Fourier Analysis is a mathematical tool which can do a number of things: separate out signals from noise; help identify patterns or trends in data; filter out all unwanted data and focus on a single signal; use approximations to make generalizations; make approximations of real world signals (think electronic music); combine harmonics to get a stronger signal. That's what I'll be trying to do here!! Won't you join me with your comments?

Sunday, September 2, 2007

One Step at a Time...

This is Part V of my series for Soap Opera Sunday (go to these links for Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV). Thanks go to 'Twas Brillig and WalkingKateastrophe for the inspiration to set up such a great forum for blog writers to share their stories. You can find a variety of entertainment every Sunday when you check out their links!

Finally the end of the story. I'd love for it to be as dramatic and heroic as it deserves to be, but in truth I could not have done it any different at the time. There were many small steps and some big ones. And while it took several years to get to this point, getting out of it happened faster than I had imagined possible. That is why this portion of the story has so much detail and I don't consider it my best writing. But for me it is important to point out all the small steps that led to the conclusion. I truly believe there are others who are also stuck in problems that seem impossible to solve. But like any big project, it can be accomplished one step at a time...

I had to get away. ... But where to go? (The first step.)

While getting the cash that I had put aside, I noticed on the desk the recent bill from the department store where we had an account. Along with the bill was a flyer announcing their new travel department with special air fares. One caught my eye - Phoenix for only $79 round trip! A plan formulated in my head. I could go and see my Air Force buddy! I immediately got on the phone to him, but there was no answer. It was still late afternoon on a Thursday and he might not be home. So I called the number listed for the travel department and got a very friendly young woman who was happy to look up routes and give me the travel information I needed. Friday was a holiday and there were no flights then but there was a flight leaving that evening in 2 hours and the airport was only a half-hour away. And yes I could pay with credit card and pick up the tickets at the airport! The only problem was that the Sunday return flight was fully booked but I could return early Monday morning. I took a deep breath and booked the flight. I couldn't think any further than that. It just seemed the right thing to do. (The second step.)

So I followed my impulse, and got my things and got in the car to go to the airport. On the way, I started having doubts. My dad's apartment was on the way to the airport, and again, on impulse I drove by and saw his car there. I parked and went to see him. I told him I was going away for the weekend and that I was on my way to the airport. He offered to drive me so that I wouldn't have to pay any parking fees. I hadn't even thought about paying for the parking! I really did not plan anything! I thanked him and we got in the car and drove to the airport. On the way, my Dad asked a few questions, but he never brought up BF. I learned later that he could see the mark on my cheek where I had been hit and that was all he needed to know. At the airport, he said I could call him at work if I needed a ride home, and that if I could to let him hear from me during the weekend so he'd know I was okay. And he handed me $20. He called it "Emergency money." Tears welled up in my eyes but I could not give in to crying or I wouldn't make my flight. I picked up my tickets and got on the flight. (The next step.)

Once airborne, again I had time to start to think about what I was doing, and how crazy and impulsive it was. I was again on the verge of tears when the flight attendant came by with soft drinks. She must have noticed how upset I was because the next time she walked by she stopped and leaned over and handed me a bottle of white wine. She said it was left over from first class and would I like it. I thanked her and took it. I did not usually drink anything and since I had eaten little that day, the alcohol went straight to my head. I relaxed and felt suddenly at peace with myself, something that I had not felt for a long time.

In what seems like no time at all, we were arriving in Phoenix. I got my bag and went to a phone to call my friend. No answer. I thought I would give it some more time, but now really was becoming aware of what I had gotten myself in to. I went outside to enjoy the fresh air and sat on my suitcase a little ways from the entrance. Every 15 minutes I would go inside and try to call again. In between I would people watch. About a half hour after I had started this routine, another young woman came out carrying her suitcase and wiping her eyes. I watched her as she walked away and sat down on her suitcase on the other side of the door. The next time I made my phone call, she brought her case over to where I was with mine and asked if I would mind watching it while she made a phone call. I said not at all.

