peptic ulcers…

Since I do not like dwelling so much on the past, I always try to find things which will cheer me up so I don’t get sucked into my own negative thoughts, which have become a constant companion. That’s what living in constant anxiety does to someone…Always waiting for something to go wrong…

If someone was to judge my sisters and I from our physical appearance, we look healthy and ‘normal’, because we don’t have physical scars to show for the pain and anguish we’ve been through. However deep down, we’ve so many emotional scars. That’s why I find dad’s sentiments awfully erroneous; physical scars are not the only indicators of suffering.

Advertisements

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.

What will people think about me?

Saint Joseph

Whom to please, God or man?

How many times have you found yourself conflicted about whom to please? To please God, or to do all you can to please fellow men. Many times most of us find ourselves at odds, especially when it’s something we feel we need to do so we can look cool; so we don’t lose credibility in our friends’ eyes, yet doing that precise thing would make us fall from God’s grace.

During this period, as we count down minutes to the birth of Christ, we get to learn from the story of a man, who is not celebrated a lot- he fades into the background once the star of the season (Jesus) comes to the scene; and not to mention His Blessed mother- a virgin, who conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We’re going to focus on the story of Joseph, Jesus’ father, because from him there’s so much to learn. As most of us are aware of, Joseph and Mary were Jews, and at the time Mary conceived, she and Joseph were not married. They were only engaged and had therefore not consummated their relationship.

Actually, at the time, so much would have gone wrong if God-forbid they had engaged in coitus before being married. For starters, Mary would probably have been stoned to death for engaging in sexual immorality. Now that brings me to Joseph. When Mary had that Immaculate Conception, he obviously knew the baby wasn’t his and he could have done what the men of this generation do without a tinge of remorse.

“He’s not mine!” Joseph would have denied vehemently, and unlike the guilty men who just bail on women they had been involved intimately with when they say they are pregnant, his denial would have been warranted. We, who have been enlightened about the story of Jesus of Nazareth, know Mary was a virgin when she conceived.

Joseph, however, did anything but. I’m thinking, if he was from this era we live in, he would have called Mary all those unholy names after making it clear that the baby she was expecting was not his. And maybe, just maybe, he would have called the authorities on her, given that they lived in a time when all these sexual shenanigans people from this era partake of so indiscreetly, would have cost them their lives.

But contrary to what would have been expected of a guy in his position, he accepted Mary. He didn’t care that maybe all those who knew the baby wasn’t his would have had him ostracized. The thing about most of us, is that we’re inherently afraid of being shunned by society, so whenever we feel like our actions might get us rejected by the larger society, we cower and do what will keep our relationships intact, caring less about what God will think of us.

Basically, if Joseph did what most us would have expected him to do, he wouldn’t have accepted Jesus because deep down he knew that was not his son. He would even have accused Mary of lying. I mean, just think, how often do women get pregnant by Immaculate Conception? It was just that one time; and Joseph believed it. He didn’t go all berserk, accusing her of whoring. God forbid!

Obviously, as the story goes, God intervened: Joseph contemplated breaking up with Mary but as he didn’t want to humiliate her in public, he planned on doing it in private; however, when he was asleep an angel of god appeared to him, asking him not to break the engagement as she had conceived by the Holy Spirit and the child would save mankind from sin. (Matthew 1:18-24)

But then again, how many times does the Holy Spirit speak to us and we blatantly ignore? I would say, severally. Joseph, however, listened to the voice of God, and accepted that Mary had been chosen to be the mother of Christ, and he unquestioningly, agreed to become the father of Jesus.

Joseph didn’t do what he thought would save him from people’s derision; he chose to follow the will of God. Now, years later, we talk about him, awed by his submission to the will of God. Chances are if he had acted in fear-fear of being rejected by society-he would have disobeyed God and by so doing, he would have earned God’s wrath, instead of blessings.

Prayer to St. Joseph

We have so much to learn from that. Whenever we find ourselves at a crossroads, where we’re not sure whether to follow God’s will and be shunned by society or do good in people’s eyes but displease God in the process, we should take comfort in Joseph’s story. Following the will of God will always earn us blessings.

Knowing how much pressure people find themselves subjected to whenever they have to make some very conflicting choices, it’s not hard to understand why, or even how people end up making choices that make them fall from God’s grace. We shouldn’t get discouraged though. These problems we face are not unique to us. They happened before and as it is, Joseph’s story should encourage us all.

The question to ask is not, “What will people think about me?” but rather, “What will God think about me?”

It’s better to be at war with all of society and be at peace with God, than be loved by all of humanity but lose favour in the eyes of God.

