I wrote the following letters in the aftermath of a physical altercation between my boyfriend and I. What does one do when one cares for and loves someone and yet hurts them in such a painful way? I always wondered why adults did these things and now I am that person. How many times can one say sorry? How many times can one make the same mistake before changing?
These letters are raw- I wrote them only hours after it happened. And I didn’t hold anything back. It all flowed out of me, uninterrupted.
I feel fucking sick to my stomach. All my guts are twisted into knots, like the muscles in my arms, still vibrating from the punches I hurled at you. It feels like I’ve hit a funny bone in both my arms and they’re vibrating, reverberating that sick, ticklish, tingly, icky feeling all throughout. The adrenaline is still coursing through my veins, a drug in my system.
My shoulders droop with shame. I want to hide. How many times can a person say I am sorry? How many times can one make wrong again and again and again. I don’t know how to make this right other than to escape. Run away. Say goodbye to yet another person. Leave before I am left behind. The story I’ve told myself all these years. I came along with you on this Tantra Banter journey because I am displaced, estranged, and on the fringe. I have nothing left to burn. Just myself. I could immolate right now into a tower of flames.
The right side of my fist is aching where I pounded your face, your beautiful face, with it. Rained down on you all my hatred, resentment, and anger at the world. I am nauseous when I think of the way I punched and slapped you, relentless in my need to destroy, as I turned you into The Thing that’s hurt me throughout all my life. You became the reason I hurt for so long. You took on the faces of all the people I’ve been blaming for hurting me – my parents, my siblings, strangers on the street, classmates, coworkers, professors, teachers, acquaintances, all the people who I blamed for my being in this world. On your shoulders, I rained down my fists, punching, kicking, and screaming, utterly broken and desperate to survive.
I was in a whirlwind of torment and desperation. I hated you. I hated you so much. I blamed you for everything. I looked at you with anguish. You are not safe with me. Do you hear me? You are not safe with me. I am a danger. (Google is suggesting an autocorrect of “a danger” to “in danger”. Isn’t that funny? Maybe I am in danger. Maybe that is the correct change. Maybe I am in danger? Could it be that in these moments I am, in fact, in danger?)
I don’t know who I am anymore. Do you get it? I DON’T KNOW WHO I AM!!! I don’t know whose face was twisted in the mirror. Lips pulled back in a garish grimace, eyes scrunched up into beady daggers, face flushed, red, and sweating, heaving heavy sobs, and not taking a breath. And when you forced me to look, I couldn’t. I knew who I would see and I was so afraid of it. And when I looked, for just a second, when I took that glance, do you know who I saw?
I saw the face of a child. Do you ever wonder what I was like when I was a kid? That was me 75% of my teenage life. And do you know what teenage me did after these fights? I ran up to my room, closed the door, and hid under the covers all day. Just silent, breathing, heavy sobbing, hating herself, her family, her life, wishing and willing for a different life, and dwelling in the pain and torment.
Who is this me? Who is this woman who hates with such gravity? Who is this woman who abuses the one who loves her? Who takes the love and twists it into hatred? Who is this woman who is a child wailing into herself with no one to hear her?
No one to comfort her. Just her under a heavy comforter, with her books. Her heavy sobbing heard from under the blanket where it’s hard to breathe in between gulps of air. Recreating her mother’s womb, a warm place, a sacred space, a place to hide where the air is doused in her tears, humid like the Pacific Northwest, all the fear and anger molecules a swarm of flies in the summertime buzzing around her hot and heaving body.
If I were you I would leave. One of us has to leave. If you stay with me, it will reinforce this behavior. This hitting, punching, kicking, and screaming will continue. It has found a victim who will tolerate it, someone who will “work with me”. It will only end with you leaving me or I leaving you and this sinister shadow that lives with me would never leave. It has me believe time and time again that I will change. That I will learn and grow. That I will cease the disruption. That I will be a mindfulness master. But this is all smoke and mirrors to keep me loose and easy. To keep both me and you in its trap.
Who am I? Who is this girl who is demure and sickly polite to strangers while beating her boyfriend black and blue behind closed doors? Who is this girl who makes promises and breaks them with a sinister smile? Who is this girl who swirls through life a tornado of torment and disease? Get far, far away from me! YOU DON’T WANT ME AROUND! Don’t you get it? Don’t you see? Everyone has learned this lesson but you! You can’t help me! You shouldn’t even try! This is my burden and my cross to bear! Until the cost is too much to bear, is when I will learn. When I have been broken and hurt by my actions to a tipping point is when I will change. And likely it will be when you leave me. That is what it will take.
When the person who was willing to take this on with me. The person who truly saw me and still chose to love me anyway. The person who knew me better than anyone. When I lose that person is when I will change. When the pain outweighs the cost is when I will change. So, I beg you, just go. Don’t take me back. Leave me alone. This is the part of my journey I have to go alone. You love me too much, I will only hurt you because I know this. I know this, Jim, and I will use this against you.
I don’t know why I do this. I don’t know why I attack you like I wish I was able to all those years ago. All those years ago when I felt unable to, I am unleashing all of that onto you. I am reliving all of my traumas finally in a place where I am a big person and using you as my punching bag. I am throwing my weight around like I never could with my parents. I never could. Don’t you get it?
