There is no silence.The expectations are loud and encompassing, so much noise. The blackness is ever-present I am running faster and pushing harder but it is all never enough. That unattainable perfection is the center and I am the periphery. It oozes from my core and I am aware that I have failed. aj
Today I have been going through an old hard drive trying to find some pictures of my grandmother to put up. I found those. I found lots of little things I had forgotten about.
Below is a collection of words that I wrote 6 months after my separation from a 9 year marriage. Life seems to have a way of bringing things to the surface just when you need them. I wrote these around 6 years ago, I never did anything with them, just let the letters fall out of my consciousness and land onto a screen. They have just been sitting on my hard drive collecting pixel dust. They matter, these words, they are relevant. They matter today, to this moment.
It is pouring with rain today, it is beautiful. Like the gentle rumble of waves rolling past my window and my time. B has a tin roof. The rest of our home is silent. The sound of the rain is comforting and glorious. I have a dressing gown on, it is so cold today. I feel safe. Safe and warm. I am full of gratitude.
Life is not easy, it never is. Going back over moments from the past to heal moments of today. Feels so silly. Why write? Why put it out there? You know what, because for me, words have power. My words, my emotions, my everything it is all just tempestuous chaos in my mind. Internalised madness. I have learnt to give my self space for it to fall out of my consciousness, to externalise it. It is all just chaos that cascades out in a mess of pieces, pieces that seem to fall together to tell some beautiful black story once it is free. That’s why. Because I have no choice. When it is out, it makes sense and I can try to let it go. I think. I am not sure. When I read your story, when I hear her words, I don’t feel alone, I know its not all me and it all feels ok. Stories, stories however told, are important. Our voices matter. Our words matter.
It has been 6 years since I wrote the below words. 6 years. We have another mediation appointment in about 5 weeks. He, my ex-husband instigated mediation. He wants to contend something to do with the custody and care of our children. It has been 6 years. Each year, each month, each week there is something. Some disruption. Some conflict. Some moment that renders me in tears. I don’t feel free. I still feel like I am in a cage. Much better than it was. But trapped, with no choices and no voice. This is why writing matters, It is my way of feeling like I have some power, a voice.
Recently I have found stories, words and moments of others. Stories from another that almost word for word feel like my story. Except she is further along her path. Her story is like this light bulb ah-ha moment. My god! That’s what is has been all along. It will be ok, I can do this. And so I do what I always do, I read, I listen, to more words, to more stories. I research, I find as much information as I can. And then I write, I write and I make art. I externalise it all. And then somehow is takes on a life of its own and I am free.
These words, these beautiful words matter, they matter because they are a part of the story that I kept until I was ready to face them.
What is your biggest regret?
I had always vowed that I didn’t believe in regret that all we have is good and bad choices that we make and we learn from them. But in this moment I have regret like a black velvet liquid that is seeping in to my being , a feeling so dark I wish with all I have and all that I am that I could turn back the clock to that moment and change it all.
It wasn’t about getting attention it truly wasn’t , people will judge that that was my motivation but I have to accept that there is nothing I can do about what you or they will think of me. In that moment I simply could not play this game anymore, I hated almost everything about the life I was a part of and I felt so very trapped, like darkness was to be my only freedom. I felt my children and all of the world would be truly better off with out me, my husband the man I had given all I had to had expressed in that moment that that was the truth, that he didn’t want me that his life would be better off without me.
I walked to our bedroom his yelling getting softer as I walked away. Once in the bedroom I fumbled with the handle of his little cupboard, my tears filling my eyes and making it hard to see which bottle to grab. I felt like I was nothing but a failure, my husband didn’t want me, I cant even keep the fucking house clean!! What a miserable disgusting failure of a woman I am. I struggled to open the lid and poured all the morphine tablets into my hand. Through my tears I wondered what it was going to feel like, will I finally be free? Will it Hurt? I was scared, terrified of my choices. To go or to stay, both choices seemed equally terrifying. I thought of my two children. Wondering how they will grow and truly feeling like I was going to ruin them and that they will be truly better off with out me, I am a disgusting woman, who cant even keep the house clean for my children. I hesitated as I thought of their beautiful faces, my tears began to choke me and the pain I felt for the failure that my life had become took hold of my being and I went to pour all the tablets into my mouth.
