Alone in a big house on a dark night
I have often given credit to Kurt for building up my courage, helping me find my strengths, and encouraging me to follow my passions. It’s absolutely true that we met when I was at a low point, beaten down by mentally abusive husband #1 and looking for a way out of that mess — which he offered me, first as a friend, then as a lover, and finally as my life partner in the grandest and fullest sense of that term.
What I’ve sometimes overlooked in that narrative is that I’ve always been tough, ornery, opinionated, reasonably courageous, and extremely strong-willed. He had the good luck (for him) of catching me at a low point when I really needed to find exactly the person that he turned out to be. Still, I had to find the courage in myself to trust the future that he was offering to me.
I suspect that we females are discouraged culturally from showing and acting from our full strength. Bad things actually do happen to women who dare too much. I once tried to explain to Kurt that the possibility of assault is always in the back of my mind, that I never walk alone in empty places, especially in urban settings, without a tickling fear at the back of my neck. He utterly didn’t get it, said he’d never felt it and didn’t know any guys that would confess to such a feeling. Granted, he was a guy who was so low-key and believed so strongly that he lived a charmed life that he (as he frequently bragged) could sleep through “incoming” in Vietnam.
Well, I was five months pregnant with my daughter when a pathetic loser trapped me in a public restroom, and I had to use my wits and my courage to get myself and my unborn child safely out of a very threatening situation. I don’t think that men have experiences like that as often as women do. It happened to me, and I learned that I am courageous.
Still, I am possessed of a large helping of common sense. So yesterday morning when I pulled into the parking lot at a trail access where I’ve run several times before, there was no one there. It was cold and drizzling, but that seldom stops Pacific Northwest runners. I was puzzled, but I got out of the car. Then I noticed that the porta-potty was gone! This presented a biological pre-run problem, but more importantly it was just plain weird. The park suddenly took on an eerie, abandoned quality that I didn’t like one bit. So I got back in the car and I drove to a more heavily-used trail access point. This didn’t feel like giving in to my fear, but simply being sensible.
My location change forced me to run through the center of town, as my favorite part of the trail is closed right now for mudslide repair. I don’t enjoy running in town, because it can smell of diesel fumes and fiberglass down at the yacht works and marina, and because much of the surface is hard concrete. My 6.2 mile slog through the mist yesterday wasn’t all that much fun, but I did it and came home feeling good about making prudent choices, not exposing myself to unnecessary risks, and taking care of myself.
Tonight, however, is Halloween. I’ve never much enjoyed the whole trick-or-treat thing — I don’t like opening my door to strangers and would normally never consider doing that after dark. Kurt used to like to sit near the door and be the jovial guy handing out candy (and he would always buy way too much so he could eat the “leftovers”). Last year he was already too weak from the chemo to do the honors, so I rather sullenly agreed to be the candy-distributor while he watched nearby.
This year there was no way I was opening my door to anyone for any reason. I figured I was just being paranoid until I mentioned my decision to friends and they immediately agreed. I’m here all by myself and I see no reason to advertise that fact to the flocks of teenagers who come through later in the evening. I turned off all the lights, unplugged the ones on timers, and went upstairs with the makings of a picnic dinner — bread, cheese, and wine. The light is on where I’m sitting, nowhere else. It’s been very quiet; I don’t think anyone has ventured through the front gate and up the dark walkway to my front door.
That’s fine. I am not afraid, merely prudent. I do not feel trapped, but rather voluntarily and temporarily cocooned. Tomorrow I have things planned that will get me out and about again. What’s different from a week or so ago is that I now feel in charge of making those decisions about how I will choose to live. I’m starting to make my life happen again. That’s an important and most welcome shift in my perception.
I can do this. I am really going to be OK. There may be ghouls and zombies outside right now, but inside it’s rather peaceful.