Against the Odds

I received a call from my academic advisor today congratulating me on the fact that I have an overall 4.0 GPA in my graduate studies. That, in and of itself, is great. It is, indeed, cause for celebration. I’m proud of myself. There’s more to the party, though.

Once you’ve removed yourself from an abusive situation, you’re able to look back at the times when you were a moving target (or a sitting duck) and that’s what happened today on a couple of occasions.

The first time was when I heard myself speaking on a podcast that will be broadcasted later. The topic was abusive relationships so I was able to speak from first-hand experience. The host asked me to give an example of the mental abuse I had encountered and for whatever reason, I remembered the time my ex-husband told me that my degree was not as “good” as his. Off-hand, I don’t remember how the subject came up, but his exact words were, “Trē, my degree is better than yours; I make way more money than you do.” Of course, y’all know the fight that ensued was of epic proportion.

It was ironic that my advisor called today to congratulate me because sometime after that man said that to me all those years ago — after he’d burrowed his poison into my head deeply enough, I began to believe him. I forgot the fact that I’ve always had a talent for writing. I’d forgotten the fact that I am truly business-minded and am very good at analysis and formulation.

Abusers are excellent in their pursuit to destroy your psyche and I was married to one of the best. Eventually, he had me exactly where he wanted me — mentally and emotionally dead. Well, look at me today tearing up that GPA!

The second reason that I’m celebrating is because, in medical terms, I probably should be struggling. The residual effects of an aneurysm can range from stroke to decreased memory, from peripheral vision deficit to perceptual problems, from cognitive issues to speech deficits. Any of those things could have prevented me from pursuing this degree. Any of them could have prevented me to writing on a daily basis. Any of them could have caused me to give up on everything. The thing is, though, none of them have because I don’t have any of them. I have no residual damage. For that blessing, I’m grateful.

Abuse can and will destroy you. Abuse can ultimately kill you. If you survive though, it should be your privilege to prove that you’ve survived against the odds. It should be your privilege, an honor to yourself to live your new life on your own terms. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you survive, it’s your duty to share your story. You don’t have to blog, speak, write or anything like that; just the fact that you’re a living, breathing testament to survival will suffice.

 

The Beauty in Being the One That Got Away

I hate arrogance. I hate conceit. No one on the face of the planet is better than the next person. You’re better than the shabby treatment that some people want to subject you to, but you’re no better than the next human. We’re all flesh and blood. We all need oxygen to live. We all need love. You deserve to be with someone who gets you; someone who understands you and your foolishness; someone who accepts all the stuff about you that others never would. Letting the kind of person go who doesn’t care about the things that run others away is stupid. There’s just no other way to say it – it’s just stupid.

I’m not perfect. I cuss a lot. My sarcasm can be a bit much. I laugh at pretty much everything and I’m seldom satisfied if I don’t have the last word. I overanalyze nearly everything and tend to worry about stuff that can’t possibly manifest. I do know, however, that I’m a good woman.

Tomorrow will be exactly four years since my divorce became official and the one thing my ex-husband has repeatedly told me and anyone else that would listen is that he let a good woman get away. I don’t take credit for anything I don’t do, but I know that I was a huge part of his success as one of the country’s best computer programmers and as a better person overall. I tend to push the people that I love to do better and to be better.

As a helpmeet, my loyalty is unmatched. My last boyfriend will tell you that. I stood by him through a wicked divorce and I made him feel free enough to open up in a way he’s never been able to with any other woman in his life, including his mom. I listened. I cared. I was sympathetic, but he’ll also tell you that I never sugarcoated anything for him. I told him like it was. There was a level of friendship in that relationship that was true to the fact that we’ve known each other our whole lives. Everyone knows that our families have been intertwined since the beginning of time so our union came as no surprise to anyone in this area. He knew that I had his back. He knew that regardless of what happened, he could depend on me. I drove the seven hours it took to hand him a document he needed to prove his position in his divorce hearing. I can’t think of too many other women who would have done that. Love makes you do things like that.

Self-love, however, gives you the strength you need to take your ball and go home. Under normal circumstances, that concept of picking up your ball and trucking home is considered childish – you’re supposed to continue playing the game even if you’re losing. In the game of love, though, if you’re losing because you’re being taken for granted, taken advantage of, aren’t appreciated, the love isn’t being reciprocated, or you just know that thing is not going anywhere, it’s perfectly fine for you to take your ball and go home. Being alone (i.e. not “boo’d up”) is not the hell people want you to believe it is and considering the alternative (being with someone who doesn’t appreciate your presence), it’s absolutely amazing.

In the end, you’ll be the one who got away. You deserve better and trust me when I tell you that the person who so flippantly lets you go will realize it one day, too.

Death By Any Other Name

Hey, y’all! I’m so happy to be back. March was a particularly hard month for me, but finally, I’m back.

