When I was a small girl and well into puberty, I lived an abused, contained life through which I was disallowed any individual choice or voice. As I grew into my early preteen and teenage years, I found secret ways to write small poems and release emotions I needed to purge. In the Alaskan tundra, down off of Richardson Highway, on a cult compound, deep inside forests of evergreen trees, are the remnants of thirty five-year-old paper journals I hid there as a child.
After leaving Sam Fife’s Move of God cult, I spent my life writing, not as a forced concentration, but as a part of who I am and was. I have always written in journals, on remnants of paper, glued or tucked inside of those journals, and jokingly laugh that when I die, my sons and grandchildren will have a field day going through my writing. I sometimes envision my granddaughters as older women, laughing as they read my thoughts and the most secret parts of my heart.
When I decided to open up my online store, Designs by Vennie, I passionately wanted to have products which are unique to the inspiration of writing out our trauma and documenting our triumphs. I also wanted to wear my cause, Survivor Voices.
Last year was a year of creating digital art and taking photographs. I was releasing so many of my memories through the layers and collages I created. I chose the ones which impact me the most as covers for my journals.
I created t-shirts and matching caps to support wearing this cause of us survivors being able to own our voice. We have the right to speak our truth. We have the right to be believed. We have the right for justice and respect. We are not mentally ill. Our abusers are. I want this apparel to be a simple statement which can start a strong conversation.
I loved this watch because it has multiple colorful bands to choose from and brings color into my wardrobe. It’s also sporty and inspires me to go take walks, since it is sweat proof and sporty. We survivors deserve to love ourselves. We should go outside and get into nature to remind ourselves that life is worth living. Wearing a watch is also good for the writing process. If you have a memory or thought to write in your journal, you will be able to immediately note the time, which is an important part of documenting our journey.
May your life be filled with color. May your pages be filled with the truth of you. May you proudly wear your voice, start a conversation and without shame, tell your story.
I am heady from the smell of ocean. I walk slowly to the vast, rolling surges of white foam. My son, the cinematographer, snaps photos of my bliss, following silently as I dance and skip. Life becomes different when I am with the sea. It is humbling for me. It is reminding me that I am small within the realm of infinite reality.
I am surrounded by my family. Babies toddle about, smashing sand into hollow, plastic turtles, their faces giggling. This joy that has emerged from the depths of my ancestral traumas and struggle, has instilled in me a deep appreciation for the small nuances of life. You see, this journey has been a scattered learning curve filled with crashes and burns. I have been into the depths of its darkness and risen into the brilliance of its light. I will not fall again.
I press my toes into the sand, aware of the soft scrub of the grains against my feet. I enjoy the firmness of this beach, impacted, forcing me to dig into and be present with the awareness of this feeling. Grounded inside the sensation, I let the earth infuse with my skin, sending her energy into my spirit. She is soft and firm. I am safe above her. There is no rumbling of engines or honking of horns. I am here in this moment completely alone.
The wind lifts my dress. I am in surround sound with the soft roar of the waves. They are a symphony rising and falling, reminding me that in an instance, swells can turn. She reassures me, that even if pulled into here tidal arms, sleep will be cool and peaceful. I feel every cell filling each drop of her endless depths move inside my skin. We resonate together, as even the seagulls crying out to the fish become a faded echo. On this shore, I see dimensions I’ve never traveled before. I see possibility. I see me in the sea.
I wonder what happens inside of the mind and spirit when a human just walks into the sea? Eventually the body becomes numb from the dropped temperature. I imagine there is scramble and a struggle against the pulling of the waves as the limbs lose the ability to fight. An acceptance washes over when the mind realizes it will never return to shore. The eyes close and gulping in the salt, the waves become one with the spirit here. Inside this liquid world, beings exist, the same as me; different environment; Otherkin. It is not a walk I desire. It is a wonder, a curiosity, a movement of my mind.
I am grateful for my life. It is big within this smallness. It is filled with surviving and thriving. It sings the songs of promise. It tells me to hold on, keep fighting and stay strong.
