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  • Cate

Finding Freedom

The thing about freedom that surprised me was that it isn’t just a state of being free. You have to actually FEEL free for it to really take effect.

When I closed on my house, I thought I’d feel free. But I didn’t. When I moved into my house, I thought I’d feel free. But I didn’t. When I started putting my house together, I thought I’d feel free. But I didn’t.

Though my body was physically free, my brain didn’t feel free. Part of the problem was that the kids were going through so much with the transition that I held back all the feelings I expected to feel right away. I wouldn’t let myself let it out until I knew the kids felt safe.

The kids had started out well at the beginning of the school year. They had all put forth a great effort and it showed in their grades. But once we moved, it all fell apart. I came to discover that even though this change, this transition, was a very wonderful thing, it was still something we all had to get used to.

This was so big! I had accomplished what I had thought was impossible. I got divorced. I found a house. I bought a house and I left my ex-husband behind. I was glad for it too. Taking him out of the equation felt so good.

I moved out on Saturday and went back a week later on Saturday to get the rest of my things. I’d returned work already by then and I was feeling the pressure mounting. I pulled up in my old driveway and my ex-mother-in-law was there.

That wasn’t all. There was a mountain of garbage bags in the front yard. I knocked on the door and she opened it. I said that I’d come back for my things. She said they were in the front yard with the rest of the garbage.

She had gone in and cleaned out my two oldest kids rooms. They had been full of trash and garbage because they were so afraid to leave their rooms for so long. I’d tried to help them keep up with it, but if they were home, they didn’t want me in their rooms and I was never home alone. I’d intended to sift through everything and salvage important items and clean up the rest. I didn’t want to leave the mess behind.

She threw away my dishes, my dancing shoes, books, clothing, jewelry and personal items. She told me it was all ruined, but I knew what had been there. I wasn’t stupid. That woman was always trying to gaslight me.

I took what was left. It wasn’t much. I’d intended to move a bunch of stuff to storage, but that wasn’t really necessary anymore. All that was left was a pile of things that she had bought for the kids that she salvaged. She didn’t care that they’d never been touched. She paid for them and that was what she left for me to take.

I know that they were only things. I know that things are replaceable. But I’d spent so much money already just getting the things we absolutely needed. I left behind certain things so that my ex-husband wouldn’t be left with nothing. She threw those things away too. Had I known she was going to throw away most of everything in the house, I wouldn’t have left so much behind.

I was upset. After all of the things I’d lost in my life, the indignity of being watched as I sifted through what was left and being talked down to all the while burned. She knew it too. She was enjoying this immensely.

I called my friend to help me get what was left and she brought her son and her husband’s truck to help. We cleared it all out and dropped it off at my house. I had already been freaking out about money and now there were so many more things I’d have to replace.

I didn’t want to give her this power over me, but I was mad. I was really mad. She’d taken all of my youngest daughter’s clothes to her house to “wash”. I was left with almost nothing of hers to take home. There is no hate left in me, but I dislike that woman a lot.

I tried to rise above. It took a week or so to let it go though. She had done it from a place of pure vindictiveness. I finally told my ex-husband how upset I was. He got mad too. He was mad at his mother for being so mean when I had done everything I could to make the transition easy for him.

She bought him new furniture and fixed all the things that had been broken for so long. She bought him a new car. She paid to remove all of the old things. And she spent her time at his house when he was at work on Saturdays so that I couldn’t ever go back in there alone. He was confident in his house now, but he knew what it had cost me.

Work was awful and my boss had become mean. I asked for help over and over and she talked down to me and made an example of me in front of others. I was miserable.

I decided I’d throw myself a birthday party. I hadn’t really celebrated it since my mom had died 13 year before. But I didn’t feel free, so I wasn’t going to throw a freedom party after all. I wasn’t feeling it at all. My house was still a mess and I just didn’t care anymore.

I invited my friends and my aunties, some cousins and called it good. My friends showed up for me in a big way that weekend. They came to help, they came to celebrate, they came to honor the big task I had accomplished.

As I looked around the room, I saw my wonderful aunties and cousins. They were truthfully my mom’s cousins, but they’d been close when my mom was alive. I couldn’t believe they’d all showed up for me. For ME?! They brought presents. I hadn’t had presents in so long. I’d had random, impersonal gifts, my friend Caprice was always a thoughtful gift giver, but my birthday was largely forgotten by most. I hadn’t had a cake in forever.

It was something I needed to feel, but it still didn’t make me feel free. The party was over and they all left and then I was alone with the mess again. I was alone with my kids. I was alone with the stress. I was all alone with all of it.

After my birthday was Thanksgiving, then my son’s birthday, then my youngest daughter’s birthday. We went through it all alone. My ex-husband’s family had a big party for the little one and she was showered with gifts.

I couldn’t give my children a family. I couldn’t even pretend to really have one. Beyond Aunty Jody, there was really no one to invite. My stepdad had forgotten my birthday. He didn’t show up for my boy or my little girl. I texted him that I was really struggling and he ghosted me.

Isolation and loneliness consumed me. Work was awful and so was home. I was crumbling under the weight of responsibility. I needed help in the worst way. I couldn’t physically do all of the things that needed to be done and I didn’t understand well enough or have time to teach myself anything. No one wanted to come over because it was such a huge mess.

Finally I’d had enough of my job and turned in my notice. I decided not to go out on a bad note. I worked hard to make sure all of my clients were taken care of, all of my coworkers were caught up, and that I’d done everything I could do to help the transition go smoothly.

My last day of work was a short one. They’d already replaced me and needed to get my workstation turned over for her. I turned over my groups and I walked out the door. I expected to feel fear, because I knew I was out of work now until my next position started again. But I wasn’t expecting what happened next.

As I walked through the parking garage for the last time to my car, I felt light. I felt happy. I felt excited. And as I drove home, the feelings of elation only grew. I put the key in the door and walked in the house. I still had some hours before I had to get the kids. I sat down on my couch and for the first time in my life, I really truly felt free.

I discovered that I hadn’t felt free because there was still abuse at work. The price of freedom had been giving up the comfort of a paycheck to dive completely into the unknown, once and for all. I have no idea how I’m going to make it through this next month. I have no idea what’s coming next. I have no idea if I’m going to be able to pay all of my bills. But I finally feel free.

It shows. People smile at me and strangers talk to me. I make new friends everywhere I go. I am happy and calm, but I feel free to feel all of my emotions. I’m cycling through old vices and letting them go by choice instead of by obligation. I’ve never felt so free. I feel like I could do anything I want!

In the end, I had to let it all go. I had to sever the bonds that held me in abuse. I had to break the cycle so completely that there was no road back to abuse. From now on, I will always put my foot down when I am being mistreated. I won’t sit there and take it ever again. My standards are completely changed, moved up a notch. No one will ever abuse me again. I won’t stand for it. That right there is true freedom. I have finally, truly, completely made it.

I AM FREE!

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