azurelunatic: panic button.  (panic)
Azure Jane Lunatic (Azz) 🌺 ([personal profile] azurelunatic) wrote2017-03-04 02:45 pm

The Great Escape (original title: "So, it's been ... a bit of a few days!")

Last we properly heard, my partner was preparing for a highly emotionally charged stealth departure to achieve a separation from their abusive ex. (The situation is complicated. Once you get to more than one of the following, you've got a problem: home ownership, bitter breakup, long-term relationship, state-specific laws on property division, laws on property division that vary based on the type of relationship, intimate partner abuse, and probably factors that I'm forgetting and/or don't care to mention.)

As we have possibly come to appreciate, getting out of abusive relationships is hard as fuck. I would like to point out here that I did not in fact "get myself out of" my relationship with Shawn. Shawn asked me to give him a blowjob (and, as usual, didn't reciprocate) and then told me that he and his new girlfriend were monogamous now, and thereby broke up with me. #classy

One has to recognize the situation as one that one would like to not be in.
One has to recognize the situation as abusive, and acknowledge that this is not just something that happens to other people, but something that is happening, to you, now, here.
One has to recognize that even though there may (still) be good times, that the bad times are sufficiently bad to qualify as abuse.
One has to come to the conclusion that no, it's not just miscommunication, it's not just incompatible goals, it's not just different communication styles.
One has to assess one's abuser's potential capacity for violence, the tools and tactics they currently use, and the possible avenues for escalation.
One has to figure out what freedom might even look like.
One has to assess the likelihood of escalation at steps taken towards that freedom.
One has to figure out one's willingness to take that risk.
One has to figure out a tactical plan, testing each incremental step like a climber puzzling their way up a wall, figuring out what will hold and what looks likely but crumbles as soon as it's trusted with a little weight.
One circles back to earlier steps, wondering if all the trouble and likely pain in getting out is really worth it, because it's been so long since one's known another way, and anyway there are still good times -- really!
One decides that the risk is worth it. Perhaps there was an escalation. Perhaps it was just a shift somehow. But there it is, and suddenly it's time, and suddenly things are happening. So much happen. Why happening.

There was a document, the Book of Shitty Compromises. Sometimes, when you're in the middle of a situation of abuse, and you've realized that it's bad, you realize that you are doing things perhaps differently than you would freely choose if you were truly free to choose.
A free world:
"I could take my laptop and go to Starbucks and have a coffee and write fanfiction for two hours", vs. "I could stay home and have a coffee and write fanfiction for two and a half hours and save a little money."
An unhappy breakup:
"I could take my laptop and go to Starbucks and have a coffee and write fanfiction for two hours", vs. "I could stay home and have my writing interrupted by the whims of this person, and I won't enjoy it."
An abusive breakup:
"I suppose it's possible that I could go to Starbucks, but if I don't stay home and subject myself to their whims, if I dare to take two hours for myself, they'll escalate when I get home, and I'm not actually feeling like I could handle the escalation, even if two hours would be very nice. Maybe they'll decide to go out themselves?"

That, friends, is what we call a shitty compromise.

My partner was training themselves to notice when they were making a shitty compromise for the sake of homeland tranquility, or at least, non-esclation. They weren't necessarily challenging their ex on things, or doing what they would truly prefer to do, but they were keeping track of those times and things in the Book of Shitty Compromises.

Also in the Book of Shitty Compromises was a checklist, the checklist of things that would have to be done in order to achieve physical separation.

In my professional life, I am pretty confident in my ability to handle logistics for things like little two-day professional conferences for a hundred or so people. That's a lot of moving parts, and (due to past experience) I can't count on me actually being there for every step of the way to direct all the people who are going to need directing. This means checklists.

I am also not the person who is the last word on decisions for this stuff. That means coaxing preferences and event visions out of the people who are actually in charge of that. Sometimes this means coaxing logistical details out of people who are used to executing the event but aren't used to articulating what exactly is needed. Sometimes that means going "Okay, when you say X, what do you have to do to make X happen?" and then, "So when you say you 'just do Y', who do you talk to about that? When does that happen? How do they know where they have to be?"

I brought those skills to bear on my partner. Y'all, if you've never had someone grill you for ... quite a while ... on the details of what you'll actually need to do in order to leave an abusive ex? This is not easy. This is very, very, very not easy. We weren't sure if I was putting too much pressure, not enough, or on the wrong place. And I am so fucking proud of them.

