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Friday, February 25, 2011

AnneMarie A

Dearest AnneMarie,

Sweet girl - even writing your name gets me teary. I love how your heart loves reading letters from other women and how that sisterhood has been a theme in your life. You are so loved and you have fought like hell through a lot of peoples' darkness to embrace who you are. Where you are.

I love that you are no longer sabotaging yourself and that you are comfortable and even celebrating the way God made you. Inside and out. You are small physically, but not spiritually. Even if someone were to hurt you again or approach you in a way that is crude or violent, NO ONE can hurt your soul and destroying yourself will NOT prove a point to ANYONE nor will it bring justice!!!! If someone approaches you, SCREAM AND KICK AND WAIL AND TELL THEM HOW MUCH YOU DON'T DESERVE THIS AND BELIEVE IT IS THEIR PROBLEM!!!!!! NOT YOURS!!!!!

Don't take it on, any more, how people react to you. weather good or bad, it is not up to you to take care of everyone and their own stuff is their own stuff. SEND OUT THE SPIRIT THAT WILL ATTRACT FELLOW LIGHT dwellers - RENOUNCE< once and for all, the notiion that you have a magnet some how, in your heart that almost draws dark people towards you to prey on that sweet soul that used to laugh and spin and tell people the TRUTH!.

You have faith that is a gift, you have a husband who fought through darkness himself to be with you and deny his own fears, you have two amazing kids and there is much to do with what you've been given and NONE OF IT is in the dark.

Remember that day in '02 when you didnt' think you could get up anymore? Remember how I was there to pick you up and gave you just the right words, just the right friend, to get you to the next day?

Remember back when you were in college and dared death to snuff you out? I was there. I was so sad and wanted to tell you how much you're loved. All of those situations that you found or that found you - they weren't who you are.

They were just you walking in the darkness. But look, AnneMarie! We still made it and made it with love and grace and mercy.

Isn't that amazing? I can't wait to see how many women you can relate to and love while they are in their darkness.

A light shining in a dark place.

Renounce agreements that are not from Love, AnneMarie.

PS. This is the beginning of a BEAUTIFUL friendship!

Rachel C


Rachel -

First, my apologies for putting off this letter for longer than I should have. You deserve to hear the things I've wanted to say for years but never had the courage to accept and say out loud. I know now that everything I am about to say is absolute truth. It's hard to put pen to page and express things in a manner that is honest and exposed, but I will do the best I can.

It goes without saying that in the past 5 years you have gone through hell and back. You're world has flipped upside down and everything you ever imagined for your life has been taken away... repeatedly. I understand now that your struggles with infertility have left you raw and vulnerable...and right about every 28 days you receive a cruel reminder of the fact that you may never know the joy of holding your first born in your arms. You may never experience the wonder of creation and feel the flutter of your growing child in your womb. I understand that every time somebody else is blessed with the ability to share in the challenge of parenthood, a piece of you dies. You have experienced the hope of infertility treatments only to have your heart broken and your relationship with your husband fall apart because it was too much for you to go through and still find optimism and happiness in your life. I know you morn for the life that could have been, hate yourself for being broken, doubt your husband could love somebody so flawed, made deals with a god you are now unsure exists (how could any "god" allow anybody to go through this), feel resentment for those that are blessed with the gift of becoming a mother, and experience guilt because you secretly wished it was you instead. Life is not fair, or easy...

For that I am sorry...and I know that no matter what I say, it will never take away the pain in your heart or fill the void in your soul. But there is light at the end.

You are, and always have been, entitled to have every single one of those feelings and any other feeling that may have spread across your heart and into your mind and soul. You have, and continue, to experience things most people take for granted. The miracle of life is just that, a miracle. But so is your ability to move forward. In the past year I have seen you emerge from a fog of depression with a blinding light surrounding you. It is a sight to see! You have proven yourself to be AMAZINGLY strong, come to terms with your depression, and worked on finding happiness in life...and you've found it. You have come up with a plan. You are taking care of your body, mind, and your heart. You are being honest with yourself for once in your life. Not only that, but you worked through an unbelievable hardship with your husband...proved to yourself and to him that no matter what, you are in this for the long haul. You are persistent, never giving up on yourself, on him, or your dreams...despite being handed every reason to throw in the towel.

Whether you see it or not, your life and experiences...ALL of them...have molded you into a strong, beautiful women capable of handling the most heart wrenching challenges life can pass you with beauty and love in your heart. And when the time comes for you to embrace your child or walk forward in a life spent entirely with the man you love, you will do so with optimism and excitement for what life has in store for you.

You are AMAZING...an INSPIRATION. Know that, embrace it.

R-

Amber (Everywoman) M

Dear Amber,(and Erika, and Lil, and Aimee, and Iman, and Mom)…

Dear every Murphy Girl past present and future…

Dear every woman in the world that ever felt like you might not have lived the life you were meant you live:

You always believed in yourself. Face it, it’s true.

Some days it didn’t feel like it, and in the last few years that was more days than you thought you could handle. The days your mascara ran, the days your fat girl jeans didn’t zip, the days the bullies picked on you. Do you remember the one thing about you that day that made you smirk or smile? No????

Remember it now.

In kindergarten you told the teacher she drove you crazy and were sent to the corner. You believed it then and you believe it to this day.

That day when your teacher told mom and dad in parent-teacher conferences that you were “too outspoken” and your parents took your side. How important is your family? They are your strength and your center. They made you who you are, even if you didn’t appreciate it until later in life. Some even when it was too late to tell them you loved them.

Remember the day in sixth grade that the mean girls in math class cut your hair off while the bullies laughed and egged them on? That day you realized that the people in this world you hold dear will fight for you. That made you learn the inescapable need of a true friend.

You remember your first broken heart, and it still stings. And you remember every broken heart since. Yes all of them. The first love, the first time, the first “it’s not you it’s me,” the first cheat (and the second), the first marriage, the second marriage, the soul mate. A broken heart only makes you stronger and more discerning and so you take the sting of each broken heart as a badge of honor. Each broken heart makes you more aware of what you want and what you deserve. The fact that your tolerance for B.S. is low is an asset!!

Remember working three jobs, living in a slum, and selling every CD in your collection to make your tuition payment? You’ll never be able to repay yourself the gift of education but the gift alone is priceless. Keep learning, it’s the best time and energy and money you’ll ever part with.

Remember the way that even when your jeans were too tight…you had a beautiful womanly body that someone found sexy. Every gorgeous curve!!! And if he didn’t? You did, and to this day you believe you are one sexy bitch.

You remember the ache in your heart of the baby you couldn’t carry.

Never forget the way that even when the old boys in the old boys club made you think you weren’t strong enough to “roll with us”…You proved them wrong and made your own way in this “man’s world.”

Think back to that even when your baby was crying, and there was nothing in the world that could console him or her…You created this perfect little being and brought it safely into the world to learn how to laugh and love and dance. And to be!!

Remember fighting to make your marriage work? Good job! Remember deciding you couldn’t keep fighting to make your marriage work? Way to take one for the team!

Remember watching your friends fight cancer? You’ll never know how much your love and support meant to them. Remember fighting your own cancer? You made the determination that being feminine was not based on breasts alone.

Believe it or not, you had it in you all along.

Admittedly, you are the last to see it because you never put yourself first. There are too many roles in front of “me.” But you, the mama, the daughter, the breadwinner, the nurse, the family CEO /bottle washer- you are the most amazing person you know.

And the most amazing person I’m still getting to know.

