Adverse Childhood Experiences and the path towards healing. You are not alone.
I share my trials, my victories, and my stories with you in hopes that if any of you were ever touched by childhood abuse or neglect, as I was, you will see yourselves in my experiences and feel strengthened to voice what you had not been able to before. I hope we can learn together why we respond to life through a particular lens, and that there are ways to climb out of this prison of pain, silence, and shame.
My name is Bess Hilpert

Blessings in the Shadows

Similar Dissimilar Ways…

Welcome back, friends. How was your week? Did anyone brave doing something new and embrace the uncomfortable? What did you find on the other side?

I laced up my old pink Swoosh running shoes and pounded out another mile around my neighborhood. I dreamed of traversing the cobblestone pathway alongside my friend this Spring in Athens Greece… I jogged five minutes and walked two, for a total of seventeen very long painful minutes. I held onto hope and basked in the possibilities. But the morning after was agony. And alas, the realm of possibilities for this 68-year-old woman do not include running 26.2 miles with the whispers of the mythical figures of the past brushing my cheeks and cheering me on. A week later I am still unable to properly walk. NOT so LOL  And so that goal will remain a ponder. 😊

One of my sons dove (literally) into the waters of uncomfortableness this past week by donning a Speedo, goggles, and a cap, and… swimming. He had not swum since he was eleven, and that, according to his recollection, was “mermaid swimming.” But in the University pool he dove with dreams of completing a smooth 1700-meter combination of swimming, pulling, and kicking. The solid black line that provides great peace and ease for me, regulating my nervous system and starting my day in a state of emotional and physical balance, was the black line from hell for him. Surely that black line was the grim reaper out to swallow him alive. That black line sucked all the oxygen out of him, having him kick and flail for his life. The black line disrupted his nervous system; and, momentarily, bashed his dreams of possibility.

The glory, however, is after sitting with his less-than-satisfactory experience, he is welcoming the uncomfortableness and will don that speedo, goggles, and cap to try again. He saw the moment fully, and instead of shying away from the uncomfortableness, he recognized the possibilities if he were to try again, and again. He chose to bask in the hope we filled our toolbox with last week. I love that.

Barbara Holmes, spiritual leader, activist, writer, and scholar, wrote:

“No matter how fractured things seem to be, no matter how the crisis splinters our delusions, there is a solid foundation within and beneath us, beside and between us. We can depend on this wholeness when it is experienced as a dark night of the soul.”

When we choose to step into discomfort, exposing ourselves to failure, the stable ground that we rely on to walk our lives is tested. I do not know about you, but I tend to play in the limited sandbox where I feel most safe. When stepping outside my comfort zone, it is very easy for me to fall into a dark night of the soul, convinced I will die. Unaware of the wholeness that is always there holding me.

But, and this is a huge “but”, my “stable ground” is anything but stable.  I am an Adverse Childhood Experience survivor.  An 8 out-of-10 ACE score (see for more information, if you’re new to this newsletter).  I have endured sexual, psychological, and physical abuse in my childhood home, and in several instances in my adult life.  This has, according to the studies and literature noted in my book Finding I, A Journey of Repair, altered my brain and my DNA, leaving me with a too often dysregulated nervous system and an overactive fight or flight response to life.  So, in my opinion, my “dark night of the soul” might not be the same experience that Barbara Holmes wrote about.

For me, it is like an eclipse (which we recently had here in central Texas), when one object gets in between me and another object and blocks my view (of the sun or the true nature of a situation). For me, maybe, an event, or more often the impending fear of an event, blocks what is real and present. Blocks me from seeing the light, leaving me unable to use my eyesight to overcome the obstruction, or to feel good about something that’s upcoming in my life.  I’ve come to know I don’t experience things like “normal” people do.  And more and more of the people I’m talking to feel they experience things in similar dissimilar ways.

And, yet perhaps that is exactly the invitation getting uncomfortable is asking of me. I am not comfortable in darkness.  The childhood memories of demons in the night plague me still.  Oh God, could there be a blessing for me in the shadows?

Barbara Holmes reminds us

“To linger in the darkness, to savor the silence, to embrace the shadow– for the light is coming, transformation is unfolding.”

I may not be running a marathon, but I will continue to find situations that take me outside of my safe sandbox. I will keep daring myself to get and be uncomfortable. I will not be afraid of the dark, but I might ask you to hold my hand. And we can find what is on the other side of that journey of daring together.

I read this imagined conversation between the Prophet, Jeremiah, and God this week that Eugene H. Peterson, American minister, theologian, scholar, author, and poet, wrote. It touched my soul deeply. I hope it will for you, as well.

“Life is difficult, Jeremiah. Are you going to quit at the first wave of opposition?.… Are you going to live cautiously or courageously? I called you to live at your best, to pursue righteousness, to sustain a drive toward excellence. It is easier, I know, to be neurotic. It is easier to be parasitic. It is easier to relax in the embracing arms of The Average. Easier, but not better. Easier, but not more significant. Easier, but not more fulfilling. I called you to a life of purpose far beyond what you think yourself capable of living and promised you adequate strength to fulfill your destiny. Now at the first sign of difficulty you are ready to quit. If you are fatigued by this run-of-the-mill crowd of apathetic mediocrities, what will you do when the real race starts, the race with the swift and determined horses of excellence? What is it you really want, Jeremiah, do you want to shuffle along with this crowd, or run with the horses?.…”

It is unlikely, I think, that Jeremiah was spontaneous or quick in his reply to God’s question. The ecstatic ideals for a new life had been splattered with the world’s cynicism. The euphoric impetus of youthful enthusiasm no longer carried him. He weighed the options. He counted the cost. He tossed and turned in hesitation. The response when it came was not verbal but biographical. His life became his answer, “I’ll run with the horses.”  I want to run with the horses.  My son is running with the horses.  Will you run with us?

Until next time, friends.

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