Let gratitude be your guide

I have been back from Colorado for two weeks.

The dust has settled.

For a moment there, I was wrestling things of the past. I was barely eating. Insomnia was back with a vengeance. I was on a Netflix, business, fill every second binge that ended with a crying jag on the way to a superhero movie with my husband.

I’ve filled my fridge (and my body) with healthier food. I am still struggling to get back on a legit sleeping routine but the tension of struggling to disappear from my past is lifting. The acceptance is coming back to replace the struggle to make it not be.

I’ve been having trouble deciding how to explain the experience of the trip. I’m still not sure how to write it all down. Regardless, I started today.

I sat on my porch and enjoyed a sunny morning of writing.

As a side note, the wisteria I planted has decided to stay. It’s little green vines are hugging the railing on my steps. I think we are going to be good friends.

Today, for you, I’ve decided to start in the middle.

I am going to start at the most important moment.

When the words that I had been holding behind my back the entire time I’d been in Colorado stumbled out.

I am going to begin with the moment I reached across the table for my teacher, grasped her hand and said,

“You saved me.”

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Me, Rue and the hands of my past teacher and my recent contemporary, Lisa Griffin.

 

I’ve been holding this photo quietly.

Jena quickly snapped this shot and sent it to me after the meal. It’s one I couldn’t share right away.

It was such a profound moment for us all.

For those of you who don’t remember, I went to Denver, Colorado to see my teacher Lisa Griffin (formerly Mrs. Pease) and kick off the beginning of the Soulfire 2015 Calendar for The Firecracker Foundation. She was the first person I told about the sexual abuse I had suffered at the hands of my own father when I was just 6 years old. It continued until his death when I was 8 years old and I disclosed to her when I was 9.

You can read more about that here, here and here.

We were eating at an authentic Korean restaurant that is reminiscent of one we both loved to dine at when we lived in El Paso.

The conversation was deep and heavy. We had a private room and the memories unfolded. The dark parts of who my father was and how he treated me were shared. We discussed my telling her and how she reacted. Lisa* told me things I didn’t remember about that time.

She said of my mother,

“I could see the horror on her face.”

The horror.

I don’t think that phrase will ever leave me.

She gave me heartbreaking insight into some of my father’s behavior that made me ugly cry in a room full of people and inspired her husband to come place his arms around my shoulders to remind me that I was safe.

I was safe but sometimes when you step into your past, you forget that you can just as easily step back into your beautiful present.

The trip began with excitement and lightheartedness.

I was a little surprised at how emotional the undertaking was.

Probably because deep down, I truly do believe that I can handle anything.

Ha. It’s true I suppose but that doesn’t make it easy, grasshopper.

As of today, I am unpacking all that I experienced. I am looking through the photos and thinking of all of the ways this experience has changed me.

As I was wandering through Denver with friends new and old, drinking mimosas, taking funny pictures, eating delicious donuts, hiking in the Rockies and skating with a different team, I kept saying one thing to myself.

Let gratitude be your guide.

As I contemplated what brought me to seek Lisa out, I thought about how perfectly she was placed for me. I thought about how it was impossible to know at the age of 9 that she was working to serve survivors and that she was a survivor herself. I thought about our connection and how much her laugh, her sense of humor is still the same. I was grateful that my heart was tied to my teacher’s in a way that made me bold.

I have said thank you and in that expression, I have learned much about my past and in some ways, I believe I have learned a lot about my future.

Follow your gratitude. Find the people, the places, the things that have served you and honor them.

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Tourist like a boss.

Whisper through smiling tears, “You saved me.”

In your words, you will inspire people to continue to make their difference in a world of people you may never know.

Thank you. You saved me. I felt rescued.

Words that encourage the rescuers, the saviors, the finders of the lost and the healers of the broken.

Say them. Write them.

Make a record of the rights in a world of wrongs.

It’s safe to go back for this kind of baggage. It’s appropriate to make this kind of upgrade.

I promise.

With gratitude,

Tashmica

 

Quick Draw McPease

I remember a lot of things about Mrs. Pease.

I remember that she laughed hard and often. She had short curly hair that she parted to one side. When a fly had the gall to sneak into our classroom, she would adopt the persona of Quick Draw McPease and hunt it down with a fly swatter. We all giggled watching her stalk the tiny buzzing intruders.

In the fall, when we all had the sniffles, she would conduct an orchestra and point to us when we were supposed to sniff, cough or sneeze on cue with the music. I’m going to bet that the halls of North East Christian Academy never sounded so ill. ;)

One day, we had a special presentation about abuse. The presenter talked about neglect, physical and verbal abuse. It was the first time I recognized what had been happening as something universally frowned upon. The sexual abuse had felt wrong but I was confused and disillusioned by years of lies and manipulation.

At the end of the presentation, the presenter asked us all to put our heads down on our desk, close our eyes and raise our hands if we wanted to talk about any abuse we had experienced.

Listen.

My momma didn’t raise no fool.

There’s always some jerk watching during an altar call. I didn’t know this person and I was for sure not sharing even the smallest morsel of my secret with this stranger, if that was his real name.

After he left, our day went on. I felt like I should say something but to whom? I sat in my desk thinking through the possible scenarios. I thought through all of the threats and realized that because my father was a year dead and in the ground many would likely not be possible. I watched Mrs. Pease and wondered if she would believe me.

I raised my hand as my classmates worked through their assignments.

“Can I talk to you alone?”

She said yes and walked me out into the hallway.

I don’t remember crying exactly. I don’t even remember what I said. I just know that she was there and she told me that we needed to tell my mother. I was terrified. The cat was now out of the bag.

The rest of the day was suspense on meth. Mrs. Pease called my mother in for a meeting. I thought my chest was going to close up and cut off my air supply. I waited to die.

When my mother arrived I sat down in a chair next to her and Mrs. Pease. I remember looking down at my feet. I felt so small. I was so small.

Mrs. Pease probably tried to prepare my mother. I don’t remember that part. I just remember her asking me, “Do you want to tell your mom or would you like me too?”

I asked her to and then, just as my mother heard those hard words, I begged her not to hate my daddy.

I was still so worried for him.

I remember a lot about Mrs. Pease.

I remember one thing the most.

She stood by me. Even in the midst of delivering some of the worst news my mother will ever hear, she stayed with me.

She also listened, believed and advocated.

Somehow, her physical presence and support is what I remember the most.

So now, I am thinking through the right questions to ask my old school to get the answers that I want.

What I really want to know is, where is she now?

She is just one of many women who saved my life and I would like to say thank you.

If you happen to be from El Paso and know who she is, I would be over the moon to talk to her again. Spread this. Share with your friends. Ask around.

Help me thank her.

Desperately Seeking Quick Draw McPease,

Tashmica