I stand inside this diminutive yet immense piece of planet; one so beautiful, yet filled with abominations beyond the imagination. I must return to the reality of my mission; my dedication, to make a difference. But just for today, I escape, just me and the waves. I am infused by the sea and my family. This is where I am balanced; when all is calm; where there is no storm; when we drift gently and in harmony with the tides.
The other day I was having a conversation with a fellow trauma survivor and writer. She posed a question to me.
“How do you balance everything you want to do and keep your head together?”
There are many blogs about creativity which advise on this subject, and many of them contain very valuable information. So, I had to answer her from my own personal perspective. Instead of repeating what is suggested, I wanted to answer her direct question about my daily process specifically.
You see, I am a free-flow creative. Forcing me to follow a set schedule is a sentence for the death of my creativity and passion. It is the driving force that will push me into emotional flat feel. I will strain against the confined system and begin to have a growing irritation towards the control of a schedule until I wither.
Any rigid type of living, for me, is a recipe for depression as I stare at the screen because it’s 1 PM, this is my scheduled time to write, but I don’t want to be writing at the moment. My soul wants to create art, work on other projects or even rest for a while.
Many branding gurus advise to stick to that strict schedule and don’t vary from it. because that is how successful people happen! So it was that I redefined the meaning of success for myself.
Do I pay attention to the marketing side of my brand? Absolutely. I am a lone wolf with a friend who helps me with computer tasks when she can. I have no expectations of her. She has a family and helps me for free. I bow and kiss her feet for that! 95% of my brand is solely controlled and operated by me.
Do I read branding blogs? Absolutely. Following branding bloggers like BadReadheadMedia, by 30 Day Marketing Challenge author Rachel Thompson, have given me excellent information. Partaking in Twitter hashtags like #MondayBlogs, #SexAbuseChat and #NoMoreShame, have helped me connect with some great trauma survivors who are vulnerably baring their souls. Connecting with creative trauma survivors, like artist Liz Ianelli and podcaster Matt Pappas, keep me inspired.
What I don’t do is allow what I read about suggested success methods to pressure me. I glean what feels fitting for my own life and my brand, and I incorporate it. I don’t change the specific routine I have for my-self care, a routine for which no specific schedule really exists. I make a “to do” list almost every day (because 1/2 of it is usually carry over from the prior day), and if there’s a timeline due, I make note of it. In the end, though, I always do things in a rhythm which matches my own positive flow. If something sinks me, it’s not for me.
Being a trauma survivor and a creative can be daunting. When I put too much pressure on myself, I tend to drop into shutdown. My creativity flow is dependent on the state of my mental health.
I always put my mental health and quest to continue being the healthiest before everything.
If two hours is all I have to give to my creativity on some days, that’s what I give. Some days I don’t create at all. Other days I catch a wind and go for hours. All of this is is unpredictable and unknown for me.
My creativity is flowing water at a pace I currently feel happiest following. I cannot re-carve the banks of its river. Instead, I float its calm stretches and row its rapids, staying with the grain of the waves and enjoying the view along the way. To me, this is balance. For me, this is the best route to reach the vast sea of success.
I hope you stay balanced through your creative journey by putting yourself first. I hope you take walks in the trees or lay in the grass and count the clouds. I hope you free flow with yourself, absent of any painful expectation, and know that if you care for the growing plant of your creative well, you are guaranteed to grow into the tallest tree.
P.S. Today I accomplished vacuuming and this blog post. SUCCESS
Click to Listen to the Spoken Version:
The day I disappeared and
Was the moment
I became invincible.
I got lost inside
The existence of my absence.
I lost my laughter,
Trickled in moments
So I could feel and
Deal with the real.
I disappeared and
It brought me here.
Now I stand
Affected and feeling.
I am healing.
It is said the sum
Of the numb means
We have succumbed to
I call that self-rejecting.
I want to be affected
By the dejected.
I want to hold their fears
In my palms, dip my
Fingers in the ocean to
Release the tears.
I let myself see.
It’s my freedom
To go nowhere
So that I’m always
Even now as these words
Run through minds
Who question meanings
Of bending time
I fade into the distance.
I am no longer
Resisting the calls to
Explore caves lined with
Files of memories waiting
To fill the gaps and
Bring the rest of the
The day I disappeared,
The world was quiet.
