English: There, here and over there. Basically, in a sense, to mean restless. A collection of thoughts, musings and ramblings...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I wish for a fairytale ending (taken from my notes on FB)

Note by author: I decided to move my story here from my FB notes where I posted it previously. Since writing this I have made some research online about domestic abuse and it is both comforting and disturbing to find out that I am not alone in my misery. There was also a very interesting article that I found about a condition called 'Stockholm Syndrome' on http://counsellingresource.com/quizzes/stockholm/ When I read it, I cannot but realise that it was exactly what I went through. Everything in that article speaks to me.

I read that opening up and expressing emotions appears to protect the body against damaging internal stress and promotes long-term health benefits (according to Dr. James W. Pennebaker, writer of Opening Up). I have kept quiet for so long, so here goes:-As you may know, my marriage was a shotgun marriage. I was 19, just finished A-Levels, and pregnant. I guess I have always wanted to keep my baby, otherwise don’t you think I would have done everything to get rid of it? Instead, I just waited for the consequences, and even sat through my A-Levels so that I wouldn’t be a drop-out. I would have been happy if I was told that I could bring up my baby as a single mother, but everyone convinced me that it was for the best if I got married, because then the baby wouldn’t have to live with the shame of not having a surname and being labeled a bastard. I cried for a long time, because this was not what I wanted. This is not the man I pictured spending the rest of my life with.

I was kind of popular when I first got to college, but somewhere between meeting him and then getting pregnant, I felt that I got so alienated from friends and became a loner. Some of the times it was because I was embarrassed of my situation – I don’t know if people would understand me, and we were fighting all the time and I don’t want to have to explain why to people. It was already bad that I got myself into this situation, so I guess I believed that I deserved it on some level. He was also the jealous type, always badmouthing all my friends, and when I didn’t do what he wanted or liked, he had a way of making me miserable. How sick is a man who says that the reason you want to hang out with other girls is because you are a lesbian?? Yet, with all this kind of thing happening I didn’t leave. Maybe it was because he had this whole sob story about how his father was abusive and had another mistress that made me feel sorry for him and wanted to be the best for him. And I had this incredibly romantic and stupid idea in my head that I make him a better man.

One incident that should really have put me on red alert when we first started dating was the day when we had an argument and I just wanted to storm off until I felt better because when I am angry I like to be alone, just so that I have time to think and cool down. Except that I didn’t even make it to the door before he grabbed my arm and threw me across the room and over the coffee table. He was so remorseful after that, and I forgive him. Because? I don’t know, perhaps insanity? He pushed and shoved me whenever I argued with him; guess he never liked women with an opinion. From day one, our marriage was turbulent. I don’t believe a single week went by without at least one argument, which usually cumulated in him giving me the silent treatment, or pushing me off the bed when I wanted to sleep, or taking away all the blankets so that I had to lie there cold and he had the air-conditioning turned up high. It was often things like; I didn’t wash the clothes because I was busy or tired (which I had to do by hand because we didn’t have a washing machine while we were students), because I passed and he failed classes (and he said I was good at sucking up to the lecturers and I didn’t ‘help’ him enough), if by the slip of the tongue I said something on my mind that he didn’t like, and if I dared to argue back at him. He especially hated if a lecturer gave good comments on my work to everyone, and they talked about it to him.

He blamed me for his failures, saying that I was not supportive enough and that I didn’t take time to teach him. Well I tried, and you can’t teach a person who won’t listen to your advice. I was always afraid of making him angry, because he had the habit of pushing me, and I was afraid of falling down and hitting my head against something. I was expected to clean, or whatever wifely duties I was supposed to do, even though we were both students. He would get angry at me when I didn’t do the work quickly enough. And it seems like everything that was mine, suddenly became mutual property. I didn’t like it, but I was afraid of voicing out my view and making him upset. I also felt like I was just some sex object, because he would make me do things and say things that made me uncomfortable, and keep pushing the ‘you are my wife’ card on me.He always says that I only see the bad things, and never good things about our relationship. But how can I remember the good things, when the bad things in my memories are always overshadows everything else?

Of course, there are the times when he is in a good mood, when everything is done just the way he likes it. He attributes taking me out for dinner or lunch as him doing a good thing for me. But I remember other things, like how I would get excited because we made plans to go somewhere and then it didn’t happen because we argued and he refused to go. Or we would actually be at lunch, but then he would make a big scene and make me cry just because I waited for him to park the car and come over to order instead of doing what he wanted, which is to order straightaway (and I should know if I could read his mind). Just small slip-ups could blow up into something big. For example; it was wrong for me to introduce him to my colleague when I was on traineeship with Ernst & Young because he couldn't even make it past first year of university (and he made it clear to the colleague in question), it was wrong for me to finish the leftovers in the fridge, everything was always wrong. He broke my aquarium of fish over an argument that I don’t even remember about now. He was overly possessive - when I was out he was constantly checking up on me. When I told him I didn’t like it, he said I am lucky that he loves me that much, other girls would love to have a man that cared that much.

