I am doing laundry in the basement and I look over and see his two hooded sweatshirts, hung on the corners of a shelf. They’ve been there all along, but only now, after all this time, do I notice them. It’s as though he just hung them there, just went upstairs for a post walk shower, they are so normal where they hang.
I do not touch them, or take them and hold them and cry like I did when I went through his closet, lying amidst his ties and shirts. Now I am emotionally detached, observing, as I have come to be when I see him in my bedroom, standing at the foot of the bed, and the final scene replays in the early morning hours. Instead I sadly reflect on a day in August two years ago.
I think as I have so many times about the choices he made, his choice to shoot me, so irreversible, it left him none. I made choices too. I did not choose to be mistreated. To be abused. I did choose to stay, to engage. Like any other victim, I saw no clear way out, so I stayed to fight. He chose to continue his abusive behavior.
It was a day that last summer we had planned to go away for the weekend, just the two of us. He thought that was all we needed to get back on track. I wanted to grasp anything that felt like hope, so I agreed. Despite my better judgment, I was so desperate to hold on to my dream, I agreed.
It was my sister who saw something I could not when I told her of my apprehensions about the pending weekend. She emailed me a website that showed the cycle of abuse. It shocked me out of my denial. The word ‘abuse’, the characteristics, were real. The cycle was real. In that instant, in my heart, I knew. I knew as soon as that weekend was over, if not during, he would revert back. I would be lured back into complacency, believing it was possible to go back to normal when we had never been normal. He would simply abuse me again. Spending the weekend with him was like inviting the devil into my soul. It felt like a final defeat, a white flag.
I called my therapist, desperate, and asked him to walk me off the emotional ledge. He offered me a calm, impartial perspective in the middle of the chaotic tornado of my indecision. After more than an hour, we ended the call that day that I had to make a choice.
I changed my mind. I stood in front of my husband and told him I’d changed my mind. That I couldn’t go. He begged to know why, begged me to go. The only thing I could come up with was ‘I’m worth it’. Through tears he continued to beg, insisting it was what we needed, all we needed. He, too, I realize now, needed to hold on to something. I knew if I went, there would be no turning back. If I didn’t go I could finally move forward.
Watching him cry, unable to let my guard down and comfort him, I chose me. For the first time perhaps in our entire relationship, I chose me. Sadly, it had to be a ‘him or me’ choice. He’d made it a winner/loser proposition to be with him. Some 6 weeks before he shot me, I unknowingly made a choice that started a waterfall so powerful the momentum was unstoppable. Inescapable. I was to be swept into the torrent that followed.
“We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped.” Psalm 124:7
In the settling of his estate, I paid the bill for the un-cancelled hotel room, once again bringing alive that painful day of decision.