We drive through Minnesota and Iowa on our way to Denver for the night. We are starting our journey back to Oakland. It’s hard to believe that we will be home in four days, after being on the road for a month.
Farmlands stretch out around me as far as the eye can see. Large fields of greens and browns, tilled and starting to sprout. Patches of trees, tractors and the occasional buildings. The sweeping, overcast sky is a welcomed relief from the glaring sun.
Our time in the Midwest was short, but full. Yesterday I recorded my last story of the trip, a survivor story from a transracial and transnational adoptee. It was a story, like many of ours, of wishing for something more that never came. It was a story of trying in spite of what is. It was a story about healing, belonging and finding your own way. It was a story about the ownership of children that stretches into child sexual abuse, adoption, war, occupation, imperialism, militarization and family.
These stories swirl inside of me, with different pieces of each continuing to bubble up to the surface throughout my days and nights. I hold the tears and the sighs and the pauses and silence with precious care and a longing heart. I hold the bravery and commitment of each storyteller with every bone in my body that believes that sharing our stories gets us, as one storyteller said, “one step closer to freedom.” I hold the hope, often unrewarded and betrayed, and the Tries woven through these stories with the faithful, unwavering determination that healing is possible which shaped storyteller after storyteller’s journey, including my own.
I believe that healing is possible and I continue to move towards that even when I don’t know how, even when I get knocked down, even when it is hard, even when it gets manipulated, even through the anger and hurt, even when it feels impossible or futile. It is the same relentless commitment that I feel for liberation and ending child sexual abuse. I don’t always know how it will happen or how we will get there, and there are many days when it is hard to sustain hope, but I keep moving towards it, knowing that part of our work to get free is not in knowing all the answers, but in embracing the unknown and continuing to move forward with faith.
Faith continues to be a huge part of this work and all work for liberation. Not in the religious way that faith usually gets associated with, but in the larger, deeper, spiritual meaning of the word. I see the faith of survivors every day: the faith to continue to keep trying with and stay connected to their families, even after betrayal, heartache, attacks, rejection, trauma, abuse and blame, hoping that something more will be possible, hoping for change and not willing to succumb to apathy. The faith of survivors to not be connected to their families’ continued violence, abuse, pain, rage, fear, harassment and blame, knowing that something more is possible, knowing that freedom is on the other side and not willing to settle for the crumbs.
These are the leaps of faith that continue to inspire me. The way we leap, never knowing where we will land, but leaping none-the-less. Knowing that the power and possibility of the leaping is greater than the fear to leap.
Healing, justice, liberation, accountability and love are bound up together. The work we do to heal is ultimately work for justice and accountability and love. The work we do for justice is ultimately work to heal, to be accountable, to be free. The work we do to be accountable, in big and small ways, in our life is ultimately the work of justice, the work of healing and the work of love. At their truest core, they are interdependent on each other and any work for justice that doesn’t include work to heal will never achieve true justice and vice versa.
Our wounds from abuse, violence and harm are not who we are, but they are part of what shape us—and especially when it comes to child sexual abuse, they have fundamentally shaped many of us because we were so young.
I feel so incredibly honored to have gotten to hold and bear witness to so many people’s stories. It is rare to have spaces to share about child sexual abuse or sexual and domestic violence—to really share. To share them in their entirety. To be able to take your time and tell a full story. To be able to have it held.
I will carry these stories with me, everywhere I go. I will remember all the parts that won’t ever be reflected in the recordings; all the quiet moments when the tears were the only words that would come. The cancelations because of panic attacks, fear, nervousness and emotional break downs. The love and appreciation, the empathy and compassion. The courage to be vulnerable with your self and someone else, showing parts of you that never get to see the sun light. I will carry with me all of this and the moments when I got to see the meaning of love again and again.