Death is a part of life; I know that. At almost 50, I have lost some very important people, namely my parents. You don’t reach my age without having dealt with losing people in any number of ways — cancer, car accidents, heart attacks, etc. I’ve been the comforter of the bereaved and I’ve also been on the receiving end of that goodness. Up until March 13th, though, I had not experienced the aftermath of death by suicide.

“He’s Dead, Mama, He’s Dead!”

That day started out pleasant. My granddaughter was visiting and as usual, there were people in and out of the house all day. My nephew and a family friend had come down for lunch so the day was made even better with a little ribbing and some good laughs.

They had been gone a couple of hours when the house phone rang and as selfish as it may be for me to say this, I’m glad my sister answered. When the call came, I was working feverishly on a submission piece, but I stopped when, for the third time, she yelled, “Calm down, mister!” (My sister has called her son “mister” since he was a child.) By this time, I could actually hear him yelling and I was across the room.

The next words I heard were, “Who died? How? Jesus, no!” She then hung up and I knew I needed to give her a minute to gather herself. I also knew I needed a minute to brace myself. Everyone knows that my nephew and I are extremely close so whatever vexes his spirit will automatically tear mine apart. Finally, I asked who died and she calmly said, “His little brother, ****. He killed himself. He hung himself.” Before long, I’ll write about the rest of that day, but I’m just not ready to right now. Please understand.

The Sudden

By now, most everybody knows that I finally severed ties with the woman who had been my best friend for nearly 30 years. That friendship needed to be over in the larger sense, but that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t be there if she needed me. I don’t believe in fake operations, but I also feel that we should be there for others regardless of the circumstance.

I found out that her ex-husband passed on March 10th. He was 48 years old. Had I not seen a post from a mutual friend extending condolences, I wouldn’t have known. As it stands, he had been gone over two weeks and she had not said a word. I wasn’t the only one who was shocked over his passing and the fact that she had not at least made others aware of it so that we could send cards and/or flowers, so I’m not alone in my anger. I will leave this alone, but I’m appalled that she didn’t even let me know.

The Inexcusable

As I said earlier, I have seen all manner of death. As of March 13th, I have now experienced nearly all manner of death in my immediate circle. Suicide is hurtful to the ones left behind. It happens for any number of reasons. We pray for the souls of those lost to it as well as the lives, minds, and hearts of those left to grieve.

Latina Verneta Herring, 35, of Florida, died on March 27th. Her death is inexcusable. It is yet another example of what happens when a woman’s cries are not taken seriously. Police told her to stop making false accusations and to stop calling 911 after they’d gone out twice. The man who killed her and her 8-year old son had even told police he was afraid he was going to do something to her. He did. He killed them.

Ms. Herring’s death is the reason that domestic violence/abuse must always be spoken about. We can’t sweep this stuff under the rug. We can’t turn a blind eye to this travesty. It won’t stop until greater efforts are made to make more people aware of the signs and to let the victims know there’s no shame in talking about it and leaving.

My Prayer

I pray for this woman’s family. I pray for the victims of domestic abuse who carry the invisible scars of mental and emotional abuse. Stay aware. Help when and where you can and should. A life just may well depend on it.

 

What’s Really Going On

Everyone knows I’m an ex-wife. I’m also that man’s first wife. One is not necessarily inclusive of the other. I am also the ex of someone who had a couple of wives before me. I snicker when I think about those titles because they each hold their own status and their own disadvantages.

The Ex-wife

I became an ex-wife on April 5, 2013. Without pomp or circumstance, I became the former Mrs. William H. Hinton, Jr. That meant I had to take the hyphen out of Trease Shine-Hinton. Deleting that hyphen not only severed our ties as man and wife, it also meant my separation from part of the union I had been in for nearly 20 years.

After the dust had settled, though, I realized that I had not asked to use my maiden name again. Legally, I am still Trease Shine Hinton. Just a heads up: if you’re getting divorced and you want to go back to your maiden name, be certain to ask if you need to formally ask to do so. The state of Texas charges $295.00 to change it after the fact so ASK! Anyway, back to the subject at hand.

Being an ex-wife carries its own little stigma. On its face, the title “ex-wife” means that the failure of a marriage has taken place. It means that for whatever reason, a marriage is over. It doesn’t matter why it failed, the title “ex-wife” means that a woman who was once someone’s life partner is no longer in that partnership. In my case, my ex even changed my name in his phone to “ex-wife”. Childish? Yeah, but hey, if that’s what floats your boat, float on.

