I am an incest survivor. My father first raped me when I was six years old and continued to well into my adolescence. My psyche coped with this trauma by splitting in two – a child who experienced every moment of the abuse and another child who knew nothing of it. In her book, Miss America By Day, Marilyn Van Derbur, who is also an incest survivor, calls these personas the night child and day child. Neither my night child nor day child knew the other existed until my repressed memories surfaced at the age of 37 - some twenty years after the abuse ended.
I have been writing poetry since I was 15. Each poem is a snapshot in time of my soul immersed in the human experience. In retrospect, it is as if I were writing for a future me whose task was to re-integrate my night child and day child into a whole person even though I didn’t yet have the ability to understand the insight.
I kept my poetry private through my twenties because I was afraid to show people my vulnerability, but in my mid-thirties I decided to share it with the world through my first book of poetry, I Carry It Like Luggage, which I wrote prior to my incest memories surfacing. At the same time, I developed a new aspect of my creativity by creating visual expressions of my poems, which I call visual poems. You can see a small selection of them on the my blog and on my poetry website www.truthtellerpub.com. After my memories surfaced, I wrote my second poetry book, The Way of Reckoning. The title poem is the quintessential example of a poem written for the future me, describing both the violent upheaval I was beginning and the revelation of truth that would result.
I began to read my poetry at open mics and poetry festivals because I wanted to help other sexual abuse survivors. The response was overwhelming! Survivors told me they found comfort in knowing they are not alone in their experiences and that my poems gave them words for feelings they hadn’t been able to express. Friends and family of survivors were also touched deeply by the poetry because it revealed the inner world of loved ones they didn't understand or were unable to help until then. The positive response I received at poetry readings ignited a passion to reach and help as many people as possible with my poetry.
I want to jump back to my teenage self to tell you about two decisions that eventually lead me to coaching. I began to think about what I wanted to do with my life after I graduated from college. I decided I want to help people, and I wanted a job in which it made a difference that I was doing the work rather than a job that anyone with my skills could do just as well. The summer before my junior year in high school, I learned I would take a course in physics, and I wanted to know what physics was. I had access to the school bookstore, so I borrowed a textbook to check it out. I loved it. It was like a story book to me. The concepts were fascinating and fun. I solved the practice problems easily, and I couldn't put the book down. By the time school started I was a quarter way into the book. I worked ahead of the class throughout the year, and my newfound passion made the time fly.
Come the spring of my junior year, it was time to decide where I wanted to go to college, what I would study and how to pay for it. My mother and guidance counselor suggested I apply for an Air Force ROTC scholarship. The idea of having people tell me what to do didn't appeal to me, but the scholarship offered my first year free without obligation to join the military, so I applied for and received the scholarship to study physics at the University of Georgia.
I found the introductory physics classes enjoyable and made good grades. Meanwhile, I discovered that I liked the Air Force ROTC program. I liked the instructors and other cadets, and decided I wanted to work with the same kind of people, so I made the commitment to join the Air Force as an officer when I graduated. As I progressed in the physics program, I struggled with the higher-level courses. All the pictures disappeared from the text books, and there were more equations than explanations. Physics wasn't fun anymore. I considered changing my major many times but couldn't think of anything else that interested me. There was also the fact that I would lose my ROTC scholarship if I changed my major to consider, and I didn't have other options to pay for school, so I stuck it out.
Fast forward to my fourth year as an Air Force officer when I decided I wanted to go back to school. I applied for the Air Force Academy program that paid officers to go to school full time to earn a master's degree. The department of physics selected me to attend the University of Colorado where I studied astrodynamics. Grad school was hard. I lived in constant fear that I would fail out of school in the belief that I didn't really belong in grad school, that I wasn't good enough to even be there. These are the same kinds of limiting beliefs I help my clients overcome in my coaching practice. I did graduate despite all the adversity, and started my job as a physics instructor at the Air Force Academy.
Five minutes into teaching my first class, I knew this was what I wanted to do. I loved the rapport I had with the cadets, and I was confident I could teach physics better than I was taught in college. Now I had another passion - teaching. I bring this passion to my coaching practice by teaching my clients the Core Energy Leadership principles of raising their level of consciousness.
I wanted to become a permanent fixture at the Air Force Academy, but the military doesn't allow that, so I went kicking and screaming to my next assignment. I hated the new assignment because it had neither purpose nor camaraderie and therefore did not feed my soul. I found successive assignments equally void of meaning, and separated from the military after 13 years of service at the age of 36. I transitioned from the military to teaching physics labs as an adjunct instructor at local colleges. I loved being in academia again, but couldn't find enough work to pay the bills, so I looked to the corporate world for a new start.
I entered the corporate world as an instructional designer designing corporate training. It was ok work, but I didn’t love it. It was just a job - a job I stayed in for another 13 years. I spent my time and energy working on computers, worrying about meeting deadlines and making sure I put in enough hours to keep my job. I reached the point I was so miserable that I hated coming to work. I wanted a career in which I helped people by building relationship, but I was afraid to give up my generous salary and benefits. This fear kept me miserable in my job for two years before the longing for fulfillment outweighed the fear of taking financial security into my own hands. I hired a life coach to help me find a fulfilling career and ended up realizing that I liked what she did with me, which led me to enroll in the iPEC coach training program. I began coaching in July of 2018 while still in training. I am now a certified professional life coach. In my coaching practice, I incorporate my passion for helping people through my poetry, and my experience as an incest survivor, student, and teacher. I help my clients make the mindset transition from pouring their life energy into avoiding feared experiences and defending against threats to reaching for and grasping joy in their lives. I experienced this transition myself when I walked away from my financially secure, but life draining job to go for the joy I wanted in life. Watch my video poem below, which captures this transition beautifully.
Would you like to know more or share your story? I would love to hear from you! Reach out to me!