Seconds and Inches

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| This is the 133rd story of Our Life Logs |


My life was lived seconds and inches from disaster, almost from the time I was born. To understand how an innocent, healthy child lived so close to the shadow of death, I must take you back with me to when it was 1967 and I was six years old sitting in the back seat of a 1966 Red Ford Mustang being driven by my dad.

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The car was going very fast up and down the snowy, mountain roads of West Virginia because my dad had one agenda on that drive. He was trying to kill my mom and me. Ostensibly, he was driving us to spend a “Merry Christmas” with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, but that wasn’t his true purpose.  During the drive, my mom and dad got into yet another fight.  Dad was yelling, screaming, hitting my mom upside the head and telling both of us he was going to kill us all on the next curve in the road. He’d drive the car right into the void of night where I could see only the snow and tops of trees that lined the downward slope of the mountainside.

As usual, I felt conflicted, both loving my dad and fearing him. I tried so hard to please him, so he wouldn’t get mad or upset, but my mom was braver than me and argued with him which I was convinced would one day kill us. I tried hard to protect my mom, but I was only six years old and had no clear idea of how to do that.

Watching my mom and dad fight and hearing him say, over and over again, how he was going to kill us all by driving off the mountain road, I was terrified. Luckily, he didn’t drive off the side of the mountain that night and we all survived the Christmas trip to West Virginia. However, the violence continued and so did the many episodes of threats to kill and violent beatings. Because of the ongoing and continual violence, my home was never peaceful.  I never associated home with love, peace or happiness. It just had endless days of violence and nights of sheer terror. I learned later that my dad didn’t care if he died, but if he did, we would die with him. His greatest weapon against us was his inability to care whether any of us lived or died. That was a difficult pill to swallow.

I was an unsuccessful peacemaker growing up. My childhood’s misdirected logic told me that if I tried harder to be perfect, my dad would quit beating my mom. I tried to excel at school and get more A’s than B’s.  I became a Majorette in high school so at least I could pretend that my life was at least a little bit “normal.” I was the girl always smiling. I figured that if I smiled at my classmates, no one would know what was really going on with me. No one would know my home was full of lies, alcohol, and physical abuse. I become a master manipulator at deceit, not something one should ever want their child to become.

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When I was sixteen, I had to call the police on my dad after a particularly horrendous beating. The police arrived but were unable to help given that it was 1977 and domestic and child abuse wasn’t taken as seriously back then. I sat in shock listening to the police officer tell me that I only had two choices in this situation—my three-year-old brother and I could be placed in foster care but in separate homes, or I could go back into the house and pretend nothing had ever happened. I didn’t know what to say or do. I did know that my home had just turned into a living hell even worse than it had been before and there wasn’t ever going to be an easy way out.

I stumbled back in the house, praying for once that my mom and dad would leave me alone.  Of course, my dad realized that I called the police on him and not only did the police know he beat me and my mom but worse……our neighbors knew. This was a big deal to him because it meant our picture-perfect life we presented to the public now had a big, black X marked through it. My dad hated when the truth came out about anything that did not embrace his “perfect” family lie.

Home became a more intense battlefield to endure each day. It left me trembling with fear, sick to my stomach and a nervous wreck. Every day is a repeat of the day before where my dad would threaten us with things much worse than the night I had to call the police. If he heard us whispering, if he thought one of us looked at him funny, if we talked on the phone for too long, or if he was drinking. In essence, if we did anything including breathing, it set him off. I remember him telling us with relish that we would never know what or when it would be, only that worse was coming.

The shared guilt lived in my house between my mom and myself. Our relationships with others were affected because we were hiding a huge secret. Family members didn’t know about the abuse and we wore masks faking happiness. Instead of finding the courage to speak up about our destructive home life, my mother and I instead pretended like it wasn’t happening. We told ourselves the beatings and the yelling wouldn’t happen again, but in our hearts, we knew that was a lie.

