night lightsIt is dark, and quiet. My girls are asleep. The loudest sound in the room is the beating of my heart. The blood is rushing down my arms to my fingertips. The sounds of my life are deafening. The aloneness is palpable. I wish for companionship.

Again, I tell myself that at least no one will hit me tonight. It is supposed to make me feel less lonely.

I should have gone to the library and taken out a dozen books; piled them all around me and read a few words out of each one while I was quietly going insane. I should have gone to the pound and taken home a dog, or a cat.

Unfortunately, I found solace in extremely short “relationships” which had no basis in reality. I wanted companionship, someone to talk to. Today I would say: Get a Dog. Recently Single Women and The Men who hunt for them are truly bad company. I did not like being alone. However, belng alone is something we should all become used to. Accept. Welcome. Being alone is safe.

I love the old Paul Simon song: There Must Be 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.
Here is the chorus:

You just slip out the back, Jack
Make a new plan, Stan
You don’t need to be coy, Roy
Just get yourself free

Hop on the bus, Gus
You don’t need to discuss much
Just drop off the key, Lee
And get yourself free

We slipped out the back, with two paper grocery bags and without even a toothbrush between us. Yes, I really am a bag lady.

It was fully ten years later that I realized that in order to “attract” a man who would be kind to me, I had to be kind to myself. To appreciate, approve of and maybe even love myself a little. I didn’t even know where to start.

So, I started with my job. Here I was, ten years a “housewife” with out-dated experience, and three years later I had a good job, with benefits. I was, truly, proud of myself, finally. I had worked hard for this. I drove to downtown LA for six or seven years. Every day wondering if this would be the day that a semi would take me out and leave my girls alone. . . Paying bills, keeping the lights on, and sleeping on the floor.

I had been battered for ten years before I even knew that “Shelters for Battered Women” existed. Several hurried “you’ve got the wrong number” conversations with my cousin were all I had to go on. It was complete news to me. Wow! There was A Place To Go!!! We might actually be able to escape! When the moment arrived, (a moment when I knew absolutely that he would be gone at least an hour) we began our escape. The only real preparation I had made was to tear out the pages in our address book for the members of my family. I left baby photos, my dad’s family Bible, my mother’s hand crocheted bedspread. I should have been better prepared. But I simply was not capable. I will never have those things again. But they are just things. They are not my children.

We walked out the back door, went out of the gate, and down the street to a house occupied by a woman I had a nodding acquaintance with. I didn’t even know her name. We knocked on the door at 8:00 a.m. and asked to come in and make a call to the local shelter. To my amazement, she let us in. Within a few minutes there was a car in front of the house, they had come to take us to the shelter! Oh my goodness, it was for real! Once there, I called my brother and asked him to pick us up. I was afraid to stay in the same town, even hidden like we were. My brother picked us up around midnight, and took us three hundred miles south, to my cousin’s house, where we stayed until another local shelter had room for us.

So, was it easy? Nah. I had to learn how to take the bus to get where I needed to go. Okay I had taken a school bus in Junior High but this was different. I was terrified. I walked to the Laundromat with heavy baskets. I had to learn to get along with about 50 other women in the shelter. I had “chores” to do every day. I had to provide meals for my girls out of the public assistance money we were getting. (read: Welfare.) I was expected to put my girls in school. They were afraid of being “kidnapped” and I was afraid of everything. It was NOT EASY. Please, don’t expect it to be easy. Expect that you will live through it and come out on the other end a better person. It was humiliating and terrible and frightening. But we got through it. And you can too.

My best advice? Have the number of a shelter memorized. Do away with anything that he can use to track you down or hurt your family. Take as little as possible. Escape is just that. It is not a vacation.

And, as soon as you can, get a dog.