Lessons from 2013 #8: Gratitude & giving can keep you sane.

 I am the 32nd woman who's experienced gender-based violence to wear this ring, and I will be the 32nd to pass it along.
I am the 32nd woman who’s experienced gender-based violence to wear this ring, and I will be the 32nd to pass it along.

This is a story about a gift giving back.

I gave this ring to Betsy, my dear friend of 27 years who is pictured on the right, in 2008 before she left NYC to work for the UN. Gotten inexpensively at a thrift store, I had forgotten about it until she came home this month and told me its story.

After wearing it on a chain around her neck for a year, at her trauma counselor assignment in Timor-Lieste she gave it to a woman who, like too many, had experienced exceptionally horrible gender-based violence[s] as a result of the Indonesian occupation. She told her, “Wear it as long as you need it to give you more courage.” The woman kept it during her stay at the shelter, and returned it to Betsy before she left. In this way, this ring passed between my friend, to women who were deeply hurting, among the women to one another, back to my friend, back to other women and so on until a 31st woman had this re-gifted token of courage three years later.

As Betsy’s contract ended this fall and she packed up and was saying goodbyes, all 31 of these women came to visit her as a group. They sang her a song, and the final ring-holder returned it to my friend. She wore it home, and to see me after our three-year time apart.

And then she handed it back to me, saying, “I think you need this for a while.”

I do. My experiences, brutal as they were, pale next to motherfucking war crimes. But I still need this token of healing.

Betsy and I met at our Moms’ church when we were 8, orchestra/choir brats left alone before and during the Service to run amok, teach each other about crushes and making out, and to mirror each others’ godless hearts and bad dads. If it wasn’t for the specific, impoverished, deeply religious, patriarchal violence-supporting, woman-hating culture I grew up in, I probably wouldn’t have encountered the long-running horror miniseries that was my childhood* — but I also definitely would not have met Betsy

I am so grateful for longterm friendship: a surprise outcome of a bad situation, as well as for the outcome of the gift that I gave her so many years ago. In giving to my friend, she could give to others, and unbeknownst to me at the time, back to me years later, paid ahead 31 fold.

Now, thankfulness is not gonna keep you from getting a fractured spirit or a broken heart, and no gratitude list is going to end brutal regimes of violence, be they in your back room or across the globe — but it can be a spackle that holds pieces together as you sort through and rebuild when the time comes.

Incredibly beautiful diamonds come out of coal. What diamond dust might you have to give away? Where do you see the sparkles among your own slag piles? Hint: you must look into the debris to find them.

*and I think growing up around intensely structured violence helped me be a wicked pervert and excellent Daddy, but that’s off-topic.


Lessons from 2013 is a mini-series dedicated to all the ways folks make it through in general, and to my personal resilience gathered from a bad year. See the series here:  http://www.damienluxe.com/category/top-10-lists/


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