“Normal”

I walked softly on the beautiful, plush, padded carpeting, the central air whirled silently whisking us with a constant temperature that was neither hot nor cold. As I looked around in the silence of nightfall I felt a strange and sick nagging at my brain.  Just weeks before we had been struggling, no beds, no comforts and yet now we lived in luxury or so it seemed to me.  In the villa I had felt faint as I stood in the kitchen, the door shut with no access to a/c, and temperatures rising to 115 degrees. But here it was cool and soft and new. That “new” smell was comforting and warm, the house was fully furnished with dishes, china, pots and pans, soft blankets, a spacious hutch to store china and linens, and there were actually linens to be stored.  The dining room was elegant and yet modern,  a lovely “blonde” (as mother would call it)  colored furniture, a slider to the backyard. The window in the living room spanned up to the second floor giving a full view of the compound.  Each bathroom was large, beautifully colored, built in cupboards and enormous tub for soaking. The bathrooms in the villa had been a drab color full of chipped tiling, splotches of spackle and easy access for cockroaches to enter from the gaping hole in the floor.  We had not been allowed to watch television in the villa until I found a way and finally bargained for this tiny luxury. But here we had satellite which meant cartoons, children’s shows and many other Western programs. Although we could not hang pictures or have anything personal displayed, this was the closest to a warm and homey feeling I had felt since leaving my childhood home to make my way off to University. When I left the crazy house a mile up the winding, dirt road on the hill, I thought little of what came next. I was a jazz singer and always would be. I was merely moving on to the next chapter in my career. Mother was a nurse with her M.B.A. who had become a successful hospital administrator, at a time when that was not such a common thing. So, naturally I could do anything, accomplish whatever I set my mind to. It was never questioned or discussed, finish high school, go to University and have a career. But, along the way make music and try to go on the road with a jazz quartet.

I went to visit my sister that summer, it was my sophomore year at Central. I was young and naive, I had met other guys, but it never quite worked out and those dreams of finding that one true love faded with each passing day. My sister was attending summer school and had met a young Saudi man. I arrived for this visit after a 4 hour drive through the beautiful rolling hills of the Palouse and surrounding area.  She mentioned that a nice, clean cut Palestinian man had moved in next door and I should be open minded. I laughed at the thought but as always things happen that we do not plan, a larger picture takes over and we are lost in a forest of sorts, an unending weave of thoughts and dreams. Those two short days would change my life forever and bring me the most difficult years of my life but also the most treasured gifts I would never trade.

The glass goblet filled with Roz Halib (Rice pudding)  came crashing down on the beautiful new dining room table, it made a huge thud as it landed. The glass in the hutch doors every so slightly shimmered as they shook. The questioning had begun, which always started with the key words, “what did you put in this?” Each time these words were uttered my heart started pounding and my palms began to sweat.  I felt my insides turn but knew I must put on a cold and sterile face to get past, any sign of weakness or tears only made things worst. The drill seemed to get harder and the questions would never be satisfied yet each time I employed a new and better technique, not knowing at that time that nothing would ultimately be the “right” answer. I spent many hours in between these episodes analyzing these incidents and making plans of what I would change in my manner to keep him calm. As he had told me many times I was too sensitive and must change this fault in my character.  I knew this meant I was in for the long haul and learned to answer questions as asked and stand at attention, showing nothing of my insides crumbling. I explained in detail how I had made the pudding and what I had done each step carefully mapped out. I bit my inner lip to keep from shaking and showing any tears. I watched his face hoping that my answers met with his approval and this would quickly pass. It was always hard to tell if an incident would turn into an event or merely a quick blip.  I added in that I had made it many times before and also, the neighbor who was an Arab lady had taught me how. He picked it up, scooped out a blob and plopped it back in as if it were slop for a pig. “No, it has never been good, no it has always been garbage!!” His words got louder with each utterance and his face became red and infuriated.  I spoke quietly to divert his attention from this wreck and told him yes he was right, I was wrong. I needed this to end so that the household could go back to “normal”.

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137 thoughts on ““Normal”

  1. Your tales give me shiver, unfortunately they are your life tales. Oh dear, ibwish to hug a person shivering standing there at a situation where she thinks she’s making a mistake, poor you..

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  2. Yes, just as I thought a much bigger pig than I imagined….what an arrogant ass he was and probably still is….to think of all the woman who live in the easternn countries live under this scrutiny in their precious lives is so maddening, all over rice pudding, I realize it was not the rice pudding, which was I am sure yummy it was all about his control and keeping you scared out of your skin of him…power, power, power….I remember an incident with my daughter, it was over the toothpaste being squeezed out incorrectly in “his” opinion…that resulted in my buying her, her own tube and he could not pass judgment on how she choose to squeeze the toothpaste, lets say that did not go over well….I picked my battles and like you my children were first… I am so happy that not all men are pigs….you poor sweet young thing, trying so hard to make it all right, I am anxious to read about the moment the light bulb went off in your head!!! it took several years for me, and I in no way went through what you did…I lived in the states and he was on my turf!!! but the men that are controlling a holes will always be just that…using woman to make them feel powerful……the only saving grace I feel, was that you at least had a decent place to live now and the kids were able to have a little of the western influence….but what a ride you were on sister…so happy you were able to get off….can’t wait for the next chapter…and you and your daughter are beautiful…xx.kathy

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      1. So true! Well it just happened that I started to write, but it is hard to tell the feelings of abuse in just a few paragraphs as you well know! It is a system and process that robs you and how to explain it is hard!

