A Survivor’s Secret: from Shame to Freedom

 “I’m a survivor”. This was a new thought for me. “Serious sexual trauma”, she called it. The words rang in my ears and landed in my soul. Like rocks to the bottom of the ocean. “Survivor, me?!” I kept repeating to myself. Almost like she was informing me of a new reality. 

My back stiffened and I held my head high. “I’m a well adjusted business owner. I’m here to share my story and inspire them. Your ladies. These women who lived in hell.” A hell I was sure I knew nothing about. In that moment I realized, she was me. The woman in front of me. I am her. We, we’re sisters. Now I find my own past volcano erupting. Realizations happening like a pop up story book. 
You see, I’ve never written down my story. This is my pain. I mean, was my pain. Perhaps if I share it with you I’ll heal a little more. Maybe we’ll both heal a little bit more. It began at 9. I was little. I’ve tried not to remember. I can hardly say it above a whisper, that I was molested by a family member until 15 years old. I never talk about it. I didn’t realize until today how I daily make sure that I’m covered and nothing’s hanging out. That I don’t attract too much attention. I even tell people coming to my yoga classes about attire. I’ll say, “Wear whatever you like as long as you feel comfortable and covered.” I didn’t realize until now that comfortable and covered was my life. I’ve been trying desperately not to be seen. Even though I’m seen by hundreds of yoga students and life coaching clients weekly. This seeing is of an intimate nature. You are now seeing my past pain and that feels raw. 
I’ll let you into my life back then. After he’d be done with me I’d take the hottest shower possible. Trying to rinse the dirty feelings off. The dirtiness of being molested that is. It didn’t matter though, they subconsciously stuck to my soul long after the soap washed off. Now I know now why I love scarfs. They keep me comfortable and covered. I can wrap it around me and feel safe. Not used and exposed against my will. I learned early to control everything in my environment. I was and still am defensive if I see a man even look at a woman in a creepy way, because at one time I was her. 
You see I was little. I didn’t know. When I was old enough to know. I felt shame. Deep shame. It was a secret. Kept me silent. I felt dirty, a rag and worthless. My guard was up. Thought of myself as a target. Thinking that people were out to get me, especially men. You see I was little. Innocent. I didn’t even know what sex was. Molestation was foreign to me. Thank God for my sister! She woke my parents up to what was happening. I thought it was my fault, even though he was older than me. I didn’t know how to stop it. 

My shame was so deep that I even yelled at my sister for telling my parents. I was scared of something bad happening to her or even me. “Don’t swing your hands, wear long shorts and don’t be alone with him” they said. Which was hard, because he was at the house a lot. “Did he apologize? they asked. “Yes? Okay, then that’s all he can do.” My Mom, said I could yell for help. “How could I scream when his actions were my fault?,” I’d ask myself confused. 
Like I’d tempted a young man into using my body for his pleasure even though he knew it was wrong. The conversation left me feeling like a dirty secret. Like I was dirt. I was something to be hidden and silent. I’d been conditioned for silence and silent I stayed. Sitting on my hands. Mouth zipped by paralyzing fear. I grew into a young woman who knew how to sit down and shut up. I don’t remember all that was said in the whistleblowing conversation. I just remember walking out feeling like it was my fault. For not being a better girl or yelling or telling them. Or something! 
My parents did the best they could. I bet they didn’t even know what to do. They knew it was wrong. They didn’t know how to stop it. It didn’t stop. Once it was out, I felt worse. An even dirtier secret. I needed my parents to believe and comfort me. A hug. A friend. I needed protectors. I didn’t feel safe around him. I wanted to know I wasn’t alone. Maybe they told me that, I don’t remember.
My experience taught me, abuse occurs from people close to you. Family (like me), close friends and even partners. Shame secrets cannot grow when exposed to light. I’m placing my shame in the light. To parents and guardians of children, the best thing you can do it create an open loving relationship with your kids. So your sons and daughters knows they can come to you with their shame. Live in a way that they know they can talk to you, about anything.
Well, I’m grown now. A woman. I’m still healing. I’m not my past or my story, it doesn’t define me. I am who I choose to be. I chose to be brave and vulnerable. To live free! I hope my story empowers you. I hope it rings in your soul. Everyone needs respect. To feel safe at home. Stop sitting on your hands. Stand up. Speak up.