Al the love in the world for you,

Amber
(and Erika and Lil and Aimee and Iman and the Murphy Girls)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Amber R




Darling Amber,

That’s the name that one of the best people in your life gave you and you still don’t believe it’s true. You have to really try sometimes to see the amazing person you are, covered in scars (mental and physical) and hiding behind a tall steel wall built to hold people out. That wall really holds you in and separates you from the beauty of your life and the wonderful experiences you have had.

Sure you have had heartache and truly desperate times like your divorce and the abuse and his adultery and lies that led to it. While he took away your identity and broke you down you learned how precious life was. You stood tall against the wind that threatened to tear you apart and you dug deep down to your roots and weathered the storm, coming out the other side stronger and healthier. You decided to take the negative energy and use it for good, earning your first of two college degrees and proving that you could be successful as a single mom in the world.

You have served your country with honor and bravery and been in places most people can only imagine, and some not in a good way. You experienced SERE training in the desert with rape simulations and POW interrogations and you were strong enough to pass and earn a career in the military that many men don’t undertake, much less women.

But strength isn’t all of you.

You look in the mirror and see an overweight and out of shape woman with acne and scars and no hope. Your kids tell you that they love you and you wonder why? What do I have to offer them but a past full of skeletons and a future of uncertainty you often say. The amazing part of you is that you work to give your children the best life you can, the life that you wanted as a child. The music lessons, the sports classes, the cooking academy are all things that will prepare them to be amazing adults. You teach them rules, structure and how to be fabulous, just like you.

Sure you aren’t magazine beautiful but who really is? An airbrush and good lighting can make anyone seem alluring, what you have to offer is inner beauty that shines from your grey green Irish eyes. Your hips have carried three beautiful children and your stomach with it’s scars and stretch marks is more a treasure map than a disappointment.

It’s said that those who never experience difficulty can never truly treasure life and that’s true for you have seen and felt the worst of the worst but when you cuddle your children or your new husband gives you a certain look you realize that you are beautiful just the way you are. Beautiful in the way of the caterpillar that must endure weeks of confinement to become the magical being it is. You have endured you have prospered and you are amazing.

Lauren K




My lovely Lauren,

For better or for worse I am with you. I was there with you when no one else was, and even though there were times in which you rejected me I hugged you even harder. I love you Lauren. You are one of the most amazing, intelligent, beautiful, generous, and unique girls I have had the pleasure of knowing. I have one hope for you; it is that you remember this moment, this one right now. I know that this very second you believe that what I just said, but I know also that you haven't in the past. This life of yours hasn't been as easy as you might have hoped it would be, but ultimately you haven't allowed the little things or the big things stop you from becoming this wonderful woman that I have known for the past 27 years.

I remember you when you were at your worst. You were like a superhero that turned to the dark side; you used your power of medical knowledge against yourself. You grabbed those medications and took just enough to feel your breath slow down, your eyes glazed over as you stared at the ceiling. Lying on your bed, your thoughts of death brought a comfortable discomfort to you. I know you didn't want to die. I whispered to you that this was not to be the end. As much as you wanted to disregard that little voice of mine, you didn't. You cried for help, and help is what you received. You have always been strong. You didn't let go. Spending those few days in the hospital woke you up. Your eyes were opened to new possibilities. You received a call on the third day that you were accepted to nursing school.

A few months later, you learned that nursing school was to be delayed a year because of a missing course. You looked at the brighter side to life, and realized that there was an amazing person in your life that you wanted to get to know better. Things were going to be okay. On February 19, roughly 3 months after you learned about the nursing school delay, you began to have conscious, seizure like activity. You were rushed to the hospital. The seizure like activity continued after your release. After countless more doctor and ER visits you had racked up a large medical bill, had excused yourself from your job as an EMT at a local ambulance service, and had been diagnosed with PTSD that caused uncontrolled muscle movements at random. This is how your brain and body dealt with the past. Your devastation and frustration broke my heart. I knew your past and how far you had come from it. You thought you had started a new life away from HIM. And though you had, you needed to confront some issues head on in order to start living, actually living and not just walking through the motions of life.

You had to learn, the hard way, that his abuse was not your fault. You never once deserved to be hit in the face, thrown out of bed, talked down to with such fury and anger, suffocated, and raped. It was two years of terror with one of those years being completely isolated from your friends. I held your hand through it all. I was in that shower with you as you slumped to the floor and cried. I was in that classroom that kept you distracted from your life at “home”. I was in that ambulance with you as you laughed with your working partner. I was with you when you came “home” to work only to be yelled at and criticized that you didn’t do a mundane chore correctly. I was there when you finally had the courage to leave. In all the time I have known you I have never known you to be a statistic, to be like the majority. This is one of the things I most certainly love about you. Your courage, determinacy, and independence saved you. I knew these traits were going to come to play in your future again, and when the PTSD showed its ugly head you took it straight on.

You did not feel sorry for yourself. The new person that you had just met, who was going to be your fiancĂ©, was there by your side. Your new look on life was a vibrant one. You used the advice from a psychiatrist on how to handle this new situation, and gradually you began to control your uncontrollable muscle movements. You began nursing school, but because you had not been able to control these muscle movements completely you were asked to leave the program after a semester and a half. You were disappointed, but knew that things would be okay as long as you kept your head held high and let nothing come in the way of your personal success. Nothing would ever hold you down again from fulfilling your dreams. Have I told you that I think you are amazing?! You are AMAZING! Not everyone can do what you have done. I couldn’t be more proud of you! You immediately enrolled in a pharmacy technician certification program the following semester, graduated, and are currently working in a prestigious hospital. I know you haven’t forgotten your dream of becoming a nurse, and I know in my heart that you will become one. Your determination and motivation has not let you down.

The road ahead of you, my dearest, will not be easy. No road of life is ever made smooth, but with your new found confidence, determination, self acceptance, and humor you will make it to the end. I will be with you through the next many years just as I was with you in the past. I love you Lauren.



With all my love and confidence,

Lauren

Monday, February 21, 2011

Laura D



February 18, 2011,

Dear Laura,
Pondering your inner beauty. You are very gifted at avoidance of such things and have honed yourself into thinking on the surface. Surfaces only show one face. You are worthy of all of your dreams, you are passionate beyond control and that is a good quality. You are loved. Period. People love you and are drawn to you. You reach out to others and give them all you can. You expect little in return and are infinite in your forgiveness. You see positives in others. You see the positive in everything, and can find the shiny in any situation.
Your laughter is contagious and you like to spread humor. Your children are gifted because of you. You have taught them so many life lessons and refuse to stop teaching them even during their hours of angsty resistance. You have truly loved and lost and have lots of love to give. Love is all around you.

Refusal to accept those who do not take all of you can be a noble trait, an enviable trait. You have lots to give and give freely. Sometimes you may give too freely, but you reach into the places of others and help them through there humdrum days. Giving is noble. You were a gifted teacher and need to teach again, the students you touched continue to think of you positively and thankfully. Teaching was an excellent outlet for your loving and caring ways. You saved children, taught them to share and be themselves and taught them to succeed in society. You even found successes in failures.

You love all creatures with a heart that can see into even the most reluctant soul. Not all reluctant souls can be reached as easily; you gave many years, your best shot. A chasm, not a chasm, a whirlwind, an eddy is opening. Jump in, you’ll survive. Not only survive, you will float and sunbathe and make the absolute best. You are taking a new direction with your life and it is okay. You are okay, you’re better than okay and you know you will be stronger and more loving than ever.

