Hope and Hard Places

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYesterday I struggled, all day in fact I struggled. My emotions raged and I didn’t want to do what I had committed to, truthfully I wanted to pick up the phone and call my friend and say, ‘Hell no, I am not making that drive and standing up to tell that story’.

That is what I wanted to do.

Yesterday, I woke in the morning with Victim Impact on my calendar. Not just any victim impact but the hardest victim impact, Sexual Offender Victim Impact. Yes, they are juveniles, they aren’t hardened and terrible molesters and in many cases, they are young men who are being criminalized for having consensual sex with their girlfriends, but not always. In this case, this was the parole group, their parents were there with them. I had forgotten, it wasn’t just the kids it was the adults too. Yesterday I woke up and all I could think, I wasn’t in the space head or heart to do what I had promised.

Yesterday, was hard and I didn’t know why. The truth is, I believe what I do is good. I believe down to my bones and my soul, if we can we should. If we have the strength to stand up and tell our stories, we should. If we can reach these young people, tell them who we are, show them our faces and the impact of their actions but also that one mistake doesn’t have to define their entire futures, we should. If we can reach them, if we can show tradenewswirenetthem the face of compassion, perhaps we can also change the trajectory of their lives, maybe we can change the inevitable outcome so many of them face, from classroom to prison cell. I have always said, as if it is a mantra, give me just one and it is worth it, one out of every session that I reach and who hears then it is worth it, every one after one is a gift.

I have spent ten years standing up, telling my stories, staring into the faces of young people and adults alike. Sometimes, like yesterday it is hard as hell and I don’t want to do it. Some days like yesterday, my heart falters, I stumble and feel bruised and battered. Yesterday, yesterday though it was worse than normal, I don’t know why or maybe I do. It was bad because I am more battered by everything and am feeling a bit less hopeful than normal, a bit less strong, a bit less like I can conquer the world. I hate that, I hate not being strong, not being fully in control of my emotions and my world. In fact it pisses me the hell right off.

Yesterday, I reached out to a friend who I love and respect for his ability to cut through the bullshit, in spare and simple words, after a short back and forth about what I was feeling this was his response:

Maybe what you are doing with this victim impact with sexual offenders is a good thing, but just maybe you are not now, at this place in time and your life, ready to do that. Maybe at a later time you will be strong enough to do this victim impact with sexual offenders and not experience the turmoil you now feel. Maybe you need a break, after all you are human, and feel things.”

I hate he is right, it would be easier if he weren’t right , easier if I could ignore his analysis and find some different answer. The truth is, I was in turmoil. My heart was fighting me all day because I simply didn’t have the emotional strength to do what I had promised. I did it, not because I wanted to save that one young person, because I wanted to storm the gates but because I had made a commitment and there was no one else. I wouldn’t let people down who depended on me, I did it out of obligation and long-standing relationships.

I did something else though, I took myself out of next quarter for all Victim Impact for Sexual Offenders. I can’t do it. I know there are so few of us in the state, taking myself out leaves them short but my friend is right, I am human and I need a break it is hard and I don’t have to prove I am strong I have to heal from what has broken me. I have to get my own house in order before I can return to saving others, no matter how much I believe, heart and soul, part of why I do Victim Impact is a mission of hope and compassion. If I am going to bring that into the room, I have to feel it and show it to myself.

Last night I stood up, I told the story of a brutal rape of an eleven year old child, I stared into the faces of teenagers and their parents and told them what happened afterwards. How that rape changed my life and the lives of my family. I watched as mothers winced when I used the words;

  • Bitch
  • Slut
  • Whore and Ho

I watched as young men wanted to fight when I asked them what the difference was between calling their mother a bitch or calling a girl on the street a bitch. I thanked a mother who in tears blessed me for my ‘testimony’, while acknowledging I did not speak from a Christian position she told me I had touched her spirit and she would remember, her son approached me afterward shook my hand and thanked me also. I spoke to a young man who told me he wanted to be an engineer but was afraid he wouldn’t make it into college now, because of this because he had sex with his girlfriend; all I could tell him was to work with the judge and his parole officer to find a way.

Yesterday was hard. Before I walked in the door I called my friend, I need a voice beside the one in my head. Maybe what I needed was to hear my own voice out loud, saying why I do this;

‘Because despite everything I believe in hope, I believe in love, shit I still believe in knights on white horses who slay monsters. I am not naïve I know the monsters exist, I have met too many of them; but I still believe in www.forum.nethope and love and I think they might be part of the same thing.’

Yesterday was hard. I need a break. I need to take care of myself. I need a little bit of tenderness and care. So I won’t do these, at least not the Sexual Offenders, for the next quarter maybe not any of them. I think my friend is right and I will listen because there is no sense in doing what is that hard, no sense in brutalizing myself.


