The Education of Dave: A Talk I Gave Last Week

Some folks that heard my talk. I’m the 2nd from the left in jeans and blue and white shirt. Photo by a club member.

I gave a talk last week to the Long Neck Sunrise Rotary Club in Millsboro, Delaware at their early morning meeting. I was invited to do so by an acquaintance that knows about my project and is a member of the Club. I was grateful for the opportunity and a little nervous about what to say about this project and so on. I decided to call it “The Education of Dave”. I talked about going from knowing of domestic violence from TV and one or two survivors, to finding out the national statistics are 1 woman in 4 will experience it here in the US. I talked about part of my education being that pretty much every woman in the US has already been or is going to be intimidated, groped, otherwise assaulted or killed by a guy (or more than once).  This was related to me by a few of the survivors and confirmed when I talked to (many!) other women about my project and none said “Oh, no Dave, it’s not every single woman” I talked a little about the Still Waters show and it’s affect on folks and some of the photographic choices we made for the project too.The Rotary members thanked me at the end of the talk. They were kind, gracious and sharing. Perhaps a little shaken too.

An interesting aside: In part of my talk, I talked about posting the very first survivor’s post, and how I spent about 20 minutes ready to hit the publish button, but wondering if it was going to help, had I done everything right, would there be harm to the survivor and so on. At the end of the meeting, it is the custom of  Rotary Clubs to stand and and recite  one of their Guiding Principles  called The Four Way Test:

“Of the things we think, say or do

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?”

I was struck that the last two elements were closely tied to this project and my hesitations before publishing the first post. Slightly modified I wanted to be sure the project and posts would build up survivors and help others who needed it, and would it be safe and beneficial to all.
A couple of observations:

  • This isn’t a particularly fun subject at it’s core. I felt like i was leading some folks through the Holocaust Museum. Folks want to know, but facing evil straight on is hard…
  • I could tell a few folks were hurting from it. They thanked me at the end for giving the talk, but I need to figure out what to do with that when it happens. I suspect it’s going to happen any time I give a talk on the subject or the project. I tried to handle it with grace and empathy.
  • At the end of the talk, one of the ladies related that she had been groped at the Pumpkin Chunkin event just a few months ago. This stuff is a real battle Every.Damned.Day for the women in our country. I never knew til a few years ago.  The Social Justice Warriors call that “Male Privilege”. It used to irritate me to hear that term, but, if the shoe fits… I’m doing my best with this project to help others, but yeah…
  • Domestic Violence is ugly. It’s hidden for lots of reasons. I’ve been processing my reaction to giving the talk for the last week. The talk was hard to do, and the processing probably still isn’t over. Truth be told, I felt a little beat up afterwards. (Not by the Rotary club, they were awesome!) This is rough stuff. However…  I signed up for the job of talking about it to bring it into the light. If the survivors can share their stories, I can do my job by honoring that trust and sharing their stories and truths with others. We can make a difference. Maybe not for all the starfish, but certainly for the ones we can reach.

Thanks again to the Long Neck Sunrise Rotary Club for the invitation to share the project.

If you’d like me to talk about the project at your meeting or event,  please contact me!

1:4 # 18, The Author, Advocate, and Realtor

   Hidden at the trunkPlease share what happened to you:

