She didn’t tell me his name.
She didn’t tell me what he did for a living, or where he came from.
She tried not to talk about him much at all, which evoked mild curiosity but didn’t alarm me, even though I’d always known her prior boyfriends by no less than name, occupation, hobbies and demeanor.
It was only when my dear friend fell silent for weeks after dating the new guy that I started to feel a niggling sense of worry.
A gregarious, affable extrovert, she’d always been one to text dozens of times a day, and reply instantly to virtually any text message. I often felt guilty for replying so slowly to her texts; it can take me days or even weeks to reply to a single message.
When she failed to reply to several text messages over a few-week period, I started to worry. I texted her: I get nervous when you fall silent.
She wrote back that she’d moved several hours north of our hometown. When I read him her text message, my fiancee, Anthony, said, “She’s moving the wrong direction! She should be moving down here with us.” I said she’d probably moved with her boyfriend, versus moving just for fun, but relayed his message to her. She confirmed that she’d moved with her boyfriend, whose name I still didn’t know.
I thought, abusers try to isolate their partners. I promptly squashed the thought as the byproduct of an overactive imagination. She hadn’t said anything was wrong, apart from a mild case of moving blues.
A few weeks later, my friend called and told me her boyfriend had assaulted her. She was shocked and shaken, but had quickly arranged alternative lodging for herself.
“You should leave,” I told her. “I think it’s dangerous for you to stay. You can come stay with us for a little.” I coordinated parts of her departure with her, but worried she wouldn’t leave. It’s often much easier to continue enduring known hardship than embrace the idea of enduring unknown, unquantifiable hardships. Indeed, the human imagination for possible woes is endless, so that the unknown can end up seeming much more threatening than painful situations we’ve already shown ourselves we can survive.
When my friend called me a couple of days later and said she’d probably overreacted, I stressed that I didn’t feel she had. Still, she was determined to stay and prove she was strong enough to make a home in her new locale, with or without her boyfriend.
I sighed. I prayed. And I hoped to God she’d call me if anything else happened.
A week and a half ago, I felt a rare hankering to read non fiction. “What was that book El recommended me? And another guy called a life changer?” I loaded Goodreads to scan my to-be-read shelf for the book. “The Gift of Fear. Right,” I murmured to myself. “I’ll give that a shot.”
I downloaded it expecting to read it a chapter at a time as time permitted. I was instead instantly captivated by the author’s clear, articulate description of indicators violence may be imminent. Gavin de Becker‘s career is violence avoidance, which involves finding commonalities in violent incidents and, understanding their clear and almost universally repeated warning signals, helping clients avoid falling prey to violence.
He quickly identified and described predatorial behaviors that have unnerved me for some time, but which nervousness I’ve long suppressed as irrational, unreasonable or silly. (More on that in my Goodreads review.)
Most importantly, he dedicated a huge section of the book to identifying warnings of partner abuse. He stressed that partner abuse related homicide is the most easily averted, if people are willing to read and respond to its indicators.
I was chilled to read the signs, but glad to have the benefit of an expert’s insight.
It’s by understanding a possibility of a threat we can work to prevent it.
I read the book in a day and a half.
The day after I finished reading The Gift of Fear, my dear friend called me. She’d been attacked again. She’d fought back, but she was nervous.
“You should be,” I said. Unlike when we first spoke weeks earlier, my sense of warning signs wasn’t muddy or ambiguous. I didn’t feel like I was potentially making false accusations about her boyfriend by suggesting she was unsafe. “Listen, I just finished reading an amazing book that talks about warning signs of violence.” I told her about the author, and how he immediately puts the kibosh on the idea that most violence is unpredictable or without warning. I explained he’d devoted a huge portion of his book specifically to partner abuse to help reduce horrifying domestic abuse homicide rates. I asked if I could read her a list of risk signals the author had compiled just for situations like this. “If several of these apply to your situation, you’re likely at risk.”
She agreed, and I read through the whole list (paperback pp. 183-184), beginning:
- The woman has intuitive feelings that she is at risk.
- At the inception of the relationship, the man accelerated the pace, prematurely placing on the agenda such things as commitment, living together, and marriage.
