Please Note: Potential PTSD trigger warning, particularly for those victims of domestic violence, emotional abuse, childhood assault, sexual abuse

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3 years, 5 months and 16 days is the exact amount of time that has passed since I first met the Corporal. He was an ex-Marine who used to crash my SilverSneakers older adult fitness & yoga classes at the local YMCA.

He’d come into the gymnasium where we conducted class, use the pull-up bar and chat up the ladies between sets, making them blush & giggle. The women in the class enjoyed his visits, making comments about his “tight butt” and how, “if they were only 35 years younger…”. I had always thought he came to get the compliments and attention of the women in my classes. But, when he started showing up to my evening yoga classes, I finally realized that he was trying to get MY attention.

1 month, 4 days later, he asked me to get some dinner with him. He would later say that it wasn’t a date; it was “just hanging out, so we could get to know each other.” I didn’t realize this at the time and, to me, it was a date. Either way, he took me out to Hoss’s Steak House where I had the salad bar. He proceeded to spend the entire evening talking about himself and his “accomplishments.” I was less than impressed by his self-centric conversation and ended up just feeling annoyed by the end of the evening. But, when he mentioned that his friends were throwing him a birthday party, I saw it as an opportunity to meet some new people, which I had desperately wanted to do. So, I agreed to attend his soiree.

A week and a half later, he called me about his birthday. Turns out, there wasn’t going to be a party after all, but he still wanted to get together. I really wasn’t interested in hanging out with him again & was actually sick, so it was easy to turn him down. But, he insisted that he was fine with my runny nose & watery eyes and was looking forward to spending his birthday with me.

Geez. Who was I to spoil this guy’s birthday? My tender heart went out to the poor fellow who got ditched by his buddies on his birthday and didn’t have anything better to do than to hang out with the sick chick. So, I agreed to go out with him. ‘No big deal. He’ll be grossed out by my cold and I’ll be back home before 9pm,’ I told myself.

Less than 1 month later, I moved into his apartment.

The Corporal was fun, wild and free which resonated with me on a personal level during a difficult time in my life. I was going through a divorce and had also been feeling alienated from family. My now ex-husband was a good and kind partner, but we met at a young age and had been moving in different directions for a while. I reached a point where I knew it wasn’t working with him anymore.

As if the devastating blow of knowing that my marriage was coming to an end wasn’t hard enough to handle, my family didn’t understand why it was happening and seemed to get angry with me about it. I had hidden my feelings about my marriage so well for so long that there’s no way they could have understood. So, the reaction that my family had to the news of my divorce just made me feel even more guilty for leaving my husband.

After my husband and I separated, I moved back in with my parents and was feeling sad and estranged. It wasn’t long before I resented being there. So, only a week or two after I met him, I ended up spending most of my days and nights at the Corporal’s. After only a few weeks, he suggested that I stay, but I wasn’t ready to move in with him (even though I was spending all my time at his apartment).

In fact, when he would tell me that I already lived there, I would quickly respond with a resounding ‘NO. I don’t.’ It was a conversation I’d had with the Corporal many times. But, the divide between my family and I was quickly growing and I wanted out of my parent’s house. So, it wasn’t long before I packed up my few belongings and made myself comfortable at the Corporal’s.

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8 years, 11 months, 5 days since I was a blushing bride on my wedding day. I had anticipated marrying my husband for so long. We’d dated for seven years before getting engaged and set our wedding date for one year after the engagement. When I walked down the aisle of what is still the most beautiful wedding I have ever attended, looking at my soon-to-be husband, I honestly thought we would be forever. That he was my one and only true love. And, in many ways, he has been exactly that to me. We wrote our own vows and I cried many joyful tears. There was even a gorgeous double-rainbow on our special day. I loved every  moment of it.

5 years later, we were living in our own home, which I adored. Every nook and cranny, every square foot pleased me; from the fireplace to the back yard to the gated garden where I grew my heirloom vegetables and fresh herbs. We had two sweet and beautiful dogs, both mongrels of no specific breed that we loved dearly. Our lives were humble and happy for a while. But, by about this point, the pain of my unfulfilled dreams had sunk in so deeply that it began to affect us both in depressingly negative ways.

