Angela Kelsey

Tell the Story

Category Archive: Freedom From::Freedom To

  1. Life is Long

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    I repeat the mantra “lifeisshort lifeisshort lifeisshort.” Sometimes I add “getbusy hurryup domore lifeisshort ticktock.” I check an online calculator again—254 days until my 50th birthday.

    Lifeisshort, I chant as I rush from my office to the Women of Tomorrow event before heading back to the office again. I talk with a group of high school girls about dating violence.  I want to make a difference in their lives. Lifeisshort lifeisshort.

    I tell my story of being in an abusive relationship, and the girls share theirs. One girl feels pressure to continue her relationship with her controlling boyfriend, and one of the other women in the room says, “Girls, you can take your time to find the right relationship, the right career, the right life. It may not seem like it now, but life is long.”

    “Life is long”? Hmmm. Maybe for 16-year-olds. I am nearly 50.

    Two days later, I sit at my dining room table, coffee within easy reach, Sunday’s New York Times spread out in front of me. Frank Bruni’s op-ed about maturity and Peyton Manning, the Denver Broncos’ 37-year-old quarterback, is a celebration of experience: “With a bit of age has come a better grip on the fact that a game, like a life, is long.  Stay calm. Hang in. Wait for the inevitable break. Trust your training.”

    Now we know that the inevitable break never came for Manning on Sunday night, but I remember  Bruni’s column. “A game, like a life, is long.”

    I google “Frank Bruni age” and smile. Of course. He’s 49 and he’ll turn 50 fourteen days after I do. 268 to go, Frank. Do you really think lifeislong?

    The next day I read, as I do most days, Andrew Sullivan’s Dish blog, which linked to a story about Janet Yellen, who, at 67, has just become the Chairwoman? Chairman? Chair? of the Federal Reserve.  “Life is long,” says the article, which continues, “It’s a liberating notion, really, to think that you don’t have to accomplish everything in your life – or ‘have it all’ – simultaneously; that leaning back during one life stage doesn’t preclude leaning in later.”

    I haven’t had it all, at least not in any conventional sense or in any conventional order, but I notice that phrase again. Lifeislong. And Janet Yellen, at the top of her game, the beginning of the peak of her professional life, at 67, inspires.

    Okay, if Anyone is coordinating this onslaught of “lifeislong,” I’m listening. I’m thinking.

    But maybe this is mere coincidence; maybe everyone is saying “lifeislong” now and I’m just noticing. Is this the new YouOnlyLiveOnce?

    I google again. The search leads me not to urbandictionary.com but to this quote from a Chris Rock movie, I Think I Love My Wife: “You know, some people say life is short and that you could get hit by a bus at any moment and that you have to live each day like it’s your last. Bullshit. Life is long. You’re probably not gonna get hit by a bus. And you’re gonna have to live with the choices you make for the next fifty years.”

    And then I click on stanza V of T. S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men”:

    Between the conception

    And the creation

    Between the emotion

    And the response

    Falls the Shadow

                                    Life is very long

    Between the desire

    And the spasm

    Between the potency

    And the existence

    Between the essence

    And the descent

    Falls the Shadow

    So. A woman advises girls. A man praises  Manning’s long game. Janet Yellen has it all, in her own time. Chris Rock calls “bullshit.” I shake my head at  the beauty of Eliot’s words. I pay attention.

    Lifeislong invites exploration, slowing down, mixing in at least a  little rest and reflection with the urgent drumbeat of “getbusy hurryup domore lifeisshort ticktock.”

    Over the next 254 days, I’ll write a series of 50 posts. 50 posts before 50. They’ll be less “lifeisshort” bucket list and more “lifeislong” what’s next?

    I hope to have some guest posts, too, maybe even 50 of them, from women who have already looked 50 in the eye, as well as women who still look forward to it 500, 1000, 2000  or more days from now.

    Is life short or long? I don’t know yet. I hope to have a better idea by my birthday.

    What do you think?

     

     

  2. New Year’s Leaving

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    I know two women who left their abusive husbands over this New Year’s mid-week holiday. As soon as the new apartments were ready, while the men were at work, with careful planning and the help of  friends and family, they shed possessions and made a break for it.

    The moment of leaving an abusive relationship is the most dangerous one possible for the victim; it is the instant when the batterer (statistically most often a man) loses what he has sought above all else, what he has sought to obtain via physical, emotional, or financial abuse: control over the victim. It is the moment when he is most likely to be most violent as he attempts to regain what he is losing.

    To those courageous survivors who left today, may you be safe. May you inhale the fresh paint smell of your new apartment and know that your life will never be the same, that you’ve done the hardest thing already, that each day will get a little easier.

    And to the rest of us who are  already safe in our homes tonight, may we remember those who left and maybe even our own leaving, and may we take whatever risks we need to take now in order to have the lives we’re meant to have.

  3. Freedom From::Freedom To

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    I’m thinking about freedom–

    thinking about it so much that I put this cardboard cutout of the Statue of Liberty on the wall of my study (yes, just under the Christmas lights that stay up all year).

    Freedom From::Freedom To will take me through a July exploration of freedom with photos, prompts, playlists, poems, ponderings.

    What are you free from::free to?

  4. On Fire

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    April:

    Month of rebirth,

     month of two anniversaries.

    Good Friday, 2002: a beating, an interim separation.

    April 11, 2007: another assault, an arrest, the first night of a final separation.

    Easter weekend 2012: time for a fire.

