on dates of secret significance (with a warning: if you are family, this post may be upsetting)

A borrowed image, but this may as well have been me, 13 December 1993.

Today is my own personal Independence Day.

Today I celebrate the fact that I am still alive despite an abusive ex’s hands, and despite my mother’s willful and deliberate blindness. Today I celebrate the rebirth I took from that abuse; the way it propelled me into motion. Today I celebrate how it gave me an anger that turned me into an activist which moved me into new arenas, moved me into the world. Today I celebrate living without fear.

I would never have come into this life without 13 December 1993. I would never have felt compelled to go to Afghanistan to try to repair the world if I hadn’t known what it felt like to watch the world fade away. That moment was horrible and amazing and changed me forever. It made me afraid at first, and later, it made me brave.

I would never fully thank that sad, unrealized fraud of a man for bringing me to where I am now- I got myself here- but his moment of violence was a part of this, and I am grateful for the role he played. It was awful, and it never should have happened, but 18 years later I can say that it was the pivot that changed everything. My life now, here, this—it is amazing, and that moment- that one brutal gutting grunting almost- dying moment 18 years ago today- it was the moment that changed everything. It brought me here.

What I am stumbling around saying is: I would never have left if he hadn’t tried to kill me. I know that now, and so I am grateful that he tried to kill me, because it led me to the life I have now.

This day is important to me: sad, sordid, awful, but so significant. I mark it each year, like a second birthday, or a death date, or maybe both. The girl I might have been died that day; I lost everything when I left the house and ran away to find the police, to find shelter, to find help and eventually to find a new life. My family, my future, everything I owned: gone.

And yet- it also set me free. It’s a birthday; the girl I am was born that day. I try to envision that birth as free of attachments and possessions. I try, but even now I struggle: I lost so, so much. Instead, I breathe and release. I can still do that, and that is enough, because it needs to be.

I breathe, I release, and look I at the abundance in my life. This is enough. This is more than enough. This is more than I could ever have asked for.


Every year on this day I lace my fingers around my neck, a small thing, a narrow span of soft flesh; I make a collar of my fingers, I squeeze gently and hold my breath and I remember, and I am grateful. 18 years ago today I was brave for the very first time: I took the first steps towards this, towards today, and towards tomorrow.

This is the most important day of my life.

Today, I am grateful, and happy, and full of joy; today I am lucky, and well aware of it.

  One thought on “on dates of secret significance (with a warning: if you are family, this post may be upsetting)

  1. December 13, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    If feels inappropriate to “like” this post … but I’ve done so just the same.

    By “like,” can we agree that I mean: admire, respect, and stand in awe of the woman you have become?

    If by “like,” can we agree that I mean: express gratitude for your forthright sharing of your story?

    Then hell yeah, I’ll be the first to “like” this post ;–)

    • January 2, 2012 at 7:43 pm

      Thank you, Vicki. ❤

  2. December 13, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    Oh, Sarah….you are such a brave & wonderful woman.

    • January 2, 2012 at 7:43 pm

      Thank you, Steph.

  3. Kathleen
    December 13, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    My daughter is in an abusive relationship along with my baby granddaughter I have yet to see. I pray that one day she finds the strength to run and make a life for herself as you have. Thank you for giving me hope it might be possible for her to survive.

    • January 2, 2012 at 7:43 pm

      KatDee, I hope she can find the strength to leave, too. Some times it just takes time. I worked in a shelter for a while, years after my abuse, and I was surprised at how frequently women did leave- sometimes over nothing at all, too, just because they’d woken up and decided it was time. I’ll cross my fingers for your daughter and granddaughter.

  4. Jessica D.
    December 14, 2011 at 12:39 am

    This is so beautiful. Though the story is sad, you my friend are beautiful. The writing is so strong. Though what he did makes him a weak man, you came out strong women. Every word made my heart feel sorrow and happiness at the same time. Sorrow for the pain you felt and happiness that you were able to take such a horrible thing and overcome it. I have a rebirth day too, the day I put myself in the hospital is the day I changed my life. 25 tattooed stars down my back symbolizes my new beginning at age 25. I am glad to know a person like you, though we don’t know each other very much….you still one of the strongest woman I know.

