finding my voice | a storytelling challenge
Justine Musk said, "Stories are not an escape from reality. Stories are how we shape and understand our reality. We create the world we live in by the stories we choose to tell about it."
In 2013, I started a series on my blog called Soulful Beauty of the Week. I asked women I admired to share wisdom they've gained from their experiences: the a-ha moments, the realization of dreams + desires, the truth about their wins + losses. I offered a space for them to share the stories that have shaped them. When I asked Saunya to tell me about a turning point in her life, she said:
"After my father passed away in December of 2011, I went through a rough patch where I felt so empty inside. The most important man in my life was gone. It was like a wide open gaping hole in my heart that no one person could fill. It was during this time where God worked on my heart the most. He showed me so much about myself that I didn’t know before. He taught me how to depend on Him and not other people or things. He taught me how to love Him! Throughout this time I looked to God as my source of comfort and realized that He was THE source of comfort. I fell right into the arms of the One who loved me most and that patched the hole in my heart right on up. I grew up. I was restored. I became a woman."
For this writing challenge, I’m asking you to think about the chances you've taken, how far you've come, all the women you have been and the seasons you have experienced. Imagine yourself a witness, watching your story unfold. Think about the details — what you saw, heard and felt — when you stepped into the unknown and made a significant life change. When you met someone who changed your ideas and expanded your mind. When you thought a setback would break you and it didn't. When you got sick, when you got well, when you found God, when you challenged yourself. The birth or death of someone important to you. With these examples in mind, this is the writing prompt for the challenge:
In 200 words or less, describe a major turning point in your life.
If you would like to participate in the challenge, email me your answers to the prompt above (200 words or less). All submissions will be posted here on All the Many Layers. I will share some of the submissions on my Instagram page with the hashtag #_FindingMyVoice_. No worries if you prefer not to share your name, you can submit anonymously. The submissions that are shared on Instagram will be entered to win a signed copy of one of my books. The submissions that get the most likes from my Instagram family will win the challenge.
To submit, send me an email with the subject line: FINDING MY VOICE. Include your response to the prompt (200 words or less) and whether or not your want your name and/or social media handle included.
This challenge will be open until Friday, September 28.
I thought I found my soulmate. He was pretty convincing when he would tell me he thought so too. So convincing that I can still see myself grabbing the warning sparks of intuition, putting them into a jar, twisting the lid shut, and telling myself to smile at all the pretty stomach butterflies. Long story short, I dropped the jar...okay he threw it. Everything else in my life felt like it shattered. That was the first time I could actually feel my heart hurting. And then the things that brought me peace my entire life stopped working. But in some odd way, recognizing I couldn’t depend on those things somehow helped me save myself. Despite how uncomfortable I felt trying to fight the darkness in ways I never had before, I realized how much being a fighter isn’t just some character I call on in desperate situations...it’s a part of me. Now, I acknowledge how strong I am just for...acknowledging that I felt weak. Lost. I stopped myself from believing I might never love again. I keep finding new ways to heal myself, and now the healing goes beyond this relationship alone.
The moment I realized not everyone is deserving of my love. The taste of betrayal is caustic. It singes the very essence of your spirit, making you question your character. Deceit is bitter sweet. The lie tasted so good once it initially rolled off his tongue, dripped from his lips and caressed my ears. Once the deceit was revealed as such, the pain was unbearable. The kind of pain that made me shy away, isolate and disconnect. The heavy weight of the blame I put on myself for being so foolish broke my heart into a million pieces. I recovered but discovered, not everyone deserves a love so pure, so rare, so authentic.
So I stood there staring at him in silence, with the gnawing feeling in my gut that “it’s coming”. Please not now(I thought), I’m tired, I can’t do this. After the last episode, I knew that when this day came it would be the last; or my last. I was prepared to risk it all. Then he threw me to the floor. I quickly jumped to my feet, not wanting to be taken advantage of while I was down and spatted out, "If you hit me you better kill me because I’m fighting back."
This would have to be episode number too-many-to-count within 3 years, and I’m only 16, and he’s...... too damn old to be with me, but he swings, connects and I grab.... I grab every single dread I could, and with the little strength I had I continuously threw blows to his head. The rage behind my blows were so real, so distracting, that the damage he was trying to inflict on me was non-existent. He finally yelled to be let go, but I knew I couldn’t trust him. Shortly thereafter, It was the end, but for me a liberated beginning. It took me 10 years, 3 equally disappointing relationships, mending with my parents and a life transition to surrender hurts like this one and begin a love like no other, with myself. There may be a love/hate relationship at times, but I can tell you with all honesty that this love has never hurt.
With sealed lips and eyes burning I found myself in a deep trance with no escape.
Why am I torturing myself like this for someone that doesn’t deserve me? I gave of myself without hesitation because that was my definition of love. All I knew was the satisfaction of your sweet voice that comforted me.
You were fixated on my image while I was defending you from those that said you’re no good.
I questioned myself even more and still felt empty inside. I questioned your motives; you denied all counts until the truth slowly slipped out with nowhere to run.
If only I had trusted my intuition and adhered to the signs that flashed in front of me, I would not be in this predicament. Time healed me from the emotional distress I experienced and helped me grow wiser.
My heart is whole again. My mind is free.
The harsh words spoken by a stranger one day boiled deep within until I broke free.
Free to love myself.
