At 9:12 am on May 21, 2003, the only peace I knew was the unsettling desire to die, the constant throbbing of the voice screaming at me to let go, give in, give up, give over my life to the darkness that consumed me. I wanted to end it all. To have the turmoil and pain and fear of living with an abuser die with me.
At 9:13 am on May 21, 2003, everything changed. Everything shifted and my world as I knew it ended. A police car drove up and I stood watching as two officers stepped from the car.
At 9:14 am I followed the officers into the room where my abuser lay sleeping and watched them arrest him.
They took him away and I sat in a chair in a room I did not recognize, captive in a body I could not feel. I was catatonic. Frightened. Terrified. I had 72 cents in my pocket, a few clothes and my dog, Ellie, who had journeyed through that four year, nine month voyage through hell beside me. She was my ballast but with his arrest, I was cast adrift. I clung to her fur, cried into her shoulders but still fear eroded my being, clawed at my heart, tore my world apart.
In my fear that this horror that I was enduring would be the rest of my life, I didn’t know where I’d find myself. I didn’t know where I’d come ashore. I only knew, I had run out of options. Run out of running away, of hiding, of being frightened and alone.
I called my sister and she and her husband came to get me. We drove the hour from the small town where I had been hiding out with my abuser for 4 months, into Vancouver. They didn’t ask me questions. They didn’t prod and poke. They didn’t dig into where I’d been nor share their fear and anger. They let me sit in silence in the back seat of their car and I was grateful.
My abuser was gone but still I felt the tendrils of his control lapping at the shores of my consciousness. I felt the fear of his absence from my life ripping at the delicate thought of freedom seeping into my mind. The enticement of peace from his abuse and anger seepped quietly into a tiny corner of my heart and began to take up residence.
It was the first peace I had known for months, years even. The first sense of peace I’d let in since meeting the man who’d promised to love me ’til death do us part, and then set about making the death part come true, sooner rather than later.
And in that moment of peace, sitting in the back seat of my sister’s car, Ellie beside me, I watched the countryside roll by and wondered, where had I gone?
It would be many months before I found an answer I could live with, but in the intervening weeks, I would dig deep into my psyche to uncover the truth about what had happened to me. In my digging, I would discover there was one choice I could make, every moment of every day — to be or not to be filled with peace — peace of mind, a peaceful heart, to claim a piece of calmness within my day.
Peace didn’t come cheap. It came with great effort. With a constant reminder of the question, “What do I want to create? Harmony or discord?” “Is what I am doing creating more harmony in my life? Or less?”
And when the answer was, ‘less’, I would ask myself, “What can I do to restore peace of mind, right now, in this moment? What am I willing to do to have more of what I want in my life?”
He was arrested in May. By July I was working, rebuilding my life. I had one focus and that was to heal myself so that I could help my daughters heal. And constantly I reminded myself, my peace of mind comes when I know that what I am doing creates more of what I want in my life and less of what I don’t.
And peace came. It drifted into my being like fog rising from the ocean shores upon which I walked at night with Ellie. It came. Dressed up in a gossamer gown of morning dew resting upon the delicate petals of the flowers strewn across the garden in a joyful disarray of colour. It seeped in, shrouded in the night falling sweetly upon the end of day. Peace came and I became filled with peace of mind.
And then, the phone call arrived. It was a hot summer’s morning in August. I was getting ready to walk to the Seabus that would carry me across the bay to the downtown core. I was getting ready and peace of mind slept unaware of the moment about to arrive. The phone rang. I answered it and listened to the disturbing words of a police officer.
“Conrad has escaped from jail. We don’t know where he is but we assume he’ll come looking for you… Just thought we should warn you.”
And in one moment, my peace of mind evaporated. My sense of well-being vanished.
I started to shake. To cry. To be consumed with the fiery fringe of fear lapping at my heart, sending its beat into erratic rhythm.
My mind began to race. What if… no way… but then he could…
I shut the windows. Locked the door. And still I feared.
I wanted out. I didn’t want to let go of my peace of mind.
I took a breath. Refused to be scared. I got Ellie’s leash and called her to my side. “Let’s go for a walk,” I said.
The thought of the great outdoors enticed her. She didn’t care about my peace of mind. She just wanted to go for a walk.
And so we walked. Out the front door, through the gate, down the street. A left and then a right, across the avenue, along the trail leading into the woods. My sanctuary. My respite. My peaceful place.
I took a step into the forest’s tranquil embrace. A leaf rustled on the ground. A twig snapped.
Fear erupted. Peace escaped.
Suddenly, behind every branch, he lurked. Every rustle of leaf was his footstep. Every step took me closer to a deadly encounter.
I lasted less than two minutes in the woods before I bolted.
Peace was no longer possible. Terror reigned.
I raced down the street, back towards my sister’s home where I was living. I raced with Ellie loping beside me. It’s a game, her upturned face seemed to say. Can we play?
No, I cried. No time to play. We’ve got to get home. Home to the safety of a locked door, drawn blinds, darkness.
And in the comfort of my room, lying on my bed, Ellie watching me from the floor beside me, I cried and I cried.
How dare he steal my peace of mind. How dare he erode my tranquility.
“He doesn’t have to,” a voice somewhere in the darkness of my mind whispered. “You don’t have to let him in.”
“It’s not my choice,” I cried.
“You always have a choice,” the voice admonished.
I took a breath. A choice? A peaceful choice? The voice was right. I always have a choice.
To live in fear or peace?
Which would I choose?
There is a story of a First Nations elder who tells his grandson about the two wolves that live within each of us. One is black. One is white, he tells his grandson. And always, they are fighting to gain control of our being.
“Which one wins?” the grandson asks.
“Whichever one you feed,” replies the elder.
I fed the black wolf that day. I fed it my hard won peace of mind, my sense of well-being, my comfort. I fed what I had worked so hard to achieve and still it was hungry. It wanted more.
I had so little to give. I could not give it what I cherished most.
I took a breath and let my breath feed oxygen to the white wolf where it sat waiting at the doorway to my mind. With each breath I stoked the fires of my passion to live with peace of mind residing deep within me, a calm, clear lake of tranquility resting at my core.
I took a breath and chose to let go of fear and step into courage. I chose to let courage drive fear out, as I drove clear of the darkness.
I claimed my peace of mind and stepped out into the sunshine of the day, confident in my choice to live fearlessly in the rapture of now. I took a breath and slid effortlessly into the grace of being free to choose more of what I want of my life, letting go of what no longer serves me.
The question is: Which wolf will you feed?