Today is a day of remembering, a day of sadness, a day of hope. It is a day that encompasses many things and many feelings for so many.
As you go through the day, please know that whatever you are feeling is valid. Throughout the business of the day, take time, even five minutes to feel what you are feeling and sit with it for a minute. The feelings are part of who you are.
Today, I feel jangled. That’s the best word I can think of and even that doesn’t feel quite right. I don’t feel anxious, but I don’t feel relaxed. I just feel a little on edge. I’ve cried at commercials, at posts on Facebook, and thoughts in my own head. I’ve smiled at my husband, seeing some relatives on the news talking about eating more fennel, and at my cat, curled up next to me as I type.
I remember the words from Alan Jackson’s song. They strike me today and on so many other days. “Do you feel guilty ’cause you’re a survivor? In a crowded room do you feel alone?” If I stop long enough to look at my feelings, I have always felt slightly guilty that I’m a survivor, but now I feel more honored. I don’t have much room left to feel guilty because I have no reason to feel guilty. Surviving isn’t a bad thing.
What Jennifer and I do, trying to tell our stories and encouraging others to tell theirs as well, there is no guilt. What we hope to do, at the end of the day, is help one more person move through the pain. As you know, we write pretty specifically about being survivors of sexual abuse. That is the focus of our work, but on the wings of hope that surround that work, we hope that every person every where can learn to move through their pain. The pain of which I speak is primarily emotional, but can cause physical pain.
People have all kinds of emotional pain for which many have no name or understanding. Getting in touch with that pain is, well, painful. It’s scary. It’s hard. It sometimes requires crying so hard you can’t stop and needing a Kleenex so badly to wipe your nose, but not having one, so you improvise and use a sock. Or you just let it go.
It requires mourning and anger and acknowledgment of all the hard things you have known. It requires fear and change. It requires trust. But most of all, it requires that tricky, dangerous little thing called hope.
When asked why they never look out the window, prisoners sentenced to long terms in prison, have said they don’t look out the window because they don’t want to see anything that will give them hope. They don’t want to see a bird or a flower. They don’t want those stirrings of hope to infiltrate their cell, or their soul. Sometimes something different is too much to hope for.
But hope we must.
It may never happen that childhood sexual abuse is completely stopped in the world. War may never end. Domestic violence may never end. Bullying may never be stopped. But I know if I never hope for it to stop and others don’t hope for it to stop, our voices won’t be strong enough to shout against these things and they will go on unchecked. And we will be left feeling guilty and sad. And hopeless.
Having felt guilty, sad and hopeless, I know that is no way to live a life. You probably know it’s hard to live that way. And while it isn’t nearly that simple as just to be hopeful, I encourage you to find five minutes in your day to look for hope. Post one less sad story. Play one less oppressive or violent game. Say one less sarcastic thing. For five minutes, invite hope in.
It will be scary and painful and won’t always work out well, but start small. Hope may be all we have.
What are you going to do today to invite in hope?