Today, I was a wild and seething animal pulsing with rage. My heart was pumping with hatred. It was a tornado I was in. I couldn’t stop. When you asked me to take a breath, when you asked me to look in the mirror, I was almost brought to my senses. And in that struggle with you behind me, dragging me into the bathroom and to the mirror, I almost stopped. But it was strange, there was almost a pause, that gap of space where I might be able to respond rather than react. You might have sensed it too. But I chose not to. I shook my head and roared my anger on.
Jim, I don’t know what is going on. I don’t know. I am confused. I am hurt. There is something wrong with me. I am unsafe.
Natalia suggested you apply kindness to the experience, like applying a salve or a balm onto a wound, or when someone is sick and you can just be with them. This is a letter to you from me.
What happened today?
I woke up this morning at 7:45 am. The sun was shining and the lake looked so peaceful through the beautiful windows. Though it was serene and beautiful outside, inside I was icky. I had been up all night, tossing and turning, and on my phone, wondering why Jim had told me he was going to meditate and hadn’t returned. Was I that deplorable to be around? He had come up late in the night or early morning. Maybe 3 AM? I’m not sure when but I remember curling around him like a cheese puff as I slowly drifted off to sleep.
In the morning, I felt stale and yellow. I gave myself a pep talk to be bright and cheery. I reminded myself that I can create my way of being! I was going to smile and jump up and down when I went downstairs! I was going to be so happy! As I slowly walked down the stairs, I continued this pep talk. I prepared myself to jump up and down when I saw Jim. That should do it!
When Jim saw me, he smiled and jumped up and down. I mirrored him. On the counter, were two full glasses of a beautiful, blood orange colored juice. Yum! My heart leapt. I was so excited to eat and taste something. We cheersed and I took a sip. And another sip. And another, and before I knew it, it was all gone. And well enjoyed.
Jim asked me, “How did you sleep?” I was so ready to share about my terrible night. I was upset with him. “Terrible, “ I replied with stern conviction. Underneath it all, lay blame. “Your fault,” the voice whispered. I watched as his face dropped and furrowed. I had said something wrong. Why shouldn’t I be able to express myself honestly? Continuing on I said, “I still feel funny about yesterday. I was up all night, tossing and turning, because you never came back to bed.” I saw his face harden and steel itself and from there, there was no turning back.
He told me it was my responsibility to come and get him if I wanted to sleep next to him. If I had been unable to sleep, why not come wake him up? Inside, I told myself it was because it hadn’t been a big deal. He could feel free to sleep wherever he pleased. Who was i to wake him and tell him to come to bed when he had chosen to leave my side, abandon me, and sleep downstairs. In retrospect, I hadn’t given the experience the respect it deserved in terms of how much it affected me. I tried to play it cool to myself like I didn’t care, but clearly I did. I was unwilling to let go of the fact that I was so incredibly hurt by that.
Jim asked me, “What’s wrong?” And boy, that question set me off. A million reactions went through my head. What’s wrong? Nothing’s wrong! If he’s asking me what’s wrong, that implies there’s something wrong with me! I haven’t done anything wrong! All I did was answer his question honestly! I smiled, I jumped up and down! I thanked him for the juice! What the fuck did i do! He’s wrong! He’s wrong! He’s wrong! He’s wrong! I haven’t done anything wrong!
In the middle of our decent argument in the kitchen, Jim reminded me of our argument yesterday when we concluded that these are remnants of expectations from our parents of how to be. So could we just let each other be? I snapped back something nasty because i was right. Of course I was right and I wouldn’t back down. I was on a roll with my righteousness. I was a slave to it. I was chained to my master and would win at all costs. Once it had been determined that this was a fight to the death, that’s what it became.
I don’t even really remember how it escalated from there except that I was convinced I was in a fight for survival. Jim was the enemy and I needed to survive. Who needed to survive, Annette? Who? Who was in danger?
What would have happened if you took a breath and hugged Jim? It would have meant that I acquiesced and he won. It would mean that he was right to do what he did. You mean, it was right of him to have slept on the couch? No, it would mean that it was right of him to assume there was something wrong with me and there was nothing wrong with me! He started everything! I tried so hard to be okay! I smiled, I jumped, I even warned him that I don’t feel good right now. Why was he starting shit with me? I tried to avoid it all. I was raring for a fight. And when it showed up, I was ready to go. I felt it in my bones. When I awoke, I felt that I wasn’t okay. This is the sign, Annette – get to know it. Recognize it when you feel it. What was the feeling? The sense that something is not right. I felt like stone when I awoke. I felt hard and hardened. My face was dead and emotionless. My eyes were drooping and my soul was heavy. These are the signs.
In the middle of the fight, I shouted into Jim’s face, “You Fucking Cunt!” I wanted him to feel how I felt when he called me, “You Bitch!” He slapped me then. And I stepped into a ferocity uncalled for. That’s all it took. Some part of me was unleashed. The part that is waiting dormant. All the time with Jim. Why?
Because I don’t feel safe. He is going to hurt me.
I am a fraud.