Someone once told me when it comes to writing, 'Stick to what you know.'
This is what I know. I just got off the phone with someone in my family. This person expressed concern about my journal; how having such personal information about me and other people on the Internet for anyone to see could lead to something terrible. We all hear about using care on the Internet, as there are many horrible people lurking in the shadows. Faceless people we cannot see, people who mean to do us harm. The words hit me, hard. Much harder than I can tell you. And I said, "I had no idea you were living in such fear." But, truth be told, I did know.
And I think about it, a lot.
There have been times these past few months when I seriously considered this fact. It is a fact of life. We live in a time when information about anyone is practically delivered to our lap. All we need is a computer and the Internet and we can find them. And as much as we all believe the AOL Journal community is a warm and safe place to be, that is only true about us journalers...but there are others who read. And it is those individuals who concern me. One individual, in particular.
You see, I am hiding from someone.
Twenty years ago, exactly...it was July 1985...I left him. I wrote about that moment in my life in an essay and while I changed some things about it, the essay tells the story. I wrote about what I know, as I often do. But I can't deny that since starting this journal, on many occasions I wondered if this journal would lead him to me. So I changed my profile and omitted personal information. I removed my photo from the 'About Me' section (now you know). I have to be careful, as I have been since that day I left, and especially since meeting Sam, for there are other innocent people in my life now. And I have to protect them. I have to think about them now, not just myself.
But I am tired of hiding. I am tired of worrying that something I do could throw off the cover I have laid over myself. I love to write; writing gives me freedom on many levels. Maybe since so much time has passed, I no longer need to worry, and I am worrying too much. And I ask myself, why should I hold everything back? Why should I be forced to live in the shadows, never enjoying the rays of the sun just because of something another person did to me? Why should I live in fear of what could happen?
Why shouldn't I experience, and share, all the wonders my life has to offer?
So here I sit. Wondering. Do I stay open, or closed? And if I stay open, what price will I pay? In the past, there was always a price. In the past. I know what this person is capable of doing, he showed me many times. Roughly a year before I did finally leave him, when I had made up my mind to do it, something happened that stopped me dead in my tracks. Literally. And it made me think. About what could happen to me if I left him.
We lived in a house with a back yard. Ours was the second house on the street. Behind our house was another house, and in it lived a single mother with several children...four or five...I can't recall. Every night on my drive home I passed her street and could see her house. One night on the way home from work I noticed police cars, an ambulance, and many other vehicles parked in front of her house. And I noticed the yellow 'DO NOT CROSS' police tape...everywhere. And I wondered what was going on, but none of the neighbors knew. The next day, I found out.
She was a victim of domestic violence and had recently pressed charges against her husband for abuse. The court issued a restraining order. He violated the restraining order, the police arrested him, he went to jail, and he served his sentence. Then he got out. He went straight to her house, in the middle of the night, and finished what he had started. Then, he hung himself on a belt in her closet, but only after he had stabbed her 17 times.
Every night for months I came home, I walked through my house and stood at the back window, looking at her house. Thinking. Numb. Knowing. A woman had been murdered in that house. Right in my backyard. That could be me. She stood up to him and his abuse and ended it. So she thought. But it ended with her lifeless body lying on a cold sheet of metal in some coroner's office building. Just another statistic. That is what her life amounted to. Who knew what discoveries awaited her? What magic she could have created? No one, because a violent man snuffed out her flame. There has to be more to my life. I'm not going to be another statistic. Every night I stood there silently looking out that window, knowing I had to take every step, carefully. I was chained to his side. No one could help me. Not the police, not the courts, not even my family. Previously he had threatened them and used those threats to manipulate my behavior. So I waited, until the right time. I knew the time would come. Then I made my move.
And I lived, to tell. I just hope that in the telling, he doesn't find me. I hope it is over and that I no longer have to live in the shadows...in fear. Every day I hope and I pray with everything I have that the passing of so many years has put him so far behind me that he will never find me now. That he no longer cares about me. I rationalize it in my mind. Back then, he didn't like computers. Had no use for them, he said. But everyone has them now. Most everyone is connected to the Internet. My fear of him has kept me from doing many things.
I am a survivor, with much to tell. And share. To help. With hope. For tomorrow.
These eyes have seen so much. I can no longer keep them closed, for it serves me no purpose. It serves no purpose at all.
So, what do I do? How do I calm the fears of those concerned for my safety...our safety. There is a lot at stake here, and I have always believed I am supposed to write. To tell my story. But am I willing to sacrifice everything to fulfill a dream? I've had so many dreams yanked out from under me. What is more important, living my dream or living my life? And, can I have both, without any twist of fate, without any consequence, without any price to pay?
For once, can I just have both and not have to worry about the outcome.
Do any of you, after reading headlines and hearing the news, every think about who may be reading your journal? Do you worry, or hesitate when you write?
Talk to me, tell me what you are thinking...