I remember the first time he hit me as if it were yesterday.  I found a phone number in his blue jeans and was apprehensive about questioning him.  I waited to the day of my girlfriend’s party to ask him about it. I figured the car ride over would be the perfect opportunity because he couldn’t walk away, giving us an opportunity to discuss it reasonably.  Boy was I wrong, because when I finally got up the courage to ask, I was immediately slapped across the face.  The force was so strong that my head hit the passenger side window. I was in a complete shock. My next reaction of course was to strike back, but when I did, he became hysterical, recklessly driving the car and yelling he would kill us.  The mother in me took over, I had my six month old in the car. I calmed myself and politely asked him to calm down, reminding him that our son was in the car.  He did finally as we were pulling into the subdivision of my girlfriend’s event. He then pulled up to the address where my girlfriend was standing outside greeting guest and hopped out of the car smiling and acting as if nothing had happened. I didn’t want to bring attention to myself or ruin my girlfriend’s party, so I went along with the charade, I put on “the mask” smiling and pretending as if nothing happened.  Looking back on that day I realize that it was the beginning of a physical abuse cycle.
Every six months for the next 18 years I received either a push, slap, pin down or choke.  Did I ever wear a black eye?  Was there any broken bones, or deep punctured skin? No..No…and…No! But, if you know like I know, emotional abuse leaves even deeper scars. The push, slaps, chokes and pin downs, once every six months along with the threat to do more, was enough to make me feel as if I was always walking on egg shells.  I met him when I was only 20 years old and he made me feel as if it was he and I against the world.  He always wanted to be with me. I just wasn’t use to that much attention and it truly played on my ego. I thought to myself, “wow this guy really loves me”.  I left my parents home, a young mother into an isolated world.  I was embarrassed to talk to family members and kept from maintaining friendships out of fear of a physical episode.  The constant episodic verbally attacks and not to mention the sexual assault when I withheld was difficult to avoid.

For 18 years my life was an emotional roller coaster, one with few highs and many lows.  I wore “the mask” daily.  To the outside world, I was a beautiful, confident force to be reckoned with, but behind closed doors, I was fighting to keep my head up.  The emotional abuse kept me feeling insecure, depressed and most of all trapped.  My relationship with God however kept me going, when asked, I received inner peace and the strength to mother my kids and to be the confident women that most people saw.

Looking

In a desperate moment for not only peace, I belted out a desperate prayer for change.  I asked for God to take over my life and to heal my family. It was placed on my conscience to do a 40 day fast.  I questioned this notion at first and challenged it. I requested signs. I asked God to give me clarity during those 40 days.  I wanted him to give me signs and make it clear of his path for me. I desperately wanted to keep my family. I often heard older Christians say that God could do anything, well I wanted him to heal my family, but I was committed to being obedient to the fast and to his will.  During that 40 day fast, God communicated with me! I felt so honored to have this connection. He gave me all the signs I needed to know that his will was for me to leave… and I was obedient! On that 42nd day, a man that hadn’t left my presence for more than 3 hours, decided to go out of town. It was my opportunity. I packed my things and left!

How are you now?

Confidence

I was under attack for over a year; abusers become very angry when they lose control. My tires were slashed.  My car was stolen and the constant harassment was almost unbearable.  This kept me in a constant reactive state of mind.  However, today after counseling, both a protective and stalking order, I am happy to say that I am finally “free”.  I am free to be the confident woman that people see today and to also no longer be ashamed to share my story.

You see I knew on that 42nd day after my fast that I had a purpose. I was to share my story to inspire and empower others. Understanding the reactive state of mind, my goal is to help women become more proactive after abuse. I began to advocate the cause for domestic violence awareness and even co-authored, Wounds to Wisdom the Survivor Series, where I share a snippet of my story.  Working as an advocate I saw a need to unify local advocacy efforts. There are many local nonprofits making a difference in our communities with very little support.  Just imagine what these local organizations could do if the sponsorship was there.
This need brought about the #purplefulife campaign. Purple is the color associated with noble efforts of giving back, as well as purpose and passion.  You can see the color plastered all over most advocacy campaigns, as well used in terms as “purple our world” or “paint the town purple” and it’s even the color of choice to honor Americans who risked there  lives for change with the “purple heart award”. Living a purplefulife is one of giving back.  To advocate could be as simple as openly sharing about a cause you believe in.  The #purplfulife campaign utilizes social media to unify advocacy reports in an effort to bring forth awareness, create a space for advocacy recognition and gain support from the community, by simply using the hashtag.  Any one can advocate to help unify advocacy efforts by simply sharing a mediated post, selfie or cause. Today I’m working to make advocacy the new “sexy”.

What would you like to tell the world about Domestic Violence?

