It is hard to describe to someone what my job is and what I do during the day. I spend a lot of time thinking. It may look like I’m doing nothing, but there is a lot going on.
I’m doing work on my own book, and work with another survivor on a comprehensive book for use in classrooms and other settings to try and explain the complexities of abuse. We are trying to address all forms of abuse – rape, incest, date rape, stalking, child sex trafficking, ritualistic abuse, and all the other forms we can think to address. To do that kind of work, I need to keep reading and talking to people who have experienced these different horrors and survived. I need to think about those who have not survived.
I also manage our household. It is definitely a partnership, but I have a more adjustable time schedule so I can make calls about things, do the shopping, do a lot of the errands that keep our household going.
In the summer, Jeff and I do a lot of gardening. We love every minute of it and it gives me a different space in which to think up posts and ideas to help survivors tell their stories and gives me energy to keep giving others hope. It allows me to recharge and do the rewarding, though sometimes draining work that I do.
One of the most rewarding parts of my job is listening to the stories of others. It is also the hardest part sometimes because I want to just hug them and hug away their pain. It isn’t always appropriate to do that because I need to respect others’ boundaries and always try to ask if I can hug them. It certainly is not appropriate for me to try and take on the pain of others for my own sake or for their healing, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to sit with them through it.
A lot of the information I deal with and receive on a daily basis is also confidential. When I am contacted by another survivor, I let Jennifer know because we are partners, but we both understand that the details of conversations I have and she has are not necessarily important to convey to each other. It’s just a boundary that we talked about when we started writing together.
It is an honor for me to sit with another, even over the computer and hear stories that sometimes have never been uttered before. Honor is a strange choice of words perhaps. I am not excited to hear their story, but I am honored to be part of the hearing of it. I do not like to hear the pain of others, but I am humbled and grateful that they are sharing and I can help hear them into speech.
I know I’ve used that phrase before and I can’t take any credit for it. It was said to me by one of my primary listeners. He heard my pain and listened. That is one of the best gifts I have ever been given. It is one of the greatest things I could ever hope to pass on to another who is in pain.
My job does not necessarily lend itself to pleasant conversation. People will ask me what I do and first of all it’s hard to explain, but it is also hard for others to hear. I went to the doctor over the summer for a test and the person administering the test said, “And what do you do?” I told her and she looked seriously uncomfortable – the uncomfortable that makes one contemplate turning and running from the room. It could have been part of her history and made her uncomfortable, or it could have just made her really uncomfortable.
That is also an issue of what I do. I never want to hurt another person by talking about what I do. It may strike their own pain and they may not be as vocal about it as me. At the same time however, I want to encourage everyone to speak and keep speaking. Silence doesn’t help anyone but the abuser; but that never makes speaking easy.
As part of my thinking, I sometimes wonder if I need to be out more, speaking, doing advocacy work, talking with people. My life does not necessarily lend itself to that at this point.It is a dream I will keep exploring, but for now, I sit and write and think. Listen and dream, and hope. Jennifer and I are working on workshop platforms. We are also continuing the Signs of Hope. We want to keep adding inspiring pictures and more languages in which to share the message “You are Not Alone” and “It is Not Your Fault.” We are also working on a page called “Abuse Facts” and one called “Abuse Myths.” There’s still a lot of work to be done, but we do it a little at a time and both of us keep thinking and hoping.
Hard to explain, but definitely not a bad job.
We would love to hear about your dream job and why it may be hard to explain. We hope you get to do it! Dream big, friends! You never know when that dream just might come true.