Thursday, 22 September 2016

Walking a Mile with Elizabeth Freeman

~ by Laura Naomi
"At first glance, I thought the red stiletto was letting us know about a fashion show and how high heels, although amazingly sexy, can become very uncomfortable after a long night. I kept seeing these signs on the side of the road, and then my curiosity got the better of me. I stopped and saw it was something called “Walk a Mile”
Now, I have sometimes hesitated in the past to even mention the disrespectful way human’s treat each other. The signs indicated an event about walking a mile in “her” shoes, whomever she may be, yet she has experienced abuse in some form. I sat with this feeling inside me and reflected on how I have found my voice in recent years around this topic.

After a few weeks, I decided I’d like to join the Walk. Yet, I did not want to join as a disempowered woman. It was rather as a woman who does not tolerate disrespect in any shape or form anymore. The event was being held by The Elizabeth Freeman Center and I felt inspired to join in a creative capacity. This was my way of finding my voice - art, music and writing. I would never have attended such an event if it weren’t for the support of my husband and for those very close to me who I am eternally grateful for. It can be a very long and deeply painful road and to find the courage to confront the immense shame can be like wearing a really uncomfortable pair of stilettos. Blisters, cuts, aches and twisted ankles. As it was, although I was taking photos and admiring how the organisers had turned the walk into something quite fun and light-hearted, I observed a part of me still felt very uncomfortable. This was the first time I had ever raised my voice, in public no less about Domestic Violence. It was a vulnerable space. If it weren’t for the support, I would have stayed home. As we walked, I felt a familiar energy to shy away and keep it a secret and so every time I felt this, I turned to my camera and channeled that energy into creating something artistic. 

Where I can create something beautiful out of something destructive, my heart beams with joy. This is the magic of transforming an ugly aspect of humanity, into something incredibly beautiful and healing. 

If I did have the courage to reach out to someone, usually because I trusted them, I experienced interesting responses. One of course was the “Why did you stay? It’s your fault for staying”. This can be a highly destructive and critical comment and is filled with judgement. To judge a situation can deepen the wound and shame. It is never straight forward and there can be so much underlying a situation. It is important to know that each circumstance is different and I feel it is most beneficial to approach it with this patient understanding. The shame is the worst and the emotions that cloud the shame. And when one is in it, it does not make any sense at all no matter how one tries to rationalise it. The most important aspect for me was reaching a place of worth inside that no one else had access to and it required digging deep.

One other main reason I never wanted to talk about it was that people would box me. They would label me and make assessments and judgements on my character and my entire life. Being dismissed and shelved brings up feeling of being excluded and banished from society or community. And to maintain the “secret” and remain in denial is like setting out on a trek across the Himalayas only to realise you’ve completely forgot your thermals, ski boots, jumpers, jackets, goggles, toque….. water!!! *sigh* 

Many years ago, I recall my Papa talking about self worth and how without it one is not living. 

And so I walked. We turned up and I carried my camera being over-polite to not offend anyone. But then I realised I was among those who had been through hell and back, who were looking into each other’s eyes with love and an unmistakable respect along with a raw finger-nails-on-a-blackboard honesty. It’s out in the open, it’s being talked about, people are actually listening, they are not running away. A woman spoke with a fierceness in her eyes and fire in her spirit and I loved every minute. I heard a man reading poetry and saw how it moved the audience and it still rings in my heart. These were the words of human experiences of intensity and reality. Abuse is happening everywhere and it does not discriminate.

Most men walked a mile in high heels (I saw one elderly man running in his heels towards the Finish sign!) and as people crossed the finish line there were cheers and a collective celebration. On the map, the township of Pittsfield doesn’t look big but the hearts spoke loud enough for the whole world.

I still love my heels but perhaps the next pair will be some sturdy hiking boots with tread."

Elizabeth Freeman Center:

© copyright 2016, Laura Naomi 

View Laura Naomi's Art Portfolio on: Behance

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