Friday, May 29, 2015

Our Story (13): The Challenge Of Starting Over

"Starting over can be challenging, but also it can be a great opportunity to do things differently."
- Catherine Pulsifer -

(continuing from last time... )

The single mom years. My gosh how I enjoyed them. Sure they were difficult and exhausting and even lonely at times, but they were also a period of tremendous growth. The terrific counseling sessions with ‘D’ gave me clarity and healing. The books she recommended and some of the ones I discovered on my own gave me understanding. The spiritual journey I embarked upon gave me self-discovery and inner peace. The amazing people I met along the way, some of them single moms with their own inspirational and heartbreaking stories, gave me hope. And my own fierce determination to be happy gave me the ability to move forward.

It would take time, a long time, to shed all the intricate layers of emotional trauma and disassociate from my past. But that journey had to start somewhere. For me, it began during those single mom years. And even though the wounds were still raw and the sordid memories were still vivid, I pushed ahead. One day at a time. I had regained control of my life and discovered an inner strength and resilience that had been buried deep inside me. I had a vision of the type of person I would like to become and the type of future I would like to have.
“Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the
happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it.”

- Andy Rooney -

Was any of it easy? Absolutely not. There is nothing easy about coming out of the fog and learning to fly again with broken wings. There is nothing easy about accepting what has happened and trying to reassemble the pieces of your broken life. There is nothing easy about rebuilding your self-esteem that has been shattered. There is nothing easy about getting your abuser’s voice out of your head and reminding yourself that you were the victim. That you deserve better. That you are worthy of respect and kindness and love. There is nothing easy about getting back up on those days when your legs give out beneath you. Because you’re exhausted and disillusioned. There is nothing easy about trying to remain optimistic about the future when you are feeling numb and dispirited in the present. And most of all, there is nothing easy about learning to trust again. Because everyone after that becomes suspect.

At the start of this journey of healing and growth and new beginnings, I was sure that I would never – could never – have faith in anyone again. I put on protective armour after I was free from my ex and built a fortress around my heart to protect it. I swore up and down that I would never EVER marry again or be in a committed relationship. And for a long while I had absolutely no interest in meeting someone new. But the eternal optimist in me could not be ignored and the hopeless romantic that I am, the one who believes in soul mates, could not be denied, and I began to be curious...even if only slightly...about what was out there. Who was out there. And eventually - with apprehension and caution - I reached out to the world. And began to date.

To be continued... (click here)

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Cuba: Havana

“Cuba is such a beautiful country, and everywhere you go, there’s music and people dancing – especially in Havana.”
- Julia Sawalha -

Below are some images taken in Havana, Cuba’s capital; the highlight of our trip. Please excuse the quality. They were taken hastily because we were pressed for time, and they were shot with a point and shoot camera. Nonetheless, it'll give you a small glimpse of this amazing city. So, away we go with many photos and very few words.

One of the most interesting sightings is all the old cars that are in mint condition. What a treat.

Havana is the largest city in the Caribbean, and one of the most culturally rich in the world. It was founded by the Spanish in the 1500's and has a very fascinating history.

This colourful capital is known for the Spanish colonial architecture of its Old Havana core, which we had an opportunity to visit.

The Catedral de San Cristobal, Havana Vieja (Old Havana).

Inside the popular cathedral.

Many of the old buildings have undergone restoration and they are spectacular.

When you walk through Havana, you feel as if you've gone back in time. It is unlike any other area in the Caribbean.

You can spend an entire week in this city and still not have enough time to fully explore and appreciate everything it has to offer.

Taking a selfie with (a young) Che Guevara. Images of him and Fidel Castro are everywhere. Everywhere.

I can’t stress enough the absolute need to spend some time in Havana if you ever find yourself in Cuba. Only then will you feel like you’ve truly visited this beautiful country.

Have a lovely day, friends.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Kick Back And Relax

Literally, in this rabbit’s case.

I spotted this cute and amusing sight on one of our recent neighbourhood walks. This little critter didn’t seem to have a care in the world. I didn’t stick around to find out but I imagined that if a dog walked by, those little legs would be working overtime as idle bunny hightailed it out of there!

