The last month has been quite a whirlwind for me. I’ve been on both coasts of the U.S. off and on and a lot has happened. I’ve had the honor and privilege of spending some more intentional, quality time with survivors of human trafficking. I’ve been sitting, reflecting, thinking, talking, dreaming, crying, laughing, loving, and BEING in way that feels new to me.
I am beginning to believe that the marker of successful healing is “getting closer to one’s self.” Obviously, this is subjective. However, never before in my life have I felt that there is space for me to truly be me…ALL of me.
Is this what survivor empowerment means? To bring people closer to themselves – to their true passions, gifts, desires, hurts, and needs?
Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about what it means to be a whole person – what it means that my “survivor-ness” is only one part of me. It’s been tricky…because I still feel that the wounds of two decades of slavery are so deeply imbedded in my skin. My fight for internal, psychological freedom is still daily.
The picture above was a gift to me. I shared with a friend how I used to talk to rocks in my front yard when I was growing up (because I wasn’t allowed to have friends and I was not allowed to leave the house. I know…so sad!) I would collect these rocks in a shoebox and my mom would throw them out. Eventually, I gave up and convinced myself that I hated those rocks. My friend drew me this picture as a way to reclaim this experience from my past. She gave me permission to still talk to rocks if I want to, today. To talk to some rocks and leave my worries with them…and to pick up new rocks that represent something I want to keep. She gave me permission to start a new rock collection. That I don’t have to hold that story as just something horrible…that I don’t have to talk to rocks because I have people now, but I can still honor the coping skills I created!
Maybe the fact that I am identified with the term “survivor” is because I haven’t been allowed to identify with the terms poet, writer, lover, rock-collector or friend. For many survivors of human trafficking, “survivor” is a much better term than other terms we have been called.
In spending time with other survivors, I realized that though I have spoken about seeing survivors as whole people – as more than their trauma story – I have not believed that for myself deep down to the core. My survivor sisters and brothers have shown me, and help me to believe more deeply, that I am more than what I went through.
The have shown me the courage it takes to embrace joy and freedom. The bravery it takes to laugh like you’ve never laughed before. And the peace that comes in accepting yourself for who you are.
I have always wanted to be accepted for who I am. I am realizing that that needs to start from within. Others are quicker to accept me for who I am, than I am in accepting myself.
When I think about it this way, empowering survivors to be who they are is really the same as empowering anyone to be themselves.
I hope you will all join me in the #dsbchat @ 12pmPST/3pmEST today, June 3, 2013 to discuss successful survivor empowerment initiatives! Maybe we’ll all learn something about empowering ourselves!