Sometimes temper tantrums can lead to revelations, tantrums are releasing, freeing. Sacrificing yourself for another will drown you. Think of your happiness and what you truly need to be surrounded with. Your mother loves and accepts all of your decisions and shortcomings. As you grow as a mother of teenagers look to her for love and guidance; she cried for you, with you and beside you. As a teenage mother you had much to overcome. By cooperating with your best resources, you overcame wonderfully, and your sons are the benefactors.

Look to your girlfriends for sanity. They will also cry with you, beside you and let you comfort them to comfort yourself. Cry with them, for them and let them cry for you. You are surrounded by gifts; gifts of friendship, gifts of love and gifts of beauty in all things.

You will accept your inner self as not a flaw but an asset. An asset that not only allows you to grow and give, but allows others to grow freely. I think you are orange inside, a fiery orange. A fiery flame that can never be extinguished. Don’t let anyone one put out this light. It is needed for your children. It is needed for your mother, your family. It is needed for your best of friends. It is why people love you. Cherish this orange. You need this fiery sparkle for you.

Love you!

Laura

Stevie P



Dear Stevie-

You look at yourself in the mirror daily and can only pick out the flaws you believe you have. You let the world eat you alive. You let people tell you your dreams are impossible as your heart screams to you to believe. You let people judge you constantly and cannot shake the words in which you hear. You walk to the beat of a different drummer but who cares girl. Who CARES!

Stevie, sometimes I wish you would wake up and exude all the greatness you have within you. For, a 22 year old women, Stevie you have stumbled, you have fallen, but you continue to get back up and strive towards your destination. Some people can’t even do that! You truly do live your life the cowgirl way. You get knocked out of life’s saddle and girl you climb back aboard.

Yes, your life is pebbled with heartbreaking stories that you could write into best sellers but yet girl you never let anyone see the true pain you feel.

It’s never easy growing up without a father but you found out that a real father doesn’t have to be blood to love you. You look back at your first boyfriend. You feel you could have changed how it ended. You couldn’t sugar and what he did to you was never your fault. DO NOT FEEL GUILTY. IT’S BEEN SIX YEARS IT’S TIME TO GIVE UP THE GUILT. Now, you face an even bigger challenge. Your two years out from losing your best friend. Your eyes still hold the haunting memory so crisp and pristine for all to see. You have to let the guilt of her accident leave you. You have to quit blaming yourself for her families’ loss, for your loss, and the loss of all who cared about her. SHE LOVES YOU; LINSEY LOVES YOU STEVIE.

Stevie, the next time someone calls you amazing. Do not brush it off. Take a moment and let it settle in that you did something good. Hell girl you helped an international student come to the Lord. What kind of greatness is that? Stevie, you care so much for people. That gift is almost obsolete today. With everyone you meet and get to know you leave a bit of yourself in them. You sprinkle there life with the happiness you have always been searching for. Your positive thinking and drive helps others when times aren’t easy for them to endure. You are always a shoulder they can lean on, an ear that will listen, and a heart that genuinely cares. What is more amazing than that?

However, girl, don’t go getting a huge head. For the Lord wishes to keep you humble and wholesome in all you do. He gives you the strength to fight the good fight.

Stevie in times that the tears need to fall let them fall. I know, I know…Cowgirls don’t cry. BUT GIRL EVEN COWGIRLS ARE HUMAN. When you need a good laugh? Laugh at yourself. Your sense of humor is quite impeccable if you ask someone. Stevie have faith. In your darkest moments you broke through by believing. So, now as you embark on a different way to your dreams believe it will get you there.

Beautiful girl, love will finds its way to you. Love will help sustain you, and love will never fail. Right now I know you love a man who most would say is “out of your league.” What do they know? He thinks you are amazing and his mother relied on you during a tough time in her life. If that isn’t love I don’t know what is. Plus, think of your strong willed mother. She placed all the love she could in the garden of your heart. Yes, it grows with sweet-smelling wildflowers but even when you feel like she may not be there she is. She is your mother and SHE LOVES YOU STEVIE.

Honey, there is so many great things manifesting inside of you. So, many dreams, adventures, and stories waiting to be written; written by you. Stevie, do not be afraid to dance in storms and to seek peace in the eye of them. Stevie…do not stand outside the fire. DO NOT LET OTHERS TELL YOU WHAT IS POSSIBLE. A smart woman named Eleanor Roosevelt once stated “The Future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Your dreams girl; THEY WILL COME TRUE FOR YOUR PASSION FOR THEM IS INCREDIBLE! TANDY WOULD BE LUCKY TO HAVE A MEMBER OF HIS TEAM WITH AS MUCH FIRE AS YOU! DO NOT LET SET BACKS PREVAIL OR DISCOURAGE YOU!

STEVIE FOR ONCE IN YOUR LIFE LISTEN! LISTEN TO YOUR HEART! LISTEN TO THE MUSIC THAT SURROUNDS YOU! LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE WHO MATTER MOST! TAKE THE TIME AND LISTEN AND YOU WILL FIND THE ANSWERS YOU’RE LOOKING FOR!

I LOVE YOU GIRL…LOVE YOU WITH MORE THAN YOU KNOW.
KEEP SMILING IT’S THE GLUE TO SOMEONE ELSE’S LIFE!

Elle P

Dear Muse,

Hi, how are you?

…boy, this is awkward…

Look, I really want to apologize for not recognizing you. That must have made you really feel like shit. But I want you to know how much it means to me to know you just played along that whole time. You didn’t try to prove me wrong and you didn’t screw with my head like you could have and I appreciate you not taking advantage of me.

All along, I was afraid you’d leave me, and I didn’t realize you ARE me; my breath, my passion and my spark.

I feared your voice was tainted and your opinions were set to misguide me, and I’m sorry I told you to put a sock in it. I didn’t realize it really was YOU being genuine – I thought you were the whispers of someone else trying to trick me.

I haven’t been able to look you in the face for ages. In fact, it’s been so long that I fear I wouldn’t even be able to pick out your face in a crowd. And I’m embarrassed to admit I wasn’t even actually looking in your direction because I was star-crosseyed trying to keep focused on another lover.

Look – I realize now how legit you are. You’re not just shouting arbitrary hogwash to me because you want to see how high I’ll jump. You’ve been asking me to jump because you know I can fly. Before I realized who you were, you couldn’t have paid me to have faith in what I was jumping into. And now? Now I’m purposely waiting on the cliff for the most perfect burst of air to rush up and meet me from all the breathtaking beauty below and toss me into a freefall extravaganza of faith.

I’ve been dense and stubborn, convinced I was running the show and acting like I knew what I was doing. You’ve been patiently raising your hand, waiting for me to take notice and ask you to stand up and share your thoughts with the rest of the group. What I’ve only just realized is how in love I’ve fallen with you.

I’ve fallen in love with you by falling into myself.

You are my inspiration, my passion, my intuition, my heart – you are ME.

Like, literally – I’ve been falling in love with myself this whole time. No more middle man. No one else gets the credit for this one – this was all me.

I can’t wait to keep falling in love with myself over and over again.

Muse, keep it real. Remember I love you. I’ll see you soon.

Thank you for loving me.

LYLAS,

elle.

Crystal D


Dear Crystal,

Well here you sit. 31 years old and single. Beautifully single. Probably more beautiful than you've ever been.

Why?

Because you did it.

You finally took your head from under the blankets and looked at the world around you, realizing the fundamental truth of sadness, anxiety, and hopelessness. You took that step, the hardest of hard steps, and you put yourself first. You walked. You walked when it was hard, you walked when you thought you couldn't do it, and you walked when everyone gave their opinion. In the face of heartache and guilt, you were able to look deep inside yourself and realize that staying would be easier, but it wouldn't be right.

Because you walked, you are beautiful. Courage is beautiful. Strength is beautiful. Confidence is beautiful.

