October: Domestic Violence Awareness and a Presidential Collapse

We’re getting political, and raw, for an unusually personal post. I debated on where and how best to share this, and decided that Moonphase was born from the ashes of my demise and escape from domestic violence. Please read to hear my voice and thoughts on what I see in our nation right now.

I refuse to be silent one minute more. Image: Pexels

For some time I had intended to write an essay about all the ways our current administration reminded me of my years of living with a narcissistic abuser. I planned the essay, and even wrote a monstrous draft that was an unruly 3,000 words and fell short of capturing what I wanted to relate to my fellow Americans.

Then October came upon us, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month; and then came the presidential collapse—if we could call it that—when Donald Trump and First Lady Melania both tested positive for COVID-19 and the events that followed stirred a nation that was already over-stirred and weary from a strange and surreal trip that began in 2016.

In 2016, I was still with my ex-husband. I had been worn down by two difficult pregnancies, separation and isolation from my family and then, finally, even his family. I was without a car, without financial means, forbidden to work and told often how I was: fat, ugly, dumb, incapable, unlovable, and lucky that he loved me anyway. I was a bumbly bag of bones barely fit to be a mother and destined to be his—grab them by the pussy? He loved Trump and all he said. Trump was, after all, exactly the way the world should be for Alphas like my ex (as he described it).

Trump’s abusive, offensive, degrading spew reinforced and amplified the abuses I heard every day. Once he was elected, I watched the nation turn into an abused spouse: when lie after lie could be unraveled with a simple fact-check, the nation would sit with tight lips with blatant gaslighting subduing us all. See, it isn’t that you truly believe you’re wrong; you know, beyond a doubt with provable points that you are definitely right in whatever the matter is. But your abuser will say there were misunderstandings, you’re the one not thinking clearly, check your dumb head before you say something else stupid…

 

Does it sound familiar?

 

We have been gaslit into a pandemic that couldn’t be controlled because we were worn down, nationally, by leadership that made thinking with any clarified autonomy impossible. In the course of my short marriage and the relatively short while of a bumpy relationship prior to our marriage, I faced a tailspin from a poor single mom in her twenties struggling as an adjunct professor, to being a mother of three living estranged from everyone without access to a car and being denied a bathroom to the point I was forced to soil myself in front of my children.

My ex-husband had “quirks,” a self-declared diagnosis of OCD that I at first happily helped him through by following certain rules and protocols. But my kindness and compassion were my own downfall, as eventually this turned into a control tactic in which I must re-fold and re-do the laundry as punishment should a single piece of clean fabric touch the floor or brush against my chest. Or I must wash and re-wash my hands, and toss entire stocks of food or meals that were “contaminated” by something most people would not even consider.

I was subject to cavity checks to satisfy his OCD compulsions. On multiple occasions I was stripped naked to be showered and “decontaminated” if I were to leave the house the “wrong way.” I watched my dignity stripped entirely, and I saw my sense of self morph into something unrecognizable. There were more things, I could not begin to even tell you—and these things have no real bearing here. Just to point out that, when you are abused, eventually you lose sense of right and wrong and moral to a point it is mere survival and you’ll endure things that, perhaps, four years ago you would have never, ever tolerated in your wildest dreams.

When I escaped, I worried for him. I worried he would not be able to fill out all these forms, and worried if he would he understand the police forms and things I was filling out. It was insane. I was worried for my abuser. You can love someone who has hurt you. You can feel indebted to someone who has hurt you. You can feel scared and ashamed for not worrying about your abuser.

And that right there is what called me to write this today, as the President recovers from COVID-19 and baffles us all with disregard for hygiene and quarantine to limit his spread of the virus that is killing Americans in droves. Because—you can be abused and beaten down and mangled beyond recognition and still have that unbreakable spirit that calls you to kindness and compassion. You can still worry and care for a President that has done so many things that are wrong and inexcusable—and certainly, we can have mixed feelings about his health and recovery and the way he is carrying on at the expense of others’ health amid a pandemic.

