Defying the Night

Many years ago, after the man who had promised to love me ’til death do us part was arrested while trying to make the death part my reality, I came back to Calgary for a visit. It was my eldest daughter’s 18th birthday and I wanted to be here, no matter that he was out on parole. I needed to be here for her big day.

That particular evening, I had dropped my daughter and her friends off at a bar to celebrate and driven back to my girlfriend’s where I was staying. I parked on the far side of the townhouse complex where she lives and took a not-well-lit shortcut between two houses.

I remember my thoughts were full of the joy and happiness of being with my daughters and friends earlier. I wasn’t thinking about ‘him’ or the dark spaces through which I walked.

And then, one of ‘a woman’s worst fears’ materialized out of the darkness. A dark figure separated itself from the deep shadows of the bushes lining the path and called out to me.

My response was immediate. Visceral. I did not stop. I did not listen. I screamed and ran.

Fortunately for me at the time, my girlfriend seldom locked her front door. (she does now)

I threw the door open, slammed it shut behind me. Locked it, crouched down on the floor and began to sob.

My girlfriend came running. I screamed between sobbing breaths, “He’s out there!”

She knew immediately who the ‘he’ was. She dialed 911. Police came. Hawcs helpicopter. Dogs.

And all the while, my girlfriend held me as I sobbed, just as she’d done so many times throughout that 4 year 9 month relationship.

We’d hidden together in her powder room once while he pounded on the front door and then the deck door looking for me. She’d listened to my endless fears and worries, tried to coax me out of my inaction. Tried to encourage me to leave him. I kept going back after every beak-up until I came to believe he was all I deserved. His abuse was all I was worth.

And then, he was arrested and went to prison and I got the miracle of getting my life back.

I had no intention of letting it go. This time, when he jumped out of the bushes, I screamed and ran.

And still, all these years later, stories of women being abducted, of being murdered by strangers or those known to them, awaken those memories leaving me with no recourse but to write myself out, back into balance, back into the light.

To use my words to let others know, “You are not alone. You are not crazy. Abuse hurts. Abuse tears apart your peace of mind, your sense of self, your belief in your worthiness, your capacity to stop it.”

You cannot change an abuser. You are not that powerful. You can stop abuse in your life. You are that powerful. To stop it, you must run in the opposite direction and never look back.

________________________

All these years later, when I step out for my nightly walk with Beaumont, I still feel tiny fissures of anxiety, particularly when stories like Sarah Everard’s are in the news. Those tiny sparks of fear whisper (at least they no longer howl) at me to go back. Go back. Stay safe inside.

I will not let fear dictate my life.

I will not be held ransom to the past.

And so, I walk. In the dark. I used to walk up the hill along the tree-lined edge of our property and the ones beyond, until one night I happened upon a man sleeping in the bushes.

It wasn’t his fault he startled me. He was just looking for a place to rest, out of sight. But when Beaumont the Sheepdoodle caught whiff of a stranger in the dark, he barked and pulled at his leash and the man woke up.

This time, I didn’t have to run. He stood up, gathered his backpack and took off. Fast.

I started walking in the other direction after that. Out our driveway, down the hill towards the avenue where Beaumont and I walk along the well-lit road. When we come to the pedestrian bridge I hesitate. There are huge planters on the bridge. Great places to hide between the pools of light cast by the streetlamps along the walkway.

I hesitate and then I take a breath and keep on going. I will defy the darkness. I will defy my fears and maybe, one day, I’ll be able to walk that path without its company.

Until then, I persist and keep walking with Beaumont by my side. He looks like a big fluffy marshmallow, but he’s got a wild bark.

I like that. It makes me feel safe.

Full disclosure: I have not been as keen to walk at night lately. Without my realizing it, fear had overridden my desire to defy the dark.

In writing it out, I see what fear has done.

Beaumont and I will be walking after dark, tonight.

Namaste

27 thoughts on “Defying the Night

  1. Hi Louise I know you are safe and loved and walking in strength and I call on all special angels to protect you. Peace Harmony Love Order Wisdom to you and yours. Namaste John

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well done, you have verbalized those fears, hidden deep in your memory bank. The most important aspect is that today you understand and accept those fears for what they are – memories of days that are long gone. With the support of family and friends you took control of your life. The first step to take back that control is for a victim to make the determination that they need to get away from whatever situation they feel they are locked into. That first step is the most important one they will make, just like their first baby steps. So proud of you Dear Friend. If your words reach even one individual, it was worth the effort to put those words on paper. No one can do it alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you beautiful Iwona. Your words, and presence on my journey, are so full of loving-kindness, friendship and artful creativity!

