Monthly Archives: February 2010

Speech Given at FSU Healing Night

FSU Speech blogI appreciate the opportunity to be with you tonight. I want to thank Justyn and Nicole for asking me here to do what they termed a Mini-Healing Night.

There was a time in my life when the option of participating in a life-affirming event such as this much less facilitating an event such as this did not exist in my mind.

We each have our own story. We each have a history that has shaped who we are at this moment. When I ook out into this audience I am aware that I am in the presence of and am connected to people who have traveled a human path and for whatever reason, that path has brought us all here tonight.

It deserves to be pointed out that we could be doing a lot of different things besides sitting here with one another. Our society offers thousands of distractions and thousands of opportunities for fun, excitement, and experiences. And here we are on a Thursday night, gathered around the painful subject of abuse.

We have chosen to be here. There are delicious things occurring outside these walls. People are laughing. People are watching a movie. Some are dancing. Some are making love. And here we are, with our stories of one human doing harm to another and the process of healing from that harm.

What is it within us that would make us want to listen to another human beings struggle? Why do we want to share the pain of being struck by a fist and describe the eyes of anger and insanity? Why are we able to come here in support of a friend whose pain has affected our lives and whose journey has crossed our own?

I believe it is because the human spirit has within it a spark that yearns for wholeness. We want the gaping wounds healed and we want to know the power of our authentic selves. We know there is a strong, empathetic, stable, and creative being within us and we want to clear away the debris of pain in order for that being to live fully.

We want to flourish in our lives because we have a suspicion that we have something to offer the world. We know that we have every right to claim our potential no matter what life has thrown our way and no matter what we have had to overcome. We want what is ours and tonight is another step toward becoming a more self-loving, nurturing, and powerful human being to support others in that journey as well.

My struggle to become the person I am today is similar to many peoples struggle. Many of us were born to parents who were incapable of being good parents. It isn’t that they did not or do not love us, it is simply that they are incapable on this go around in this life time to give to their children the best advantage for the best life possible in their lifetime. It took me years to learn that parents can not give what they do not have no matter how badly they want to give it.

They are at their own level of enlightenment and will only pass on to their children the emotional and spiritual tools they actually possess, not what they wished they possessed

Like all humans, my story starts with my mother. My mother became addicted to prescription drugs that the doctors gave her for depression. Later she would combine alcohol with these drugs.

My father struggled with the thin layer of resources afforded to a man who was told reaching out for help was a sign of weakness and that crying was for women. My mother’s pain and addiction became so intense that she slit her wrist on a number of occasions and by the time she had five children her life had found the bottom of a self loathing pit.

My father put my brothers and I into foster homes the two times when my mother was institutionalized. The doctors would clear her to come home and we would all be gathered from our various placements and be united once again as a respectable but dysfunctional family.

I would discover later in my life the reason for some of my mother’s pain. I found out that while I was in my mother’s womb, not far from the time of birth, her mother was shot and killed by her mother’s live-in boyfriend. As an explanation for the murder, the headlines the following day read, “Police Blame Nagging.” It was 1958. The boyfriend killed himself and his son discovered both bodies.

So I was born into the arms of a woman whose mother had just been killed. My mother was young, beautiful, and incapable of dealing with the blow of losing her mother in this way. She was in her early twenties when she lost her mother. I wrote a personal essay called Good Mother and I want to share it with you now. I share it with you because many victims are created by one act of violence. This essay is about a mother who could not rise to the duties of mother, in part, because her mother was murdered in a moment of domestic violence.

Read Good Mother (See Healing Products on Site)

My father was young and lacked the tools to deal with a wife full of sorrow and the children his loins produced. They were good people trapped in a society that did not offer, at that time, therapy or family support capable of dealing with that kind of tragedy.

My father died an alcoholic and some of my siblings have not been able to transcend the addictions of our parents.

Family fate has a strange pull on the generations that follow. I was born with just enough insight to save me from total self destruction. I knew I could turn out like my mother and I knew many women turned out like my grandmother. I knew I needed to keep my eyes open to the possibility of following tragic footsteps. I woke up at the age of twenty five realizing I had closed one eye.

I realized that my own drinking was taking me in a direction that could easily clear a path for a third generation of violence. Please do not misunderstand me. Violence against women was and is a reality with or without alcohol entering the picture. Alcohol just upped the chances of me being raped, battered or murdered. So after I realized my drinking was leading me down a path of self destruction at twenty five, I thought about it for another ten years and gave up the alcohol.

But what actually made me quit drinking was that my baby brother hung himself when he was nineteen years old. His sorrow was so great and his personal resources so slim, that the only way he found to remedy his pain was to take his own life. His mother had never been able to give him the love and attention a son needs to flourish and a harsh world full of expectations of what man should be, stacked a wall to high for him to climb.he killed himself.

It was this blow to the core of me that woke me up.