First and foremost I’d like to say that Domestic Violence is real. The statistics are real and in most cases underrepresented.  These are our mothers, daughters, sisters and aunts.  We can’t forget about our men. Men can be victims too. We must continue to talk about this issue. I truly believe that breaking the silence is what breaks the cycle of abuse. A goal of the #purplefulife campaign is to get people talking and sharing their experiences.  Let’s use the power of social media to share and keep the conversations going in an effort to bring awareness and put an end to this ugly epidemic. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people can transform the world.  Care to share post of your own or others with the hashtag #purplefulife and let’s break the silence!

Knowing

1:4 #17,The Persevering Student and Activist Who Loves Cats and All Things Weird

Looking away Please share what happened to you:

I feel my life and relationships have always been tumultuous and I have been fighting for a long time to gain control and power for myself. I did not have a normal life growing up as a child or as an adolescent and my father was emotionally absent during my developmental and adolescent years. I suppose having not that typical paternal love and nurture fostered me to believe I had to physically and sexually give myself to a man in order to keep him in my life, to please him, or to make him happy. I have been through a lot, but I have met women who have been through much worse than I; however, we all share a similar emotional struggle and burden that deeply and resolutely saddens my heart.

The start of it all happened when I was a child. My next-door neighbor molested me when I was in preschool and to this day I do not know where he is or what happened to him. I remember as a teenager a guy friend coming over asking for sexual favors before he was “moving” the next day and he said I would never see him again. It turns out that this was a lie. All I can recall is my brother was downstairs in the basement of our house with his friends when this was occurring, I do not know where my parents were, and this guy “friend”, who wanted sexual favors from me, was wearing sunglasses and high off of cocaine while his friend waited outside. Having these experiences pushed me into a psychological state where I did not know how to love myself, believe, or trust men in general.

When I met my first serious boyfriend, it lasted for five years. I remember the volatile dynamics of our relationship where every two to three months we would have an explosive fight, which always resorted in me being called a “bitch”, or I had to grovel in apology. I was gaslighted numerous times where I would become confused and I could not think straight. I felt I was never strong enough to stand in my power or to keep my voice in fear I would be dehumanized or publicly humiliated. He was always afraid of me leaving him or finding someone different and sometimes I did but I would always go back to him. He would tell me he did not deserve my love or deserve me. There was one incident where I remember we had had a fight and he drove my car 110 mph on the interstate system and we reached a spot where he wanted to talk and he took my car keys and all I wanted to do was go home. There were times where I felt safe, unsafe, and in danger. It was a vicious and cyclical process of instability. Our relationship was like oil and water. A toxic love per se. We shared numerous intoxicating moments but there was never a balance to negate the intensity of the verbal and emotional manipulation.

What ended the tumultuousness of our relationship was on my 26th birthday. I was in class at my university presenting on the dynamics of cancer and availability of social services for cancer patients and the plan was for him to pick me up after class. As soon as I saw him I knew something was wrong or bad had happened. I found out later that he had an argument with his mother and he had hit her. We started arguing in the car and I remember going home and the argument had continued from there. We took a nap and then it started all over again. I went to my car to escape and soon after he found me. He threw open the door and wrapped his hands around my sweatshirt and neck shaking me saying, “I fucking loved you” and started mentioning the name of my guy friend who had been there for me recently when I was in a downtrodden emotional state. I knew he sneaked through my journals and read letters or entries of me thanking my friend for being who he was or giving me support. I remember my head hit the top of the car window and my nose started to bleed. I was crying and I wanted to go inside to call my grandfather or my dad for help but he blocked me and wouldn’t let me inside. In desperation, I tried to force myself past him and he threw my entire body at the car and I fell to the ground. I remember my neighbor walking outside yelling at him to not put his hands on me again or he would kick his ass. After that, he fled out of fear or finally came to the realization what he had done. Possibly both.

Sipping coffee

How are you now?

There are moments and times where it can be difficult especially in my romantic relationships with men but I have found ways to cope and persevere. It can be challenging to trust and I often enter fight mode when a male authoritatively confronts me because I am afraid of losing control of the situation, losing my power, not having a voice, or fear of having the same emotional and verbal manipulation occurring again.  I feel like I have healed tremendously since that time but I still quiver in regards to the word “bitch” or when I hear about women being beaten or held against their will. It’s hard. It’s hard on my romantic relationships because my guard is up all the time and it is difficult for me to trust.

