Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Opening Doors and Crossing Lines

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.

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...


redpoppy007 said...

Yes, I too am afraid there is many sick people out there.
I hope he never bothers you again.  I am glad you had the courage to leave.
It pays to be careful especially online.
good luck to you,

gaboatman said...

I do think about who might be reading my journal at times.  But, I am not trying to hide from anyone or anything.  Because I am not trying to hide I do not worry or hesitate.  You will notice, though, that while I talk about what I do, I never mention the company I work for.  I do fear possible retribution if I talk about who I work for on the Internet, so I don't do it.  I like my job and I would not want to lose it for something I did that was really non work related like keeping a journal.

Now, let me say how brave I think you are for coming this far down the journaling road.  I would live in fear if I were in your circumstances and I don't know if I would keep a public journal.  However, we all deserve to live a life without fear from another human being.  I admire you for your efforts and also I want to thank you for the trust you have in us for sharing this story.  I also am a little selfish because you write an excellent journal that I am very fond of reading and I don't want you to stop.  Whatever you decide to do, Dona, you have my support.

karebear4x4 said...

Yes i do read the news and am reminded of the daily terror on our streets   but i also take a break from it otherwise i'd live in fear all the time   for me it is to be aware, but not live in fear   besides i also remind myself that i could be snuffed out just by some damn horrific traffic accident...and when i travel alone, i'm on alert   so be on alert, prepared as you can be, but don't live in fear   IF anything should happen, put up the best damn fight you can   this is my philosophy IF anything were to happen to me   also, keep yourself surrounded by family & friends who can always call for help   most people are not attacked when in a group....i'm saying a prayer for you   remember you have much strength & courage to live in spite of the bastard!  continue to do so!~kbear

queeniemart said...

What a powerful entry. I sat with tears and thanked God for you being so strong and getting away from the abuse! Yes i worry. I think about it every day because i made a decision to use my journal as a way to get out secrets i cant keep inside. I was sexually abused and then raped by a family member. I have talked about it over and over and over. I have put in my journal, in the past, the city i live in. I have had a few "different" people email me that are abused and are a little worrisome. I use our real names, no last names. I put where i work. I hope i do not end up regretting it. I am so sorry about your neighbor. Truly.
Love, lisa

pixiedustnme said...

I wonder about that a lot.  Strange that I don't change my ways.  I wonder if somebody is peeking at my life and waiting, waiting for the right moment.  But I won't change - not yet anyway.  

delela1 said...

Redpoppy - Thank you.  You be careful too.

Sam - There are some things that need to be kept private, work being one.  Brave?  Maybe.  Or perhaps stupid.  I have lived in fear for 20 years...23 years counting the years with him.  That's almost half my life.  You have no idea how I hesitated about creating a public journal, as my first journal was private.  That day I sat here staring on those two radio buttons...private journal...public journal.  Which one?  Do I dare?  I made this one public with the hope of reaching out and connecting to someone...not the abuser.  Now I see I have connected with many, and it does my heart good to know you are fond of my journal.  Your words put a smile on my face.  Thank you.  I enjoy reading yours as well, even though I may not always comment; more than anything, your words often make me think...or just enjoy.  But then, I have always been drawn to water.

delela1 said...

kare - Good points you've made...all of them, and very true.  And wise advice, as well.  Life is meant to be lived, and I intend to live mine to the fullest extent possible.  There is safety in numbers, and having been raised in LA, I keep my perimeter radar on 24/7.

queenie - That my words moved you to tears is touching.  And for you to openly write about such horrific memories is truly admirable.  Writing is such a healing process, whether it is in the release or just the act of expressing that which has been stifled for so long, it has a power of its own, doesn't it?  It isn't always easy, reliving those moments as one has to in order to convey the setting, the emotion, the feeling experienced at that time.  I do hope you emerge from your process stronger, rested, healed, and with a renewed sense of purpose.

