During this month of October, which is designated National Breast Cancer Awareness, Disability Employment Awareness and Domestic Violence Awareness, I offer my support to all three causes. Breast cancer runs in my family. Although not disabled, I’ve wrestled with varying degrees of visual challenges ranging from a detached retina to the onset of myopic macular degeneration in one eye which thankfully remains under control. I’m also a survivor of domestic violence that impacted my life as a married college student many years ago.
When adversity knocks at my door, I’ve learned the journey can lead to significant personal transformation if I choose to embrace the moment and partner with change. As such, how can we re-purpose adversity to our advantage? How can we learn to value these unwanted events that so painfully punctuate our lives? What’s your style when confronting adversity? How firm is your handshake when greeting it? How warmly do you welcome this stranger in your midst, or do you shun it and run the other way? Let me share three accounts of my own dealings with adversity, including the gifts it bestowed upon my life.
First account: The onset of near blindness and creation of a photography business. Following long-ago eye surgery to repair a massive detached retina that was dangling by a thread. I began to worry about my future ability to make a living. The retina in the other eye was quite weak and I was cautioned to prepare for the worst. From early childhood, I loved photography and had been entranced by the colorful images in Audubon and National Geographic magazines. I had often entertained the idea of becoming a photographer but lacked the confidence to pursue it. Although my resulting vision was not perfect, I was good to go!
Using a 35 mm camera and macro lens I embraced photography as a medium of self-empowerment in overcoming additional adversities. As a self-taught photographer, I discovered that my prints sold nicely at various expos and events. I decided to create an online gallery, naming it Hummingbird Studios for the spiritual significance of hummingbirds in my life. Had it not been for an unpleasant brush with blindness, I might not have followed my dream! Instead of dwelling in fear of the future, I chose to approach my situation with optimism and perseverance.
Second account: Surviving domestic violence and helping abused women. In direct response to domestic violence that impacted my life as a young, married college student, I became active in domestic violence awareness and prevention activities throughout the state. My personal experiences, coupled with stories of women who had barely escaped with their lives, influenced me to establish Esperanza! A Woman’s Hope, which is a 501c3 charitable and educational non-profit organization providing scholarships for job skills.
For those of you who may not be aware, Esperanza means hope. This word conveys the very heart, the soul, and the inner voice of Hope that every abused woman carries within her spirit! At Esperanza! A Woman’s Hope, our goal is to celebrate the journey toward success! When survivors move forward, they sparkle and soar!
I observed that once free from abusive environments, women were primarily confined to minimum-waged jobs and thus unable to generate income sufficient to guarantee timely bill payments and quality child-care services. Financial vulnerability quickly led to emotional compromise.
Many women were returning to the same situations that had threatened their safety and the well being of their children. When women return to abusive environments as a last recourse, situations can escalate into matters of life and death. Physical disabilities including blindness, hearing loss, spinal injuries, brain damage, and paralysis from battering are not uncommon. Although I hail from a family that emphasizes community outreach, had it not been for these life-threatening experiences in my life, I would not have established a non-profit to help abused women.
Third account: Find a place to stand and move the world. As I continued to experience economic adversity in the midst of a deep recession, I found myself intuitively ordering Chinese takeout during a strategy session. When the message in my Chinese Fortune Cookie beckoned me to “Find a Place to Stand and Move the World”, I acknowledged the imperative as serendipity! From that point, I decided to merge my various skills and talents to embark upon a speaking career!
The mission of Courageous Women Who Dare is to provide a series of personal and professional development workshops, including a series of inspirational and motivational talks directed toward the general public, while offering speaking services and programs to help women from all cultures and walks of life to confront adversity and overcome fear. Women especially need to freely express themselves while living lives grounded in heart-felt purpose. My university studies in anthropology and an ongoing interest in Women’s Spirituality in Cross-Cultural Perspectives have created an understanding of the crucial importance of connecting, sharing, and forming trusting relationships in a world that has become highly diverse and multicultural in its scope. And so, a serendipitous moment in the mist of economic adversity led to a viable economic solution.
In conclusion, each of us needs to live with hope, joy and courage amidst adversity. We need to honor the gifts and lessons it bestows. We carry within us a unique song and dance that weaves the tapestry of our lives. Adversity adds substance to the mix! If we apply wisdom when addressing it, the gifts can be multifold. When approached with an open mind and flexibility, adversity can navigate us toward our greatest success!
CVI also recognizes the impact of domestic violence and hosts a community support group specifically for visually impaired people who have experienced abuse. The support group meets every second Wednesday from 3 p.m. until 4 p.m. For more information, contact Annie Obasih at 678-489-2759 or 678-763-1220. You can also contact Theresa Watkins at 770-238-9989.