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      2. To live with abuse and get free is a great thing. From there the healing can begin and after many years not knowing oneself, it feels like a new life start and then hit hard. We can ignore our past for a while, but not forever. You do this so good Lynz.

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  3. I was just thinking the other day, I need to go back to the beginning of your blog. Thanks for the clue.
    When you moved from solitary confinement to this villa, I felt dread in the pit of my stomach. Like I knew you were being set up for worse.

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  4. I am so sorry for this horrible mess that seems endless, Lyn. I was only a few times hurt in my life, two by a husband and once by a date. I learned how to give up a nice home and life style twice! I am ashamed to say this taught my girls to not be ant more careful than I was. I worked at a battered women’s shelter and counseled and represented children as a Child Advocate. Wives of docotors, farmers, businessmen all walks of life. I like your positive attitude but feel your “pain and anguish.” Women are more often the victims and some areas of the world, women don’t even realize they have a choice. Hugs and prayers. When you said on a comment, it us still not over I cringed. 😦

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    1. Thanks for caring! you totally can understand for sure! I married secretly, changed religions and moved to isolation, so it was a long 33 years! I tried to let people see in the beginning my mom a strong, independent woman,nice dad, but still it effects us all every walk life as you stated! It is universal!

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  5. There are everyday heroes, Lynz, and you are certainly one of them. Motivated by a deeper love – to protect your children – you suffered in silence for so many years and strengthened your spirit. Now, you sing your stories and touch other’s hearts with the depth of a jazz singer’s art.

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  6. When I read the first paragraph I felt happy for you 🙂 but the last one spoiled it all 😦 I understand how tough it is to please someone who doesn’t want to be pleased.

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  7. Even though logically you know it’s not you with the “problem” it remains devastating each time. finding the courage to stand up to a bully – oh my – that was difficult…I so understand where your head was, fear diminishes us so thoroughly. I was never able to trust a man again. I’m so happy that you have your wonderful kids! Your writing is amazing.

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      1. yes, must be a woman’s lot to feel deep blame for everything…and always, always in the wrong…I have been single for more than 10 years now and I still catch myself drifting in that direction…it must be in our DNA! Each time I read your blogging about that time in your life I can relate to it…you have to have lived it to get it and so happy and proud to know that you too “escaped”

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  8. I see in the comments that telling your story is bringing here so many women who have suffered under the same mental illness as your husband. It is unfortunately a global phenomenon. Surviving any abusive relationship and moving on to discover yourself and be true to yourself becomes the work of the rest of your life – or that is what I have discovered for myself anyway. The great teaching tool lies in revealing how we woke up, how we made and make daily this transition I think. Reading the comments makes me want to say this: I’m not a big fan of blaming or name calling, but of taking responsibility for our part in the relationship, of becoming clear about that spark that lives and will not lie down beneath the torrents of abuse – for it is that spark to which we owe our freedom and our ability to grow and become more than we were before. I say ‘Honour the Spark!’ 🙂

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  9. I want to comment but I’m at a loss for words. I just keep repeating myself when I do comment. You have such an incredible resolve and such internal strength- I’m just riveted by each passage of your life story.

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    1. I really appreciate anything you say and that you comment! It is a hard realization but for some reason I now want to talk but I always worry people will judge me and I am already judging myself! so thank you for your words!

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      1. Please don’t be hard on yourself. Why judge yourself? What I see is that so many women here believe you are a strong woman who has lived a remarkable life of hardship, yet got through…not just holding your own head up out of the water but 9 children as well! Now you are in a new chapter of life with much freedom and so much talent. People who have not lived it do not understand…so you are the voice that can make them understand.

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  10. Dearest Lynz, I just now read your story and tears stood out in my eyes for I relate only too well with what you were exposed to. That type of person you described is empty of Heart, unable to reach happiness, so does his best to tear others down to make him feel better. Atrocious vicious behavior that leaves scars permanently, yet directly due to that treatment you become stronger with a determination to cut that toxicity out never to allow it to return. You are who you are because of this phase of your life. You are wiser, you have learned Compassion, your have grown, and from out of that are courageous enough to share your story so that others will SEE how wrong this behavior is. I am so darn proud of you! And as far as your recipes go, they are glorious! Let no one ever say anything less then that!!! So Much Love to you!!! (((HUGS))) Amy ❤

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    1. Thanks so much Amy! you are a wonderful person with so much to share. I see it in your poetry and lovely photos! You are right it does leave permanent scars! It means allot to hear these kind words because many days I feel like I failed!! I just want my kids to be happy and successful and feel good about themselves! love, Lynn and thanks!!!

