We all have a story or know someone who has one.
A story of abuse.
Sometimes you don’t even know that’s what you’re living.
Sometimes you don’t want to admit you were that stupid (though stupid rarely comes into it), so you trivialize, normalize events.
The details aren’t necessarily the thing, it’s getting out that matters.
It’s telling each other that getting out is possible.
That’s the part worth sharing.
The part where you asked for what you needed. Because that’s the day, the moment in the story where everything changes, when the universe rises up to meet you and begins to lay miracles in your path in more forms than you can dream.
A miracle in the form of a woman, for example, who comes out of her tiny row house two doors down from yours, just as the cab pulls up in front and no one knows you’re leaving, not even her, except now she does (your luggage is a clue) and no words are spoken while you look at each other and remember everything, the reasons you’re leaving, the laughter, the tears, the things you’ve talked about including the joy of hunting wild mushrooms; she doesn’t ask where will you go or how will you get there, she trusts you more than you trust yourself and in this moment that too is everything, because you’ve packed that luggage before and then turned back, but those times she wasn’t there on the street holding her breath on a morning in March, silently sending you some keep-going energy or so it feels when you reflect on that single moment in time all these decades later. That morning when you glanced back at the house, the tiny garden you’d planted, the mail slot you’d dropped the key through, the cat on the other side you’d spent hours saying goodbye to because you were leaving not just a house but a whole country, the note you knew was sitting on the kitchen table — maybe she saw you look, felt your hesitation, whatever it was, it was a gift beyond imagining when she said You are emotionally the strongest person I know.
The sentence stunned me.
It was the opposite of how I felt.
But because of it… because of that sentence… because it was so unexpected and so exactly what I needed to believe and because her saying it made believing possible…
I got into the cab.
I don’t even know if I waved goodbye.
A lifetime later, running workshops in a shelter, a woman told me her story; I’ve forgotten the details but I’ll never forget her saying she was saved the day a stranger in the park happened to ask if she was okay. She’d lied a thousand times before to friends and family and they’d stopped asking. This time she was ready.
It’s all about being ready. For the miracles.
Below is a post I wrote some years ago, dedicated to every woman who’s tried to save her life by making it to a shelter, in celebration of those who’ve made it or who are on their way, and in memory of those who didn’t get out in time.
‘Why She Stays’