Everything I do in my life, it seems, has to do with storytelling.
I suppose there’s no surprise in this since it is my belief that all humans are innately drawn to telling tales—tall as well as true. It’s the human way to make sense out ofwhat happens in life from the good to the bad, and everything in-between. It’s how we inspire and motivate others, how we survive and thrive as well as dominate and destroy.
Journey to Freedom is my story. Sometimes the telling is egocentric, sometimes it is how others inspire me. Always it is about relationship, whether it is self to Self, self to others, self to Universe, or others to others.
However, there is an undercurrent to my story—the struggle for freedom—emotional, financial, expressive.
The exploration of freedom as a state of being is a lifelong endeavor for me as it is for the human race. Truth be told, I really never would have thought about this had I not experienced heightened forms of freedom’s antitheses—violence, victimization, worthlessness, despair. I sum these all up in a single word: imprisonment.
Imprisonment began for me at the tender age of 5 out of the tragically common human experience of sexual abuse by a trusted adult. In my case, that adult was my father. Even though I somehow ended his sexual attacks just days after they began, he became my jailer and I fitted my prison cell with the rigid bars of isolation and secret keeping.
A few years later my experience of being imprisoned extended to others. I learned my friends and schoolmates suffered other forms of abuse—my next-door neighbors endured regular beatings at the hands of their parents. Other kids suffered in families addicted to alcohol, drugs and sex, peppered with domestic violence, all kept in place with the ironclad walls of poverty. We all, in turn, took our rage out on each other. Few days passed between the ages of 8 and 12 when I did not have a fistfight, or found myself outrunning bullies armed with knives. I felt like an outsider, alone, vulnerable, uncared for. I thought it was my duty to be strong, to protect and defend myself, as well as others who needed protection—the younger and the weaker, especially the victims of my father, for I also found out he was sexually abusing other young girls.
Somewhere in the middle of my 12th year on earth, the American Indian Movement occupied the place where we lived (a famous historical site in South Dakota called Wounded Knee). They took my family and I hostage, humiliating and terrorizing us.
My sense of being a prisoner became complete. I knew then I truly had no voice and no representation in life. I could protect no one, not my mother, my pets, my friends, and certainly not myself.
My every attempt to break out met resistance from others and myself. Giving up my dreams became a twisted form of survival—my dreams became my personal crown of thorns—too painful for extended wear, yet I would never be free of it and lived with despair hidden just below the surface of my life.
All this, and more, remain with me, even to this day.
I no longer want to be imprisoned. Even though I see the prison for what it is (my own construction) I cannot seem to stay outside those walls for very long. My prison is somehow comfortable-it serves a vital purpose in keeping my identity alive-and honestly, I have led a full and intriguing life because of it.
But my life has remained unfulfilled-partially anyway...I have drunk deeply of the powerful elixir of my relationships–I count myself among the most fortunate to be so well loved and to love so well. I am blessed with talent and in pursuing my talents; art, writing, leading others to power through transforming their own stories; I have tasted bits of freedom. Freedom has shown up in unexpected–and expected–ways. By contributing to others I have the power to shift the context and output of my life. I say to the people in my communities: who I am is an artist whose work makes a profound difference in life. Here I keep my focus. Here is where on those mornings when I awake to the thorny crown, I am able to progress through my day by transforming it into a fragrant and beautiful ring of flowers adorning my head.
Journey to Freedom is a way for me to process the experiences and stories I have of life. It is my testament to the power of art. The power of intention. The power of free will. The power of a commitment to thrive. It is meant to reveal my tender underbelly, dissolving the bars of my solitary confinement.
One Final Note of Gratitude and Thanks
Many mornings I wake with two questions on my mind: Who am I? And what is the value of my life? The truth is I have no concrete answers for either question, except those arising from my past experiences.
But I have noticed in my family, with friends and the people I meet, the answers I manufacture about my own worthlessness have no affect on their opinion of my worth. To them I bring a multitude of experiences andcontributions and there is no question of my worth. To them I am who they see in the moment and I am of great value. So it is through them I listen for the answers I hold in the deepest part of myself...I am me, I am precious, I belong.
I thank my children, former husband and my mother for loving me, loving me, loving me from each day to the next. To my closest girl friends I say “Bravo my Divine Divas, you are the light that guides me to celebrating my voluptuous self!” To all my other friends–men, women, boys and girls–my deepest gratitude for enticing me onto the playground to be part of this intriguing game of hide-and-seek. “...99,100. Ollie, ollie, oxen free!”