Last year when I decided to embrace my identity as a writer, I joined several online groups and participated in the Intentional Blogging Challenge. One of my first connections in the challenge was my friend Shari.
Shari is a writer who lives in West Virginia with her husband John. Shari writes honestly and openly about her escape and recovery from an abusive relationship. Her willingness to share encouraged me to be more vulnerable in my own writing. She maintains a blog, Miss Oblivious Thinks Out Loud, which is raw and real but also offers uplifting stories. I admire her courage and was so appreciative when she took the time to offer critique to my early work at this blog.
I respect Shari because she is not afraid to voice her own opinion, even when it may go against the status quo. Last year in a moment of frustration, I made a comment on social media about not wanting to be seen as an inspiration just because I happen to show up as a person using a wheelchair. The discussion changed when Shari bravely challenged me and asked me to explain in more detail why I strongly disliked being called inspirational. What followed was a Facebook and email conversation about inspiration porn and ableism which lead to a deeper understanding on both our parts. At least, I know it helped me understand her point of view and I hope it helped her understand mine!
Shari does that frequently. She makes a comment or question which causes me to examine my own thoughts and feelings. Sometimes this reflection makes me realize I don’t believe what Shari believes. When I do voice my own opinion, Shari is respectful and willing to accept our differences, recognizing there is more than one side to a story. I have lost many connections because I shared opinions contrary to theirs so I know this respect is not as prevalent as we might like.
I commend Shari for speaking her own opinion particularly because of her personal history. While married to her first husband, Shari was discouraged from pursuing anything which would result in her own personal growth or thinking for herself. She was not free to voice opinions or beliefs of her own, those which might contradict her abuser or the cultish church in which they lived. But Shari found strength after years of counseling. She left an unsafe situation and reclaimed her own identity. Along the way she rediscovered her faith, knowing a loving God would not want her or any woman to suffer abuse in His name.
If you read Shari’s work, it is easy to realize she is a woman of deep faith. She is not afraid to write about how her own experiences brought her closer to God. Shari is an example of a woman who invests her suffering (a phrase Shari used on her blog yesterday) in order to help in the care of others who might find themselves on a similar path.
Because of her experiences, Shari is a vocal advocate for domestic violence and women’s rights. Each October she changes her profile picture to a photo of her face with a black eye, in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. She has been recognized for her work to help those who are facing abuse but is modest and does not seek credit for her accomplishments. She is more likely to promote a rising country music star or her husband’s car dealership than her own accomplishments.
It takes courage to write honestly about the emotional trauma which makes us vulnerable. Shari’s courage continues to motivate me as I develop my storytelling skills. I see how many are touched by her work, and I know there is a need for me to be as open as I can be. Nobody likes appearing vulnerable, but our shared vulnerability brings connection – which is really what we all crave.
Shari – thank you so much for continuing to encourage me on my writing path. I admire your ability to connect with others, to invest your suffering to assist those who are struggling and your love for life. I appreciate your assistance in fulfilling my dream, and I hope you’ll write a guest post for me in the future!