Image credit: www.nextavenue.org
I… WE are NOT black sheep. WE are radiant glow-in-the-dark sheep. Not white, not red, blue, yellow, or any other ordinary primary colour. WE are the sheep that lead the way, the beacons of light that fought, survived and shattered cycles.
I was at an event for one of my favourite places on earth; Covenant House. A place I wish had been available to me when I was a 13 years old living on the streets. A place I would have dreamt about, had I dared… known how to dream. A place of safety, a place of healing—a place where unconditional love exists and a feeling of functional family forms.
At this event, a young woman, a surthrivor of the streets and human trafficking, shared her story. She was a generational homeless youth, born of a mother who experienced the streets, drugs, and trafficking long before the term trafficking existed—back then it was “simply” prostitution; that’s a story of a description for another day.
As this beautiful soul spoke, I felt her story—I lived many parts of her story. I zoned in and out, struggling to stay in. My trauma brain insulates me from tough/familiar moments. I absorbed enough to know that we are the same in many ways. I felt her, I understood her and I saw me in her. As she ended her speech she said with uncomfortable pride something to the tune of “I am the black sheep of my family.”
She is the black sheep that made it off of the streets, is attending university, got married and purchased her first home. I completely identified with her “black sheepness”… until I didn’t. This black sheep broke the cycle of poverty, drug abuse and street life. I broke the cycle of abuse—period. I became angry and sad thinking about why we, who break these cycles, are so quick to denigrate ourselves with the titles that our families… relatives... place upon us. It is our scapegoat title that we earn for “pushing” back. For me, I have come to learn that as a fawn—a little deer who was a submissive chameleon begging for acceptance by being so malleable I never developed a voice in spite of having an opinion—I found not so subtle ways to fire off flares in hopes of being rescued. My flare of “choice” was to run away from home… a lot; enough for it to be my modus operandi… enough for our local police department to label me as a habitual runaway. That was my “push” back. Those were my black sheep moments. Those were my screams for help until I finally disappeared for over three years with almost no trace.
For almost as many years of my life as I can remember, I was labeled the back sheep, at some point I wore that label with pride… until a little over a week ago; until I heard it spoken by a sister black sheep. A sister I have not yet met. A sister I stood with and then fought with when I realized how wrong our label is, was. I stood in fawn-state, frozen and trepidatiously approaching her to tell her of my admiration for how she has forged forward and to share my discovery—WE are trailblazers! WE are bright lights—illuminated sheep… filled with the brightest beautiful lights that serve as a beacon for other survivors and as evidence of our incredible survival—FUCK black sheep! The only shade, the only darkness is where we grew from; a darkness that has turned pitch black because we took our light away. I looked on as people circulated around her, I watched as they shared with her their much deserved admiration, I surveyed her face… her expressions… body language; I felt myself in those moments and was suddenly enveloped by a combination of a shy fawn and embarrassed street surthrivor. I retreated (ran). Talk about irony. A part of me didn’t approach because when I receive accolades, I am uncomfortable, and I did not want to make this incredible human uncomfortable. Another part of me retreated out of my own fear of rejection, the fawn needs to be liked and prefers to stay in their “natural” self-furbished habitat. The rest of me was just overwhelmed and collapsing inward.
I have ruminated on these feelings for well over a week, taking mental notes filled with mock conversations in search of a way to put this into words for all of the wrongly (unjustly) labeled black sheep—a label I will NEVER identify with again. A label I hope that every survivor, victim, surthrivor, abuse cycle breaker will NEVER use in relationship to self again. We must be conscious of the fact that the label we believed we turned to our advantage and attached to our accomplishments is serving our abusers. Our final breakaway is to breakaway from a label that was manufactured by our abusers. Abusers LOVE labels that push their victims into silence and self-doubt. Negative labels serve to disguise abuse agendas. Abusers and their facilitators use negative terms to paint a picture that illuminates their perfection… their superiority. The “black sheep,” the term the scapegoats bear, is the abuser’s designer label that they create and expand upon to sell their product line and keep their business thriving. My labels included (in no particular order, beginning at my earliest childhood memory): Liar, follower, user, tramp, boy-crazy, damaged goods, stupid, fat, lives in a dream world, lives in an imaginary world … the list goes on.
SURTHRIVORS: I know you hear me, feel me and that we are one in that we share a unique connection and understanding. I write this for us to rise above and beyond together. At the end of the day, we came out of the worst; the people who were supposed to love and protect us used us for their pleasure. People who promised care capitalized on our very human need for acceptance… love… inclusion… affection. Those same people groomed us for future abuse until one day, someone, something, or a thought brought to light that love is not pain, love is not abuse… love is warmth, kindness and LIGHT. That (those) moment gave birth to the bright and glowing sheep—illuminated sheep—a sheep that broke the cycle and WALKED the pain filled, risky path of most resistance to a better life of our own creation.