There was a time when I used to buy flowers and hang them upside down for them to dry. I had a notion that I could have a small business making dried floral arrangements. This illusion did not last long.
These days I buy beautiful flowers and rush home to put them in water to keep them fresh. I take pains to prepare the water. I use a few drops of chlorine or a crushed baby aspirin in the water and I lovingly arrange the stems. I change out the water and try to make the flowers last as long as I can.
I realize that taking loving care of the flowers with preparing the water is a lot like raising children. We try to give them an environment where they will thrive and bloom and grow up to be strong and kind. We pay close attention to how we behave around them, except for when we don’t.
If we live in an environment where there is violence, be it emotional or verbal or physical, and we pretend that it does not affect our kids, we are deluding ourselves. This year on valentine day if you get flowers or buy them yourself, ask yourself if you care if they live or die.
If you don’t care then just throw them away.
If you do care, notice how much attention you give to them.
Our kids are our precious blossoms and they need nurturing and pretending that violence is not affecting them is lying to ourselves. Take a step back and access the situation and ask for help if you need it. It’s not easy to look at what’s really happening and making a few changes, but I guarantee you that it’s worth the time and effort.
Recently I had an experience that made me lose my ground. It shut down ALL my chakras.
I felt the air sucked out of me. I felt like I had NO physical self. I was but a swirl of energy. Someone asked, “What are you thinking?” I said, “I am only feeling.” They did not know what else to ask. I felt like the wet towel on the floor. This feeling used to be very familiar. I worked hard to learn new behaviors, and worked harder to cement those behaviors.
Here is what I wished someone had said …. “Indrani, can you hear me? Shake your head if you can.” (I had no language. I only had preverbal behaviors like crying and flailing). I would have shook my head.
Then I wished they would have said … “Can you feel your toes, feet, legs, hips, belly, chest, arms, head?” In other words, I wished they had done the body scan on me since my brain was off line, and I could not have thought of this tool myself.
Then I wished they had said …. “Indrani, breathe with me. Look at me. Hold my hands.” I wished they had grounded me. But they did not. They did not know how.
So I collapsed in a heap on the floor.
My spine crumbled life a crushed egg.
I could not hold my weight.
The sonic boom I was not expecting, happened. The energy demolished me. It took me many days to recover from the daze.
Now I know. Now I understand that old behaviors that were not useful then are still not useful now.
Now I know. I will hold on to this knowledge.
Do you have someone to help you with energy surges? I hope you do. It will save your life.
My I phone was working well one minute and the next minute it was not working well.
Being the kind of self-blaming person that I am, I immediately assumed that I was doing something wrong. The phone was still making and receiving calls and I could still text and email and I could do an Internet search but when I clicked on a link, the phone would freeze. I recognized the “freezing,” but could not fathom what was going on. I assumed that I was at fault and all of a sudden I had forgotten how to use hyperlinks.
Why would I blame myself so quickly about something so “out of my control?”
The answer to this question is easy. I am used to being blamed for things that do not go well.
In my family of origin, it was always my fault if one of my younger siblings did something wrong. I was the oldest and it was MY responsibility to keep my siblings in line. No one had ever asked me if I wanted the job, I was simply given the responsibility without the power. In my own home I was also blamed if things did not turn out as they should have. I cooked the wrong food if the kids did not eat, or my cooking was not good enough. If a family member became upset with me and I defended myself, then I was somehow to blame for the rift in the family.
People would tell me, “That’s just how the family is.” But no one ever told me, “Well, we know how YOU are, and the thing that happened was NOT right.” Finally I got sick and tired of being blamed for things that were not my fault, and I began to set some boundaries. I have become really good at setting boundaries with others, but not so good with setting boundaries with myself.
Hence, I still succumb to self-blame.
This was the trap I fell into when my phone began to freeze at unexplained moments. I finally took the phone to the Apple Store and sheepishly asked if they knew what was happening. I never expected them to have any answers. I was wrong. The Apple helper immediately recognized the issue and said he could fix it. It would take five minutes. It was a software glitch that was causing the freezing behavior.
