“You’re So Lucky”
Dealing with envy directed at your good fortune is not easy, especially when those same people saw you at rock bottom.
It’s not the first time she’s said it.
My great-auntie had come to visit my flat in the little seaside town I live in and glanced around my room with a look of envy. I like this woman, she has always been supportive of my writing and always had kind things to say to me, and I admire her for the hard life she has endured, but recently I shared a few pictures of me and my son on the beach and wrote ‘moving here was the best thing I ever did’ — I was basking in a feeling of stability and contentment that was new to me, and it had unfortunately overflowed onto my Facebook page.
Then her comment: “you’re so lucky” popped up. I felt her vibe and recalled the several other times she’d made this remark. I replied: “Yes, I am very lucky and I thank my stars every single day.”
And yet, I couldn’t shake the feeling that she was pissed off at me for my good fortune.
What really got me about this is that she knows what I had to go through to get here. This little seaside town had briefly been my home six years ago. It’s where I moved to with my son’s father a couple of months before he was born. I wasn’t working because I was pregnant and due, and after the birth of our son, I soon realized that my dependence on him came with a huge price. He turned abusive. He would call me a slut and a c*nt for not sleeping with him. He would shout and scream over me and the baby in a drunken rage because I hadn’t prepared his evening meal. Yes it was a beautiful town and somewhere I wanted to raise my son, but when he reached 9 months old I knew I could not live like that a moment longer, and I certainly wouldn’t be exposing my son to any more of this toxic environment.
I fled with him to a refuge in another town. I didn’t feel I had any other option at the time. The family members I was closest too, were also in abusive relationships or were heavy smokers and control freaks. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep my sanity if I lived with them. But I had no money. My partner hadn’t hit me (but he had prodded me in the face), so I didn’t think a refuge was an option. However, in desperation, I called them to ask what I should do.
“We can give you a room, there is one available”
“But he’s not hitting me. I’m not a battered woman.”
“You don’t have to be physically assaulted to be in an abusive relationship. Emotional and financial abuse is just as dangerous. There will be a room ready at noon if you can get here”.
I couldn’t believe my ‘luck’. I packed our things as fast as I could while the culprit was at work. My days of feeling compassion towards him were over now that I had a baby to think about. I didn’t breathe properly until I stepped foot in the refuge and it was then that I realized just how suffocated and fearful I’d been. Now I could concentrate on being a calm and centered mother for my son.
After a few months I was offered a council house in my hometown, and at that point I didn’t care what town I was in, I just wanted a safe place to be. Me and the Ex-partner continued to co-parent our son and gradually built up a civil friendship where we could be honest with each other but I wouldn’t take any shit, because when he started, I would simply push him out of my front door and lock it. It was a powerful and beautiful feeling.
I wish that was the end of the story but unfortunately, I fell in love with another wrong one. He was the most charming and handsome man I’d ever met, with a sob story you could have written a film about. He’d been discharged from the Army after 20+ years’ service with an injured back and had arrived home to discover his wife was cheating on him. He had a breakdown and came back to live with his parents in my hometown, which is when our paths collided.
I thought I had met my soul mate. Soon enough we were having days out with my son and acting like a happy little family. Let’s cut to nine months later (is there a connection to this nine months business I wonder?) when I find out he’s cheating on me with lap dancers, and my ‘best friend’. He’s stolen thousands of pounds from his own mother, he has TEN children that he doesn’t see, he has been accused of rape, he is addicted to cocaine, and his claim that he has cancer is all lies. That is just some of what I discovered. I was coming to terms with all of this when he turned up at my house (thankfully while my son was with his father) threatening to kill me. He broke in and I managed to get out of the back door and run for my life.
I never went back to that house. Our home. How could I take my son back there knowing how dangerous it now was? Instead, I had to inform my son's father of the whole situation — which of course he took great glee in, because he was no longer the bad guy, and I had really f***ed up. I needed him to take care of our son while I found us a new home and sorted my mental health out. It was the hardest moment in my life to make that phone call — to ask him for help. I did so because no matter what else, he had always been a good dad.
My mother took me in at that point. I slept for 3 months on her sofa and felt like I was coming off a drug. That cretin of a man had kept me in such a state of fight or flight, and had ‘love-bombed’ me constantly so I didn’t know what was true or what my instincts were telling me anymore. When that had stopped working and I started questioning him, he told me he had stage 3 cancer. I believed him a) because who makes something like that up? And b) he had been losing so much weight and acting erratically. Turns out he was just a secret cocaine addict.
The whole time I was at my mother’s I shook and sweated with fear and didn’t leave the house unless I had to. I felt threatened with losing my son. My ex took delight in my downfall and the decline of my mental health and made comments about custody. It was my worst nightmare. If there was a rock bottom in my life then this was it.
I pressed charges on the conman and got a restraining order. Then I waited for a new property to become available. I couldn’t bid for any houses in my hometown — because of the restraining order — , but also because I couldn’t face the place anymore. I didn’t feel safe, I didn’t want to bump into him, or my ex-best friend who had so brutally betrayed me, in more ways than one it turned out.
What I really wanted was to move back to the Victorian seaside town where I’d lived when I first had my son. I’d always dreamed of going back there ever since the day we left. So when I went online one day and searched, and a flat in the very town I longed for came up, I applied for it immediately. At this point I had no idea how big it was, or even what street it was on — I just knew I wanted it.
A few days later, on my birthday, my ‘real’ best, oldest, and most loyal friend drove me to look at the new flat. We pull up on the street and both remain silent and open-mouthed while looking at the vast ocean view ahead of us. We didn’t need to say a word. Then we go up a flight of stairs and open the door to huge high ceilinged rooms, a massive bay window, white painted walls, two bedrooms — just what I need. I could not believe how amazing this place was. I say I’ll take it to the lettings lady, and keep asking her if it’s definitely mine. I keep thinking it’ll be pulled away before I can move in.
But we do move in, two months later.
After all that time at my mother's, only able to see my son a few days a week — we are now together and safe. On our first night, the electricity won’t come on but it’s okay, because there is the biggest thunderstorm I’ve ever experienced, and I have candles. We sit at the bay window with a little picnic and watch forked lightning flashing all across the sea. It feels surreal like I’m in a film — and like the gods are cheering that I finally made it home.
We’ve been here two years now, and I do thank my stars every single day. My son is in a lovely school, he loves his home and has made some good friends. My relationship with his father is better now that he’s matured some, and I have stronger boundaries. I will never get back into a romantic relationship with him but I’m glad that he’s grown so much as a person and goes from strength to strength as a father.
So when I post pictures of me and my son enjoying a sunset, it’s fine to say “you are so lucky”, but remember that everyone has a backstory and it is never just luck — it was making hard (and sometimes STUPID) decisions, hitting rock bottom and rebuilding myself from the ashes.
From this experience I deleted Facebook as it occurred to me that it’s more like Boast-book and the last thing I need in my life is the envious evil eye being turned on me.
After seething over this incident for a few days and having to note all of my own instances of feeling envious towards others, I feel less rage and more compassion. My great-auntie stayed in a violent marriage for years and was only granted her freedom by his death from a heart attack. That horror of a man used to beat her senseless in front of their children, all of which grew up damaged. One of them, now in his late forties, is a heroin addict who steals from her daily. She remains in the house she’s lived in since she was first married and is treated like crap by her other grown children. I don’t judge her because I’m not her. But I can see why it might be a hard thing to swallow to see us thriving.
That doesn’t mean I’ll stop thriving, but it does mean I’ll be more cautious when it comes to sharing my blessings in the future.