When the panic sets in and you feel like the world is burying you alive, with all the 'what ifs' and the 'now whats' tumbling into your brain faster than your synapses can register - you don't give up. You breathe, cry, run, shower, or hug your babies. You pace, flutter, worry, and tremble, but never once do you consider that this will beat you.

When the pain attacks your muscles and you shrink into a shell of yourself, lacking the strength to get out of bed, you do it. You run. You work. You bitch, moan, and complain. But you do it. You alone get it done.

You lived as a daughter.
You lived as a wife.
You lived as a mom.

And now ... well now you live as you.

I am proud to know you. I am proud to see you succeed, and to try again when you don't.

Your children may not understand why you asked him to leave. You did a wonderful job protecting the world from the truth that was your relationship, to such a degree that no one knows the depth of your sadness. Your husband claims the same, to not know where this came from, to have been blind-sided, to have never been given a chance to fix things.

But inside, you know.

Your heart remembers the pain of the fear, the fear of the unknown, and the hopelessness that held you together as a couple.

You deserve love. And love deserves you.

But not a love of coming last, working harder, or fighting every day to make a smile.

Your smile is beautiful, and your laugh is a sparkle. Sunshine beams out your eyes when you light on something that makes you happy. You are contagious.

Life is hard. Guilt is harder.

No one has walked in your shoes. No one has heard your silent tears at night, or felt the anxiety that suffocated you on such a regular basis.

You are strong, wise, and independent. You are a mom to three precious children, and a substitute mom to so many more. Every day you make a difference.

Keep smiling.Don't let the guilt of your leaving weigh you down, when your heart continually tells you that this was right. Accepting life for what it is, with out the romanticism, the expectation of perfection, and the fear of letting someone else down, is the greatest accomplishment, and you've done that.

Don't look back in sadness. Look back at twelve years that started off glorious, and ended in the beginning of a new you. Stop thinking of the hurt feelings and the harsh words. Stop dwelling on his feelings and how broken he is. Focus on you - the rebirth of you, with strength and confidence and a biting desire to conquer the world.

Love will find its way into your life.

But, remember what you tell yourself: You like you! If you love yourself, it opens the door for others to love you.

Keep on keeping on. Cry when you need to, laugh when you will.

31 is not too old to start over. 31 is the perfect age to embrace yourself, and get out of the shadows you've buried yourself in.

You are fantastic!

Love, Crystal

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Wendy F



Dear Wendy,

I want you to know I love you, and think you’re a beautiful person. You need to hear this now, because there are times I know you doubt yourself and I want you to have this letter to read during those times.

The last year has been difficult for you, I understand. There will be more difficulties and struggles to come, as this is the nature of life. Everyone has struggles in their life, and you are one that tends to focus on the struggles of others vs. your own. I want you to know it’s not selfish to invest in yourself.

It’s okay to acknowledge your struggles and fears; you are just as deserving as anyone else. It’s also necessary to take pride in your courage and determination to face those fears, because it wasn’t easy. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished and the person you are – you are an inspiration to your daughters and if your mother was still alive, she’d tell you how impressed she was with your attitude towards life.

To focus on the subject of outer beauty, specifically for a moment…

I know this is a sensitive subject for you, and some of what I’m going to say will probably make you cry, but I’m going to say what you need to hear anyway:

•    There’s nothing wrong with trying to look pretty.
•    You are not pretending to be someone you’re not, if you want to style your hair or put on makeup.
•    You won’t look stupid.
•    You won’t do it wrong.
•    You’re not trying to attract sexual attention by trying to look attractive.
•    It’s not “safer” to wear jeans, t-shirts and tennis shoes so you can fade into the background.
•    You won’t be rejected if someone is interested in getting to know you better based on your looks.
•    People will not think you’re shallow for trying to improve or change your appearance.
•    You are beautiful no matter what you look like.

At the age of forty, you’ve learned many things. You’ve learned that your body never stops changing, whether intentional or not, and you also know that someday, your outer beauty will fade. You’ve experienced this first-hand. You carried and bore four beautiful children, and each pregnancy wreaked havoc with your body.  You developed cellulite on your thighs and buttocks. Your breasts stretched to monumental proportions, only to shrink, shrivel and sag after nursing your children. You developed a map of stretch marks across your belly, hips and thighs when your skin overgrew its bounds. You have wrinkles now, your hair is getting gray, and your teeth are not as white as they used to be.  Yet, you are more beautiful now than ever before. Did you hear me?

You are more beautiful now, than ever before.

Your beauty lies within your capacity for love, the courage, integrity and determination you show…not the length of your eyelashes, or the size of your thighs.  

You should be proud of yourself! Over the last ten years, you’ve grown so much!

•    You took care of your mother while she was dying of lung cancer. You were strong for her, and made her last months of living more tolerable, and full of love.
•    You learned to live without your mother’s emotional support after she died.
•    You took over the care of your grandmother after your mom died.
•    You provided your grandmother with love, care and companionship while she was dying.
•    You forgave your ex-husband for lying to you about your financial situation during your marriage.
•    You forgave yourself for trusting another person too fully, and learned from the experience.
•    You are stronger after losing your home and the money you invested. You recovered. 
•    You never speak poorly of your children's father in their presence. You encourage their love for him.
•    You forgave your step-father for ignoring you and your children after your mother died.
•    You repaired your relationship with your father.
•    You made it through the struggles of the last six months, in particular:

o    You were terminated (“laid off”) in retaliation after 5 years of faithful, exceptional service after expressing your dissatisfaction with unethical and illegal company sales techniques. Your “friend”, HR Director, lied to you and said your position was being eliminated due to “cost-cutting” reasons, but promptly advertised for a position similar to yours online not a month later. You cut your losses, and focused on the positive. You considered it a blessing in disguise and you learned to temper your trust in co-workers. You cut household expenses, you sacrificed, and you meet your financial obligations regardless.
o    You and your husband were in a motorcycle accident and survived. You broke your foot, but didn’t need surgery, only a cast and you were grateful. Your husband broke his leg, but you were grateful that was his only injury and that you would be able to spend another day with him. You were happy you lived, and didn’t think twice about the cost of medical care or repair to the motorcycle despite being unemployed and living paycheck to paycheck. You knew you’d make it through somehow.
o    And finally, you showed amazing strength and courage during your oldest daughter’s TERRIFYING onset of manic depression and subsequent hospitalization. When she was afraid of you, you were strong and didn’t cry. When her eyes, wild with fear, didn’t recognize you, you were strong and didn’t cry. During her psychosis, you were strong and didn’t show your fear to her...only confidence and love. When she screamed, lashed out and tore at her hair, you were calm and reassured her that you were there to help her and make sure she was safe. You were exhausted from no sleep, but you stood by her bed for hours so she would not be afraid. You moved her back into your home, and you support her recovery with love and patience. Your strength knows no bounds.   

You are a beautiful person; you show kindness to others, and bring joy to the people in your life. You deserve all the happiness you might find; every success, every compliment, and every opportunity.

You are an inspiration to your daughters, and they learn from you what it is to be beautiful. They know their beauty lies within themselves, and you have taught them not to rely on their appearance because it is always-changing.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross said “ People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”

You have that Light. You are beautiful, and I love you.  

~Wendy

Lilly R


Dear Lilly,

It's been so long since I've said something to comfort you, since I made a commitment to make you feel valuable, since I lauded your successes and your victories. Actually, it's not that it's been too long. It's that I've never done this before. I know you might not believe a thing I say in this letter, it's the way you are. But I beg you to open your mind and your heart and believe the things I'm about to say.

