This is a story that is not isolated or unique.
It is of sad truth and hopeful redemption. It is an honest account of friendship of the best kind, and the global connection of strength, grace, and raw female power.
She has been by my side since we were 8 years old. As kids we were inseparable. Her wild energy matched my own. Her family was my second. She was athletic, a harmless trouble-maker, deeply curious, and always down for another sleepover. My dad was our soccer coach and she knew well my competitive outbursts, crying with me after a loss in solidarity. Above all and why I have held onto her through cross-country moves, confusing college years, and challenging adulting moments, she was and still is ambitious, intelligent, silly, and kind.
But now, she needs help.
You wouldn’t recognize her except for the brief moments she regains that mischievous twinkle in her eye as she throws her head back to laugh at her own expense. A subtle, but calculated action, I am learning, that is not casual self-deprecation or humility, but social survival. Survival of her abusive partner. It is easier to laugh off his cutting comments as one-off jokes over a beer with friends.
We, the unknowing friends, saw her laughter as strength, which in a different way it was.
She was strong in her resolve to not show her hurt. She was strong in her desperation to hold onto the remnants of a healthy relationship. She was strong in her efforts to keep the peace.
Though she never showed up at my house with black eyes, her luminous spirit has been badly bruised. She was living in an unsteady, unstable, dependent and verbally, emotionally and spiritually abusive relationship for two and a half years.
And she is not alone in her story.
To her and ALL women who have found themselves in this type of relationship, I encourage and demand you to STAND UP.
STAND in your power! STAND in your worthiness! STAND in your self-love! STAND in your intelligence! STAND in your capabilities! STAND in your truth!
You are more powerful than you think. You have the power to receive only the love you believe you deserve. And you deserve it all. After years of abuse, I know you are lost and confused in what deserving looks like: What do I deserve? Maybe if I am nicer to him, or cook him dinner, or wear the right clothes, he will change. He will want me. He will appreciate me.
This damaging mindset is the cycle of abuse.
And even if I am the only one to say this to you today, listen: YOU DO NOT NEED HIS APPROVAL.
You deserve to have your cake and eat it too–without him saying otherwise. Savor that damn cake, and know in your mind, heart and soul that you are beautiful, sexy, and more than anything, capable to land on your feet and THRIVE.
This all starts with self-love. Fall in love with yourself all over again. Get back to that carefree child who sees no limits, who wants to scale a wall because that boy down the street dared you. Prove them ALL wrong by loving yourself so intensely that YOUR wall of love is impenetrable by his words, scoffs, judgments, and fists. Reclaim your joyful love of life.
You are meant to be in this state of joy. This is your natural human state–not fear, not panic, not anxiety, not even love, but JOY. Be joyous in wherever your crooked path brings you. The best adventures are when you are slowly finding your way, taking each blind curve with enthusiasm and inquisitive excitement.
You are now at that turn…you have the strength to pull away and see the shadows only in your rearview mirror. Leave the self-doubt and self-deprecating laugh behind.
Unsteady at first, your stride will lengthen, strengthen, and out-pace the you of the past. With conviction step into your light.
We are ALL with you. So STAND up. You got this.