Courage

I regret I haven’t posted sooner!

Things are still coming a long with my transition and adjustment to DC. My time has continued to feature periods of highs and periods of lows. I want my posts to be as real as possible-which is why I even started writing a post during a difficult time but then decided not to finish because I didn’t feel like I could make my message clear enough.

Challenges are continuing to present themselves. Work has been challenging, dealing with my back issue has been challenging, making friends has been challenging, paying my bills has been challenging, feeling like I fit in has been challenging.. but most of all I think remembering my purpose and passion for returning to DC has been challenging. I think we can easily overlook those things; where we came from, who we are, who we’re becoming, our hopes, dreams, and reasons for making ourselves vulnerable and open– when we get caught up in the details of day to day life.

The past several weeks I’ve really been in a “blah” mood. Not feeling terrible, but not feeling great, and not really seeing a resolution or end to my “meh” mindset. However, today was a break through for me and I am hoping I can replace some of my “meh” moments with fuller and richer joy and experiences.

I’ve been mulling over my mood all day. This evening I was getting ready for bed and opened my cabinet to see a jar that my counselor in Waco had named the “jar of courage”. She gave me the jar which is just a small mason jar with the word “courage” written on it and several stacks of small post it notes inside. She presented it to me on our last session together and encouraged me to write down my moments of courage so that when needed to I could go back and read them and remember my courageous acts. I thought the jar was a great idea but when it came down to it I had never written any moments down on the sticky notes. I had been too lazy and honestly apathetic to think of times when I was courageous.

This evening, on a whim, I decided to take the jar from the closet and write down a moment of courage. I ended up writing down 6 or 7 moments/acts of courage. Once I wrote down one I thought of another, and another, and another. Writing down my moments of courage was incredibly self-empowering, compassionate, and self-loving. As I wrote down each moment I remembered the act and how truly courageous it was. Now, I’m not trying to make an argument for my exceptional behavior or how incredible my actions are. But we all do things that are courageous, every day. Who would have thought it would be so empowering to write them down!

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Courageous acts can be as simple as speaking your mind about something, being honest about how you feel, sharing your ideas or beliefs, or choosing to eat healthy or start an exercise regime. Writing down my moments of courage reminded me of how courageous I am, how honest I seek for my life to be, and the ways I am pursuing that desire.

It also reminded me of how far I have come and what I have already accomplished. I watched a talk on self-compassion recently and the role it plays in maintaining and building our sense of worth, our confidence in our abilities, and accepting our mistakes or things we wish we could change. Writing down my moments of courage, as simple or grand as they are, was incredibly self-compassionate. I am  reminded of my journey and the ways I am developing my identity and sense of self.

What have you done recently that showed courage? What do you do every day that is courageous? Jot a few things down- I bet you’ll be surprised how helpful and insightful it is! 🙂

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Updates and a Thank You

Updates and reflection

Wow! A lot has changed since my last post. I believe most people (if you’re reading the blog we’re likely friends and perhaps talk regularly or often) know most of the updates but I’d like to share a bit of my reflections on them.

First, I got a job! I am the administrative director for a non-profit organization in Silver Spring, MD. The organization has a holistic approach to addressing poverty… for persons in Waco, its fairly similar in its philosophies to Mission Waco. The first week of work has proved to be challenging, mentally and physically.. but that is true normally with any job. I am looking forward to the possibilities this opportunity can bring.

Second, I found a place to live! Both of these blessings happened in a matter of days. After finding out the news of my job and making living arrangements I returned to Texas to gather up my things and figure out how to get myself, my furniture and my sweet kitties back up to DC.

I could not have imagined being blessed with these provisions SO QUICKLY and almost effortlessly. My previous posts discussed my worries and fears about not finding a job but I truly only had to search for less than a month. It was not by my own doing that these opportunities were presented before me.

When I returned to Texas I could not have asked for greater welcoming from my friends and family. I was able to visit old co-workers at The Salvation Army, had a warm and welcoming fellowship with my friends from Church Under the Bridge… who gathered last Wednesday night just to SEE MEwow, how special! I spent meaningful time with Jerry. I worked out several times at my crossfit box in Waco. I met with my counselor at The Advocacy Center, and my parents went above and beyond to help me prepare for my “final move”. Goodness! I have some amazing people who care about me!!

I truly couldn’t have done this move without each person who has touched my life. Everyone who has supported me, both near and far has been so impactful to me in this step in my journey; it is really more meaningful than what I can put into words.

And now my sweet kitties are with me here in DC! They really make it feel like home. Minnie became ill last weekend… long story and it was very troublesome. Thankfully though, both kitties are healthy now and proud Washingtonians  Although I think they wish I had moved to a place with more windows 😉

I have experienced so many blessings in the past couple of weeks… I think my brain hasn’t processed it all yet. In spite of more stability I am still feeling uneasiness, which I know is normal. I am looking forward to continuing counseling here… something that has been delayed due to my recently erratic schedule and the full caseloads of the counselors at the crisis center here. As I continue to develop my identity, and myself, I will feel continued peace about my changing environment and location. It is a very rewarding thing to know you are bettering yourself and becoming healthier.