You are out of a job, I know. Months and months of hope and struggle and rejection and frustration are evident from your once-bright face, your once-straight posture, from your once-frequent smile. You've heard the word “no” every single day. You've offered up your experience and your willingness to work to everyone who is willing to accept a letter, an e-mail, anything. The sad, sometimes cruel responses whittle away at the belief you once had that you were meant for something great. All you want is an opportunity to work, to help. And as the bills pile up on your desk, and you feel small pangs of hunger when you know you can't buy groceries until next week, you come closer and closer to believing that perhaps your whole life has been a series of mistakes. There was once a little girl who acted on her dreams. Now that little girl is curled up in a corner, beaten, exhausted, and doesn't want to dream again.

There are other ways of seeing yourself, just as you are, without focusing on what is negative, what is missing, what was lost... and to that end I wanted to remind you of a prayer that you used to read to yourself, when you were younger and full of fire, when you believed that you could make a difference in this world:

“Our Father, who has set a restlessness in our hearts and made us all seekers after that which we can never fully find, forbid us to be satisfied with what we make of life. Draw us from base content and set our eyes on far-off goals. Keep us at tasks too difficult for us that we may be driven to Thee for strength. Deliver us from fretfulness and self-pitying; make us sure of the good we cannot see and of the hidden good in the world. Open our eyes to simple beauty all around us, and our hearts to the loveliness people hide from us because we do not try to understand them. Save us from ourselves, and show us a vision of the world made new.”

Eleanor Roosevelt is said to have recited that prayer every night. And why did you do it? Because, like Eleanor Roosevelt, you wanted to be a force for change, to fight injustice with acts of kindness. You wanted to dedicate all your strength and all your energy to making a difference in people's lives. And you did, tirelessly, work towards that goal. You worked with women and children who were downtrodden, physically and psychologically abused, changing their lives towards independence, self-sufficiency, and joy. You traveled to lend your service for the cause of human rights. You went to law school, trudging through days of immense difficulty and uncertainty, and you emerged a lawyer. The girl whose mother picked coffee as a little girl is a lawyer. You were not satisfied with what life gave you, you were not fretful, you took on tasks that seemed impossible, and you made it through. You strove to find kindness and beauty in the most difficult situations. You saw the world, made new.

So the job hasn't come yet. So the world is a dark place right now. Fill it with the light you have inside of you. Illuminate it with all the fire that fueled you to the place you are now. I know there is passin in you yet, and I know that if you just let it shine through, everything will get better. The world is not a force pitted against you. The world is the place where you blossomed. So don't look back with regret at what could have been – look back with pride at what you accomplished. I don't want you to cry anymore. Wipe those tears from your eyes, so you can see what you've become.

All my love,

Lilly

Kimberly U



Kimberly,


If what doesn't kill you makes you stronger than you have the emotional strength of a super hero. 


I know how lonely you are. You always have been, even as a little girl growing up with all boys isolated on a farm who would criticize you for being who you were, a girl. Isolated is a good word for your childhood with a father who was emotionally distant and a depressed mother that criticized you even more than your brothers did. It’s not a wonder that you didn't think you were worthy of love because you never heard the words “I Love You” spoken to you. As a teen you would hang out with anyone who would allow you to and do things that were not safe or healthy because no one told you not to. The people who were supposed to protect you should have cared more.
  
 When your mom died at Twenty One, you weren't prepared and you were too young to go out into the world alone.  I know that’s why you clung to the first guy to say he loved you... even though it wasn’t true. You looked the other way when he cheated and chose to believe when he lied because you convinced yourself for a long time that it would be better to live a life with someone who had no respect for you than to be in the world alone. You spent way too many years feeling unimportant. Just because he made you feel insignificant didn’t make it true, you were a good wife and gave him much more than he deserved from you.


 I’m glad you finally chose yourself and decided you no longer believed what you have been told your whole life; that you are unlovable. It took way too long for you to embrace your loneliness and I know you are scared that you may never find a soul that will truly connect with you. I want you to know that I love you. Even if you remain alone for your entire life you are here to learn something deep, self love. 


 On order to truly love others you must first love yourself. If your soulmate does come along he will be the luckiest man on earth because any man who shows you the love you truly deserve will be deeply rewarded with kindness and a deep love that you have been waiting an entire lifetime to give. If Mr. Wonderful doesn't arrive it’s going to be OK! You have been blessed with two of the sweetest little boys and you hare a great example of strength and courage to them. You also need to remember that you are an awesome mom who tells her boys everyday that you love them and because of you they will know how important honesty is. I’m sure they will grow up to be strong, confident, good men because look at the example you are showing them.


Lastly be proud of what you have accomplished on your own! You are a strong woman who is following her dream and making a wonderful life without the help of anyone!


You have me and I Love You

Monday, February 14, 2011

Lindsey B



Dear Lindsey

You need to let the past go. I know your life has been one medical disaster after another but you need to stop focusing on worrying and begin to focus on living. Before you we diagnosed with Burkett’s Lymphoma at age 14, you were a vibrant and outgoing little girl. You loved to sing and dance. After the intense treatment and remission, you became a shadow. You never commended yourself for surviving the fight. You did it! You beat a tough form of cancer and you are still here! You won. It is gone!  Standing in the corners is not for you. Eventually when you got to college, you started to step out, but still found yourself focusing on fears and were too scared to get attached to anyone. Yes, you did well. You graduated magna cum laude – but did you ever let go of your fears? Not really. 

When you got your first job teaching, I began to see the real Lindsey . The Lindsey that loved to rock climb and sing. When you sang in the talent show for the kids, I was so proud of you. You faced your fear of rejection and did it. And you did it well!  But then things fell apart for you again with the postpartum depression. When you were hospitalized, you became a zombie. The next year, it felt like you were just a shell. Like no one was home. You had this beautiful little baby, that they said you would never have, but you were missing. There was no light in you anymore. But you fought. You fought hard and with every ounce of your being to get back. And you did. You made it. You smile. You laugh. You love. You hold your son and sing him to sleep. But still, the fear is there.

As your son is growing up, you are learning. You are taking things as they come, day by day. You are trying to keep a positive attitude and last year, when they told you it was another tumor, you made it through that as well. It was scary and it was not fair, but you did it. Congratulate yourself for all of the fights you have won. I know you feel alone all the time. I know you think that you are broken. But you are beautiful. The way you look at your family and hold your son close is beautiful. Despite the weight gain from all of the medications, you are beautiful. I know you hate the mirror and see a monster in it- but you are beautiful. You have made it through so much in your life and have come out of it a better, stronger, woman. You need to realize you have no control over the future and to stop worrying about it. You need to focus on the now. Have fun with your family now. Hug your husband and son often and Now. 

You are a survivor Lindsey. You have so much more to do. Stop being scared – scared of illness, scared of being alone, scared of life. This is no way to live. You need to get out there and enjoy life. Be the girl I know is in you. The girl who loves triathlons, the girl who is going to attempt her first half marathon. I know that scares you and that you are procrastinating on your training. But do not let the fear win. Train! Lindsey, you are a survivor. Survivors are strong. Be strong. Live life as you want to. DO NOT LET FEAR WIN. Teach your son that fear cannot hold you back. Teach him to live life and to go for it!

Sincerely,

Lindsey B 
(p.s – I love you!)
 

Lindsay K




Dear Lindsay,

It is time to accept yourself for who you are and stop allowing others to have such an impact on how you value yourself.  For too long, you have let others tell you how much you are worth and you have been grossly undersold. 