I made a decision to live and have been on a healing journey since that day. This journey has brought me into the lives of many women and some men who have shared with me their story of family abuse and their story of self reclamation. I have written and am writing about my own healing journey and am conducting Healing Nights and workshops to facilitate other people’s life affirming journey. I offer opportunities for women to create art, writing, performance, spoken word or any personal expression of healing from abuse. My own healing from being molested as a child began with just such an opportunity and I have never forgotten the power of that event.

My life experience has afforded me a strong passion for helping others reclaim their lives. I am honored to be a witness to that amazing stance of a Human Being declaring that what was done to them will not define who they are. They are more than what was done to them.

Many things have changed in our society since 1958, the year my grandmother was murdered, the year my mother lost her mother and the year I was born. You probably will not see a headline blaming nagging for the murder of a woman though I have seen things over the years news articles that come very close to that and I imagine you have as well. Police take classes now after thousands of women lost their lives as a direct result of domestic violence. A domestic violence emergency is treated more like a real emergency because of the numbers of murder suicides that occur in domestic situations. And because feminist rallied and educated and lobbied for change we see less headlines like the headline about the murder of my grandmother.

But what you will see on a daily basis are women being objectified. They are beautiful body parts on calendars, magazines, and TV shows. They are full lips, big breast and flat stomachs.

There are hundred of insidious ways to demean another human being and to allow yourself to be demeaned. Insidious and powerful. When a news cast introduces a family as “Mr. So and So and his wife So and So, she has become lesser than the man. It is a leftover way of introduction that seems innocent but has more far reaching effects than we might realize. The other day I watched a news cast concerning Haiti and the American journalist had put the caption “A farmers wife” below a woman talking. Is that any different than the Mrs. John Smith or Mrs. William Smith that was used in our culture for so many years and what we still sometimes see today?

If women are minimized as less than the most respected people in our culture, if they are not recognized as equal to the ones in power, a door to abuse is opened.

Abuse starts with the perception that one person’s importance and right to respect is less than another persons. Both the victim and victimized live under these perceptions. It is that perception that drove the institution of slavery, still hinders women from gaining equal pay for equal work and fuels the blockade against Lesbians, Gays and Trans Gendered from absolute access to full American citizenship. The societal perception is still that men can not display weakness and women do not have the strength to run countries, companies or become leaders in their own right. And if she is not beautiful, she needs to stay in the background of all of it.

It is deep and engrained and no matter how many football players shed a tear about their fathers, they had better bucky up and be men if they face a personal crisis and no matter how many female presidential candidates, she had better be able to explain why she wears pant suits. How our tribe views the roles of men and women will have a direct result on our diminishment or elevation as tribe members.

And if we are living in a role of strong man and weak woman, we are not living by who we really are. And if we are not living by who we truly are, we are not seeing who someone else truly is. And if we are not seeing who someone else truly is, we risk minimizing their status as spiritual human beings and we are both diminished in the process. Actual and physical abuse follows the heals of a warped perception about other human beings.

I have a friend who is about five years older than me. She fights hard battles like the trafficking of women and children, domestic violence and rape.

She just came back from Costa Rica after having a facelift. She is a friend and so I had to try and understand how it was that she felt she needed to have a face lift given her years of work for women’s rights and her firm stance for the empowerment of women. Surely I said, the new feminism that women have struggled and fought for had come to more than women being able to pay for their own facelifts?

Her response was that she was in a battle for her economic life with this financial downturn and the competition of a youthful face with the same law degree was her motive for her trip to Costa Rica. I am not sure she is right in her assessment but there is a part of me that suspects she is.

Perception is a powerful force. If we perceive women as weak, and unfit for leadership we will have a United Nations full of men in dark suits making the decisions that decide who gets to eat and who gets to starve. If we have the perception that a woman is less of a human because she gives her opinion in a way that does not placate the egos of others we have polite women who teach their daughters to be quiet and men who will not have the opportunity of loving someone they view as an equal.

We have perceptions about children that have followed us from the dark ages. The perception that children would endanger themselves if they, nurtured their intuition, honed their physic abilities and learned to listen to their spirits, continue to create emotionally immature adults who pass on their weakness to their children. The perception that children are to be seen and not heard still prevails in this society and that perception quiets the daughter’s voice that would scream from the rooftops that her father touched her vagina and made her touch his penis. It happens every single day.

That little girl will grow up and not know how to give herself the respect she will need in a society that has yet to embrace her as an equal being. She will whisper No instead of roar like a lion when she is pressured for unwanted sex. And she will remain quiet after date rape and drink her voice back into submission if it threatens to break lose beyond the confines of her closed-off throat. That little girl will grow up and not trust her own voice when her intuition warns her of a new acquaintance she met at a party.

The images we see on TV and the movie screen of weak women and strong viral men saving them continue to create generations of women who feel they will be safe if they have a man. I once read an amazing essay by a man whose girlfriend was raped while they were out on date. He had the same perception about a man’s hero status as so many women do before that fateful night. He believed he could stop violence from occurring against a woman because he was a man. He describes in painful detail his impotence during those minutes of having one man hold a knife to his throat while another man raped his girlfriend.