I was shocked. I was sad. I was sad because I had so easily accepted the blame of the phone issue. This issue that had absolutely NOTHING to do with me. I hope I remember this lesson the next time I accept blame for something that is not my fault. I encourage you to look at the blame that is freely given to you, and the blame you readily accept. You may even grab blame from others because it’s more comforting to put yourself down than build yourself up.
I hope you give yourself permission to investigate the relationship you have with blame.
Some of you are wondering what our Caregiver Project is all about. Well, let’s start by defining the word, “Caregiver.” There are a few variations of the definition, but this is the one that best fits our mission:
“Relatives, friends, or professionals who provide a wide range of paid, or unpaid care to dependent relatives, friends and/or people needing physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual support. Caregiving is the action of providing care to these individuals.”
Caregiving can include:
Emotional and social support (e.g. visiting, transportation, talking about emotions)
Finding and accessing services (e.g. housing, medical supports)
Behavioral support (e.g. communicating effectively, managing challenging behaviors)
Financial help (e.g. financial support, managing finances)
Practical assistance with basic activities of daily living (e.g. housekeeping, shopping, meal preparation)
Personal care (e.g. help with monitoring medication, bathing)
Physical help (e.g. assistance with movement, supervision, direct medical care)
Overarching all of these activities, caregiving is the assumption of responsibility for providing care, along with the concern, worry and emotional involvement this entails.
Why is ILF involved with the Caregivers at women’s shelters?
Early last year, the founder of ILF, Indrani Goradia, began talking with the staff of shelter facilities who were caring for victims of violence. They began sharing their concerns for the high turnover rate of staff within their organizations, and the burnout that naturally happens due to the nature of this work.
Indrani quickly went into action. She knew if we were losing these passionate people who work with victims of violence, we could lose the shelters, or cut the number of women, men, and children who need be housed. Now, how could ILF help? We can train and educate the shelter staff (the Caregivers) how to keep from burning out.
What we teach the Caregivers?
Our trainers are teaching the caregivers about different tools they can use for self-care, and lead a more balanced life.
We educate caregivers on how to recognize their own triggers of shame, guilt, and humiliation that effect their work and personal lives.
We help them improve their personal boundaries, and how to say “No” to things that compromise their well-being.
And we remind them that they matter, that they are loved, and that they are “seen,” for the work they do.
Where can we teach the Caregiver Project?
We can send our trainers to anywhere in the United States, and some areas of Canada.
We teach in women’s shelters and organizations that directly have contact with victims of violence.
We are currently training ILF trainers all over the world to help us reach the caregivers in other countries.
How much does the training cost?
We offer the Caregiver Training at NO COST to the shelter or organization. We do, however, rely on donations to fund the 2-day training class. The training requires two certified ILF trainers, and the cost for travel, transportation, food, supplies, and pay for the entire training is approximately $5,000.00.
How can you help us with the Caregiver Project?
You can SPREAD THE WORD! Use social media, email, or mention us at a party or event. (facebook.com/indranislight Twitter: @indranis_light)
You can BECOME AN ILF TRAINER! We will be offering the Train-the-Trainer Course every year to certify trainers to teach our ILF curriculum to their own communities and shelters.
You can DONATE! Here is where you can donate ANY AMOUNT to help our Caregiver Project, or any other area of our mission to end domestic violence.
We need your feedback.
What do you think of the project?
Is this something you would love to support?
How would you like to support us?
What more could we do?
If you have already supported our mission in any way, we want to extend our deepest gratitude. If you would like to do more, or maybe you haven’t taken the step to support us yet, please reach out to our Director of Education and Training, Amy Dier, at email@example.com. She will be more than happy to talk with you about your options.
I know how to use a pump at the gas station. I have been doing it for 33 years. So when I pull up at a pump, exit my car, open my gas tank and insert my credit card, I KNOW what to expect.
