It feels good.

After 17 years of abuse and crazy-making, he can’t hurt me anymore. 

I feel like Jennifer Connelly’s character in the  Labyrinth: “Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City.”

Ok, maybe a little less dramatic. But you get the point. 

His abuse was never physical; it left no bruises, no broken bones. He went more for my heart and head. 

I rolled over time after time, thinking it was just easier to keep my head down, keep working, keep taking care of the baby. And pray that his threats were only words, even when I knew they weren’t. 

I learned to avoid eye contact and keep my distance. Otherwise, I may find myself with some fabricated, grotesque allegation hurled, sometimes publicly, at me. 

Each insult, lie, belittlement, and embarrassment etching itself onto my psyche. 

I couldn’t have stayed; I wouldn’t have survived. The doctor told me so when he urged me to leave him years ago. With his support, I was able to walk away. 

The scarring was so much deeper than I could have imagined, effecting every attempt at a relationship I have made. Isn’t love is supposed to make your heart pound with butterflies, not race with painful anxiety? 

It shouldn’t feel like I am dangling off a cliff by one hand, fingernails digging into the rock, desperate to find footing, right?

In love, I thought I failed over and over again. But I didn’t. 

I was learning. I was growing. I was healing. 

I built a community of people around me who filled in the cracks and healed my wounds. They have loved me unconditionally, dusting me off and sending me back to the arena time and time again. 

They helped me build a career that today supports the kid and me. They have been there when I cried and have found a way to forgive me when I was wrong (well, most of them anyway). 

Lovers have come and gone. Each one helped me grow; the good ones reassured me that I was beautiful and desirable even if I didn’t always believe them. 

I learned something from everyone that has passed through my life. 

These people helped me find the goblin city at the center of the labyrinth.  

And I know they stand behind me as I stand up for myself today and say to my abuser, “my will is as strong as yours and my kingdom as great. You have no power over me!” 

I forgive him, and I pray for him. 

I forgive myself. 

And, today, I feel like an elephant took his foot off my chest.