It is the rare Saturday morning that doesn’t find me and my Golden Retriever, Ellie, walking up the trail to crest the ridge of Nose Hill Park, 280 acres of rolling prairie grasses that sprawl along the northern edge of the city. This Saturday morning was no exception. Early morning. Cool air. Gentle breezes. The sky a gun metal grey blanket streaked with hopeful blue screwing up the courage to pierce the clouds and send them scuttling away. Ellie gamboled joyfully along the path, her snout quivering in anticipation of the many smells trapped in the grasses lining our path. We were alone in the gentle morning. Happy. Excited. Alive.
As we walked a woman and her dog jogged towards us. Ellie, a people pleaser by nature, bounded over to the woman to say good-morning. The woman and I exchanged a brief ‘hello’ and as we continued on our separate ways, she called after me, “Watch out for the porcupines. I almost ran into three this morning.” I stored her advice in my mind and continued on my way.
It was a glorious morning. Russet coloured leaves and fall flowers punctuated the long golden prairie grasses like confetti strewn on a wedding carpet. Tiny birds twittered amidst the stalks of fescue. The air was alive with the promise of falls beauty unfolding and even more importantly, the ferocious mosquitoes of weeks passed had taken their leave.
My mind was relaxed, thoughts of yesterday far away and visions of tomorrow simmering on the distant horizon. I was focused on the now. Focused on each breath, each footstep I took upon the path.
It is 4 years and 4 months since the P (psychopath/sociopath) was arrested and I was given my freedom. 4 years and 4 months of No Contact. Of no interaction other than through official channels when the need arose to speak my truth when he applied for parole. 4 years and 4 months of growing, learning, stretching. Of letting go of the past, of old habits and painful thinking. Of discarding my victim state to walk with grace and dignity into freedom. 4 glorious years of becoming all that I am meant to be.
And on this Saturday morning as I walked freely through the rolling hills and felt the gentle morning breeze caress my skin, I looked up into the grey skies above and saw even more clearly, the limitless possibilities of my life in freedom.
The pooch, ecstatic to be free to roam and sniff with abandon, was oblivious to my lightness of being. She bounded ahead as I drifted behind her with the aimless joy of a branch floating along a river’s surface. I had no where to be. No where to go. Nothing to do other than to live this moment completely.
I gazed in awe at the wildflowers sprinkled amidst the long prairie grasses. I let my fingers drift through the fronds of wheat growing along the trail as my eyes lingered affectionately upon the pooch as she bounded towards something on the trail in front of us. And then I sensed a movement. Something up ahead. A mass of darkness, it lumbered along the trail.
Panicked, I called out. “Ellie! Come!”
Startled by the fear peppering my voice, she stopped in her tracks, gazed into the distance at the dark object, turned her head and looked back at me. Which way to go? I called again. She stared briefly at the lumbering figure in front of her and turned and ran back towards me.
Relieved, I grabbed her collar and quickly turned in the opposite direction. In a battle between the pooch and a porcupine, there was no contest. And no sense in testing truth. Porcupine quills hurt.
Relieved to have missed an encounter of the ‘p’ kind, the pooch and I continued on our walk along a different trail. The vistas continued to draw us forward. The wildflowers continued to dance exuberantly in the grasses around us and the air continued to lift my spirits to the sky.
Having survived an encounter of the Psychopath/sociopath kind, I know what to look for. I know the best course of action. There is nothing to prove. Nothing to test. And there’s no sense in pressing too close to see if they can still cause pain.
Ps and porcupines are prickly beasts best avoided where ever they are. As a survivor, I know the signs, I know the symptoms. Armed, watchful, I can steer clear of their devious paths and carve out my own unique trail. My world is not diminished in taking a different path to avoid a P. It is simply different.
I can’t change Ps and sociopaths and other abusers. And, I definitely can’t tell a porcupine to keep its quills to itself. I can’t stop an abuser from being who he or she is. But I can stop abuse happening in my life.
Walking with Ellie, I chose to take a path that kept me safe. I chose to walk away when danger appeared on the trail. Everyday, I might encounter a sociopath, an abuser, a person whose traits disturb me. To keep myself safe, I must choose to do the right thing, take courageous action. Use my knowledge, my wisdom, my strength so that I can experience life free of the fear of being pricked by Ps and other apparitions. Conscious of my path, of where I’m at in the moment, I make the choices that keep me safe and leave me free to be all that I am meant to be without fear of someone else’s prickly habits invading my beautiful life in freedom.