Michele was parked in the back of an industrial park building, a venue she hunted all day for. She needed somewhere that was dimly lit and out of the sight of the prying eyes of unsavory types and police alike. This was a regular occurrence for her.
“As I looked to my windshield I noticed it was covered in frost, I took my finger and wrote on it, the frost was so deep from the cold, I felt I could make a snowball, I turned the car on for some heat, and wrote my reality on the windshield as if that would help, “Homeless”.”
Michele Lombardi was in the unenviable position of living in her car after climbing out of the wreckage of an abusive relationship that she was stuck in for four years.
“I endured that time with a man with whom I thought I loved, thought I could help and change. I was wrong. He controlled my money, friends, what I wore, where I went. I didn’t run for 4 years, enough said.”
Immediately the first question that anyone outside of this – or any abusive relationship – asks would be one of why the innocent party didn’t leave earlier. If something is bad in your life, you cut it out. Concentrate on the positive and avoid the negative. As Michele explains, sometimes it’s not as simple as that.
“Before anyone judges me, I realize that many hear of a battered woman and think, ‘just leave, why didn’t you leave?’. Well I am going to answer that for you, we shared a daughter, whom every time I was close to leaving with a plan, he would threaten. He had the highest of leverage on me. I had dreams, I had an associate’s degree in Criminal Justice and wanted to pursue that, but I guess most of all I missed running I could not leave her alone with him, I was her protector.
Michele fought hard for ours years against the oppressor that would try to make her life a miserable existence.
“During the four years I was in this relationship, he had four restraining orders against him, was arrested seven times for drugs, none of which I even know about and also assault and battery with a dangerous weapon on me seven times. The last time I ever saw him or my daughter was the hardest day of my life.”
“We were in a car, my daughter in the car seat in the back and as we were driving, I noticed he was intoxicated. I witnessed him put a nip under the seat while driving and I demanded him to pull over to let me and her out. He wouldn’t. Instead, he unbuckled my seatbelt, kicked my door open, kept driving and tried to push me out. I twisted around and held onto the back of the passenger side seat with all of my life, while looking at my little girl screaming in the back. In the end, I lost my daughter in that incident, and less importantly, when I tried with every fabric of my being to survive, I ended up with injuries resulting in 5 surgeries, and constant physical therapy to this day, due to ongoing nerve damage, all this while living with Fibromyalgia.”
Sadly and surprisingly, the one corner of where she relied on for comfort and solace – her family – wasn’t there for her. Bafflingly, they made it clear this was one battle she was in on her own.
“When I reached out to my family for any kind of help, even a floor to sleep on, or a can of food, they looked the other way. They said it was my fault, they refused to look at police records, pictures, or go to court with me when I had to be a victim witness. I stood alone. So in a way I lost a family. If the roles were reversed I would never let anyone down even a stranger. That is my flaw. I can tell you the hunger that is as deep as I felt I do not wish on anyone.”
It was then that Michele dug her heels in and reinvented herself. Pulling herself out of the mire and invigorated by a new energy, it was the right time for her to rebuild.
“I picked myself up by my bootstraps and applied to a University. I held numerous fundraisers for domestic violence organizations, volunteered at the Salem Mission Homeless shelter (now Life Bridge), but most of all run! Late last year I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and underwent a total thyroidectomy. I’m now cancer free! I graduated Salem State University with my Criminal Investigations degree and have taken time for myself to write a book.”
Despite having only done races for the last 3 years, it was only this year that Michele could call herself a Spartan Racer. It was also at the Spartan Race that she saw a valuable parallel that sparked a memory from those “less-than-agreeable” days.
“I started doing races in 2011”, she says, “but I officially became a Spartan this year. I call myself the “Lone Spartan” because I have done all my races alone, I am fortunate to have just recently met some members of the N.E. Spahtans, so that may be a thing of the past.
“When I was living in my car, a total stranger an elderly man, offered to put me in a motel for a week, and I never saw him again. That single act of kindness just opened the floodgates for me. I haven’t seen any kindness in human beings in a long time, that “pay it forward” saying has meaning that I carry on to today. It reminds me of every obstacle, even if I didn’t need help, there was a Runner offering a hand to conquer it, each time it reminded me of a single act of kindness.”
“I do the obstacle/mud races to remind me of what I have been through, I need to challenge myself, it’s kind of my “pinch” so to say. To remind me I am alive and still ever enduring and surviving. As I encountered the obstacle “The Slippery Wall”, I met my nemesis! I refused defeat at the will of burpees and after 13 times, 1 hour later, my knees and shins covered in blood, I remembered what I was fighting for. I focused on my daughter, repeated her name and conquered it! It was never about the time for me, each obstacle reminded me of a true obstacle that existed in my life. I have never realized my true courage until I ran the Spartan Sprint. I guess I just needed to be reminded that those boundaries needed to be pushed and what’s more, I will continue to break through them.”
“I encourage anyone to speak up to someone that exhibits signs of abuse, I will continue to help others, and anyone is free to contact me, anytime: firstname.lastname@example.org.”
I’m going to include this link, too: http://www.thehotline.org/