Walking Down Another Street

I heard the door shut.  Deep breath.  I heard him rev the engine.  It was a little truck; revving the engine didn’t  make it a freaking sports car.  The sound of the engine faded as he drove away.  Another deep breath.  I stayed in bed for a few minutes more waiting to see if he had really gone.   It was 8:15am; time to get dressed and do this.  It should be safe now.

I got a dog treat from the kitchen and led him out to the pen area. I need to keep him outside while I did this.   He was a bitter.  It’s interesting that I had an aggressive, controlling dog and husband.   I wondered how I had missed all the signs before we got married.  I don’t know if I missed them or ignored them.

I looked around the trailer to make sure I’m wasn’t forgetting anything.  I hated that trailer.  To say it was small would be an injustice to the word.  It was even too small to call it a mobile home.  I have been in campers that were bigger.  There was a kitchen on one end with dingy flowered wallpaper reminiscent of the something from the 1950’s.   On the other end was the bedroom. It had old brown fake wood paneling.   Two people couldn’t walk down the short hallway at the same time.  Next to the bedroom was a bathroom the size of a closet.  Another small walk-in closet sized room claimed to be a second bedroom. 

It was in a small trailer park in a part of Reno known for drugs and crime. The trailer itself was time-worn and battered.   We had no phone and cell phones were not part of everyday life. We had cable even though the cable company had cut it off.  Some sort of splitter box and some creative connections stolen from someone else provided us with TV.   The electric company would out in the next few days to turn that off as well.

I thought back to our three-bedroom home just outside of town.  We had been evicted only three months before.  Mister found this trailer with only one day left before we were forced to go to a hotel.  It was the second home we had lost. We put most of the belonging in a rented storage facility.  Two months later, he sold everything he could, threw away the rest, and let the unit go.    Mister’s* gambling took everything from us

*When I write about my ex-husband, I give him the name Mister.  It is from the character in The Color Purple. 

Just two days before I left, Mister came home late.  I knew exactly what that meant.  He walked in with a bag from the grocery store.  He slammed the door as he walked in.  I knew better than to say anything.  The bag contained dog food and two steaks.  He told me it was all he could afford at the store because he had lost the rest of his pay at the casino.

I finally made the decision to leave after talking to a woman in an abusive marriage on the local Hotline.  I had volunteered there for several months and had talked to other victims, but this one really hit home.  I knew it was time.  I had thought about leaving, but I was afraid.  Abusive relationships take a toll on your self-esteem, confidence, and power.   I took a break after the call and went into the office in the back and called my friend, Jan. She had encouraged me to leave for months.   I told her it was time.

We worked out a plan.  It would be six weeks before I could go.  I would have to hide money and not pay some bills.  I had a follow-up visit with my doctor after the surgery on my hand and needed to keep that appointment while I had insurance.  I was not to tell anyone in Reno except my Mother. She knew what had gone on and was willing to help me leave. I couldn’t tell my closest friends.  It wasn’t safe for them or me.   I couldn’t tell my employer I was leaving.  For the first time in my life, I was going to quit a job without notice.  My mother would call them after I was gone.

My daughter had already moved back to my hometown in Charleston, SC.  She was expecting her baby in May.   I called and told her what was going on.  I would live with her and her fiancé when I returned.  I called my sister in Chicago.  She was to be my cover.  They knew they couldn’t share this information with anyone.   Jan sent me her cell phone for trip.  She and our friend Donna sent an AAA membership and some other items.  They wanted to be sure that I was safe on this 2700-mile journey.

I heard my mother’s car pull up in the driveway.  This was it. She had asked a friend to go to the coffee shop across from Mister’s job.  He was to call her if Mister’s truck left the parking lot.  I had organized things so I would know what to grab.  We stacked as much as possible into the small hatchback area and back seats of my car.  We loaded the floorboards in the front and back.  When we had used every spare inch of my car, we loaded her car with the rest.

I left a carefully prepared note on the TV screen for Mister.  I told him why I was leaving him.  I had created an elaborate story about my driving route and destination.  I told him I was going to live with my sister in Chicago.  I would be traveling the northern route across country.  If he needed to contact me, he would have to do it by mail to her address.   I had prepared a note for my mother as well.  She was going to wait until mid afternoon to drive to his place of work and demand to know what was going on.   She would show him her note.  He would believe I had betrayed her as well as him and she would be safe.

It was 10:00 am and I was on the road.  I kept driving faster and faster.  I watched my rear view mirror panicking if I saw a small black truck.  My first destination was eight hours away in Las Vegas.  It was a great place to hide and I felt I would be safe there for the night.  I found a small hotel outside of the city.  I was emotionally and physically exhausted.

