Novembers Freedom: The Story of a Survivor

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Guest Writer: Gwen Holiday; United States

*The following contains sensitive material

Everything comes together in this one perfect moment. In this moment I will summon up all of my courage. I will stand my ground. I will face my fear. It is what is to come afterwards that brings reality creeping into my veins like a freight train heading home. I am finally at the precipice of living a life that is worth living. I have torn through the house like a mad woman. I have filled up hefty bag after hefty bag with what is left of an existence that I so want to forget. The clothes and the jewelry mean nothing and the thought of just up and leaving filter through my mind but gets caught at the corner of reality and common sense. I have a son to take care of and he needs a mama who has the wherewithal to at least pack their things. 

I bring bag after bag down to my dependable old Jeep. She has been with me from the beginning and her chipped paint and weathered interior feel like an old friend. The sight of her gives me solace and reminds me that I have what I need to survive. I am not a prisoner like he so wants me to believe. When you hear lies often enough you start believing them. You start believing that you are worthless. You start believing that you are fat and ugly. You start believing that you are ungrateful and expect too much; that women are to be seen and not heard. And the worst lie of them all is that you will not survive without him. I heard that last one so often that I had lapsed into a zombie-like state. It was my protection. It was my cocoon. It was how I survived. 

The decision has been made. I am resigned. I am strong. I am scared. You can tell someone that they need to leave but until that person is ready to stare their fear right in its ugly twisted face the thought of leaving is simply terrifying. It's the kind of terrifying that leaves you shaking beyond your control. It's the kind that sneaks up on you, takes hold of your hair and drags you back to your place. The place where you have no say. The place where you must shut up to survive. The place where there seems to be no hope. 

Fear is the most powerful emotion. Fear is what gives birth to doubt and doubt is what keeps you planted among the weeds. Here I am; rooted in place. I am standing on a mountain of broken promises in my log cabin mansion that has never felt like a home. My body is shaking and in this moment I am sure that I am not strong enough. I am sure that it would be just like the other times I have tried to leave. I am as sure of failure as I am of breathing. 

And then suddenly my little boy walks out on legs that are still unsteady. I have the answer. It is in the eyes of my little boy. His sweet little boy eyes that have seen too much. His eyes that let me borrow the strength that I do not have. His eyes that say, “yes, we will survive.” His eyes save us. 

It is a cool November day and I am done being afraid. In this one perfect moment I stand outside of my prison. I let the pine scent and the warmth of the sun kiss my face. I let the chains slide off my wrists. I hear the birds and the tumbling of the creek down the way. I feel freedom and it is mine.