"They think you're obsessed with Mahasraya, that you think about him all the time."
That had me laughing. Yeah I guess writing a book that necessarily involves him because it involves that period of my life could make it look that way. It is by no means all the book is about but he does take up a good-sized chunk of it. My mom takes up a good chunk all by herself and even my stepdad will make an appearance.
It's also true that I'm obsessed. However, the target of my obsession is not a person but a social problem: domestic violence. Before I even left Iowa after ending my marriage, I volunteered at a women's shelter. I've read stacks of books, attended lectures and otherwise sought to educate myself about the problem and to understand what I went through in a larger perspective. I found that it was not just a personal problem of mine, but a huge problem in our society. Throughout my years of reading I've seen countless people ask questions about why women stay, why they return more than once before they leave for good, and other questions I felt I could answer. My current husband urged me to write a book about my life for years before I began writing. I put it off because I didn't really want to revisit that part of my life. It was done, I'd had years of therapy and I just wanted to enjoy my new life and my grandchildren. I had no need for catharsis or to "process" it any further.
Over time I finally became convinced that I did have something to add to the societal discussion about domestic violence, not just in my first marriage but violence and emotional abuse that began much earlier for me. I realized that by taking people on that journey with me I could help them understand why men batter and why women don't immediately leave, why women end up with men who have these tendencies, and most importantly, help young couples like my former husband and my younger self understand their own family violence and get help. When I was battered, other people's stories helped me get perspective on what was happening to me and I'm hoping my story can do the same. In the process I'm bending over backwards to present my first husband as a three dimensional person with a good side as well as the bad. If I were bent on revenge and tried to make him solely a monster it would not help anyone understand why women stay. We stayed precisely because these men are not always violent, they have a good side and the capacity for tenderness, kindness, humor, love and other desirable traits. That good side is genuine (except in those subset of batterers who are sociopaths, which is not the subject of my memoir).
Sure I'd love it if he'd apologize to my daughter for how he treated her or admit that he beat me to others (to this date he has not, following his remarks to a mutual friend that "she thinks I'm a wife beater or something"). I think it's only human to wish a former abuser would be moved to say, "I know I did ____ and I take full responsibility. I was wrong and nothing you did justified it." (Every battered woman has heard words to the effect "why did you make me do this?") But I'm old enough to know that most of us never get closure like this in our lifetimes and I'm fine with that. I don't think about it very often. Truth be told, I have more residual anger over what he did to my daughter than what he did to me.
Other things I really do obsess about are poverty, how we characterize poor people in America and justify that children are going hungry, racism, people going without health care, war, homophobia, discrimination againt fat people, and a whole list of social problems I am too much in pain (migraine) right now to think to list. If people suffer from it I've probably obsessed over it. Oh yeah, physical pain, another thing I obesess over. Chronic pain looms large in my life, far larger than the pain I experienced in the late 70s-early 80s. There's not much room left in my brain to obsess about my ex. I'd rather think about my current husband, frankly.
I'm going to grab an ice pack now. Still chuckling.