I started early the next morning for Albuquerque, NM.  I tried to drive between 500 and 600 miles a day.  I had driven a few hours when I unexpectedly began to cry.  I tried to fight the tears but they kept coming.  I couldn’t breathe.  I pulled off at a rest area and tried to call Jan.  She  didn’t answer.  I realized she would be seeing clients that time of day.  I tried to call my sister and my daughter without any luck.   I was going to have to deal with this on my own.  I used the breathing techniques and other things I had learned to center myself.  I told God it seemed like it was just us together for the moment.  I hoped God hadn’t given up on me.   A strange sense of peace came over me.  I didn’t know how but I knew it was going to be OK.  I was going to make it.

I made that trip fifteen years ago this week. I look back at that time in my life with such gratitude for the people who supported me.  I am grateful for the lessons I learned.  It sounds cliché but I believe everything in my life has led me to the person I am today.  In spite of everything that has happened in my life, I believe that healing can happen and we can be happy.

A friend shared this poem with me twenty-five years ago and it is something I pull out from time to time to remind me where I am on this journey.  I hope that today I “walk down another street.”

Autobiography In Five Short Chapters by Portia Nelson

I

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk

I fall in.

I am lost … I am helpless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes me forever to find a way out.

II

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I am in the same place

but, it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

III

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in … it’s a habit.

my eyes are open

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

IV

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

V

I walk down another street.

47 responses

  1. You made me cry again to remember the pain you were suffering in that time. You made me smile to remember all the good you have done for yourself and everyone around you as you have had the faith to continue your journey through these last 15 years. You are a gift.

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    1. Donna..just read your comment on the blog. I just remembered the “shaman” earrings you sent me in that package. They were for a safe journey. 🙂 You and Jan also sent me the ticket to fly back to Baltimore when I was going crazy in Reno. I miss you both. Love you

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  2. Tears. And cheers. You know, I think that most people think that courage is feeling strong and invincible no matter what you are facing. That is why so few of us claim to have courage, because that’s not how we feel. I think that image of courage is wrong. I think that real courage is doing what you have to do/need to do, even if you are trembling and crying the whole way. This is a story of true courage.

    It hurts my heart to learn some of the things that have happened to you. Still, I stand in awe as I watch you transform these things into moments of grace for yourself and opportunities to gain strength and courage for others as you share your story. You are AMAZING!

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    1. I love the way you think. I agree with your thoughts about courage. I have become more courageous in sharing recently. It is like putting my toes in ocean but being afraid to jump in. My toes have been wet long enough.
      I love this quote about courage.
      “Courage is grace under pressure.”
      ― Ernest Hemingway
      Thanks..Jan

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  3. I so can identify with everything you just wrote. Twenty six years ago I had to move as well, but with 2 kids at Christmas. I remember so well the last item put on the truck was the Christmas tree. It had been decorated since Thanksgiving, so we just put the tree in the back of the truck. It made its journey unharmed and was the first item put into our apartment, already decorated. I knew then when the kids were excited about the tree making the journey that everything was going to be okay. God has contined to bless me and my family. Thank you for sharing your story. It meant a lot to me!

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    1. I remember you telling me a little about that Janice. I am always encouraged and amazed by the people who come forward to share their experience, strength and hope. Thank you for willing to share your journey as well.

      Like

  4. i cannot imagine living that life and despite the odds finding the strength and courage to leave. Thanks you for sharing your story. i am so glad you had the support of family and friends on this journey.

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    1. Thank you for reading and for your comments.
      Cathy

      Like

  5. Donna B. McNicol [@donnabmcnicol] | Reply

    This brought back so many memories….like you, I had to leave an abusive/controlling relationship but with children. Many look at me as I ma today and can’t understand 20 yrs and two abusive relationships. Thank goodness for the support of my late husband, 20 years of unfailing encouragement to be the me I was meant to be.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Like

    1. I am grateful I was able to send my daughter away when we got out of high school. Things got worse at that point. Sometimes it takes a lot of challenges and struggles to find the person you were meant to be. So glad you found your “me.”

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  6. UGH. What a terrible situation. But good for you for getting out of there!

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    1. Thanks. Yes it was and UGH situation. So glad I am one of the fortunate ones that had friends to support my leaving.

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  7. Wow, this is powerful, my friend.
    It is proof that you have great courage and that you are not only a survivor but a thriver. You were made to shine.

