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love

noun \ˈləv\

: a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person

: attraction that includes sexual desire

: the strong affection felt by people who have a romantic relationship

: a person you love in a romantic way

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People often ask me if I loved the Corporal.

They would ask, “How could you love someone who treated you like that?” or “Do you think he ever really loved you?”YouDidntLoveHer

They’d say, “Knowing what he did to you, I can tell you that he never really loved you. He couldn’t have.”

What he did – the Corporal, my ex-lover and father of the bunnies – was hold me down under his thumb through the use of physical + emotional abuse, manipulation, lies, and threats to ruin my reputation as a somewhat public figure as a yoga teacher and health + fitness professional in a small town.

I am often asked now, after leaving him, if he was ever even capable of love or true emotions.

When I hear these thoughts coming from people looking in from the outside, I can understand their arguments. Someone who loves you is never supposed to hurt you, right? At least, not like that…

But love is so much more than what Merriam-Webster manages to outline in their abridged definition of the word. There are so many factors at play when it comes to love. The way I see it, there are as many different ways to love as there are stars in the sky. Even if we each experience a feeling we define and convey as love, we each love differently and we also love different people in different ways. But we still call it love. It has many forms.

Gardens: stars

I, without a doubt, loved the Corporal. Some part of me always will. He’s the father of my children and, having played such an important role in my life, I will forever love him in more ways than one. When I think about it and look back with an open heart and mind, I know that the Corporal loved me. I think that he continues to love me still.

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We recently had the court hearing for the Protection From Abuse (PFA). The purpose of the hearing was to determine if a PFA should be granted and what the terms and conditions of it would be if it were. I had been advised to wait for the courthouse doors to open and for everyone standing outside to go in before getting out of my car to enter the building that morning. That way, I wouldn’t encounter the Corporal and possibly subject myself to harassment. Apparently, people don’t like getting accused of abuse (even when it is true) and will often give you a hard time and attempt to talk you out of pressing the issue if they get the chance. So I waited.

When I finally entered the courtroom with my attorney, I noticed a few rows of benches with people sitting and standing nearby. There, sitting on the back-row bench, in the farthest corner of the courtroom, I saw him. He was sitting alone looking down at the floor. I had only caught a quick glance before the Women’s Services advocate spoke to me & diverted my attention, but not before I saw him look up to see me. Our eyes met for a microsecond – this was the only eye contact we made for the duration of the hearing.

As the women’s advocate introduced herself and began to explain how the hearing would progress, I heard a familiar sound. It came softly at first, barely audible, but definitely there. Then, a few moments later, I heard it clearly… a sound I had encountered so many times that it is forever impressed upon my heart, like a soft scar. The Corporal was weeping. My heart commenced shattering into a million pieces the instant that I looked back and saw his hands covering his face. He still loved me. Here was the proof of that.

shattered-heartI’ll never know exactly why he shed those tears that day. Maybe he felt scared and alone. Perhaps he felt some remorse for the events that had led us up to this moment in the courtroom. Maybe the sadness he felt from losing his family washed over him in that instant. Whatever the reason, my heart went out to him.

While on the inside these feelings were stirring & churning my stomach, on the outside I never shed a tear. I remained stoic throughout the entire proceeding, hiding my pain. I think that in those moments, I felt like if I let him see how much he hurt me or if I gave any indication that I was still so in love with him, then, it might open a door in the Universe that I wanted to remain shut forever. So, I sat on a bench in the front row and I didn’t look back at him. I never looked back…

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compassion

noun com·pas·sion \kəm-ˈpa-shən\
:  sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it

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The PFA hearing was a long and drawn out process. There were other cases being heard that day and we were witnessing each one before us. I gleaned some tid-bits of information from every passing case that came up and filed them away in my mind, expecting that I might find the information useful when my time came.

In my own case, I had received notice only days before that the Corporal had filed a civil action suit against me. It claimed that I had at one point indicated that he was not the father of our children and he was now suing me for a court-ordered paternity test.

This was no doubt an attempt on his part to prolong paying child support, knowing full well that it would take time to get the results of the DNA tests back & that, because of the nature of his income, the Corporal wouldn’t be obligated to pay any arrears. I had certainly never expressed at any point that Bunny Boy or Bunny Girl were not his. But, for all I knew, he may have actually believed that I had cheated on him during our time together.

This was doubtful though. After all, this accusation was coming from the same guy who used to yell at me and threaten to both ruin my reputation and withhold funds if I didn’t play along with his money games. He, at different points in time, insisted that I commit welfare fraud and also fraudulently continue to claim unemployment benefits that I was pretty sure I was no longer eligible for.