- He resolves conflict with intimidation, bullying, and violence.
“Oh, my God,” she breathed after a several-second pause after I’d finished reading the list. “He’s done at least 25 of those things. At least.” She mentioned he’d even come at her with a gun. She said it almost as if an afterthought, but I was terrified on her behalf. I responded with an emotional entreaty.
“Leave. Please leave.” Since I don’t know much about the specifics of doing so safely, I looked up the local domestic violence hotline and urged her to contact them. She spoke briefly to a volunteer there, then arranged a meeting for the next morning.
As we said our good nights to each other via text message, I prayed she would be safe overnight . . . and then, that she would leave.
Uncertain what the future would hold, she cleaned out her apartment, quickly got her affairs in order, and left.
Four days later, she reached Southern California. She spent a night with a friend before showing up at my house. My son, Li’l D, was beyond excited to see his auntie. She read him some stories and assured him she’d be there when he awakened. In the morning, he wanted nothing to do with me. He wanted only his auntie.
After Li’l D was off to preschool, she updated her resume. She sent out more than a dozen resumes and had arranged her first interview within an hour.
Two days later, she rocked that interview; her job offer came only a couple of hours later.
Walking to the store a few minutes later, we shared our elation at how quickly tides can turn when we flow with them. “Just eight days ago,” we mused, “all seemed hopeless. And now, barely more than a week later, it’s sunshine, friends and a new job.”
There’s no telling for sure what might have happened if she’d stayed up north. Was bloodshed inevitable? There is no telling. Thanks to the clear, compelling guidance in The Gift of Fear, a whole set of terrifying could-have-beens became much-less-likely-to-bes.
Will everyone who considers leaving know they have a safe place to go, or find a job immediately? No. But the truth is, it’s only by leaving an abusive, violent situation that a person–usually a woman–will be better able to take her life to the natural end of its years, and to explore all the good that might yet be, if she can even haltingly accept that the certainty of abuse is not better than uncertainty that includes limitless hopeful possibilities.
If you or someone you know is experiencing partner abuse, or you even suspect it, please, please make use of these resources:
You could save a life, or even–if children are involved–many lives.
Buffy Summers may not slay sickness the way she does vampires, but she and her gang comfort me through sickness in other ways.
Buffy, Xander and Willow on VHS were my most reliable companions through my lonely season in South Korea. They held me through my law school years in Los Angeles, and a later move to Japan. Unlike the friends and family with whom I loved watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I could pack them up and ship them with me, a portability I cherished. Being with the latter Scooby gang far away from home made me feel not so far away from home at all.
I’ve mentioned I was a fangirl, and that I worked as an extra on the show several times, but I haven’t really talked much about the specifics of my fandom. Sometimes it’s a little embarrassing to remember how devoted I was to a television show. Most the time, though, I just smile and shake my head at my younger self, all the while remembering to be thankful she led me on such interesting adventures.
This morning, sick and happily lost in Buffy marathon, there’s no embarrassment, just gratitude as I remember one specific fangirl encounter. Read more…
Space research: fascinating, but not an especially good use of money with our own world full of hunger and unresolved needs. That’s how I would have characterized my take on space research early last year, before I read a couple of compelling posts on its merits.
Thanks to changes in thought and heart rippling out from my reading those posts, I knew enough to stand atop a roof and watch for the space shuttle Endeavour as it passed over my office today.
That shuttle was not so very long ago among the stars. It was among the stars because we have minds great enough to dream up, create and send not only technology but life into space. With minds out there great enough to accomplish these things, I cannot help but have faith that time will see many more wonders worked both in the sky and on our own home planet.
To do things, we must first dream them. As I stood and watched the shuttle fly by, I was heartened by the vastness of human dreams, and by the amazing impacts of our drive to see them come true.
And let us hope that all the other leaders in all the other fields look up into the night sky and ask, “What do I want? Would I be happiest to see the stars from here on Earth, or to fly amongst them?”
– Kristina, “Want Versus Need…Stuff and Space“
There weren’t many white kids in my first grade class in a California military school.
