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Painful Lessons from My Past

When I packed up and moved to Colombia I left abuse behind. I had enough of it in my life and I had enough of how it made me feel. I think that I almost felt that it was normal, as I was abused daily as a flight attendant when I worked. Many people are abusive in this world, although  they would never think of themselves that way. I started working as a flight attendant at the age of twenty and my job molded me into a person who accepted bad behavior as normal. I now know I allowed it to spill over into my personal relationships. When a passenger was rude and demanding, I had to accept it and hold my tongue. The customer was always right. Not a favorable way to grow into an adult

Abuse is insidious and can creep up in a relationship; it does not have to be your partner or spouse. It can show up in friendships, with siblings, work, and family. When it starts happening in your life, the natural reaction is to hide it from others and let the world see only the good times, especially in these days of social media. We see photos of everyone we know on the many social media sites. The photos usually  show good times, happiness and fun. I know, I only posted pictures of  happiness for many years in my second marriage. What I have discovered as I look back on my past is this; little events of questionable behavior lead to big events that ruin lives and destroy relationships. Abuse is not just physical, it is verbal and action oriented. By action oriented (besides the obvious physical abuse) I mean deliberately doing unkind things to another or allowing someone else to treat you badly without putting a stop to it. Usually the person doing this has learned this behavior. That is why generations of families continue repeating the same mistakes, and the cycle continues. If you can spot the signs then you can stop the succession. In my case it is too bad it took me so many years to realize that by accepting and allowing these behaviors, I perpetuated continuing this way of life to my children.

The first thing I would say about abuse is Do NOT let anyone invalidate you! If you see or feel something is wrong,  no one has power to negate that, ever. No one else has lived through your exact experiences. And so, no one else has the right to dictate or judge how you feel. Your feelings are important. Don’t let anyone lead you to believe otherwise, or make you feel small by demeaning you with words or actions. I lived many years allowing the family of my ex to do this to me and to my children as my ex would not stand up to them. Well you know what? I SHOULD have stood up to them right when it started. I have to bear responsibility for allowing it to continue. It was a thorn that stayed under the surface during my entire marriage. There were many times horrible things happened and I should have demanded the perpetrators leave my house and not wait for him to do it. I can’t tell you how many times my daughter was bullied and physically harmed by her step-cousin, all the while the family excused the act. I have always wanted to be the peacemaker, I regret that now. You can be peaceful, but  not wimpy, you should always stand up for what you know is right and correct those who are wrong. I would comfort my daughter and hold anger inside me. That anger still lies dormant, but I have found ways to let go. Writing it down validates my thoughts and helps me see things clearly now that I am out of the situation.

Do not stay in a relationship where you are not valued as number one! When I married for the second time I was quite active in the Catholic Church. One thing the priest emphasized in pre-marriage counseling was the husband and wife need to put each other before anything else, supporting each other’s decisions. My mother and father were always united when it came to my brother and I. If there was a disagreement about something we children never knew. As my children grew up they saw me as the disciplinarian and my husband as the friend who took away any punishment I had commenced. This ate away at my authority and respect, and thus implied I had less significance than him. It caused many problems over the years. If your partner does not support you and you do not support him, then it is time to move on. I wish I had left earlier than I did. I  say to myself now; communication isn’t just an important part of a relationship, it IS the relationship.

Don’t allow fear to keep you with anyone who is an abuser. You are not how others treat you. You are not the horrible things they have said or done to you. You are not the person that hears negative things and takes them to heart, making you question your own sanity. Don’t let anyone discourage you, make you feel self-doubt or try to control you because they want you to do what they think you should do. You are your own shining star! Show the world your star and ignore the negative. When I left my marriage it was this last act that caused it. I was being verbally abused by a drunk who had once again gone back on what the two of us had decided was the right path to take in a family crisis. He again said one thing and then turned around and did another. Words became heated, he came at me and choked me in front of my son, who was a young teen. I fear that he will always carry this image in his mind as he screamed “Mom don’t call the police!” I remember the hands leaving my neck and running to my car where I took photos of the marks. I left and never looked back. Now look where I am 6 years later! I’m starting my business and have reversed my life to become a positive role model to others. That weak woman I was, that woman who allowed herself to be bullied and abused is strong now. I will never again allow any person to abuse me or have someone in my life that I see abuses others. I ended a friendship this year because I saw abuse in a home where I had stayed. Abuse ruins lives,  I know it is not easy for people to pick themselves up and move forward like I have. This is my message to anyone in an abusive situation, seek help through an organization, family, church or synagogue. There are people who will listen and believe you. The abuser usually turns the story around and tries to make YOU look crazy, stand strong with your convictions and don’t worry about what others think, just get away!

Some people will refuse to accept that you are no longer who you used to be – that you’ve made mistakes in the past, learned from them, and moved beyond them. I found that many people did not realize that I had lived in such a difficult situation for years. I encountered many judgmental people I once thought of as friends. They treated me differently when I would go to a social occasion. Who knows what gossip they heard, or why they felt the need to judge me. Maybe they do not understand I have grown and moved on with my life leaving a past that was unhealthy. Do not help them by acknowledging their begrudging behavior. Let go of their negativity, find peace, and liberate yourself! Show them and others you are not that past! Show them you are living in the present and doing just fine! Show them your courage, your fortitude, your love for others. Show the people who have hurt you that you are better than that, show them you are not the person they incessantly said you were. Make your life a glowing example of courage. For all of you suffering silently in a situation that is slowly killing your spirit; you can change it. Just take it one day at a time.

My last thoughts are you have to forgive, no matter how hard it is. Not for them but for you! Let it go. They know what they did, they will think about it in their quiet moments, their own thoughts will be their tormentor. Let that be enough. Let them see you are not the same as them, that you have no need for revenge, just a need to move on and live your life the way it should be lived. I guarantee the respect others will give you will more than make up for the respect you lost for yourself when enduring a situation that you felt helpless in. I am proof of that. I have survived, I will continue to be a survivor.

 

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I dedicate this blog to my best friend Shannon, for without her I would not have made it to the place I am today.

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I have opened a Bed and Breakfast and you can book to come visit me in Colombia, the land of Magical Realism. http://www.villamigelita.com