He pulled my hand away from my face, the lovely white tablets sprinkling all over the carpet of our room. There was a struggle as I scrambled to pick up each perfect white tablet and he tried to stop me, I can’t do this any more I muttered trough my hysterical tears. He was rough and he hurt my arm and hand as he pried it open to confiscate the remaining tablets clenched between my fingers. He stopped something I know in my soul I did not really want to do.
He held my crumpled body as I cried how sorry I was that I was not good enough for him. He wanted to leave, he had had enough of our life. It was just before Christmas. And now I have my biggest life regret. We were arguing and he was trying to tell me that he wanted to leave, like really leave, like our 9 years marriage was over. We were arguing over many things but this is where the argument came to its climax.
But after my little ‘stunt’ he stayed.
And that is my regret, that I hated my self so very much that I blamed my self for all that had gone wrong that I truly felt that that was my only option. I regret that I went to the bedroom instead of going outside into the air, I regret that I went to the cupboard instead of throwing myself on the bed as I had often done. I regret that in that moment I wanted to end my life.
In the very core of my being I believe that if he hadn’t have come in I would have stoped my self, i truly believe that. I did not really want my children to grow up with out me. I would have spat them out I was terrified of death really, terrified even in that moment what people would think of me even after I was gone. I wouldn’t have followed through I that is the truth of my being.
I regret that those were my actions.
He should have left then, in his being that is what he truly wanted to be free, and the guilt he felt meat that he didn’t go and completely unintentionally he now felt trapped.
He did eventually leave, a few months later in March. March the 12th to be exact.
I have felt that I am a bird in a cage with no escape and no way out, and he has always held the key to my door, and 6 months after the separation he still holds my key and all the cards. How did this happen? Why do we as women give them all the power?
I now have moments where I feel free, but they never last as he reminds me here and there he still has control. The pain I feel inside my core is unbearable, it actually takes my breath away. It rushes over my body and I clutch at my throat gasping for the air I need to live but it feels like in that moment I will not be able to inhale, the pain so intense its constricts my chest.
What’s it about? what is the cause of all this pain? It is a culmination of everything, of all of it, but mostly it is being away from my children. That is what it is. My children. The only true love of my life (besides hairspray). The two most perfectly created little beings that I love so very much. Both of them were planned, both of them we, I chose to bring into this world. I wanted them so very much. I wanted a family so very much. To be a part of a unit that I knew I could create a safe place for me, my husband and my children. What a big fat fucking failure I am, I failed on all accounts.
Since the separation we have had shared care with the kids, 50/50. What a big fat fucking load of shit!!!! Who says this is best for the children??? Show me the physiological studies that say this is the best for the kids. I should have never agreed, never. It would all have been different. Regret number two. I should have never agreed. At the time of separation I honestly felt like I didn’t have a choice, since the laws had changed in 2006, I thought that 50/50 was the presumed standard. I honestly felt like I didn’t have a choice. Phone call from his mother chillingly telling me “you won’t win Angel, He will never let you have them”, and when I did try to assert my self and try to have the kids more, a phone call from his sister telling me that what I was doing was wrong, and ‘it doesn’t look good Angel’.
The mediation process was a load of crap, what a piece of useless shit!!!, she believed everything that came out of his mouth. I was a lamb bought to the slaughter and I never had a chance.
We lived in squalor, squalor, squalor. That is what he screamed at me on Sunday (its Tuesday). We lived in Fucking squalor Angel!!!! I could get them for 8 nights Angel if you want to push it, Everyone knows you can’t keep the fucking house clean!!! Your fucking pathetic!! You need help, you need to go back to the doctor and get this shit under control, go and get some tablets, look at you Angel, you’re pathetic. My heart was beating in my chest, like a knock on the door I could feel it banging on my ribs. I was calm on the out side, i didn’t yell I didn’t even raise my voice. I was calmly asking him what is happening to the house? We had a house together, a house that I loved. Our home. I thought I had to leave, I thought I had no choice, I was only on parenting payment at the time, How could I possibly afford the $1400 a month for the mortgage repayments?
You’re fucking pathetic Angel…
I’m keeping it he said, I told you that before Angel. He has no job. He has no prospects. And now the mortgage is in arrears just over $1500, and I have now had 2 phone calls from the commonwealth bank. Legal aid appt on Thursday.
