Safety

It’s something we want to always feel. It means so much to so many people.

Today’s been such an emotional day. A lifelong friend who was incarcerated two decades ago, walked out, free, and was finally reunited with his family, as of about 9 am this morning. His son, now an adult, snapped a picture of his father this morning and shared it with me. I love their entire family as if they were my own…it’s been such a blessing to have had them in my life the last 27 years.

In my friend’s eyes, I saw such pain and such relief, an almost disbelief…raw, numbness. It made me think of how a person must feel when they lose their legs. When the moment comes, immediately after the crisis is behind them, when they feel so scared because they know the ground beneath their feet will never feel quite the same. When the realization hits them, they think they can never be able to do the things the neighbor down the street with two legs – with a lifetime of never questioned certainty – can do.

I want to tell my friend, you can make it, and it’s OK to feel like you can’t move during the days ahead when you don’t know how. Half of your life has gone by and the view hasn’t changed out your window. Your legs and feet knew every step of the shadows. It must have felt like an eternity. Minutes feeling like hours, and hours feeling like days, which turned into decades, and for that eternity, your family’s love for you never changed. You have such a support system. Your family, your good friends, have never stopped praying for your safety, for your health, and your freedom. We who knew you before the dark days, wept for you then. The tears of joy are here now, across the miles!

I want to encourage you to write, to sing….to cry…to scream. Cry and scream! It will feel so good. You’ll find your feet, feel the ground in a new way, and your body will move, and your mind will free itself from the last two decades.

You’re safe now. You hear me? God’s got His arms around you. He always has. Keep your eyes forward. Don’t look back, and live everyday knowing you’re treasured.

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The right to vote… freely

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On this voting day, 2012, I’ve been reflecting on what truly stands behind the right to vote in the United States of America. It’s a fragile thing, called freedom. The majority of Americans live under the assumption that if you are born in this country and you exercise your right to vote, that you are doing so, freely.  For the duration of my marriage to my ex-husband, I can honestly say – with confidence – that I was not given that right.

For 17 years I was forced to vote for whoever my ex-husband deemed worthy. Four presidential elections, to be exact. Some people have asked, “How were you forced, when no one has the right to make you choose?”  I answer them by saying “No one has the right to intimidate another human being, whether its simply to bully for their own entertainment, or to coerce someone into choosing an option that better suits the one in control.”  In my case, he would batter me, lecture me for hours until I was exhausted, and then take me to the polls himself and sit right beside me with no partition in between us while I marked the ballot and he marked his – something absurd to me, but for some reason quite normal to a small country town where the voting booth was inside of a church. So much for separating church and state. I made the mistake one election year of standing for my right to choose – voting for who I wanted to win instead of who he wanted. The punishment was hours of physical and verbal battering nonstop, while my children watched. It was a brainwashing experience that left me unable to look in the mirror at myself. I was convinced that I was worthless, the worst mother in the world, the worst wife in the world, and somehow mentally unstable because of my active desire to speak up, be heard, and choose freely.

Whether the case is an abusive man who uses constant battering to control a woman, or simply a church leader, friend, relative, or boss who uses the fear of condemnation to make you choose a certain lifestyle or vote a certain way – it is taking away your freedom. It is reducing the soul to ashes, making a mockery of the bravery of our founding fathers, and it happens….all over the country, everywhere.  Yes, people do vote for the party or candidate that someone else thinks they should vote for. Yes, people are guilty of coercing others into doing so. If you don’t believe me, check out Facebook. Nothing can ever make it right.  It destroys the human spirit.

I would like to speak to all people, who are under the thumb of a tyrant, or who may be in fear of prosecution by their peers, right now – as they go into a voting booth.  If you are being forced or coerced into voting for a certain candidate and you feel like you opinion doesn’t matter, if you are feeling like no one could ever know what you’re going through.  You are not alone. Your opinion matters. Don’t lose faith in yourself. I know what you are going through, I lived it for almost two decades… your agony, your fear, the feeling as your heart turns to stone…as you lose another piece of your dignity. Do not lose yourself in guilt. That thumping in your chest? Your beating heart that wakes you up everyday – It’s called purpose. You are here for a reason.  Things will change. Not because of an election or a vote, but because you are worth it.

Now excuse me, while I go exercise my right – freely, for the first time since 1995.