Over the next hour we exchanged stories of how we found ourselves stranded at the airport. Her long-distance boyfriend was supposed to be picking her up, but was by now almost 2 hours late. And she could not reach him (Remember, this is in the days before cell phones!) When her friend did show up a short while later, the sun was already going down, and I was starting to realize I needed to make other arrangements. The boyfriend kindly offered to drop me off, and I asked if he knew of a cheap hotel close to the airport. He said he did and I got in to go with them. My new acquaintance Cathy vetoed the first hotel when she saw the state of the pool (apparently a major indicator of quality in the western states!). The next one however was family friendly and so they helped me check in. It was even having a special 3-nights-for-the-price-of-2, which I went ahead and accepted. By this time I was really starting to doubt spontaneous decision to depart. The boyfriend, Bill, then insisted on taking us out to dinner and Cathy would not take no for an answer.

We went to a nice Italian restaurant and I was captivated by the interaction between Cathy and Bill. Cathy was really pissed at Bill for being so late. He in turn had a good excuse as he'd had a flat tire in the midst of a big traffic jab. Phoenix was undergoing a mass exodus of folks going away for the long weekend. And the spare for the sports car he drove was no suitable for the drive to and from the airport, so he had to stop and get the tire repaired and replaced before he could pick her up. He'd called the airport and had her paged, but she of course could not hear it while she was outside. Cathy was still pissed and raving at him, and Bill was understanding and gentle and let her go on without any angry reaction on his part. Eventually she calmed down and it was all good between them. I was amazed to see how well he understood her and how anger was just not something they let mess up their relationship. Watching them like this, I realized that this was something I was desperately missing in my life. I needed to be accepted as I was and not bullied and raged at. And I needed to be able to get angry and let off steam when I was frustrated without being fearful of the consequences. (Another step.)

They dropped me off at the hotel, giving me both their phone numbers and making me promise to call if I needed anything or was in Phoenix or Los Angeles (where Cathy lived) again. After making another phone call to my Air Force buddy (R), I went to my room. I closed the door and when I went into the bathroom I noticed myself in the mirror. This was the first time in possibly more than a week that I had really looked at myself. I was shocked at what I saw. Even making allowance for the horrible fluorescent lighting, there was no doubt I was in bad shape. My skin was pale and sallow, there was a dark bruise under one eye that spread down my cheek, my hair was limp, as was my posture. But worst of all, my eyes had a haunted look that made me almost not be able to even recognize myself. I was repelled and frightened by what I saw. I knew then, very clearly, and almost for the first time, something had to change. (A big step!)

Falling asleep that night, I realized that this would be the first time since my car accident that I had really been by myself. The next morning it hit me very clearly in the form of a small panic attack. I was alone. No one really knew where I was. I was in a strange bed in a strange city and had just spent a night by myself. This was something I had not done for 3-and-a-half years! But just as the panic started to rise and threaten to take over all my thoughts, a voice in my head said "So?" And I stopped. I realized that I had survived the night, that I still knew who I was and where I was, and that it did not matter if anyone else knew because I did. (Another big step!)

And then the tears came. I spent the day on an emotional rollercoaster. At one point I called BF who then raged at me, demanding to know where I was and that I come home immediately. I told him that things between us had to change and that I would come back when I felt I could trust him not to hurt me again. (A very big step!) He was even more furious and started to threaten and scream even more. I hung up and did not call back. I called my Dad to let him know I was okay and said I would call again when I was coming home. And then I went out to sit beside the pool and did not talk to anyone for the rest of the day.

Changes were taking place that I almost could not cope with. While it felt good to be quiet and alone, something I had not realized how much I had missed, it was also very scary. I don't really know why, but probably some of the leftover memories of getting lost right after my accident had something to do with it. But slowly through the day I felt better. Again I think the brain cannot really handle being afraid and being brave at the same time. It had to choose one course of action, and this time I chose to be brave. When I had really made that choice consciously, then from that point on I wasn't afraid again. And ever since, I have rarely been afraid of anything (except spiders!).

