What is it that makes me so confident that what I am doing and what I have done over these last 3 years or so is what I am meant to be doing to heal myself? Is it worth all that I have given up, given away or even pushed out of my life? How do I know and can I ever really know for sure?
What I do know is that I am healthy and am working towards being even more healthy in all areas of my life. I know that I am alive because of the changes, decisions and challenges that I have faced and that a life without rough spots is not the life I want to live. I know that there are others in the world who have faced much more challenging and hard decisions and are doing much “bigger” things in the world and but I know my story is just as relevant to tell as theirs is. I know that when I decided to start living from my heart and inner truth it created tension within the major relationships in my life but that it was that which helped me see my own worth through creating my own community of love and support the way I needed it. I have seen the power of friendship and that family doesn’t have to mean blood. I have seen the support unfold before my eyes to keep me going on this journey and it is because I have cracked open the self-love jar that I am able to allow it into my life. There is no doubt in my mind or heart that I am on the right path and that I will be supported in this journey for the rest of my life.
It is through real life experience that I am able to witness my growth first hand and it is in these moments that I am further shown proof that what I am doing is right for me. A big part of my healing right now has to do with men and speaking up for myself. I have a history of abuse in various ways, at varying degrees with various types of relationships and people (men and woman). Through my process of healing I discovered that because of past experiences I learned to live in a constant state of “Fight or Flight” which caused me to respond inappropriately to actual danger and as well as non-dangerous situations. One example of this in my mid 20’s was an incident in which I was being strangled by a patient on an evening shift one night and instead of doing what I could to get away I froze and thought only of how I didn’t want to hurt the man that was doing the act. Then around that time I began to live in quite a bit of fear and would yell and swear at anyone who made me feel remotely vulnerable, including the cashiers at the Grocery store. I slowly became a very mean, suspicious and fearful person all because I felt out of control of my emotions, had been hurt and had not received proper help to deal with this and other events. My body was just trying to protect me and this had major impacts on my physical health as well as mental. It also lead me to be the my own worst enemy as I was acting in a way that made me very vulnerable to things that were actually harmful to me.
So, how does this relate to me being in Rwanda…….well, I am offered so many opportunities to put into practice the inner strength I have developed and to see where I have grown and where I need to put more energy. Four examples in the last 2 days have shown me my progress and my strength. It starts with really simple actions such as bartering with the Moto drivers for a fair price on a ride across town. For most North American, we like to be told how much and to just pay it but that is not how it works here. As I gain experience from going places around town I am gathering info about how much it actually costs so I feel more confident in myself asking for what is fair. What I am loving is watching myself stand up for what I know is right. It is almost like a part of me steps back and just lets this confident voice come out and say “Ouya, 800, 800!” and if they say no then I just wave my hand and walk away. It is fun to watch them come back agreeing to the price moments later when they see I am serious about not getting ripped off and each time I am proving to myself that I am confident and strong.
Another example happened a few days ago as I walked to the pool. There is a bar on the way and a man was dancing outside in the road. As I walked by he grabbed my wrists and starting dancing with me. I felt that old familiar feeling of extreme rage that came from a place of fear and my mind flashed an image of ripping my arms away from his grip, punching him and yelling at him to “Get the Fuck Off of Me!” It was a split second but it felt very real and I had a choice in that moment. I could REACT in a way that did not fit the situation or I could take a breath and RESPOND in a way that felt more appropriate. I watched as I accessed the situation in my mind and knew that I did not want him touching me that way but that I felt safe. There was no need for violence. I relaxed, moved a bit with him and when I went to say “ok, that’s enough” 3 men came and told him to let me go. I walked away processing all that had happened but it wasn’t until much later that I realized how much growth I had just demonstrated to myself! Not only did I feel the reaction of “Fight or Flight” in a situation that could have called for it but I was able to rationally assess whether or not it fit and made a choice.
(This small shack is actually the bar and that is Abbey’s little face peaking out from the corner on our way to “Koga au piscine” – swim at the pool!)
Yesterday I was attending another dance class with Gilbert and was learning some new steps with the young girls in the group. Gilbert is a very gentle, kind spirit and teaches very well. Unlike the Yoga that I practice in which there is no hands on approach meaning no physical contact during the classes, Gilbert would touch, push, move, pull my body into the form that he wanted from me. With my history and my practice of Celibacy, men touching me can be a very powerful experience and evoke a lot of emotional response. As Gilbert put one hand on my chest and one on my upper back, asking me to open up and move my chest I felt, again in a split second, fear -breath-calm, further proof of my healing. He and I have really great conversations about our healing journey’s and he offers me a reality about men that I have very little experience with. It is so important for me to not judge, assume or let past fears hold me back in each present moment. Gilbert offers me a safe space to not only experience male energy in a new way but also open my heart into dance the way I know I can. Thank you Gilbert!
(Three lovely young Rwanda girls practicing for an upcoming performance.)
Once last example and maybe the most solidifying for me of the growth and healing that I have done. Going to the Sauna with Justin. This is along the same lines as a Turkish Bath and requires me to lie down in a dark, hot room and allow a strange man to rub and scrub my ENTIRE body, quite hard. When I say entire body I literally mean entire, inside and out! hmmmmmmm what could that mean. Well it means they scrub every inch of your body including delicate parts and usually in a fairly rough manner. So yesterday I had the opportunity to say “No” when asked “Is that ok?” in reference to a man washing my vulva. I understand it is the culture, I understand it is what is happening to everyone in the room and honestly it had no tone of sexual energy to it at all but I didn’t like it, so I said “NO!”. It was fine and he moved on and finished the massage and respected my words. Justin was beside me and as always says to me “let me know if you need me to tell him anything!” But this time he added “but I trust you have a voice.” That was such a wonderful statement and it gave me such a feeling of confidence in knowing that he believed I was capable to speaking up for myself. This was exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you Justin and Bosco the masseuse!
(This is not the Sauna I am speaking of but is actually the place that I go to on a regular basis for sauna, “regular” massages, and to help teach swimming lessons!)
(This is Justin and Myself on the day we met in person – finally!)
Real life experiences teach the important lessons in life and they are integral to learning and growing into who I am. I am grateful for all that I have done to get me here and I have no regrets about the life I have had as it provides me with great adventure and opportunity for growth!
A big thank you to Sherry Robin for offering to buy me a camera, now I am back in action and look forward to telling my story with photos as well! Thank you Sherry!