Connections - #WhenIBecameFree
I say branding because that is what it felt like working with them in trying to get services that didn't exist and then also trying to get a message out in our community, that YES we have homeless in rural Wisconsin.
I was greeted by dismay, accusations, and then also a great amount of empathy and compassion. I was not prepared for the lessons I was about to learn.
My days became quickly filled with too much to do and not enough time to do it all in. Kyle was 11 and Justin was 15. We spent a lot of family time volunteering for Lend a Hand. Often they would go with me to met people at the motel. They would help carry the boxes of food we would get for those newly registered at the motel. They went with me to meet Kathy at the food pantry for those emergency fills. Volunteering opportunities at Lend a Hand was always just one phone call away.
Many of the connections we made were with women escaping abuse, sometimes in the heat of crisis but more often it was after the domino effect of no services nor support has on a soul when they are trying to repair a lifetime of hits.
For those first encounters in meeting women escaping abuse, I would try to meet them somewhere other than the cold reality of the motel, usually, it was over a cup of coffee at a local diner. That is where they would open up to me about the path they had walked, leading to the homelessness they were experiencing.
In those conversations, we would learn we shared more in common than not - being survivors of one or more forms of abuse, going back to our childhoods and then making poor decisions on the men in our lives because we never felt worthy of not settling or expecting respect. Attracted to fellow wounded, our empathy worked against our self-esteem.
Quickly, I had to learn what boundaries are and how to adhere to them, or else I would have never been able to be of any assistance. I had to place myself first. Little did they know that they were helping me in my own healing as I attempted to guide them on their path.
There were some success stories and then there were some not so successful endings. A lot of the ladies I met, I've stayed in contact with - every so often I will get a private message from one of them, updating me on their life and some exciting news. Then some nights that message will carry a plea for help in dealing with the emotional roller coaster ride of living with complex PTSD from a life of tests.
Today I realized that I have 9 years of those connections being nurtured and built. New connections have been made with other survivors, including that in the last couple of years some rather young women have reached out to me, teens needing an understanding ear. It is in those connections I have the most hope. When I sit and listen to them I see a spark in their eyes, an unwillingness to give-up - a desire for more, for better.
I started thinking about one of those young ladies and my upcoming move, and it brought tears to my eyes that I will no longer run into her at the store, or be able to drop everything and meet with her, if needed. I would no longer witness her grow and blossom into that confident adult woman that I know in my heart she will become.
Only if all of these ladies knew how much they have helped me along my healing journey. That thought played over and over in my head, motivating me to write this post. A post that for the last few weeks I haven't been able to summon up any coherent thoughts to share.
So, with that....
Thank you for letting me into your life during a time when you were so very vulnerable. Your body may have shaken when your tears fell as you shared your nightmares with me, but I want you to know I only saw your strength and felt the joy that you trusted and opened up to me.
I know how hard it is and was to speak about those secrets you held on to for far too long. I heard that little girl you thought that had always been lost. I knew you couldn't see nor hear her, but I did. I did as she spoke to the one in me who needed to also be found and validated. For me, being your ear, healed her wounds of why her.
For the very first time in my life, I felt complete. I understood why some of us are burdened with those memories of crime on our minds, our bodies, and our souls. As horrible as it may feel, we have the strength in us to use our voice to break cycles. When know when and where those cycles begin and we know what that child needs to feel whole. That ache we carried for so long has screamed to us in hopes that one day our voices would begin the end for that hurricane of abuse.
Every single one of you helped to strengthen the voice in me and keep me walking on that path of healing. I would not be the woman I am today without every single one of you crossing my path, reminding me that I am not alone and that the most precious treasure we can give to one another is that empathetic ear and the knowing glance of, "I believe you."
Does it take away the emotional pain that child, we, suffered? Not all of it, I can't say I know that there is anything that will, but it does lessen the rawness of it all and the triggers do start going away - you just need to keep holding on to the life ahead of you while respecting the past you're leaving behind. Find your balance.
Also know that I love hearing from you, all your successes and even those frustrations. When you're feeling those emotions it tells me you're trying and reaching rather than giving up. That, right there, is a success all of its own.
Remember, you're human, you've been given emotions to feel, not to ignore, and when you honor them you are loving yourself - night will always give way to the break of day. Just find the patience in having that faith, and you will get there.
Promise me that when you see a young lady struggling, perhaps making some bad choices, that you not judge and give up on her. Listen to her. Always be willing to listen with an open ear, it doesn't mean giving your trust away, just some of your time. You know that she needs it, even if she doesn't say a word, she needs it.
Take it from me - there will be ups and downs, there are no straight paths in life other than being born and dying. You can take what you have been given and make the most of it....let that little girl in you dream again, you deserve it.
Finally, I must say thank you for being a part of my life and more importantly, my healing.