And because tomorrow is Christmas, I wish you all the merriest of Christmases. May the new Christ child be born in our hearts.

Christmas

 

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.

My dilemma…

A couple of weeks ago I had a phone conversation with this guy I really like. He was calling to ask me out but since I have my reservations about us dating, I felt I needed to explain why I was opposed to it.

“I told you I hate being lied to?” I asked, referring to a conversation we’d had two days before then.

“Yes.”

“In the spirit of honesty, I feel I owe you some truth.”

“What truth?” He asked, his voice so calm, ready to hear me out.

I wasn’t sure how he was going to take it, but I knew I had to say it anyway. “I’m in a dilemma…” I started, my fingers crossed, praying that whatever I was about to say wouldn’t upset him. “Remember the other night, when you told me, that when you decide to get married you will think of me?”

“Yeah…”

“I’ve been thinking about that a lot,” I continued.

“You’ve been thinking about it? So you took me seriously?” He asked light-heartedly. “I’m humbled that you take me serious enough to even think about it.”

At the time, all I just wanted was to say what was troubling me so I could just get it out of my system. I wanted us to be on the same page, so he wouldn’t feel like I was leading him on or anything of the sort. “There’s something personal I need to tell you. Don’t judge.”

He laughed nervously, anticipation getting the better of him. “Of course I won’t judge.”

“The thought of getting married terrifies me.”

Honestly I don’t remember much of the immediate conversation after that but what I gladly noted was that he wasn’t pissed… Instead he calmly told me whatever he’d said was not cast in stone and it’s not like anyone was holding a gun to anyone’s head. In short, the proposal wasn’t final and there was more than enough room to make adjustments as we go along.

After that very unusual revelation, he sought to find out why I was scared of getting married; you know, trying to understand my background and what could have led to my startling stance on matters marriage.

Again, I found myself in another quagmire; the pain of having to narrate my ever traumatizing past to someone who could potentially be my better half. I tried to find the words to explain to him how my childhood experiences have contributed to this very disturbing notion I have of getting hitched to anyone.

Since I’d hinted at something, I knew I had to shed some light somehow; unfortunately words failed me. First I made him understand that I’m not really used to talking about myself, leave alone divulging information that could paint my family in very bad light. I further explained that normally I just let the matter slide without offering any explanation.

The difference in this case was this is a guy I actually like, and the nicest guy I’ve met in my life so far. I didn’t want to hurt him in any way, or even give him the slightest feeling that I was rejecting him. Ergo, I knew either way I had to find suitable words to describe the painful pictures from my past, no matter how hard it felt.

My chest rose and I exhaled loudly as I tried to find those elusive words… “God help me!” I sighed. “Do I have to?”

“Yes.”

“You’re not making this any easy,” I complained, hoping he would just let it go.

“I just want to understand you.”

After more sighs, I attempted to elucidate… “I can’t tell you much for now, but in a nutshell, I had a damaging childhood. I’ve watched my parents and the life they lead is not something I’m in a hurry to get into.”

“Are they your biological parents?” He asked, in his very calm, reassuring voice.

“Yeah, they’re my birth parents.”

“Are they separated?” He asked, concern in his voice.

“No. But it’s been pretty bad.”

“So your mom is not happy?”

“Basically.”

The rest of the conversation was him trying to get the truth out of me. He even went to an extent of telling me some pretty personal stuff-his background and all-just so I would find the courage to confide in him. But as it turns out, I didn’t reveal much anyway. One thing I made clear though is that we would be done the instant he proposed marriage and it felt very comforting to know he understood me, even though I had left so much unsaid.

I have known this guy for only three months, and so far he’s been nothing but good to me. He’s kind, understanding, generous, patient, very chivalrous… he’s just everything I would ever want in a husband…

let go of the past

However, there’s just one major hurdle. The instant he mentioned marriage, mom’s painful marital life sprung to mind and all my defences went up. I started seeing younger versions of my sisters and I crying, watching helplessly as dad rained blows on her, and we feared he would kill her… I remembered the many nights we slept hungry because mom didn’t have a job, while dad wasted his money in bars.

The irony of it all is that while in my life dad is the worst man I’ve known (relationshipwise), this guy (if his very good personality isn’t just a charade) is the best man I’ve met so far. Now the worst part is that the fear of reliving mom’s pain-filled life won’t let me have the peace of mind I need to be in a meaningful relationship.

So far we’re only friends, and lately he’s been asking me out a lot. Light-heartedly, he says I’m difficult, but I also feel he’s stubborn; he won’t take any no from me and in any case, he seems so ready to do whatever it is he feels will make me happy-except let me go.