You grew up with a father who is not grown up enough himself to make time or have the understanding to acknowledge how much you needed him. He was constantly absent at his own convenience, making you feel like you were not special enough to him for him to make the time to be there. You have a somewhat emotionally “cold” mother who was there for you in the sense that she raised you and had money for you, but was not always as affectionate or enthusiastic in the way you needed her to be. She pushed you to be the wonderful, self-motivated, determined, leader that you are, but didn’t care to hear about the journey you took along the way to get there. You feel like you have always worked so hard and followed your own path and did all that any parent would dream of in a child, and were crushed and confused when it was not even acknowledged or was brushed off with only a “that’s good,” after all your hard work. You got straight A’s, stayed out of trouble, didn’t sleep around or do drugs, graduated college with honors, and now work in a profession where you have the burden of hearing other people’s pain, tragedy and drama as a 911 police dispatcher. What more could anyone possibly want from you?!? What unimaginable task would it take for them to notice?!? So off you go onto your next challenge looking for that gold star…You have spent your life up to this point waiting on people who were too selfish to realize you needed them and you are now struggling not to become that selfish person yourself.  You have gone so long without the confirmation of achievement or a “well-done” from those you thought you needed it from that you are now starting to lose confidence in yourself. You have spent your life growing into the person you thought they wanted you to become and not the one you needed to be in order to be happy. Over the years, you have acquired a “me, myself, and I” mentality and have built walls around yourself because you have yet to let a friend into your life that has not been just as selfish, and only wished to take from you and further ignore the wonderful person and all the accomplishments that is “you.” 

I commend you for finally coming to a place where you realize that it is not your fault, but theirs, for not noticing and embracing that they are lucky enough to have you in their life. You are realizing that even if nobody else notices how special you are and all of the amazing things you have done, you have still done them, and you need to congratulate yourself and celebrate those accomplishments. You also are learning that you don’t have to move mountains for affection and that hopefully you can start getting it for just being you. I commend you for finding at least one person in this world who does love and recognize all that you are and you have the rest of your life to spend with him treating you like you deserve. You are realizing that you have always been an independent woman right from the moment you went to kindergarten and decided to color by yourself while the other kids were doing something else. Your teacher thought you were having trouble adjusting, but that was just the first sign that you knew how to lead your own life regardless if anyone follows. People will not always respect your sense of individuality, but you are also learning to say “So? I’m still gonna do me, with or without you,” and not think twice about it. You are learning to start chasing the dreams you ignored while you were trying to please your parents and the idea that you needed to find a career that would pay more even if you hated it, and are also learning to open up to people who are truly worth being in your life. So, keep growing, keep striving, keep healing, and most of all, keep loving and accepting you!

Love always,

Lindsay K.


Michelle W


February 14, 2011


Michelle,


You have dared to dream.


Your stubbornness has caused you to refuse to look back when the world has tried to tell you otherwise.


With a smile on your face, you’ve sunk your teeth and nails into a life that has evolved from one of tragedy into the stuff of fairytales. By making decisions to step away from the safety of the shore and into the sweeping sea of the unknown, you’ve found yourself and have come out better, stronger, and more grounded. By allowing yourself to accept yourself fully, you’ve provided the backdrop for more fulfilling relationships and a more fulfilling existence. From moments of weakness, seeds of courage have sprouted into lessons of love and confidence. It hasn’t been easy, but you are being greatly rewarded.


Thank you for believing, for continuing to strive, and for pressing on towards the next level. You have recognized your beauty, inside and out, and the world is the better for it. Continue to share your love, your passion, your joy, your radiance, and your excitement for living this Valentine’s Day and beyond. 


With love and eternal gratitude,


Red
  

Desiree


Hello You Fabulous Creature!

It's been a while since we have had a heart to heart and I figured there no time like the present. It's been since you were but a young chicky of 17, and you were on the top of the world since we have last spoken so candidly. You were staring as the lead in a very small cast picked from a very large group of talented people. At that point you had finally worked through all of the issues of almost losing your father to his liver disease, and coming out of the stress and anxiety attacks you had about school. You were bright and budding, not yet aware of how hard it would be to get to the top of the ladder without compromising yourself in a judgmental world. It's like the White Stripes say "When you’re in the bigger room you might not know what to do you might have to think how you got started sitting in your little room." Somehow you need to find the volume on your confidence amplifier so you can fill the big room like you did the little room. I know the last few years have tarnished your shine a little bit but it is certainly still there.

Even though you’re not as far along on your life path as you thought you would be at this point it doesn't mean you’re losing the whole game. I know that by this time you saw yourself with the love of your life planning to marry him on 11/11/11, because you have been wishing for him at 11:11 since you were a little girl. You would be working as an artist either as a fashion photographer, or on a stage as singer or actress, finding ways to bring beautiful things into a gloomy world. Well you’re not living the glamorous life you thought you would. Sometimes instead of getting the things you want you get the things you need. You still manage to bring beauty into the world every day so you haven’t completely missed your mark. I think you’re on the cusp of something great you just need to be patient and remember at 24 your still young and have a strong head and can do this. Whatever "this" might end up being, it might be more behind the scenes than you had anticipated. I know that you have no idea what to do with your vision and talents because in order to make a living out of what you love it's not as easy as going to a university. You have to get the degree you seek comes from the school of life with a major in drive and a minor in talent and luck. I think the past 4 years have showed you that a conventional 9 to 5 of any sort is not going to get your rocks off. It’s also showed you that you can do anything you set your mind to because you have taught yourself how to draw, sew, and paint all on your own in the last 6 years. The only way for you to truly flourish is to find a way to create beauty all day, so it's time for you to stop being afraid to put yourself out there because you have the vision you just need to fine tune your focus and put it out there. Don't listen to those who tell you it only has to be a hobby. You haven't been afraid of the path of least resistance if you remember how frighten you have been in the past? You proceeded however and then you usually tap dance through it sleighing dragons along the way.

It's time to address that other large elephant that has it's foot firmly planted on your chest and presses on you more and more each time you see a couple happily in love. I can see that seems to press on you like boulders every time this holiday rolls around. Just because you are the only one in your family who wasn't a parent by the time you turned 21 doesn't mean you won’t ever have children. I know it scares the crap out of you when you think about the fact that your 24 and have never had a long term relationship, but that doesn't mean you will be alone forever. I know that sometimes you feel like if you were a size 4 you would be hitched and living a life of domestic and romantic bliss, because you are beautiful after all. I know sometimes you feel like guys would rather walk hand in hand with a leper than a big girl, but I assure you someday some lucky man is going to look at everything else you bring to the table and realize that there’s just more to love because you are the total package. I feel like sometime people are afraid to approach you because you are so confident but also because they can sense the electrical force field you have put around your heart. So while it radiates this warm beautiful light to everyone it meets, no one can touch it because you are so afraid of it being broken. That’s why until you can figure out how to share it I will gladly be the one to love you every morning you wake up. Remember you have to sink to swim. Even though it feels like you’re going to have to dangle your heart like a flab of meet tied to stick being offered to a pack of lions from a tree, the risk is the only way to find happiness.

I am going to leave you with a quote that you have shared on many occasions with your fellow dancers, actors, singers, and artists about their talents. The more and more I think about this quote however it's a good one for everyone to keep in their back pockets of how to think of themselves when they are being their harshest critic in any area of their life:

"There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time. This expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it.

It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.

No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."

- Martha Graham


Well kid that's it for the pep talk, it's time that your insides match the confident mask you wear on the outside. Remember always keep yours self living on your own personal edge, and on your toes, any other way is just tragic or boring. Age, and sizes are just numbers they do not define you live the life you want!

