Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Live Your Dream

By Karen Rae Elkins

Live your dreams in the present. There is nothing like a dream to create your future. Not so very long ago, I looked to my outside circumstances and the vision was one of violence, hatred, and deception. Only when I began to look on the inside of me did I awaken a dream of hope, faith... love. A life where a few friends, trusted experts in the field of domestic violence, and one darn good police detective, would encourage me into the life I was meant to lead: a life without violent results.

Today, I am living my American dream as a Professional Angler. Winning a tournament however small or large is just icing on the cake. My contribution to the field of sports is a revolutionary fight against the nightmare of domestic violence. I read a quote from one of The Kennedy's and applied it to violence. "Some of you may see things as they are and say, "Why?" I dreamed of things that never were and say, "Why not?"

Lennon sang, "You may say that I'm a dreamer in his song, Imagine." Every good dream begins with a dreamer. I asked my fishing friends on Facebook, "Do you dream in fishing?" The answer was most certainly. Ashley Rae said she set the hook on a large bass once in her dreams and it woke her up. I had a recent fishing dream that was so peaceful, so full of hope, so empowering.

The dream began in a bungalow located in Brazil. I shared the small home with 9 of the top 100 anglers in the world. The house was made of small stones of all colors. There was an enormous fire in the oval fireplace to warm us at night. I could hear the fire roaring from my bedroom. I studied each beautiful stone while I laid in bed anticipating a fishing trip in the morning.

We woke before the sun came up. We all pitched in to make breakfast in the fireplace. (yeah only  in my dreams) smile.  Being from the south, I cooked the grits. The huge flames had been reduced to a perfect flame for making breakfast. After breakfast I walked through an open market with illuminated colored exotic birds and hand crafted items. I made my way to the dock. All nine men were there preparing to fish. These men are so diverse in their personalities. There was the loud one, the soulful one, the one that makes me laugh, the serious angler, the down to earth fisherman, the angler I admire most, the quiet one, and the easy as it goes angler, and little ol me.

We only had one boat! Again, again, only in my dreams could 10 bass anglers fit in one boat, much less fish without setting the hook in a fellow angler in a boat, We all had our place for the ride!. It was a fast ride to the first fishing hole. During the ride, a former AOY (Angler of the Year) drove the boat.  He turned to me and said, "Karen you are going to be a winning angler" at which point the boat stopped and we all drew our rods and just fished together. I observed the guys as they fished. I wasn't nervous at all. I was meant to fish and fish I did.

Those are the dreams I will always remember. Sometimes my dreams are short, like the one where I watch a spinner bait work its way through the water from a fishes perspective. I was the fish. Being a fish is an amazing feeling, hanging near a grass line somewhere, just going with the flow of the water.

Now I want to talk to you openly and honestly about the fact that trauma and violence can cause nightmares and night terrors. While still with an abusive man my nightmares were during my waking hours. I thought the nightmares would end when I left. My momma should have named me Karen Naive, not Karen Rae. Then came the sleepless nights as I begin to think about what happened and how to get past the abuse. The sleeping nightmares were common for about a year. There were nights when I would wake up in total fear thinking it wasn't a dream. Sometimes I would wake up in a cold sweat from the dreams or the part of my body that was beaten actually hurt.

Eventually the nightmares that stole my sleep faded in frequency. However the nightmare of divorcing a violent and controlling man continued for 3 years past the separation.. For three years all I wanted was a divorce.  I wanted better than a man who spoke to me like I was trash and hurt me physically and mentally. His abuse did not stopped just because I left.. Our divorce was final in July of 09.

I dreamed of justice for his actions and, that my friend, was just a dream. The Judge, the system of justice, is broken.  The nightmares came back with a vengeance, more violent, more horrific, more frequent. Reality sucks sometimes, and only time and distance from the situation can extinguish the fire I felt.

The question became how am I going to respond to the current situation. Nightmares robbed me of sleep.. For a short time, I drank to escape.the decisions before me. It only took one really bad hang over to realize drinking wasn't meant for me. I woke to the same problems and it would be insane to add drinking to the list of problems. Best to stay sober. Everyone has their limit. Enough is enough. I saw no end to the nightmares both the waking and the sleeping ones.

I spent time learning how to stay safe and ultimately to end the connection all together. In the beginning of the abuse, I chose to not send the father of my child to jail. I've decided to stop giving him get out of jail free cards. He chose to leave the home he was awarded in the divorce and move a ten minute ride up the interstate from my home. So, I've moved. I chose an area based on fishing.