Even after my childhood years, adolescent experiences, and my five-year volatile relationship it has helped shaped me into a stronger woman and a woman who believes in fighting for the rights of marginalized adolescents and women. I hate patriarchy and I am a feminist at heart and to my core. I do not hold back when it comes to speaking up for myself or putting my foot down if I do not agree or like something. When it comes to my power and voice, it is mine to keep and no one else’s to demean or take.

Looking to us

What would you like to tell the world about Domestic Violence?

It exists, learn the statistics, and recognize the signs and behaviors. At times, you will not know if your female friend is suffering due to fear; however, it is not your job to rescue her. It is your effort as a human being to support her, be available, listen, and give a shoulder to cry on and honor her choices regardless if you like it or not. Leaving a domestic violence relationship or situation is hard and can feel impossible to heal from.

Moving On

1:4 #16, In a healing place

By the water

(Editors note: This survivor took me to a wonderful area she finds much peace in for her shoot)

Please share what happened to you:

He somehow convinced me it was a good idea to marry him after 6 months of dating, but not tell anyone. He slowly started cutting me off from my friends and family, to the point where I realized I hadn’t even seen my mom in almost a year. The emotional abuse started subtly – any idea I came up with was stupid, he “didn’t like” comforting touch so I had to sit on the opposite end of the sofa from him, he would grab my phone out of my hand unprompted and look through it, accusing me of cheating, any time I would go to run an errand he’d “jokingly” say “try not to cheat on me while you’re out” – almost every time I went out for any reason. This escalated to him making me call him from my work line in the store I was employed before I left to be sure I was there, then immediately making me call him on my cell and stay on the phone with him so he could time how long it took me to get home and “make sure I wasn’t stopping to cheat on him with anyone”.

In the last year of our marriage, I has a string of really awful events happen, the biggest of which was my dearest friend shooting himself in the head due to PTSD. I went into a depression and was having a hard time dealing. He would tell me that I was being stupid and weak. I stated that I really wanted to get back into therapy, but he forbid it because he said that it was bullshit and all they’d do was tell me to leave him and that wouldn’t help me at all. I was in the mood for sex less often, and he started to guilt me into it, saying things like “a good wife would have sex with me” and “just let me do it, it’s not a big deal”.
I was so beaten down mentally and depressed that i would just lay there and silently cry and mentally wish not to wake up, he would ignore it and just keep going. sometimes he’d try to justify it by rubbing my back and saying “see? I’m doing what you like and i don’t even want to”. Another favorite line of his whenever I worked up the courage to talk about something I wasn’t happy with was “It’s not like I’m hitting you, Jesus. No one is gonna say you’re some abused housewife”.
One day I had a mentally ill ex employee of mine find where we lived and left a long letter at our door addressed to him, detailing an entirely fabricated affair that he and i had apparently had. My ex dragged me out of bed and started screaming in my face, not listening to what I was trying to say at all, not believing a word i said even though I’d previously spoken about my concern for this employee being not well and maybe dangerous. He was getting so violent with his tone that I started to fear physical violence, so I grabbed my purse and a blanket and ran out in my pajamas, never came back. That was in 2012.

How are you now?

Naturally

I’m doing a lot better now, but I still have trained behaviors I’m trying to shed. I apologize *all* the time, and my young stepdaughter has started to pick up the habit which breaks my heart, especially since I’ve   been trying so hard to break my own habit. I get defensive and shrink back very quickly. I feel guilty if I do anything for myself, if I go anywhere without my now fiance (who is a great guy). I’m miles better than I was though. I think the hardest part is that he never admitted to any of it after, when we were going through the divorce. He’d insist that it was all in my head and he never said any of that, never did any of that, and that i just wanted to be “treated like a queen and that’s not how he’s ever going to treat a woman”. It made me feel like I was crazy, but eventually I just had to work past it and remember that he’s a very hurt, damaged individual that doesn’t understand how to heal.

What would you like to tell the world about Domestic Violence?