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Since I had been trained into wearing a mask to make everyone think my life was perfect, I carried this habit into adulthood. I left home, went to college, graduated and got married in 1982, and had my two boys. Still, the monsters of my past remained in my head, lurking around every corner. I gravitated towards men that were violent or incomplete who had no understanding of healthy relationships. Then again, neither did I.

The price I paid for that moth to the flame mentality was more beatings, abuse, a divorce and a second marriage, my house being burned down and a second divorce. The only thing golden that came out of my first relationship was my two boys. Somehow, my kids were always able to have some distance from the abuse I endured. They were always away from home when the beatings took place. I liked to think that what was happening to me wasn’t affecting them, but I was kidding myself. Kids are smarter than we think and even though I tried to shield them, they had seen things they shouldn’t have had to see at their ages, and for that I felt awful.

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In 2003, I got married for a third time, and this time, it stuck. Despite feeling a stronger connection this time around, I still kept many secrets of my past hidden away. I went through life with the mask firmly in place until it all became too much, and I self-destructed. I stopped killing myself to be the “perfect” wife, mom, and daughter. It all became too much.

I went off the deep end in 2013, letting my past monsters get the best of me. I went to a white collar “prison camp” for wire fraud and had never felt so ashamed of myself. I only stayed there for about 18 months but it was enough to scare me, open my eyes and make me aware that my own self-destructive behavior had to be helped. I had to get help. I had lived so long under the guise that I was someone who could handle herself. I had refused to admit that I needed help addressing, helping and healing myself from past abuses. I deluded myself into thinking that I was strong and wise enough to deal with it all by myself. But I was kidding myself.

I finally stopped hiding and telling people about my past because I could not share my story without support while I was telling it, and I could not begin to heal until I knew I wasn’t alone. Knowing there were others out there who were as damaged as I was who needed someone to support and hear them so they too could begin to heal became my calling. It has been one of the most liberating experiences. I started writing down my memories, delving into difficult moments so that I could find closure and move on. When I finally talked about it, I felt free, like the monsters of my past had less control over me.

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Today, when I talk about the past or share my story, I keep some details to myself that are too horrific, but I’m working to open up more. This has been difficult for me when I was raised to keep my mouth shut about it. From my life, I learned that no matter how hard it is to leave your dark past behind, you must try so that you have a chance at a better life. I don’t have what one would call a “happy ending.” I regret almost everything that has happened in the past. I have caused damage that I can’t repair, but I can share my story in hopes of helping others see that they aren’t alone. I can’t change my past, but I can alter the present to become a better person and combat the demons that haunt me. I let the demons of my past bring me down many times in my life, but today I’m striving to keep them at arm’s length, so I have a chance a moving forward and finding happiness. 

Section Break

This is the story of Samantha Seconds

Samantha resides in Houston, Texas with her husband. After a rough childhood full of abuse that couldn’t be talked about, Samantha learned to wear a mask and pretend life was perfect which led her to destructive behaviors in life including choosing abusive men and serving some jailtime. Through what she’s been through, she’s learned that she will never heal if she does not tell her story, so she shares it with others including those that read her blog: https://secondsandinchesblog.wordpress.com/

Samantha loves to travel, read, write and walk in her spare time. Her interests revolve around volunteering and advocacy for those who are disenfranchised, abused, suffer from mental illness, drug/alcohol abuse and/or have a criminal record. She knows she will never be able to do enough, volunteer enough or advocate enough for those who have no voice for whatever reason, but she still plans to do all she can.

 

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This story first touched our hearts on July 23, 2018.

| Writer: Samantha Seconds | Editor: Kristen Petronio |

 


 If you are interested in learning more about Samantha, please read more of her stories with us:

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“No Longer Home”

Despite growing up in an abusive home, Samantha was convinced that all people were inherently good. She soon learned how wrong she was after a dangerous encounter with an officer in Syria who detained her, taking her away from her son and husband at the time.

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“Escaping the Shadow of Death”

When Samantha encountered three instances of freak accidental deaths in her childhood, she began to believe that the “shadow of death” was following her. As she grew up, she became less afraid that she was cursed and learned that life has its own agenda that cannot be controlled.

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