I guess because it was the 4th of July yesterday, but this week I’ve been thinking a lot about sweet freedom. Despite being born and raised in the “land of the free because of the brave,” there was a chapter where the life I was choosing to live was far from free. Most every move I made in that season of my life was prompted by fear.
This morning, I thought a little bit more about those years. Sometimes when I think about who I was back then, it’s almost like I’m looking at another person’s journey. I don’t recognize that person anymore.
I don’t like to iron. I’m not sure I even own an ironing board anymore. If I do, I couldn’t tell you where it is in my house. I’ve probably ironed a total of five times in the last 19 years. I spent nearly a decade of my life with a narcissistic charming, manipulative bully. If he needed his dress pants and shirts ironed, it was my job to do it.
I remember the few times I’d try to stand up for myself: “I don’t want to iron your clothes today; you iron them.” But in classic passive aggressive narcissistic form, he always, ALWAYS, found a way to break me. It sounds so crazy to even write those words. I can’t imagine being bullied into ironing by someone today. I wouldn’t believe it even possible if I hadn’t experienced it firsthand.
Passive aggressive manipulation can be so subtle sometimes that it’s hard to spot and then, one day, it just becomes your normal way of life. It’s only after you (hopefully) break free that you realize how dysfunctional life had become. And how you never ever want to settle for that existence ever again.
Ironing is just one of the many examples I could give you about doing life with a narcissist, but it’s the first one that came to mind this morning. There were countless times when I was somehow convinced into believing that the only choice I had was to do it his way.
Before eventually breaking free, I discovered the “beauty” of alcohol. I could temporarily leave prison and be “free” without stepping out the prison door.
I’m grateful for that day in my life when alcohol stopped working and the pain of staying became more terrifying to me than the pain of walking out my front door and into the unknown.
The unknown. What a beautiful, grace-filled, spacious place that turned out to be!
But me he caught—reached all the way
from sky to sea; he pulled me out
Of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos,
the void in which I was drowning.
They hit me when I was down,
but God stuck by me.
He stood me up on a wide-open field;
I stood there saved—surprised to be loved! Psalm 18: 16-19