Talking

I guess I would tell the world to stop coming down on women who are slow to get out of relationships like that, or go back to them. Emotional abusers are like parasites…they slowly dig their claws deeper and deeper in, without you even realizing what’s going on. Then suddenly one day you feel the pain of those claws deep inside, so deep that you’re now afraid that ripping them out would be even worse, so you feel like you’re choosing the lesser of two evils. Don’t blame the woman for staying in a place she’s been psychologically conditioned to feel the need to stay in.

Upcoming Show at the Dover Art League

The front of the card for the joint show starting October 7, 2016.

I’m pleased to announce I’ll be doing my first show with the photos and stories from this site at the Dover Art League in Dover, Delaware. Dover is my home town and I want to try a few things and see how it goes. The show is a joint show with Natasha Rodriguez that we’ve chosen to call “Still Waters”. In part, the name is a reference to the idea you don’t know what’s going on under the surface. I’ve come to know just how true that is, and it’s one of the themes of this site and the project as a whole. The show starts Friday, October 7th and will have all of the stories and a photo from each of them in a special display I’m very excited about. It’s more of an installation than the standard hang the photos on the wall thing. Natasha will be showing some of her new paintings for the very first time at this show. Some are autobiographical and others of her work are metaphorical. At least one is about other survivors too. All her paintings are very powerful. We will be hosting a reception on Friday from 6-8 p.m. and an Artist’s talk on Saturday the 8th from 3:30-5 p.m. We are planning to do another artist’s talk near the end of the month of October, though that date has not been determined yet. As part of the show, I’m planning on having some anonymous surveys about experience with sexual aggression and assault for folks to fill out if they choose. There are some other things happening that should make it an interesting show. I hope you can come. The Dover Art League is in Historic Downtown Dover Delaware at 21 West Loockerman Street. If you’d like a postcard like the one above, email me dave.wolanski@gmail.com with your mailing address or contact me on social media. Some will also be at the show.

I have to thank a lot of people for the support they’ve shown for this show! Gallerist Laura Mancuso from the Art League for roping me in and making me move forward from “someday” to October 2016 as a part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Natasha for getting roped in too, and making some new paintings just for the show on a short deadline with her job and family responsibilities too. My friend Lowry Wilson will be flying up from Mississippi to lend moral support. My friend Cort Anderson in Kansas is printing the photos and applying all his skills to do so. It hasn’t been a point and click exercise at all! We’ve been in close contact and had multiple phone calls, texts and emails to move from “Dave, how can I help?” to “Dave, how’s this?” to “I think we’re good, I’ll get them out for you this week”.  Nations Photo Lab offered to do the prints and framing at a significant discount for the show, and though I’ve chosen another display method for this show, it meant a lot for them to make the offer. My family has also shown immense support and allowed me the time and funds to make this stuff happen.

Saving the most important thanks for last, I have to thank the Survivors who’ve stepped forward, shared their stories and bared their souls for this site. I had to re-read each and everyone of their stories to prep the show. I felt beat up after reading all 15 in a row, at one sitting. To go through such a brutal, unforgiving course in their lives and then share it to help others is truly humbling. I, and they, think it’s worth it to help others. I’m humbled they’ve put their trust in me to do it to the best of my ability. (Darn it, I think there’s some dust in my eyes again!)

Speaking of funds… The costs to do the show have been kept as low as possible and are still in the several hundred dollar range. I have not tried to do any fundraising as I’m in my typical Ready, Fire, Aim mode and don’t know exactly how to do it to be honest. If you’d like to support the show in any way, please contact me. If not, Natasha and I have been able to self fund it. If donations exceed the actual costs to do the show, the excess will be donated to a local domestic violence group or home.

Photos from this show will not be for sale, and it will be evident why at the show. Some of Natasha’s paintings will be for sale though.

Hope to see you at the show, the reception and the artist talks!

 

1:4#15, The Comeback Kid

( Trigger warning: This story involves sexual abuse of a child. While I suppose every story on the site could have trigger warnings, this one seemed to justify me notifying readers in advance. This is the second story that made me cry publishing it.)

 

Please share what happened to you:

I’m the Comeback Kid and so begins my story.  I was born Jan. 1976, to two young parents. My mother was 15 and my father was 19 when I came into the world. They both dropped out of high school and were forced to get married, (“shotgun marriage”), because they were so young and had me.  My father immediately stepped up, got a good job, and took care of my mother and I. Everything was perfect…or was it?