My first crush (if I may use so strong a word for the affections of a first grader) was on a black boy who was so sweet, he immediately forgave me demonstrating the mad karate skills I’d just learned from The Karate Kid . . . even though I’d demonstrated on his groin.
His sweetness went only so far. He lost my favor before the school year was done. A year is, after all, an eternity to a first grader.
My second crush was on another boy, who—like the first—I didn’t think of as “black” at the time. Just cute.
Returning to my Oregon hometown for second grade was a little jarring. To my young eyes, almost everyone’s skin was colored minor variations of the same tone.
When I was old enough to start questioning things, like whether I was really a Republican like my parents, I remember catching sight of a banner flying throughout downtown Eugene and laughing.
The banner proclaimed we ought: “CELEBRATE DIVERSITY!”
“What, as long as it’s somewhere else?!” I remember thinking with equal mirth and incredulity.
I studied Anthropology in college. Most of my mirth remained, but strands of more analytical thought started creeping in. I found it impossible to wrap my mind around how vastly human experience could vary, and nearly impossible the further my studies progressed to speak in absolutes about “the” human experience.
Still, my engagement was largely intellectual. It remained that way until a couple of weeks after I told my boyfriend, Ba.D., I was pregnant.
Ba.D., you see, is black.
In one of our early conversations, he told me, “You know our baby is going to experience racism someday.”
Wait, what? In Los Angeles? In 2009? No way.
“I’ve been called a ‘nigger.’ Lots of times.”
I started reading articles and finding myself incensed at examples of racism very much alive and present. Even in L.A., today.
I’d rant about these things to Ba.D. only to find myself flummoxed by his calm. It took me a little while and lots of patient explanation on his part to understand this was borne of decades of personal experience. What was new and pressing to me was something he’d already lived for 3.5 decades.
A couple of months into my pregnancy, I flew home to tell my mom I was pregnant. When I showed her a picture of me and Ba.D. from the scariest weekend of my pregnancy, one in which I’d been told I’d just have to wait and see if my baby would live, she said, “So it’s gonna be biracial.”
I wrote about that conversation and what I took away from it in my blog “Race and my mother’s footsteps.”
Although I blogged a response to a racial profiling incident on 9/11/11, I haven’t been aware of any racism evidenced in my vicinity since I had that conversation with my mom. But every hateful word I’ve read has caused me great sorrow as I’ve wondered, “How on earth could someone hate my child without even knowing him? Without knowing how his laugh sounds, his touching concern when anyone around him hurts themselves, how much comfort he brought my mom in her dying days? How can that even be possible?”
When I read about Trayvon Martin, I wept to imagine losing my son over the color of his skin.
I quietly raged at people who waved off the suggestion race played a role in his death, and rejoiced earlier today at this comment #10 responding to such an assertion.
I rejoiced the comment, but not the reason for the blog that began the conversation. Some fans of the The Hunger Games books left the movie outraged by their belated discovery that a beloved character was black, a “discovery” made surprising by the fact it’s clearly stated in the book.
As always, after letting it simmer for a few hours, I eased my raging heart by transferring some of my outrage to print:
A few years ago, Joss Whedon (creator of the TV shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly, to start) was asked why he keeps writing strong women characters.
His response? “Because you’re still asking me that question.”
Along the same vein, I’ve heard questions like, “Why are we still talking about race?” My take? Because the question is still being asked. The fact an asker hasn’t experienced, witnessed or understood they’re witnessing racism doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or is wildly diminished. The question alone implies a disheartening depth of misunderstanding about internal experience versus external reality.
Today’s real world is still very full of very real inequities. We can’t change that by saying “But look how far we’ve come!” and leaving it at that.
Ba.D.’s response was, as always, perfect to calm and focus me:
Love ya and hold onto that rage. Don’t let it rule you, but let it guide you. Temper it with the knowledge that most people are at least trying. Steel that with the truth that you will have to fight.
Unlike first grade, the fights I face won’t be on the schoolyard. They won’t likely involve punches, kicks (groinal or otherwise) or thrown stones.
They’ll involve words.