I took a walk and ended up being out for hours, almost getting lost. But it didn't worry or scare me this time. I reveled in the beauty of the desert city I had never seen before, marveled at the glorious sunset, and was enormously pleased that I was able to find my way back to the hotel by watching the planes landing at the airport! Another call to R still went unanswered. I spent another night alone, and slept in perfect peace. (A small step.)

Saturday came and went without my speaking to another soul. I had bought a novel that I read without really engaging my brain. I lounged by the pool, took a nap, took another walk, watched TV, and then took another walk out into the dark desert to see the stars. I must have been there for hours as I was quite cold when I finally came back. I went to bed without even trying to reach R. (A small step.)

I spent Sunday again with some emotional ups and downs. There is something to be said for being trapped with yourself for a period of time that you can't alter. There was no going back that day for me, even though at times I had in mind to do so and accept whatever BF chose to do to me. But by the time the sun started to set, I was calm and determined and not about to go back to how things were. (Another step.)

What is important to say here is that while was not going to accept the way things had been, I had not decided to walk away from BF or my marriage. These were small steps towards independence. If anyone had told me that in taking them I was asking for a divorce, I might not have made them. I could not think that far ahead. I could only deal with the present. It's an important distinction because fear of the future is what traps so many women in bad relationships. And if I had looked down the road at my own long-term future, it would not have been a path I could have followed at the time. Instead I was looking at just what was ahead and around the next corner and no further. Just like on horses, these emotional blinders kept me on the path and unafraid. I sometimes think that counselors at women's shelters fail to realize how important it is to focus on the small steps and let the big ones come of their own accord.

At around 8 PM, I made one more call to try and reach R. I realize now how the Fates were looking out for me in so many ways. His news came as a shock. He had been away in Las Vegas with an old friend of ours who was now also living near Phoenix - my ex-boyfriend (X). They had just returned and were surprised and thrilled to know I was in town. Because I was leaving the next morning, they decided to come over right away and get me. When I hung up the phone I was stunned.

I had not thought about X since the day before my wedding when I had to throw all his letters and memorabilia in the trash. I had not heard from him or known how to get in touch. R had mentioned something about it when I first talked to him, but I didn't have any information and did not think about it any further. In 20 minutes they were both there in front of me and all the emotions and silliness of our high-school days came flooding back. We went to X's apartment and drank wine and talked late into the night. X had to work the next day so he went to bed. R and I stayed up and talked further and he probed gently about my home situation. I wasn't ready to talk about it, so he let it rest. However, he had the next day off and convinced me to call the airline and see if I could get my flight changed. Thank goodness for 24-hr. customer service at airlines! It was possible for no extra charge, and so I postponed my return until Tuesday afternoon. (Another step!)

I slept on the couch, R in a sleeping bag on the floor (tough Air Force soldier!). We got up with X before he left and had breakfast together. X was very pleased I was staying over another night, and when I didn't notice had a quiet word with R to arrange to be alone with me that evening. I spent the rest of the day with R, touring around Phoenix, visiting the base where he was stationed, talking about flying and his career plans, and finally what I was going to do. I said I wanted to finish my degree, especially as I was getting so close to finishing, but after that I had not thought about anything. R would not accept this. He started lecturing me as only a close friend can. And by the end of the day he had helped me to figure out how to pick up my old dream of becoming an astronaut. (Another big step!) When we met up with X later that day, R then said he had to take off, but would call me before I left for the airport.

Suddenly I was alone with X, and while everything had been easy and comfortable when R was around, I was now nervous. We went out to dinner and when we came back we went for a walk. It took a while of small talk and awkward silences, but finally X blurted out that he had never stopped loving me and wanted to know how I felt about him. I guess knew on some level this was coming, but still I did not know what to say. I had talked the previous evening about the car accident, but I had not really gone into the memory loss or how it had affected me. When we got back to his apartment, I told him the rest of the story, outlining what I have told in this blog. I left out the abuse, but he could pick up on some of it from what I said and how I acted. And then he took me in his arms and said something that I held onto for many years. "I can wait." He kissed me gently and held me for a long while. (Someone took a step, but I'm not sure it was me!) Then he went to bed, and I lay on the couch thinking through everything that had happened over the last 24 hours. I don't remember sleeping, but morning came quickly.