This is what happens
Is this credit or debit? Push the button next to the choice.
Enter Zip code on the keypad below I punch in the Zip code that I have had for 20 years!
I know what happens next ….
The screen tells me to fill up with the fuel of my choice…
Except when it does NOT and kicks me back to the “Insert Card Here” screen.
Oh, I think to myself I must have made a mistake, my brain says, you did not make a mistake… But the screen tells me to start again, so I start again.
Credit or debit?
Enter Zip code.
Screen again kicks me back to “Insert Card here.”
Dear Reader, now I am perplexed, so I try again 3 more times and on the third time I slow down my process at a s n a i l’s pace. And I am intentional about each choice and I read the screen out loud, so I look like a crazy person but I am already feeling quite crazy!
I begin to enter the Zip code
Let’s say it’s 12345 I enter 1
The screen says
1 I enter 2
The screen says 12 I enter 3
The screen says
YES you read that right I enter 3 again
The screen says 12 I enter 3 4
The screen says 124 but it should say 1234 Oh, I see, the fault is in the screen and the system NOT with me.
Jump into the car, go to another pump and now we are good to go.
As soon as I get into the car, I make notes to myself so I can remember to write a blog about what is and is not our fault.
This is what I wrote…
“Gas station keypad bells and whistles work but numbers are wrong. ”
It occurred to me that this is often what happens when there is miscommunication that often leads to violence.
Person A says ONE
Person B hears Won
Person A says TWO
Person B hears TOO
The sounds are the same but whatever person B is hearing makes NO sense at all…
Who won what? Somebody else also won something, somebody else, won too?
Person A continues to speak and says THREE.
Person B is still wondering about who won what and who else was there and what did they win too…
Person A says EIGHT
Person B hears ATE
Who won what, who ate what, what the heck is going on?
We must be able to recognize situations where things LOOK like they work, or should work, but in reality things are really quite broken on the inside.
We cannot know that the brand new shiny man approaching us is broken on the inside or that he has a tendency to hit and curse at his “loved” ones because they don’t follow his commands.
Why do I use the words “command?”
I use the word Command, because a true question allows the responder to say a full and complete NO without need for explanation or guilt.
When we say NO, and the receiver of that NO becomes enraged and abusive, it is exactly like that electric screen at the gas station… You have input a value, in this case a NO, and the person who is hearing the NO, cannot receive it or process it, and things get crazy.
Something is broken in that person AND and it is NOT your job to fix it.
It may be your job to RUN!
I do hope that this makes sense to you, let me know what you think.
She was only 16 or 17 years old. I had just given a short presentation to a group of students and I asked for questions.
She was brave.
She asked what she could do after she had been beaten, and still had to stay in the house.
My heart hurt for her. I knew her pain at a cellular level. I knew her well. I WAS her. I remember being beaten so badly and having welts all over my body, and having to dry my tears. I was told to “go wash your face and when you come out I better not see any crying, you asked for that beating.”
Of course, dear reader, I did not ask for any beating. I had made some childish mistake and I was whipped like I had murdered someone. I remember going to the bathroom, and I was not allowed to shut the door, the abuser needed to “see” that I was not going to have any more “crocodile tears.” I had to suck up all my pain and come out smiling like a good girl. This behavior lasted well into my 50’s.
Don’t let them see you cry those crocodile tears. “They don’t care “…was the voice in my head.
To this day, I still have a hard time owning my pure emotion and I have to fight really hard to not push them down, allow them to morph into anger or rage, or blame. It will probably be a life long lesson. Some days I win and some days I lose.
I told the young lady to try to find a place of solitude in her home and tell herself that one day, she will be out of the house and the abuse will stop.
She could not tell her parents, her parents would be angrier that she “embarrassed the family,” and she would be beaten even more. I told her to use school as a respite. I wish I had someone to tell these things to me. I did not. I had no one to tell me that the abuser was wrong, even though they were caregivers, and said they were beating me because they loved me.