I also hated how he made fun of my religion. In the beginning, he would openly eat pork and talk about when he died he wanted me to make sure he was buried the Christian way. Once we ate at a restaurant with his brother and his brother’s girlfriend (of course it had to be at a non-halal restaurant) and I ordered chicken. When my food came, he tasted it and made a face as if it was the wrong order and they had given me pork instead. Of course I didn’t want to eat it anymore, and they all laughed at me. And when I got angry and cried, he acted as if I was overreacting, so started the whole cycle of him making me miserable. Once, he met a girl who was an ex-schoolmate of his while we were out to lunch. It was a Friday, so I was wearing my baju kurung on that day. I may be overly sensitive, but I felt so insulted when he told her that I am his colleague (not wife, or the very least, girlfriend). To me, it felt like the reason he said that was because I was Malay and obviously Muslim, so it was degrading for him to tell her that he was with me. When we were alone however, he takes pride in calling me his ‘wife’ and that he is the ‘father’ to Ashley. Never have I hated those two words as much in my life, because when he says it, it is like we are something that he owns or something. I remember very well when I was reaching the end of my bachelors, I was seriously considering taking a job in KL so that we would be together and at last begin our little family. My dream was to finally be a real mother to Ashley, so my plan involved having her with us in KL and I was even looking into possible schools close by. My request was simple, since I can’t do everything when I was at work – I suggested that he just pick up and drop off Ashley at school. His response? “So, I am supposed to be the f...king driver??” So, naturally I chose to work in KK. Away from him and close to seeing part of Ashley’s growing up. When I made that decision, he raged and made it sound as if he couldn’t live without me. He didn’t even bother to say congratulations or attend my graduation day. Lucky my ex-roommate came as a guest, though I couldn’t bring myself to tell her why my husband wasn’t coming to one of the most important days of my life.

After I moved back to KK to work, he blamed me all the time about having to stay so far away from college that he couldn’t make it to class on time or failed more classes. I suppose he was trying to say that he was miserable and struggling because I wasn’t there. I was supposed to pity him, but somehow I was beginning to see what a lousy excuse he was for a man. As for him as a father, it is almost non-existent. I see other young fathers and how they are excited about their children that they want to be a part of their lives – to the point of even helping to changing their diapers, giving them a bath, or get excited about doing something for their little one, and I just wish it was the same for Ashley. I am jealous of the women who get to have such wonderful men in their lives. Instead, she gets a father who thinks everything is a woman’s job, who doesn’t care that there is a baby who cannot withstand the temperature of 16 degrees Celsius from the air-conditioning, who didn’t think about her safety while he was driving recklessly on the road with her at the back, and one who told her to get out of the room when he came to visit in KK when she just wanted to spend time together with her mama, and perhaps papa. Ashley herself has seen those turbulent lunch/dinners out with her father, and one of her strongest memories of him was the time he threw a heavy book at my head when I argued with him to allow her to watch a DVD in the bedroom. So, can you blame the child for thinking less and less of him?

When I worked in KK, he would want me to take long 2-3 weeks break from work just to visit him again and again in KL. When he came to visit in KK, he expected me to drop everything and spend all my free time with him. He didn’t like that I spent time going to aerobics class and then hanging out with my friends. He once accused me of flirting with some guy there while I was chatting with him on MSN, saying that he has his ‘sources’. I was also not allowed to show my happiness at my successes. Whenever I passed my CPA subjects with flying colours, I was not supposed to celebrate because then I am not being ‘considerate’ of his feelings because of his failures. I was so happy every time he went back to KL and left me to be free.

I have always wanted to experience real university life, and not the university programs they have in Malaysian colleges. Before I was pregnant with Ashley, I had my heart set on studying in New Zealand at bapa’s old university – Lincoln University in Canterbury. For some reason, my dad, mum, me and Ashley went for a trip to Queensland, Australia. It was like a sign… we were in a bus in Gold Coast and suddenly there was a lit-up sign that said Griffith University. I just suddenly felt a strong urge to apply to that university, even more so when bapa said it is a good university. I got home, checked out their programs, and they offered a program that was just what I wanted. Of course, no decision of mine was complete without more of his raging and raving like a lunatic.