If I’m able to mirror Ba.D.’s patience, those words won’t sound like fighting words. They’ll sound instead like considered assessments, and the more I practice shaping them, glimmers of hope.
I do have hope. I have seen horrible things done by the hands of man, but I have also seen great kindnesses, even by those whom I’ve witnessed behaving monstrously.
So I’ll keep reading. I’ll keep writing. I’ll keep struggling to use words instead of inarticulate cries of outrage.
Words are, to me, our bridges to other hearts. When used wisely, to cross over to someone else’s heart or to grant them passage to our own, their power to transform is immense. Not fast, usually.
© 2012 Deborah Bryan. All rights reserved.
Duplication in whole or substantial portion is explicitly forbidden.
I met my honey, Ba.D., on the verge of my 2004 move to Japan.
Over drinks shared with a mutual friend, I told him about why I wasn’t interested in practicing law despite the law degree I’d soon hold. He told me how he liked his beer (“black and bitter, like me”) before launching into an improv Dashboard Confessional-style song that had me in stitches.
I moved. Ba.D. and I alternately exchanged emails and conversed through online forums. Our friendship developed online because that was all the distance between us allowed.
Recalling how much of our relationship was built through the written word, it struck me one day that I really wanted a written update. I wanted to see more words from Ba.D., and I wanted them on my blog.
Ba.D. agreed, but he wasn’t sure what he’d write about. After a couple of weeks, I suggested his stint on Survivor would be a gimme. He could talk about that for years, after all!
I asked you if you had any questions for him, and some of you did. He’s answered these here, giving me a sweet opportunity to remember all the time his written words brought me joy before I returned to Los Angeles.
What is something that you did on Survivor that you thought you would never have the courage to do?
Get on the boat and do it. Seriously, I was aching to do it, but I didn’t know how scared out of my mind I’d be until I got on the boat in the middle of the Pacific and start paddling. And yes, it is something frightening in the back of your mind to think that you’re out in the middle of the ocean, no life vest, sharks and about 3 miles between you and land—and only a flimsy catamaran between you and the cold water. Yeah.
Oh, and what is the ONE item that you wish you had brought with you that you didn’t?
Oh, I brought it, I just didn’t get to use it: A journal and notebook. It was my luxury item, but my tribe didn’t win that challenge, so no go. It was too bad. I would have probably been a little more even keel if I’d had it. Or a camera. Yeah.
I suppose I could ask: What was the toughest part of the show for you? What did you enjoy most?
The two things that sucked the most: Dehydration, and this guy named Rocky. If you’ve ever been really thirsty on a really hot day, imagine taking the biggest drink of scotch you can. Now run around the block like 3 times. Then imagine doing that every three days without drinking anything but coconut water. Dehydration sucks, and is no joke.
The other thing was this guy named Rocky who just rode me like an evil boys gym coach from an 80s teen movie. Or like a glee club kid by a certain cheerleading coach. Sartre was correct: Hell is other people.
Do you have any regrets about being on the show?
Yes: Losing. Maybe not punching out a person or two (not that I’d be allowed to without facing some prosecution).
Deb told me she was in labor for 27 hours w/ your son. Do you think this makes her tougher than any member of the Survivor cast?
Yes and no: Tougher than many of the pretty boy whiny castaways, sure—but many folks are just as tough, for different reasons—like Christy Smith, who went way far in the game despite being deaf and ostracized by her tribe, or Chad Crittenden, the first player with a prosthetic leg, or Cristina Coria, who before coming on the show survived being shot by a murder suspect.
Deb’s also tough as nails (I can tell you stories), but she refuses to audition for Survivor.*
Hmm .. the Chicagoan in me wants to ask if somebody pissed him off so badly, that he wanted to just make them “disappear”. You know, concrete galoshes into 500 feet of Lake Michigan “disappear”.
Yes, a guy named Rocky (see above) and a guy named Mookie. I guess their names were totally appropriate for that question, huh?
Did you, or any of your fellow castaways have any military survival training, and if so, did it really help?
I didn’t, but one of the older guys my season was a door gunner in a helicopter in Vietnam, so I imagine that counts. From what I gather in talking to him, it didn’t help him at all. Survivor is kind of its own animal. You’d do better watching that guy Bear on Survivorman before going on.
