If We Can't Be Real, Why Bother?

In 1920 a woman had the right to vote, but dare not speak out against a man who cursed or shamed her. We have come a long way in 100 years but for many the stigma of shame associated with any kind of abuse remains.

In 1920 a woman had the right to vote, but dare not speak out against a man who cursed or shamed her. We have come a long way in 100 years but for many the stigma of shame associated with any kind of abuse remains.

It takes a lot of courage to overlook shame and share your story.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This month, the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) and organizations across the country are bringing greater awareness to domestic violence and its effect on women and children.

As much as I'd like to paint a perfect picture of my life, I am more blessed by sharing the true journey of my life - good , bad, and not eh, the blah....  We are all in this life together, if we can't be real, then why bother?  If my journey of faith and overcoming can inspire anyone, I feel my living is all the better.

Truth be told, this is a difficult topic for me to write about, much less give voice to. Doing os pulls a lot out of me mentally and emotionally. As painful as it is to relive some of the messiness of my life, I have moved beyond the shame. Through prayer, tears, and exercising my creative talents through my music and writing, I have been empowered to rise above it.

It has taken me a while to get to this point. Hopefully stepping past my own feelings of shame and openly sharing more of my story of victory will be impactful enough to help others to move forward into the beautiful life God has created for us all.

Here, I am sharing a synopsis from journey, read more from my memoir, “Who’s That Girl?”

Don’t You Dare Cry

I stood wide-eyed with a toothy smile before my high school business economics teacher. My face grew frozen as I fought back a well of tears that had slowly formed pools at the base of my eyes. ‘Don’t you dare cry,’ I thought to myself. Matters of the mind often begin in the heart, and on that day, mine was beginning to break.

Everyone wanted to be in this teacher’s class. His class led to consideration for the work-study program. This was a program where local businesses allowed students to work for half the day in order to gain exposure and possibly a job upon graduating high school. I was at the top of my class academically and therefore chosen to be among the pool of anxious inner city youth looking for the opportunity to escape near poverty and make something of myself.

The well-admired male teacher, near famous for his style of dress and relation to the business world, squarely looked me in the eye and said, “there is no need for you to be in my class. Girls who look like you already have it easy in life. Find an athlete or someone rich to marry and you’ll be fine.”

In an instant, my world flashed before my eyes. I struggled to find understanding in his words as he went on to tell me I would not be enrolled in his class and that I’d been referred to home economics instead. I felt so small and insignificant. At age 15, I really had no idea what had just happened to me or the lingering effect his words would have on me for most of my young adult years.

With his words planted firmly in the depths of my subconscious mind, I set foot on a path of trying to build a future on my looks rather than my mind, and finding a man to take care of me.

What is life except a series of memories? It has been said that is all that truly matters in the end.

When my late husband Elgin was near his end, he once tearfully asked me where the good memories were. I am convinced that had fate decided to share more time, he would have embraced the good of life with great conviction.

To my recollection we did have some very happy moments. We were blessed to be parents of two very handsome young boys. I thought we did a pretty good job of raising them. They surely brought joy to our lives.

We all made each other laugh at times, with my husband being the ring leader of comedic moments. Family time was nice with game nights and weekends hiking through the woods. He taught our boys how to ride a bike, play basketball, football and baseball. We both marveled at how well he’d taught our oldest son to drive. We both shed happy tears when we saved up enough money to buy him a used car for his high school graduation gift. We had celebrated many birthdays and holiday occasions together as a family.

Clearly, there are beautiful memories of our life together, why couldn’t he see the same? Sadly, in the end all my late husband could recall was twenty years of struggle and strife. Truly, we were so young when we married, neither of us ready for the weight of adulthood. We were young parents, without college degrees trying to figure things out on minimum wage, with good jobs to high school graduates being far and few between. There were no notions of happily ever after, other than those I had formulated in my own mind. There were some good times but they didn’t always outweigh the bad.

After my spirit was nearly broken in high school, I was on a mission to prove to the world that I was more than just another a pretty face. I was determined to finish college and build a career for myself, while also pursuing a passion for music and entertainment.