The first 5 years of my childhood were absolutely perfect. When I turned 6 my world completely turned upside-down. I was a happy child, not scared of anyone or anything, until one night, very late into the night my father came into my room to “check on me and tuck me in”!  It began as just that, then the tucking in became pulling the covers back a little and him telling me, “everything is ok but he needed to make sure my chest and belly were ok”, and “don’t tell mommy or she will get mad at you”. It started with the fondling and caressing from top of my head, to breasts, to stomach. Each night was the same, he would come in,  I would be scared and pull the blanket over my head, because I knew something wasn’t right, but I was only 6 and I thought that’s what daddy’s were supposed to do. He would make sure my mom was asleep, come into my room, and push toys in front of my door in case my mom did wake up, to give him a chance to stop what he was doing. The fondling changed, over time, to intense groping, and so forth and so on, until it got much worse! I never told my mother because daddy made me promise not to and said it was our secret and that mommy would be made at me if I told on daddy.

1:4 #15 window

Then one day, at the age of 7 ½, when my baby brother was born, it all stopped. That was a blessing, but my dad then began ignoring me, not coming into my room anymore, and spending all his time with his first born son. I, being 7 ½ and not understanding why my daddy wasn’t showing me love anymore or wasn’t coming into my room anymore, was hard for me to comprehend. He never molested any of my other siblings, I made sure of that, as I was their protector. I would always follow him around when he would go to their rooms without my mom and 95% of the time I would sleep in their rooms, or have them sleep in mine.

As, I got older and older, I continued to bury and hide what happened to me as a child. My mother never found out until a few months ago, when I told her what he did. The only person to know is my husband. What happened to me as a child, caused many different negative effects in my life such as, low self-esteem, which I still have today, promiscuity as a teen, trying to find love in all different types of men, most of which were older. I was always trying to find that daddy figure. I had no luck with older men so I started dating younger men to “protect and take care of”. I was then used and emotionally abused by a lot of them. I was told I would never be able to find anyone else; I was ugly, stupid and dumb. Then one day I met a young man who would forever change my life and the life of my baby girl I had out of wedlock. My husband!! An amazing man, who picked me up and showed me what it was like to be treated by a man!!  He is still, to this day, helping me open up and get the past out, building my self-esteem, and helped encourage me to rebuild my life and go back to school!!  After 13 years of being out of school, with his encouragement and support, I did just that.  I graduated tech school and became an LPN, which was a big accomplishment for me; because whenever things got tough, I would usually quit everything I set out to do for fear of rejection and disapproval.

How are you now?

Today, I am slowly getting better, my self-esteem is higher than before and I am able to share my story and help others, whom may not be quite able to speak for themselves yet. I am a lover and I love to help others. I now have 2 children…a 14 year old son and a 20 year old daughter. I am able to love them and be a better mother to them now, due to therapy and a loving and supportive husband. I am back in school for my business degree, so that I might soon be able to open my own business. The stuff I went through in my life has not gone away or been forgotten, but each day gets easier and easier to cope with and I don’t hate myself and feel as ugly as I used to when I kept everything bottled in.

1:4 #15

What would you like to tell the world about Domestic Violence?

What my message to others regarding domestic violence would be is to never be afraid to share with others what is, or has happened to you physically, emotionally, or sexually, because you may help someone else. You don’t deserve what has or is happening to you, male or female!! You are a beautiful and strong person, who deserves the best and fine things in life. Never let anyone tell you otherwise!! You have the power to change your life and the life of others!! God Bless You!

Love,

The Comeback Kid

1:4 # 14, The Model

 

Please share what happened to you:

 

You love me don’t you? He says

The constant reminder that I need permission, what to wear, what we eat, when I get to sleep, if he wants to be high or not.

I come straight home from work everyday

Somehow I’m still wrong when I get home.

He smacks me

 

Give me your phone he demands. It’s useless to tell him, try to explain anything.

His fist hits my face this time.

