Monday Night Reflection – The Long Shadow of the Past

I have been firmly focussed on the future, building and enjoying where I am, the past has been for reference, inspiration and has had no immediate impact on my day to day. This week I was reminded that the particular version of the past told by my ex-wife cast a long and wide shadow.

When I lived in Newcastle, my ex-wife and I attended Church. The people there were amazing. Before then I had always felt different and an outsider, I came from an atheist home, I couldn’t play an instrument or sing, had no memory for chapter and verse, I drink, I swear, love modified cars and loud motorcycles. Take that and the fact that I am often bigger than any two of most of the congregation put together and it is not a recipe for being accepted. This was different, I was welcomed, we were welcomed and over the years made friends. Notably, two of those friends told me that the relationship was unhealthy and abusive and told me to leave. My ex found out and I had to break off all contact when we split, getting back in touch was one of the first things I did. Sadly, she went back there, has told her story. I also stayed friends with the daughter of two delightful people who really cared for us as a family, we had Sunday dinner at their house, and the looked after my eldest son sometimes. It felt like they were grandparents who adopted us. This last week she told me that she had argued with her mother over the fact she had stayed friends with me rather than her.

I cried, could not help it, thinking that my life and my problems was driving any sort of wedge in another family, that is terrible, and the last thing I want. All three of them are genuinely good, kind and caring individuals who do and mean no harm. All there were friends I valued. I felt had resigned myself to the door being closed to me, but thinking of arguments because of her, it is wrong. It also brought home the reality of never. I think of those people and realise I can never ask them how they are, when the older ones die, I cannot attend their funeral, I will never get to say goodbye to them. When we moved away, I always intended to go back, and even now would love to go and see them all. That will never happen, I cannot go and say thank you for all they did. I cannot go and show them the now and share my happiness and how they helped me be who I am today. And I am not all that bad really. To them I am a monster, smiling, laughing with them the ultimate betrayal and hypocrisy of abuse behind closed doors. I would hate me too. The record cannot be put straight, the truth will not be told, I am a monster.

On the one hand, nothing has actually changed; it has been this way for years. But as my wife and I celebrate the anniversary of our first date, the sadness has become more real. Perhaps, maybe I had fooled myself into thinking that despite the obvious, that they would have taken the life from my ex-wife and accepted it as true, after all, I had said nothing, that like the people who did stay friends and support me, they too would see the truth and how my behaviour, even at that distance, did not match the story. The knowledge, that this has not happened, stings. I guess the question is what do I do, if there is anything, about this situation. Is there anything constructive and positive I can do, the honest answer is I do not know, I don’t. I have no idea. I want to be constructive and move to the future, but the truth is this shadow, is there, it is real and it sets boundaries.

It is more than the threat of retaliation and consequences from my abuser, which had been behind so may of the decisions I have made in the last few years. I lived and live in fear, not that she will destroy my life, what I have that is truly important, has already survived that onslaught and the consequence was closeness and togetherness. Driving me and those close apart resulted in us all pulling together. However, a step out from that, those are things, like business relationships, constructive opportunities, that can be destroyed and ruined. And while I will survive and carry on regardless, it is not how I want things to be. It is a challenge to manage the threat with fear and to take risks on the future and the possible intervention of someone intent to destroy. She does not care if what I do is about others and doing good for others, those people who are “collateral damage” are not important to her, destroying me is. That much was made evident and very clear before.

In my mind is not just this, being cut off from old friends and forced to lose touch, has happened, and I saw people I really thought knew better just disappear, it became very much part of the landscape and I knew that those staying to support and be friends had chosen that with knowledge of what was being said about me. And since then, I have met people who have realised I was him, and they have made friends with me based on what she was doing publically. I learned to not put much investment into this. With old friends, it still hurts a little to think that they believe I am that monster. What is concerning me is not the past, or dealing with the past, it is this shadow over the future.

I have the chance of an opportunity to be doing something in schools, so the accusations of me being abusive and causing actual bodily harm to children become extremely relevant. There is no reason my CRB would come back anything other than clear, however, were she to level these accusations to the employer they are legally obliged to take them seriously. Something she knows and has tried to use to disrupt our lives before. On the back of being selected to start the process of that opportunity, and it is a process where I and the employer have to want to work with each other because it is a community project. It is not as simple as you can do it, have the qualifications and off you go. It’s very much about values and ethos matching up and our visions being together for the future. It is exciting as an opportunity to contribute and make a difference, at this stage we have agreed that on paper I want to work with them, and they want to work with me which is a good start. But, that is my concern, will she find out, because it is possible and likely as I am not going to hide it and my son follows me on social media. It is a major step and endeavour there is no way I would keep it from family and friends, and when she does find out will she do the right thing and leave me alone, or try to destroy it. Which for me would be disappointing but not the end of my world.

I feel like I travelled so far to be right back at the start, the shadow is still over me, and she is still able to exercise a measure of control over what I do, even if that is because she is in my head. I cannot control or accurately predict what her actions will be, let alone how that will work out. So far, the outcome was negative when she went on the warpath, this time I do not know, it is a storm I do not want. And she knows this, this was always how control worked, instil fear from making the one actual consequence so destructive and painful that risking the same or worse dominates your horizon and you act to avoid that event. Plus, it is not just me, it is anyone that invests in me that has to deal with this because police and press involvement are very real.

Perhaps, in essence, the reality, and what I don’t want to face is that the shadow of what happened, because she told the world I was the abuser, I always will be. A woman has claimed a man was abusive, that is enough evidence for the world to convict me. The truth and the reality do not matter, reasons for the failure of the Police or whoever will be given, and they have been. Lies have become truths, every so often I am going to have to face that person and realise that is who I am to some people. I have no desire to be famous and never did, but I have no desire to be infamous either, to hit even the local papers as the abuser, the monster. I left one place scared that people who retaliate on her behalf, this time it is not just me. I guess you never really escape.

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