It’s an old martial arts exercise. You stand face to face, each on your right leg, each holding up the left hand. Each tries to push the other over. The lesson is simple. The second you stiffen and resist is the second your aggressor will knock you off balance. When you simply bend, yield, flow with each move, you are suddenly no longer fighting, you are dancing.
There are two ways to escape. You dance, or you leave. Resistance offers nothing.
Almost a year ago, we came back from London, carried over on a wave of trauma so sudden we barely knew what was happening. The first month back I was euphoric. This bad, bad thing had happened, but we were safe safe safe, we were home, and no more bad, bad things could happen. No more crazy lies that would steal us from our family. No more of the cold, incomprehensible, alienating and alienated culture of the north. People here don’t pretend to be something they’re not, then disappear in a cloud of reinvention. It was a nightmare, and we were back from it.
The yielding had begun of course. We melted away into a plane, into another country. Our lives uprooted; our home removed; trashed promises strewn about like old garbage. I asked for a few months’ grace to deal with the trauma. When I was ready to speak, I started inviting dialogue, discussion. I live in a country where truth and reconciliation are common currency. Children here learn conflict resolution at school. The route seemed simple: past harms needed mutual acknowledgement in order that we could move forward, tend to the business of parenting after a separation. And yet, astonishingly, there was nothing. No harm was acknowledged, and invitations for dialogue were met with increasing fury and silence.
I made assumptions: I assumed patience, forbearance would clear the air. I assumed that eventually, contrition would be shown. I assumed there would perhaps be a show of regret, humility, compassion. I assumed that the healing power of reciprocal acknowledgement would eventually refill the cup of goodwill that had been smashed, decisively. I assumed incorrectly.
And so began the dance, the dance of receiving each new litany of abuse, letting each additional shock and injury trickle through my system, then eventually letting it go. Over and over. And, once it had drained away, trying again: inviting dialogue, sending some open-handed overture. A letter, a photograph, a video, an offer of some more normalised communication. Friends, advisors, family all said: stop trying. Stop offering. When each offer is slapped away with such extraordinary bile, what point is there in offering? I said: What is offered wholeheartedly will surely, eventually, be received with some gladness?
It’s a rough road, this path of compassion. I view with sadness the distortions and misrepresentations and misunderstandings that come from broken communications. And once again, I resolve to hold my silence with lightness and care, and let go of hopes and expectations in those incapable of meeting them. Both leaving and dancing, dancing and leaving. At least this time, nothing more can get broken.