I am not trying to frighten you. What I am trying to convey is the need for each of us to realize that the most important thing we can carry in this world is a true sense of self. Take as many self-defense classes as you feel is necessary, carry your keys in your hand as an eye-jabbing weapon and scream loud and hard if you are threatened. But more important than any of these things combined is your sense of Self. Discover for yourself that you can become your own person. Perceive yourself as someone who does not live by someone else’s definition of who they think you are or should be.

What stops violence is a changed perception of who has the right to power, love and respect. What stops violence are women declaring they will not be treated as though they have nothing to contribute but beautiful body parts and a willingness to please. What stops violence is men’s willingness to see themselves with respect and to act on their desire for a better society. What stops violence is an active intolerance against any human being treated as less than anyone else. What stops violence is each person’s decision to heal from society’s small mindedness. But what stops violence on the deepest level and has the most far reaching effects is each one of us deciding to cast from our selves ANYTHING that goes against our spirit of who we truly are. If we do that, and I view it as one of the most powerful things one human can do, we can not help but to see that one person’s belittlement is our own.

Violence is the small person’s solution to things they can not control. We know that rape is not about sex, it is about power. We know that our daughters, mothers, aunts, sisters lovers and friends become who they came to this earth to become when they are released from oppression. We know that an unenlightened society that oppresses one group will oppress as many groups as it feels is necessary to maintain that power.

We also know that people have the ability to transcend the culture in which they were born. Black Americans, women, and now Lesbians and Gay Americans, have not allowed the world they were born into to define their worth. When Nelson Mandala was asked about the one thing he attributed his ability to withstand the oppression of apartheid, he replied that his strength came from the fact that he never forgot who he was. He knew who he was as a human being and remained connected to that self knowledge all of the days of his imprisonment.

Victims are not responsible for being victimized but they can help how they perceive that victimization. The victim’s job is to know that what was done to them does not describe them as a person, it merely describes something that happened to them. It is not to be taken lightly nor is it to be integrated into their perception of their worth.

Why would being hit make you feel like you are worthless? Why would being raped influence your ability to love yourself? Why would being molested as a child make you question your right to a full and happy life? The beliefs a victim internalizes about herself after abuse is what fuels her ability or inability to overcome the abuse.

Healing from the negative beliefs we have created when were victimized can be healed. Tonight is an example of an opportunity to heal from the deep wounds of having been hurt by another human being or loving someone who has been hurt by another human being. What someone did does not have to make you feel small, timid, or less worthy. If we allow that then we have agreed to a double victimization. It does not have to be that way. It does not have to be that way.

You have come here tonight because you already know that. You know that beneath the sorrow, the anger, the outrage, there is a steady, unified declaration of strength. You have a strong suspicion that a deep healing and powerful reclamation can take place inside of you and inside of someone you love. It is the spark that first made you decide to come to this building when you could be doing something to distract youself. But you came and something I have said tonight will fall onto the fertile ground of your desire for wholeness. There it will grow. I promise you that peace and understanding can grow from this time together tonight.

You will assist others in their journey of reclamation and growth. You will give love where there is sorrow and you will give comfort where there is pain. You will not be able to help yourself because that is what love does. Healing clears away the debris of pain. It creates room for the love that we all want to give and the love we all want to receive. Love follows healing and it is a deep love born from a place that is indescribably painful and equally indescribably valuable to the human journey.

The small act of hearing about this event and by coming here tonight you have said YES! and joined a thousand other yes’es that have been declared in the minds of those who have chosen to heal and to assist others in their healing. You have tapped into a place within you that surpasses all pain and all confusion if even for a few minutes.

Humans have the potential to transcend all of their meanness and all of their insecurities all of their pain. I believe this. I believe this because I keep talking to groups like this who know that the human spirit is stronger than concentration camps, apartheid, institutionalized oppression, sexism, misogyny, and hate. The human spirit that is within you and the human spirit that is within me is unquenchable in its desire for inner peace.

I appreciate you honoring me with your attention.

I will be conducting the fourth annual Tallahassee Healing Night for Women in the fall. Women will bring their art, spoken word, written word, performance or any artistic expression of healing to the event to share with other women. It is a powerful event with powerful stories of self reclamation. Send me your email or go to my website for upcoming details.

FSU Women’s Center – Healing Night

Featured writing for the event. Good Mother - Personal Essay
Good Mother –
Personal Essay

by Vickie Spray
The personal transformation of a daughter whose mother could not be a good mother.
Click here to purchase your copy!

Heal yourself with Vickie Spray and the FSU Women’s Center!

Come out and support the arts in their portrayal of healing with a focus on domestic violence and connect with others through the healing power of art.

When: Thursday, February 11th
Where: 311A Oglesby Union
Time: 7pm to 9pm

Vickie Spray is an inspirational speaker, writer, and self-help columnist, and President of WeMoon Spirit, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the growth of women. Vickie has provided counseling and guidance for many years to those in need. Her latest endeavor, Your Life Expressions, embodies her desire to help people heal and return to the authentic SELF that is beyond the pain, abuse, or any emotional block to personal freedom.