My face never reached a screen
Nor an ear, my screams.
I became an echo of a dream,
A memory slowly fading
Into remnants of words
Melting into the earth.
I have a compulsion that I’m going to reveal. It’s something that naturally happens in my mind. It doesn’t stress me out, particularly. I do it in seconds. I do it every day, all day long. It doesn’t interfere with my life, as I see it, mainly because I can do it so quickly and as of now, I don’t search out the formula just so I can do it. However, when the formula arrives it is definitely going to happen in my mind.
A common place I do it this is in traffic or if I have to stand in lines, wait in a doctor’s office, doing it with the magazine from the waiting room, my phone, anywhere that the formula exists to allow the compulsion, it will happen.
I’ll use a license plate as a simple example:
3 + 6 = 9 + 9 = 18
1 + 8 = 9
Single Reduction: 9
Every day, anytime I encounter number series I immediately, within seconds, reduce them to a single number. There is never a time I will not do it. I don’t fight the urge to do it. I suppose the answer would be of what reaction would I have if I tried not to do it. Why frustrate myself, in my opinion. Reduce and move on.
You’re one step further into my brain.
Do you have quiet compulsions? Are you comfortable sharing them?
As I was going through some boxes that have been packed up for some time, I came across a bundle of letters. There were nine of them. They were all dated throughout the year of 1993.
I had just left college in Tennessee and moved to Washington State. I was in a foreign culture and in varying states of emotional trauma. I was pregnant with my youngest son and had a four year old child to care for. I felt alone and scared. Morning sickness was rocking my body. I was in deep need of support. The life I had imagined I was moving to was not as I had pictured.
I sat cross legged on my bed the other night, excited to read the letters. I couldn’t remember their context so they were new to me. During that time was the first that my sister and I had been separated by miles, since we’d left the cult. She was now married and off living her life.
I must have been writing to her about the despair I was in, based on her responses. The first couple of letters from her contained the average “Hi! How are you doing? I am fine.” generic theme.
Then I read on and became internally disturbed. My first irritation rose at her continual referring to my unborn child as “Shanaynay“, due to he/she (the gender of my infant unknown then) is a multicultural child. Every letter had the same line in it at some point.
“So how’s Shanaynay doing?”
I cringed every time I read it.
I opened the sixth letter.
“Hey Bitch! Relationship this! Relationship that! Don’t you have anything else to write about other than your fucking relationship?”
No, I thought. I didn’t. I was alone in a strange city. I had left my whole life, family and friends in Tennessee. I was in cultural trauma. I was having panic attacks. I was arguing with my partner. Things weren’t as they were supposed to be. I was rocked to my core. I had no one to talk to except her.
Letter eight made me wince even more. It bothered me when she called my unborn child Shanaynay. This reference felt intentional and racist. I had obviously expressed this to her at one point.
“So how’s Shanaynay? (Does that still bother you?)”
I sat reading all of the different jobs her husband was going to have.
“Refinery. We’ll be in the money!”
Job after job, fake happiness after fake happiness, to the point that she had to continually say it in the midst of my own churning hurtful life.
“I am so happy with my husband.”
I sat with the letters in my lap. Twenty five years would pass by. She would call me panicked, vomiting out the years of verbal abuse she had taken from him. She would leave and go back. She would ghost everyone who ever fought for her. She would do it in the same coldness from which she had written these letters.
I sat on my bed realizing why I had held my family at bay in those later years, always feeling different, set apart, standing in the shadows of my own broken heart. She had chosen the other spectrum; the one filled with things that make people feel they have worth, and I chose to face the hurt.
I am wistful for dreams we had of lounging on beaches with drinks. I hurt for the cruel words thrown out in spite and the loss of a sibling who is still alive.
I have come to live in acceptance. I keep my spirit attached to my tribe, growing, healing and expanding. Yet, when she drifts my mind, I wince a bit. The cult broke her into pieces, and she walks behind a mask, unable to gather the shreds of her own greatness.
And I hope. I always hope, that she will return to who she was before they stripped us and tore our family apart.