They were wrong. They were telling lies.
We do not hurt what we claim to love.
I deserved love and attention and guidance, not rage and anger and beatings. I have a clear memory of being about 12 years old and kneeling at the side of my bed, praying. My abuser came into the room and asked what I was praying for, and I said for strength. The abuser was pleased.
Yes, I was praying for strength, but strength to live in my hellhole called my childhood.
If I could not get the strength, I prayed that God would take me that night because I could not go on. I was praying to die, at 12 years old. I was not taken, so I guess I got the strength …… and that strength has been parlayed into the work I do now. We are resilient beings. We can stand a lot of pain. If you are in a hellacious situation, and you are an adult, reach out to your local shelter for confidential help. Even if you don’t leave, there are services you can access. They can help you with a plan.
There are people who care that you are in pain.
If you know a child living in a hellacious home, try to be a point of comfort to that child. They need to know you will keep their confidences and that you are a safe place to lay some burdens.
Be that safe place for someone. Someone needs you.
How has my personal story been sitting with you so far? My hope is to help you begin your journey of healing shame, and become the activist you desire to be! Meanwhile, I’m taking a DEEP BREATH. What I’m about to tell you will help me “Live-A-Brighter-Life.” This is the vulnerable place that Brené Brown talks about. This is the place where Indrani Goradia encourages me to be brave.
So, in the Part 1 blog I slightly touched on my story of being raped as a young teenager. As a young girl, I was walking tall, confident, and very secure in myself as I entered into the high school scene. I was involved in all of the sports, highly regarded in my church, played many instruments in our school band, and never broke “the rules.” My parents were known as responsible and loving people, who were living the blue collar “American Dream.” But as we know so often, many of these kinds of families are hiding a secret. Our secret was I had an older brother who was suffering from his own demons of a mental illness and drug abuse. This was back in the 70’s and 80’s when families rarely talked about their private lives. As you can imagine, I made sure I was the “good little girl,” and wanted to make sure I never disappointed my parents, my community, or my church.
In my youth, I was taught that being a “good little girl” meant that you should help people, and do the things God would want you to do here on earth. I thought that was a reasonable request, so I set out doing my best to do JUST that. I had found and befriended a teenage boy who was older than me, and living in a challenging home situation. I continued a friendship with him against my father’s wishes. You see, my parents had some kind of gut feeling about this boy that I wasn’t aware of. So (on a rare decision to disobey my father) I decided to go to this friend’s house and invite him to church. This is where my nightmare began, and did not end for 30 years.
Many of you reading this article right now can completely relate to this story. Certain feelings are stirring up in you, and you can understand the rush of trauma I was experiencing during and after I was raped. Some of you have been raped, sodomized, or sexually abused in your life. You know the feelings of guilt, shame, humiliation, denial, anger, confusion, betrayal, uncertainty, and grief about the loss of innocence that was taken from you. The nightmares have been haunting you for years, and your entire existence revolves around this suffering. And then the biggest question of your lifetime…. Do you tell anyone what happened to you?
I made it home somehow that horrific day, crept into the shower, and felt frozen in my body. I made the painfully conscious decision that I could not tell my parents, or report what had happened. I had disobeyed my parents, and “this is what I deserved.” I told my best friend at the time, and throughout the years I have felt obligated to tell my partners. My parents found out just a few years ago about my rape, and even after a 30-year career in law enforcement and private investigations, I could not NAME my feelings about what had happened to me.
It’s been almost four years since I received the opportunity to start REALLY healing from my rape. When I began to tell my story, the grip it had on me began to release.
What story is gripping you tight? What story is holding you hostage? I had not been open to therapy…. Ever! But through the encouragement and help of people I trusted, I began to see a therapist for my PTSD.