Have a lovely Tuesday, blogging pals.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Chuckles and Chortles

Happy Monday, everyone. Did you all have a nice weekend? I certainly hope so. We attended a wedding in our hometown on Saturday for the daughter of a very old friend of mine. She was a beautiful bride and it was a lovely time. I also got to see people I hadn’t seen in years, some of which I went to high school with. And here we are now middle-aged. Time sure flies!

Let’s get to some humour now, shall we?

Wishing you all a wonderful day.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Our Story (12): Clarity & Healing

“Have you ever noticed that people sometimes quit a job soon after returning from a vacation? We all have a higher tolerance for frustrating or unhealthy situations in our lives when they are constant, but when we get a little time away and then come back, that taste of freedom changes our perspective. What had been a dull ache turns into a sharp pain and becomes unbearable.” 
- Lundy Bancroft (Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men) -

(continuing from last time...)

Time passed and life went on, as it always does. I was working full time and raising two children that I had full custody of as a single mom. And as difficult as it was some days, I was enjoying that period tremendously. I made new friends, cherished my independence, began a journey of spiritual exploration, and the intricate mess inside my brain from being in such a toxic relationship for so long began to clear. And that’s when the trouble started.

Eighteen months after the police incident with my ex, I began to feel like a ton of bricks was sitting on my chest, pressing against my heart. I had trouble breathing and concentrating, lost my appetite and barely got any sleep. Years and years worth of terrible experiences with my ex played over and over again in my head and I found myself asking many questions and trying to understand it all. Why did he do that? Why did I let it happen? Why didn’t I see the signs?

This went on for several weeks and it began to take a toll on me physically, emotionally and mentally, so I called the health clinic located near my home and asked if I could please make an appointment to see a counselor. When asked for what reason, I explained how I felt and was told that it sounded like grief. Grief? But we were in the second year of separation. Shouldn't I be over all that by now? Not necessarily, I was told. Sometimes people feel worse in year two because the initial numbness, which typically serves as a protective barrier, has worn off and the full intensity of emotions is finally experienced.

A week or two later, I found myself sitting across from a female counselor around my age at the time (let’s call her ‘D’) with the nicest smile and most sensitive eyes. She asked me a few preliminary questions and then encouraged me to simply tell her what’s on my mind. Initially, I intended to just share what I’d been feeling for the past little while, but there was something so comforting about being with her that I started from way, way back; all the way to the beginning when I first met my ex.

I told her things I’d never told anyone, shared with her the most difficult times and walked her through my story. All the way to the last few months when my ex wanted to divorce but wouldn't leave, and to the last day of the cruelest and most vicious treatment I’d ever been subjected to. And I recited everything quite calmly, clinically. No emotion. No tears. Not even a sigh. Until I reached the question that had been plaguing me for what seemed like forever. I looked ‘D’ in the eyes and started to ask “How can anyone treat another human being like that...” but didn't finish. Because I fell apart. Days and weeks and months and years of pain had finally caught up with me; emotions that I had bottled up and never dealt with surfaced. The tears that I had pushed away for years exploded from me and I couldn't say a word as I struggled to breathe.

My sudden emotional collapse caught ‘D’ by surprise and she frantically searched her office for tissues. When she discovered she had none, she jumped to her feet and ran out the door and down the corridor to the bathroom to bring me some toilet paper, all the while calling out “I'll be right back! It’s okay. It’s okay. Just hold on.” When she returned, she handed me the paper and waited patiently as I struggled to regain my composure. When I finally began to calm down, she smiled at me. I laughed nervously and apologized for my breakdown. “Don’t be silly.” She said. “Sometimes we need a good cry”. Then she asked if I’d like to finish my question. I did.

How can anyone treat another human being like that and feel absolutely no remorse?” I asked.

She sighed, leaned forward and said to me “My dear girl, you haven’t even begun to understand just how much emotional and mental abuse you've had to endure.” This time, I believed it. And with that acceptance, the healing began. Every two weeks I met with ‘D’ and she literally changed my life. Till this day I say that I owe my emotional and psychological healing to this amazing woman. As time went on, the mind games, emotional blackmail, psychological torment and abusive cycle I’d lived for years were completely transparent. By meeting with her and reading the books she recommended, I began to understand everything. And with that understanding came emotional and mental liberation.

During that period, I came face to face with yet another manipulative incident with my ex (which is much too long to explain, and really, why bother), and I discovered that for the first time since I’d met him, I saw his mind games for what they are and I could detect his bullshit a mile away. The mental fog was gone.