I refuse to take the pill in his hand. Forces it into my mouth..

If you love me you will. He snarls at me

My face just hurts

He tells me I was good last night

I dont want to know what he did It makes me sick to my stomach

He grabs me and I try to pull away

He throws me to the ground and hits me

I knew he would …

he just keeps hitting me

 

If you love me is all I hear him say..

But he doesn’t love me ..

and right now neither do i..

 

Domestic Violence Survivor 14 the Model #1

 

How are you now?

I am functional. I have issues taking new partners,  but I can get up and move through life and I can share my story with other people who can’t say the words without breaking down.

 

Domestic Violence Survivor 14 the Model #3

What would you like to tell the world about Domestic Violence?

You have never earned it, you did nothing to deserve to be abused. You are beautiful, you are kind, you are important

Domestic Violence Survivor 14 the Model #4

A guest blog post by Rachel Grant: Believing that Change is Possible

(Editor’s Note: Bouncing around on the net looking at some domestic violence web sites and resources, I came across Rachel Grant’s website. Rachel has some free resources on her site and some that aren’t. I don’t get any kind of affiliate kick back if you do purchase anything. I thought her free checklist of things to help deal with childhood sex abuse recovery could be a good conceptual model for other recovery paths too. Her blog has a lot of stories related to overcoming some serious adversities. I reached out to her and asked if she’d like to do a guest post, and here we are. I think one of the themes of my site is that if you’re in a mess, there is hope. Others have gone through what you have, and made it to the other side. It’s often not pretty and almost never easy, but, finally they’ve broken through. In that vein, I’m posting Rachel’s guest blog post. I hope to have other guest blog posts in the future too. Without further ado then… )

Believing That Change Is Possible

But I’ve tried to get over this before!! Shouldn’t I be better already!? I know other people have healed, why can’t I?

Often the first hurdle to jump over in this journey is to put to rest (or a least put on mute for awhile) your inner critic and doubter. I know you’ve been to therapy, I know you’ve read books, I know you’ve tried just about everything under the sun and you’re still running in circles. Don’t worry, I did, too! Or maybe you’re just for the first time ever admitting to yourself that the abuse happened and that you need to deal with it. Either way, there is likely a part of you that is wondering if you can get better! I invite you to allow yourself to embrace recovery as an adventure, an exploration. Be curious, check things out – and try to leave off stressing about end results. We each have to walk our own path of recovery. Sometimes, it takes just one thing to make things fall into place. Sometimes, it’s a variety of things.

For me, I tried all sorts of things before finally coming upon the ideas that I’ll share here that made the difference for me. I hope you can be open to the journey and remember there’s a lot to learn from turtles.

Lessons from a Turtle

“Adults are always asking kids what they want to be when they grow up, because they are looking for ideas.”
~Paula Poundstone

How fabulous is that! I know I’m still certainly wondering about what I’ll be when I grow up, and I know many of the folks around me are thinking about this, too.

For me, though, there are the added questions of, “Is it too late?” & “Shouldn’t I have accomplished more by now?” I took a bit more time to finish my undergraduate studies than usual; then I spent some time roaming the halls of an elementary school trying my hand at teaching and learning a lot about myself.

When I came to California, I focused on child development (and napping) as I nanny before turning my attention to psychology & coaching. Seems a bit schizophrenic, but each stage has in some way built upon the previous one. Now, most days, I appreciate my wiggly journey. Still, I do sometimes agonize about this, because I am many paces behind those who followed the straight and narrow.

When we feel the pressure to make our mark, crave the pride of achievement, desire to experience ourselves at our best, or want more than anything to be fully recovered, our first point of reference for measuring where we stand is often what others are doing or have done. Is there real value in this exercise of comparison? Well, I suppose it depends on what your ultimate goal is.

