Updated: Feb 27
As I sit to reflect back on my first birthday here in Canada, which was three weeks or so after I landed in 2013, when nobody wished me a happy birthday. I had no friends yet, and my host family forgot that it was my birthday. Here I am in 2020, and I celebrate the love and the memories of surprise parties, magical birthdays, and delicious home-made-for-me tiramisus. Here I am with friends from across this country, across the world, and in this new city I'm calling “home”.
But it’s not just love, building community and cultivating friendships that I reflect on. But also on the pain from the past that my 24 years old self brought with her alongside her 5 bright pink suitcases.
A year and some months before I arrived in Canada, I was kidnapped by my ex-husband after I filed for divorce. I don’t remember much from the seven days with him. But, I vividly remember him telling me that he would rather cripple me, and take care of me for the rest of his life, rather than divorce me. That he would rather walk me in a wheelchair, clean my body, and change my sheets, rather than let me go, and be in the hands of another man. I vividly remember him sitting on my chest, choking me, leaving a mark on my neck. A mark that the court later never cared for or even acknowledged.
Growing up, I remember hearing my grandmother say that “a woman hits herself.” By that, she means that if a man hits a woman, it’s because of what she has done to “provoke” or “disrespect” said man. Thus, a man does not hit a woman, “a woman hits herself”.
I remember feeling my chest burn and my jaw tighten every time I’ve heard my grandmother say that. I remember glaring at her as she moved on to the next topic of the pain, sadness and misery that she had internalized. I remember refusing that idea. I remember refusing to take on that responsibility. I remember thinking to myself that I am, and we women are not to blame for the violence against us. Yet, my body as it faced that trauma, and as it carried the generational trauma, my body kept the score, and just like my grandmother, I internalized that pain.
For years, I walked heavied by the mock of fear, shame and guilt. I couldn’t open my heart to love again, I couldn’t trust in love. I felt stuck in my head unable to cultivate deep meaningful connections. I walked my days in my head, judging myself for what I said or didn’t say, questioning everything I did, looking to others to give me answers and validations. I read every book I can put my hands on, attended every yoga class, workshop and conference I could trying to find my power. I was able to intellectualize what I needed to do, I just couldn’t get myself to do it.
I thought that was it for me, and I did not know that healing is possible.
Here I am in 2020, and I celebrate my open heart, my radical self love, the lightness and aliveness I feel in my body, my ability to tap into my inner wisdom, to stand in my exuberance and joy, my unleashed wild woman fully standing in my power. Here I am in 2020, and I celebrate not just my healing journey, but that I’m in a place where I am holding safe space for others to heal. Through my business, “I’m All Courage” I guide people of all identities to heal the pain from the past, and reclaim their power from societal or political conditioning and disempowerment. It is perhaps my human way to make meaning of my trauma, and transform it to be my greatest power, but I show up in love and I do it in service to our humanity.
I have this deep belief that when we heal our own bodies, we will heal the world.
I can't help but acknowledge that my healing journey required my money and my time, and so I invested my resources in myself and in my healing. I can't help but acknowledge the privilege to have had the resources to study and do the deep work. I can't help but acknowledge that much of my “accomplishments” from giving a TEDx talk, getting elected to represent BC students to the Provincial and Federal Government, to getting awarded as Top 40 Under 40 by the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce were all because I had the resources to show up to my community in the capacity I did. I can't help but acknowledge that many do not have the resources I had.
Since the pandemic started, our eyes have turned to look and question our “old” ways of being. For many of us, our eyes have turned inward. For many of us, our eyes have turned to the economy, to our own personal loss of income, or perhaps increase of income. For many of us, our eyes were forced to turn towards the injustices and violence of racism, towards the rampant inequalities that have made many communities more vulnerable in the first place. Yet, many many eyes have turned away from the women and children stuck at home where domestic violence numbers have increased by 30% in Canada and around the world.
As we look forward to what’s next, let’s also look behind. Let’s not leave those women and children behind. Those domestic and sexual violence survivors have so much to offer you, to offer me, to offer our society. Many just don’t have the resources, yet.
For my birthday, I ask you to turn your eyes to empowering and supporting domestic and sexual violence survivors. So, what’s your capacity to show up? It might be to donate, it might be to leave a comment, and please know that you are so loved if your capacity is to go and take care of yourself.
My goal is to raise $1000 to fund trauma counseling sessions to support and empower those accessing Elizabeth Fry Society. If I reach that goal with your help, “I’m All Courage” will match your donation.
Today, I choose to put my eyes on love. Today, I choose to put my eyes on hope. Today, I choose to put my eyes on the beauty and radical generosity of our humanity.