witness

“We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet… I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness.”

This quote from Susan Sarandon’s character in Shall We Dance? has always resonated with me. But, for me it’s bigger even than just marriage. I believe that part of my job while I am here on this planet is to listen. As a storyteller, it’s often my honor and responsibility to tell a story or my point of view. But, to me, while that is vital, the hearing of it is the thing.

In the past, I have been entrusted with secrets. For whatever reason, people have often felt that I was a trustworthy, sympathetic ear with sturdy shoulders for crying on and that could bear the burden. It’s hard to be that person. But, I feel honored to help them carry their burden. Because that is often the point, the reason why you want to tell. To open up that box that you’ve been carrying by yourself and share the bearing of the burden with someone.

The hardest stories to bear are usually the ones that most need telling.

A couple of years ago I watched an episode of Oprah about a woman who had been in an abusive relationship with her husband for a very long time. It had gotten to the point where he had involved their children in the abuse. He had their sons call her names and record video of it. She was coming forward on national television to hopefully help other women to make a plan to get out of their situations.

This show tore me up. It was EXTREMELY difficult to watch the videos that their son had made of his father yelling and kicking and calling her names and beating her with things. The reason I watched it was because I felt it was vital to stand in witness of her story. To validate her. To validate her cracking open her soul so that we could avoid the same thing or get out if we identified with it.

In my own life, I have witnessed abuse in my home. It was a long time ago and it didn’t happen to me, but I am still affected by it. I often feel unvalidated by the people involved for the experience I went through. Because it didn’t happen to me, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen to me.

So this is my experience that I brought to me human sexuality class this week. This week the topic was sexual violence and abuse. If you are conscientiously teaching a course on human sexuality, you cannot get around it. This is also one of the reasons my instructor wanted to teach the class. In her previous work history, she had worked as a victim’s advocate. I cannot imagine the things she has witnesses and heard described. To me, part of her job on this planet is to help victim/survivors and to prevent it happening as much as she can.

So we come to this week in the course and she is very clear that if you need to be absent on these days, for whatever reason, you are absolutely free to do so- no questions asked. After each class she gave us the “homework” of doing something good for ourselves. Because she knows that this is heavy stuff.

So, here are the video’s that she showed. I am including them here because I will stand in witness to this girls story. If she has the braveness to tell it- then I think I owe her the braveness to listen. And share it with others if I can. This is a heartbreaking tale. If you aren’t at a place to hear it- don’t. But, if you can, I hope you will.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoZojmN2nnQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lg2ssEyYFKo

So, after my class I went to get a snack and decided to have pudding and go sit by some other students who gather in one study spot between their classes to get cheered up. Because they are hysterical- especially one of them. He’s sort of the catalyst for the others. That worked. So, I went to my art class and had a good day of drawing to help, too.

I entreat you:

Be gentle to yourself and good to one another.

This world can be a hard and scary place. But, we can shine a light in this darkness for each other and increase the love in the world everyday.

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