Kisses and Kittens,
Desiree

P.S. Illegitimi non carborundum (Don't let the bastards grind you down)

Maria K



Dear Maria,


You need to take it easier on yourself. I don't think you realize sometimes all the stuff that you managed to get yourself through, and you definitely do not always realize that rewarding yourself is not a crime.


You became the head of your household when you were fourteen, when your mom lost her battle with bone tumor after you and the rest of the family all took turns taking care of her. How many fourteen year-olds are there who learned how to sterilize and use a syringe before they played their first computer game?


You became the family matriarch at sixteen, after the sudden death of your beloved aunt. When other sixteen year-olds were dating and shopping, your time was split between school, living up to everyone's expectations, and providing comfort and support to your father and your grandparents.


You moved across the damn Atlantic at the age of nineteen, with one old suitcase, one duffel bag and $300 in your pocket. Normal kids only contemplate dorm existence and washing machine settings at that age.


Yes, there were some bad experiences and bad decisions. You do realize, however, that you didn't do anything outrageous or irresponsible whatsoever during your teenage years, don't you? So, you sort of packed about ten year's worth of stupid shit into your early twenties.


Mental illness, psychological and physical abuse, two miscarriages, genetic disorder... You bounced back over and over, forgetting that the "bouncing" part did not have to be instantaneous. You expected of yourself what you thought others were expecting of you. It would have been ok to take some time, to not be Ms. Sunshine for fear of upsetting others, to admit that you were not a pillar of steel, but you just kept on keeping on.


You realized that your self-image was down the toilet, and taught yourself how to get it out of there and restore it. You have learned to look at yourself in the mirror and see and say things that were positive. When your health took a plunge, you dragged yourself up by the bootstraps and started taking yourself to the gym every week.


So, after you have done all that, can you take one more step? Can you admit that you cannot be responsible for the fates of the world 24/7? Can you KNOW - not just in your rational mind but intuitively as well - that resting, relaxing and taking time to be sick, when you are sick is not a weakness. It's just plain common sense. Your mind, body and soul all went through some very difficult things, and you cannot expect them all to keep going, unless you give them time to rebuild.


You have learned to rebuild yourself, to reinvent yourself and even to like yourself.  But we do all those things for inanimate objects too - like our houses and our cars. You are a person with such tremendous capacity to love other living beings: men, women, children, dogs, cats, ferrets, horses, etc. Can you include one more individual in that group - yourself? Come on, you are only thirty-six - people live over a hundred these days, so you have two thirds of your life ahead of you. Wouldn't it be so much more fun to spend all that time having yourself among your favorite people?


Love you, kid! Have a chocolate.


Maria K. 
   

Renay S


Dear Renay,

It’s been awhile since we sat down and talked, I can’t even remember the last time we did. I know that inside you are hurting and can’t get out of this rut that you are in. It’s like you want to stand in the middle of a crowd and just SCREAM.  I see you sitting in front of a mirror with the blank stare, like no one is there and you’re trying to find who you are. You have weight issues that bring you down because you’re trying to be what society wants you to be, trying to feel pretty when there is so much ugly around you.  I love when people tell you that you are beautiful, I just wish that you would believe it. You are such a beautiful person inside and out and you have accomplished so many things in the short time you have been on this earth. 

But kid, I know you have things in your life that don’t make sense. Like the birth of your son, having a baby at 25 weeks gestation was a horrible experience and so scary that I don’t blame you for not wanting to bring another child in this world. But you can’t give up on that dream. Because I know that’s the one thing in the whole world that you wanted the most….children…a family!

And it doesn’t help that you were a single mom from the beginning, in theory anyway.  But you are stronger than you realize because you made it through that hard time and it was worth it because you look at Donovan now 5 years later and you can’t believe it. He is the most amazing thing that you have ever fought for. Yes it was dark times, even when it was suppose to be the happiest moment of your life, but you stayed strong.  You had the amazing support from your family that kept your head high and made you realize your heart couldn’t give up on your dream. 

The past 8 years you have been put through hell and back with your moms failing health with diabetes, failing 13 year relationship with someone that you thought would last forever, even friendships that were so far beyond repair you felt like you were completely alone. I’m so sorry that I couldn’t do more to protect you from all of the tears and from the nasty thoughts that maybe everyone would be better off without you.  But you will find your way again, there is a star in the sky that is waiting to shine again. There are new friendships to be made, a new love to be found. I love you Nay Nay and I just want to see you happy. I don’t remember the last time I saw you truly smile. You deserve the best and so does Donovan, please don’t give up. You will learn to love and trust again, even though you think it’s just a fairytale. Things will be okay. You are a strong beautiful woman and one day you will truly see how much you mean to people and more importantly yourself! 

Xoxox,

Inner Me
  

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Teresa C


February 13, 2011



Dear Teresa,


When I look at you, I do not see the scars that have been left behind from abuse when you were just a little girl. I do not see the razor-blade cuts or the cigarette burns. I do not see the faded remnants of large bruises, busted lips and broken blood vessels that were ever-present in your childhood. I do not see them, and you shouldn’t either. The people who did these things to you are sick and broken. But you, my dear, you are NOT broken. No matter how many times you have had this thought, I want you to know that you are whole, complete and intact. 


When I look at you, I do not see the sadness in your eyes left there from your mother and father. They have always loved you and are so proud of all you have accomplished, even if they don’t know how to show it or say it. They wanted you to grow up in a happy home, but they just weren’t capable, mentally or emotionally, to provide it. Because of this, you will forgive them. To redeem them, you are now the mother you always wished you’d had as a child. You are strong, loving and understanding. You are protective of your children and will not allow anyone to hurt them. You will not hurt them yourself, because you cherish them. If someone were to hurt them, you would believe what your children tell you, and you would defend and protect them. You are a good, attentive mother.


When I look at you, I do not see the extra weight you think you carry. I know that you have struggled as a teenager and a young adult with your weight by binging and purging. The only reason you did this was to cope. You used food to stuff down all the awful feelings you were experiencing, and when you felt completely numb to the pain, you got rid of it all through the purging. You only did this to have a sense of control over what went into and out of your body. Today, you no longer need that kind of “coping” mechanism. Now, you are able to eat in moderation, make healthy choices and exercise regularly. I am so proud of you for overcoming this hurtful behavior.  Your skin, teeth, esophagus and heart all thank you for caring enough for them to stop.


When I look at you, I do not see the fear and doubt you’re constantly trying to hide. You have been afraid of so many things because of all that’s happened to you, but you are the most courageous person I know. You have been brave your whole life, and you didn’t even know it. You questioned every major decision you’ve ever made because you weren’t sure if it was the right one. Let me assure you, you have made the right decisions. Telling on your father and his abuse and leaving your parents’ home for good at 16 was the right decision. Choosing to give birth to your beautiful daughter at the age of 19, while in college, when everyone else said you couldn’t do it, was the right decision. Your daughter has been a blessing, and she motivated you to finish school and create a better life for the two of you. Marrying a man who is almost 20 years older than you was the right decision. He has been everything you have ever needed or wanted in another person – trustworthy, gentle, generous and protective. Even when people told you it would never last, you listened to your heart. Your love for your husband grows each day. He is the only man who has ever made you feel safe. When your husband looks at you, he sees beauty and love. And when he looks at you that way, you feel beautiful and loved. So while you may have feared that you were making the wrong decisions in life, you weren’t. You have a wonderful life now. I want you to enjoy it. You deserve to enjoy life. 


