My ex husband grew up in “The Land of Enchantment.” It’s beautiful country. A place I always wanted to live. But he wasn’t keen to move back there.
He told me there wasn’t enough water.
It was a land where water was rationed. A land where you had “ditch rights.” Where water was used to gain power. Where you only had access certain days of the week. For very limited times.
He had this funny habit of frequently licking his thumb and index finger. It was a habit he picked up living in the land of little water, a place that was always dry, a place that burned your skin like an oven. He licked his fingers to make them wet. He liked wet.
We lived in a place where water was plentiful and he never tired of making everything wet. He liked cleaning the kitchen counters because he could use water while cleaning; lots of water. He left them dripping with a layer of water. Clean, but covered with a film of wetness. He rejoiced in that wetness.
He liked his hands to be wet. He liked making things wet.
He never stopped licking his thumb and index finger. Never stopped during the 22 years of our marriage. Even though he no longer lived in a place where water was rationed. It had become a part of him.
This is the man who insisted…no, demanded…that I keep the impact of being abused by my parents – physically, emotionally, verbally and sexually – to myself. I couldn’t “lick my fingers.” It was unacceptable. That kind of involuntary ingrained response to their destructive parenting indicated I was defective. Affected. Damaged.
Growing up in a land with little water had an impact on him.
Growing up in an abusive environment had an impact on me.
He had no problem admitting and accepting that the lack of moisture experiences during his childhood changed him and caused some quirks in his personality. Caused him to do certain things that he probably wouldn’t have done otherwise. To be someone he wouldn’t have been otherwise.
He had a huge problem believing that the abuse I experienced in childhood changed me and caused me to have some quirks in my personality. Caused me to do certain things that I probably wouldn’t have done otherwise. To be someone I wouldn’t have been otherwise.
It made me into a person I wouldn’t have been. Shouldn’t have been. Just like the lack of water he grew up with caused him to be someone he wouldn’t have been had he not experienced a water shortage during his formative years.
It was okay for him. To be affected. But not for me.
I wasn’t allowed to have any reaction to my past. I wasn’t allowed to have been changed by it. To have been wounded by it.
Until I started writing this blog, I spent my entire life trying to deny my past and the impact of that abuse. I was (am) ashamed of how my childhood changed me. I was (am) embarrassed about the way it damaged me. I tried over the course of most of my life to be someone other than the person I am. Because being me wasn’t allowed. Being me was disgusting. I was ugly inside and out. Or so I was told.
My ex let me know I was disgusting, ugly and worthless after we had been married only a few months. My parents let me know I was a huge disappointment early on, when I was a child too small to fully understand the message. Everyone I have ever known has let me know in various ways that I should shut up and not talk about “it.” Because “it” made me a worthless piece of crap. “It” was deplorable…and made me deplorable. “It” was something that should be kept hidden away in the darkness. And “it” should never, ever, ever be talked about. Never.
“It” was something that should always remain a secret. That I should always keep to myself.
Growing up in a land of little water marked him. And that was understandable.
Growing up in a home that was terribly abusive marked me. And that was not understandable. It was shameful. It was my fault. Somehow.
It was never my parent’s fault.
It was my secret. Never their secret.
My shame. Not theirs.
It was acceptable for him to be touched by his childhood in the land of little water.
It was not acceptable for me to be touched by my childhood in a home where I was abused by my parents. Where abuse flowed like a river of bountiful water.
He was starving for water. And it affected him. He licked his fingers. For the rest of his life.
I was drowning in it. In the water. Of abuse. But I was a bad person for being affected by it. I was bad for “licking my fingers.” For the rest of my life.
I don’t understand how this makes any sense.
But I’m still trying not to lick my fingers. At least where someone can see me.