Anyone who’s ever lived for an extended period of time in the Willamette Valley of Oregon know how much we love our snow days. And wouldn’t you know it? Today the weatherman actually managed to get it right, and we got a bit of snow on the valley floor.
(That truly is a miracle in and of itself; most of the time our weather forecasters predict Snowmageddon and get all ramped up for 24/7 news coverage only to get about four and a half snowflakes and then a bunch of standard Oregon rain.)
So like any Oregon girl, I decided I wanted to head out for a little walk in the snow. Snap a few pictures so I’d have proof it was real. Take the requisite selfie to send to my grandmother and then carefully filter and upload to my Instagram account. That kind of thing.
I was in a pretty good mood, too; overall things are trending in a positive direction with my life, business is getting better all the time, my coaching endeavor is starting to really take shape as well, and I even managed to snag a date for this coming Saturday night. My first “first date” in quite a while. Not bad, right? For the first time in many months, I was feeling truly light of spirit.
And then I slipped on my jacket.
It’s a beautiful floor-length black down jacket purchased for me as a Christmas gift by my parents almost ten years ago, when I was still considering going to college at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota (i.e. really, really cold four or five months out of each school year). I don’t get to wear it much, which is part of why it’s lasted so long without much in the way of wear and tear; so it’s always kind of an ‘event’ when I pull that coat out and slip into it.
Except this time as I was slipping into it and casually conversing with my mother, I felt my fingers brush across a foreign object in the right pocket. And as I allowed my fingers to explore the foreign object further, the smile on my face froze before slowly slipping into a frown. Tears burned in my eyes as I pulled out a cell phone I had never seen before; an older Samsung model, and since I’ve always been an Apple girl I knew it wasn’t somehow an old phone of mine that had mysteriously jumped into the pocket for a ride.
This had belonged to someone else. Someone I didn’t know. Someone I might have met, or might not have…but that wasn’t the point. The point being this phone was clear proof the jacket – my jacket – had been worn by someone else without my knowledge. That it had been worn most recently by some unknown being. And I had a sinking feeling in my gut, because there was only one explanation for it.
While living with Randall, I was away at work a lot (building businesses from scratch tend to take a lot of time). And it’s how he managed to slip so much infidelity in under my nose without me knowing…there were plenty of hours in the middle of the day (and sometimes at night, when I’d end up crashing at my parent’s for one reason or another) to bring young women over to my home without me being the wiser. And plenty of other things occurred there too without me really knowing; there were always people I barely knew coming and going from my home. Something I was never comfortable with, as I’ve discussed in other posts.
I always begged Randall to at least respect my things as sacred; not let others use them. To at least give me that, seeing as how he failed fairly quickly to respect my wish that no one go upstairs (not an unreasonable request since all that was upstairs was our bedroom and bathroom). I ultimately learned he not only let people go upstairs, but girls often showered in my shower, occasionally used my towel, and, yes…slept in my bed (after having sex with him of course).
So nothing was sacred.
Some of the young people had even “helped themselves” to a few of my things; nothing expensive, but still emotionally priceless to me. A magnate my older sister had given to me when I went to college, that had followed me from my dorm room fridge to every fridge in every home thereafter…someone took it and I never saw it again. A pair of socks my grandfather had brought me back from a trip to Hong Kong; never saw those again either.
You get the idea. And through it all, other than the occasional sparse showing of irritation on my behalf, mostly Randall would just shrug and say “It’s just stuff, man…you need to let that shit go. When we’re rich we’ll buy new stuff”.
And of course that was always part of the big problem: as a man on the Psychopathic/Narcissistic spectrum, he couldn’t get emotionally attached like I could. So he couldn’t fathom why a magnate or a pair of socks would mean more to me than a precious gem.
Well, anyway…point is it’s not exactly new news to me, that my things were used without my knowledge or consent. Even when I suspected things while he and I were together, I often looked the other way (because…abuse). But I hadn’t known about this coat before. I hadn’t known this coat had also been violated by someone (or potentially several someones). And he would have had to dig around and intentionally grab it too; it wasn’t just hanging on a coat rack, because it’s too big and bulky. It was stored in a closet in the entryway.