Being in university was so great, it was like rediscovering my youth. I felt so independent, free and I felt that I finally found the Sabrina that was suppressed for so many years. I loved Australia, I felt so at home and I found tons of friends who liked me the way I was. And sometime during the last few weeks of university life, I met the sweetest Danish guy who did everything perfect for me. Nothing really did happen, we just spent a lot of time hanging out, going to farewell parties, doing the little things together. It wasn’t something that you plan to happen. For once, there is a guy who treated me so well, and did a lot of little things that made me happy all the time – he even took the trouble to talk to a muslim friend to know the things he could and could not do with me. He said he was afraid of doing the wrong thing and ending up with me pushing him away. He just made me feel so treasured. So naturally, I was drawn to him and we grew close. When we left, we didn’t really think there was a chance that we could continue with our relationship and we wished each other well.

When I got back to Malaysia, all I wanted to do was to go back home to KK, be alone and slowly take time to readjust with being home. ‘Husband’ wanted me to stay longer in KL with him on my transit, he expected me to just bounce back as if nothing has changed, saying I was behaving like a weirdo. And I desperately missed my friends that I met in Australia, and especially the Danish guy. However, we did manage to get in contact again and spent lot of time communicating by email and SMS, and sometimes MSN. He was my closest confidante, and when he found out about Ashley, he was actually very excited to learn about her. I actually considered working at PWC in KL to make it work out with my husband. I applied, and was called for an interview in KL, and I was so excited. Bapa, Mama and Ashley too came to KL during my interview session, because Bapa needed to be there for his medical treatments. I thought I did pretty well at the interviews (I was informed later that I have been called for a second interview), but by then, hell had broken loose. I guess I started looking forward to receiving SMS and emails from Danish guy, and he always managed to make me smile. Perhaps ‘husband’ saw me receive SMS and smile a little too much, that he ‘borrowed’ my phone and locked himself in the bathroom while he read my messages. He then asked me if I was having an affair (I am not sure of the definition) and then he confiscated my phone before leaving the hotel where my parents and I were staying at.

Later, he came to the room after he had a ‘discussion’ with my parents about my affair. I was about to fall asleep and I was already in my pajamas. He said he wanted to talk to me, outside. Ok, I said, thinking that he meant to talk outside in the corridor so that no one can hear us and we can be alone, so I just put on a jacket over my pajamas. Instead, he took me all the way to the parking lot, and made me get into the car and he drove all the way to Cheras (which I wasn’t familiar with), where he interrogated me about my ‘affair’ with the Danish guy. I didn’t have any identification/money with me, and my phone was confiscated. It was a very scary experience for me. After he had heard what he wanted from me, all was well again for him, but he didn’t allow me to go back to the hotel, instead calling my parents that I am staying with him in Cheras. After that incident, my mum advised me not to work in KL, with such a lunatic on the loose. And even if I decided to work there, I better make sure that I have my own house so that he doesn’t lock me out (she has seen how he locked me out of my room before, while I was pregnant with Ashley). So again, I had to view KK or Labuan as the most favorable places to work in.

But after knowing about the existence of the Danish guy, ‘husband’ felt like it was now imperative for him to move to KK, keep an eye on me and track my every move. He immediately flew to KK to find a job and live at the B&B, take possession of the yellow Land Cruiser, keep tabs on everything I did and expect me to be the perfect wife all over again, like in his fantasy world – a wife who did everything she was told, plus all the little wifely duties and be so loving, while being treated like a sex object. He dug into my personally written diaries, my little notes, to know what I was thinking. He ransacked my handbag and went through my mobile phone while I was asleep. I was so happy when I got a job in Labuan, and thank goodness there are no prospects of a retail job there, otherwise he would follow me here as well. But the hellish things didn’t end there – he called me all the time. If I didn’t pick up my mobile phone at work, he would call my workplace (and I didn’t have a direct line to my desk). Same at home, if I didn’t pick up the call on my mobile, he would call the house, where I was living with Farouk. Sometimes I just want to be alone and not talk to him, but he wouldn’t allow that. He would keep calling and calling, even when I didn’t pick up. There would sometimes be up to 20 missed calls. I developed a phobia with the sound of phones then. I kept one ‘secret’ mobile phone and hid it so that he couldn’t find it and read through all my messages. I was afraid of going home and being suffocated with his behavior, but I wanted to see Ashley, so I didn’t really have much of a choice.