At Indrani’s Light Foundation, we encourage our community to reach out to the people they trust if they need help. In module 4 of the “Live-A-Brighter-Life” workshop series, we teach about “Finding Resilience.” Indrani teaches that separating and insulating yourself from others is a petri dish for shame. Brené Brown’s book, “Daring Greatly,” is my new Bible now, and as I continue to teach Indrani’s “Live-A-Brighter-Life” curriculum, I continue to heal my shame.
Part 4 of my blog series is coming up next. If you’ve been a victim of discrimination, or have ever been shamed or treated differently because of your race, sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or any other situation, I encourage you to keep following my blog series. I lost my beloved career because I was a woman, and a lesbian. I will talk about how I coped with this loss, when the grieving process began, and how I have come to understand this trauma.
The look of love
The look of fear
The look of contempt
Those looks you hate?
It may not be their fault.
It may be because of the choices you made, the choices WE made as parents of these incredible children we have been given.
As a child, sustaining repeated and persistent abuse, I had a significant thought…
Why did you have me?
This took many other word forms such as:
Why did you have a child?
Why did you have another child?
I am not blaming the way children turn out on their caregivers; I am reminding caregivers to make better choices so that we can say that we tried our very best when our children have the “looks” that are “cringeworthy.”
I spoke to a social worker when I was in Trinidad in October, and I heard about a child who was brought to her office by her guardian with a bag of clothing. The guardian is the legal guardian and a very close family member. The social worker was told that the child was stealing food. The child was a very young teenager and was emaciated and clearly hungry. There was no place for the child to go so the child was sent back to the house with the guardian.
A few weeks later, the whole scene repeated itself. The social worker again sent the child back.
This story really left me feeling helpless.
Often times I am talking about past abuses and guiding the teller of the abuse story through the pain, and into a deeper understanding of their present power instead of a powerless past.
This was so very different.
This is clear and present danger and pain that was being experienced by a young person that I could meet. I could make a significant difference here. Yet, I choose to keep working at the global level and to use my time and energy to try to make changes at a different level.
I will reach out to that social worker to see how I can contribute to the care and feeding of that child, but I must do this from a safe distance. If I get too personally involved I stand the chance of derailing my whole path because I will get way too deep in the problem, and can potentially make the situation very much worse. This is very hard to accept.
Unless I am willing to step in to legally adopt this young teenager in a different country and devote my life to her future, I can only help in different ways.
When we face situations like this in life, we can only really do what we can do. If we need to work from a safe distance, that is the decision we must make.
If we can do something deeper and significantly contribute to the situation we can choose that path. The option is NEVER to beat yourself up about what we “could” have done or “should” have done. To be this centered in difficult decisions like this we must practice this centeredness in other less difficult aspects of life.
Luckily for us, life gives us many opportunities to practice centeredness …. from ordering from a menu, to choosing an internet provider, to dealing with the technical advisor of said internet provider who has such a thick accent, we just want to bang our heads with the device we are trying to trouble shoot. You get the picture.
Look around you and attempt to deal with the next small irritant with a deeper level of groundedness and presence.
Maybe it requires you to use your ears more than your mouth. Maybe you get to use your mouth but in the complete opposite way, like whispering instead of yelling, or smiling in the face of the instigator instead of scowling, pouting. Maybe you decide to use your feet and leave a hostile situation instead of staying and begging the others to please, please, please see it your way.
Only you can decide what to do.
Expect to make mistakes and expect pushback. Pushback is really good because it tells you that you are making waves in the status quo. If you want to quick start this practice, look at the status quo of your life and see what you would like to change then start there.
In my case, the status quo of my life was that of a “stay at home mom,” very little travel and a very confined, albeit very comfortable, world. These days, my status quo is a far cry from yesteryear.
Take a breath.
Make a small change.
Love and light,
Donate to Indrani’s Light Foundation
Your donation will be used towards eradicating gender violence, training community leaders and sharing behaviour-change tools with people who are ready to leave violence behind and create a brighter, more peaceful world.