30 Days of Thanks Day 3 – Shari

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!

Photo of a heterosexual white couple standing in front of a black Honda SUV. The woman is wearing a black and white striped dress and has blond hair. She is linking arms with the man, who is wearing khaki pants and a button down white long sleeve shirt.
Shari and her husband John. Photo courtesy of S. Howerton.
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4 thoughts on “30 Days of Thanks Day 3 – Shari

  1. Thank you, Denise, for your sweet and generous words about me! I was telling my husband and mother-in-law yesterday about the discussion you referenced and how you enlightened me to a perspective I hadn’t even considered with your thoughts on not being inspirational simply because you use a wheelchair. There are so many reasons we all have certain triggers and strong convictions. Usually, it’s about life experience. And we all have our own stories. So the only way we can get inside someone else’s skin to look at the world through their lens is to listen and ponder what they share. To do that, you have to care. You have to want better understanding and great empathy. Even though this post is a sort of “tribute” to me, your words reflect who you are as well; someone who genuinely cares enough to hear what someone else is saying, even when you disagree. For me, the goal is not total agreement on every position. The goal is better understanding and being heard. People who simply dismiss others because they look at life through a different lens might as well go through life with cotton in their ears and stones for hearts. (That’s my opinion.) You can only know another person through understanding and you can only understand by opening your heart along with your ears.

    I know from experience how validating it is to simply be heard; to know that someone has cared enough to listen and consider what I feel and what I have to say. So I try to offer that to others. I’m also very expressive and I have to be intentional about not dominating a conversation because that comes naturally (much as I hate it). It takes a strong desire to offer understanding first, before we can be intentional about overcoming our natural inclinations to listen to, understand, and offer genuine empathy. But if empathy and understanding are the goals in our hearts, we will do what it takes to get there. I wish more of us really wanted to offer it as much as we want to receive it. What a wonderful world THAT would be! I have found you to be in that wonderful category and I’m very thankful for your friendship. Maye we will have the opportunity to meet face to face one day. And I would love to write a guest blog post for you any time. We’ll put our heads together on that one next! Thank you so much, Denise! I guess you didn’t leave me speechless, after all! Ha!

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    • Somehow I knew I wouldn’t leave you without words 😉

      There is much wisdom in your quote. It is incredibly validating to be truly heard by someone else. The gift of listening as they tell their story is often overlooked. I am glad you felt comfortable enough letting me listen to part your story. We’ll certainly plan the collaboration. And meeting in person would be fun! Who knows where our travels will take us. 🙂

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  2. I neglected to proof my comment before hitting publish. I hate seeing the typos AFTER I can no longer fix them! Oh well… what was it I was saying on my blog about perfectionism??? LOL. I guess great empathy and greater empathy are close enough. And chances are, you know that maye was intended to be maybe. 🙂

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