I was 19, and I thought my love would change him.
I’m lying on the bed with my knees up, pushing him away with my feet.
Ross has the fishing knife at my throat. It has a bright orange handle, and has never been taken fishing. Once we took it camping and used it to shuck fresh oysters, but neither of us knew how. And we were too embarrassed to ask, so we smashed them.
I laugh and spit in his face, daring him to cut me.
The next day we go to family dinner and act like everything is fine.
I was 19, and I thought my love would change him. I was trapped in an abusive relationship I refused to end, that I didn’t understand how to end. We were entangled and sinking.
My story is not extraordinary. It is a series of moments illustrating a futile search for belonging.
Twelve jobs in 12 years: Breakfast chef to yoga teacher, bartender to contracts administrator, and plenty in between. Six unfinished university degrees. Four long-term relationships, a one night stand (or two), a series of unfulfilling casual arrangements…
In the end, the way it all changed ended up being such a f*cking cliché: I found yoga.
I would be the one at the back of the room in class, ashamed of my body and my clumsy movements. I didn’t talk to anyone and would quickly mop the sweat from the studio floor around my mat before anyone noticed. “God,” I wondered, “how do these gorgeous yogis do this?” An hour of hot vinyasa and they have a glossy sheen and a glow to their skin, while I am dripping, red and my hair is all clumpy.
Ross hated it.
I was always at the studio. Although he had spent years lamenting my lack of interests outside our relationship, this was somehow not what he meant.
The more yoga I did, the further our paths diverged. Time flowed strangely. Each trip felt like weeks for me, but passed in an instant for him, and the gap ever widened.
He still came home drunk and called me ugly, fat, worthless. He would spew venom until I left the house to walk the streets to escape his fury.
Each month brought a deeper sense of self-awareness. I began to remove the layers of my protective onion. Layer by layer, I started to really like the woman I was getting to know.
There was a great sense of freedom in meeting others who were real enough to share that they had shit too, they had baggage, we all did. I discovered that there was beauty and power in being vulnerable. It is a hard, brave thing to stand in front of a room of strangers and be me. Be Tara.
Man, it is the hardest thing I have ever done and my journey hasn’t been glamorous.
It’s measured in snot, and tears, and tantrums. It has been incredible highs and celebrations, and the lowest of lows when I have wondered if I am crazy. Sometimes those highs and lows are in the same week, sometimes in the same hour.
I find myself at the bathroom door.
He is looking in the mirror and touching his hair, and his hand comes away bloody. He won’t let me look at the wound. He is blind drunk and full of hate.
There’s nothing more for me here.
I look at my iPhone and see that it is 4 AM — I need to leave for Sydney in an hour and I feel so, so tired. When I leave, I have the gruesome fantasy that he’ll be dead on the tiles in the morning. It would be easier than having to leave.
But I still left.
There was no epiphany. No blinding flash of insight or understanding. There was only a slow awakening inside me. My heart unfurled. Inner wisdom settled into my bones and it said, “You’re enough. You deserve more. The world is your oyster.”
This guest article originally appeared on YourTango.com: The (Unexpected) Hobby That Got Me Out Of An Abusive Relationship.