Leaving Abuse (Big Story, Little Routine)
Q. How long does it take to decide to escape from psychological abuse and domestic imprisonment?
A. Less than a fraction of a second.
Q. How long did it take me to recognize that I was a victim of psychological abuse and domestic imprisonment?
A. 10 years, 3 kids, 1 move across the Pacific Ocean, and a single massage from my friend Norm.
How Norm Rocked My World . . .
I am a teacher. I live in Puna on the Big Island of Hawaii. If you have ever been here you don’t need to be told that I do not receive monetary payment very often for teaching circus skills to jungle dwelling, artist/eco community kids.
I have received avocado, eggs, drawings, second hand shoes, plants, friendship, strange juices, origami, seashells, goat cheese, photos and the occasional fresh caught fish.
I adore my student Kalani. I worked with her often on a variety of circus skills and technique during group and private lessons. In December 2008 her parents came to me with an offer, having no idea that their kindness would change my path and ultimately free me from the cage of abuse I had been trapped in for a decade.
Kalani’s mom, Suzette, approached me after class one day. “My husband Norm used to be a masseuse. He doesn’t practice anymore but he would like to make an exception and help you with your spastic muscles.” (Muscle spasms and constant pain in my joints were symptoms of Lupus.) Although this sounded like a dream come true I was reluctant. I knew my husband of ten years would be irate at the thought of another person touching me. He caused loads of grief even over my female balance partners, accusing me of having affairs with them. I learned to keep my distance from those around me, I feared greeting others with hugs in his presence. As my muscles twisted under my skin and my joints throbbed I made a quick decision. “Yes. That would be great! Thank you so much.”
My stomach churned all the way home. When I informed my husband of my fortunate trade he reacted in his typical way. “So you’re going to have a strange man sensually rub your body? Oh No! You are a selfish and bad person who’s led a horrible life and you don’t know how to make good decisions. That’s why you have me to guide you. This is unacceptable and will harm the children.” He went on for a few hours and then days.
When lesson day came, I decided I would just have to deal with being a horrible person and I showed up for my massage.
I greeted the family and went up to the massage area. I was stiff and awkward waiting for Norm to enter the room. I could hear Suzette chatting and doing dishes below us. I tried to act as normal as I imagined others behave for such events.
Norm came in and did some deep breathing. He rubbed his hands together quickly. I lay there on my stomach like a dumb baby seal, clueless and wide eyed.
For nearly six of my ten year marriage I had not been offered compassion. I had been trained and berated for my many flaws and shortcomings. I tried desperately to improve myself; to rise to the expectations of my husband so that I would reach that elusive goal of “good” person, wife and mother. In the last two years of my marriage I was sickened and would sometimes vomit after sexual encounters with him. It had not occurred to me that I could quit. Seek a new life. Escape. Feel valuable. I was focused on improving my deficits; after all, my husband’s lack of joy was my fault.
As Norm’s hands made contact with my back for the first time I was stunned. I felt warmth and healing shoot up my spine and into my hardened shoulders. I took in a deep breath, a real breath, and I felt relieved.
Norm is a conversationalist. He chatted and asked about my injuries, my day, my life; and as I relaxed I began revealing things I had never spoken of to others.
Norm: “Annetta, if this time doesn’t work we can do an evening session.”
Ned: “Oh no. I can’t go out after dark.”
Norm: “Really? Why not?”
Ned: “My husband doesn’t allow it except for high paying gigs. I’m trying to be a good person.”
Norm: “Well Suzette and I think you are a great person. You’ve been an incredible, strong influence in Kalani’s life.”
As Norm continued to work my muscles I continued to reveal my odd lifestyle. He listened without judgment and responded in a matter-of-fact way always coming back to something positive about me. As the session advanced something triggered in my mind and soul. I HEARD the descriptions of my life as a spectator rather than a participant. It sounded odd and awful for someone to live that way. As I was absorbing the absurdities of my own life Norm produced a tidbit that ignited a flame in me.
Norm: “Did you know you’re a Fire Horse? Strong and amazing and powerful . . .”
He went on to explain many things about the Fire Horse and as he did, I grew stronger and more powerful. Privately, in my mind, I saw the whole picture clearly and realized that it was my perspective that kept me weak and imprisoned in my own home.
The session ended and I thanked and hugged Norm and Suzette. As I walked to my car my mind raced and my soul exploded with . . . freedom.
A different me drove home that day, confidently walked in the house, put on my choice of a CD and belted out “Sweetest Thing” at the top of my lungs. My perplexed husband came in and demanded an explanation.
Husband: ”What are you doing? Do you think you’re so cool and special?”
Ned: “You are abusive, I am awesome and I’m going to listen to and enjoy what I want to from now on. Also you creep me out, you’re mean and gross I am going to live my way and if you can’t adapt, go buy a tent.”
Husband: “ Is that right? . . . if you ever think about leaving me I will see that you end up dead or in prison for the rest of your life.
Ned: “OK . . . . uuuummm . . . that doesn’t really affect me. I’m a Fire Horse!”
I continued my song and dance and my husband hit his knee on the corner of the kitchen post as he angrily stormed out.
Over the next few weeks he attempted a variety of schemes and strategies to get me back “under control” but it was pointless. The Norm encounter had rocked my world and I would never return to being a victim.
An unexpected side affect happened during this transition time. I developed a ridiculous and raging crush on Norm. I did realize it was due to my new awakening, personal freedom and extreme emotions. It was odd having this temporary infatuation, yet it became artistically motivating.
The annual Le Chic Show was approaching and I came up with a solution to my disconcerting scenario. I would put my over exerted libido into my art form. I chose a slinky song and choreographed the shit out of it in my own driveway. Then I boldly invited my angry husband, who never approved of my artistry, out to review my creation. I watched his twisted face as I finished my little routine and proudly asked what he thought of it.
Husband: “So, what are you now… A prostitute?”
Ned: “Nope. I never plan on charging!”
I performed my act in the show. Norm stood on the left side of the audience. He had no clue. The demonstration helped me recover almost entirely from the crush, it was yet another step in the direction of my own empowerment.
Not long after this performance I filed for divorce. My husband did try to kill me and he did succeed in having me falsely jailed; but only for a short time.
Suzette came to bail me out. A visiting artist to Belly Acres was with her. His name was Noah Moore . . .
This is the actual performance of my little routine.