We all need “protection circles” ~ to be surrounded by people who are there for us ~ to celebrate the good times and to weather stormy seas.
Yet, by definition, domestic violence is isolating. We can become alienated from those who were once dear to us because we are ashamed about what’s happening behind closed doors or because a controlling person in our lives demands we cut our ties or is hyper-critical of our friends, family, or colleagues.
If, like me, you find your safety means relocating and joining an Address Confidentiality Program (ACP), you will have to create a new protection circle. Today’s post is about how I did it.
On the four month anniversary of this web site being live, I also want to take a moment to honor the people nearest and dearest to me ~ to thank them for their support and friendship ~ to celebrate with them how far we’ve come on our journeys.
Ricci is my rock. I trust her with my life. We have been friends for decades and call each other “sista.” This photo was taken of us in 1992 when I thought I had the world by the tail. I had just met a man who I believed was the love of my life. Oh, happy days!
This photo was taken at Ricci’s 50th birthday after-party. Everybody called Ricci’s mother “Mama Glo.” Her name was Gloria, and her dream was to be in the audience for a taping of the Oprah show. Sadly, Mama Glo has passed, but Ricci, her sisters, and I are determined to honor Mama Glo’s memory by making it happen. Mama Glo loved to joke that I was her “woodpile baby.”
Ricci’s instincts are phenomenal. She had radar for when the abuse was about to happen, and she’d call me. “Are you OK? You are on my mind.” She helped me to know when it was time to head for my cousin’s mountain cabin ~ a place so isolated and remote that I have trouble finding it even though I’ve been there several times.
My cousin has been protecting me since we were kids. In this next photo taken at our grandfather’s farm, I’m nestled in her lap, and she’s got her arms circled around me. I was safe.
My cousin introduced me to her cousin-in-law Winnie, and she became my guardian angel. I relocated to Washington State on Winnie’s birthday, and we celebrated her life with a memorial service. This next photo is of Winnie (second from left), her soon-to-be husband Clair, and their friends from Alaska.
My move to Washington was arduous ~ lots of thunderstorms and tornadoes ~ I was driving a rental truck and towing a car through the mountains ~ the car dolly tires had slow leaks and ultimately went flat about 100 miles from my destination. I abandoned the rental truck in order to make Winnie’s memorial service on time. Then, I spent my first night in my new apartment sleeping on the floor. Except for my cousin, I didn’t know a soul. I had to sever ties with everyone I knew except for my parents and Ricci.
But, because of this handsome prince of a man ~ Dutch ~ I had a lovely apartment waiting for me. I found Dutch by getting lost trying to find the auto repair place that did a lousy job of fixing my car. His mother had experienced dometic violence, and he has been a champion for me. He’s helped me overcome many obstacles and has been a rock of support for 10 years. He’s the best property manager on the planet.
After I got the keys to my apartment, I went to Safeway to stock up. I was out of cash and didn’t know if they’d cash my out-of-state check (pre-debit cards). I didn’t have a credit card because using them is like leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for a stalker to follow. I will never, ever forget Terri’s smiling face. She welcomed me to Washington and figured out how to get me a Safeway card. For ten years, I have cherished her generous heart and charming attitude. She makes a difference in everyone’s life.
I was very guarded and shy. It was extraordinarily difficult for me to trust strangers and make new friends. But, Kathy Gill’s Southern charm embraced me. She and her fiance Mike were my first Washington friends. They are technological geniuses who are perpetually on the cutting edge, and they have enormous patience for my naivete.
Eve Ensler came to Seattle to work on her new play, and I was blessed to meet her. She and her staff have been extraordinarily generous and supportive. This photo from V-Day to the Tenth, I think, captures the essence of her brilliant spirit.
The upside of being a newbie in an ACP is that I had lots of time to read and reflect. I used the time to try to understand the dynamics of healthy relationships ~ how to establish and maintain them. I volunteered for political campaigns, did the Artist’s Way, and went to writing seminars to meet new people and expand my horizons. I hung out at the pool at my apartment complex and welcomed new neighbors. It took me a very long time to get my sea legs.
One by one, my protection circle grew. My new friends and colleagues are brilliant, warm, generous, funny, courageous, resourceful, empathetic, and charming. All have tremendous integrity and wisdom.
The Russians. . .Elena, Galina, and Yury. . .on vacation. . .
Carole May, web goddess and marine naturalist. . .doing what she does best. . .
Karlyn, photography student. . .how about that self-portrait?
Fellow writer and advertising executive extraordinaire, Kiwi Mary (in blue). . .sending friendship and support each week over the Internet from New Zealand. . .
My amazing hairdresser Raquel. . .
I love you all and feel so grateful and blessed that you are a part of my life’s experience.