He once confiscated my phone and SIM card again because I received a message early in the morning, right before I was going to fly back to Labuan for work. He also tore all my favorite books in my room at the B&B, smashed my favorite painting on the wall and pictures of my graduation after we had an argument through the phone. He did the whole kidnapping and driving far away thing again, this time I had no money on me and he drove us all the way to Kinarut, shouting at me and pounding on the steering wheel, while driving fast. And once, while I was home in KK, he kept me captive in the bedroom after we had an argument and he started behaving very roughly to me - throwing me about and holding me down. I screamed and I just wanted to go out and cool down, but he barricaded the door by sitting in front of it so I couldn’t leave. I feel it would have been better if my dad was on my side and protecting me, but instead, he chose to defend ‘husband’, saying I should forgive him and giving all kinds of bull-shit excuses that he is a changed man and so on. He also gave an excuse that there are consequences for a divorce because he is a convert. I was so angry at my father for defending him that one day I screamed at him to stop interfering with my life and that it is my decision because I have to live with it. I just had to get away from it all, somewhere I felt safe and sane, so one day I bought a ticket to Europe, quit my job and disappeared for 3 weeks, while Mama, Bapa and some kids went to Perth for a holiday. No one knew where I went. It felt calming to be away, and I met up with some friends that I met in Australia, Danish guy included, who even introduced me to his mum.

When I flew back home, I knew I can’t live the same way again, I had to get away from ‘husband’. By this time, Mama understood my position, and she let me live in one of the rooms in the B&B, which meant I had to sneak around whenever I was home in KK, so that he couldn’t see me and abuse me again. He still tried to get me to be with him, so I admitted to my affair to shut him up. But he went running to my dad, told him I am a ‘perempuan sundal’ and redirected his phone abuse to my dad. Until my mum told him off. So until now, the status is just that he refuses to give me a divorce, because he thinks it is his right, that Bapa is supporting him and allowing him to live in the B&B, he has claimed ownership of my old yellow Land Cruiser, and he is there to ‘keep an eye’ on Ashley.

So, that is pretty much sums up the story until now. But the events of last week just shows again how much he has not changed from his old habits, and I am sick of it, so I lodged a police report. This is the story of the incident that leads up to me going to the police:-I was home for the long weekend due to the Harvest Festival celebrations. Mama and Bapa were both away – one was in Danum Valley for a short excursion, Bapa was in Tawau to attend a funeral. I had hitched a ride with a friend all the way from Menumbok, and I was having a nap on the sofa in my parents’ house because I was tired from the early morning and travelling. In the middle of the nap, I was rudely awakened by ‘husband’ calling my name and informing me that there is a family dinner I have to go to, and Ashley has to go too. I told him that I don’t want to, like in many other occasions I have rejected, because I don’t want to put on a fake smile and behave like everything is ok between us to show his family. But being the person he is, he refused to listen to my reasons and that I don't want to go. I told Ashley about the dinner, and she didn’t want to go either, after having experiencing many uncomfortable moments with her father. I don’t want to call him and tell him we are not going, since he will get my new mobile phone number, and set off another round of abuse through phone like I have experienced before. So, Ashley and I escaped to a movie and dinner, and I thought that was that.

When we got home however, he came back to the house, sat himself in the living room where I have felt so safe for so many months, looking like a bomb that was about to explode. He asked me where we went, so I told him. I also told him exactly how I felt about faking it in front of his family members, and that I wanted this to just end, amicably is preferred. He actually had the audacity to ask who I am with now, like it is the only reason I would reject him, and said I am still his wife, he is not going to give me a divorce. A huge argument started to escalate, and I was starting to get scared that he wouldn’t leave, especially since my parents are not in the house, and he might break or destroy stuff. I told him to leave, and actually went to the point of trying to push him out of the house, but he wouldn’t budge. So I ran out of the house and told Kak Cupi to call the police, because he wouldn’t leave. As I was standing at the door, looking for my slippers, I didn’t realize that he had come behind me, and that was when he hit me at the back of my head. I was so angry I shouted and told my sister that he hit me, because no one was around to see it. He told me not to make up stories, and began to walk away, so I shouted that he is an abuser. He turned back and came towards me with a threatening pose, as if he dared me to say it again, and would hit me if I did. So I dared him to hit me again, but by this time people started coming towards us, so he walked to the car and drove off. Kak Cupi called Tariq and his wife to come to the B&B to help, and they took me to the police station to lodge a report. The police then sent me to the inspector and the hospital for the report.

