The light at the end of the tunnel

I sometimes like to lie on the grass outside my house and gaze up into the trees, watching the leaves moving in the breeze, observing any clouds floating by and listening to the sounds around me. It gives me breathing room on days that are often busy and involve too much looking at a laptop. Having my toes touching the grass and my skin feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin, regenerates part of my soul that can feel like it is wilting at times.

It was recently my “ex” wedding anniversary. I marked with great satisfaction that when I woke up in the morning, there was no feeling of dread. The anxiety and stress that had accompanied the date for years was absent. In the past, it had become a day of retribution. A day where criticism was bandied about like coins at a casino. If I planned something, I lacked spontaneity and couldn’t be romantic at the drop of a hat; if I left it to decide on the day what we felt like doing, it showed a lack of interest and investment in the relationship. Either way, it was wrong.

One year I suggested that we take it in turn each year to organise something for the day. That was met with derision. Among other things, it showed that I was not capable of thinking of ways to celebrate our relationship and was not willing to put an effort into the day. Not to mention that he was working a 9 to 5 at the time and I was only looking after our child, so should have an abundance of time to dedicate to making it a special occasion. It also was not a complete anniversary if it didn’t end in sex. When we got to the years where that didn’t happen, for whatever reason, invariably there was dissension.

The worst anniversary of them all was the year when one of my children broke a bone a few days before the day. We were away on a holiday when the accident happened and weren’t near a hospital which had a radiologist, so the bone was set by feel under sedation. I was incredibly stressed because my ex refused to leave and go home. He insisted that we stay the last two nights.

I didn’t sleep well on the night of the sedation. I was worried that my son would have an adverse reaction to the anaesthetic and kept waking up to check if he was breathing normally. In the morning I took him back to the hospital to be checked by the doctor at her request. She asked us to make sure that we were there by 7. I asked my ex to take our boy, but he refused on the grounds that it was too early in the morning. We had a long wait to see the doctor and then I got a message asking me to get some drinks from town before heading back out to the holiday place. While I was getting the drinks, my ex called to say that one of our other kids was vomiting and asked what he should do. I directed him to the medication that I had brought and said that I would be back as soon as I could.

When I arrived, my child was still vomiting. Apparently he had been asked to take the meds and refused. I explained to my child why he can’t be dehydrated and the fact that he couldn’t keep any liquids down could lead to this. Once he understood, he took them immediately. Understandably, he was tired and grumpy for the rest of the day. I again asked that we go home and was refused.

We drove home on the day of our anniversary. My sister-in-law had made comments about how we should be celebrating and how it should be romantic and, and, and. I was exhausted. I said to the ex that I was too tired from the holiday and looking after 2 sick kids to go out. I got a verbal barrage for expressing this. Again with my lack of interest in the relationship and what a terrible wife I was. I suggested that we wait one day, but this was not acceptable, as if it was not on the day, it was not good enough. I know that my ex was very competitive with his sister and the fact that she had expressed how she would observe the day had bearing on everything.

Having not been interested for years in being the organiser, the ex decided that he would do a surprise. Being very tired, I didn’t want a surprise. I wanted to be prepared for whatever it was. I took flak but stood my ground. In a fit of pique, he said that I should make arrangements to show my commitment. I said that all I wanted to do was go to a movie. He shouted at me all the way there in the car. I cried through the film and was desperate to go home and sleep. When we left, he said we had to go for coffee. It was 10:30pm by then and the only places open were bars. We drove around for 40 minutes looking for a place until I said we should call it a day.

The silence was loaded. I just knew that there was more to come. When we got back to the house, his sister, who was baby-sitting, said that she thought we would only be back much later. I explained that it was my fault as I was worn out. She left and I flopped into bed. Sure enough, within an hour, I was woken up by loud noises from his laptop. I asked him to turn down the movie that he had put on, as it had woken me and would no doubt wake up one of the kids. It was like I had given him his cue. He told me that he couldn’t sleep as I had ruined the entire evening. I hadn’t even bothered to do my “wifely duties” and it had left him frustrated. He said that I should learn from his sister who had such a strong marriage. (Yeah, right. She cheated.) He could only hope that other people had better relationships than him and I. In fact, it was likely that most other people did have better ones. And so it went on, ad inifinitum. I eventually got told off for not participating in the conversation. I was so numb. I could not think. I could not focus. I was desperate to get away, but had nowhere to go. I retreated within. Eventually he got to a point where I could roll over and pretend to sleep. I put a pillow over my head to block out the noise, so he turned the laptop up louder.

I slept in fits and starts the whole night. He watched movies until about 3am. I was expecting to get more verbal abuse, so lay as still as I could, not wanting to show when I was awake. Making sure that I kept my breathing steady and even, to not give myself away.

The next day I excused myself from an outing with him, the kids, his sister and her family. I said that I needed to work. After they left, I started sobbing. I felt so broken and alone. I cried so much I couldn’t stand anymore. I sat down on the kitchen floor, asking the powers that be why I deserved this and why I was alone without any comfort to be found. I sat there on the floor thinking that the only way out would be to die. I knew I had to leave the marriage and it seemed the only conceivable way. I was in the depths of despair with no vestige of light, no vestige of hope.

I called a friend, who didn’t answer but did eventually call me back. She talked me out of my plans. She was on the phone for 2 to 3 hours with me, doing her utmost to help me, both with the immediate problems at hand and what to do in the longer term. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t think that I would be here today.

And so, when I woke up this year on the day of the anniversary with no emotion attached to it, I felt joyful. I had finally turned a corner. Perhaps there is light at the end of the tunnel and perhaps it is not an oncoming train.

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