  1. It is nice that you have a friend who will be honest with you and tell you the truth. And, it is good that you trust him enough to know what he said was the truth. Talking about rape is tough enough on a good day, but with all the emotions you’ve been through this past year, having to relive something like that is, I imagine, almost unbearable. I think it says something amazing about the person that you are that you still showed up. It may not have felt like it, but showing up shows great strength of character, and says something about how strong you are.

    I can understand needing to take a break. Sharing your soul like that is draining … we all like to help, but we do sometimes need to step back and nurture ourselves a bit in order to better help others.

    Give yourself a big pat on the back for showing up … and then treat yourself to a day at the spa… do something for your soul. It needs some pampering.

    • It is good I have someone who cares enough to say to me, ‘not strong enough, stop’. It was what I needed to hear, I wouldn’t have seen it for myself.

      I talk big John, I am the worst though I taking care of myself. The very worst. I am trying to learn though.

  2. Yes, I agree with your friend. Just be okay to submit and don’t stress about missing one meeting. You’ll be much stronger and balanced when the merry-go-round stops.

  3. Val you so know I have always admired what you do in this field.. And I am certain that you reached some hearts and your testimony will stay within them for some time..
    But I am so so pleased you are at last listening to the stirrings in your own heart Val,, and I know you are making the right choices… 🙂 ….
    This was so well written, from your heart! too xxxx
    Love to you
    Sue xoxoxox

    • Ah Sue, I don’t think I would have even known what was wrong, honestly if someone hadn’t pulled my chain a little bit and pointed out to me I was being a bit thick headed. I am content today. I am feeling lighter than I have in a very long time. My friend wrote me a note telling me how thankful he was for all I have done for ten years within the Impact program for Juveniles and how supportive he was of me taking the time away. I feel blessed by his support.

      Thanks Sue, for your support and the light you always shine around me.

      Love back


  4. It’s great that you’re helping others, but don’t neglect yourself. I’d say on hard days, if you need a break, it’s okay to take one. From commitments, from errands, from whatever. I’m impressed by your willingness to tackle such a difficult and personal subject!

    • I am learning (hard taught lessons) I need to take care of myself, physically, mentally and emotionally if I am going to be good for anything. Being told to do so, well it is hard to hear and hard to follow. Others in my life haven’t taken the time to push me into self-care in the past, they have been far to busy with ‘what about me’. So this is new.

      I am learning.

    • I am learning (hard taught lessons) I need to take care of myself, physically, mentally and emotionally if I am going to be good for anything. Being told to do so, well it is hard to hear and hard to follow. Others in my life haven’t taken the time to push me into self-care in the past, they have been far to busy with ‘what about me’. So this is new.

      I am learning.

  5. Your heart is so big. Being strong doesn’t mean you are never afraid or never want to hide again. Who we are is a constant. How we are changes moment to moment. So proud to know you and the difference you make in the world.

    • I think I have said the same thing to you. Taking my own advice is so hard, being pushed to hear my own heart is also hard. Being weak, is also hard.

      All these things, wanting someone to just be tender with me right now right here, I think it means I have to start with being a bit tender with myself.

      Thank you, for telling me. I need that.

  6. Val, you did the right thing taking yourself out for a quarter. You can see how you feel later and decide some other time whether you want to go back. There will always be young men needing your guidance. They system will manage and life goes on. Right now, your friend is right and I hope you find what you need to heal. Sending you hugs and well wishes, my friend.

    • My friend is going to get a big head should he read all the comments validating his position. No Monica, I know he is right, i know. It is simply difficult after all this time of taking care of, doing for others to finally really simply doing for me.


  7. Pouring your heart as you do is not only therapy for yourself but it also causes those who read to confront their own giants and fears. You are a blessing, particularly when you end your outcry with the word hope.

  8. frigginloon says:

    OK, one more time, you need to put the oxygen mask on first before helping others. Just saying 😉

  9. Deborah the Closet Monster says:

    I don’t know what it is about this one that gets me. I think it’s everything, so that I’m sitting here weeping. But there’s one piece that strikes me fiercest, and it’s this:

    part of why I do Victim Impact is a mission of hope and compassion. If I am going to bring that into the room, I have to feel it and show it to myself.
    Yes, yes and YES.

    Sending love and wishing I could help ease the way for you. ♥

    • Don’t weep, I am finding my way. I have found good guides along the way I think. Stumbled upon them, tripped over them, run from them and then run back. So many of you have embraced me, held me up and loved me with great tenderness and compassion. It is what I need to show myself, I haven’t done that too very often.

      Sometimes I think the best and most loving thing someone can say to us, is stop being so stupid. It might be hard to hear, but it is necessary. It is what I heard yesterday, though I did want to hear it, didn’t want to read the words and didn’t want to accept this was what I was being, finally I had to do so and then it was easier to step back and act in my own best interest.

