Dear Beautiful Women of ESME,
A broken wing doesn’t mean you can’t fly. Eight years ago, I wrote those eight words to myself, tucked neatly inside the lines of a poem called “Memories of a Survivor” in my journal. I was writing that poem in an effort to encourage a woman who could no longer see herself or see a way out.
That woman was me.
Today, I share those words with you at the risk of sounding cliché and making it seem as though a few words could ever scratch the surface of what it means to survive abuse. Whether the abuse is physical, mental, verbal, or financial . . . there’s no quick fix. As a Solo Mom, the trials we face daily can weigh us down. But to deal with the turmoil of relational abuse in addition to all we carry is an uphill battle. Not only is the very act horrifying and devastating but also we are encumbered with the great responsibility of leaving for the safety and well-being of our children.
We have so many unanswered questions and so much fear about what lies on the other side: Where will I go? Who can I trust? And what about the feelings of shame and guilt? Some of us turn to our closest friends and family members and are met with victim blaming. More of the same. More judgment and less patience and support. We are labeled “Stupid” and accused of “being OK with it.” People really have no idea.
And then there is the hope our partner will change. That we can help this person get better. That we cannot and should not abandon this person or leave this person to battle his or her demons alone. And where are we to go, with no money or resources? What about the kids’ schooling? How can we make a plan to escape this without interrupting their normal routines?
Sometimes what we need most is time. Although every second could potentially turn into several seconds we are losing from our lives, it takes time to unravel ourselves from the tangled web of a toxic relationship. It takes personal work, inner growth, and a willingness to believe that a better life awaits us.
As a writer, I’m extremely fond of acronyms. Two of my personal favorites are FEAR, or False Evidence Appearing Real; and SHIFT, or Should Highly Inspire Fresh Thinking. Sometimes we have to literally think new thoughts about old things. We have to be open to challenging ourselves, if only just a bit, and realize that no one can advocate or take action on our behalf like we can. Perhaps we need to surround ourselves with people who think differently from us, people who create positivity wherever they go. Those kinds of people can be beacons of light. And although their happiness might sting you a bit a first, be willing to be uncomfortable. A shift is likely taking place.
What I love most about ESME is that there are resources available and a vast range of others’ experiences to draw from. No matter where you are, you can find support and connection in another Sister’s journey. I am a survivor who is alive and thriving, but I worked very hard to get myself and my children to this point. For me, the hardest part was after I left. It was all the feelings of displacement and uncertainty. It was having to face head-on not only what I had been through in the relationship but also why and how I’d gotten to that point in the first place. That was the discomfort I needed to lean into in order to grow.
Today I offer up the bits of wisdom and encouragement that I have gained from my journey.
I am no longer ashamed or afraid of sharing my story. Because that’s just it, it’s my story, and I own it. My life’s story did not end or begin with the domestic violence—and the same is true for you. You are not defined by what you’ve been through.
No matter where you are in your journey, take heart. It takes a brave woman to keep showing up for herself and her kids in the midst of pain. No matter how difficult, you are still here. You are reaching out for connection and guidance. You are not alone, and these circumstances will not always last.
My vision for this space is to create a nurturing, safe haven full of authenticity and audacity. I believe that, despite where you are today, you are destined for something great. At ESME, we believe that an empowered woman can move mountains. We believe that healing is a process. We also believe that every woman deserves to live a life she loves, free of harm and full of inspiration and hope.
If someone had nudged me eight years ago and told me that even in the midst of my traumatic experiences, I was being prepared for something amazing or had whispered to me that my best days were ahead of me—I wouldn’t have believed him or her. But I’m glad I kept going anyway.
And now I’m here with you and for you.
So on behalf of ESME, allow me to welcome you with open arms and an open heart. I look forward to connecting with you.