The next day, Bapa flew home, but I could see from his face that he thinks I was wrong in pressing charges against ‘husband’. And from the way he and my brothers talked, it was as if I am the bad person, like I deserved it. I am sure it is because of the story that ‘husband’ told them about me being a ‘perempuan sundal’. I was so happy when Mama flew home, because then I didn’t feel so alone. I wanted to stay until Tuesday, because the doctor had advised me to speak to some people who may be able to help me, and I could get leave from work. Bapa was pushing me to go home. And the next day, I found out that he wanted me to go back to the police station and drop charges against his precious son-in-law, so of course I was very very angry. He didn’t say it to me, but to Mama. I packed my bags immediately, and threw my bag in the front entrance for everyone to see. Maybe childish, but I felt like I made my point.

And so there it is, a total of over 4,500 words of my sob story. When I reread the story, I still feel like so many parts are missing, it is only a small slice of the whole story. But I guess if I wrote everything, then it would be a very very VERY long story. I am just a normal person with hopes and dreams, and wants nothing more than to be loved unconditionally and feel safe.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Being 30

It's been a week since my 30th birthday. I suppose that there are two, no make it three ways you could approach the big day. (1) with much anticipation and excitement; (2) with utmost dread; or (3) completely indifferent. I guess most guys would tend to fall into the number (3) category, and women... well... age is a huge deal. So much for saying that age is just a number.

Personally, I would definitely say that turning 30 is a big deal. A lot of things that matter to me have their cut-off at 30 - say, cut-off age for a working holiday is 30, getting less points for migration once you are 30... rules pretty much reinforce the perception that the age of 30 is when you are no longer considered to be 'young' and probably should stop having fun.
While I decided to greet my big day with open arms and as gloriously as I could starting with my 101 list (which I have only managed to complete... 30 items??), I still have that sense that time has caught up with me. I always thought that by this age I would have everything that I always dreamed about - a happy family, a great career and being in a place that makes me happy. But it all has remained an elusive dream. I can't help but wonder how much time I have left to say, have another baby. And of course for that to happen I have to meet the right person, who hasn't even shown up yet.
But enough of wallowing in self-misery. Who says we should stop having fun and living our lives the way we want to just because we reached a certain age? As far as I am concerned, I am still young and attractive, with great plans for that next adventure....


Monday, August 17, 2009

Breaking free

I just had my first experience of observing a court in session today. Well, my own case is not that complicated, we were merely waiting for the proceedings to finish so that the representative from the social welfare department could present our request to the judge for an interim protection order from our so-called spouses. We walked in the middle of a session where I am guessing a couple of people were charged for robbery (they were all handcuffed in a group) and then a man got up into the stand and pleaded guilty to two charges of drug possession and use.

There was another lady who was also applying for the IPO like me, and it was nice to share stories with someone who has been through sort of the same trauma as me. Some of our stories matched, like how we were always so afraid - about what "he" would do, and what other people would say about us. Other people don't usually understand the kind of dilemma that we face or create within ourselves. However, she has went further by having already applied for a divorce, and was kind enough to show me her application which was still pending since April. I was able to relate to her about how neither of us knew the existence of such a thing as an interim protection order until we made a police report on domestic violence which sparked off a whole chain of events. It then occured to me how many women out there who, just like we were before, are not aware of their rights and the services available to them. Domestic violence is no longer an issue they will take lightly here, I am glad to note.

I can't say that I didn't still have second thoughts about going through this whole procedure. Apart from being torn about wanting to please my father who had made no pretence about siding with "him", and having to take yet another day off work, a voice actually started prattling on and on in my head "Don't you think you're overreacting? Is this really the right thing to do". That is Ms. Nice Girl talking, I am sure. But I have decided not to be her anymore, not after everything. It was bad enough that he made my life a living hell, that I felt like I couldn't even come back to my own hometown without feeling uneasy. But the fact that he had exerted that same sort of force on my child, and the thought that he just may do it again, really had me resolute. I watch her face change everytime we mentioned her dad, and I remember the day she refused to go home while her grandparents are away because "bapa might look for me and attack me again".

So anyway, I had the IPO approved, not much effort needed. And I managed to get a copy of the divorce application from the syariah court, since I haven't heard further news of that being pursued from the other party. So it is definitely time for Plan B. Personally, I am tired of putting my life on hold. Tired of feeling like I am obliged to be a 'wife' to someone who hasn't even been close to being a 'husband' and a 'father'. Those are just grand, but completely meaningless titles in this case. It may be a while before I can get down to KK again on a working day to file in the divorce papers, but I am on it. And it has been decided that next year Ashley will be moving to Labuan with me, which is a relief for both me and my parents.

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