It was to be a dud column week.
I walked over to the flower garden on Sunday in the sunshine of the afternoon, and talked to the little perennial plants sprouting up from under the decay of last year’s growth.
I encouraged them to make great gains in the next few weeks and how I’d be there for them.
I thought about the coming spring, of green and growing—and the tulip bulbs I forgot to plant last fall.
I thought about finally digging out my spring jacket and remembered I gave it to “Goodwill” in October.
I should never listen to the organizer gurus of this world who suggest an annual culling of seasonal clothing. Thanks to their bright idea that I put into motion last fall, I gave away virtually all of my summer clothes—save for an old tank top covered in paint splotches and a pair of cut-offs to match.
I figured it was time to put away my turtleneck sweaters, then realized there’s only about 35 days until the fall and winter catalogue is available for perusal “on a stand near you.”
And then the phone rang.
When the conversation was over with the dear-to-my-heart soul on the other end, it was quite clear that the Universe had other plans for what would drive me in the next few paragraphs.
Her situation was different, and yet the same as those of a hundred other women who are victims of verbal and/or physical abuse in a relationship.
Studies suggest the brain can handle only two tasks at one time. Add a third and things don’t go well.
Obviously, I was not a part of that study because, at any given time, I have at least four tasks on the go. However, right now I have only one charge at hand.
Once upon a time many years ago in the big city, there lived a young wife and mother who did not believe she had choices. It was a curious thing—not to believe there could ever be something better for her life—because she had been raised to think otherwise.
What she did believe was that even after eight years of marriage, there still was room to explain away the times when he made her feel so small and useless.
She still believed she could fix it all by herself with a book on relationships or, better yet, just by being quiet.
And so she never told anyone about the times when he got really mad.
And the one time when he exploded in a thundercloud storm of rage, and hurled derogatory words, with the digits of his left hand curled inward as he sucker-punched her upside the head and knocked her to her knees . . . well, she never told a soul about that time, either—even though she had dropped like a stone, with a child in her arms.
And when he said he was going to get his shotgun, and the words drowned her lungs in terror and she could not breathe, she leapt from the floor with her child, flung open the doorway to a flight of stairs that led outside, and ran.
Another of her children sat playing on the kitchen floor, yet there was no time to stop.
She leapt in bounds up the stairs, a child to her chest, burst into the yard in a suburb of the city, and ran.
Instantly, he was behind her. She expected to be shot.
And she ran. But there was no one around to help and no one there to save her.
She made it to the neighbour’s front yard across the street before he grabbed her. When she turned to face him, he did not have his shotgun after all.
She pushed herself to the ground, determined to cement herself there, arms wrapped around the child, as the one who scared her so spewed abusive violations and continued to pull at her shirt.
And when everything calmed down—yes, she still believed she had no choice but to remain seated in that marriage anyway.
After all, she really couldn’t believe he’d done it. Had he really meant to do that?
What had she said to make him that angry?
And when he didn’t apologize, she never broached the subject with him. Not ever. Not ever. She didn’t want to make him mad.
She stayed small and kept her mouth shut.
It would take her another five years before she believed in herself enough—and gathered the courage—to make the choice to stand and walk away.
Today, she is a phenomenally-strong woman who knows for sure that choice is possible, and that “stepping onto a brand new path is difficult, but not more difficult than remaining in a situation which is not nurturing to the whole woman.”
This is a true story.
It was to be a dud column week.