By Colleen Sinsky
“From all that I learned from abuse, I was told I was ugly, I was slow, I was being controlled, my self-esteem went down and down. I started feeling all those negative things so I walked around with no teeth in my mouth, not because I wanted to but because of being penniless. But I have no shame because I’m worth more than a penny. If I lived those negative words then I have lived them, but I learned I’m much more than that.”
When I knocked on Angie’s door for a visit this afternoon I was happily surprised to see her absolutely beaming, brimming with good news to share. After enduring a lifetime of physical and verbal abuse, Angie is usually soft-spoken and subdued. She’s an incredibly resilient woman who has had the courage to leave negative relationships and advocate for herself and her four children. Her family has only recently moved to Portland and in the past several months have worked hard to create a safe and positive environment to start over together. She is working with JOIN’s newest Outreach Worker (Ledena), and JOIN’s newest Retention Worker (yours truly). Today, Angie felt on top of the world.
Angie has also been engaged with a really wonderful local organization, Write Around Portland, which empowers participants through creative writing workshops that foster community, personal growth and healing through expression and group engagement. Write Around Portland has been a community partner of JOIN, and I’ve been repeatedly blown away by the wonderful writing that our folks who have gone through workshops have shared with me. Just as important are the stories that participants share with me about being part of a community, having a caring and engaged audience and having a safe forum to express and work through past issues of trauma.
My friend Angie is currently Write Around Portland’s featured writer. In my car this afternoon, we used my cell phone to navigate to their website, where Angie’s photo, published story and interview are prominently displayed. I (of course) was teary-eyed with pride and getting to see Angie so happy. She told me how nerve-wracking it was getting up to read her story “In My Shoes” at Write Around’s anthology release reading. The audience gave her a standing ovation and several people approached her afterwards to thank her and tell her how her story had moved them. “I could feel healing!” Angie said. “One lady was even crying. I want my writing to be able to have that effect on people.”