In 1980 I was 17, the very age my middle child will turn on March 15.
Seconds ago I watched as he disappeared through the front door, off to meet friends for breakfast due to a late start at his school this morning, his heart and mind filled with dreams for a future yet to be told. With the whooshing sound of the closed door and the muffled sound of the car pulling away my heart celebrated the gift of him silently and then my mind slipped back to my own 17th birthday.
“Life, it’s worth living.”
He could never have guessed at that time how important those words, the message they carried, would be. I wish I could tell you I saved the little block letters, but I didn’t, well I did…but, then I didn’t.
Years later, in a moment of utter loneliness and despair, I threw them in the trash thinking I would wipe my memories of Fergus away. Of course it didn’t work but, in some ways the act of tossing them signaled to me that I had to let go of the notion that only he was capable of loving me; I was just scratching the surface of what would later become my mantra, love begins inside.
What I also didn’t know when I celebrated my 17th birthday was I was 4 months away from meeting Derrick.
When Fergus left for college and broke up with me, I was not equipped to see it as an opportunity to get clear with my own goals, in fact quite the opposite; I felt empty and I wanted to be full.
Over the next 3 years my life would unravel. I would experience emotional, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of a guy who claimed to love me. Love? No, that was not love.
I wrote the following poem months after I left him for good and this, is one of the countless reasons I say “NO MORE“. It is also why I work endlessly to prevent abuse before it happens.
My middle child turns 17 on Friday, I say No More because the thought of one of my children living through what I did unhinges me, but, that is not enough. I say No More and I strive to educate because the only way to really end domestic violence and sexual assault is to prevent it before it happens. Join me and countless others, together we can end domestic violence and sexual assault.
Upon My Devotion
Upon my devotion
You spread your anger
With the world
I now suffer
You thought you were safe
Or perhaps you thought
I wouldn’t stop kidding myself
Memories well up
Your ice-green eyes bulging
Your once-soft hands
Pinning my body…my mind
Close to three years fear bound me to you
Fear of being alone, fear of losing
All I had invested in “us”
Close to three years
I was the butt
Of your anger
—my instinct was first to protect you—
I believed in your promises
My belief has deteriorated
And an even greater fear
Has pulled me away
Losing sight of myself
I always put you first
I leave you yes
But that is a far less sacrifice
Then leaving myself
I am not capable of being
Responsible for you and me both
I choose me
—Elin Stebbins, excerpt from, Tornado Warning