    • January 2, 2012 at 7:41 pm

      Thank you, Jessica. Your tattoo sounds lovely!

  5. December 14, 2011 at 9:48 am

    For me, October 31st is my independence birthday. Lots of love to you!

    • January 2, 2012 at 7:41 pm

      All my love. It’s important to remember our days, isn’t it?

  6. December 14, 2011 at 10:33 am

    I am so sorry that this abuse happened to you. You are an amazing woman.

  7. December 14, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    I am so glad to hear that your life has turned out for the better.

    • January 2, 2012 at 7:40 pm

      Thank you, Michele.

  8. December 15, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    I’ve just started reading your blog, and each post blows me away. You are strong and wonderful and amazing. My life has been easy and I’m grateful. I’ve never been tested as you have been. You have been through the fire, figuratively and literally, and have come out strong. I’m in awe.

    • January 2, 2012 at 7:40 pm

      Thank you, Barbara. I think you’re pretty amazing, myself- you’ve made quite a career, and made quite a difference in the world around you. One doesn’t need to go through the fire to have an impact. 🙂

  9. Nelson Bardal
    December 15, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    I am so happy you are no longer being abused. I had a father who beat my mom when he got drunk. He abused me because I was not a favorite. It takes a man to control his anger and direct it properly and away from his family. I could no more hit my wife than I could give you a million dollars because I do not have it in me or my bank account. I am happy you are away and safe now.

    • January 2, 2012 at 7:39 pm

      Thank you, Nelson.

  10. Bev
    December 16, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    My heart skipped a few beats as I read this. I could have written these words myself. It’s amazing what a person can accomplish when they are forced to make that choice. I look back on my independence day and sometimes wonder where I would be now if I hadn’t made that mad dash. I look at my children and what they have accomplished and know that they would not be where they are either if I hadn’t left at 2:30 a.m. that Saturday morning. Happy Independence Day! May other women read this story and gain the courage to find their own independence.

    • January 2, 2012 at 7:38 pm

      Bev, thank you. Congratulations on your own escape, and thank you for writing this. It helps to hear I’m not the only one. You read the statistics, and for some time I worked in a domestic abuse shelter, so I know it happens to other people- but it stays hidden, usually, and with time, I forget that I’m not the only one. Thank you.

  11. N
    December 17, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Thank you for opening your life and sharing your strength and pain. Your words have more impact than you can possibly know.

    • January 2, 2012 at 7:35 pm

      N, thank you.

  12. skeindalous
    December 19, 2011 at 11:30 am

    When I opened this post I thought it would be a discussion of how you had dyed/painted the interestingly colored wool batt/felt that was shown in the photo. How our expectations drive our perceptions.
    Realizing it to be the bruised throat of a young woman….Sigh.
    Sent a link to a friend who works in the domestic violence support community. She found it to be moving and an excellent testimony, to be helpful for women she will meet.
    Thank you for opening your pain and sharing your strength.
    God bless.

    • January 2, 2012 at 7:35 pm

      Thank you. I’m happy to think that this small testimony could be of help to anyone, in any way.

  13. December 20, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    Thank you for being so brave and posting this. *hugs* and love to a strong woman.

    • January 2, 2012 at 7:34 pm

      Thank you, Lindsay.

  14. March 1, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    I realize this is an old post, but I just stumbled across it, and if it helps you to know you’re not alone, then I can’t *not* leave a comment.

    The details are different, of course, the itinerary and roadmap not the same, but I’ve been there, too. And once I left, and began to speak out about the truth of what I had experienced, I also began to realize how awfully, terribly, horribly common intimate partner violence really is.

    So I applaud you–for leaving, of course, but also for writing this post, knowing that there are people who would prefer you hadn’t, and for being a shining light to others trapped in their own darkness.

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