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    1. Thanks Joy. I am just getting enough courage to share some of my life in my writing. I am testing the waters. 🙂 The first time I heard the word thriver i fell in love with it.
      Thanks for your support.

      Like

  8. PhaseThreeOfLife | Reply

    You are clearly a very strong woman. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Like

  9. Good for you. I have met only 2 other people who have done the same (there may be others who cannot share). So glad you were able to move past that life.

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    1. Thanks so much. I know there are many others living in this situation. There are those who have moved on. Many find it very difficult to share and many have had their self esteem so damaged they won’t share. 😦

      Like

  10. Cathy, thank you for sharing this journey of your life. It must have taken a lot of courage to write it down, as if re-living the past. Nonetheless, there’s always a rainbow after the storm and that keeps us going in life.

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    1. Writing often brings back the feeling and memories of things I would rather forget. I want to share to let others know it is possible to heal and there is hope.
      Thanks for reading my blog.

      Like

  11. oh wow, Cathy. what an incredible journey you’ve been on. thank you so much for sharing another piece of it with us.

    Like

    1. Thank you Christina

      Like

  12. I like Jan’s definition of courage, too. This is a GREAT story, and the poem at the end is perfect. Rest assured, many who read this will take courage from it.

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    1. Thank you Stephanie. Yes, I loved Jan’s definition. She is a very wise woman.

      Like

  13. I do believe it takes great courage and strength to do what you have done. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Like

  14. The courage in this journey is extraordinary. How brave and strong you had to be to take your life back. I feel honored to have read such an amazing story of such a courageous woman.

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    1. Thank you Katie. I used the courage and strength of my friends and family until I could find my own.

      Like

  15. amen. so proud of you. my leaving was less dramatic, but i felt those same feelings as I read yours. Thank you for sharing your voice.

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    1. The circumstances are always different but the feeling are how we all connect with each other. Thanks for reading.

      Like

  16. […] heroic as doing what you have to do even though you are terrified.  This is a reader comment on a story of true courage in a dramatic escape from domestic violence from fellow blogger, Cathy’s Voice Now.  I commend it […]

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  17. Cathy, you are truly amazing. Much love xxxx

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  18. Wonderful, wonderful. I love the telling of this as much as the subject is difficult to bear.

    Like

    1. Thanks so much

      Like

  19. This is an amazing story of an incredible, brave woman. Glad it all worked out. Erin

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  20. Good for you. I’m so glad you found the strength to go. And I’m so glad you are sharing your story with others.

    Like

  21. That must have taken so much strength and courage. Good for you for getting out. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Like

  22. […] Bravery. Faith. Strength. Determination. All those words came to mind as I read Cathy’s story Walking Down Another Street. It takes a strong individual to make such a huge decision in a situation such as hers. What’s […]

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  23. It is always powerful to share a difficult story with others, but the ability to tell a difficult story with such a clear voice suggests that the writer has deep gifts. Thank you.

    Like

    1. Thank you so much, Deborah.

      Like

  24. Thank you for sharing your incredible story, of courage and backbone. How wonderful to have good, supportive people in your life who were willing to stand with you and protect.

    This is, you are inspirational. I’m so glad you rescued yourself and went on to live the life you were supposed to live.

    Like

  25. Rach DonutsMama | Reply

    This is an amazing story of courage and resiliance. I’m so glad you got out and made a new life for yourself.

    Like

  26. Peace and strength to you. 🙂

    Like

  27. […] I wrote about leaving  Reno, Nv and my marriage.  I left with my Toyota Supra.  After arriving back  home in South Carolina I learned that I would not be able to register the car because I didn’t have the title with me. I found out my ex had taken a title loan and the car was on a repo list.  I had no transportation for about three months.   And I lived 30 miles from town–in the COUNTRY! […]

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  28. The first steps are the hardest. So proud of you. Thank you SO much for finding anexerciseindiscipline.wordpress.com, so that I could find you, and your amazing story.

    Keep going. Keep writing. Keep sharing.

    Warmly,
    Melissa

    Like

    1. Thanks so much Melissa.

      Like

  29. Hi Cathy,
    I found your blog I was searching for. I think it is well written and I could sort of relate. I never left but I did put my foot down about the situation. May God bless and keep you and I hope you have a wonderful life. Good luck on your writing.
    Gwyn

    Like

  30. […] I wrote a post about my one of my experiences with Domestic Violence several months ago.  I thought it would be appropriate to share it again.  Here it is.   Walking Down Another Street. […]

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  31. Trailer park are wild places. We know by experience.

    Like

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