Kelly/pixie - Be careful my friend.  I know you have touched all the bases with Princess about strangers and Thank God! the schools, the media, and everyone is involved now as well.  I remember well the day my Mom talked me to about being careful and what to do if I was approached by a stranger, man or woman.  It stayed with me always, yet I didn't live in fear.  How ironic that it was a man I trusted who years later became the face of my mother's fear.

st0rmwhispers said...

I lived in fear of my second X but I decided not to hide from him.  I don't fear death.  I am one of those fatalistic Christians.  I don't think he can kill me if its not my time to go and I don't think I can stop him if it is my time to go.   If he tries to kill me, he'd better pray I don't kill him first.  I am fully capable of it and I really don't care who knows it. I will not chase him down...but he better pray he doesn't locate me. In fact I want him to know that I am even further over the edge when it comes to controlling me than he is.  I want him to know that I am not going to just take it.  I want him to know that I may mace him, I may stab him (and enjoy it) or I may shoot him.  If he seeks to harm our child or me he better pray he succedes in killing because he will not be able to sleep if I survive.  I swear it.  Not only that...I will make him suffer as much as possible.  Not only that, but I expect to thoroughly enjoy it.

  On August 6th I am going to my 25th High School Reunion.  The same reunion that the Guy who raped me 25 years ago is going to.  It's not fair that I should miss it and he should go.  I won.  I convicted him.  I am tired of living in shadows and shame.  He went to the last 2.  I am going to attend all the rest and he can go to Hell.  If he tries to attack me again he can expect to suffer the same fate I have promised to husband No. 2.

delela1 said...

Tressa - I knew there is a damn good reason I like you!  And, God I hope I never piss you off!

Have a great time at the reunion.  You've got the right attitude, so don't let that bastard take your wind.  And if he gets too close, one well placed bent knee outta do the trick.  Hold you head up high!

emfeasel said...

I guess you know how I feel..and not just about neighbors, etc...we expose ourselves to everyone online....it bothered me for too long so I just went private.....

debbted said...

Wow~that was quite a story. Although I have no one to hide from I have been through domestic abuse too. How what happened to that neighbor must have terrified you--but you were brave enough to get out. Congrats!...I grew up in a family full of fear and worry. While I refuse to live my life that way, I have had times when I didn't feel safe enough to post my photo either; maybe it's not smart to even now. I have that same need to tell my story, but it is everyone's choice to make for herself. My best advise:  find the balance between being careful and being open; refuse to live in fear. Blessings, Sassy ;-)


st0rmwhispers said...

I knew there is a damn good reason I like you!  And, God I hope I never piss you off!

ROFLMAO...Not to worry I like you too!

Besides I'd rather fight a man any day over another woman....Men fight to control and we women fight to kill!

Now ladies before you flame me....think about it....we usually only physically fight to protect our loved ones....so you know it's true.

gwatcdr said...

I can say that you need to look out for you and yours.  There are a lot of scary things going on period.  If you live everyday in fear you will be miserable.  What happens happens.  You know.  Nicki

bleupentacles said...

Wow, I am very moved by this passage.  I admire your courage for getting up to do something about your life instead of letting it go by before your very eyes.  Although you may live in fear, at least you can say that you've lived which is far better being in the same room with that monster.  Basically every minute you were with him was considered to be 'dead' anyway.

My blog was left in a 'private' mode because I really didn't think anyone would read it.  Besides, one of the reasons why I kept it going was to 'maintain' my so-called writing etiquette.  Living at home (in Chinatown) and not working can really sink my skills and I definitely wanted to avoid it this time.  Plus, I've learned to CYA in the big, bad corporate world, so I usually tweak things here and there.

Honestly, I think you should stick with whatever your intuitive skills dictate.  Let the journal remain in the public eye for greater appreciation if it's your desire to have it that way.  And if he does find it, let the fool realize what a great loss he's suffered.  

If it makes you feel any better, why not try taking a brief course in martial arts or self-defense for women.  You'd be surprised the WEALTH you'll gain in them.  After all, it may help you achieve an inner peace by knowing you can kick his ass back too.  I took it in college and they gave great tips when you're being confronted by an attacker.

Sending you warm and safe wishes, Linda

delela1 said...

Bleu - yes, those years with him were 'dead' years.