For all the negative connotations, though, in cases like mine, the title of “ex-wife” means an incredible freedom from abuse. It’s a good, good thing. No one gets married with the forethought of getting divorced, but it happens. The 19 years of hell that I spent at Mrs. Hinton was worth every second of the pain because, from the bottom of my heart, I love the fact that I have a story to tell. I love the fact that I can speak to women from experience — not because of what I’ve heard or read — I know all of this stuff from experience. I can assure a woman that she will be okay. It won’t happen overnight, but in time, she will be okay.

The First Wife

Shortly after we got divorced, my ex and I were talking and he ended the conversation with, “Trease, you’ll always be the first Mrs. Hinton.” I will always be his first wife. He’s remarried and not one person who knows his situation believes that the woman he married is out for anything except money. She believed that he was worth so much more than he really is. I chuckle when I think about that whole scene because he tricked her the same way he tricked me yet she was determined to claim the prize. She had an issue with him talking to me about ANYTHING so I fixed that whole little problem for them — I cut the lines of communication with him. It hurt him, but the days of me showing any concern for his feelings were over many years ago. The only way he will ever hear from me again is if (God forbid) something happens to Will. He’s lied on me to his new wife so trust and believe that I’m not playing into their stupidity.

Just remember, though, that I will always be his first wife. That statement is not an “I win” kind of declaration; it’s just something to keep in mind when it comes to the property and benefits we accrued over those 19 years.

In the End

I didn’t get married to get divorced. I never expected that one day I wouldn’t be that man’s wife. Just like many other women who are trapped in abusive marriages and can’t see a way out, I was frozen in fear from so many angels. I come from a family where divorce is rare. We hang in there. God saw fit for me to live (in more ways than one) and so He set me free.

Being an ex-wife is not a bad thing in many cases. Being the first wife sometimes means a woman makes a man a better husband for the new(est) wife. It’s where you land sometimes.

In Due Time

My son had a car accident on Sunday, February 19th around 3:30 A.M. He chose to FaceTime me with the news instead of calling or texting me, that way, I could “see” that he was okay. For that, I’m grateful because he knows that I would have freaked out. He wasn’t hurt, just ticked off because his car is down.

img_7376
Will’s beat up car

 

Being the mother that I am, I wasn’t quite satisfied that he was really okay, so that img_0194Monday, I made my way to Pine Bluff. He’s okay. We sat around and talked for a bit; I fussed because he was coming down with the flu, but had not taken anything for it. We hurried off to Walmart for broth, Nyquil, and orange juice, and shortly after that, I headed back to Louisiana. My baby is okay. No bumps, scars, scratches, or bruises. Y’all know I’ve been praising God mightily because it could have been much worse. He fell asleep behind the wheel…a whole block and a half from his apartment. He tore down a stop sign so there was pretty good damage to the car, but it’s being fixed. He had some pretty epic plans for spring break, but guess where that spring break money is going? Yeah…

The Email

img_673082936717-1

It rained a fair distance of the way to Pine Bluff, but the ride back was bad. I grew up in Louisiana so driving in the rain is par for the course here. If it gets bad enough for me to have to pull over, it’s bad. My nerves were frayed by the time I made it to Camden because I had tried to push through, but I needed a break.

I had sat in the McDonalds parking lot for about 10 minutes when I decided to get back on the road even though the rain was still coming down rather hard. I had shifted into reverse when my phone dinged. I automatically knew it was an email, but when I saw who the sender was, I shifted back into park rather quickly. I knew he wasn’t writing just to be writing. I haven’t spoken to him since he was here for Mama’s funeral. I knew that he wasn’t writing regarding Will’s accident. We don’t talk. It was my ex-husband so I braced myself for whatever he had to say in that email. No sooner than I picked the phone up to read the first one, another one came from him. I figured I would get pissed so again, I braced myself.

The first email I opened had five attachments. It took me a flat two seconds to realize what he sent. I opened the next email right away and that one had four attachments. I can’t tell y’all (yet) what the attachments contained, but I will tell you that it’s been a long, LONG time coming. It was a HUGE burden that had plagued me since 2000, but finally, it was handled. It took him 17 years to fix what he messed up because of drugs, alcohol, and just being a plain, pompous clown. I was caught up in the chaos and I’ll tell y’all, I had no intention trying any harder than I had for two years straight to fix it. I knew that it was killing me just as much as it was him just because I was married to him, but the harder I tried to steer him in the right direction, the harder he yanked the other way.

As a paralegal, I knew that if I had walked out of that marriage without stipulating that HE fix that thing, I’d be on the hook forever. He did what he was supposed to do, but not before telling our son, in that email, to tell me that his new wife had helped him. Y’all, it is impossible for me to care any less about who did what than I do. He owed me. Nothing material can make up for the infidelity, the mental and emotional bashing, and those rapes. NOTHING.

Anyway, what he did allows me to push forward with some things I need to take care of. For that I’m grateful.

Life goes on, but you’re in charge of how it goes. Get on with what you’re here to do. Enjoy the time you’re not working — I mean thoroughly enjoy it! You don’t have nearly as much of it as you think.

