Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Peace: Which will you feed?

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?


It's another Blog Carnival! Click here to go to the One Word at a Time blog where you will find a list of links to all the bloggers writing about Peace today.

And this is a special Blog Carnival. Maureen, over at
Writing without Paper, has issued a Challenge for Haiti. For every original comment posted on my blog today, January 26 (before 9pm MST), I will donate $1 to a charity helping out in Haiti. (Donations up to $100). So please, link in, post in, blog away and feel free to comment! Your words will benefit Haiti and give rise to my giving!

Please follow this link to find out how you can make a difference with other Canadians. http://www.cbc.ca/haitirelief/


Glynn said...

Louise, this is one powerful story; it reads like you wrenched it straight from your heart. The reality has to be even more powerful. Thanks for the telling of it.

M.L. Gallagher said...

Thanks Glynn, going through it was hell -- coming to this side. This is beauty, joy and peace!

Maureen said...

You are amazing, dear friend. No matter how many times I read some aspect of your story, I feel as if I am reading for the first time, because your words have power. They tell us it is possible to overcome what seems impossible. They tell us choice is ours to make.
May peace always be with you.

Hugs and love, M.

Anonymous said...

Good morning Louise,

I am frequently grateful for the words you speak, for the wisdom you share that was gained in much pain.

It is hard to know sometimes if we are making decisions based on the reality of our situation, or the fear of a future one. Does that make sense? Sometimes I think we stay locked up because we fear that being set free will be a worse hell than the one we are living.

Your story reminds me that peace only truly comes when we are set free, when we no longer live in fear. There is light at the end of every tunnel.

I am so grateful that you were set free before you took a drastic step to set yourself free in death.

Love you. Hugs & beans,

M.L. Gallagher said...

And peace be with you lovely Maureen.

and you too Sarah.

I love that saying -- it is my favourite time when in church -- to turn and say to my neighbour, "Peace be with you."

what a beautiful prayer for every soul on the planet.

Let peace begin within me so that I spread peace all around me.


Joyce Wycoff said...

Louise ... thanks for sharing your story ... even for those of us who have not walked your path, your courage gives us courage to face our own demons.

I'm so glad this comment is going straight to Haiti. ;-)

M.L. Gallagher said...

Joyce -- you are so awesome!

and everytime I comment, it goes straight to Haiti too! :)

S. Etole said...

I read this earlier and had to come back and read it again ... it is very powerful

Bridget Chumbley said...

Louise I was hanging on for dear life as I read your words. I was in an abusive relationship, but I don't think it compared to what you lived through.

Thank you for sharing your story and giving hope in what can feel like such a hopeless situation. You are very brave!

i am storm. said...

Thanks Louise,

Your words came on the right day. I have been feeling unsettled, chaotic and panicy all day. As you said, peace had left me today. Then I read your post.

I need to choose peace. I need to feed peace in me today.

I will


Anonymous said...

I miss Ellie.

I loved the story about the wolves.

Kevin said...

Thanks for sharing your story! I am glad to be participating with you and others in helping raise money for Haiti!

Sarah Salter said...

Louise, thank you for sharing your testimony! How amazing that you made it through and made it through WHOLE! Thank you for sharing! ~Shalom to you

drw@bainbridge.net said...

Thank you so much for this -- and especially for the wolf story, as a way of explaining how we get ourselves into and out of these situations. Bless you, my friend

jasonS said...

Incredible story. Glad to meet you and raise some funds for Haiti. Thanks so much.

Heather Sunseri said...

What a powerful, heart-wrenching story. Thank you for sharing that with us. What an inspiration you are to overcome and share your peace.

Joyce said...

Wow, what a powerful story. It's a brave thing to share...thanks for that. Wishing you continued peace.

M.L. Gallagher said...

Thank you everyone for dropping by -- and thank you for supporting my donation to Canada for Haiti!

Hugs to everyone.

peace be with you.


JoAnne said...

Louise, I learn so much about myself from reading your posts.You show me ways to look at the difficult experiences from my past in a more positive way from what you have had to endure. Thank you for sharing your gift :)!

Russell Holloway said...

Thank you so much for your story. Keep feeding the wolf of peace ... :-)