Today was a hard day. I put off walking until late in the afternoon, finally forcing myself out the door at 4pm. I had a dozen excuses not to walk. My legs hurt from the last two days. The weather was horrible with a mixture of rain and snow. It was too cold in the morning; too wet in the afternoon. But while I had a lot of excuses, I knew the one excuse was that today I was walking for my family.
And the family wasn't my kids or husband; it was my siblings and my mom, my aunts and uncles, anyone in my family that had been touched by violence in one way or another. I hesitated this morning because I wasn't sure if I should walk for them. I wasn't sure if they wanted me to or not but I finally decided to do it. As you can tell, doubts still affect me and it was a test to overcome the doubt of my family.
But families do deserve to be recognized, not just mine but every survivor's family. That is something that we often forget...every survivor has a family and regardless of how insular the violence can be, others can't help but be touched by it. I have seen it in the face of a friend/coworker whose sister was murdered. They never caught the murderer but I saw the haunted pain in her eyes as she would talk to me about it on her breaks. I have seen it in the words of another woman I knew, who wanted her adult children to know about the horrible rape she had suffered at the age of 16. She was hurt that her family couldn't speak to her about it, devastated that they turned away, tears in their eyes begging her to stop, that they didn't want to know. But her counselor had said something that stuck with me as well...it is not the duty of our children to bear our past because the weight of the future is more than enough.
I guess that is why I was hesitant to walk for my family, because I was witness to their pain but it is not my story to tell. I did tell part of it though. Nine years ago, I sat down and wrote my childhood down. It was painful at times but it was also cathartic. For me, writing down my story was what I needed to move past it and I just wrote the bad memories.
What was left in me were the happy memories. The laughter, the love that we shared. It wasn't that the bad memories were erased but they were exorcised. They didn't hold onto me like they used to and I could laugh. I could tell silly stories of me falling asleep on my bike and both my brother and I falling onto the gravel road. Or how my oldest brother taught me how to use nun chucks, managing to bash me in the head in the process; I had a dark purple goose egg at my temple for several weeks after that.
I remember the days drifting lazily in the water of the lake with my sister or how the first time she convinced me to swim across it, she told me it was bottomless in the middle. My kids laughed when I told them how I had forced her to walk through dense forest and then down a highway for about a mile in nothing but our bathing suits and bare feet after we finally made it all the way across. There was no way I could swim after that (although the second time she convinced me, I made it both ways and it created a daily ritual for me).
I could remember the memories of my mom and how every kid in town called her mom when she owned her own arcade. How one day a man came into the arcade to rob her. She didn't know what he had planned but the kindness of her heart made her offer him free hot dogs, donuts and coffee. She even gave him a brown paper bag that he took to the convenience store and had them fill with their cash register. While she felt awful about the convenience store, it showed how kindness can change an action.
Writing that story made it possible to see that there were times when we were happy.
So today, when I walked for my family, I walked with happy memories running through my mind. I walked knowing that regardless of how far away we are that I will always love them and they will always be in my heart. Thank you for everything that you have done and the strength you have given me to be who I am today.
If you would like me to walk for someone, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
My 1000 miles challenge was inspired by Angela Giles Klocke and her own 1000 miles journey. You can find Angela's journey at Scars and Tiaras. Please visit her site and her facebook page to learn more about how you can get involved in the 1000 miles challenge.