She walked into our house and her expression of shock and horror, when I offered her a seat and a cup coffee, took me by complete surprise. As she composed herself, I too tried to dismiss the awkwardness of the moment. Later, after "just a quick cup" and a polite visit, I wondered what went wrong. I looked about and my eyes landed on our kitchen set; an old table passed down from generations to generations and an unmatched set of chairs -- equally as old. But as I looked closer I realized the chairs were in a very sorry state. All had rips in their vinyl covering and some were even missing the batting that helped to cushion your seat.
When did they get so bad? When we got married they were in perfect repair. I remember the first few tears. We quickly taped them up and vowed to be more careful. A year later we bought seat pads to cover the expanding cracks. Now, wood showing, it's not uncommon for pieces of vinyl to be swept up with the crumbs. When and how did this state of kitchen dining become acceptable?
As I pondered the chairs, I thought of another much more serious situation that can creep up on people. It is domestic abuse. It starts with a raised voice, followed by a promise to never let it happen again. But instead of going away, it slowly builds until the verbal abuse seems normal. Then the hitting starts, and the promises and excuses are repeated, "Please don't leave me. I'll never do it again. If you weren't so perfect all the time, I wouldn't be this way." And unfortunately, and unthinkably, over time even these abuses seem normal.
Just like our chairs.
Like the seats, the mental and physical scares are covered over. The battered start to think if I am just better, if I don't complain, if I lie low, if I lose some weight, then I won't be picked upon. But like the chairs, even with pads, the exposed vinyl ends, are still easily torn and the abuse escalates.
It's only when our lives are mirrored in the eyes of others that we really can tell if our everyday life is normal, free of abuse. And if it's not, then its time to break out more than just a few strips of tape.