This story is for any of you who have been marginalized and are now ready to reclaim your truth, your worth and your seat at the table.
Reclaiming your place after you’ve been unfairly judged or marginalized by people who don’t even know you or derailed by events you just couldn’t have seen coming takes courage and is hard work. But if you want to really live you have to do it.
I had just such a challenge at the recent Peoples Climate March. When I realized my business travel schedule was going to prevent me from attending the big march in Washington DC I decided to help organize a sister event in my hometown of Bend Oregon.
I called a couple of fellow activists and joined in planning the events. I put in dozens of volunteer hours, mobilizing people, developing the message and marketing materials, sorting out various aspects of the event itself, even hanging posters around town. I also used my fairly significant social media platform to spread the word.
The organization that took the lead in the event was a local, all-volunteer climate action group. I deeply respected the hard work of their director and she and I worked together beautifully. The steering committee for the event was another story. All but one or two of them had never met me, but they had apparently made a decision about me based on ugly misinformation put forward in the media many, many months earlier. They were happy to have me do the behind the scenes work organizing the event but they didn’t want me to have a speaking role.
I was pissed! I was one of the first people ever to mention the issue of climate change in my hometown area and had been working and speaking as a professional on the issue since before most of those people had even moved here.
My first reaction was to lash out and call them to the carpet for their ugliness!
But I had a dilemma. First I didn’t want to tarnish the event itself – having a good showing as part of this historic action was too important. Second, I knew the director I’d been working with was in a tricky spot. She knew the steering committee was being unfair and counter-productive but she was caught in the middle. Even though I was hurt I didn’t want to cause her grief. Finally, even though it was tempting, I’d made a decision long ago not to fight ugliness that was shown me with more of the same in return.
And yet, I also was not going to allow myself to be marginalized and just sit back and take it. I had in fact been invited to have a fairly prominent role at the big march in DC but here in my podunk hometown I was shunned!
And here’s a word of advice for those of you facing something similar. I really shouldn’t have been surprised by the hometown rejection. I’ve learned from personal experience and the many reinvention clients I’ve worked with, that when navigating coming back from any big, particularly public, trauma the most awkward, and often unkind, places of reentering the arena are those close to home. Sometimes it’s bumping into the very person who lied about or ostracized you. Sometimes it’s an old rival acting on lingering jealousies by kicking you a bit. Some people fear getting too close to someone who has been smeared. And, very often, it’s just plain human awkwardness in not knowing how to act around someone who has been severely traumatized.
It’s hard to face. But here’s the deal, if you want to really heal, you have to get back in the saddle. I’m an old cowgirl! I’ve handled rough horses and rougher character assassins and I know this for sure when you get bucked off you have to get back on! If you don’t the fear and self-doubt grows.
So, what to do with my current dilemma? How could I stand up to the marginalization and still benefit the event? I reached out to local media. I knew they knew me, would be interested in talking to me and therefore, would give some coverage to the climate march (I also wanted to give some support to the March for Science and pitched that as well).
The plan worked and at least in some small way helped support both events. We had great turnouts for both marches. Here is a link to the interview. The reporter asks how I could continue doing my work after all that I’d been through and I said
So, my fellow travellers in the journey of “Reentering the Arena after Trauma and Attack,” be brave. Don’t shrink into the shadows but at the same time don’t add to the ugliness. It may take some time but if you stand strong and kind you will find your way back into the sunshine again. Never forget, you are completely unique, with gifts only you and your one-of-a-kind set of experiences have to offer.
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