To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe. - Anatole France
I love planning, but hate waiting. Or, rather, I hate not having a date set for what I’m waiting for. I need to know what I am going to be doing and when. Preferably sooner than later. Why wait to do something in a year when you can do it next week? I will do a lot of planning for it, but I am quick about it, so that I can go from idea to action in a very short time. When I got the idea in my head to bike to all the California missions, I immediately started planning detailed maps, places to stay, eat and visit, and before I knew it I had a rough draft of my book and was ready to roll. From idea to departing for the trip, it took about three months. And that delay was mostly because I couldn’t get time off before then (my boss would have preferred I wait even longer, but I hate waiting more than necessary); otherwise I could have been ready with detailed plans in two.
Part of this is because once I get an idea in my head it is hard to let it go. I tend to think my ideas are brilliant until I get proof to the contrary. But I don’t just act impulsively, I really do plan and prepare for everything I do. It just looks impulsive to my family and friends because I go through the decision making process and planning stages so quickly. When I decided to do a Tough Mudder event, I was signed up within a week of announcing my intentions, and actually participating in eight weeks, once I had done some physical training and an event was near enough to my home.
And part of this is because once I announce my intentions, I feel some shame if I don’t follow through. I know that no one else will actually think poorly of me if my plans don’t pan out or if I change my mind. But to me, once I say I am going to do something, I have in essence given my word. And I keep my word, to myself and to others.
Which is why it was so hard to leave my marriage – and thus my home and my job. The shame I felt that I was not able to keep my promises to myself, my business associates, my customers, and the world at large. To admit to myself and others that I had made a mistake in marrying that jerk in the first place.
When I left, though, I made a plan and acted on it quickly. I had already waited for years and years for my marriage to improve, for my husband to treat me with kindness and respect, for the violence to end. I had waited for years for my business to succeed, for my family-by-marriage to stop sabotaging my business plans. I had waited for years to improve my home beyond 120 square foot, with no plumbing or heating. The waiting period was up. Once I got the idea in my head that I needed to leave, that all this waiting was in vain, that nothing was going to improve, and that I could leave, I made my plans.
Really, they were very simple. But over a decade of my husband’s abusive brain washing had made it hard to think clearly and logically about what I needed to do to leave. While I had tried to leave before, I had never made it more than five miles before his training kicked in, and I couldn’t think of what to do and where to go after that. So I’d go back. It sounds kind of stupid now – I want to yell at my old self “just keep going!” But it wasn’t that simple to my mind at that time. Too many years of being told that I could not live without him, with seemingly sound reasons why not; too many years of being told that my family and friends would not take me in, again with seemingly sound reasons why not. How would I pay for food and shelter? How would I find a job with no job references for my application? In effect, how would I survive?
But this time I realized that those same questions had no better answers when staying where I was, in an abusive marriage with a failing business and no prospects for improving my self, my income, my home, or my life. Though he had tried to argue to the contrary on the rare occasion that I would voice these doubts, his reasoning rang hollow. It was time to go.
The plans were short, carefully thought out to make sure I was not just acting on some lie that he had told me. They were simply to (1) take the truck and drive to Denver; (2) call my family and see if they actually would not take my in, like he had said. If they didn’t, I had a back up plan of going to a Buddhist community not far from Denver, where I could work for room and board. I didn’t know about women’s shelters, and if I had I probably wouldn’t have trusted them not to just return me to my husband (he had said that they would, and as he had previously convinced doctors and police that he was my caregiver and I was crazy, I had no reason to believe he wouldn’t do the same with the shelter personnel).
The plans also included a very short list of what I wanted to take with me. However, the list was tricky because I would not have time to gather anything before I left. He kept me under a very close eye all the time. Even getting over to the truck to leave without him catching me was going to be a trick. Also taking time to gather things was out of the question – if he saw me carrying things around that I had no reason to be carrying, he’d know what was up. So my list was extremely short, essentially just things I could hide in my pants pockets. Luckily, my husband was paranoid, and kept a full set of clothing and camping gear in the truck “in case of emergency.” The few things I was able to take with me were supplies from this stash, which I had time to sort through once I had gotten away from him. But I had to leave behind everything of sentimental value, and most things of practical value. The final result only filled a backpack. But most importantly I had my life.
Once I had the idea I could and would leave, and the plans of how and where to go, it was simply a matter of watching for an opportunity. I found one within a few days. Longer than that and I might have lost my nerve, or slipped up and said something that would have given him a clue of my intentions and thus prevented my acting on them. I only had one chance to get it right – if I messed up and failed to leave, I would not get another chance. It did not go as smoothly as I hoped – there was a problem with the parking brake – but I did it. I left.
And I stayed gone. My family took me in. I got a good job within a month. My plans worked out fine.
And now I am planning my longride. I wish I knew when I’d be able to start it, but I am sure this will become clear soon. The thought of the longride both excites and frightens me. It will be an awesome, amazing experience. But unlike my mission bike ride where I had company on my journey (and a support truck!), and unlike Tough Mudder which was physically challenging (and required signing a death liability waiver) but had been designed for safety, this ride will be alone, in unfamiliar territory, with no guarantees that I will succeed.
I don’t want to delay long, lest I loose my nerve or talk myself out of it. Because it is important to me to take this ride, to visit other DV survivors around the country and help them however I can. At very least, I would like to show them that it is okay to fail in marriage, in keeping a home, in love; it is okay to leave everything behind. The shame of it will not kill you (but staying in a dangerous home might!). There are good people who will support you in your decision to leave. There are people like me who have done it and are indescribably better off for having done it.