    Tonight two Adrienne Rich poems:

    “Burning Oneself Out,”

    its last lines:

    “or, as tonight, the mirror of the fire
    of my mind, burning as if it could go on
    burning itself, burning down

    feeding on everything
    till there is nothing in life
    that has not fed that fire”

    and

    “Power,”

    about Marie Curie,

    “[who] died a famous woman denying
    her wounds
    denying
    her wounds came from the same source as her power.”

    ::

    What has fed your fire?

    Can you see that your wounds and your power come from the same source?

  5. What have you survived?

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    In From a Survivor, Adrienne Rich writes,

    Next year it would have been 20 years
    and you are wastefully dead
    who might have made the leap
    we talked, too late, of making

    which I live now
    not as a leap
    but a succession of brief, amazing movements

    each one making possible the next

     

     

     

     

    Every one of us who lives another day is a survivor of something, or everything.

    Survivors of  violent, personal trauma–domestic violence, sexual abuse, rape.

    Others are survivors of cancer, accidents, natural disasters, genocide, the suicide of a loved one.

    What have you survived? What has been your “succession of brief, amazing movements”?

     

     

  6. Story

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    FROM THE SUNDAY TIMES/AP PHOTO

    I can’t stop thinking about journalist Marie Colvin, who died in Syria yesterday.  You can read about her here and here and here.

    She risked, and gave, her life to tell the story of people who are being oppressed, people whose government attempts to hide its violence by not allowing foreign reporters access for nearly a year, people whose story might not be told but for her and others like her.

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    In violent intimate relationships, as long as the victim is willing to be subject to the power and control of the batterer, she may well survive with intermittent violence.  She faces the greatest level of danger when she breaks her silence to say “Enough.”

    The Assad government’s response to its citizens’ quest for freedom, its citizens’ “Enough,” repeats the response of the batterer who says to his partner, “If I can’t have you, no one will,” and then inflicts brutality on the victim and everyone who tries to help her or give her voice.

    It is up to all of us to take personal risks, great and small, to tell our stories and the stories of those who cannot tell their own, those who risk everything to gain freedom from their oppressors.

    RIP Marie Colvin

     

     

  7. Love

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    With Valentine’s Day at its heart, February is all about love.

    February is also National Dating Violence Awareness Month.

    Women ages 18-24 are at the greatest risk of any group for being victims of intimate partner violence.

    Women In Distress is sponsoring The Love Campaign to educate young women that despite what they may have seen in their lives or in popular culture, love doesn’t hurt.

    Here are a couple of other excellent resources for young women: www.loveisnotabuse.com and www.loveisrespect.org.

    To me, today, love means compassion and acceptance.

    If you know a young woman, please tell her what love means to you.

     

     

     

     

     

  8. Pink and Purple Ribbons

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    My sister is a breast cancer survivor.

    I am a domestic violence survivor.

    I walked a Susan G. Komen 3-Day with her in 2006.  She walked a SafeWalk with me yesterday.    We’re talking about doing both next year.

    As we wrap up October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I am thinking about the similarities and differences between the ways we think about these two ribboned women’s issues.

    Fortunately, hressential.com has done the heavy lifting for me, in this fact-packed post.  They compare breast cancer and domestic violence based on the following criteria:

    • how many women experience them
    • how many women die from them
    • how women are treated/helped
    • how much money each costs the economy
    • how each is talked about (or not)
    The numbers speak for themselves.
    Let’s not take off our pink and purple ribbons until we’ve put an end to both breast cancer and domestic violence.
  9. The Sweetest Thing

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    Monday I had the pleasure of speaking about dating violence and healthy relationships to a group of high school students.

    The coordinator of the event brought Earl Grey cupcakes after I mentioned that the day of the talk would be my birthday.

    Apparently, I am shameless.  And they were delicious.

    But she gave everyone in the room another gift, too: she shared her own story of an abusive marriage with this group of young women who will work with her month after month, knowing now that they can come to her with their stories, whatever they are, and she will listen with empathy and openness.  She has created a safe space for each of those students to share her own experience, whatever it might be.

    I ask people to talk about intimate partner violence with their daughters, granddaughters, friends, sisters, coworkers–to tell their stories, as I do, to anyone who will listen.

    And I am always impressed when they share their personal stories during the Q&A, as if they have just been waiting for an opportunity, an open door.

    The more we talk about intimate partner violence, the less of it there will be to talk about.

    This is the sweetest thing.

  10. thank you

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    “absence can be present, like a damaged nerve, like a dark bird”
    The Time Traveler’s Wife.

    Thank you Griselda for this dark bird.

    Thank you Amy for the book that found its way to the top of the stack at just the right time and for this sonnet by Wordsorth:

    Surprised by joy – impatient as the wind

    Surprised by joy – impatient as the wind
    I turned to share the transport – Oh! With whom
    But thee, long buried in the silent tomb,
    That spot which no vicissitude can find?
    Love, faithful love, recalled thee to my mind –
    But how could I forget thee? – Through what power,
    Even for the least division of an hour,
    Have I been so beguiled as to be blind
    To my most grievous loss? – That thought’s return
    Was the worse pang that sorrow ever bore,
    Save one, one only, when I stood forlorn,
    Knowing my heart’s best treasure was no more;
    That neither present time nor years unborn
    Could to my sight that heavenly face restore.

    Thank you Crescent Dragonwagon for sharing your post about Beanblossom,  reminding me that there will be a long view and I must waste nothing.

    Thank you Elizabeth and Paula and Marjory  and Bridget for friendship via comment and tweet.

    Thank you Alana and Judith for showing me how to blog grief.

    Thank you Julie and Bindu for phone and text support.

    Thank you friends and family who would prefer not to be blogged about.

    Thank you Jeanne for all of the above and more.