Some things never leave you when a life changing event occurs. Psychologists say that the sense of smell and memory are intertwined. Smelling certain odors can unlock memories long forgotten from past events in one's life. Remembering events can also bring back odors as a vivid reminder.
Six years ago today, a very tragic event occurred that rocked my family to its very core. Most of you know of it and many have read these blogs in the past. The day my aunt and her boyfriend were murdered by her ex husband. The day lives were changed forever for 3 different sets of families.
I can smell that day. I lived in a very old house that we were trying to rehabilitate. The air in the house on January 8, 2011 was crisp because it was winter and a snow/ice storm was set to move in in a couple of days. I fell asleep shivering under a pile of blankets after having a few laughs at some silly memes on Facebook. The next morning I heard my phone ringing very early. It was a Sunday. I wasn't getting up that early on a Sunday. I didn't look at the caller ID, I just silenced it. A minute later it was ringing again. It was 7:22 am Sunday, January 9, 2011. I was freezing. I didn't want to get up and have a phone conversation. This time I looked at the caller ID and I saw it was my mom. So, I begrudgingly answered. When I had woken up to answer, I breathed in the crisp cold air and smelled the permanent musty smell that an old house sometimes has. I hated that smell. Nothing but sobs and screaming on the other end. "He did it! That SOB finally did it!! He killed her."
*life changes forever
I needed plane tickets. I needed to get out of Texas and home to Illinois. I needed coffee. I can still smell the burning of my espresso machine when I forgot it was on because I had gone into shock and started rocking in my little white rocking chair. I can smell the remnants of the fire I had burning the night before. The smells snapped me back to reality and I made frantic calls to get plane tickets home. I found myself in the shower later, sobbing. I'm not even sure how I got there. I can still smell the Garnier Shampoo. It was in a purple bottle. the soap was pouring over my face as the water pounded against my head, each drop of water helping me become more numb. The smell of the oil of Olay soap I had used to scrub my skin raw still lingers in my nostrils.
Those smells. I hate them. They bring back every little detail and every pang of anxiety. The worst of all of those smells came from the following day. There were people getting bumped off of the 5:50 am flight because of the previously mentioned storm that had made its way in that morning. They let me on because of my situation. A man on the flight didn't appreciate the fact that a woman and her two small children received two of his friends seats. He was yelling that they should bump me because they were going on a business trip and I was going on vacation in his mind. During his tirade, a group of passengers that heard my story threatened to toss him off the plane themselves if he didn't sit down and shut up. They told him why I was able to get those seats. Warm tears streamed down my cold face as the argument between the other passengers broke out. It scared my oldest. He started crying and spilled orange juice all over my black Wool coat and cream and beige scarf. The smell wouldn't leave the whole day. I could smell it for the full 12 hours I was stuck on layovers and connecting flights. The smell still reminds me of that morning. When he spilled it, I just went into hysterical laughter as if I was mad.
That's what my hell smells like.
Domestic violence was something that wasn't really spoken of much. Plenty of movies were made about it but still, people wouldn't speak of their secret hell. Her murder, her boyfriend's murder, her killer's suicide, all of that inspired the creation of "My Pleasant Nightmare." I want people to know. I want people to understand. I want people to not feel alone. Most importantly, I want to remind people to stop blaming the victim.
Why is it that we blame victims? Why do we we ask "why did they stay so long?" "Why didn't they leave?" Please, please, please stop asking those questions. Can we start asking "why did their abuser commit such a horrid crime against another human being?" "Why didn't the abuser seek help?" "Why do they feel the need to control and cause pain?"
My Aunt left her abuser. It did take her a long time. It's tricky work to get away from a crazy person. It takes time and planning and courage. Staying and putting up with abuse, living it, breathing it, feeling the physical and mental pain takes strength. Stop demeaning the abused. They are brave. The real coward is the abuser. They are so scared of losing control over a "loved one" that they keep them around using fear tactics. The abused tend not to leave for so long because they know that the abuser may just be crazy enough to follow through on their threats. That was the case with my aunt. She left and he kept his promise to kill her and ended up taking more lives in the process, her boyfriend's and his own. Now there are 3 sets of parents with one less child and there are 2 sets of children with no father and one set of children with no mother. there are brothers who lost a sister, sisters who lost a sister, brothers with no brother, and sisters with no brother. Aunts and uncle who lost a niece and nephews, nieces and nephews with no aunt or uncle. Grandchildren who lost grandparents. Cousins missing a cousin. The trickle effect is life changing. The man who did this to the three of them set events into motion that changed so many lives forever. The ramifications are endless.
However, this leaves the door open for Hope. It has helped bring awareness. It brings enlightenment to communities. The town I'm from now openly speaks of domestic violence. They do walks for awareness that end at our amphitheater where many brave people who survived domestic violence get a chance to share their stories and give hope to victims currently struggling with this life. Her story gave hope. I repeat it so often because I have received messages from some that have told me the left their relationship and made lives for themselves after reading the things I've written. I don't care if it helps just one person each time. As long as someone can turn that chapter of their book into a happy ending and can start the next chapter with a new and hopeful beginning.