Three little words, aren’t they? Just. In. Case.
The subject of this blog is one I would not normally have dreamed of writing, let alone sharing. And a lot of the following sentences begin with the word ‘I’.
A Facebook friend shared a blog written by an American gentleman who was coordinating a course with participants of both sexes. The man running the course asked everyone to close their eyes and put their heads down on their arms and to raise their arms to answer the next lot of questions. He then asked a series of yes/no questions. A couple of them were along the lines of how many delegates had suffered abuse, physical or mental, or been molested or raped or, or, or. The coordinator had to keep his eyes open to make sure the environment remained safe. He was appalled that over 75% of the women delegates put up their hands. Later he said that to the man running the course. His reply was ‘sometimes, it’s worse’. His words hit home, so despite this being desperately difficult, I am writing it. If you are reading this, then I have also had enough courage to actually publish it.
21 years ago I came out of an abusive marriage. There I’ve said it. Not physical. Mental. Mea culpa, I thought. I was much more intelligent, intellectual, qualified etc, etc, than him. As if that gave him a reason to take out his insecurities on me. Basically, he was pathologically jealous of everything and everybody and I see that now. I tried to help, you know, the usual assurances, the ‘I love you but not your problem’ type thing. Nothing worked and I also see now that nothing ever would or ever will. Everything that happened to him was someone else’s fault, usually mine. By the time I dredged up the courage to leave and, believe me, it took more courage than anything I have ever done, I was a wreck. No confidence, frightened beyond what most people could imagine. I believed I was a worthless piece of shit. I considered every man to be a bastard and a user.
I changed my name, my job, my address, my hair colour. I moved six times in two years. The only thing I could not afford to change was my car, so that was kept out of sight and under wraps. Just in case.
Until I met a man who was none of those things, one who was thoughtful, kind and tried to make me believe I was an individual who didn’t need to be yoked to him to prove it. I married him and we have never had a day where we haven’t laughed or told each other how much we love each other.
Then eight years ago, a person I thought of almost as my surrogate mother turned on me for no reason and all the old feelings surfaced. It almost broke me. I ended up on anxiety meds for four years before I decided to throw them in the bin. It finished my singing in choirs since she was in all the ones I was in and made my membership of them untenable. For eight years, I stopped singing, too frightened to risk the stares, the not-so-subtle innuendoes, the laughing behind hands, the people turning aside. All for something I did not initiate.
These two experiences have shaped my life since 1996. Few people are allowed through my defences. Fewer people still understand what the words ‘just in case’ really mean. There are places I would not dream of going, just in case I bump into someone. I hide almost in plain sight, but I hide nonetheless. Just in case.
I took to writing full time because it is essentially a solitary activity. I write under a pseudonym. I don’t advertise myself too much. Just in case. We moved counties because, well, just in case.
Last night, for the first time since 2008, I joined a small local choir. Walking through the door was high on the anxiety score. I sang. It was great fun and I enjoyed it. But I found myself like some third rate spy, checking everyone over, making sure I didn’t give myself away. Just in case.
This morning, my main feeling is one of sorrow that I allowed yet another person to dictate my actions, to deprive me of the one thing, using my voice raised in song, that gave my heart so much gladness. That is why I made my contemporary detective a professional singer. Georgia Pattison is doing what I might, at one time, have been able to do. That is why the first book Dearly Ransomed Soul is set in Worcester Cathedral, because I sang there in Three Choirs Festivals and for the Worcester Festival Choral Society for years and it is a treasured part of my memories.
I will continue to go to my little choir, they are a lovely set of people, but I will for a long time to come, be on the lookout for that one glance, the snide remark. Just in case.
Have I found writing this cathartic? Too churned up to tell. BUT, if my story helps one person, man or woman, to not waste twenty years hiding and regretting it like I have, it is worth it.
A friend once told me that Paul Macartney, for all his millions, can’t buy the last five minutes. I’ve wasted so many years I can never get back, but I can start again and I am. If just in case ever happens…. well that’s a bridge to cross then, not now.