They thought they wouldn't be ready in January. I saw the signs of increasing restiveness in them, and ... wanted to make sure that as much as could be done, was done. Just in case there had to be an unexpected leap.

Saturday the 7th of January, they realized that they'd been pushed too far, that they were still (so, so very) scared, but they were more scared at the prospect of spending another month subjected to the ex's whims and demands and escalation. (And the ex had started escalating again. Verbal abuse, and impossible demands for the terms of the breakup.)

Having started the process to gather muscle to help move and pizza funds (much appreciated, thank you all so much), we realized that one of the bottlenecks was that my partner would have to be in about five places at once if this was going to be conducted as a pinpoint operation and possibly in the presence of the ex.

One of the ex's skills is an attention to detail that includes noticing changes (stuff moved, stuff removed) in the household. My partner got enough grief from a few small changes that they knew pre-packing was a non-starter. So they were left with a few days of tense anticipation but with few actionable items. They also weren't sure how many boxes they'd need; I am the one with the advanced spatial logic skills in this relationship.

My partner was also not rescuing all of their stuff. If they were, it would have been more work, but simpler: pack it all up and go, sort it out later. This was somewhat more strategic: pack up the stuff in order of priority, starting with the stuff that my partner would need for a few weeks crashing with a friend, and going in descending order of priority (of stuff that was theirs and would be hard to replace, expensive to replace, and easy for the ex to mess with if the ex was being vengeful) until either packing materials or time ran out. This meant that my partner had to tell people who they possibly didn't know all that well what to pack, and I could see this getting in the way of everything. They'd have to be running about from room to room directing, when it might take the entire time to corner the Antisocial Cat and get her in the travel cage.

"Can you take pictures of the stuff you want to pack?" I asked. "That won't disturb anything, but maybe I can start estimating the volume or something."

That, they could do. So as part of my organization process in the estimation, I wound up preparing a visual packing list.

I will probably use similar methods to prepare a packing list for myself, when it's my turn to move, since it turned out so well. (My partner can perhaps, at some point, give details on how it worked on their end.)

There was a picture of everything; it would do well to get large-area-of-room pictures and then pack-this-together pictures, for each box. (If there's a printout, the printouts could be used to label the boxes, as well.)

I initially thought I could do this in a word document or something, but I looked at the set of pictures again and went "Er, no." And I opened up a google slide deck and shoved one picture per slide, with a helpful textual template.

The template included:

Title/short description
Handling notes (fragile, temperature, etc.)
Location within room

I realized that I was working at a disadvantage once I started to title and sort them (as I've never visited and had only seen limited pictures and shaky video chat here and there), so I asked my partner to help. They started filling in the rooms and the locations within the rooms. I was able to glean enough context from their notes to start filling in other bits.

It made the most sense to (for the most part) keep things organized by room. I pulled a few things into a separate section, stuff that was so important to get right that my partner should pack it themselves and know where it was. (Cat. Medical equipment. Toothbrush. Towel.)

From there I put in slides separating each room. My partner confirmed the general priority, and I started sorting within the room by priority. Sorting the slides by priority order was hard, even when we'd put priorities on each slide, so I made separate sections for each priority within each room. That made it easier. We iterated through. We put estimates of the number of boxes on each section header, tallying up from the individual slides.

We compared the estimated number of boxes to actual boxes available. They would need more boxes. I made some suggestions (including tote bags and such). They got more boxes.

We started working through the planned schedule. They identified a pizza place that they wanted to use for the dinner; we worked backwards from their hours. That gave a schedule. We figured out what was best to do in case there were more boxes than car space. We figured out what to do if the ex was present, including an instruction to call 911 if the ex showed signs of getting violent. Because it always helps to clarify that this is an option, if you feel like it's an option. (The ex is not in many demographics who are at increased danger of being killed by law enforcement, and my partner has been consistently afraid for their own life during this process.)

We gathered support: people with vehicles, people to pack, pizza money. (And a little bit of tea-and-chocolate money that was a holiday gift from a friend of mine.) They confirmed that their friends not quite an hour's drive away were still available to host them. They confirmed maximum availability. I blocked their ex on Facebook before posting a call for help, and tagged people who I suspected wouldn't be able to help, but who might have friends who would be able to help. There were a few people, and one of them was able to help with the unloading.

