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Two Manipulators, One Awakening: My Pursuit of Wholeness

April 21, 20245 min read

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Content Warning: This post discusses topics of sexual abuse, grooming, and isolation tactics, which may be triggering for some readers.

In the midst of Edmonton's vibrant hustle, I embarked on a personal odyssey I couldn't have predicted. This chapter didn't unfold due to serendipity; it marked my initiation into the workforce at a men's clothing store. That ordinary staff meeting on a brisk September morning in 2000 served as the preamble to experiences that would indelibly shape me. The environment was ripe with anticipation and the distinct aroma of new fabrics, signaling fresh starts.

Being a college student, I was green to the nuances of retail and the intricate dance of human interactions. My personal history carried unseen burdens, rooted in a childhood quest for validation and the profound belief that I was solely responsible for the happiness of others, yet perennially insufficient.

I was determined to merge seamlessly into the new setting, craving the comfort of camaraderie. However, an unexpectedly candid revelation from a co-worker about his sexual private life left me grappling with how to maintain composure. Battling an internal storm, I was at a loss for words or actions, consumed by a desire to preserve his comfort over my own. Why did I shoulder his embarrassment? It was his misstep, not mine. But that was the old me, fervently committed to an unwritten code—ensuring everyone else’s ease was my silent creed. They say there are people pleasers, and I was the epitome. As these thoughts whirled through my brain, my co-worker seemed to revel in my visible discomfort, his eyes almost piercing into my tumultuous thoughts. Then salvation: my assistant manager's handshake cut through the tension. His eyes spoke volumes of disbelief directed at my oversharing co-worker, his message clear: "Dismiss his words, they’re spun with deceit." His cautionary gesture was a fraction too late; I was already drenched in awkward unease.

When fate brought these two men into my life, I never imagined the profound impact they'd have. My bold co-worker, evolved into my life partner. Together, we wove a seven-year tapestry of shared experiences, culminating in the house that became ours in the sixth year. Meanwhile, my assistant manager, pivoted his career path, luring me to follow, I was oblivious to the strategies of grooming – he was a master of it, making me feel uniquely cherished in a way I'd never known. However masked in the guise of mentorship he was really ensnared me in a web of sexual abuse.

During 2006 and 2007, I left behind a suffocating job and with oppressive assistant manager while also parting ways with a co-worker. It was a stark wake-up call, compounded by the reality of my pregnancy. I was done being controlled. Now, I faced the task of raising a child with a man who wasn't the support I needed. It took me years to understand why the co-worker was never around to support when needed. When our son was 5 years old, I learnt that he was married and had 2 other children. He had a double life when he was with me those 7 years. No wonder he didn't have the time I desired. He had a whole different family to support, give care to and spend time with. Having been 5 years separated from the relationship and very focused on our son's long term care and wellbeing, it was shocked and sad. But not from him, from the re-affirming reality that I again was not enough to make someone happy. At some point I needed to reconcile that, that came years later. As for the ex-boss, it took ten years to confront this other horror: the sexual abuse from my boss. Healing started with acknowledging this trauma, progressed to self-acceptance, and culminated in forgiveness.

In 2006 (when I was exiting the job with my boss) was last time these two men sat across from each other at a table, they looked at one another with disgust, each perceiving the other's failings. In reality, it might as well have been a mirror they were looking into, seeing their own reflections. Unbeknownst to them, they were the same. It was easier to regard the other with repugnance than to examine themselves. There's an old adage, "It takes one to know one." We recognize in others the qualities we like and dislike in ourselves. If we accept these aspects of our being, we can view others as they truly are, rather than through our haze of projection. Will they ever acknowledge the role they played in my life? Will they ever see themselves in each other? I don't know and it's not my path to follow, lead or know. 

This realization illuminated the complexity of human interactions. Back then, there were three of us at that table, each holding thoughts and ideas of what transpired and when. Maybe they chalk it up to "reading the signals wrong." Just as I carried the unseen burden of my childhood experiences, so did they. We each came with different scripts, internal dialogues, motivations, hurts, fears, and upbringings. Every one of us was present and participated in each moment, whether out of fear or love. 

So where do I go from here?

It's recognizing that I can't control the actions of others, I embraced the power lies within my response to each circumstance. This shift in perspective marked a turning point in my healing process, guiding me towards reclaiming my autonomy and strength. Amidst the betrayal and manipulation, the essence of transformation manifested not in grandiose gestures but in the quiet victories over my darkest trials. 

This story continues...Stay tuned for more in the coming week.

 


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