He lost his last job, a very good opportunity by the way, because him and the secretary were sharing inappropriate picture of each other on their work phones and computer. Integrity.
Not many people would believe me. He is so sweet and loyal. Look how affectionate he is. Oh look what he bought for you, he is so thoughtful. And I helped cement the belief that he was wonderful despite all he did to me. I loved him, i didn’t want anyone to think ill of him. I was embarrassed and ashamed, I didn’t want anyone to know the truth. The reality was that I didn’t want to know the truth. And that is my truth.
I spent so much of our life defending him, explaining for him, helping people to understand him. He was my husband. I loved him I wanted to keep my family together. My love was such that I was happy to overlook, happy to be told it was my fault, because if it truly was me then maybe I would have some kind of control over fixing it, of making it all better.
His mother told me recently that it was all because we just wanted different things, you know Angel you weren’t happy just being a mother and wife at home.
That’s crap by the way, no I never wanted the life my mother or his mother led to be trapped in a suburban existence defined by how well I cooked and cleaned. I wanted more I wanted things of my own, something that defined me as me, but that wasn’t all I wanted either. I loved being a wife and a mother and was truly devoted to all that those things entailed. That was a big part of why I felt so very overwhelmed that I was not as good at it as our mothers or grandmothers. My failure as a woman was acute when compared to our 1950s house wife yard stick.
But we are in the year 2000’s, aren’t we? Didn’t all those ridiculous expectations placed on my gender go out with the feminists of the 70s? , Well that certainly wasn’t a freedom I felt. The feminists only added pressure to the every day woman, now not only do we have to keep house like a 50’s glossy, we are also supposed to be powerful women with powerful careers, balance being a mother making sure to use positive parenting techniques, and thanks to the 70’s women we are all supposed to be sexual prowess’s with ultimate control and power over our sexual destiny and learn to orgasm on command. My social commentary aside, my point was that I loved it all and tried very hard to fit in with all the expectations, of our social network, our community group, my family, his family, and above all him. I tried so very hard until the pressure and my failure made me feel like a bird trapped in a cage and domesticity seemed like a suffocating floral bouquet. I never grew to hate my life I only grew to further hate myself for never being good enough, never good enough for them and NEVER good enough for HIM.
I am alone, like I mean actually physically alone. By myself in my little unit, iPod in my ears to distract from my thoughts. My children are not in their beds and it has been 3 days since I saw them and 4 more days before I will see them again. My children are not in their beds. It is late.
My children are not in their beds. It will be another 4 days before I will get to see them again.
At the thought of the reality I now find myself, my chest constricts and my soul feels so very black. The pain I feel at this moment being away from my children, is quite indescribable, like I literally can not possible think of a word dark and painful enough to describe how I feel.
I have been away from the kids before, its not like we never went away and they often stayed with nanny and poppy. But this is so very different, it is so absolute. And so far I have felt like I have no choice. I did and I do but I didn’t know that at the time I genuinely felt like I had no choice, like this is the way it all had to be.
He loves his kids. He ‘loved’ me.
Over 13 affairs, 2 children, 7 house moves, an STD, countless nights crying myself to sleep, a bout of very sever depression, him fired from 3 jobs in as many years, a house, a mortgage and a family holiday to Queensland & this is where we find ourselves.
The blame game. What an interesting game to play. The rules are different for everybody. But for him it was never his fault. For me I was never good enough, it was never enough, it was my fault. Look how messy the house is? All my fault, it was. Why cant I just keep it together? What is (was) wrong with me?
The fact that he was fired or not kept on in any of his jobs was never his fault, he was just unlucky, they were unreasonable, the boss was a dickhead. All possible yes, but almost every job he ever had? You tell me who is the common denominator?
Your wife going through a major depressive episode had nothing to do with finding out when she was 6 months pregnant with their son that he had had a woman driving up to see him and they had fucked in the front seat of his car, nothing to do with the way he would scream at her, nothing to do with being told she had an std? (Thankfully a treatable one) because he never used a condom with any of the women he had affairs with.
It only has to do with the fact that her (my) family has a history with mental health. Its all in your head Angel, look at you, you are fucking pathetic, look at you get this shit under control, you need to be put on some tablets. You’re disgusting, this house is a disgrace, look at it Angel I cant live like this anymore, how hard is it to keep the house clean? Don’t be so paranoid, will you move on its all in your head, ITS ALL IN YOUR HEAD ANGEL.