But there it was…a black Samsung phone I’d never seen before, and no reason for it to be in the pocket of my jacket other than the original owner of it leaving it there by mistake. And clearly it was someone who hadn’t come by much, because they’d not come back to find it.
I felt sick. I wanted to take that phone and hurl it through the wall. I wanted to smash things into the floor. Break things. Tear things. Yell and scream “ASSHOLE!” at the top of my lungs over and over and over again; because it’s like all the abuse – all the violations, and the lies, and the temper, and the physical aggression, and the yelling, and the insults, and the infidelities with all the young women in my home, and the STDs I didn’t deserve – all of it flooded back seeing that cellphone in my hand.
Who had worn the coat? Was it a guy or two? Or more likely, was it one (or more) of the many girls he’d had over to seduce and flirt with and sleep with when I wasn’t around? How many had worn the jacket?
I didn’t know. And that not knowing had me nauseous, in the worst way. Ripping the jacket off, it suddenly looked like a foreign object to me. I had no idea who all had worn it in the time since I’d last put it on…but I had the sick feeling I wouldn’t like the answer. I felt all the hurt feelings…all the pain come roaring back. The sick, twisted sense of betrayal that always flares up when I even picture the faces of some of the girls I met and then later learned had happily slept with him in my bed when I was at work. The nauseating roll of my stomach picturing others in my bed, doing things I’d once believed were intimate and sacred to my partner and to myself.
When would it stop? When would I finally know everything, so there was no longer anything jumping up to bite me like that? WHEN?!
All the joy faded. All the positivity lost. All I could see was his face…hear his voice in my head…think to myself about all those girls…thinking again of how it felt to realize I had them in me, because he’d not used condoms…thinking again of all of it. Wondering just how many more there were. Knowing it doesn’t really matter at this point, but at the same time…the heart never does listen to logic.
Everything went through me in a matter of a few minutes, and I found myself staring at my reflection in the bathroom mirror as tears streamed down my face. They were angry tears; it was cry or break things. And I didn’t think mom or dad would appreciate a hole being put in the wall from throwing that fucking phone. So I cried.
As my mother watched on in concern, I turned to a different jacket; the one my grandfather had worn for a good twenty years. It’s not particularly pretty at this point, or stylish; it’s a man’s brown leather jacket, without any of the feminine cuts to accommodate a woman’s curves…but it’s what I’d grabbed immediately after he died, when grandma had laid a few things out. I’d asked for the jacket.
There was almost a fear in me that I’d discover that jacket too had been defiled…and as I slipped into it, I sighed in relief to catch his faint – but still lingering – scent. Nothing foreign in the pockets, no lingering smell of another woman’s perfume.
I felt his arms slip around me. Felt his love flow through me. And while it wasn’t the best cover for a snowy, icy day, I wore it anyway. Putting on my earbuds for some music therapy and stepping out into the wintery weather with determination to put it behind me. I didn’t want Randall or any of the bad memories to haunt me.
You can’t always control when something will trigger you. Abuse is real, and the recovery from it is often frustratingly long and slow. But if you can be patient and gentle with yourself, I promise the feelings will pass. It never passes as fast as I want it to, but it does pass. And I can be honest when I say I got a few good photos today too. It turned back around.
I hate the memories. I hate what he did to me. I hate what he did to others. I hate the shame and the guilt that overwhelms me at times when I wonder if there’s anything I could have done to stop things or make them better for myself or for others who ended up as collateral damage. I’ll always hate it…but it’s a part of me now. And instead of trying to excise it from my being (because that’s impossible), it’s better to learn how to instead weave it into a beautifully stitched tapestry that ultimately becomes my life.
Meghann Andreassen is a businesswoman, author, and personal success coach who contributes to this and other blogs on a regular basis. To learn more about her, or to work with her personally, contact her through her website for a free consultation.
**Names and other personal identifying information of some individuals referenced throughout this blog have been changed to protect their identities