I made up my own training schedule, consisting of trying to make fire from pretty much nothing and keeping it alive for 3 days while brushing up on my first aid and coconut opening skills.
In your view what is the right stuff to survive? What did you think was the right stuff at the time you applied/auditioned?
There’s survival and then there’s survival on Survivor. There’s a kinda mix you need. But I’d say its 1) The ability to think outside the box 2) A certain adaptability that allows you to work with almost any kind of people and 3) A level of “moral flexibility” that will let you do or say what you need to survive and 4) The ability to keep your humanity intact in most situations.
Looking across the seasons, which survivor do you admire the most and why?
This is actually a question on the application!
Did you go really hungry? Did they monitor you?
Oh yeah, the hunger is for real. People pay a lot for coconuts. When you’ve not eaten anything but for 9 days, there is a lot of the suck. You can live off of them, but gah.
Being a pretty laid back guy, did something/someone really make you angry?
Yes, see above about that guy Rocky!
How often did you laugh…if ever?
Not nearly enough. But once I did again, things got better.
Honestly, did you ever get so hungry you considered eating one of your own limbs? Which one would you eat? Do the producers at least give you guys salt and pepper to season said limbs?
No, not my own. You always eat the other guys first, starting from the flank … what, you’ve never read the story of Alive?
Was it hard to watch yourself on TV? Would you say how they portrayed you was accurate?
Parts were very hard, especially my last tribal council (I was watching it by myself in a New York hotel room). And yes, for the most part it was me … edited and parsed down to make me look a certain way, but it was me.
What would you do differently if you could go back to compete again?
What was harder for you: the physical toll (being hungry, no sleep) or the social aspects?
The dehydration … oh man, the dehydration.
This one if from my nine year old son: Were you ever really REALLY scared? And if so, what scared you the most?
Yes! Of falling off of cliffs and of sharks! REALLY SCARED of sharks. Two of the deadliest sharks in the world (and one of the highest counts of shark attacks) are in Fiji where we shot the show.
Did you ever get a little ticked off that Jeff Probst would show up completed rested, showered, and with a full stomach and then proceed to yell at you guys with his annoying play by play during the challenges?
You better believe it, though mostly with Jeff’s play by play. It’s his job to do (because you’d be surprised how quiet it would be on tv without it), but man it gets iritating when you’re trying to concentrate on the challenge, or worse when you’re trying to hide your flubs. You hear a lot of “Thanks, Probst.” from folks during the challenges.
Also, did the cameras bother you? Or did you forget they were there after awhile?
You’re hyper aware of them for the first day or so, and then you totally forget they exist. Heck, you find yourself standing in these perfect little half circles for conversations without knowing why. They’re like ninja! With cameras.
I need to know how I can get on the show. Seriously. This is not a joke. I have tried a few times. (Okay once.) But I don’t have time to mess around. I’m 43. I can wear a bikini. I’ve had laser hair removal. I love to camp. Who can you put me in touch with so I can get on that show. I don’t even care about the money; I just want to go somewhere hot and play.
This is one of the questions that I get asked A LOT. Like once a week. The best advice I can give on this is to just be interesting and willing to talk your mind. They want interesting people from all walks of life, but you’d be surprised how “cookie cutter” applicants can be. They’re looking for big characters, so, if you apply (and in your case if you apply again), make yourself into a character—take one or two little things about yourself that are big and just blow them up. I went for the gamer nerd, and well, look where it got me?
Oh! And the second piece of advice I can give is to be persistent. Many of the non-recruited, cool players were fans who just kept on applying. Leslie Nease (the really REALLY Christian lady from Survivor China) applied like 30 times before she got on.
And the third piece of advice is to know the game. They really, really, really, really, want people who know the game. My friend, Bobby “Bobdawg” Mason of Survivor Vanauatu proved that he knew the game by bringing in a huge flowchart to his interview showing who got voted off when, what their mistakes were, and their occupations. Cochran from this season of Survivor is studying at Harvard Law, and wrote his entrance essay on how the jury on Survivor works in contrast to the judicial jury system, and flaws and advantages in both.
