Friday, March 16, 2007

I have this idea . . .

I have this idea that's been rubbing around my brain for the last several weeks. Its rather grandiose but I can't shake it.

You see . . .

Someone near and dear to me is in the long and difficult process of extricating herself and recovering from an abusive marriage. The abuse was mostly emotional - which is plenty. In fact, those scars are often deeper and more secret than those left from physical violence. And its so much easier to convince yourself they never happened, that you made it all up, that you're just too sensitive. She's stuck in this deep pit of denial and pain and absolutely lacking any ability to advocate for herself. It hurts me to see her this way - she's really a shadow of the person I've known and admired (and still do).

I am somewhat familiar with that downward spiral that abuse sets in motion - the seemingly endless cycle of abusive and/or lousy relationships that lands you solidly in a well of depression, listlessness, and low self esteem. I know what it is to feel that I deserve less than nothing, that happiness is simply not my due, that, somehow, all the bad things that are happening are all my fault. Knowing hasn't helped me to help her. In fact, it makes it more frustrating. It has, however, given birth to this idea.

For me, one of the key elements in climbing out of that well was physical activity. I started running. And, as I felt physically stronger, as I watched myself surpass what I thought I could achieve, I started to become emotionally and mentally stronger as well. As the miles piled onto my running shoes, my confidence in who I was and what I could achieve grew. I'm not pretending that it was all running. It was a lot of things including therapy, support of friends and family, love of my son and wanting better for him. But running helped fuel that fire. Running was the physical proof that I could achieve something. It was an escape. It was a source of endorphins. It was an identity I could be proud of. I was a runner. I would often be embarrassed by my slowness or cringe at how I compared physically to other "runners", but in my gut I knew that it didn't matter. I earned the miles as much as anyone else.

Reading Stronger's blog reinforced that idea that getting stronger physically makes a person feel stronger inside. Though, I think that she's been strong from the get go. If you haven't already, check out her blog.

So, I wonder how could that feeling of empowerment be passed on to other women who feel defeated - or women who want to help those who suffer defeat. I thought of a "Team in Training" type concept, only one that would focus on survivors of domestic abuse and also on women who wanted to help raise money for survivors. It could offer training to women who want to compete in something as small as a 5k or something as large as a marathon or a triathlon. It would offer support and encouragement, maybe even help in gearing up. I have no illusions that women in the midst of immediate danger would want to participate in something like this - but for those like my friend, who are out of the frying pan, it could help put them on the road to healing and actually feeling good about themselves again.

I have no idea how I would make something like this happen, but the thought of it won't go away. If any of you know of an organization that does this kind of thing or have any ideas or feedback, it would be much appreciated.

I remember how I felt the first time I ran 3 miles without stopping. It seemed so far, something I could never be capable of. When I did it, I felt like I could do anything. Ironically, the woman who is now in trouble, was the one who ran with me that day, telling me I could do it, distracting me from my discomfort with conversation. This was long before she entered the black hole that became her marriage, when she was feeling strong and capable and confident. I would do anything to give that back to her.


Bolder said...

i like this idea a lot. i'm interested to hear what Stronger would suggest?

Vickie said...

Not sure exactly how you can do this. I've toyed with the thought myself from time to time, especially since I can also attest to the fact that physical activity can cure just about anything! If you have a women's shelter or a YMCA in the area, you might check there as a starting point. I'm not sure where you live, but here, it is really quite a huge ordeal to accomplish something like this, so you might try putting your own sign up at the gym where you belong or the Y if there is one if they will let you put one up. You probably won't be able to get any organization involved until you have a proven track record. But it never hurts to start somewhere! Good luck.