      Love you back, always. ❤

  10. singleworkingmomswm says:

    I know exactly what this is like, Val. And, when we go through something devastating, life changing, sometimes the “normal” things we have always done have to take a back seat. We have to heal, have to learn a new “normal”. This happened to me with my leadership in worship at church. Like your panels, there is no one who can step up and truly lead contemporary worship for me. However, I had to put that aside last year when Maycee’s anxiety reared its ugly head. I had to put her first, then myself, then my other family, and lastly my church. Since that time I have not felt the same compelling desire of wanting to contribute, to lead people to know Jesus through music, and I’m doing my best to be okay with that. I live overwhelmed, I live tired, and so one more obligation that makes me feel guilty is not healthy, nor does it deliver the message I’m trying to send. I’m so glad you have taken yourself off the list for now. The answers for what happens later will come….later. Love you and hugging you! XOXO-Kasey

    • Thanks Kasey, I need that hug. I was writing last night and like I always do, I had created my playlist for the session before hand, to set the mood and help my writing, but I was struggling even with that, it just wasn’t flowing as it usually does. Something was missing. The song in the back of my head was overwhelming the music. So I added it to the playlist, turned the music up and I the words flowed.

      Odis Redding – Try a Little Tenderness.

      Love you back and Hugging you back – Val

  11. Your friend is right. You need to take care of yourself first. You have done so much for everyone else already, I believe it is time for you to take care of you. You need and deserve that care and time to regroup. 😉

  12. Just lost my entire comment.
    wanted to say that I’m lovin’ you and supporting you from Minnesota. xxx

    • I still want to try to get out there for the walk, but it might be very last minute. Hotels my friend, hotels. Gak….

      Your love is so welcome I cannot tell you.

  13. First off, let me tell you how much I admire you for talking to these various groups about your tragic experiences. You no doubt have made a world of difference for many people. Secondly, let me tell you how much I admire you for recognizing it’s not healthy for you to be doing it right now. We are only as good as the vessel we possess, and if that vessel isn’t physically and emotionally at peace, then not only do we hurt ourselves, we limit our effectiveness. It’s okay to let others pull the reins for a while.

    • Carrie, honestly I didn’t recognize what was wrong without some help. I knew something was off, I just didn’t understand what. I am not use to not being strong and in control. It simply not the norm, I am not use to someone saying to me ‘stop’ and I am certainly not use to listening. This time though my heart heard what my head didn’t want too. I am learning.

      Thank you Carrie.

  14. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    This happens to people that care, people who put their best foot forward …… Our systems have the capacity of getting under our skins, burning us out. I was there …. It isn’t pretty!! SMH ….

    • Thank you my friend, for the reblog and the kind words.

      • My dearest friend …. I think I was there. This was one, among many, of the reasons that I chose to retire.
        I could’ve stay on longer … but I was losing myself, my essence.

        I had to get out!

        • Yet, you did it!! You went through with your emotions raw …. I honor you for that. I don’t know your story but I’m getting pieces. I’m embracing and holding you right now. ❤ …..

        • I am hardheaded and soft-hearted. I forget sometimes to take care of myself, for far to long I took care of everyone else. I was also raised with that idea that obligations came before self. Now that is nearly breaking me. But friends, who I think care for me are starting to show me I need to care for myself better. I am listening.

  15. It was hard, but you did it … but yes, you need a break. You won’t lose your edge, but you need to be strong to embrace this … so take care of yourself first.

  16. Jueseppi B. says:

    Your friend is kinda of a smart dude, sounds a lot like some type of grown ass man huh.

    • Yes, sounds a great deal like some kinda grown assed man, dammit. Given that I have listened guess I must be a grown assed woman, despite the sometimes hard head.

  17. Jueseppi B. says:

    Reblogged this on The ObamaCrat™.

  18. After reading your powerful post Valentine, I wish I knew what to say, except I am here for you and yes indeed a break and some time to heal your heart and soul is most definitely in order… *warm hugs*

  19. Flood in a village. Young couple lose two of their three children – toddlers. The young man collapses in grief. The young mother eats her dinner at the hastily set up relief tent. The man rebukes his wife.

    Her response: “I don’t have the luxury of grieving,” she said as she ate and suckled her baby. “You want to help? Eat!”

    Based on a true story.


    • I have heard this one before. I understand it at a very core level. Yet still, I think we must give ourselves the place to make it right or we do harm rather than good.

      Don’t you think?

      • I agree Val – take care of yourself first – and then, help others.

        The woman was intent on saving her remaining child – but she knew to do that, she needed to take care of herself first, regardless of what on-lookers said or thought.


        • I know, it is heartbreaking at the same time it is honest in its assessment of the what is needful. So yes, I know what is needful, I know I can’t do this right now. I know I must show myself some tenderness and care.

          Thanks Eric

  20. I agree with your friend. You need a break right now to do a few things that solace your soul. Pamper yourself a bit. Lather yourself with love. Slowly gather your strength until you are ready to dart back into the fray.

    • As much as I hate to admit it, I agree with him as well. His spare words, cut to the chase and my heart but he was right. I couldn’t take his advice last night, but I could take his advice going forward, at least for the next quarter and I did.

      I sometimes truly despise it when others are right and I am wrong. Especially when it is an observation about me.

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