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      1. Lynz, with a Mother like you, your children will be Loved, of that I am sure. You can only give them what you know to the extent you know, so be gentle with yourself. You have been through a lot, and relearning how to be you, is a huge undertaking, much less raising children. When you Love from the Heart, you cannot but succeed. I have much Faith in you that what you truly desire, you shall create. Love, Amy ❤

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  11. I can’t tell you enough how sorry I am you had to go through this. I know how terrible it feels to be in abusive relationships. I can’t believe you stayed so long. I think I understand why you stayed though. This was another good story, Lynn. Thank you for sharing it. I look forward to reading your story.

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    1. Thanks so much, it was like I felt to blame and then had 5-6 kids. I had not worked for years, left all I knew behind. I didn’t even know how to use a debit card or write a check and then worked three jobs trying to keep the kids on the right track, so it was hard when I relocated and I was afraid! Even now I worry!!! thanks for caring!

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      1. I can imagine being afraid to leave for different reasons. You’re a great mom! I’m sure your kids realize what a great mom they have too. I’m glad you’re in America with your family now. You have a friend in me 🙂

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  12. This is such a horrifying story, and I can see how it could unfold so slowly that you don’t even realize what is happening. It reminds me of the “frog in the hot water” story from psychology class. Do you know that one? Two frogs, 2 beakers of water, 2 hot plates…the first frog is put into the cold water and the hot plate turned on. The second beaker of water is put on the second hot plate and it is turned on. When the water is boiling, the second frog is put into the boiling water and it immediately jumps out. But the first frog didn’t realize what was happening, it was so gradual, they burn up before they can escape. Good for you, you got out! It took strength and character and the love of your children and family.

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    1. Yes a friend who lived through abuse told me of this concept one time! I often think of it because it is so hard to explain why you would stay? But the person is kind, loving and wonderful to start off, if they came from day one and screamed and yelled and controlled, who would stay? I appreciate you giving this example, it is the best way to explain this long term abuse! Thanks so much I really appreciate you speaking up! and reading!

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      1. Yes, this is absolutely true. Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound ignorant, but I know some cultures don’t hold their women in very high esteem across the board. Regardless, the important thing is that you’re safe and happy now and are finding peace from within. You deserve to be happy!! 🙂

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      2. I have been around a similar culture and I would say no, the men are no more likely to abuse than men elsewhere in the world. BUT women in Asia and the Middle East are brought up from young to hold the house together. Even to some extent Western women share this burden too, but in my experience ME women and Asian women carry practically all of the buren of the house and child rearing. And are expected to do it well as it’s a woman’s highest calling. That said, if a husband is a real cruel *#!!* he will nit pick everything the wife doesn’t do to his standard. Really grinds away at one’s self esteem I would think. I bet you wanted to tell him what he could do with the pudding if he didn’t like it ;D

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      3. well to be honest it was a daily occurrence and then back to super nice but still critical! So it was confusing and you feel like you are so wrong! Arab ladies are tough and laughed at me like I was just so silly, they stood their ground and said NOOOOO I was shocked! But you just get lost in this reality that they create. No I would like to say that!!! At age 40 I changed and woke up and that is when the real bad times began!!!

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      4. I think we all wake up at 40 don’t we? that’s when we say, “ok I got no more time for any BS”…do you mean that the Arab women laughed at you for being fearful or anxious around your husband..and that they were tough with their husbands?

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      5. yes I really do, so many of my friends left, lost their kids, etc. around age 40! yes the arab ladies were tough and told me” do you ask him if you can use the bathroom, don’t listen”!!! so yes they were tough!!! I think for me being from a different culture I didn’t know the rules, maybe that is why he wanted to be with me lol!!!!

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  13. Just… Oh Lynz, I cannot like this..my heart is doing flip,flops i have been there but not too that extent and not in a strange land and away from friends and family …how you coped I don’t know but you did and have come out the other side…amazing lady. you are so brave to tell it must be hard to put into words..hugs 🙂

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  14. Oh Lynz, my heart was pounding reading this. Is this type of treatment standard for the culture due to women being second class citizens? I applaud you for making it through such a turbulent time in your life and not letting him break you. You are an inspiration!

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    1. It is abuse which is universal and all cultures, and all economic backgrounds, education levels, most arab women are very tough, do not put up with bad treatment. they felt I was very weak! They have their families to back them up as well.

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      1. Perhaps the Saudi women were tough but with you being in a foreign country it’s completely different. I also think that anyone who comes out on the other side of abuse is not weak. I remember when me and my 3 small sons at the time were in a battered women’s shelter. There was a woman who came in with half of her hair pulled out. I thought “thank God, there is no way she’s gonna go back” but she did and it broke my heart. It’s awful how anyone (male or female) can make another feel like their insignificant.

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  15. Despite your lovely new home. this sounds like the beginning of the downward slide in your husband’s behaviour. I can’i imagine what you went through in a foreign country, without even your family to turn to. I’m looking forward to reading the next episode.

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