Greetings from 30,000 feet. I am writing to you from an airplane (half-asleep, but what else is new?) en route to Birmingham for a meeting with a publisher and with any luck, a Lauren's Kids children's picture book will be coming your way soon. Within the last 40 days, I completed a 1,500-mile walk across the state of Florida during my annual 'Walk in My Shoes,' journey...within the next 40, I will be visiting New York City on three separate occasions and making trips to Tallahassee, Florida the Netherlands and Barbados to empower survivors and prevent child sexual abuse. And boy do I need a nap.
...but seriously. I really need a nap.
Now before I go any further, I want to be clear: I'm NOT complaining. It took years of clawing, digging, scratching, doors getting slammed in my face and refusing to take 'no' for an answer to get Lauren's Kids, and our message of hope, healing, recovery and prevention, into the public eye. This is all a dream come true for the scared, ashamed 11-year-old girl who endured daily sexual and physical abuse and would have given anything for someone to see her, notice the horrific things that were happening and help put an end to them. I feel lucky every day to have the opportunity to travel around the world to make it different for others kids and give voice to an experience shared by 42 million survivors of child sexual abuse in America alone.
But with heightened awareness and incredible opportunities to serve come inevitable exhaustion and a need for self-care. And that's been hard. I was raised by a former track star and power-lawyer/lobbyist whose mantras are: "It can be done" and "When you've got momentum, you don't stop... you keep going! You keep pushing!" And you know what? He's right. So we go, we run, we lean in and we sleep when we can.
In a world where you see #LoveandLight on Instagram on days where you're feeling anything but and read about morning routines that include quiet time with a cup of tea to "steep your soul," it's hard not to roll your eyes. I am living the dream. I am living my dream, albeit one that came from a nightmare. But I am still tired after non-stop travel. I still have to sit through meetings with commanding CEOs who tell me my message makes them feel uncomfortable and perhaps I should consider watering it down to make it easier to look at (news flash: child sexual abuse SHOULD make you feel uncomfortable and I am not going to apologize for that). The barista still forgets to put the top on my coffee and it spills everywhere (Note: this happened this morning before hopping on the plane. Arg!) and I still face the anxiety and flashbacks that come with being a survivor of sexual abuse.
Because the fact of the matter is: right now, I don't have the luxury of saying "no" or "maybe next month," because opportunities to share our message and opportunities to keep kids safe through abuse prevention are coming fast and furious. I'm leaning in... but also finding myself in need of something to lean on.
And I know I'm not alone. I know I'm not the only one struggling to find balance, but just not able to right now. I know I'm not the only one rolling my eyes at #LoveandLight and #100HappyDays on my social media feed. And I know my reasons for exhaustion pale in comparison to the true struggle and pain faced by the survivors and families that I work so hard to serve...
I met the mother of a survivor on the 'Walk in My Shoes' last month who walked in while her husband was sexually assaulting her 6-year-old. He went to prison and she went from working one job to three to support herself and her children, while being unable to divorce him because of more immediate financial needs for her family.
So while this mom is on her third espresso of the day trying to hold it together for her children, and I am drinking a 5-Hour Energy shot boarding plane after plane so that I am able to educate communities and prevent abuse, it's nice to have a quiet morning and steep your soul in chi tea -- but I just can't relate.
Call me realistic or call me jaded, tired and cranky. In reality, I may be all of the above at the moment.
Regardless, I have no choice but to keep going, keep pushing, keep fighting for change. So instead of some superficial #LoveandLight mumbo jumbo, I have been trying to live my life by the following words, which were shared with me by a 13-year-old survivor named Mackenzie: "Practice makes progress."
Now that's something I can get behind without rolling an eye.