And finally, when I look at you, I do not see the mental illness that has overtaken you at times. I do not see the chemical imbalance that 16 years of abuse has caused. I do not see the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the Borderline Personality Disorder, the Obsessive Compulsive behaviors, the Major Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. You have finally admitted to yourself and others that these problems are part of you, but they do not make you. You are diligent about your mental-health care and seek help when needed. You will never again take an entire bottle of pills because your father refuses to give you away at your wedding or for any other reason. Your father didn’t deserve to give you away. And when the thought to end your life enters your mind, and I know it still does on occasion, you are strong enough to push it away. You are smart enough to know that these thoughts are not your own. These thoughts have been created by a lifetime of pain and terror. But that life is over.  


When I look at you now, I see glowing skin that’s perfect just the way it is. Those scars are not a reminder of the abuse, but rather a symbol of survival. When I look into your eyes, I see happiness and gratitude. When I look at your body, I see a woman who is healthy, fit and strong. When I look at you, I see a confident, intelligent, courageous and ambitious woman. I see kindness and compassion. I see sanity and healthy boundaries.


Best of all, when I look at you, I see things that aren’t visible on the surface. I see hope, faith and trust. I know that these are important to you because you never thought you had these things before. You actually thought you didn’t deserve these things, but you have always deserved them. You have created them within you, and they radiate out to everyone who meets you. Others can see it, and I hope you can see it too. When I look at you very closely, I see the most important thing of all: I see that you are deeply loved, by yourself and all who truly know you.  And I know this is all you’ve ever wanted. And that, my dear, is a beautiful thing. 


Sincerely,


Teresa
   

Lilly D



Dear Lil,

I want to talk about that day. You know the one. Your mother was recently dead. Your grandmother was ill.  You were laying on a broken down, single bed in a cold, nasty trailer.  You were unemployed, so heavy you were perhaps unemployable, hopeless, depressed, and broken.

You couldn't breath.

For three days, you'd been struggling for air. All breathing was shallow, grasping, gasping, and never enough.  Your heart would race in terrifying ways, and then slow to almost nothing.  You were blacking out, fading out, falling into fits of unsatisfying sleep. You were starving for oxygen.

In your hand, you held your phone.  You needed to call for help. You needed medical assistance in the most serious of ways.  It was so easy to dial and you knew you still could.

Before you dialed though, before you reached out to ask for breath, there was a deeper question that you asked yourself.

Did you really wish to continue to live?

You asked yourself this, knowing full well you had total control over the situation.  It was quite clear that if you didn't do something about your lack of oxygen, you would die.  It would be easy to do so. Painful, surely. Scary, certainly. But easy. Perhaps easier than living.

You felt hyper real in that moment. You felt so much control, so much rationality. Life or death. All in your hands. There were so many good reasons to let the phone slide away. So few reasons you could think of to dial.  Only one reason really, the main, most important reason that suddenly grabbed hold of you and shook you with its intensity.

I love you.

I love you and I always have. Even when no one else was there for you, I was.  Even when all the world seemed out of sorts, I was there. Maybe I couldn't always come up with the best way through things. Maybe sometimes my plans were lacking, my motives lazy, my protection shoddy, but even then, I gave you what I could.

I love you, and for that reason, you decided to live.  You dialed your doctor and within 24 hours, you had oxygen, you had tests and results and new plans for making things better.  And all the while you were getting better, I was there, completely loving you, and so happy you would continue.

We've never talked much about that day. It happened and it's always in the back of the mind that it happened, but we don't discuss it.  Maybe we haven't needed to. Maybe the silent, but binding commitment made between us was enough. Sometimes hitting a moment of such deep passion is too hard to put into words.

I hope you're not upset that I decided to talk about it.  It's been almost three years now, and I felt it was time. I wanted you to know how proud I am of you.  When you decided to call your doctor, when you decided to live, it wasn't about continuing to live the life you had. We both knew you deserved better. It was time to take steps, to move forward. Or, at least, it was time to choose a path.

I look at you today and I marvel at what you have become, how your definitions are changing. You are letting go of reactive in favor of reflective, you are letting go of indulgent in favor of independent. You are letting go of defeatist in favor of planner.  You share more of yourself, your life, your thoughts.  You give shelter.  You give smiles to those in need.  You are a bringer of joy, hoping that others can find the love you have found, the love that was always there for you.

You mean everything to me. You amuse me. You entertain me.  You keep me awake at night telling me stories. I wouldn't trade you for the world and I'm so glad I didn't have to. And now every time we take a breath, I am reminded of how precious that is, how deep the fear can be at the thought of it now happening. I'm so thankful for the breathing, even if it involves tubing sometimes.

I'm thankful you choose to live your life with me, every second, every day. It makes me the luckiest person in the world.

Love,
Lil

Pam M

Dear Pam,

Well it has been just over eight years since Jasmine died and yet you still feel as though it were yesterday. You still feel the same amount of grief and the same amount of regret and guilt. 

You think of her and her death daily, often wondering what she would be like if she were still alive. What would she look like? What would her laugh sound like? It is time to let yourself accept that fact that you will never know those things. You will never know who she would have been, just like you didn’t know she was being abused and you could have never imagined she would be murdered. You had no way of knowing the horrible pain she was going through and that ultimately, her young life would end as a result of it. 

You need to stop beating yourself up over this, you couldn’t have stopped it because you didn’t know it was happening. She couldn’t tell you, she was too small, just 12 weeks old and he did his best to hide it. What you need to remember are the promises you made to Jasmine that day in the hospital, the day she died.  

You promised to always fight for her, to do what you could to see that he was punished and to make sure her death was not in vein, and you have done all of those things. You wasted no time and have done more than even you imagined you would. You instantly become the glue that held your family together. You made phone calls, alerted the press, put pressure on the DA’s office and demanded justice. 

That was just the beginning of what you would accomplish. You have become Co-Chair and President of two different non-profits, both designed to help victims. You have helped bills get passed in congress, making rights better for victims everywhere. You have told Jasmine’s story to inmates, parole boards, service providers, really anyone that would listen, all with the intent of educating them, hoping to prevent others from going through what she did. You have supported victims and their families, letting them know they are not alone and offering them empathy and support. 

Most importantly, you have fought everyday since Jasmines death, to put and keep her killer behind bars and you have been successful at it. You have convinced parole board after parole board that he should not be released and because of that, he is still in prison. You have faced him and his family and managed to carry yourself with dignity, often reminding yourself that you have something to accomplish, keeping him in prison. Until now, you have done so and you did it bravely and honestly. 

You are now feeling guilt because he will be released soon and you no longer have a say, his release date is mandatory, he has served his sentence. You need to remember that this is one thing you can’t fight and if you could, Jasmine knows that you would. 

She knows all you have done for her and in her memory. She knows that you love her immensely, miss her always and continue to grieve her daily. Jasmine knows that had you known she was being abused, you would have stopped it. You would have given your life to save hers and she knows that you wish you could have. Jasmine loves you and loves what you are doing to help others. You kept your promises, you went above and beyond and you’re helping others in the process. 

It is time to forgive yourself, Pam. It is time to forgive yourself for not being able to save her, medicine and the best doctors couldn’t do it, why do you think you should have been able to? It is time to give yourself some credit for what you have done and allow yourself to move forward while continuing to help others. You need to accept that she is gone but that she is ok. She is not being hurt anymore, she is happy and that is how you should think of her. 

Replace the images you have of her from the hospital with new ones of her, happy, in heaven, smiling down on you, thankful for all you’ve done. Jasmine does not hold you responsible in any way and you should not either. Jasmine loves her Auntie Pam. Jasmine is proud of you Pam and you should be too. 

Love,

Jasmine's Aunt Pam