I love my place. It's small but warm. The utilities are included in my rent, so there is no record of an address. I changed my cell phone company and number. I now have an alias name given to me by my cell phone provider. One of my fishing friends laughs and says I know your name, its Tinkerbell. We both laugh. I'm actually going to buy him a Tinkerbell rod and reel to represent how far I've come.

My first new sponsor for the 2010 fishing season is Extreme Security.I've learned the hard way to live smarter.  I've taken my file of offenses to the police in my town. They are located only blocks from my home. These officers do not play when it comes to violence and I am following their lead. The officer asked me what would I do if he shows up. I promised to send him to jail, and I will. Enough is enough. I will fight back through the law and if necessary I am prepared to fight back physically. It's my right to protect myself. Everyone has their limits. It's been 160 days since the final divorce decree, and am reminded a fishing dream I had three years ago. The dream gave me hope for a future.When times got hard I would play the dream over and say, you can make it. It was my mirror to the life I desired. The small changes made over time have lead to a huge change in my life.

I remember the dream like it happened last night. I had entered a fishing tournament with a fishing buddy named G. G and I have lifted one another up in very tough times throughout our careers as fishermen. Fishing at a professional level has it's share of battles..There are the element challenges. One must be, responsible, fit and equipped to handle the cold, the storms, the wind and the windless 100 degree days on the water. It's much like weathering the storms of abuse. The weather can change at any time. Fishing will test your determination until: you know that you know: you were born to fish.  It's much like the determination when you realize and: know that you know: you were not created to be a punching bag. Nor, are you responsible for someone else's actions. Fishing requires a number of sacrifices. I've come home twice from tournaments to learn that two of my friends died unexpectedly and were already buried.  The sacrifice of my life to abuse is a reality. I could have died unexpectedly, accidentally or intentional, from just a single blow during his rage.

In my dream I arrived at the landing. G launched the boat. I was wearing my riding jacket. One of the announcers from a trail I fish calls it my Fishing Mafia jacket. I'm never without the jacket. The river was located in the rural desert lifeless flatlands. It was the size of the Rio Grande, times ten.  I couldn't see the western shoreline. I paid the entry fee only to learn the tournament didn't involve fishing at all. The object of this tournament was to cross over the river and find the western shore. The first boat to beach their boat on land was the winner.

There was a storm brewing over the middle of the river. We were not prepared for the elements, nor did we have a navigation system to guide us over to the other side. In my heart I knew we were going to win the tournament. We zipped our life jackets as I pointed the boat west and drove out of the marina. It began to rain. As the eastern shore disappeared, the storm became vicious. The waves swelled to block our view of the next wave. The rain was pouring down and the waves were pouring into the boat on all sides. I had to fight to catch my breath between the water washing over me. I was so afraid that I made a dangerous decision and stopped the boat. G reached over me and turned the key to crank the engine. He said, "Just drive." but I didn't. I couldn't. He took over until I could see the shoreline on the other side. Finally, I felt safe enough to finish the race. The crowd appeared as I eased the boat through the silt bottom of the river and beached the boat. G and I took our shoes off, held hands, and I remember distinctly watching our feet step into the water and walk to land. The water was warm and the silt was gentle to the touch. The crowd cheered. We won the tournament and never wet a line.

At times I wish I could erase the nightmares until I realize they too make me who I am today. They are just as much a part of me as all the good fishing dreams. I was wrong in thinking I could will my past better than it was because of shame. The truth is sometimes bad things happen to good people for whatever reason. In closing I'd like to reflect on one final thought.

Always remember, you have within you the strength, determination, the patience, and the passion to reach the other side and change your the world.

Fish Steady in all you do, my friend.

Karen Elkins
John 3:17 for God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
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  1. Wow -- what a wonderful testimony. I've been there myself and come out on the other side to a wonderful life without the violence and fear. God Bless you!

  2. I love how you write. It is wonderful. I also love to fish, and it was actually something I enjoyed with my first abusive husband, when he wasn't being abusive that is. I know so much of what you have been through. I also had the nightmares, and now they are few and far between. I always wake up glad that I left, and am awake in my peaceful home.

    Your article made my day in so many ways!

  3. Your story reminds me of a quote I love from Muriel Ruykeyser, "When a woman tells the truth of her life, the world opens up."

    It's a shame some of us have to fight so hard just to expose the wrongs of others. But I think some of us are chosen to do this...because we can.


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