I yearned desperately for children. For years, I would lie awake in bed at night crying. I would see children walking down the street holding their mother’s hand and tears would stream down my face. I would see commercials on TV with children and just completely break down. I spent weeks and sometimes months in deep depressions brought on by the sadness of knowing that I would never have children of my own.

My poor husband, he looked on and knew he couldn’t take away my pain, though he tried. Bless him, he tried. I’m sure he internalized my pain to some degree because we weren’t able to have children on our own due to complications he’d had with cancer as a teenager.

It was never his fault, though. I’d entered into our marriage knowing full well that we could never get pregnant. I always believed that his love would be enough to sustain me and that we could be happy, either without children or with some other option such as adoption. And for a long time, it was. My husband and I had a deeply caring and thoughtful relationship where we both respected the other on a level I’ve never experienced before or since. But, eventually, the pain settled so deeply within me that it changed everything we had.

In time, I grew bitter and cold. I would get angry when I knew he wasn’t taking care of himself physically, like when he would eat poorly or not go out hiking or biking with me. There were other things he did that would make me upset & made me feel like he was negating his health. All I could think about was how he had already had a brush with death with his cancer and, now that he wouldn’t take care of himself, he was probably going to die well before me.

He was going to die and leave me all alone. Horrible, I know. Selfish, absolutely. But it’s what went through my mind… I would think, ‘What if we did somehow end up with children? What if then, because he refused to take care of himself, he left me all alone, to raise those children without him? What if we never had children and he died? I would be completely devastated and alone.’

For a long while, we fell into a place where I believe we both resented one another. I was generally upset or depressed and often made him angry by spending money thoughtlessly (which I did, a lot). I later realized, through counseling, that I did this to fill the void – I was actually the financially responsible one in my last relationship, so I have a small understanding of what my husband went through with me. He had every right to be upset.

My husband also really hated that I made him feel guilty for eating unhealthy foods. I was moving towards a path where yoga, exercise & healthy eating were becoming exceedingly important to me and he didn’t want any part of it. Eventually, all of the issues we were dealing with one another became too much for both of us. Soon, I started spending more of my time with friends than I spent with him. By the time it was almost over, we were seeing each other less and less and barely talked anymore. I knew I had to leave. For both our sakes.

6 years, 7 months, 15 days after our blissful, beautiful wedding my husband and I finalized our divorce. I still know it to be the most amicable divorce in the entire history of divorces. We’ve remained friends over the years and his is still the best relationship I’ve ever had with a man. He has since moved on and remarried and I couldn’t be happier for him. I often pray for him and his wife to have all the love they will ever need from each other.

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1 year, 7 months, 20 days after the Corporal won me over with his birthday date (which is the one he considers as our actual first date), we welcomed Bunny Boy into the light. He was my first child and the Corporal’s second, as he had a daughter from a previous marriage. Bunny Boy was everything I had ever wanted in one tiny, pink & wriggly package, right there in my arms. On that day, I was finally whole. I had found the love of my life the moment our eyes first met.

With the birth of our son, times were good between the Corporal and I for a while. The two of us had suffered through a rough patch in our relationship shortly before the birth and I wasn’t sure if we’d reconcile. But, at that moment, we were happy and had resolved to make things better for the sake of Bunny Boy. Though, the abuse had already set in long before this moment and was lurking in the shadows, waiting for its time to reappear.

2 years, 11 days ago marked the anniversary of the first time the Corporal threw me to the floor, kicked me in the throat, and held me down while he choked me. I was about to take a bath so I was naked, I was also seven months pregnant with Bunny Boy. To this day, the Corporal insists that it was my fault that he hurt me; that I had initiated the whole thing & deserved it. Since then, though, I have talked with lawyers and numerous counselors and have, in time, come to realize that what happened that day was never my fault. So, I’ve lovingly learned to let that go.

