A selection from Chapter 6

By my birthday in December, the day I turned thirty, Matt’s ubiquitous red spots had transformed to ugly black scabs, and his rambunctious little boy behavior had returned. I’d been locked in the house for a month, except for the evening grocery excursions. I wanted to go Christmas shopping, but Paul wouldn’t let me, saying, “It might snow, and anyway, I’d be stuck here without a car.”

For nine years of marriage, I’d tried to do what was expected of me, but in that winter of 1978, the undertow was unbearable. Most days, while the kids were at school, I’d wander into the backyard to lean against a tree in my blue terrycloth bathrobe.

Standing like a blue heron stalking a frog, I privately considered my options. Survival or suicide? Independence or marriage? Divorce or death?

If I’d been living in 478 BC, I could have been a goddess with property and wealth and men for servants. If I had been living in 1478 and had the audacity to consider independence, I would have been burned at the stake, and in 1878, I would have been institutionalized for wanting to leave my husband. Fortunately, in 1978, when I chose independence over marriage, ironically, the feminine revolution had made that decision mainstream. Survival had been my choice as a child as well. When Dad’s rage became unbearable, I became invisible, floating out of touch, unavailable for his torture.

I knew that women were not weak, ignorant, or frail, and I knew that there was no divine intention for women to be inferior, but I didn’t know how to put that knowledge into action.

On my thirtieth birthday in 1978, when Paul would not allow me to leave the house, I stood before the bathroom mirror. To my reflection, I said, “Will you be a child forever?”

I realized I’d absorbed my parents’ core principle—“Women are inferior to men”—through my Training to be just a girl.

My husband had complete control over me. I thought, How did I let this happen?

I had no identity of my own. I’ve married a man like my father.

I imagined a web of cracks crawling over the surface of the mirror and watched my reflection transform into a Picasso painting, parts of my life appearing in each fragment.

I saw the little girl, confident, happy, and free, jumping cow pies and playing in the woods, but Dad’s gruesome lessons in fear distorted the reflection. I saw blissful days with each new baby, distorted by obedient despair.

What is my future?

Is it mine to choose?

My spirit was listening.

Without considering the magnitude of my decision, I changed my clothes and went downstairs. Niki and Matt were building a Lego castle while cartoons blared. I hugged each of them. “I’m going shopping; Daddy will fix your lunch,” and added, “I love you.” Then I went into Paul’s billiard room. “There are leftovers in the fridge; I’ll see ya later.” He was stunned, but I was out the door before he could maneuver around his pool table. I saw him in the rearview mirror as I drove away. A look of total surprise covered his angry face. I drove sixty miles to the Florence Mall, just south of Cincinnati. I would have kept driving if not for Niki and Matt. The influence of Training had begun to deteriorate along with my marriage…

…One year later, I would spend the night alone for the first time in my life.’

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