A Quiet Place

Do you have a quiet place where you can sit and just feel? Get your breath back? Maybe get your sanity back?

My quiet place is under the ancient fig tree in the park. It is substantial and constant. The canopy casts soothing shadows where creatures from other worlds live and birds hide from the heat and bustle of the day.

I needed the deep, wise knowing of the tree today. I saw my friend, an old friend, a close enough to be linked by blood friend who is no longer a friend. Friends for over twenty years broken apart by an abusive husband. He broke her jaw one night and when I called the police he took a swing at me and ruined everything. My husband said if he ever came near me again he would kill him.

So my friend and I parted. For five gruelling years. Two years ago she contacted me, said she was going to leave her abuser, but she didn’t. We tried to meet casually, to not discuss the only thing that was on our minds, but the small talk pushed us apart just as the abuse did.

I saw her this morning, eye blackened and swollen, buying milk. People turned to stare. She saw me across the road and I held out my hand, involuntary but well meant, and she walked away.

My heart fell to the ground. Sad, mad, full of disbelief that still she endures the cruelty of this man. A woman of such worth reduced to ashes.

Even though I have said goodbye to her when I see here like that the hurt is indescribable. But there is nothing I can do.

I limped to the tree like someone who has walked a hundred miles without stopping and sat and raged deep inside my head. And cried. Things like this are unfathomable. They shouldn’t happen, but they do.

She has to sort it out for herself. You can’t get involved, it’s too dangerous for you. She doesn’t listen, anyway. People say that to me all the time when I speak of her.

They are right but it is hard to turn your back on someone you have loved and leave them alone in the dark.

The tree was beginning to work on me, infusing me with quiet. I could see the water through the branches, pale blue and glassy.

Some people settle for things they shouldn’t. It is often the way of things. Sometimes all that can be done is to sit where the light is tranquil and soothe our own souls.  And listen to the leaves rustle softly. And see the waters slide back to sea.

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34 thoughts on “A Quiet Place

  1. Hi Selma,
    That is just so very sad. Unfortunately only your friend can change her own life nobody can do this for her, it is so hard to see someone we care deeply about go through something like this, especially when we can’t do anything about it. It is such a shame that the friendship was lost this way, but as you found out things can get very dangerous around these type of people.

    I also have a lovely spot in the park not far from where I live, that I love to go and just have a few quiet moments. It’s nice if you find a place like this.

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    1. It did get dangerous, unfortunately. I felt fearful so I can only imagine what she must feel on a daily basis. I don’t know how it doesn’t drive her to madness. Thank goodness for quiet spots!

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    1. WordPress does some strange smilies sometimes. I don’t know what happens. No worries, Deborah.

      I know leaving a man is hard but to endure that abuse for years and years. It must change a person. It is horribly sad.

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  2. Self-destructive impulses often run so deep, from deep, deep damage done in childhood, that people feel uncontrollable compulsions to repeat them, and friends can just look on passively in horror. She knows you are there if she decides to escape. I would be tempted to pass along, even anonymously, literature on local battered women resources and safe houses. Sometimes it just takes one moment of clarity to click, like an alcoholic reaching bottom. My favorite place to be is in my little house, all snuggled under blankets with my cats. When I was a child, it always involved the outdoors and trees. The old ones feel like our ancestors.

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    1. We’ve all done that, Squirrel. Me. Her friends. Her sisters. Nothing seems to work. I think she is very skilled at pretending it isn’t happening. It is quite distressing. Yesterday I felt very, very down but I have decided I have to just let it go because there’s nothing I can do.

      Under blankets with cats sounds blissful. The old ones DO feel like our ancestors!

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  3. Selma, I know how hurt you must be by watching someone dear to you live with violence. I think it is similar to watching a loved one kill themselves throughh an addiction. You want so much to help, and there is so little you can do.

    I helped a friend get out of an abusive marriage once, sheltering her, counseling her, testifying for her. After it was all over, she dropped me, never speaking to me again. I thought it must have been because I was somehow part of the “old” life, but even understanding (somewhat), it hurt. The point is, it’s a no-win situation no matter what you do.

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  4. It’s a tremendously difficult situation, I had a friend drop me when I spoke to her of an over-controlling boyfriend and how she’s lost in him. Parked all her dreams. She married him. Dumped me. (And this sounds like nothing compared to the kind of abuse your friend is experiencing.)

    As for me, well, I like to go talk to the river. I think there is something soothing about it all.

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    1. I’m sorry to hear about your friend, Nat. So many can’t see the controlling nature of people and often we are painted as being jealous or nasty when we say something.

      The river would be incredibly soothing. How wonderful!

