Like a Palm Tree
At a young age I was introduced to a life of infidelity. My parents went through a yearlong separation because my dad cheated. While I will not speak on that situation because it is simply not my story to tell, I will say that it shaped how I viewed men for the future. I will also say that my dad never stopped taking care of us, he just wasn’t present.
When I was 12 I met “the love of my life” he was cute, charming and NOT interested in me lol. He actually wanted to date my best friend at the time who wasn’t interested. He and I were good friends for a while and finally at age 15 we made it official. What can I say, I’m a persistent girl! He treated me like gold and we were inseparable for about 3 years. At age 18, my senior year of high school I found out I was pregnant with my first child. My world froze. I was devastated and confused. It was my senior year and while all my friends were receiving acceptance letters from colleges, I was deciding if I was going to keep a baby. I had no job, no real responsibilities and now I was literally carrying a tiny human in my womb. I was not ready and I was scared. I told my boyfriend and he was on board with whatever I decided (looking back I feel like this was a cop out, but I digress) needless to say I chose to keep my baby.
As I planned for prom, graduation, and the arrival of my baby, my boyfriend was out committing crimes that ultimately got him locked up just in time for my birth. I cried every day because I felt so alone. I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, 19 years after my mom gave birth to me. It was quite the birthday present. As she looked at me all bright eyed, not realizing her mom had nothing together and so much to figure out, I knew from that day I had to do what was needed to ensure she was taken care of.
When my baby girl was around 10 months old, her dad was released and we were finally able to begin our lives together, or so I thought. He was home for a few months, just long enough to get me pregnant again and then decided he wanted to be with another woman. Again, I was alone with an almost 2-year-old and 6 months pregnant. My life was in shambles. Even though he was out, he missed EVERYTHING. Every doctor’s appointment, every ultrasound, everything one should experience when their child’s mother is pregnant, but instead he was running the streets and with someone else. I was crushed and felt the world weighing heavy on my shoulders. Although, my parents were there every step of the way, I felt so alone and ashamed. I began having dark thoughts and the ONLY thing that kept me from ending it all was my unborn son. I knew he didn’t deserve to go out like that and my little girl needed her mother. So every morning I recited the Serenity Prayer asking God to give me the strength to carry on and He did.
On October 28th, 26 days after my 21st birthday and my daughter’s 2nd birthday, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was having contractions at work the day before, but I pushed through and at 3am, my mom took me to the ER, where I was admitted. My mom and I welcomed my baby boy into the world and soon after being released from the hospital, my ex was calling. Vulnerability kicked in, I was back under his trance; and we decided to make it work and be a family.
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde
While he was serving his sentence, I got us a place to stay so that when he returned home, he would in fact have a home. In the beginning, everything was great. We talked about life and what we wanted and how he would leave his life of crime alone. He also said that he would leave old friends alone that were a part of that life. That was until one night an old friend stopped by. I was furious because there was only one way for the friend to know where we lived. He had to have told him. I asked him to come into the kitchen out of ear shot of his friend and the company we already had and told him we had an agreement. He had been drinking so that conversation could have gone either way. Well it didn’t go in my favor. He grabbed me around my neck with both hands and while choking me said “Bitch, this is my house and I will have whoever I want over.” I was scared, confused, and disrespected. Everyone heard him and watched the exchange. The most shocking thing was that no one said anything, they just let it happen. That was the first of many physical altercations.
Over the next several years I endured more physical, mental, and emotional abuse. I was told almost every day that I was not worthy and no one wanted my “fat ass” except him. I felt lost, hurt, and disappointed. I had loved this man through it all, prison sentences, another woman, missed pregnancies, and now abuse. I was there when no one else was. I thought it would be us against the world but instead it was him against me. Enduring all of this while working full-time and raising my kids was exhausting. Yet, I stayed. I endured. I pushed through. Because as a black woman that is what you are taught to do. Never be too loud, never have too much attitude, watch your tone, be slow to speak and quick to listen. Obedience… From the outside looking in, people thought he was Prince Charming. He burst a blood vessel in my eye once, and the next day showed up to my job with an edible arrangement making everyone think he was the best thing since sliced bread, meanwhile I’d been suffering in silence all day.
The Short Lived 180…
One day I saw a short film on YouTube called “Girl dies and Goes to Hell” long story short it was basically a girl claiming to have died and visiting Hell. She was warned by God that when she returned, she needed to spread the word to the people so that they might change their evil ways to avoid damnation. Now, I am not sure I believe this to be true but the entire film gave me chills. I shared it with him and the next morning he was a completely different person. He asked me to go on a walk with him and I did. On that walk he told me that he wanted to change and that he was sorry. He wanted to do better and he would stop drinking. He also threw away his illegal gun which he was not allowed to even be around because of his past convictions. I was stunned, but hopeful my prayers had finally been answered.