How did being on Survivor change your view about people?
Honestly, if anything it reinforced some of my beliefs: If you treat people with some kindness, and at least a speck of respect, you can get pretty far in life. I mean one of the nicest guys I’ve ever known won my season. And yes, I know (and saw in spades) that people can really suck. It really is a microcosm of the human condition, even as manipulated as it may sometimes seem.
* Ed. note: See Ba.D.’s answer on Jeff Probst’s play by plays for further detail. As you know from my road rage post, there’s little that says “I love you” quite like staying out of jail for your offspring.
“Only three miles left! How’s that feel?”
“Like hell,” I spat through gritted teeth.
Rightfully not taking my grumbled response personally, the lady laughed and offered up some orange slices. I offered the heartiest thanks I could muster as I nabbed these while
cruising crawling up a molehill that felt like Everest.
I hadn’t planned to run that first marathon. In fact, I’d only started running because I figured I could complete an entire run in the amount of time it would take me just to travel between gym and home. Pacing wasn’t an important part of the running I’d been doing before I started the 2004 L.A. Marathon, which I did for no greater reason than that my roommate said a couple weeks beforehand, “You’re running so much, you should run the marathon!”
I started the marathon the way I started most my runs: with as much speed as I could muster. I raced through the first ten miles at a 6- and 7-minute per mile clip. I was on top of the world!
Around mile 17, I learned how running a marathon is not like going for a two-hour run around your neighborhood. You’re in it for the long haul, not just for as long as you feel like running.
Around mile 24, as I wrote in Running for Mom, I was barely moving. I was so lost in the effort of making it one more step (and praying I’d pass out so I could stop running), I didn’t have enough energy to believe in myself.
Fortunately, others not only believed in me but vocally urged me onward. Someone would yell, “Almost there, 6287!” and I’d think, “You know, they’re right! I am almost there!” I’d push myself back up toward speeds almost qualifiable as running speeds, and keep them going for a full minute or two before I flagged again.
When downtown Los Angeles came into sight, my fists flew up in an unplanned demonstration of primal glee. Right after that, I thought, with a lot more swearing, “I don’t like the telescoping lens effect in horror movies and I like it less here. @#$)@#*%!”
I kept running.
By the time I rounded the last corner, a block seemed like an eternity. Keeping up a crawl was taking everything I had.
“6287,” someone shouted. “You’re looking tired!”
No sh!t, Sherlock, I thought graciously.
“You’re looking tired, but you’ve got this! Sprint it! I know you’ve got it in you!”
I couldn’t see the person who yelled this encouragement, but I believed him. I looked at the finish line looming and thought, “Hell, yeah, I can do this!”
I steeled myself and I ran. I didn’t crawl, I didn’t doubt, I didn’t do anything but run.
I crossed that finish line and I wept like a little girl who’s told she’s never going to have ice cream again. Ever. But my tears had a different source: I’d done it. And I’d done it, in part, due to orange slices, high fives, and people shouting me on when I didn’t have enough room in my heart to believe in myself.
It’s been ten months since I ran my half marathon in Portland. In those months, until this morning, I’ve run only twice. The first run was twelve minutes; the second, sixteen.
This morning I told myself I’d run fifteen minutes. Instead, I ran twenty. I doubtfully ran even one-tenth the distance I covered in either marathon I’ve run, but it was a challenge nevertheless. It’s always a challenge coming back to something after a long break. Am I still good for this?
I thought of all those folks who cheered me on when I so needed it. I thought, too, of all the kind words you have shared when I needed them here, and the way you did the same in response to Darla’s raw, personal, breathtaking reflections on gratitude.
Your words mean something. In the end, it’s the runner herself who will or will not find what it takes to finish that marathon, or to push the “Publish” button no matter her doubts. But I believe more and more each day races are finished with the support of the people whose faith in us helped us overcome our own doubts before and during, and whose Gatorade and movie marathons afterward remind us that we’ll make it through the challenges to come, too.
Thank you for that, dear readers.
Thank you, “Sherlock.”