To my mind, I see two possible outcomes from engaging in this sort of reflection (to be sure, there may be others). If your goal (though possibly an unconscious one) is to reinforce negative ideas you have about yourself as being less than, incapable, flawed, etc. – comparing oneself to others is like a gateway drug to self-deprecation. There can be real value in seeing how you measure up to others, but if you can’t compare yourself to others without becoming depressed, self-critical, exasperated, defeated, pitiful, and chagrined then this is not a healthy choice for you.
However, if your goal is to do something about your current situation and to move forward despite time, age, circumstances then it might be possible to become inspired, motivated, encouraged, and educated as a result of comparing where you are with others who have acquired the same things you now desire but don’t have. In other words, through curiosity and studying their very straight journey, you may add some arrow-like qualities to your own path.

My point is, I can look to a coach who is my age, has my education but is much further along in building her business and making a living and think to myself, “Damn it, see, if only I hadn’t…” or I can look to see how this person got to where she is and learn – and, perhaps, learn fast! Likewise, we can keep ourselves in a loop of comparing where we are in our journey of recovery to others or lamenting that we aren’t there yet, or we can set about doing the work and learning from those who have gone before us.

We only have one life journey. Whether it be a wiggly one or a straight & narrow one – it’s ours. So, for all of my wiggly friends out there – move, be active, learn and don’t allow yourself to be distracted by self-deprecating thoughts.

Just as we might discover who we want to be when we grow up from kids, we also do well to remember the age old Aesop fable The Tortoise and the HareIt’s not how quickly you can get to where you want to be – it’s whether you get there at all.

 

(Editor’s note: I hope that you,my readers,  found some of these insights useful on your journeys. You are not alone. Thanks again Rachel for this great article and the work you’re doing to help others! )

1:4 #13, The Art Teacher

Art Teacher

Please Share What Happened to You:

Domestic violence is no joke. It is a disease that is fatal and destructive. It is a darkness that is plaguing our country. It is a generational curse that kills the spirit of dreams and passions and takes away the richness of what life can bring to the human race.

I live with the fact that my father, who was the breadwinner and passionate artist, was killed at the age of 28, while working as a postman in New York City, on his way from work. His death was the start of my abandonment issues. My mother was a widow left rearing two daughters ages four and three. My mother missed the love and respect she received from my Dad. She dated weak men, lived with an alcoholic, and remarried a womanizer and had two more children. My mother came from a Latino background and always worked two jobs because she kept her children in Catholic school. She had a house note and having men who never provided enough money to support us took so much from her. She was so beautiful the men usually were jealous and insecure.  These men would beat and yell at her and after losing our home we moved occasionally to escape the madness.

I was shy and had low self-esteem as a child.  My friends and boyfriends abused me so much that my mother sent me to private High School down south.  After graduating out of High School I shacked up with a drug dealer in Harlem while going to community college.

My boyfriends and husbands were always on drugs. My mother always gave us spiritual guidance so I never used drugs and hated the taste of alcohol. The yelling, hitting and ignorant thinking from my boyfriends took such a toll on me that I was in the hospital.  I returned back to the Bronx to live with my aunt and back down south to complete my college education.  Education saved me.

I was getting physically and verbally harassed and physiologically manipulated and abused. I had married one husband twice (who had died from AIDS) and the other husband was a crack addict. I had one man arrested after he beat me so bad I could not see. I found out later he would also beat his 65-year-old mother. He served a three year sentence.

My oldest son beat the crap out of his crackhead stepfather. My co dependence issues led to bad credit, homelessness and lots of lies. My false pride caused me to be in poverty while sending my son to Teen challenge in West Virginia.

painting

How are you doing now?

Today I am an advocate against domestic violence who has worked in great companies like Merrill Lynch, Lockheed Martin and Johnson and Johnson. I have a BFA degree in fine Arts and a Business Degree. I own a small art business working my passion of visual arts. I have traveled domestically and internationally and tried to engage with people of purpose who changed my whole view point for life. My past will never define me. My children are healthy men who are great fathers and husbands who are making their way respecting woman and being encouraged to give, not take, from their community.  I have a great life and thank God everyday.

Today I have clarity; I have been fortunate enough to learn some great lessons early in life. The strength and endurance of my mothers prayers and learning the importance of a good education helped me not title myself a victim, but a survivor. A lot of forgiveness seems to help me to get out of the circle of domestic violence.

happy now

What would you like to tell the world about Domestic Violence?

You can get out of this! You got this! There’s help if you ask for it!