Faced with the fear of losing everything that was in my name (apartment, car, utilities, etc.) combined with the fact that I had just given birth to my first child, I actually went along with the unemployment claims. After a while, I had even convinced myself, through conversations with the Corporal, that I still had good reason to claim them. This was earlier on in our relationship when I felt weaker and he lorded more power over me.

Eventually, I was found out and had to simply repay said benefits, luckily escaping any criminal charges. He was actually the one who paid those benefits back, so I felt that karma had saved me there. By the time he came down on me again about claiming welfare benefits, which I knew I wasn’t eligible for, I was stronger and had learned my lesson from before. He eventually backed down on this issue because I stood my ground.

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So, chances are pretty good, in my mind, that he most likely had asked for the paternity test to simply prolong paying any child support. Both children have been with me exclusively since the arrest and I have not yet received even an offer for a single dime from him.

When the issue of custody came up in our PFA hearing, the judge reiterated that, in most cases, he almost always awards at least some custody to BOTH parents. I had just witnessed a woman in the case before mine reluctantly sign a finalized PFA order with the terms outlined that her abusive ex would get visitation rights with their eleven-year-old son until an official custody order could be mediated.

But, because the Corporal was questioning paternity, when the issue of custody arose in our case, he was denied any and all rights. The judge cited that it was because it was a contradiction to want custody of children you didn’t think were yours. The stars had aligned in my favor and the paternity order turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The bunnies would remain with me, at least until our official custody mediation.

The Corporal was noticeably distraught and had been shedding tears nearly the entire time we were presenting our case in front of the judge. He sat at his table alone, no attorney by his side to help him. And, crazy as it may seem, I was once again heart-broken for him.

broken-hearts

The Corporal plead with the judge multiple times to allow him visitation rights, but was repeatedly denied. The pieces of my broken heart disintegrated into dust… It had been over a month since he had any contact with our children and I could only imagine his pain. On some level, I felt it as if it were my own; I am an exceedingly empathetic being and I’d had such close ties with him for so long.

The judge granted me the protection of the PFA for a full year, which is quite a long time in comparison to other cases. I had full custody of the bunnies and the Corporal was neither allowed to contact us nor have anyone else contact us on his behalf for an entire year.

I had won. I had gotten everything I wanted from the hearing. I knew that this was going to be the outcome the entire time, Spirit had already told me (though the details leading up to the outcome were never expressed to me). I knew that we were finally safe. I knew I should have been happy. But, in many ways, I wasn’t.

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loss

noun \ˈls\

: failure to keep or to continue to have something

: the experience of having something taken from you or destroyed

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Looking back on the years that I spent with the Corporal, there were many fond memories: Good times filled with joy and laughter; Intimate moments that brought us closer together; Leaning on each other through various hardships; The days that each of the bunnies were born. Of course, the abuse had always been present to one degree or another, but it had been minimized in my mind over time by the many joys we had experienced in our shared lives.

In the moment that I walked out of that courtroom, I didn’t look back at him. I looked forward towards my future. The one where he couldn’t hurt us anymore. The one where we would no longer have happy memories together anymore, either. My children had lost their father in that moment. I had lost my partner and best friend. But, I had gained my life back and the opportunity to finally work towards healing.

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On my way towards the courtroom door, the woman’s advocate stopped me and said that one of the county seat judges was hoping to see me before I left. When she told me who it was, I smiled and agreed to visit with him, as he was a dear friend who I knew through my yoga classes.

When I got to speak with my friend, he asked about how things had gone with the hearing, as he had become familiar with my case. We talked for a while about all that had transpired and about the feelings I had associated with the whole event. In talking with him, I managed to work through some of those feelings and gain a profound sense of closure that I had been desperately needing. So, if you’re reading this now my friend, thank you for your help.

He apologized for not having the ability to help with my legal issues, as it would be a conflict of interest for him. I replied that he had been more help as a supportive friend and that it was just what I needed at that time.

freedomI left the courthouse that day feeling confident and free, but there was still a small part inside of me that was weighed down by the sadness that filled my heart about the Corporal. Even if everything that came down that day was of his own doing, I still couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. Most people don’t and may never see this about him, but I know that he’s not a bad person. He’s actually quite loving, although a little misguided and has some growing up yet to do.

In truth, the Corporal is a deep ocean of emotions that, just like the tides, come and go in waves. His losses are greater than any of mine and I know that he is profoundly hurt and in need of help. I pray for his safety and well-being and have asked Spirit to watch over and guide him.

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And now…

I LET GO.