They went to see the lawyers, and signed papers and paid money for the lawyers' help in getting the ex out of their house and returning their house to them. There was no turning back now. (They still had fears and reservations, and still thought that this might be too cruel to do to the ex. Despite everything the ex had done, and the ex's continual show of bad faith.)

I realized a few things.

My partner was about to do the most terrifying thing of their life.
My partner was about to do the most terrifying thing of their life, not knowing whether their ex was going to be present to interfere.
My partner was about to do something that terrified the snot out of them, and would be entirely absorbed in the process, and therefore unavailable to do anything except engage with the process.
I was too far away to help, and my presence would only burn money and exacarbate any problems with the ex.
I was not going to be okay in the slightest. (I would prove to be less okay than the night before my surgery.)
I was going to need someone to physically be with me, so I wouldn't be alone for this.
Purple had the plague, and couldn't do dinner.
[personal profile] quartzpebble had another engagement that night.
[personal profile] jd could be available after work. I arranged to pick him up from the Caltrain station, and thence to get pizza.

The day came. Tuesday, the 10th of January. The ex had been planning to run some errands. My partner wasn't sure whether the ex would complete the errands before move time. As of 4pm, the ex hadn't left for those errands. My partner wasn't sure whether the ex would have left for those errands by move time. The ex had also asked my partner to do a grocery run, and my partner wasn't sure if that would leave time to pick up one of the people helping move.

I gently suggested that since nothing on the grocery list was super ultra urgent, perhaps the ex could pick up their own god damn groceries the following day.

"Even now, despite everything planned for tonight, I am still in the mode of doing what they want."

I left to get JD. It had started to rain, fiercely. As I approached the Caltrain station where I'd been meant to pick JD up, JD called: the early shuttle wasn't going to work. I pulled over and programmed in a place to pick him up. Somewhere with shelter from the rain.

Unfortunately, the satnav didn't account for some of the construction, so I wound up going a long way around. By this time it was dark, and storming in earnest, and the political piss had hit the fan. My watch and phone were lighting up with weather reports and transit reports of downed trees and delays (and terrible, terrible political commentary). So it was just as well that JD was not on any of those transit options...

We got our pizza and picked up a few other grocery bits. When we got in, I was just barely holding things together. I can't drive on the anti-anxiety meds, so I'd been waiting until home to take them. I took them.

It took longer than we'd planned for before my partner called to say that they were on the road. The audio was terrible, and we were both pretty well incoherent, but a few crucial things came across: they were driving away, they had managed to pack most of the things, the ex had not been there, and they were all okay.

They were all okay.
They were alive.
I had survived surgery. They had survived this.

I realized something at the last minute. "... You didn't leave a note, did you," I asked.

They had not, in fact, left a physical note.

I ran through the scenario from the perspective of someone who had not been present for the days of frantic planning.
Arrive home.
No car out front. There's supposed to be a car out front. X is supposed to be home.
Go inside. Stuff is missing. Lots of stuff. Electronics. Art. Media.
There are signs of a scene of great chaos.
One of the cats is missing.
X is nowhere to be found.


I drafted a text for my partner to send the ex.

It was, approximately:
* I'm safe, don't worry.
* I need space for a week or two.
* I'm staying with some friends.
* My cat is with me.
* I don't want to talk tonight.

My partner felt it was a good draft, and sent it off.

One of the extra people from Facebook had had a thing come up at the last moment, but she was available to join for dinner and help unpack.

And they had dinner.
And they unpacked.

And my partner and their cat were safely ensconced in the spare room of some friends, and everyone was safe.

The ex, of course, tried to call (the call was not answered), and texted.
* Why was my partner abandoning them?
* Why was my partner not telling them where they were going?
* Why had my partner disrupted the comfortable and safe life of a cat who had had a Very Hard Life? (Because this was supposed to be a stable forever home for the Antisocial Cat, and it wasn't fair to drag her off to couch-surf.)
* Why does my partner have a LAWYER?!?!?

And my partner's terror, slowly, began to ebb, with every day that their ex didn't show up to throw a lawn tantrum at work.

And we are okay.
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)

[personal profile] alatefeline 2017-03-05 05:33 pm (UTC)(link)
Or perhaps she will realize that there are additional hands to supply pettings and skritches?
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)

[personal profile] alatefeline 2017-03-05 10:43 pm (UTC)(link)