The Slow Walk of Healing

Man, did I have a bad year in 2019. I remember having to “call a friend,” when she posted on one of her social media accounts that anyone could reach out to her if they were having suicidal thoughts. That was me. I was literally suicidal in 2019. It was bad, really bad.

I lost everything that year. I lost professional relationships. I lost friends. I lost all my income. I lost my apartment. In some ways, I even lost my kids. I had to put all my worldly belongings into storage, pack up the cat, some clothes and drive to (fucking) South Dakota and stay in my sister’s attic. What a shit show. I hit a cruel rock bottom without any of the upside of the raucous good time that normally accompanies an addiction. My life was effectively over.

It got a little better over the summer of 2019 as I started to relax and enjoy the beauty of the high plains. But, by the fall, I realized I had to take care of my financial affairs and head back to Florida. A series of extremely unfortunate events occurred when I did, and thus, 2020 began almost as badly as 2019 had… and then… the PANDEMIC.

WTAF.

So. As I rolled into 2021, drained of my savings, my IRA, all my worldly assets, even without a car, I had to rebuild. Alone.

But I did rebuild. As I’ve done time and time again in my life. This time, I had the luxury, the privilege, of not having to support anyone but myself (and my trusty comfort cat).

I invested in my mental, spiritual, and physical well-being. I took the opportunity to finally explore the dark depths of my life experience and begin the healing process than I had suppressed for all my adult life. Two words: complex trauma.

I started an intense, regular regime of therapy. I made a commitment to lose the weight I’d gained over the pandemic (done) and continue on my path, and I opened my heart and soul to the Universe.

I recently described myself as “Christian+.” I was raised a Christian, yet I find there is something magnificent going on out there that cannot be explained by any religious dogma. It has links to science and it is beyond human comprehension. I fall in with Albert Einstein here with this thinking:

“One thing I have learned in a long life: that all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike. We still do not know one thousandth of one percent of what nature has revealed to us. It is entirely possible that behind the perception of our senses, worlds are hidden of which we are unaware.”

Albert Einstein

I started writing. Really writing. Writing stories from my life. Writing features in magazines. I began taking photos and now consider myself an amateur photographer. I started a film production company that is meeting with some success. I became engaged in civic responsibility and am serving on a few boards where I’m making a contribution. I consciously made the decision to Marie Kondo my social network. If a person I’m connected to is not sparking joy in some way in my life, I quietly disconnect. I aligned my priorities around “what matters.”

Unless the health market spurs a breakthrough in affordable, adult longevity, I realize I only have a couple more decades on the planet. My goal is to live out the rest of my days enjoying my best life.

Today– heading into the fall of 2021, I’m centered, strong, grounded, and connected. I’m traveling to the beat of a different drummer that maybe only I can hear. And I’m okay with that.

Namaste.

Swan Song: Sunsetting My Work on Domestic Violence

joanne swans

Photo: Joanne Rosanio, 2017. Seaside Park, NJ

I admit, at first, it began as a vanity project. I was high off the success of my two prior Internet-based startups and felt invincible.  I had a lot of friends.  I felt empowered that I could do this.  I brought a whole lot of arrogance and conceit to the fight.

Then, nearly as soon as I began, I got knocked off my my pedestal.  I had to learn how to really work… how to really do research, how to make a real relationship, how to inspire someone to work for me for free with no guarantee of any return at all.  I had to learn how to persuade people very different from me that I could be trusted and that I was sincere.  I had to learn how to accept rejection, in the face of all logical evidence to the contrary that what I was selling was highly effective and worthy of investment.

I was told, “YOU HAVE NO STANDING” to have conversations in this field.  In other words, GO AWAY.

Nevertheless, I persisted.  But maybe, (h/t Stevie Wonder), like I fool I went and stayed too long––  I actually made progress against my goals.  I believe what I’ve set in motion will pay substantial dividends in the future.  I’ve said it hundreds of times: The Answers are in the Data.  The problem in domestic violence is the offender, and we can identify, track, predict, and control their behavior with proper data analysis and monitoring.  I’ve even filed a provisional patent for a software tool that will save lives if implemented properly.

Yet, after three years, I’m quitting.  Maybe quitting while I’m ahead, but quitting nonetheless.  The reason is personal, not business.  You see working on domestic violence brings me to the front lines of my own personal horror show every damned day.  I simply cannot continue to work on this for health reasons.  Let’s call it a graceful exit.

I will leave behind the seeds of an important beginning conversation about the vast potential of data, and the powerful transformational story told by High Point, NC in our film.  We should have a final cut soon.  I wholly underestimated the toll this work would take on my mental health.  At my peril.

Over time,  I’m contemplating writing a short ebook about my experiences working in this field featuring what I learned–– the challenges and opportunities as I see it–– but there I go being thought-leadery again.  I may also consider doing some public speaking aligned to the film, but we’ll see.

For now, I’m going back to tech consulting, and continuing with my R&R time in the comfort of the Florida winter chillzone.

Namaste.  And a sincere thanks to everyone who helped Big Mountain Data and our ambitious goals.

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Update 4/15/18:  I was asked to speak at a National conference in the fall and looks like the software tool is moving forward in the hands of some industry experts who can take it to the next level.  So, not exactly gone for good.  Plus, I have a meeting tomorrow with a  local data scientist who’s interested in our work.  There is that UPenn machine learning case study I’ve been interested to replicate on the assessed risk of DV bond hearings… 

Update 3/16/19: I still speak about this from time to time. I will be speaking Monday evening to an ACM-W group of students at the local university. And I did get to speak at the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence national conference in the Fall, and show our film. 

L – R: Me, Chief Shultz, Shay Harger, and AUSA Jennifer Wells. Special thanks to Bea Hanson, former Principal Deputy Director, OVW who took our photos with my phone.

Memory Stick

liplinerEvery morning for the past 39 years, while going through the mindless routine of putting on my morning makeup, I’m jolted by a memory from my past.

Just when I’m gliding the smooth lip liner over the contour of my lips, I see it.  The memory jars me. I scowl because I think to myself, “After nearly 40 years, why do you still have this reaction?  Why are you haunted by this memory?”

There’s a distinct tear, a split, an unmistakable scar on the surface of my lip.  It represents a very dark day in my life when my incisor tooth sliced through my face and bled non-stop down my brand new suede jacket.

Screen_shot_2012-03-26_at_9I remember I paid a handsome $79 for that jacket in 1978. 

It was a foolish, indulgent purchase that I really couldn’t afford. Now ruined, I’d have to throw it away; get rid of it.

Destroy the evidence.

I had managed to get away from my abusive boyfriend.  Had been accepted to the state university. I was starting a new life.  Even met a new guy.  My life was turning around.

Until that night.

I don’t recall specifically the circumstances of how or why my abuser showed up that evening at my campus dorm.  I just remember the fateful blow.  That white light that explodes behind your eyes when you’re hit with the physics of brute force, and the delayed pain.  The blood begins before the pain.  And thinking, “God damnit, I just bought this jacket!”

Then, the tears.  And then, the shame.

In a single swift blow, a violent man forever corrupted such a mundane experience hundreds of millions of women go through every day.  For the rest of my life, I’m trapped in that memory loop.  And, as you can see, that scar is just one of many.

That one is visible.