Claiming My Calm

It started like this:

I stepped out of the genetic enhancement module and was all like a combination of:

MC Lyte: Serious orator and rhymes-buster (Courtesy:

She-Hulk, SMASH! (Courtesy:

Ali: Bravado, personified (Courtesy:

I felt good about telling my story, and was grateful for the chance to join the donkey ranks here. The genetic enhancement module will do that.

The feeling lasted for about three minutes. Not the gratefulness part–that stayed. It was the feeling good part that took a hike, so then I was like, nah.

But here we are because I got myself together and claimed my calm.

This is what happened: about a year ago I woke up with a grunt, having swung a roundhouse right in the dream from which I had just surfaced. In the dream I had been arguing with my first husband (usually referred to distantly as “my son’s dad”–there is power in taking away someone’s name; sad but true…) and he had threatened me. I swelled up like She-Hulk, busted some logic like MC Lyte, and landed that bolo punch like Ali. He didn’t know what hit him. I was the champ, like all “Down Goes Frasier!” understand? I had him on the dream-ropes but threw the hook in real life. I woke up sweaty. It was the most satisfying dream I’d ever had about him.

Did I mention he’s dead? Yeah.

Happened in 1999, two weeks before my son’s fourth birthday. I had gotten up to use the bathroom; when I came back to bed, he slung his arm across me and I flinched. Hard. I had reached a point that I didn’t want him touching me. He felt it and moved, for once understanding (sort of, I guess) that I had no interest in being intimate (Really? After such charming foreplay?). A few moments later his arm landed against me hard and he made a weird noise. “What?!?” I said, which garnered no response. I flipped on the light and saw some nightmarish stuff. He’d just had a massive heart attack. I called 911, ran downstairs to open the front door, ran back upstairs, and gave a semblance of CPR. I could tell you about the paramedics, the sound of them working on him, my drive to the hospital after, but I won’t. Suffice it to say he didn’t make it.

Before you go whipping out your sympathy e-cards, did I mention that he was hella abusive? Yeah.

I was the cover-up queen, no small feat since I’d stopped wearing make-up in high school. I could fix my bent glasses, unswell a jaw, and stop a busted lip from bleeding all in less time than it took you to read that sentence.

He’d hit me if there was no “extra money” (read: if I wouldn’t give over the rent) for his occasional drug use.

He’d hit me if I didn’t get home from work fast enough.

When we only had one car, he’d hit me if I wasn’t there at the time he indicated to pick him up. Never mind that my shift ran until the same time as his (and. I. had. to. drive. there. in. city. traffic.). He solved that problem by deciding to drive himself, which left me to walk the nine city blocks with my in-the-stroller son every day. The most awesome time was when a big snowstorm hit the northeast: his job closed before mine so he went home and went to sleep; I pushed my son home those nine blocks through the blizzard because 1) I had no bus fare and 2) the storm was so bad they weren’t running anyway.

He’d threaten to leave me (huzzah! Right?) and take my son (um, nah). I could tell you how he treated his other kids (loved and cared for them, but had never married any of the moms though), how at first he told me he wasn’t coming into the delivery room to see my (our–I was the only one he married) baby being born (by C-section because my water broke at 29 weeks) because he hadn’t been there for the others, how he emotionally denied having a special needs son and never did much parental care (like changing, feeding, clothes-washing) because it was woman’s work, but I won’t.

Cast your best, biggest, shiniest stone: I wasn’t taking the chance (however distant or hard to believe, especially since I was the one being pounded on, right?) of losing my son, so I took the licks instead.

He had a big family. I had a small one. I was afraid to go to either of them. Yeah–I stubbornly tried to live out the screwed up marriage ideal that was put in front of us–in church (the one he picked for us), by some of his relatives (who were older and in my eyes wiser, or at least more experienced. Not. Many of them were living in their own special hell), and silently by my little clan.

But in the end, I was set free.

I could tell you about the two weird pseudo-flings I had the year after he died, but I won’t.

I will tell you that I had nightmares about him–coming back from the dead, not really being dead, trying to embezzle money because I’d remarried, beating on me–for about 13 years, off and on.

Until I had that dream where I threw the real-world punch in my sleep. That was last year. Haven’t had a single dream about him since.

