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  • Holly Timberlake

Honoring Our Journeys & Women's History of Healing into Healthy Empowerment -- Holly Timberlake

As women we stand at a fulcrum point, poised however solidly between overcoming the injustices of the past personally and socially and forging or dancing forward to a new world for ourselves, our families and us all.

I think about the long journey in my life of coming from feeling very disempowered and pretty voiceless early on, once it had been stomped out of me. I was born in the early 50’s when women were still told to not say anything to their husbands if they stayed out all night, because “he works hard for the family;” and to realize that what he had to say was more important than what she had to say, so to not offer opinions, and more. Of course, it didn’t always quite go that way, but in the white middle-class world that’s the way it was supposed to go.

As girls and women we were programmed by family, school, society, and religion to feel and BE second-class citizens. I spent much of my graduate schooling focusing on the empowerment of women and learning, not only of the history of institutional sexism, but of the brave women whose voices and actions began to build a foundation for the empowerment of us all. It has been personal for me.

This programming interwove itself into my own little body and heart, already skiddish and afraid from early emotional neglect and trauma developing some shockingly low self-esteem. I was born to 2 parents who were thrust ambivalently into parenthood “by me.” Both rage-aholics and scary towards each other, it was my mother (at some point, suicidal mother) who was both neglectful and abusive towards me. As the eldest, I would soothe my 2 younger siblings as their frequent fights raged on. My father also had issues with sexual boundaries, carefully, secretly overstepping them more in my early childhood than later.

While I was date raped in college, my marriages were never physically abusive, but emotional abuse was certainly present, sometimes crazily so; and combat PTSD and multiple substance abuse ruined my last marriage. A wounded woman, I let myself be chosen by wounded men. Together, we created, by our own wounded patterns and emotional reactivity, a damaged relationships that didn’t last.

Healing and growing into being healthier within myself and relationally has been a long and yet exceedingly fruitful and worthwhile process. It has taken me a long while to tame the emotional reactivity drilled into my body and my being, and truthfully, I still get triggered sometimes; and am still about the work of taming myself. I felt victimized for a long while, really angry at my parents, and with my attention focused on them, was unable/unwilling to see how I wasn’t stepping out of the trauma patterns to create new and better possibilities for myself…until I was. And as I began to see that, I really began to heal, really began to take responsibility for my healing, take responsibility for my life…no matter what had happened to me to generate these patterns, behaviors, and beliefs. I began to see the parts that I was playing in the dramas I was living. I began to see ways I had hurt others…hurt people. Hurt people, after all. And I began to take responsibility to heal that, too.

It’s not that I wasn’t victimized. It’s not that you weren’t. It’s that seeing ourselves as victims keeps us trapped and stuck. To see how we can make different, healthier choices now; take different actions; show up for ourselves in ways we couldn’t back then, are some of the gifts of doing the hard work of healing. Maybe you already know and experience this. I hope so.

“The most common way people give up their power, is thinking they don’t have any. “– Alice Walker

How often do the very challenges we experience as younger people chart the path towards becoming people who then devote their time, careers, ways of being in the world, to help heal and grow this beleaguered world: to be better moms, aunts and grandmamas to our blessed children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews; to be better partners…better in relationship to everyone and everything, including ourselves?

I was fortunate. For all the ways I was being programmed (inadvertently) to be so mired in my own personal issues and challenges, I somehow was also able to at least get the education to get a professional license to help others heal. I’ve not achieved what I thought I might; what I believe I might have had I had some more support somewhere as a child, partly because I lived with undiagnosed Celiac’s for 57 years of my life. The combination of the early trauma and Celiacs was a 1 – 2 punch to my ability to manifest my dreams. And yet, I am grateful for what I am able to bring into the world, what I am able to contribute. I know it’s enough. I know I am enough. And THAT has been a victory long coming.

“Look closely at the present you are constructing; it should be like the future you are dreaming.” – Alice Walker

And yet, my spirit was strong. You know this, right? No matter what occurred, you had this will to go on. Like everyone reading this I have had my own path of healing, of growth, of being surprised by my shadow jumping out and yelling that I had more work to do to come to more inner peace. It’s not to say something is wrong with me, or with you; it’s saying that these experiences alter the way we show up in the world; they distort our perceptions; and mess with our nervous systems. Coming back into wholeness is a lifelong journey.