As I sat and watched my children playing in the park I took them to immediately after that, my entire relationship with him flashed through my mind like a movie and I saw every toxic moment clearly. How he’d played his game. How I’d fallen victim. Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh...I see. I see it. I see it. I. See. It. All. Now. And I found myself thinking “No one should ever treat someone like this. And no one should allow themselves to be treated this way.” I headed home that day with a newfound strength and perspective, and later that week I contacted a lawyer, drew up divorce papers that were long overdue and had my ex served. I was finally free and a new path opened up that would eventually lead me to cross paths with the most amazing man in the world.

To be continued... (click here)

(For those of you who are wondering from the last post if I dropped the charges, I did. I had a few months to think about it and decided it was the right thing to do. Had I gone through with the court case and he’d gotten a record, his employment and maybe his entire career would have been jeopardized. And as much as I felt he deserved it, it just didn't seem right. In any case, he never crossed that boundary again. Perhaps he realized that I would take action if necessary.)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Cuba: The People

“For centuries, Cuba's greatest resource has been its people.”
- Pico Iyer -

Cuba is wonderfully diverse; a multi-ethnic country that is home to over 11,000,000 people of mixed heritage.

Cubans are very hospitable. They are warm and talkative and enthusiastic and remarkably friendly with tourists.

Because they are not slaves to technological gadgets like smartphones and computers, the people spend a lot of their time outdoors socializing and enjoying their surroundings.

So full of life, you’d be hard pressed to run across a Cuban who isn’t passionate about the arts, particularly playing music and dancing.

They are extremely patriotic, love their country and are very proud of their health and education systems, both of which are completely free.

Our trip was certainly made memorable by the welcoming Cubans we met along the way in their beautiful country.

Hanging out at the Malecón (the pier); one of Havana's most cherished attractions.

Wishing you all a fantastic day ahead!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Question Of The Day

Considering I married a clown, I’d have to say it’s a comedy.

I can’t leave him alone for a minute!

What about you?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


I was playing peek-a-boo in the garden yesterday with this furry critter:

His name is Gordie. Gordie the groundhog. And he lives under our shed. He hangs around the garden and eats some of my plants. But I love him, anyways. Yesterday I followed him home and stood on the side and snapped photos every time he stuck his head out thinking I was gone. So much fun. For me. For him? Not so much. Poor bugger.

How was your day yesterday?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Chuckles and Chortles

Happy Monday, my friends. How was your weekend? Ours is still going on because it’s a holiday today in Canada, and a lot of people are enjoying an extra day off. It’s gorgeous outside and I’m planning to spend the day in the garden surrounded by sights like this:

I just love this time of year!

You know what else I love? Humour. So here’s some for you.

Wishing you all a beautiful day ahead.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Our Story (11): Abused? No Way, Not Me

“Most abusive men put on a charming face for their communities, creating a sharp split
between their public image and their private treatment of women and children.”
- Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men -

(continuing from last time...)

When I went to my parent’s home to pick up my baby girl after school the next day, I discovered that my ex had gone to their place after he’d been released from jail that morning. Of course, he downplayed the story making it sound like we’d just had a little argument and I had overreacted. My parents were shocked that police had been called and he’d been taken into custody, and because they had no idea what had been going on in our home for years, they said to me “Well, you know how he is. He has a bit of a temper but he’s not a bad guy. And if he gets a record for this, it may cost him his job.” The last part was the driving force for his visit to them. Fear of losing his high-status position.

In all the years I’d been with my ex, not they or anyone else knew my story. I kept it a secret. Why? Because I wondered what was wrong with me. Because I was convinced that I was usually at fault, if not always. And mostly, because I didn’t think anyone would believe me. My ex was very well-liked by friends and colleagues. His public image was impeccable. He had a high-paying, prominent position in a large company. He was sociable and charming and fun and ambitious and generous with time and money. He was everyone’s friend. Except mine. And if I ever hinted at a grievance, I was obviously overreacting. Hypersensitive. Too hard on him. Impatient. Demanding. And obviously not very appreciative of this great guy I was lucky enough to have. As if he was doing me a favour by being with me.

