Julie wrote this beautiful letter to the Women Loving Women (WLW) community, which thrives at and off Shalom Mountain. The WLW retreats are intended specifically for lesbian, bisexual and bi-curious women, although supportive heterosexual women are also welcome to join the community. The retreats are led by LJ Wooden and Barb Wrigley.
“We are here finally because there is no refuge from ourselves”
My first visit to Shalom Mountain was in July 2008, brought by a dear friend to a Women Loving Women (WLW) retreat. I was over-medicated, racked with pain over my partner of 8 years death, and with unconscious memories of child sexual abuse.
“Until we confront ourselves in the eyes and hearts of others we are running”
I cried most of that first retreat, many of the WLW community will remember my constant tears throughout the weekend. Standing on the dance floor, looking outside, unable to dance. I was so afraid of trying to connect with the group in my deepest pain. You accepted me and loved me in my tears that weekend. I will never forget that.
“Until we share our secrets with others we have no refuge from them “
That first weekend I got my first specific flashbacks of sexual abuse while on the mat with LJ. She and all of you held me as I wanted to leave this earth in that pain. You covered me with pillows. You let me make the decision to die, then you missed me and called me to join you in life. You danced with me and celebrated my return to earth.
“We can know neither ourselves nor anyone else. We will be alone”
I have felt alone all my life, I have felt undeserving to take my place in the world. I trusted no one with my deepest wounds. In the summer and fall of 2009, I found it to hard to be with others’ pain in the group. I was triggered and reactive at WLW and withdrew from the Toronto WLW community. I regret those actions. In September, I ran away in the middle of a retreat. I hurt many of you. Still you stayed with me and forgave me for breaking the covenant. I continue to learn from these experiences and to work on forgiving myself.
“Where else but in common ground can we find such a mirror?”
Through witnessing your pain over the past 2 years at many, many retreats, I have found the courage to face my own pain. My body shook, I cried, I covered my stomach with pillows as I watched so many of you on the mat. I borrowed your courage as I faced myself on the mat time and again. Although I kept wanting to run, I kept hanging in.
“Here at last we can appear clearly to ourselves, not as the giant of our dreams, nor the dwarf of our fears, part of a whole, with a share in its purpose.”
I want to be part of this WLW community. I get jealous all the time, thinking that you love each other more than me. I need sooo much love after a lifetime of pain. I am so moved when I hear that others have little kids inside, needing so much too. I’m scared but I keep coming back.
“In this ground we can each take root and grow, not alone anymore as in death”.
I want to grow, I want to be with you. In community. Loving and being loved. Authentically.
“But fully alive in the midst of the world”.
Come dance with me at the Women’s Fest, WLW, Family Fest, and fall retreats!!!
I love you all so deeply. Thank you for staying with me. Julie