Feeling grateful in this moment for Maya Angelou who so openly and courageously shared stories of the abuse of her childhood and her rise through the flames she endured.

“I’m grateful for being here, for being able to think, for being able to see, for being able to taste, for appreciating love – for knowing that it exists in the world, so bright with vulgarity, with brutality and violence, and yet love exists. I’m grateful to know that it exists. “ -- Maya Angelou.

Here are some links to other contemporary famous people who experienced child abuse and domestic violence: child abuse and domestic violence. ..should you find among them or should they help you think of inspiring heroines who can be light-bearers for you.

Who helps you RISE through the flames of your remaining pain to let your brilliant and radiant heart shine?

As a white woman, I was privileged/“protected” from the kind of racial abuse dealt to women of color, to the PTSD that results from the violence perpetrated via racism, so I cannot speak to this other than to say: I stand in awe of the kind of strength that so many Black women I have known have exhibited…a kind of mother bear fierceness of love and protection, of huge hearted embracing of all in their spheres, of deep, rock-solid trust and belief in the Divine. Proof indeed of our ability to rise from the ashes, proof of the power of love and faith to help make us whole.

Another member of FREA, Kristin Miller shares, “I am a woman, a sexual abuse survivor, and mother of two daughters who have survived sexual and physical abuse; I am a wife, and a healer.”

She continues: “for me being a woman truly is awesome! It’s hard and healing and filled with so much Grace and Connection! I know I am here on this planet as a woman to know the extreme difficulties we face personally and am honored to walk the healing journey hand in hand and heart-to-heart with all women and our dear planet herself. It is wonderful to be deeply connected in compassionate healing with so many.

“If you want to know where to find your contribution to the world, look at your wounds. When you learn how to heal them, teach others. – Emily Maroutian

I celebrate the huge differences, the huge strides that we have made over the decades. Really, really huge strides! The possibilities for creating good lives are incredible the more we can emerge from what’s held us down and back both within us and without and how we haven’t found our ways out of it…YET. For you reading this have already come far on your own personal journey in this large story of the journey of women. And as FREA, we applaud you for all the healing and growth you have done. We applaud you for the ways you have persevered, picked yourselves back up time and again, feeling somehow the Light within, or the love of God, or your childrens’ needs…sometimes being carried by your community, by that Light within, and with your own higher, wise self.

For you have done this in a world that is characterized by just as much personal violence as it has been since we began to acknowledge its existence. I do believe that there were times and there are places even now where there is much less interpersonal violence, where cultures are based on cooperation and mutual appreciation. This is not one of them.

You would think that the statistics for sexual and domestic violence would have changed with the awareness of harassment, with the Me Too movement, womens’ liberation efforts, because the tone of the country has changed. And yet the stats haven’t. ..yet.

The roots of all of that discrimination, violence and abuse are still here, and we’re still dealing with it, no matter how much that has been done to change this: hotlines, shelters, legislation, institutional policy changes, education, increased opportunities and financial independence, pro-woman movements like the women’s movement, “the MeToo movement,” and more. Why?

We cannot live in a world structured to benefit the very select and very few at the expense of all the rest and think that we will heal the prevalence of violence towards women and children (and everyone else). The patterns continue because the trauma at the heart of these patterns is the belief that others exist to serve the most privileged, that they don’t matter beyond what they can be made to do. The very fact that 90% of the wealth of this country has been shifted from the people to the .0001% of the population is proof of my statement.

As reported in Time, in September of 2020, “The Top 1% of Americans Have Taken $50 Trillion From the Bottom 90%—And That's Made the U.S. Less Secure.” And this richest 1%? They gained 6.5 trillion dollars, in 2021 alone. CNBC April, 2022

The world needs a transformation. I believe a transformation in the world is just as possible as transformation in an individual, in a group, in a nation. Our beautiful and beleaguered mother earth, suffering, too, in part, from the abuse of an uncaring, unknowing humanity, is leading the way for us all to realize the importance of healing. We are headed into a time of great transformation.

“There are two powers in the world: one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a third power stronger than both, that of women.” -- Malala Yousafzai, I AM MALALA

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