 Sarah Suero is a Certified Effectiveness Coach for women and Yoga Instructor. 

My passion is empowering women! On and off the yoga mat. I love co-creating fresh possibilities with women who dare greatly. Transforming the past stories into bold brilliance. I also latin dance, cook yummy food and enjoy coffee (all kinds of coffee). Reach out to me at ://sarahsuero.wordpress.com/ or email me sarahesuero@gmail.com

Love

 

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Love says, I love you by trying again. Love walks along side you, fingers intertwined in a zipper of prayer. The bumps will come. You will be up to your knees in disappointment and you will fall. When you’re dirty, crying and mascara has glued your eyes shut from crying. Love cleans you up, holds you and helps clean up your face. When you open your eyes again the ones who truly love you will be there. Love will hand you another box of tissues and listen. Love will help you find the pieces of yourself that have been missing. Each piece that is found is held with gentleness and compassion. Slowly Love helps you put yours pieces back together again. Love creates beautiful things from messes. Love creates healing magic with a cup of coffee, conversation or a hug the mending begins. 

Love listens. Love breaths life into your dreams and turns them into plans. Love comforts you when you cannot breathe. Love has known pain, disappointment, fears, tears and loss. Love has been where you’ve been. Love stands tall so that you can stand up. Love knows joy, hugs that heal, silence that mends and dances that feel like heaven. Love knows that laying in the middle of the street looking at the stars builds a sense of wonder into that moments.

Love knows that when you look at the stars all problems fade away. Love knows that a little love goes a long way. Love shows up and cheers you on your journey.  Love helps you do the simplest things. Love knows your favorite drink, food, places and bring those into your life. Money cannot buy love. You cannot buy soul piercing eye contact, a warm heart or even handwritten sweet notes for every day of the week. 

Love listens, to what’s being said and not said. To the sighs and moments of silence between words. Love notices nail color, earrings and new clothes. Love embraces and truly wants to know about the other. Love listens to understand, not just waiting for their turn to talk. Love shares snacks. Love stock around when everyone else has gone. Love doesn’t judge your sad or happiness. Love is excited for what excites you. Love will be on your team no matter the game. Love will love you no matter what you say, how corny you are, or even if you have morning breath. Love loves you when you’re not easy to love and unlovely looking. Love also loves you when you’re easy to love and are lovely looking. 

Love loves you back. You don’t have to ask for love, it’s freely given. Daily and every moment love cannot be anything other than love. Know that in this journey of being human you’ll be imperfect. You are going to royally mess up. You’ll make choices that when you admit it your face red. This life will hit you hard. Rain on your parade. You will feel profoundly ugly and perhaps even stupid at times. Do not let those past choices and ugly feeling moments define you. That isn’t who you are. You are love. Love is strong, courageous, kind beyond measure, helps you tie your shoes, wipes your tears, makes you coffee even when love is tired, listens to the same story again, love stays awake, dances when loves feet hurt and most importantly love shows up again and again. You are love and you are lovely, just remember that. 

Lessons from My Yoga Mat – When War Waged Between My Ears

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I woke up late. I didn’t hear my alarm. Despite an array of judgemental thoughts that swarmed through my head as I looked at my clock that read 5:35am, I jumped out of bed. My alarm had been going off for an hour. I didn’t even hear it. I rushed to get ready for yoga practice. I felt horrible for being late. The judgement just kept rolling like a memorized script that was beating me over the head. I arrived in the practice room at a glorious 1 hour late. I told myself I’d go to practice and I did, no matter what. I didn’t realize that I’d learn several lessons from my yoga mat.