Thank you

Lastly, I have appreciated the positive feedback I’ve received from the blog regarding sharing my story and journey. I’m truly on a path of self-discovery that will likely be never-ending but I am thankful negative events have catapulted me into being the healthiest person I’ve ever been. And I do want to share my story…In fact it’s a very liberating thing. I’m not afraid of it, ashamed, or worried what others may think. It makes me who I am and if I ignore it I cannot learn from it or share with others what it means to me.

Why it’s so important

Sharing my story is crucial to not only escaping shame but also pivotal to making sexual trauma a topic we can openly discuss in our society.

I have shared with several people my first thoughts and experience with sexual trauma and what it felt like to be a “victim” or someone who has experienced sexual violence but feel its worth writing again here.

Several weeks after the second assault; as I was truly beginning to process the reality of what had happened, I read an email from a co-worker that said, “Could you please pray for my son, he’s having tests to rule out cancer?” I was immediately crushed by the email. Not because I had no empathy for the coworker or his son, but because I was filled with rage and confusion at my situation. I had been assaulted. I needed help and support and to be able to process my experience… why wasn’t it okay to send out an email to the entire department or agency and ask for prayer for myself? Why had society decided I should be quiet about my assault? I was deeply confused and insulted by the situation.

 

Weeks later I sat in a video “classroom” with my classmates who were in field internship literally around the world. We were each sharing about some of our personal experiences and one classmate mentioned that she had been in a minor car accident that week. Another classmate exclaimed, “Oh my goodness, you’re so brave!” I immediately had to turn the camera off and was consumed with emotion and again rage. The words, “You’re so brave” rang in my ears and left me burning with anger…. What about me??? I was BRAVE! I’d been assaulted and I couldn’t even tell anyone about it… I KNEW I was brave but I felt the constraints of society to not speak about the attack.. at least not publicly. Why couldn’t I announce my experience in the virtual classroom and have support from my classmates…? How on earth did that make sense?

I say all of this because this is why I am unashamed of my story. I won’t be quiet about it and I really won’t wait until I “know” you well to bring it up. I believe sexual assault should be an issue that someone can discuss without shame, guilt or personal ill feelings and that others should also be comfortable discussing too. It should be a topic we can freely discuss as openly as a car accident or cancer. This is the ONLY way to create an environment where those who are victimized feel empowered to speak up about their experiences, realize they’re not alone in their situations, name their attacker, and heal. Again, silence breeds shame. It also protects the abuser.

I know I got off on a tangent but I wanted to explain why its so important to me to share. I want anyone who has experience sexual trauma to know its okay to talk about it and for those who haven’t to feel comfortable listening.

Thank you again for continued encouragement and support!

Life’s Storms

I apologize for not posting again sooner. Thank you so much for everyone that read the post last time and gave me feedback. It was very nice to hear how everyone enjoyed reading the blog so far. 

Things are going.. okay. My adjustment here in DC is not without continued struggles and challenges and I dare say that has been one of the reasons I haven’t posted sooner. Sometimes its hard to talk or share when we are struggling. 

There has been some good news over the last week or so. I began shadow coaching this past week at the crossfit gym I go to. The gym offers the opportunity for persons who may be good candidates for the positions to coach or assistant coach in exchange for membership dos. Coaching crossfit classes has been something I’ve been interested in for a while now so this is a nice thing to get involved in. 🙂 I am definitely interested in getting my Level 1 certificate in the future also, when finances permit 🙂

I also had a job interview this past week and they have scheduled me for a second interview for this week.. it has been encouraging to speak with persons about my passions and career interests. I am hopeful something fruitful comes of the interviews, but will wait to share any details until I know something further 🙂 

Inspite of these encouraging events I have still been struggling with the challenge of what it means to be in a new place, without concrete connection and the difficulty that comes with not being able to share myself, completely, and vulnerably with others. I have reached out to some persons back home, Jerry, my counselor at The Advocacy Center, and also reflected on fond memories of the relationships I was building at Church Under the Bridge. I am reminded of how meaningful and rewarding it is to be able to be known. 

I have also reflected over the last several days about the ways shame still exists in my life. If you know me closely you will have heard me talk about Brene Brown and her work dealing with vulnerability, empathy, and shame. Sunday afternoon, while feeling particularly pensive, I watched several of her videos (I’ve seen pretty much all of them!) about shame. The video I watched was an interview with Oprah called SuperSoul Sunday (don’t jump to conclusions-it was anything but cheesy!) Brene said if you put shame in a petry dish and douse it with empathy it cannot survive. In the same light, silence breeds shame. I realized I must continue to have empathy for myself.. where I am in my journey, and continue to speak about it.. If I have any chance of escaping shame! 

Life’s Storms

I also wanted to share about the message from the church service I went to on Sunday. I felt the message particularly spoke to me, especially in regard to my transition to DC. The person delivering the message spoke from two difference passages. One from Genesis 37 and the story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers. The other was from Matthew 14:22-34 when Jesus walked on water and Peter at first took courage in Jesus and joins him on the water but then when he felt the wind of the storm became afraid and began to sink. 

