20 Years to Life
A Memoir – by Jo Fonda
Intimate details of the wake of my life
from teenage cruise ship magician to escaping a two-decade abusive marriage
ending in death, destruction, and rebirth
Who I Am
I am that person you see every day at work and in the neighborhood who seems to have the perfect life, but is actually living in a mentally and emotionally abusive relationship with a very dangerous spouse. I want readers to get to know what is REALLY going on behind the scene in that person’s life so that SOMEBODY will reach out to help. Most people don’t recognize the danger signs of what can happen when you try to leave an abuser. I am very lucky to be able to say I was able to save my daughter’s life and my own. By sharing my story, I hope to help others save many lives.
My name is Jo Fonda. My e-book/blog series, 20 Years to Life, is a journal of the wake of a long voyage in my life.
I was born in 1962 in the Village of Scotia, a sleepy upstate New York bedroom community. My dad was a blue-collar toolmaker at General Electric, and my mom stayed home to care for my three older sisters and me. My parents were also professional magicians, known as “The Fabulous Fondas”, and from a young age, I was part of their act. I dropped out of high school because after my dad retired from GE and I was the only kid still in the nest, we worked on cruise ships for months at a time. At age sixteen, I earned my GED, started community college, and met Lou Joy, who was five years my senior and studying for his BS at Union College in Schenectady. Two years later, I had my Associate’s degree and a wedding ring on my finger. After Lou got his MBA from Duke University, I returned to school for my BS in Computer Science. I worked for a few years in that field, and then went to Wharton for my MBA in Finance. Lou was a manufacturing operations consultant, and had a successful practice; we co-authored a book together entitled Frontline Teamwork. In 1993, after twelve years of marriage, our daughter, Anjelica was born. My career at Hewlett-Packard was going well, and we relocated for my promotion in 2000 to Amherst, New Hampshire, where we built an estate-like custom home in an upscale neighborhood. From the outside, our twenty-year marriage appeared ideal. It wasn’t.
In my book / blog series, I share the intimate details of my life in an emotionally and mentally abusive relationship that ended very badly — with death and destruction splattered across the front pages, on national TV breaking news, and the international wires. I reflect on how I fed into and enabled my husband’s controlling behaviors with my own self-sabotaging bad habits, and how I finally woke up to recognize the reality of the situation, and saw the warning signs of a dangerous reaction to my exit from the relationship. Despite my depression, anxiety, and fear, I pulled myself out, and believe I saved both my daughter and myself.
My hope is that in sharing what went on behind the screen of the picture perfect life that people will recognize themselves, their friends or family, coworkers, or patients long before a crisis, and ultimately help save lives.
Note: the e-book/blog series was originally published starting in 2012 under the title of Biting My Tongue… and my other secret bad habits. In 2020, the title was changed to 20 Years to Life.