Chapter 7 : The Damage Done


So Much Damage… I decided to stop smoking and stop biting my nails on this trip.  I have smoked for 25 years, and despite health issues, including a very serious lung problem, I’ve never stopped. I have tried, and sometimes I’ve managed to for short periods of time, but I have always started again as soon as I get a little bit ‘stressed’.

I only started smoking initially because of Twat Face.  This was a terrible decision that I made as a child based on extremely flawed logic.  My Mum and Dad both hate smoking.  ‘Nice young ladies don’t smoke, it looks common’.  I didn’t want to be a nice young lady; I knew what happened to them!! So, my adolescent logic told me that if my father disapproved, then other men his age would too, and then they would stay away.

None of my friends smoked when I was growing up, I had no peer pressure to blame, in fact, my friends were all horrified, and so I had to walk behind them when I started.  In my defense, I was right.  My father hated it, he loathed it.  Now I wasn’t happy that I was disappointing them, I’ve always hated that, seeing the disappointment in their eye is sometimes more than I can bear, that still hasn’t changed, but this was about survival, and protecting them from what had happened, and from it happening to me again.

Smoking was no different to the awful tattoos that I got as soon as I was old enough.  I had left home by then.  I left as soon as I could really, and after an unsuccessful attempt to leave age sixteen to go to work at Butlins Holiday Camp, I eventually left at eighteen, by joining the Royal Air Force.  Butlins offered me a job, it was a bar job.  The only hurdle left after my initial acceptance, was arriving with my birth certificate to prove my age was over eighteen as I had stipulated on my application.  As I couldn’t produce that, I knocked that idea on the head.  So, back to the tattoos.  I gave them no thought, I decided when I walked in to have something fierce, nothing feminine, didn’t want to give anyone the wrong idea…  I have a tiger on my back.  It is the most hideous thing really.  I gave it no thought, I did no research, and I paid the price.  The tiger has no face, it was so thick, the detail became indistinguishable.  There has not been a day in a bikini, a swimsuit, or a nice dress that I haven’t regretted that choice.  To add to this body horror, I also cut off and coloured my beautiful blonde hair.  I had the excuse of modelling for my cousin for a hairdressing competition, but my hair remained coloured until two years ago.  I had pretty much forgotten what my natural colour was.  It all worked, it kept the old men away as predicted, but it brought a whole different type of man in to my life.  Some were total a-holes that had no respect for me, but then why would they?  I had very little for myself.  When I did meet someone who was kind and caring and loved me, I would rush in like a bull in a china shop, amazed that they could love someone like me.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a bad person, but I couldn’t figure men out.  I wanted a man like my dad, that had always been my dream, but I was everything a man like my dad hated, so how was that going to work?

I did meet one man who was kind, gentle, funny, compassionate, trusting etc, and we married.  He is now Super Ex.  He has been pivotal in this part of my life despite us having now been separated for sixteen years.  I have a lot of respect for him, and that has helped us maintain a good friendship over the years, despite distance and other’s jealousy.  The thing that I believe is, that if someone is jealous of you, then you are doing something right.  I am proud of how we handled our separation, our divorce, and our friendship over the years.  Without respect, no relationship is easy regardless of if you are romantically involved, or in a friendship.  My relationship with him reminds me of that, and I would be well served to remember it more often.  There is much more about him, but that can come later.

This is a pivotal point in my life.  I know that if I want a good, kind, confident man, I will have to be the right sort of woman.  Not the pushover I have been, not stepping in to the mothering role, trying to fix broken people that often aren’t ready to be fixed, but a strong confident equal.  Keep your fingers crossed for me on this, I will be updating you…

I smoked my last cigarette on the way to the airport, there is no ‘emergency’ pack, no duty frees, nothing.  I honestly believe that if I can come clean to my family, the hardest thing that I have ever done, and I am including basic training for the military, and almost losing my son multiple times (that is a story of its own), then quitting smoking would be easy.  As I have associated smoking to the ‘incidents’ with Twat Face, when I come clean about him, the shackles of bad behavior that I associate with him should be easy to let go of.  I’ve also stopped biting my nails on the same trip.  ‘In for a penny in for a pound’ as they say.

I wonder how hard it will be.  I’ve tried and failed so many times, but this time feels different.  I left Spain as a smoking nail biter who smoked pot to help her sleep, and arrived in the UK as a non nail biting, non-smoking, non-prescription drug free strong woman (ish).

The tattoo I can deal with, but hopefully with my parents blessing.  I don’t think laser will totally remove it, and I don’t believe that I can erase the past so easily, but I will find a beautiful design to cover it.  Something with meaning, something that will signify my new beginning, a ‘do-over’, and this time, I will do my homework.  I want something that is representative of who I am, and a faded tiger with no face is not the way I want to start again.  Ideas for designs would be appreciated, but I do have a few ideas floating around.

Whilst going through this transition, I’ve learnt a lot about myself.  I have changed, and I know that the changes are for the best and are positive.  I will come out of this as a stronger and better person than I was before.  The weight of the baggage that I have carried for all of these years has been heavy.  Releasing it can only do good to both my body and my mind.

Our ability to respect others is the true mark of our humanity.  Respect for other people is the essence of human rights.

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