About a year ago, I wrote an honest post I was scared to make public. I needed to write about it. Mostly for myself, but also because I believe that protecting our children from sexual abuse is something we are not taught to do. Unless we have hauled and trudged our panicked little hearts through the experience of sexual abuse personally, we often don’t have an alarm button that makes us wake up, stand up, become educated and teach our children skills to protect themselves. We just hope it won’t happen to them.
And I don’t think that’s enough.
The response I got once that post hit the big wide web was mixed. It stirred up confusion with some family members about why I would want to divulge such a personal, confronting experience. It made them uncomfortable. It also triggered a whole array of unfinished business to explode to the surface of our lives and force us to face a great deal of pain. Mostly though, it broke the dam on a lot of your lives and you felt connected to a story that was as much yours as it was mine. This, I realized, is the great privilege of story-telling. To have our hearts whisper ‘me too’. To feel a little less alone. To be vulnerable and brave enough to visit a place we have locked the door to, simply because someone else has too.
I received emails from people I had never met — and from people I had. I read stories which made me cry. I made friends with strangers who believed in telling the truth too, and although many of their stories were of sexual abuse, many were not. Some were from mamas who thanked me for opening their eyes and making them aware of this prevalent issue – one they hadn’t given much thought to. Many were stories simply of this big old brutal life, and the tiny, fragile ways they were making their way through it. They were stories about being HUMAN and all the complicated, hypocritical, busted up and hard pages which come with our stories. In the end, these stories were about the great human struggle we face when we confront ourselves and get to know ourselves and STILL LIKE OURSELVES AT THE END. Love ourselves, even. I know, radical thought.
Over the length of about a year, one of these emails turned into a real live friendship, and a few months ago, this real live person magically appeared in my doorway with her great big smile and her great big heart. Her name was Caitlin. We spent five hours together and when she left, I felt gnawing, genuine sadness and decided immediately to pack up my little family and visit her in New Zealand in the next couple of months.
Early last Tuesday morning, our plane landed us back on Australian soil after being away for nearly two weeks, wrapped up in the rugged beauty of New Zealand and the indescribable friendship I had found myself in. Saying goodbye was not easy. It was bloody awful. I cried because I knew how much I would miss her and her boyfriend and the way things were when we were all together. But I also cried because I couldn’t quite believe that something so random as a little story I flung out into the world and a story flung back had created something so important to my life. It made me feel alive and in awe and inspired by the smallest of days and the smallest of acts because the truth is, one ordinary Monday morning might in fact be the beginning of some of the best days of your life, and yet on Sunday night, you had no idea. On Sunday, you went to bed the same as you always did, thinking the same things you always think, pre-empting the same tomorrow you always have. Behind the scenes though, crumbs are being laid out for you — teeny tiny crumbs — in the hope that your eyes are open enough to see them and your hearts are brave enough to follow them and your bellies are hungry enough to eat them.
Isn’t that such an awesome thing to think about?
There will more of this. More crumb-looking. More staying open to opportunities. More curiosity and leaps of faith and steering my life not by plans or maps but by what feels right. I’ve never been one to write out five or ten-year plans. It’s not that I’ve not had goals, or dreams. It’s just that I’ve never been arrogant enough to map out a life based on what experiences or life events I believe will make me happiest and the time in which they should occur. The greatest experiences of my life have happened randomly, when I’ve taken risks and followed hunches. Like falling in love with Joel. Like committing to a pregnancy we neither planned for nor wanted at the time. In the end, these have been the things which have steered my life to great, wild, beautiful, unimaginable directions.
All I’ve had to do is hold on.
So here’s to more. More saying yes. More taking risks. More listening to gut feelings. More awe for ordinary days. More adventure in our hearts. More hunger for unplanned lives. More trust that in the end, those crumbs? They were meant for us.
Caitlin and Matt, thank you for being such incredible crumbs. I can’t look at these photos without tearing up a little. You are greatly missed. TOTES missed.
Friday Phone Dump – My small Instagram happies from the trip. (theredtent if you want to follow the feed)