Live like you never died

As I approached my 34th birthday I found myself in a contemplative mood. I opened my box of photos that chronicle my life and sorted them by decade. What does it all amount to? What life lessons have I learned and are there any I am still repeating? What is the big picture, the archetypes and symbolism? With these thoughts swirling in my mind, I contemplate how I will share the most painful parts of my life. I am one of the lucky ones who escaped a violent husband. Reading the paper this morning reminded me of all the young women who haven’t and won’t get a second chance. Twelve years have passed since then and I have consciously chosen to surround myself with loving supportive people, with their support I heal a little more with each passing year.

It’s late on a Saturday, The red digital numbers of the kitchen clock catch my eye, 3:33am. What am I still doing up? I wonder, walking into the living room. I hear the noises of a scuffle, through my open balcony doors, some yelling. Could be kids messing around, it’s a busy downtown Vancouver street. Quiet but distinct, a distressed scream, help me!, the sound cuts straight to my soul. I walk out onto my balcony, my view is obscured by trees and bushes except for a circular clearing . In the iris of light I see the figure of a woman face down on the ground, a man stands over her. Her silhouette struggles to her knees, she rises only to be grabbed and flung about by the man figure. 10 seconds feels like a half-hour, grabbing the phone I dial 9-1-1. Watching I see the police arrive and then an ambulance, she was hurt. I Thank God she asked for help and I heard her. Intervention is a delicate matter and if not handled properly can lead to severe harm to the person you are aiming to help.

Once upon a time that could have been me on the ground. I was 22 when I got away from my husband of four years who battered me. How many times did I not cry out for help for fear of death? He was devious to the point where he avoided leaving marks on my face when he hurt me. It took one year for him to hit me the first time, I had little or no marks but I lost my hearing for 3 weeks in my right ear and inside, I was broken. It is only in silence that this violence can happen. There is no shame in being a survivor of violence but the victims often feel that way.

The tide turned when one day my instinct of ‘fight’ finally over came fright. He crossed a line and punched me in the face. Somewhere along the way I’d gotten good at taking punches . My body absorbed the impact then in one fluid movement I clocked him in the jaw. He was spun around by the force of my blow and landed face down in the dirt. He laughed a sinister laugh as he rose and dusted himself off. Then he did the most amazing thing, he walked away. I stood there shaking, I had fought back and won. It was several months before he attacked me again. The first picture above is a collage from some photos taken while I was married. This one below is from the last 10 years.

The poem that follows is one I wrote once I had escaped. The last time I shared it, I was a guest speaker at a womans shelter. It is with love and hope that I share this snippet of my life. Peace

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