Isn’t that a song, it’s all in your head?
Some people have said , don’t worry now you are free. Now I am free? Am I?
Not at all my dear, keep your patronisation to your self, you know nothing of my life. He still has all the power. What he says go’s. I am pathetic look at me, how could I have let someone treat me like this for so long.
Well you see he was never always horrible, that was only half the time. The other half the time he was so very lovely. He was physically very affectionate, (half the time), thoughtful, he would buy me little gifts, and the truth is that when we were having sex it was awesome. He was very, very good at it, well you would expect so, he had enough practise. Let’s just say he knows he way around a woman.
Virgins on our wedding night, both of us. That is the truth. 18 year old Christian, virgin bride. I honestly thought that if I had sex outside of marriage then I would go to hell, honestly that’s what I thought.
The house is so very quiet without them, Oh you’ll get used to it, it will get easier. Fuck off!! Its been 6 months and the silence that their absence creates is so very loud, it does not get any easier.
There is nothing about this that is easy.
The sound of the clock ticking in the living room is like a slow motion hammer, just like in the movies when they emphasise the slow movement of time. It is so very quiet without them, besides the ticking of the clock and my thoughts.
What did I do that was so very wrong? What did I do to deserve this. What am I complaining about? There are so many people so very worse off than I am. I have a job, I have a home, I am healthy, I have food in my cupboard and I do still get to see my children. People in this world grow up in war zones, survive famines, get locked in rooms away from the world. Am I being shallow? Should I not just be grateful for all of the things I do have?
As my mother reminded me after my step father gave her a black eye, there are people that have it so very much worse than we do Angelique.
And of course compared to how I grew up, compared to the way I saw my mother treated by the men in her life, He was wonderful. He never hit me. Never. And like I said before he was lovely sometimes and very thoughtful. He never physically hurt me. So I have nothing to complain about right? Others have it so very much worse. A girl I knew left her husband because he broke her ribs. He never hit me.
We were driving in the car, he was mad with me. I was trying to explain. I thought if he understood then he wouldn’t be mad anymore. Angel be quiet, be quiet. But it’s just that…. Be quiet, shut up leave it alone. I was sobbing and still trying to explain. I cant even remember what it was all about. The kids were in the car. Please let me explain. Then he lost it. Screaming at me to shut up. He scared me, I was scared of him. I can’t remember what he was yelling. I was crying. He was screaming. He was driving like a maniac. He calmed. You just kept pushing Angel, look what you made me do. You just couldn’t let it go could you? I told you to be quiet, I told you I couldn’t take anymore, look what you did. My heart was pounding and my body was shaking all over. I curled my body up in the car seat and leant into my car door away from him and cried, not sobbed but cried.
He NEVER hit me.
Like a bird in a cage , I never had a voice. I loved him. Love him. What the hell is love anyway? I know the love I feel for my children. I know what that is.
When we were younger, we argued a lot. Lots of feisty arguments. I never thought they were serious. We were just passionate. That’s what I thought. As we got older mostly after he hurt his back. The arguments were less feisty and more real anger. I learnt to be quiet. I learnt to avoid the arguments mostly. I tried very hard to avoid the arguments. So very aggressive. The way his blue eyes looked deep into me cold and so very dark. Nobody ever really saw this side of him. No one would have believed me. They’d have called me a liar. Look at her anyway she is fat and a head case. I never told anyone, not even myself. I didn’t want to believe that I had followed in any sort of pattern that in anyway reflected my mother. I am, was nothing like her, I am different, aren’t I? Am I? Am I so different to my mother?
He never hit me.
When my step father recently went to jail for slitting my mothers throat with a kitchen knife their local community was shocked, liked shocked beyond disbelief. Him? No?! She had done such a good job protecting him over the years, and he had done such a good job pretending that when the truth came out people really didn’t believe it, and were asking her to take him back. Um he just cut her throat with a fucking kitchen knife!!!! What part of that do you not understand????
They have recently just got back together. Of course. After being told for 20 years you are useless without me it becomes a part of your core belief system. Naturally she took him back and lifted the restraining order.
I was the lucky one. He left me. I would have never left again. It is simply not what you do. He was my husband.
prose & portrait created in 2008’ish for a photography assignment, self expression through a personal portrait.This was created within some of the worst times in our marriage