A major turning point for me was when I decided to completely detach myself from my high school sweetheart. We went from being best friends to nothing. I knew I had to let him go to save myself from anymore trauma. I could have gone back, but didn't. From then on, I stayed to myself. I didn't involve myself with anyone for about 3 years. Today, I found a new love. I realized what I felt in high school wasn't what I thought. I am the happiest I have been!
The turning point in my life happened when I gave myself permission to be free.
I used to be overly concerned with making sure my physical appearance was perfect so I could mask what I was feeling on the inside: loneliness and a constant state of comparison. I was focused on living up to everyone else’s standards and keeping up with society’s expectations for my life that I wasn’t being my true authentic self.
A few years ago, I had a brutally honest conversation with myself about loving me for who I am and what I look like. I had to remind myself that my life is just that, mine. I don’t have to compare myself to anyone because I have to experience life at my own pace and on my own terms.
It’s okay to be different from the norm.
That sentence held so much power and released years of bondage. It allowed me to confidently hold my head up high, without fear of what others might think of me. An now I am free to live a life that requires me to meet no one’s expectations but my own.
Losing someone is never easy, death as a whole is just something else. I've never been good with it but when you lose someone close to you it can feel like your roots are gone. Like the security you once had holding you in place, safe and protected is now uprooted and you don't know what to do. My grandma was my everything. I mean the sun and the moon to my existence. She raised me and was my best friend. My confidant, hero, mama, sister and overall just my lighthouse through every storm. The hope I have in life is because of her. If you knew me, you knew her. She was the one person on the planet who I would do anything for. On December 18th 2017 she came back home from her annual visit to Texas.
A few days before Christmas I received a call from my aunt telling me I had to come visit, that my grandma wasn't doing well and it was worse than we thought. I dropped everything and went. The next 3 weeks flew by but were a lifetime of emotions. On January 10/11th my aunt and I took my grandma to the ER for the last time. She spoke to me for the last time. After going in and out of consciousness, the last thing she said to me was "You're still here", half question half statement. My aunt was grabbing us food because we didn't know how long we would be there and she woke up and saw me sitting next to her. So she said "You're still here." and I said "Ofcourse I am, where else would I be." to which she replied "Ok" and closed her eyes.
She was then taken in to the ICU and she never woke up again. January 13th 2018, she went home. My aunt and I had to make the decision to take her off of life support and we gave it two days. Just so any immediate family could come and say goodbye if they wanted. My dad came, my brother, my cousin in Texas etc. We were going to give the okay to pull the plug the next day. That afternoon I held her hand and told her that she didn't have to hold on for us anymore. That I knew she was a fighter and stubborn but whenever she was ready she could let go. I assured her that we would be okay and that no matter what I would make her proud. My aunt took me to work soon after and on my break, I saw the text from my aunt saying that she had passed.
It's been almost a year and I've been wanting to write about it and I've had plenty to say. Days where all I could was cry, where my voice was drowned in tears and heartache. Days where I was just silent and observant. My process wasn't showing up in the same way it usually did but that was because I had never experienced something like this. I had been uprooted and I have to find my footing but here I am doing just that. I'm writing again. I'm using the ache to fuel me.
My one regret in life still plagues me and I've never spoken about it to anyone but God and that's only because He was there. Not that the action itself was so bad or unheard of. It wasn't something that was rare or just immensely left field in the world but it was for me in my world. It was left field to how I lived my life and the moves I made up until then. It wasn't something I could have pictured happening to me but life comes at you fast and you don't know what you will do or could do until you're in that situation. I had respect for myself. I wasn't insecure and didn't need validation from a man or anyone else. I knew my worth and was a "good girl" lol. But that didn't stop what happened. It didn't stop me from being drawn in, from agreeing to have sex with a stranger in exchange for my rent being paid. I knew him but really didn't. It didn't stop me from inviting him into my home, into my sacred space both externally and internally. It didn't stop me from losing my virginity to a man who did not love, cherish, honor and respect me. I was young, desperate but I knew better. I fucking knew better. I didn't take the money even though that was the agreement. I couldn't live with myself if I had taken it. What I had did and had allowed to happen was heavy enough. I felt lower than low, ashamed, dirty, and disgusting. I felt so disappointed in myself and like I was a fraud. This wasn't self-love or self respect, I felt like this wasn't even my body anymore.
Thinking about it plagued my mind and created sinking knots in my stomach. So I hid it away, pushed it to the back of my mind and spent too much time finding ways to distract myself. That's all I could muster the energy for. Facing it, acknowledging it, oh no that would mean it actually happened. That would make it real and the weight of that reality wasn't something I was strong enough to carry. I didn't want that responsibility. I couldn't do it. I wasn't going to. Not me. So I didn't... until now.
We were masters of disguise, skilled at crafting the perfect image of love and lofty achievement. And no one knew of the psychological warfare occurring in our private nightmare.
He caught me young. Swept me up quick. All the signs were there in retrospect but in those moments of manipulation and abuse, I was clueless. Telling me he loves me more than my family. Calling me every five minutes whenever I was away. Episodes of narcissistic retaliation when I breached his behavioral boundaries. Provoking me and calling me crazy when I reacted. More that I can’t say…
It took 10 years for me to stop running from my truth. The turning point came when he accused me of being abusive. It jolted me out of the fog that was consuming me. He would never take responsibility. He would twist my mind for eternity if I let him.
The real monster surfaced when I told him I was leaving. For ruining his perfect facade, he threatened to hate me forever and take our kids. A master manipulator, he’d begun packing a suitcase and said if I didn't beg him to stay, I would lose everything. My silence finally destroyed his power.