So I didn't fault my parents for being charmed by him. And I certainly understood how they could be manipulated emotionally by his smooth talking. After all, I’d lived that for years and was still living it. All they’d ever known was that occasionally we argued, nothing more. And didn't every couple do that, anyways?

And the guilt-inducing began with my parents and then moved to my older daughter who came home after that first weekend confused and upset that daddy was so sad because mommy was being mean to him. And that daddy might not be able to see her the next weekend if no one drove him there. Because he didn't have a car, mommy took it away. Mommy was the bad one, daddy was a victim.

For two weeks I stood my ground, fighting what I’d been conditioned to believe for years: that I was the one with the problem. That I made him treat me this way. Brought all this trouble onto myself. That I was selfish and ungrateful, and worst of all, unbalanced. Because no one had ever told me otherwise. Because the idea of emotional abuse never occurred to me. And that is why in all the posts I've written so far, not once does the word abuse appear anywhere.

My girls gave me so much strength.
But all that was about to change when I went to the police station two weeks later to drop the charges. I was convinced that it must be me must be me must be me. I invited these troubles with my unreasonableness. And when I parked my car outside the station that day, I sat there for awhile feeling overwhelmed with guilt and despair and regret. Afraid to go inside. What would I tell them? They’d see right through me. My ex had probably told them all about what a terrible person I was. And now they knew the truth. It’s me it’s me it’s me.

When I finally got up the nerve to go inside, I couldn't look the police officer who came to the counter in the eye as I said to him “There was an incident at my home a couple of weeks ago and...well...I've thought about it. need to drop the charges. It was a mistake.”

I gave him the information needed and he walked to the back of the room where there were rows and rows of files. When he found what he was looking for, I watched him with my heart pounding in my chest as he read and read and read through the paperwork. Every now and then he’d glance over at me and then continue reading. He knows it’s me he knows it’s me he knows it’s me.

It felt like eternity until he finally put the file away and returned to the counter. And when he did, he said to me “I remember your husband very well. He was completely out of control when we brought him in. And it took a long time for him to calm down before we could speak to him. It was my partner who actually interviewed him.”

I know he was very upset.” I said, head bowed. “But I made him mad. I make him mad sometimes because I...I don’t always...cooperate. I'm...difficult to be with. I push his buttons.

At that, the officer leaned forward and said “Well, maybe he should get his buttons fixed.” My eyes filled with tears as he continued. “I've met many guys like this one. He is not a nice person. Nor is he a victim. He is a bully. Angry and aggressive. Entitled and demanding. Constantly blaming you and everyone else for his behaviour. Even when he breaks the law. It’s always your fault, no? He's pushed to these extremes, isn't he? And he wouldn't be this way if you behaved as you should, did what you were asked to, stopped talking I right?

I was crying by now. Nodding. Ohmygod...yes yes does he know all this?

Have you ever heard of emotional abuse?” He asked. I shook my head no. Not because I didn't know what it was but because it just couldn't be that. No no's impossible impossible impossible.

He reached underneath, pulled out a business card, placed it on the counter and slid it towards me. I didn't reach out for it right away. Instead, I looked up at him, finally made real eye contact and saw warmth and compassion, and best of all, understanding. He believes me he believes me he believes me.

Please call this lady and go see her. She will help you to understand everything better.” His voice matched his eyes. Kind and gentle and sympathetic. "You did nothing wrong. You are the victim. And you did the right thing when you had him arrested. Okay?"

Okay” I said and took the card. It was for a counselor.

By the way, you cannot drop the charges here. You can only do that when you go to court. In the meantime, make that appointment. Promise?


And I did go see her. And she did present the idea of emotional abuse to me. But I stopped the counseling after three sessions. Because my brain was still wired wrong and none of it made sense. I wasn't ready to accept that I’d been emotionally abused and manipulated and psychologically beaten down. No way would that happen to me. No way would I allow such a thing. No way no way no way no way.

I wasn’t ready to travel on the healthy path the police officer had pointed me towards when I met him because I was in denial. But his words continued to echo in my mind "You are the victim." Every day of the week. And when I finally began to understand - and accept - what that meant, a year and a half later, the denial was replaced by grief. The realization that sixteen years of my life had been spent this way sent me crashing so badly that I was in desperate need of help. That’s when I was finally ready to deal with the truth. And my journey of healing began.

To be continued... (click here)