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Dear Abby: After a childhood scarred by physical and verbal abuse, I married an abusive man from whom I endured 12 years of physical and emotional mistreatment. I am often asked why I remained and put up with such treatment - why I didn't just get out.

I compare myself in those days to a beaten dog - timid, withdrawn and distrustful, yet loyal and even forgiving to its owner after being beaten. Why would humans be any different?I am now free of this abusive man, and in retrospect, I realize that I was programmed to believe the way I did. However, I have been deprogramming myself since those terrible years, and I have succeeded in developing a measure of confidence and self-worth. In fact, I'm a wonderful human being!

I read the poem you published some time ago by Veronica Shoff-stall called "After a While" over and over, and I even have a copy of it framed on my wall. I, too, will continue to learn - with every goodbye, I learn.

- Healing in Minnesota

Dear Healing: Congratulations on your renewed self-esteem and your positive steps to recovery. "After a While" is a favorite of mine, too, and I'm pleased to share it again with my readers.

AFTER A WHILE by Veronica Shoffstall.

After a while you learn the subtle difference

between holding a hand and sharing a life

and you learn that love doesn't mean possession

and company doesn't mean security

and loneliness is universal.

And you learn that kisses aren't contracts

and presents aren't promises

and you begin to accept your defeats

with your head up and your eyes open

with the grace of a woman

not the grief of a child.

And you learn to build your hope on today

as the future has a way of falling apart in midflight

because tomorrow's ground can be too uncertain for


yet each step taken in a new direction creates a path

toward the promise of a brighter dawn.

And you learn that even sunshine burns

if you get too much

so you plant your own garden

and nourish your own soul

instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

And you learn that love, true love,

always has joys and sorrows

seems ever present, yet is never quite the same

becoming more than love and less than love

so difficult to define.

And you learn that through it all

you really can endure

that you really are strong

that you do have value

and you learn and grow

with every goodbye

you learn.

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