Women's History Month: Danna Lewis
By: Danna Lewis
The Indisputable Gift of Men
It was two a.m. in the middle of my cozy terra-cotta-colored living room, music softly swirling through the air, with candlelight dancing between the shadows. Me? I was sitting cross-legged on the floor, having a slumber party with the Universe. We were strolling down memory lane, reminiscing about some pretty big changes.
Less than ten months earlier, I was standing in the middle of a very different living room 3,000 miles away with the sounds of packing tape running across the tops of boxes and a hornet’s nest of emotions buzzing through the air. I was days away from leaving my life as a wife and vice president of a Fortune 50 company. And from leaving family and friends for the promise of following my heart to a place I had left it many years earlier.
While I had never lived in San Francisco, I had spent many summers, spring breaks, and winter holidays there when I was a teenager. My oldest brother, ten years my senior, arrived in the Bay Area right after leaving the army. My mother sent my second-oldest brother and me out to Marin many times to live with our big brother during school vacations. Looking back and wondering what she was thinking, I’ve never actually asked her, I’m grateful she gifted us those trips and very grateful she gifted herself the space to be a woman beyond being a single, hard-working mom.
Originally, my mom was not thrilled about my cross-country move. Her disapproval came partly from maternal instinct to want me near and partly from personal fear derived from her points of view of the world and how I should be engaging with it. While I may not have gotten my risk-taking, the-Universe-has-my-back positivity from her, I did get a soul-deep strength and tenacity that, all together, not only moved me across the country but also contributed to her and my stepfather impressively embracing the adventure and moving a few hours outside of San Francisco about six months after I did. I’m pretty sure my stepfather would do just about anything for my mom; I’ve always loved that about him. That he could be this space of so much ease, gentleness, and clear-hearted love for her. When they met, I was 11, my brother was 13, my stepfather’s son was 12, and his daughter was maybe 7 who lived with her mother. Not only did he already have a sprouting teenager, but he was also willing to add two more to the mix! If that doesn’t say, “true love,” I don’t know what does!
Children Were in That House
After a first marriage of turmoil, violence, and rage, it was pure relief and gratitude to move into a home of peace. Well, except for all the teenage trauma and drama. Normal (ahhh, big sigh), n o r m a l teenage moodiness and madness! However, my preteen years, the first 11 years, were spent living with my biological father whose reaction to something as simple as dishes in the sink very likely could have been screaming anger, a rage of dishes being broken, or a fury of physical violence inflicted against my mother for any interpreted wrongness she or one of his children may have created.
My leftover seeds of post-traumatic stress come from growing up during a child’s most impressionable years in a house that was more a war zone than a nurturing nest. The standards of perfection that could never be met and were always changing resulted, at any moment, in fits of anger, rage, and violence. Going to sleep at night, regardless of bedtime stories and snuggles, could mean being awakened to the sounds of screaming and hitting sometimes followed by our mother leaving to seek the safety of a domestic violence shelter for the night. Waking up in the morning, as much as I can recall, wasn’t about the joy of a new day; it was about avoiding and side-stepping the unknown thing that would provoke an outburst of fury. To say it was terrifying is an understatement. It was, as all too many people know—domestic violence impacts one in four women and one in seven men—a constant state of fight or flight. Whether we acknowledge it or not, there really is an enormous amount of energy and emotion that gets wrapped around the axle of our life when we are in perpetual crisis mode. I just picture one of those older-model vacuums with all the debris and hair that gets wrapped around the bristly roller thing requiring so much more energy from you to push it forward while clogging it up and leaving it a bit impotent for doing its job.
Sometimes it was about me being the fierce voice of reason (at five!) and pleading for the peace and joy that childhood craves. Other times it was about me taking the courageous action of dialing 9-1-1 (at seven!) to literally save a life. I couldn’t tell you if I did this once, twice, or a dozen times. Some details are blurred, others crystal clear. You see stories on the news of kids dialing 9-1-1 to save a parent who is hurt, perhaps has fallen down a flight of stairs, but to think that same child witnessed another person inflict that pain and that person was their other parent is almost incomprehensible. I’ve heard the saying that there is no greater pain than a parent losing a child to death. I say there is an almost irreparable pain in witnessing one parent physically harm the other.
While undeniably damaging, children, at least some children, seem to have a special strength that keeps their magic alive. While it may get buried in the pain, buried can be uncovered. So, for me, my pain was buried, along with my magic, to preserve the hope for a different future. And that future had delivered me to my first summer living in San Francisco after a fall and winter season of dating and mating. I couldn’t resist, I did have fun being newly single and new to this spectacularly charming city.
To continue reading, download the complete version of Chapter 1 of my book, “The Indisputable Gift of Men” at www.dannalewis.com. Pick-up reading on the bottom of Page 9, ‘A Home for a New Future.’
Xo, DannaTHE INDISPUTABLE GIFT OF MEN
Copyright ©2019 by Danna Lewis
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in articles and book reviews.
Printed in the United States of America
First Printing, December 2019
An imprint of
Waterside Productions 2055 Oxford Ave Cardiff, CA 92007