What might have happened was that I took a trippy astral travel and my She-Hulk yin whooped his other-side yang.

Or not. It was more like I finally just accepted and owned my calm.

Despite all the maddening weirdness that life continues to throw, I am in a fantastically good place. If I could dance, I wouldn’t just dance. I’d futterwacken:

But I can’t, so I don’t. Instead, I live life to the fullest. I’ve grown old and wise enough to speak my mind and not take anymore crap. I can finally wear my big girl drawers proudly.

For that, and for surviving, and for love, and for you, I am thankful.


  1. I really enjoyed reading this. I know that sounds awful, cause the story is heart breaking, but there’s so much energy, power and courage in your words that it just lifted me up. It’s good to know that there are other fighters out there, that refuse to give up!

    Stand tall, be proud. You’ve earned it.

    1. By the way, if you’d like to carry your inspiring words further, you’re more than welcome to guest post on my blog.

      1. Thanks so much, Daan! Let me know when and where 😉 my email is starvingactivist[dot]gmail[dot]com.

  2. AR, I knew some of your past from bits you’d dropped in comments here and there, but wow. I’m glad you are now in a good place. I’m sorry it took so long for you to get there. It took me a long time to get past what I endured, but not quite that long.

    1. Thanks, twindaddy; it is a terrible thing to have your innocence crushed, but to feel the sun on your spirit as you climb back up out of the pit is a good thing, even though it is a dangerous and uncomfortable climb sometimes…

      1. It is a long, arduous climb, but well worth the effort.

        1. Amen! Staying at the bottom of that pit is deadly (she says with authority; I could have been sold to the circus sideshow–“come see the human pit viper”)…

          1. And the peanuts are nasty….

            1. Hahaha!!! 😀

  3. Reblogged this on One Starving Activist and commented:

    I was honored to join the good folks over at Deliberate Donkey for this post.

  4. […] Claiming My Calm. […]

  5. Love this. I’m sorry you went through that, but oh, that dream must have been satisfying. 🙂

    1. Hideously so, but the waking and not having more dreams was the perfect frosting on that cake…

      1. It’s an awful thing sharing a bed with a monster.

        1. Is it ever! I think that’s why I sleep so much now–trying to catch up from years of only half-sleeping (between all this rot and motherhood, who sleeps?!)…

  6. You told your story incredibly well, and I’m truly sorry you went through such horrible abuse and watching him die. I’m however thrilled that you’ve found some freedom. I had a dream similar once where I got to yell and scream at the father about his abuse and all he did to me and he had to just stand there and not say a thing…(not like the father he would talk and talk and twist things) It was one of the best dreams I ever had and I hope for more!
    I’m glad you had that dream! Take care of you xo

    1. Thank you so much and I pray for freedom for all of us!

  7. You’re so strong hun. Hugs! I’m glad you are so free now.

    1. Thank you so much, NQAlice; it has been an ordeal to say the least 😯

  8. Every day that passes is a step further away from that past. I’m pleased for you, that you have your calm, and that you’ve won your freedom. I think that’s the worst thing, when your opressor turns up even in your dreams.

    1. So first, let me say that I lovelovelove your name, which includes three of my all-time favorite items (faith, hope, and of course the ultimate wonderful item–chocolate!!).

      You are right; I feel like I won my freedom. Such abuse is so like slavery (which may be the next thing I write about on this topic). And you know you are dealing with a PSTD-like response when you replay or expand on those themes in your dreams…

      Thanks for stopping in to read 🙂

  9. […] Yeah, that’s how it went down. If you are interested in more about this story, visit my guest post here. […]

  10. […] whole thing started after I wrote a post over at Deliberate Donkey; one person who left a comment mentioned that she was glad that I was free from my abuser, which […]

  11. […] can if you choose read more about that story here (and be on the lookout for a forthcoming post related to this one over there […]

  12. […] won’t go into the whole abuse thing; I mentioned it here. This secret is about somebody totally […]

  13. […] attack. Yeah, it was a terrible time. I’ve written about it and him a few times over at the Deliberate Donkey and Behind the Mask of Abuse blogs and won’t give any additional time to that. If […]

  14. […] This post originally appeared June 6 […]

speak loudly, donkeys are sleeping

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