Domestic violence sucks. I don’t say that as someone jumping on a politically correct bandwagon with all that is happening in the media these days (inasmuch as these things can be “trendy”). I’m not about to get political – I’m about to get real.
Did I lose you with that statement? Domestic Violence is not a comfortable or sexy topic du jour. There is a lot of opinion, fear and blame that surround this subject (too much “he said/she said,” right?). I don’t choose to dwell in the negative – I have too much life to live! But denying my life story is for me akin to sweeping it under the rug and hoping it will never happen to anyone else. I know the odds are against this, and so I write this column.
This is ultimately about claiming your right to a hope and a future. This is about not letting any person or any entity make you believe that you are small, worthless and only able to function within the confines of their brokenness. How do we get to that point? It can happen to anyone; I’m talking about men and women, boys and girls. I’m talking about old and young. I’m talking about you.
The heart of Barefoot Athletic Company’s mission is to give back; to be a positive, supportive community, and to make the road a little easier for others. I post an awful lot about encouragement and inspiration – not because I am some self-actualized guru who has it all figured out, but because I am an overcomer who strives to make each day count. It is because still sometimes the suffering of this world compounds on the experiences of my past, and threatens to blanket me in a paralyzing sadness and I need to remind myself to keep pushing on. I’m not the only one who has had huge mountains to climb, and I take great comfort and inspiration in the words of those who made their mind up to carry on and live gloriously in spite of crushing obstacles.
October is domestic violence awareness month. We recently had a booth at the Cycle the WAVE (Women Against Violence Everywhere) cycling event and fundraiser, where there was rousing music, good food, laughter and fun under piercing blue skies! But though the atmosphere was joyous and upbeat, there was the common awareness that the reason for that gathering had much darker undertones. I am smiling in all the photos, but there is a part of me, of my children, that knows too much now. That bell cannot be unrung. We know too much about human nature, and we also know intimately that there are still government sanctioned systems/agencies operating in certain areas that prey off of cases like ours – that make a heap of money off of women and children in peril. If you dare to try to protect yourself, you will be punished into silence. Abused by your abuser, abused by the system. The resulting hopelessness, despair, helplessness and anguish are life shattering.
My children deserved more. They deserved more than what society tried to tell me they deserved. Subscribing to the notion that an abusive parent is better than no parent is an outright lie. Kids are resilient, they say. But kids are not resilient in a way that allows them to live the life they deserve. If resilience means still standing, that is setting the bar pretty low. If resilience means being reduced to the walking wounded with no sense of what love looks like; with an overwhelming sense of powerlessness, worthlessness and despair, then shame on us. Here’s the no-brainer folks: children take those scars into their future relationships. Those feelings and emotions impact the decisions they make for their futures, and what they feel they deserve. The cycle continues. Duh.
I came from a good and loving family. I had a great childhood. I was a successful student and athlete. I was a feisty achiever. I am also a kindhearted and sensitive person; I care deeply for people and believe in second chances. And it happened to me. And even though it took me too long to understand what was happening, when it came to affecting my children, all bets were off. My kids got one chance at a childhood, at growing up, at setting the stage for a loving and successful future. Not negotiable. And our time on this planet was not meant to be spent in fear and suffering. So I fought. With every ounce of my being I fought for my freedom, and for the freedom and futures of my children. You would not believe in how many ways the world at large can conspire to keep you captive, but you must not accept anything less than your authentic life as it was meant to be lived. Will it be easy? Nope. Is it worth it? A thousand times yes.
So what of all this talk of domestic violence? How does it impact you, and why should you care? I think that when as a society the powerful continue to victimize, and the broken continue to perpetuate their brokenness, we need to be aware and be committed to breaking that chain. What creates the desire to hurt and demean others? I think its mostly pain and fear – the pain of not being heard or acknowledged or valued at some early point in life. Of not feeling loved or as if you matter, and having to seize your power in whatever means possible later on to dull the pain. If I am right about some of that, then there are things we can do to make ourselves a more successful, powerful and loving community of people.
Parents, I implore you: Listen to your children. Pay attention to them, and show and tell them that you care. Love them and guide them and show them that they matter. Make them know that you are there as they venture out into the world, and be their rock. They didn’t get a choice about coming into this world, and it is your obligation to give them the tools and confidence they need to move forward and be a positive influence in the world. I know it’s hard when you have so many responsibilities, I know that. but please commit to this, and watch what beautiful things happen.
Be kind in your own interactions, and do not tolerate bullying. If you see someone hurting or struggling, offer an ear or some loving direction. Please be compassionate; you’ve heard it before, but everyone is struggling with something. Have faith. How can you be faithless in a world so astounding? I say this not as someone who hasn’t known struggle, but someone who has. Believe. And mostly, trust in your ability to advocate for yourself and for others who struggle. Have faith in your ability to make a difference, and strive to make even one person’s day a bit brighter. The magic of that is you will find yourself also uplifted!
Today my kids are amazing, accomplished, loving people. Barefoot Athletic Company was born, and has opened our world in amazing ways! Sure, we have this thing that happened to us, but it is our choice to not let it define us. Our ability to withstand that time has taught us that we are stronger then we knew, and that we have the ability to dream our dreams and shape our lives in ways that are meaningful to us.
Your life and your time on this earth is sacred and worth fighting for. I can’t help but believe that we can make a difference; I won’t stop believing that. Make it cool to be kind. Thanks for reading.
Tracy Strandness, Owner/Founder