I rolled out my mat and began with downward facing dog. I shook my head to shake the thoughts out. At first it didn’t work, they wouldn’t leave. Amping up my practice to the tune of, challenging I began to sweat as I took myself on. The more challenging it was the less I judged myself for being late. Because when your quads are pulsing and your breathing through your nose who can think, “Oh gosh, I can’t believe I was late.” It was more like, “Breath, girl, you can drop from Flip Dog into Wheel. Ready, set, go!” Slowly I began to smile at the woman next to me from time to time. I dove into my practice like a high diver dives into the water. Soon my judgement turned into peace. The self diminishing thoughts melted into feelings of courage. Courage to show up because I gave my word. Showed up just like I was, no matter what anyone else thought. It took courage and I’m glad I did. Taking on the arm balances, felt easy. Everything seemed to flow with a sense of lightness once I stopped the mental yelling at myself. My head was finally quiet. If you don’t know yet, being in headstand requires focus and quiet. Mentally yelling at yourself while upside down just doesn’t work. The very thought of it makes me laugh! Can you imagine it, in headstand with a word cloud of negative thoughts swirling around? Oh wow!

The lessons from my yoga mat I learned before the sun came up.  I’ll carry them with me for the rest of day. I learned that commitment is an excellent bus driver. She’ll drive you straight to where you said you want to go. You also have to hop on that bus no matter what. That showing up authentically and in all your imperfect glory, works. Practicing without a fuss, works. Showing up kicks not showing up’s tail, every time! Taking on a challenge helps clear your mind. Beating yourself up for being imperfect, doesn’t work. Instant forgiveness feels amazing! Plus, I still got to go upside down and when I stood right side up, I felt like a warrior princess. Who’d won the war waged between my ears. Courage, commitment and instant forgiveness helped me win. (Ok, so that forgiveness wasn’t instant. It took about an hour, it still happened nonetheless). Tackle the wars that wage between your ears today with courage. Don’t worry if the battle rages for an hour stick with it, your head will shut up eventually.

Alice – The Extraordinary Woman Who Loved

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Fall is here! I’m excited to be outside! I was walking in a park thinking to myself, “Aren’t I lucky to be here, feeling the sun and breeze on my face.” I passed a woman sitting on a park bench who looked sad. I made a few more circles in the park and each time I passed her I noticed more about her. She had amazing bright white hair, sitting on the park bench knees pulled into her chest and blank look of pain on her face. As I kept passing her by my heart strings were tugged a little more each time. Finally my last circle she was still sitting there and I had to stop.

Stepping close to her I said, “Are you alright?” Not even lifting her eyes off the pavement she said, “No, I’m tired.” Crying like I’d just poked a fountain that was ready to burst, she said, “I’m tired. I don’t want to do this anymore.” What happened over the next hour truly threw me for a loop. I know that it’s the worlds game to seem cool and not surprised by anything, however her story surprised me. I’d like to introduce to Alice, we’ll call her Alice.

Alice was at the park as a part of her bucket list wishes before she jumped into the St. John’s River ending her life. Today was THE day. My heart ripped from my chest and went out to her’s. She told me why she was tired of living. Pain body, heartache, loss of loved ones and a sense of intense pain from soul to heart and into her body. I knew why I was meant to stop and share this afternoon with her. She was beautiful! Her heart and soul shone brightly when she spoke of the good times. She threw her head back and laughed as she recounted funny times and people she loved. Tears streamed down her face as she said, “… and now I am invisible.” To me she was anything but invisible. I could see how beautiful she was, her white hair glowing in the sunshine and moving with the breeze. She had a big heart. She’d spent years bravely sharing it with others. She’d had her heart broken and stomped on one to many times. Now she was telling me how tired she was of giving it to the world. The world had paid her back with pain. I saw compassion and love in her eyes. I saw the value of who she was. She couldn’t see it. Her eyes only saw and felt pain. She just wanted it to end. Pain so great that even the strongest meds didn’t help for more than an hour or two each day.

I shared with her what I saw in her, she blushed like a like a school girl. Even though now she’s 50 something, for a moment she looked like she was 10. For a split second the long haired girl of the 60’s was back and a smile spread from ear to ear. She dropped her eyes and whispered, “Thank you. I haven’t heard a compliment in a long time.” It was beautiful to hear her speak. Moving between pain, love, laughter and tears like an passionate dance packed full of heart. She was lovely. When her story was just about done, I invited her to yoga as my gift to her. She accepted. We made a date. I hope she shows up. I hope that she chose life today. Digging deep within herself to find the brave parts of her that aren’t tired. The parts still willing to give life a go. I hope that we all have the courage to share our hearts. Now, not tomorrow because now is the only moment we have. To follow our intuition when it speaks to us. To love on people just because they are people. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve so I could relate with her. I know what feeling invisible feels like. Rejection, heartache and pain have visited me as well. Listening to Alice may have saved her life.