It is okay to have a melting pot of emotions during a presidency like this. But if you think the president is for you at the end of the day, I’d point out many abused spouses have said the exact same thing after their abuser has done unspeakable things and ended with, “You’re a despicable human being. No one else could ever love you, but you’re lucky I still do.”

I realize this will not change hearts or waiver opinions. But I lost my voice for too many years to sit tight lipped while another narcissistic abuser uses his power to belittle and hurt others. I have thought, for four years, that this nation is at the hands of an abuser and our collective Stockholm syndrome is going to anesthetize us into a complacent hum of subservience. I believe it has, but I hope that as the hum gives way to discord, that we might find the strength to feel the ground beneath us and walk right out the door into a brave new world with better, kinder, more human leadership.

Moonphase Creative: Fam Edition

Last week the world sent kids back to school without leaving the house. I say world, but I mean our little house–as well as many other homes around certain districts in our city and surrounding US. It was a huge deal; educators had to scramble to develop some kind of e-learning based strategy while facing the exhausting, scary, stressful pandemic that still grips us all.

 

Family First, Work Second

Putting family first and work second has been really hard for me to do, honestly, and I want to say that sounds awful–but it isn’t. In fact, all of us probably have a hard time shifting our priorities and reframing our world to fit a new normal that isn’t normal at all. I miss quiet mornings after my older three have left, and it feel less restful and more stressful a lot of the time. But I’ve decided to remind myself that if I can successfully put the kids before my own work, there will be more time left for my personal work goals after everyone is on task, regulated.

20190511_0945241005374119701154186.jpg
Family: this was not even a year ago, but yet it feels like a lifetime when they change so fast.

Learning Strategies

As I shape learning around the online curriculum put forth by the teachers and school district, I try to incorporate learning strategies for myself. I’m as much of a learner in this situation as they are. I’m constantly figuring out how to structure the day so everyone gets the time and attention that they need.

I also see so much of myself in all my kids in the ways they learn, the ways they get frustrated with hard concepts, and the ways they devise coping and learning strategies. If nothing else, that has caused me to have a better sense of empathy and also, I have to laugh at these tiny mirrors of myself all over the house.

 

Language Arts

Since I’m a writer, this is the subject I get most passionate about–but most frustrated with when I see sloppy efforts from the very people that took up real estate in my own body for nine months. At the end of the day, though, we’ve been embracing the journey together and I’m hopeful my middle schooler, especially, will exit this strange period of homeschooling with a better sense of paragraph and essay structure than she had before our homebound time began.

Art Lessons

And since I’m an artist, of course, art lessons are the absolute best part of the day (and please check out the Artful Parent for so many wonderful ideas!!!). So far, we’ve explored paint and composition. We took found objects (rocks, buttons, some destructed dead flowers) and played with the idea of composition on some plain white Bristol paper. It was fun to make moveable art that wasn’t permanent. My five year old asked where the glue was and she seemed genuinely shocked that our art was not, in fact, meant to stay on the paper.

We took pictures, but otherwise it was purely an experiment in tactile joy and an experiential delight. I found it freeing, too, to not have yet another “masterpiece” to store somewhere (or, really, throw away without being found out by the kids).

Other Subjects

We tackle the other subjects with the help of Pinterest, IXL, and the lessons we see in the world on a daily basis. It won’t be easy, but I have found the more I give to them, the more I get back. We can’t pour from an empty cup, but sometimes I am too much of the mindset that I need to work or meet a goal before I have time for lessons or games.

floating
Excuse the overflowing trash..I did empty that right after the sink or float experiment!

I hope I can remember to be a lifelong learning right next to them. I hope I can set aside my emails and work goals long enough to really enjoy a round of Slap Jack and Go Fish. I hope I can genuinely let go of my To-Do list to completely fall into a lesson in composition and an experiment in science with my kids.

If you’re in the same boat, let us know how it’s going in the comments! I’m letting go and leaning in, and I hope you can, too. Be kind–these days are long while the years are short, and we’re all in this together.

angi-00492742912830494283137.jpg
Family Edition: and a reminder we need to get photos again, as I was pregnant with baby H here!

 

Until next time,

Angi