At this point we agreed to stop having sex until we were officially married. He proposed to me on February 18th of 2012 and we were married on March 9th of 2012. Things progressed quickly and at first he stuck to his word but slowly I started seeing him fall back into old behaviors. We conceived our last baby in November and she was born on July 25th 2013. Our newfound solace was short lived though, things weren’t bad between us at this point but they weren’t good either.
I can’t even remember when the abuse started again but it did. He was back to drinking heavily and smoking weed. Some weekends he didn’t even come home from work, and on other occasions he would be so inebriated that even though he drove home “he didn’t have his house keys”, which by the way were on the same key ring. I can remember rushing downstairs to the constant ringing of the doorbell, trying to unlock the door before my kids were shocked awake. I remember running to the door unlocking it and then sprinting back upstairs to avoid any type of altercation that would have probably occurred with any engagement.
I lived in this turmoil and a constant state of shame for six and a half years. I stayed because I wanted my kids to have both of their parents. I wanted them to have what I had as a kid (with the exception of that one year I mentioned in the beginning) my parents have been married for 40 years and are still going strong. I didn’t want my kids to go without or feel unloved no matter how I was feeling or what I had to go through I didn’t want them to feel it.
It is so funny how one day things can just click, an epiphany happens and you just know that enough is finally enough.
We decided to take our kids to a crawfish festival and have some family time. I noticed I was being given dirty looks the entire time our kids were playing. I asked if something was wrong and he just kept looking at me with disgust. I tried my best to ignore him but after a couple of hours we decided to leave. We pulled up to a restaurant to grab dinner. We were quickly seated and while I was getting the kids seated and situated I could feel his eyes burning a hole in the side of my face with his glare. I got seated and once I did he looked me square in the eye and said “If I could kill you and get away with it, I would!” He had made crazy comments like this before but this felt different and he was sober. I couldn’t just pretend it was from him drinking. This time I felt it. I had to get out before he made good on his threats. I told him I no longer wanted to eat I just wanted to go home. We left and when we arrived home I put my babies in my car, started it, and locked them in. I knew I had to get a few items because I had to go to work in the morning. When I tried to enter our house, he had dead bolted the door. I went around to the back of the house to unlock the back door only to realize that he had placed a chair under the doorknob. I used my weight to push the door open but he was waiting on the other side. I pushed enough to get my body between the door and its frame. That was a mistake because he proceeded to slam the door against my body, until I finally fell inside to the floor. I tried to get up but before I could he grabbed me by my hair and drug me across the rug leaving carpet burns and bruises all over my arms and legs. Normally, I would fight back, even with being scared, I would always try to defend myself but this time, all I could think about was him killing me and my kids waiting for me to get in the car but never seeing me again. So I begged and pleaded for him to just let me get my stuff and I would leave. He let me go but as I was getting my stuff together, he was yelling. Telling me that this was his house and I didn’t run shit. I was okay with whatever he said as long as he stayed away from me. That was April of 2017, I left and never went back.
He tried and tried to get back into my good graces. Saying he would go to counseling but each time I would decline his advances he would get belligerent with me and resort to old ways instantly. It took us almost 2 years and an assault case to finalize our divorce. While things are still not perfect between us, as long as we stay out of each other’s way we tend to just kind of co-exist and I am beyond okay with that. He has remarried and so have I. We co-parent as best we can with limited communication, which is for the best.
I had to reprogram my brain from everything I thought about domestic violence/abuse. I had to stop rationalizing with myself that I had it better than women whose spouses broke their limbs or put them in the hospital. I always thought I was lucky since I only had to deal with “minor abuse,” but the truth is the physical wounds healed way quicker than the mental ones. If I am honest, those still have their fair share of scabs. I am nowhere near as healed as I would like to be but I am working towards it. I knew I was well on my journey to healing when I stopped seeking an apology for what I endured. True strength is shown when you have to forgive someone who has never been and probably will never be apologetic. Forgiving someone for your own sanity is the key to starting anew.
As you saw above my title reads Like a Palm Tree. I have always said that being a black woman is like being a palm tree. This means we are meant to bend but never break, we’re deeply rooted and we thrive by wrapping our roots around healthy soil. So that is my focus, my kids are my healthy soil, my wife is my healthy soil, and my family/friends (shout out to the III’s) are my healthy soil.
My prayer for sharing my testimony is that this reaches someone who truly needs it. Know that you are not alone in whatever battle you are currently fighting. Keep your faith, surround yourself with people who uplift you, and don’t forget to breathe deeply!
Peace and Love,