8 months, 17 days ago, I moved back in with the Corporal in an attempt to make things work because I was pregnant with Bunny Girl. We had separated and been living apart for months, but had reconciled yet again and decided to give it another go. Bunny Boy and Bunny Girl were to only be 15 months apart in age, so we felt it was worth it to try again for them.

28 days later, the Corporal was kicking us out, following me around the house screaming at me to get out. When I grabbed my car keys and headed for the door, he snatched them out of my hand and threw them across the room. Then he backed me into the bedroom where he hit me and threw me onto the bed. When I started screaming for help, he held a pillow over my face and yelled at me to ‘shut up.’ I was nine months pregnant with Bunny Girl and had been holding Bunny Boy the entire time. That night, while he was berating me, he talked about killing us & then committing suicide before finally letting us go.

After that night, we quickly made up, just before the birth of Bunny Girl, deciding that it was just the pressure of having another baby on the way and living together again that had caused the aggressive behavior. There were promises made by the Corporal to seek out therapy that assured me he was trying to make our family a priority.

32 days afterwards, when Bunny Girl was born, I saw my heart leave my body and enter into hers… the love was instant. I knew that, no matter what had happened prior to this moment or how it was that she had arrived, she was here now and I loved her unconditionally.

The six weeks that followed Bunny Girl’s birth were what can only be described as blissful. The Corporal was loving, helpful, and genuinely grateful that we were still with him. Yes, I was sore and in pain from birth and unbelievably sleep-deprived, but he held me tenderly, took care of Bunny Boy and was reassuring on a level that I had never experienced with the Corporal before. But, as it always had in the past, those golden days slowly slipped away.

The Corporal became lazy and expectant of me, pushing me to get back into the routine of not only taking care of his every need, but also nearly every other chore in the house, as well as caring for both children. He spent the majority of his days on the sofa, playing video games or watching TV. He would get angry quickly and made me feel like I was never doing enough. Finding new ways to start fights almost daily, (perhaps out of boredom) he’d set me up so that no matter what reaction I would have to his comments, I was wrong.  He accused me of suffering from postpartum depression, but the only thing I was sad about was my quickly deteriorating relationship and my lack of a way out. Things quickly took a turn for the worse.

1 month, 21 days ago, the Corporal punched me in the face, held me down while choked me, then repeatedly tried to break my wrist and threatened to kill me. I was arrested that day and charged with simple assault and harassment for defending myself. He will most likely have to have the testicle I squeezed removed.

My life since then has been one obstacle to overcome after another. The challenges of taking care of my children on limited funds, adapting to the change of living with my family again (though, I am only grateful to them and harbor absolutely no resentment towards them anymore), and dealing with numerous court dates and legal proceedings have at times been completely, devastatingly overwhelming.

And I don’t have my best friend and lover to lean on anymore. Though, I do have more support than I could ever wish for (the support and outreach has been overwhelming in such a positive way!!), but I still go to bed at night alone. I wake up with my babies at night alone. In my head, I am alone with many thoughts that swirl and stir.

3 hours, 17 minutes ago was the last time I felt nostalgic about my relationship with the Corporal. I was thinking about the way he used to hold me close to him & how I could feel his heartbeat sync up with mine. I used to love that about us.

4 seconds since the last time I felt guilty for having nostalgic feelings about my relationship with the Corporal.

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Life, it would seem, is just a series of moments in time – large, incredible moments that we either look back on fondly or with fear/sadness/regret/anger. But this isn’t true at all.

Life is RIGHT NOW. THIS moment. Not the one before it or the one after it. Instead, life is right here, right now. Yoga has taught me that.

So, when I look back on all the different times from my past, I know that these moments are not my life, they are simply my past. When I look to the future, I’m hopeful, but again I know, the future’s not my life either; it’s simply what may be.

When I see my life in the present moment, I see Love, Joy, Light. I feel the strength of my body; my heart pumping the life-blood throughout my entire system; my breath filling up my lungs, expanding through my rib cage; the Earth solid beneath my feet, grounding me in this moment. I feel the connection of the Cosmos and that the divinity which exists within me is the same as everything that exists in this vast Universe. I am here now. THIS is my life. And I am truly grateful for it. <3