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  5. there are so many ways we can fool ourselves, but not to be able to draw the line at physical abuse is a terrible deadly delusion. her life is in danger. it is hard, as you care so much, not to react, in the heart you want to be able to do something. i dont think you can convince someone, without some other kind of intervention(s), to change. the pattern is deeply ingrained. deep, as squirrel has said. tolerance has been tried and tested and suffering is the way of life and she cant see because of immense varied untouchable buried fears. so beaten down in her soul and spirit that the black eye almost doesnt matter any more. shame keeps people from getting out too. they feel so worthless, they dont seem to think they are worth saving. its tragic. but you tried, and you still care, and, well,
    as your husband knows, you cant risk exposing yourself to the violence, bottom line. that man is out of control. no one but she can
    end it. or a hitman maybe. but answering violence with violence doesnt really work. he needs constraints, anger management, incarceration. she needs a whole new life.

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    1. Awww, Tipota. You have moved me so much with your point concerning how the black eye almost doesn’t matter anymore and the untouchable buried fears. It’s so true. Thank you for your ability to bring clarity to the situation. And yes, thank goodness for the tree!

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  6. It is a sad fact that you can’t help those who don’t want to be helped. You’ve done all you can be reasonably expected to do, so please don’t beat yourself up over it.

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    1. I’m not beating myself up any more. She has to be the one to break free. I’ve done all I can. Thanks for your words of wisdom. I really mean that.

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  7. That truly is sad. Your words of your involuntary compassion, also raised my hand to the screen. I pray for you. The tree hopefully will never leave you, however, thank God for Solace where we find it. For me it is the second, “Woo” just got a strange chill or, sort of deja-vu, strange thing, when writing about the tree, as I just posted a poem mentioning one. Anyway, the quiet place, and solace for me is the last word in your post…The Sea, though, I’ll admit a nice old tree to share it with would also be wonderful.
    God Bless You
    paul

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    1. What a beautiful comment, Sons of Thunder. Thank you so much for taking the time to say that. I am so grateful to you. And the sea…. yes. I feel the peace there too.

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  8. I’m just so very glad that you found your special place. It couldn’t be any better than a beautiful, sheltering tree ~ like a big hug. That is always my first choice.
    Nothing I can say about your lost friend that others haven’t already said, it’s sad but not easily understood what we humans do.
    Keep the faith.

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    1. You’re right, Susan, sometimes it is very hard to understand what humans do. Perplexes me constantly. I love the sheltering trees (very well put.) They really are a gift to us!

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  9. Thanks for dropping by, Selma. Now that you read the poem, I think you can see why I got that strange feeling when writing the words to you here yesterday, on hopefully the tree will never leave you…it just went through me like the voice seemed to when writing the poem.
    God Bless You
    Keep visiting your friend Mr. Tree, or , is it Ms. Tree? Anyway, God Bless…Now I twitter and facebook your blog… I just love pushing buttons. Just Kidding, ( Though my wife isn’t ) I think there are bazillions of people your post can possibly help right now, too bad your friend isn’t one of them…Yet
    bye, paul

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    1. It is nice to meet someone via a tree. I think they have a power all of their own. If I can help someone by writing about this that would mean the world to me. It is a subject a lot of people don’t like to talk about but it happens more frequently than we think. I will keep visiting my tree and your blog!

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  10. My places of peace involve trees. In front of my house is a tree my mother planted when I was a year old. I feel a distinct kinship with that tree. But I also love the tall trees in the mountains and the wind-bent trees of the ocean. They are patient and silent, a perfect foil to an unsettled heart.

    I’m sorry your friend has chosen to stay with the pain. I would guess that her pain is her no surprises “safe” place. She can count on it being the same. She knows what’s going to happen, when, and how. It’s ugly, sad, and horrific and makes those who care for her feel utterly helpless.

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    1. I am overwhelmed to think you have a tree in front of your house that was planted when you were a year old. That is so special. It must feel like an old friend.

      ‘They are patient and silent, a perfect foil to an unsettled heart.’ That is perfectly written and is one of the reasons I love your writing. Aaaah. I love that.

      I think you have hit the nail on the head with your point about her knowing what’s going to happen whether it be good or bad. And it being ‘safe.’ But, Karen, what a way to live. I just couldn’t do it.

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  11. People like that have lost their mind, you cannot reach them with rational arguments. I agree with all the comments and yet it is an extraordinary role to be a friend. Keep watching her, a friend will see opportunities to wake her up others cannot. Don’t let the sadness of it all overshadow your own life, but keep watching her with the wonderful attentiveness you have, things change, a chance to reach her might suddenly come up.

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    1. I know, Klaus. I have talked to her until I was blue in the face, believe me. She seems incapable of hearing me or anyone else. I do keep an eye on her from a distance. It’s really all I can do now. And I pray every day that one day she will have the strength to make the change!

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