While he went to work, I pack my suitcase and wrote notes to him and to R. He came back at lunch to take me to the airport, dropping me off as he had to get to work. I still had time before my flight and I talked to my Dad and tried to reach R, but there was no answer. I sat reading a magazine and looked up when my name was called. R arrived to see me off! He gave me a big hug and then looked into my eyes and said, "I know you're not ready now, but when you are, X is not the only one who loves you." He kissed me with a passion that showed me how serious he was. They called my flight before the shock had worn off! (Another step I was not sure I had taken!)

Wow! What a lot I had to think about on the flight home. But what I really had come back with was the courage to face BF and know that whatever happened, I was going to be okay. (Another big step).

What happened next was almost a blur it happened so fast. When I got back home, BF did not want to talk, but I insisted. I said that things had to change, and he agreed. He then told me since I had left him, that I should be the one to move out. I did not even realize I had left him, but in his mind I had. So I got more of my things, and went to my Mom's. As it was summer I was able to find an apartment near the school campus. I had already applied for a school loan and this came through in time for the Summer semester. I was able to get another job on campus and still work some part-time assignments at my office job.

BF filed for divorce and by August it was final. He was out of my life and after one last meeting to sign the papers I have never seen or spoken to him again. I don't know where he is. I haven't looked. I don't want to know.

I think this qualifies as the end to this story! But dear readers, there are more SOS stories to come, fortunately not as tragic, but still full of drama! Such is the life I lead...


Jen said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again. You are one strong woman.

What you did, small steps or big ones, was huge.

Your sharing this is huge. It is also something that could make a huge difference in other women's lives, if you felt you could share it with a larger audience.

Thank you.

Dedee said...

Actually, I love the details. I love how you can see now how each of these small things ultimately led you onto the bigger path.

Congratulations for doing what so many women don't do, and getting out of that situation. Your strength amazes me.

And Kudos to your dad for being understanding. He sounds like a good man!

(I would like to know if you ended up with wither R or X. I hope that comes out in some story down the road!)

Robin said...

It sounds trite, especially considering that I don't even really know you, but I am so very, very proud of you.

Kateastrophe said...

Good gracious! You are a tough one! I'm so glad that you're out of that horrid situation and just writing about it now, instead of living it!

Can't wait for more stories!!

anno said...

Wow! This is quite a story -- and I'm glad to see you coming into happier times. R & X, though, hmmm.. Interesting possibilities.... future SOS?

Goofball said...

wow...I am glad you made the many small and bigger steps.

Fourier Analyst said...

@Jen, Bigger audience than the whole blogging world? Hard to imagine. In truth, I don't think I could go more public because BF does exist out there somewhere and I know he knows who he is. I would just never want him to find me again. That's why I love the anonymity of blogging! But thanks for the compliment. The support from all you readers has made writing this a lot easier.

@Deedee and Anno, Yes, the stories of R and X make for some future great SOS material...

@Kate, Robin & Goofball, Thanks, as always for all your support! I hope it has at least been a bit entertaining!

Adventures In Waitressing said...

Proud of the way you handled it. Happy that you took all the steps needed to get out, big or small. Even happier for you that you have such a wonderful family to support you and have found your real life hero.


Rebecca said...

wow, Fourier - love the way you highlighted each small step you made as you made it - it really showed how distorted your perception had become under your husbands bullying - and how you had to kind of re-learn how to live happily.

Thalia's Child said...

Thank you so much for sharing this with us. Your strength is inspiring and uplifting!!

Brillig said...

So, while I was here reading today's SOS, I decided to relive this other saga. So I've just reread it. And here I am, looking for my original comment on this post and not finding it! I'm sure I did something stupid like write it and then close the window before publishing it or something. Still, you must think me wretched. Please know that I read this (and have now read it a couple of times) and I think it's outstanding. I'm sure your story will help so many others. Most of all, I'm just so glad that the nightmare is over.

And now... won't you tell us what ever happened with R and X?