Though I don’t think of it as often as I once did, and as much as it pains me to admit it, I do occasionally wonder if (and when) I will run into you and, more importantly, what type of reaction this event will stir within me.
Even the anticipation of it has literally woken me from sleep in the haze of a half-felt, half-forgotten dream state in which I am trying desperately to run from you.
And run from you – in the living, breathing, wide awake world – is precisely and thankfully what I did.
When I first left you, I knew I was doing the right thing – and had known it for some time and had even warned you that it was in my mind to do so – but leaving you still devastated me in those first days. I had come to surrender so completely to your standards that you had set about for and to the control that you exerted over every single thing that I did – my workload and every penny I earned, my habits and behavior in every room of the house and in every aspect of public and private life, my appearance, my diet, every ounce of creativity and energy (save for the ones that I squirreled away in hidden journals and notebooks). I honestly wasn’t entirely sure I could live out in the world, outside of the container of your large and looming shadow.
I know now that this was precisely the feeling – my crippling self-doubt – that you knowingly assisted in taking root in my mind, and the very one you spent seven long years grooming and cultivating with the hope of shaping me into the submissive flower who wanted nothing more than to set aside her every desire, dream and longing in selfless service of yours.
There were many tools for this grotesque gardening in your arsenal – the intimidation, the bullying, the withholding of praise and affection, the endless list of rules, the emotional and psychological abuse.
Thank goodness I found the strength to leave.
And then on Friday morning at the fair, as I stood by my car with Shawn and the rest of my band mates, enjoying their company and my fresh falafel in the open air of this incredible season, I happened to look just twenty feet or so to my right and there you were, staring at me with a hatred so cold and so complete that it literally took my breath away.
My reaction? Just as I’d feared – heart racing, sweating palms, the whole bit; I’m ashamed to admit it. The guys even noticed that something had happened.
“Are you okay?”
I was worried for a moment that I wouldn’t be able to get on that stage and perform with any joy, that instead I’d be peering out into the crowd, worried that you were still watching, glaring, hating.
And then… as I looked back at you, the moment passed, and I felt myself feel stronger, and as I took a few steps back, you slithered away into the crowd. It was much like watching a storm drifting away across the open sea. I looked around me, at people whom I love, who love and respect me, and I took a deep breath. I finished my lunch, got on stage with Shawn, Davy and Craig and I looked out, not for you, but instead at the crowd of music lovers and fair goers, all listening, smiling, tapping their booted feet, patting their hands on their knees, singing along.
Sure, I’ll admit that your shadow still casts over my mind at times. I’m still healing. But now, as I type these words, I don’t feel the anxiety that still, amazingly, lives in me somewhere and that your presence can still summon. Now, I feel pity. Not pity for you because I left you, but pity because you’ll likely never know how it feels to be as happy as I feel now, out here under the blue sky, under the gaze of those who love and respect me and of the impossibly warm and comforting sun. That inability is not mine to own – it’s yours. You were unhappy before I left, before we met – and I do hope that, for your sake, you find a little bit of that sunshine before it sets on you.