I saw her. I stopped and told her that I saw her. I hugged her pain body with mine. Gave her all the love and compassion I had. Pulling away from the hug I said, “I see you”.  Our blue eyes locked and it was magic. She felt seen. Today really see with your eyes, ears and heart the people in front of you.  All they may need to stay alive is you telling them, “I see you”. Don’t be afraid to open your heart. Yeah. It might get hurt, that much is true. If I didn’t open my heart to Alice though she may not have lived.

How a Homeless Man Helped Me Get Home – Keys to Being Alone & Not Lonely

ImageHave you ever had a mind full? Thoughts whirling through your head like a tornado, round and round? Yeah, that was my mind tonight. Everything from groceries to life changing questions. They wouldn’t go away. Worry, doubt and fear slowly started creeping in. Frustrated and in an effort to clear my head of the thought tornado I decided to go for a run.

Keeping it light the only thing I took with me was my house key tied it to my shoe laces. I chose the scenic route, the river. Peaceful. Nice breeze. Relaxed pace. As my pace quickened my thoughts dropped onto the pavement. With each step my mind was becoming quieter and quieter.

I fell into a pace. Soon all I heard was the pounding of my feet on the pavement. Then the rhythm of my breathing was the only thing I heard. My mind became clearer and clearer. I forgot everything else. It was a dance between my feet and my breath. I was so engrossed in the dance that I didn’t even notice my shoe laces coming loose. Unknowingly they loosen more with each mile until it was too late. Clink! Tripped over my laces and face down in the pavement.

“Perfect timing” I thought to myself, “I don’t where it is and it getting dark”. I searched all over the sidewalk, grass and even the cracks between the sidewalk. No key. Worry began to set in. Woman, alone, in the dark city, without a key and no cell phone. Not a good combo. I kept looking. Now it was dark and still no key. Crouched on the ground nearly eye level with the pavement an older shabbily dressed man on a bike rolled up. His  front basket was full of odd things I couldn’t identify. Dirt was all over his face. I knew instantly the bike was his home. Yet, something inside of me told me it was okay to talk to him. This is how the homeless man helped me get home.

He got off his bike and asked if I was alright. I told him I was looking for my house key. Quickly he joined the sidewalk search. He pulled his head light of his basket of odds and ends and handed it to me. “Here”, he said shoving it in my direction, “a bright light helps in the dark”. Together this man and I searched. Finally between the sidewalk and the grass, I found it!

Happy, I placed my hand on his shoulder. “Thanks! You’re the reason I’m gonna make it home safe tonight.” He told me he was homeless and asked for $1. I would have given him $20 if I’d had some cash on me. Smiling he placed his hand on his heart and said gently, “Young lady I’m glad I helped. Many people have helped me before. I’m just glad to return the favor.” Tipping his hat, he jumped on his bike and took off.

The encounter made me think. I ran alone tonight. I could have let loneliness set it. Being alone and lonely would have been easy. I could have let the fear and doubts from my tornado mind swirl me into feeling lonely. Lonely wants to focus on what you don’t have at the moment. Like I didn’t have a running buddy.

What I know now is that I did have running buddies. I just couldn’t see them, because they were flying next to me. Angels, I must have had angels watching me, because there was no one else around. No cars. No other people walking or even biking. I learned that the key to being alone and not lonely, is to remember that there are unseen forces working for you and with you for your good. To give you help because you’ve helped someone before. I couldn’t have planned this man’s arrival. It was perfect timing!

I had no idea that me loosing my key would remind me that I’m not alone in this world. That there are many people that I’ve helped along their way to finding what they needed to find. This stranger became a friend because he asked a question and helped me when I needed some light. His time and kindness touched my heart. I’m sitting here at my desk. Safe and warm, because he helped me find my key. A man with no home and no place to sleep tonight helped me get home.