      And yes, that first step is the most important one. I always remind myself that life is full of first steps, mis-steps, forgotten steps and so much more. The thing is to keep stepping into the light. it’s not that I want to deny the darkness, I seek to defy the fear it holds for me — and so… I write it out. And thank you — I too hope my words can reach someone who desperately needs to hear them so that they know, they are not alone in the darkness of abuse. Hugs to you — hope the renos are progressing, step-by-beautiful step.

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    • It is such a sad, but true, statement Lisa. We must all keep writing about it, speaking out, standing up so that the Londons and Atlantas and Montreal in 1989 and so many others do not keep happening again and again. Many hugs.

      Like

  3. I appreciate your sharing from your past and how you’ve processed it to get to where you are today. I’m very anxious to walk in the park alone, even in daylight. I’m tired of being afraid! What reinforces the fear is when danger steps out and confirms it. Last year I was riding my bike on a lonely stretch of road and an SUV drove by, then it drove by again in the opposite direction. I was not worried yet but paying attention. Then it drove by me again, going very slow. I immediately pulled out my cell phone and dialed one of my kids and unhooked the pepper spray hanging from my bike’s basket, ready. The vehicle didn’t come back. Maybe it was looking for an address? Maybe it saw I pulled my phone out and me holding pepper spray? I would think Beaumont would be a great deterrent to any would-be attacker. I’m glad he’s with you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Me too! Tired of being afraid — and so, we do what we must to lessen our fear through doing the things we know we must to walk safe. — wise you knowing how to keep yourself safe on a lonely road — doesn’t matter if they were looking for an address, what matters is your peace of mind! Your well-being.
      And yes, I too believe Beaumont is a great deterrent and a very welcome companion on my walks. I love the aloneness in the night — now, to shed the fear that, as Lilli Ann says below, always accompanies me! 🙂 Many hugs my friend. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear Louise,
    Such a good story to share and the accompanying poem. Women virtually never walk alone. They walk with fear. A lifetime of men showing power, taking power, altering our lives in a myriad of ways. And so we take our chances not willing to be limited by this fear. In speaking with men, most feel free to walk in the night and feel unencumbered by fear. We must walk with vigilance aware of every dark space, every passersby and every slow moving car.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I wish every man could read your words Lilli Ann. So true — We must walk wiht vigilance – not by choice — not even because of fear — but because history, society, patriarchy, social norms have dictated this is how women walk.
      ENOUGH!
      Yup. That’s me yelling. I’m tired of being the one having to change — I think it’s time men changed! what do you think? 🙂 ❤

      Like

      • I’m with you sister. I think they are getting more and more of a heads up. But there are still huge bastions of men who want to keep things as they are. They are really afraid of who they’d be if they weren’t on top. Fear is a powerful motivator to do wrong as well as right.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. You’ve got more courage than I ever will. I often said: I wouldn’t last 2 days in a war. You threaten to hurt me and I’d be falling dead to the ground. However, I wouldn’t hesitate a moment to defend my child or husband, a sister or family member….. I CAN be a lioness if need be. But I would NOT walk in a dark alleyway at night.
    And YOU must have had a whole army of angels so that you are still around to tell your tale! What a brave courageous woman you are – I want to give you a big hug and assure you that we all take care of you, although you already have Beaumont 😉
    My dog would never let happen anything to our baby, never was bothered by anything a kid did to her, but when she felt that any of us was threatened, she was wild! Or at least until the ‘enemy’ offered her a slice of sausage….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ahhh Kiki — when my daughters were in high school they ‘forbid’ me to talk to any of their teachers. I was apparently a bit fierce. 🙂 My youngest daughter even went so far as to put her cell no. on file and change her voice message to — Hi. This is Louise Gallagher I can’t…. — so that if she skipped a class or the school was sending out messages, she’d get them, not me. 🙂 I wondered why there weren’t any teacher/parent interviews and she told me they didn’t do that anymore. 🙂 🙂

      And yes — BEaumont too has an affinity for saugsage! 🙂
      And yes, I do have a whole army of angels — when I was in the depths of that relationship my biggest angel was Ellie, my Golden Retriever. She saved my life, as did my love for my daughters. No matter how much I wanted, desperately, to take my own life, I couldn’t because I couldn’t make a lie of my love for my daughters and I didn’t know what he’d do to Ellie. Very, very blessed am I. ❤ ❤ ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ahhh, Ann. Thank you.

      This morning, while responding to Mark’s blog today (I write about it on my blog this morning), I counted up how many posts I’ve published since I began March 10, 2007 – 3,994) And I thought of you — we’ve been on this path together through a lot of words, a lot of happenings, growth, change, possibilities, stumbles and triumphs. So grateful for your presence my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Fear has a way of creeping in, and sometimes it’s protective. I’ve learned to trust my instinct and balance it with common sense. There is danger everywhere, and we are all susceptible, but we can’t let it stop us from living! I’m glad you have your marshmallow to protect you! 😉

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