What You Lose And What You Gain

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When you leave an abusive relationship, you may lose personal posessions. Maybe a lot of things. Depending on the danger you’re in, you may have to leave almost everything behind.

When I left, I had an SUV and a small box truck driven from North Carolina to New York by a friend I’d known for twenty-five years. We were able to pack a lot but not everything because we couldn’t carry things like the cedar chest my mother gave me, and because my ex started having a meltdown and getting really scary. The main thing was to get all three cats out and we did. (Driving 700 miles with three cats is a subject for another post.)

I look around my room every day and imagine the things that are missing, like the cedar chest. Every Christmas I remember the angel that was at my grandmother’s bedside when she died and the little ceramic votive holder with my name on it that I had since I was a small child. I lost almost all my Christmas decorations because they were in the attic and I couldn’t access it because it involved climbing a ladder and I was frantic and panicked and my ex was getting scary, as I said, and threatening.

When I think about the things I couldn’t get, I inevitably think about people who lose everything in a fire or flood or tornado and how thankful they are to be alive, and to have their families and pets. Then I think about all of the things I did manage to get out of the house: family pictures, some over a hundred years old, antique quilts made by my great-grandmother and her sisters, the afghans I made, the Christmas decorations that my cousin made, my mother’s rocking chair, the jewelry box and porcelain unicorn she gave me when I was a teenager, the stuffed Siamese cat toy that looks like my old cat who died while I was in New York, my box of little treasures like my grandfather’s harmonica, my clothes, most of my books, my laptop with thousands of photos and all my manuscripts, all my music, my Stevie Nicks memoribilia, my art supplies and my drawings. And the cats. And many more things. I’m rich. And lucky. And I would have left everything behind  if I had to choose between things and the cats. (Tip-if you write, email your manuscripts to yourself at an email address no one knows about.)

All that being said, when one partner controls all the finances and easily has the means to ship the rest of your belongings to you and chooses not to, that person is a thief. They’re keeping your things so that they can gloat over them, and to hurt you. You may not be able to get help from the legal system, you may be too afraid of your former partner to demand return of your belongings in the divorce proceedings, but your former partner is still a thief.

Don’t torture yourself. You’re out and alive. You, your children, and your pets are what really matters. If you all got out safely, you did the right thing. Things can be replaced. My mother bought a new angel tree topper with ivy to start replacing my lost Christmas items. Garnets are my birthstone. I lost my garnet rings. Someone spent a lot of money buying new garnets for me. It’s not the things. It’s the people who really love me who wanted to help me feel better.

It’s amazing how many things I’ve come across that are almost exactly like things left behind. Every time I play with my cats or buy myself a new computer with my money that I earned, every time I look at my family pictures or donate to a charity (something my former partner didn’t allow) I think, I’m lucky. And rich. And I won.

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2 thoughts on “What You Lose And What You Gain

  1. We drove 750 miles with five cats in a Chevy Cavalier when we moved. You have my sympathy.

    I think you hit on it: people and pets are more important than stuff. You can always replace stuff, although some you hate to lose, for sentimental or practical reasons. I’m glad you were able to retrieve most of the things that meant a lot to you. The freedom to control your life and live in peace is worth much more.

    • Thank you. Now I have to write the post about spending the night in the motel with three cats and then staying on I-95 instead of getting on 85 and watching the sun rise over the ocean in Fayetteville, NC, four hours past my destination….

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