~ Sarah Suero

Looking for Happy Pink

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I walked into the salon and requested a manicure/pedicure. The woman helping me asked me what color I wanted, smiling I said, “happy pink”. She turned her head to the side and said, “Happy pink?!” as if I’d just asked her for the moon and she couldn’t process the request. She shot me a look that said, “Ok, whatever you say lady” and pointed her finger to the wall of colors and with force said, “You pick a colla”. I stood for several moments looking at the many shades of pink they had to offer. I decided, pale pink was too soft and Magenta too much purple. Then I found it! Bright, bold, and rich pink happily stood out. I was thrilled to have found my happy pink! It didn’t hit me until several days later when laughing about the encounter with friends that there was a profound lesson in this experience.  I’m the only one who knows what shade my happy pink is.

My color choice is up to me, I think most people would agree. It’s so simple! There isn’t anyone else that knows what shade is right for me. Perhaps this mani/pedi encounter was worth it’s weight in gold. Of course I’m the only one who knows what my happy pink is! Silly me! It’s easy to ask others for their opinion about a choice we need to make, like they know what we need. What shade we want, the depth of the color, or the way that it makes us feel on our fingers. Realizing again that choices in life work a lot like my nail salon experience, brings new meaning to making choices. Life sends us over to the wall and says, “Pick a color”. It’s up to us to listen to that small voice inside leading us to our “happy pink”.

Cappucino Dreams: A Simple Beach Life

This morning while it was still dark I groggily made my way to the kitchen. Opened the freezer, shock, no coffee. Open the cabinet, shock again, no coffee filters. Sighs. I decided a trip to the local coffee joint was inevitable. I rushed through my morning routine, making sure I got my java. I walked into the local coffee shop foggy and largely unaware of even what the menu said. I ordered and stood in line for my steamy bean juice. There was a tall slender businessman in his later 60’s in the shop. His slim tie, navy vest and grey trousers spoke of a keen eye for fashion. The kindness in his voice spoke of years of life experience, as he chatted with the barista girls about his breakfast choice. “Hmmm,” I thought to myself, “He seems  friendly for this early hour.” Little did I know, this man was about to change my day in 3…2…1…
Ding! His order was up. He slowly walked to the counter, gently picked up his morning brew and breakfast. He seemed to be delaying the inevitable drive to the office. He prolonged his coffee adventure by moving with deliberation, turning towards the cream and sugar counter to touch up his cup. 3…2…1…Ding! My order was up. With a nod of thanks, I quickly moved to swipe my cappucino off the counter and headed towards the cream and sugar counter as well.

The businessman was there. In a casual manner he leaned over to me and said, “Hi young lady! How was your weekend?” Surprised he engaged me, I said, “Great. Busy, as usual.” I thought the dialog would have ended there. Shrugging, he said, “Yeah, mine is always busy. You know sometimes I get tired. I’d like to sell everything and move into a condo on the beach”. Now I was awake! Curious I leaned in and said, “I hear that from people every week. Why don’t you do it?” With laughter in his eyes and a sigh of resignation he chuckled to himself barely loud enough for me to hear. I leaned closer and prodded again. “Why not?” The laughter in response was louder this time, he threw his head back as if I’d told a hilarious joke. Looking down I swirled the sugar into my coffee. Lifting my head, I looked him in the eyes. Gently I asked again, “Why not?” He looked at me with sadness in his eyes, shoulders slumped as if walking with a heavy load, said, “Hmm, young lady you have a good point. I’m afraid, I guess.” I had to make it to my appointment. Time to go. As I spun on my heel to leave I said, “If it’s a condo on the beach you want. You can make it happen, just figure it out.” With a wave and a smile I turned to leave the businessman with his coffee and dreams of a simple beach life.

People say to me, “I’d like to leave everything behind and live a simple life.”  Or I’ve heard them say, “I just want to be happy.” For some it’s a condo on the beach or traveling around the world. My heart softened for all the people who are keeping their dreams alive. Who still have the courage to tell a stranger at a coffee shop their dreams. I hope I see that gentleman again someday. When I do, I’ll say, “Don’t let anyone tell you can’t have your beach condo. Go get it!” He gets to walk on the beach wearing a 100 watt smile. This morning that I had no coffee or coffee filters. Perfect. I was supposed to encounter the businessman at the coffee shop. It was a perfect reminder to stay with my dreams. Now with a renewed sense of compassion and wonderment, I start my day. Cappucino in hand, smile on lips, and a pocketful of sunshine. I press on.