Surviving vs. Living

Creation of resident of domestic violence shelter, November 2013

Creation of resident of domestic violence shelter, November 2013

I sit in the middle of a gracious room, complete with a large fireplace and a sparkly Christmas tree. It could be located in someone’s luxurious house on the exclusive side of town. Instead, it is a conference room at a local YWCA shelter for women who are victims of domestic violence.

Seven of us surround a long table, working on t-shirts that will become part of a domestic violence awareness project.  Only one of the women is interested and brave enough to attempt the sewing aspect that I introduce; others work with fabric paint. All are tremendously interested in the list of empowerment quotes I give them for inspiration.  More than one of the ladies asks, very tentatively, if she might take the list upstairs to her room at the end of the one hour session — as if it is too precious, or dangerous, to have in her possession.

Stories are told as we keep our eye glued to our work.  Many relate to substance or alcohol abuse as well as domestic violence.  In a conversational tone, I tell the ladies that I have a brother who has just gotten out of rehab.  Another makes me look straight up at her when she asks, point-blank, are you a survivor?.

I carefully reply Yes, I am — although I have only very recently begun living versus surviving. And I feel one with these women. I also wonder how many will still be here at the YWCA, surviving, when I come back in two weeks.


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