 

 

Living on Borrowed Time

img_673082936717-1Last night at exactly 9:46 PM, my iPhone dinged. It wasn’t my son’s notification tone so I didn’t move immediately, but I also recognized the time and knew that it was a little late for my friends to be writing since we’re all in wind-down mode around that time. I glanced over and noticed that it was a “virtual turned real-life” friend. When I realized who it was, though, I became nervous because the woman writing me lives in New York. I have a lot of friends in New York, 99% of whom started as virtual friends, but have come to occupy places in my heart as real-life friends. She should have been asleep because she takes the train in the early morning hours to get to work.

o-BROKEN-HEART-facebook

I was a little shaky when I picked up the phone to read her message and within seconds, my heart had completely dropped. She had just seen a post on Facebook with the time and details of funeral services for another friend that we’d “met” online. It took me a minute to absorb what I had just read, but before I responded to her, I went over to Facebook to see it myself. I needed to see it for myself. There it was.

img_b4cb539a519a-1

I knew that our friend had breast cancer and I knew that she had been fighting it for years. She last posted on my wall for my birthday back in November and I had seen a post or two from her, here and there over the next month or so. I assumed she was still in remission. She was not. It’s impossible to fully know a person, especially online, but you could just tell she was a sweetheart. Cancer has taken another sweet soul.

As I do quite often, I reminded the people on my own Facebook friend list that our time here is short. I don’t wait until someone passes, but when they do, I take the opportunity to let people know that we never have as much time as we think we do. In the same vein, though, I believe we are left here just long enough to fulfill our purpose. After seeing my post about my friend’s death, another friend that I met online who has become like a brother to me wrote and told me that very thing — people leave when they have done what they need to do.

I urge you to do what you know you need to do. Whether it’s something as far-reaching as joining a mission and traveling abroad to feed the hungry or something as close to home as delivering meals to the elderly, DO IT! If you don’t know what your purpose or calling is, figure out what it is and get to it.

What you need to do may also involve making amends for some foolish shenanigans you were involved in. Maybe you split someone’s heart in two. Maybe you have some business issues that need to be tied up. Maybe you just need to seek someone’s forgiveness. Whatever it is, get to it.

I know exactly what I was left here to do. I will always, always, ALWAYS be a student of life, but I know for a fact that my life experiences make me a great teacher. I have a story to tell. Not very much of it is pretty, but it’s my story to tell. I know what it means to be belittled by your husband. I know first-hand about the confusion that comes after spousal rape. I know what it means to be battered so badly mentally and emotionally that the sound of that doorknob turning causes you to hyperventilate. I know what it means to be the one left after being the one who was abused. I have stuff to say. I have a testimony to share.

I don’t know when my time here will be up so mine is to get to the business of telling my story. I haven’t been as consistent as I need to be in blogging. I haven’t gotten the ball rolling on my speaking career. My vow is correct those things. I believe I survived an aneurysm that was the result of an abusive marriage so that I can provide a visual picture of the fact that there’s life after abuse.

Whatever you do in life, do it on purpose. Do it with purpose. Time is borrowed. One day, you’re going to have to give it back.

The Party Is Cancelled

img_3762Every time I find myself subconsciously gathering the goods to through a good old-fashioned pity party, I hear my mama speaking. I can hear her saying, “You better stop acting like a lil girl, quit all that whinin’, and carryin’ on.” I don’t care what I was upset about, I don’t care how frustrated I was, her response was always to stop whining and to get about my grown woman business.

Mama has been gone for over a year now, but I’ll never forget her words and I’ll always, always glean from her strength as a woman. There’s always someone who has or has had a harder life than you, but as stories go, Mama’s life was pretty rough. She had been married and widowed by the time she was 14 and gave birth to my oldest brother by the time she was 15. She never had a childhood because work was all she knew. While other girls her age were in school, she and one of her sisters were out building railroad ties. That’s labor, folks; that’s hard, hard labor.

She worked hard so that we wouldn’t have to suffer the things she did. I don’t know what hard labor is, but I do know how to handle a tractor, change my own oil, cut down a tree to get firewood and plant a full garden. I know how to take care of myself and that thought, along with Mama’s voice, is what snapped me out of the party-planning mode a little earlier today. Part of the problem is that I’m just sick and tired of being sick and tired. Things aren’t going the way I want them to right now, but I’ve lived long enough to know that everything happens at the exact moment it’s supposed to.

fullsizerender-15

In that light, the party is off. I refuse to feel sorry for myself and I won’t let anyone else feel sorry for me. What I have to remind myself of is the fact that I’m able-bodied and most importantly, I’m able-minded and there’s nothing I can’t do. It’s all about getting up and actually putting into motion all the steps to the plan that will make me great.