The carpet felt fuzzy and warm, and I derived strange comfort from it as I lay there, unable to move, unwilling to try. I licked my lips and tasted my own blood, then closed my eyes. I disconnected from reality as I finally gave up my unsuccessful attempts to stop replaying his hurtful voice inside my head. “You’re worthless!” he said with disgust as he kicked me with all his strength and mercilessly walked away.
Before he’d pushed me fiercely to the ground, he’d hurled abuse at me by criticizing virtually every part of my body, tearing me apart with brutal words. I felt unclean as filthy rags. I felt ugly, undeserving. “He’s probably right,” I thought. I felt worthless not because I wasn’t worth anything, but because I’d lost all sense of worth.
“Destitute of worth, having no value, virtue, excellence, dignity, or the like,” is how Webster’s dictionary defined me. As I thought about Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” I realized I had given him consent—numerous times.
After years in this unhealthy, painful dynamic, dysfunctional submission had become my norm. I’d justify his behavior as related to his childhood issues or his stressful days at work. I told myself I could fix this, yet the more he became a king in my eyes, the more I deteriorated into a slave.
He interrupted my thoughts by shaking my body with his foot. I sobbed with pain and opened my eyes as he remorselessly called me a “faker.” Although thick black curtains in the apartment darkened the room, no amount of light, self-help books, or three-day seminars could give me more clarity than this rock bottom moment. I’d literally been “knocked into consciousness.” This was my first moment of awakening.
“To Be Awake Is To Be Alive” – Henry David Thoreau
This wake-up call was just the start of a long, long journey; a quest, if you will. Someone once said that the quality of your questions determines the quality of your life. And so I asked myself what had kept me stuck in a miserable, unfulfilled, abusive relationship where I was often assaulted, dismissed, ignored, belittled, and humiliated?
In my naiveté, I thought that if he recognized my love for him it would actually inspire him to become better. It didn’t help that he told me I was the only person he’d ever loved, said I taught him what love was and to be a man, and that I did make him a better person. When he promised me over and over again that he’d change, I believed him and gave him another chance.
Now I see how this man took advantage of that part of me that wanted to be a mother figure for him. Ironically, it was also my strong belief in my faith that allowed me to stay so long. Taught to be unconditionally loving, I assumed self-sacrifice was a positive attribute.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that I’d missed the real meaning of the second part of the equation about unconditional love—that I can be godly, loving, giving, self-sacrificing, and unconditional, but also deserve to receive these things as well; to be with someone who loves me back. I realized I was worthy of the loving relationship I desired: one involving mutual commitment, affection, appreciation, support, respect, freedom of expression, and mutual care.
Deepak Chopra was recently asked what steps he believes individuals can take to shift human consciousness. “No social transformation happens in the absence of personal transformation,” he replied. “Therefore, without worrying about other people, the questions to ask yourself are these: can I be the change I want to see in the world? What kind of world do I want to live in and how can I become an agent in that world for myself?”
Today, November 25th, has been designated by UN Women as the International Day For The Elimination of Violence Against Women, and as I write this, one in three women around the world experience physical, emotional, or sexual violence at some point in their lives.
Like me, you may feel a sense of helplessness to know you couldn’t possibly rid the world of this ill. However, I agree with Deepak that, when we transform our own lives and operate from a higher level of awareness, and learn the art of receiving, we not only experience more joy, balance, and success, but we can actually become a blessing to others, especially those in our care as moms.
There’s a Jewish Proverb that says: “What the Daughter Does, the Mother Did”
The moment I decided to take responsibility for my life, stop giving away my power, set healthy boundaries, and design the relationship I’d always longed for, was one of those defining moments of my life. It changed the way I live, the way I love, the way I show up, the way I teach, and, most importantly for me, the way I parent.
Armed with the knowledge that this vicious cycle could end with my torturous experience, I solidified my determination to find within those deeply buried golden nuggets of personal wisdom, excavate them, and use them to become the best role model for my daughters, and to impact the lives of other moms.
I am now thankful for my moment of awakening, because I recognize that it happened to teach me something. It was a magic mirror that reflected my weaknesses, strengths, core values, and deepest desires.
What can you do to end the cycle? Share your story, help a friend change hers, raise honorable men, and strong women… and, in the immortal words of Gandhi: BE the change you wish to see in the world.
How are you celebrating the International Day For The Elimination of Violence Against Women? I’m home with my loving husband, whom I know will never lift his voice or hands to hurt me, and with my confident, strong, happy daughters, who enjoy the gift of a mom who knows how to give and receive, like God intended her to.
PS- Happy Thanksgiving, my lovelies!