When I was young, I often enjoyed challenging myself with classic literature. One at a time, page after page, I started working my way through the likes of Dickens and Bronte, Hemingway, Shakespeare, and Austin all by the time I was ten years old. It was slow going in the beginning; often one of those tomes would require at least four or five months to finish in my early years. But I loved it.
My father had a great library of classics he’d inherited from his mother; many of them books she’d inherited from her mother, and so on. I enjoyed going through the shelves and finding books inscribed “To My Lucille — 1853” (that was the oldest one I ever found…there were many others…some bibles practically falling to pieces that were in German or Norwegian, the languages of my ancestors).
I grew up with that. Dreaming of the day when those books would be mine, while also collecting my own novels to add to my “library”.
One book I fell in love with when I was about fourteen was Melville’s “Moby Dick”. I always enjoyed it…but it was also an enigma, that novel. Usually I could relate to characters fairly easily; but I just couldn’t grasp why anyone with half a brain would happily run their beautiful ship to the bottom of the ocean in pursuit of one bloody whale. Why on earth would that be necessary? Truth was, at the time I couldn’t understand rage on such a scale.
But then a monster hurt me; metaphorically ripped off my leg and left me learning how to walk all over again. And while I’ve now gone quite a while since the last time I spoke with him…today I found myself boiling over with rage. Pure. Rage. Because I was reminded of MY white whale. The psychopath I fell in love with, and who then thrust me beneath the waves and beat me about with his tale and his jaws as I fought for survival, until I finally managed to swim myself ashore, broken, mangled, and nearly dead. A changed woman, just as Ahab found himself a changed man.
I thought I was coping with it…and I suppose I am, but the way rage so quickly poured in today, realized I’m not as close to being “done” as I thought I was.
I had nightmares all night. And then today my mother accidentally found something that triggered me horribly; she stumbled across his phone records while looking through cell phone bills, unaware that his is still connected to my account (long story), so while I no longer pay the bill, I haven’t yet gotten all the proper paperwork processed to get his file completely OFF my account. I just never look at HIS bill. Because I don’t want to know what he’s doing.
She found it accidentally; and then when she asked me what she was looking at, because she didn’t understand…..I knew immediately whose call records it was. And saw he was still calling Blanche, that damnable mistress of his, 5-6 times a day, plus four or five times a week talking to her on the phone for at least 30+ minutes. He was still talking to Rebecca every day; that seventeen year old girl who lived with us. He was still talking to all the contacts – all the teenagers – from where we’d lived together. In short…from what I saw, he was carrying on with his life as though he hadn’t even missed a beat. He just swapped me out for someone else and kept going.
I knew he’d do that, but actually seeing it was almost more than I could take.
The rage poured in as I imagined the naive young woman who’d fallen in love with Randall, and then been so brutally abused and terrorized. I recalled all the times he’d made me cry. All the STDs he’d given me, one of which still has flare ups that leave me in tears. I recalled all the infidelities. All the betrayals. And I raged. My hands were shaking.
I tried to walk it off in the workout room. I tried to talk to friends. I’d feel some small relief here or there from various methods…but nothing really took the rage away completely.
And that found me this evening actually researching how to report crime tips anonymously, something I’d already done; but I was looking anyway. In case there was any new information. Imagining him being thrown into the back of a police car and finally having SOMETHING go wrong in his godforsaken life. Even though I knew that wasn’t good for MY future, I was looking anyway, because in that instance all I could think about was him being “punished”. Why? Because I wanted him to hurt. Badly, so that for five seconds he could feel what I feel whenever I dare lift the lid and let the pain slip into my carefully controlled heart.
In short, I’d spotted the white whale; the one I tried so often to forget about. I’d found him again. Had him in my sights. And I wanted him. I wanted a harpoon through his back.
Divine providence intervened at that moment; one of my friends who hadn’t been able to answer my call earlier chose that exact moment to call me back. I answered, at first calm as I said “Hello?” But it didn’t take long. She asked me what was wrong, and before I knew it, I was sobbing. Just sobbing.
“He hurt me…” I gasped out. “He and all of them…hurt me so badly…it…it’s not….it’s NOT FAIR! It’s not right!” I wanted to throw things. Rend and tear. I wanted to break things. Hear things shatter into the floor. I imagined what it would sound like if I threw a baseball at the window. I was shaking. And my friend just listened; nothing profound that she could really say.
The only thing she said at the end was “I know, honey…but you just…you have to find a way to let it go…he doesn’t deserve to ruin your days like this…”
My anger switched to her then. She didn’t understand! That’s all my angry inner voice was screaming. She didn’t understand just how bad the pain was! Surely if she just understood, then she’d understand why I had to strike back. Why I had to take back some sense of control…make him hurt, even just a little…
Her final advice to me was to eat something and take a hot shower. So after I hung up I numbly did just that. Ate. And showered; turning the water up so hot my skin was lobster red by the time I climbed out.
Standing there in the steam-filled bathroom wrapped in a towel, I looked at my reflection. At how big and strange my eyes seemed in that instant; so full of pain. So full of anguish. Anger. Rage.
And I also remembered what she’d said about how he didn’t deserve to take up so much of my life any more. Tears rolled down my cheeks, and I knew she was right. Of course she was right. I continued looking at my reflection through the steamy cloud, and suddenly one of the lines from “Moby Dick” popped into my mind:
“And he piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the rage and hate felt by his whole race. If his chest had been a cannon, he would have shot his heart upon it.”
For the first time in my life, I understood Ahab, and his maniacal chasing of that cursed white whale. That whale who could never possibly understand just what it had done to him the day it wounded him and caused him to lose his leg. He was driven by his rage, right to the bitter end.
I understood him…and I also knew I didn’t want to be him. I didn’t want my ship driven to the bottom of the sea, or my legacy to be that of a tragic almost-was who couldn’t quite break free of her bitterness.
I don’t necessarily have all the answers; I have no idea how to release the rage easily. The best thing I’ve come up with is to just let it run its’ course, because it does always eventually pass. Each and every time. Right now I feel better than I did two hours ago, and tomorrow morning I’ll undoubtedly feel even better yet. It’s not easy finding absolution from within; we often look to others to do that for us. But there won’t be anyone else who can give me absolution and freedom for this; only I can do that. He’ll certainly never apologize. None of his little minions will either.
No…absolution will only come from within. Survivors of abuse either have to release that rage, accept the scars, and walk on – let the great white whale go free – or we just end up hunting Moby Dick with our spears to the end of our days, unable to do anything other than throw harpoons even as the whale rips our ship to pieces and sends us to the bottom of the sea.
I have no desire to end up like Ahab. So I choose to release the rage. To let go of my need to see him “punished”. Not because I forgive him, but because I want more for my life. I hope you do too.
Meghann Andreassen is a businesswoman, author, and personal success coach who contributes to this and other blogs on a regular basis. To learn more 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