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I've been toying with making a simple series of videos for a while now. I have big dreams of creating all of the graphics myself and doing it from scratch in my Adobe Creative Suite like a real designer. (that's what my perfectionist self talk says)... but as I begin to identify more in my creator and less in my created self... I find perfectionism less necessary.

So here's the story leading up to the video at the bottom of this post:

A few months ago a mentor of mine encouraged me to do a few reflective assignments that would help me see my life experience through new glasses. She encouraged me to step away from 'taking care of' the other characters in the story (parents, siblings, friends, teachers)... and just go inside of the 'little Jenny', and with my current maturity, try to experience what she did.

Whoa, to say the least. Powerful exercise. I was also encouraged to just sit with with what I found for the rest of the day. As she said, "Give yourself as much space to be broken as you give your students". Again, powerful exercise. Difficult. But I tried.

Then this past week I was in class with my female students, and we were doing an exercise out of the textbook called "Where have I been". Interesting, and not at all choreographed by me, I realize I am now encouraging them to do the same thing I was asked to do. The difference, I note, is that I have a support system, a home, loving family and 15 years of sobriety within which I've been able to grow increasing emotional sobriety and conscious contact with my Higher Power. So that's no small thing. I decided I needed to simplify the assignment from what I did to a starter version, as they would have emotions awakened and have to return to a densely populated cell surrounded by negativity. They currently live in an a volatile situation. Hardly the refuge I had at my disposal.

What I wanted to bring to their attention were two different concepts both of which are critical to understanding where (many of my students) live now and have been during their childhood. Trauma. I showed them two videos, TED Talks, about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE)s, as well as some hope for overcoming them once we understand them.

So I stepped up and I facilitated a conversation. I took to the white board to illustrate, quite simply, what I needed them to begin to understand. As I did, the lights went on in their eyes. We cried, connected, and I watched them reach out and connect with each other in ways beyond the typical jailhouse joking, hair braiding and complaining. I saw the mothers and wives and women emerge and see themselves with identification and an unfamiliar hope.

I decided to take it to my blog. Below I share with you simple recreations of what I drew on the white board during our class session, along with 'the gist' of what we discussed per frame.

1) When we are little and dependent on parents and the world to show us what we need to know, we just believe them that what they do and say is true. Sometimes our parents aren't well when they raise us. This is not our fault. And to be fair, even in the most hostile of homes, they are doing the best they know how to do as well. But as children, our needs may not get met.

2) In some of our homes, THEIR personal pains create chaos for us, and we don't know that it is theirs, not ours. Having just been brought into the world, we don't realize that they are confused by the information THEY have received since they were brought into the world, or in the very least they are frustrated by the choices they've made to get them where they are. They are unhappy. To little people, that can be very scary to witness.

3) Some children are abused, others witness those they love being abused. Some just crave time and attention parents can't afford to give.

Either way, the experience feels bigger than the child, and the child can learn to feel invisible and ashamed. The child will develop behaviors to get attention or avoid attention. They will also find ways of self- medicating that, in the beginning, make them feel better.

4) With inconsistent structure and nurturing in a child's world, they begin to believe they are bad. The world around them seems to be proof. When home is NOT safe and outside is not safe either, there is no refuge for a child, this is toxic stress.

When home is safe and outside is not, this is tolerable stress. A child has a refuge.

Ultimately, they may begin to create their own chaos. This feels normal. Safe.

5) As adults, we are lucky if we learn to stop harmful behaviors... we put down whatever gave us a sense of (self-destructive) power. We consider life with a new perspective, and spiritual principles. We find that we are NOT all of the bad things that happened around us. We are still perfect beneath the hurt. Helpers help me to remove other people's stuff from my identity. I am a child of God, created with a purpose, the rest just crafted me to do my job - to LOVE unconditionally.

6) Once we learn that we are separate from all of other people's pain (that we took in as a part of our identity), then we can feel powerful as adults. Powerful to make our own decisions. Choosing who to love, how to love, how to live. We do this with the help of others and a Spiritual life. The beauty is that everything that has happened to us in our lives stops being our identity, and becomes our story. Big relief. I can choose to tell my story.

GOOD NEWS: We don't need to live the sad or scary parts of our stories over and over again every day. When navigating our lives, we don't need to constantly tell the story of damage done. We KNOW the story. We HAVE the story. We can SHARE the story. We tell it when it will help someone else, who feels alone, to realize that they aren't. As adults, we can forgive the people whose lives we were born into. We understand that they were still growing up. Separating from their chaos, identity, and story. We can forgive how their hurt hurt us. We can find compassion for their pain. We can connect with other people on a deeper level when we acknowledge our pain and recognize that they have their own too.

As grown ups, we can take the baton and continue our parents journey, praying to land in love and understanding. We are healthier and situated in adulthood - equipped with a better understanding of how the world works. We can see from experience how life will harden a heart - actually protecting the little spiritual Purpose that we are. That we began as. When we are reunited with our Purpose, we have new Power to choose. Still carrying the baton, we add value to peoples lives, providing healing to the human story until we die. When we live this way, the love that we pass on during our lifetime will last eternally through others. That, I believe, is our responsibility.

After a few more days of this stuff floating around inside of me, coupled with a research paper about mentoring and some spiritual reading and meditation, I've found myself ready to make my first simple video. I used an online software called ANIMAKER instead of creating it from scratch because, well, it was ready to be born and the contractions took precedence over the how. Enjoy. (there is no sound).

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