The speaker tied the two passages together and related them as “life’s storms”… what are life’s storms and how do they take shape in our lives. He asked for some feedback and some people said storms take shape in our lives in the form of war, financial hardship, grief, relationships, etc. He discussed the ways that storms can be sudden, we can be thrown into them without a moment’s notice or any warning.. this relates to the story of Joseph when his brother’s betrayed him and instantly his life was changed when he became a slave. 

As I sat and thought of this it reminded me of my experience with sexual violence and the way it radically shook my life and changed it forever. I was not expecting the experience when it happened and could not have known the ways it would change my life–later for good. But it radically changed me in a matter of a moment and instantly I found myself in the midst of a storm. 

The speaker also talked about storms we walk into, with warning and with knowledge of the possible events to come, but yet how this can be equally challenging and frightening. Peter had faith in Jesus when He saw him walking on the water and he wanted to join Jesus there. He began to take a few steps on the water and as the wind of the storm blew he became frightened and began to doubt and started to sink. He called out to Jesus to save him, and He did. I couldn’t help but think of how incredibly similar this was to my move to DC. 

I’ve known since I left DC in April 2013 that I was “called” to be in DC to find my purpose and passion for serving others. Going back to Waco for a period was very purposeful. It gave me a chance to lay a foundation of healing and growth. And now, feeling strong and well enough to live out that calling I have returned to the place where my heart longed to be. But the wind of the storm is blowing, and I’m having doubts! Doubts about my strength, my courage, my purpose… 

The story of Peter and the message the speaker delivered reminded me that we will listen to God’s calling… walk into the storm, and then become afraid. And that’s okay. It’s okay to call out to Him and say, I’m afraid I may sink, or I’m doubting myself. Living out or listening to a calling will not be without struggle and pain… but from that will come greater growth, greater transformation. 

Thank you to everyone who is supporting me, loving me during this time, near and far. Your words of love and encouragement are so meaningful and are such a great reminder of how far I have come in my healing journey 🙂 

 

 

 

A week and a half later…

I’ve been in DC for a week and a half now. What all can take place in a week and a half? Well, not a ton has happened.. but I’ve definitely noticed my mental state being constantly challenged.

I yearned so deeply to return to DC since the time I left in Spring 2013 because I felt this was the place where I could truly be a part of something meaningful and bigger than me. After being back in Waco I soon realized my time there served a deep and meaningful purpose. God led me to The Advocacy Center for Crime Victims to work with my counselor on developing my sense of self worth, identity, recognizing the elements of healthy relationships, and discovering the importance of vulnerability, empathy, and how shame had impacted my life. I did not know such transformative change was possible in a little over a year! Wow. I will be eternally grateful to my counselor for the investment she made in my life. It was truly life altering and thus far the greatest thing I’ve been a part of.

So, as I embark on my new world in DC, leaving behind the genuine, authentic relationships I carefully developed with friends, Jerry, and close friends from Church Under the Bridge, I have been filled with excitement and wonder about what this new phase has in store for me. Where will God lead me now? I have been given freed from my shame and guilt which previously bound me into unhealthy relationships and behavior patterns… the possibilities are surely endless! I also plan to continue counseling and my investment in my self at one of the local crisis centers…

However, over the past week I have been battling a suppressing anxiety. WHEN will I get a job? HOW long will it take to find one? WHAT IF I’m not able to find one? A person can begin to feel hopeless and lost… very quickly apparently! I have much empathy and compassion for my fellow colleagues who job searched for months after graduation.. it is an exhausting process!

A few days ago I began to ask myself.. WHY am feeling so anxious? What is causing these feelings to overwhelm me this way? What is different from being back in Waco where I felt so confident and secure? Well, obviously a lot is different.. but after a little reflection and a song which flooded me with memories from a church service at Church Under the Bridge, I realized I am missing the authenticity, the genuineness, of many of the relationships I had carefully developed in Waco, and especially, the opportunity to tell people my story.

Much of my counseling and work I did to discover my self revolved around the idea (much of it founded in Brene Brown’s work) that we experience life at the fullest when we are open and genuine with others… vulnerable. Without this vulnerability we are closing off not only the pain and grief in life, but also the ability to experience the greatest joys and happiness. I began to experience great reward in being able to share my story, me with others. Once I realized there was nothing to be ashamed of, I saw there was a great deal to be learned from my story. 

As I have reflected and seen how important vulnerability has become in my life, I feel a lot of my challenge right now is lack of opportunities to share myself with others or be vulnerable.. so far! It has only been a week and a half! 🙂 I am still working to connect with old contacts as well as build on some relationships which existed during my time here last year. My point is my heart yearns to be open and genuine and have real connection with others. I have learned through my counseling and the relationships I built during that work that this type of lifestyle breeds this most bountiful relationships and experiences. 

I know in time I will find a job. I know in time I will build genuine, open, honest, relationships. Thank you for reading along as the journey begins 🙂