When I wasn’t working two and sometimes three jobs, and our parents would agree to babysit, I would go on auditions and take on modeling gigs. I really thought I could do it all. I have always been fiercely determined to succeed, but in those early tender years of stepping into adulting, the words of that high school teacher somehow stuck with me. So much so, that I wrapped my entire self into building a life with a promising young handsome athletic man.

My late husband, dare I say was resentful of our life together and often at me. He blamed me for his every failure.

Every bad day, every job loss, everything that made him sad or angry was my fault. We argued more than anything and rarely aligned in a vision for how to build towards a future together.

Thankfully, he never hit me, but there were times when he came very close. Somehow I built up a stamina for being pushed, shoved, and yelled at.

Things would get broken, walls punched, stuff around the house thrown and tossed about.

Our two young boys during this time, would silently consume the brunt of the fury of our home. I was too busy trying to shield them physically, almost unaware of the mental abuse we were all suffering.

Statistics show that 20 people a minute are abused by an intimate partner in the United States, this equate to more than 10 million women and men each year. Annually, more than 750,000 children witness abuse.

It is not my intent to speak ill of the deceased. My late husband did the best with the resources he had available to him. He tried and that’s more than can be said for some. For many years, I blamed myself for the difficulties we faced in life, asking myself if I forced my late husband into a life he did not chose when we married. When he would get angry, I’d ask myself a series of questions: what could I have done differently? Why couldn’t I just be quiet so as not to upset him? I’d sometimes go for days barely speaking to just to avoid inciting him in some way. Why couldn’t my love for him be enough for both of us?

Maybe if I focused less on my own ambitions and more on encouraging him to do things the things he liked, would that make him happy? I asked, if God is Love and if I am trying to be the kind of woman God wants me to be, why does love have to hurt?

Beyond emotional stress, life dealt many other blows. We were terrible at managing money or just could never make enough so we were often broke. We lost cars, got evicted from apartments and often had to eat with our parents when groceries were scarce. With each defeat we often grew weaker rather than stronger. When our oldest son and later my husband both suffered with cancer - life was harder than I ever imagined it would be. I did not question God about their illness, but I did ask, why does life have to be so hard, all the time?

Faith brought me forward

When our oldest son, Christopher passed away, it was my husband’s voice and not my own that I heard this time saying, ‘don’t you dare cry.’ He said I could not cry because our youngest son may hear me, so I didn’t cry.

Six months later, my husband died. All I can clearly remember from that day was a sudden streaming of hot and heavy tears followed by the very distinct loud screaming of my own voice as I watched in horror the coroner drive away with my husband’s body. The heaviness of twenty years lifted, then suddenly my heart sank deeply within my chest. Did I pass out? To this very day, I am not quite sure.

I did not begin to feel my full strength until I was forced to reckon with being on my own for the first time in my life, and having to raise our baby boy all by myself. Out of nowhere, this resilient attitude rose up out of me. I set about a new path, focused on finding joy through the mourning and grief.

I told myself to be happy, as simple as it may sound. It was all about making the decision to change my life, and so I did. I opened my mind and my heart and truly let God in. He showed me that I was worth more than I had every given myself credit for. Drawing only on my faith, I accepted the new life before me.

Truth in Serenity

Today my life is like a sweet and beautiful dream. Honestly, I am in awe at how far I have come. It is as if I stepped into the stilettos of another woman. God gave me a second chance to begin again. I am now living an amazing life with my now husband Dwayne who deeply loves adores me as much as I do him. I have traveled and held down a storied career with local government, obtained a masters degree, performed on stages sharing my musical and artistic talents. I am a published author, I have recorded albums, paid off debts and become a business owner. All of these things I once only dreamed of; never knowing that I would see life past half a century and be able to sit quietly in a beautiful home filled with so much peace and love, reflecting over the way God intends our lives to be.

I am quite happy today, but life still has its challenges. The difference now vs. who I was twenty years ago, is wisdom. When you are blessed to circle around the sun more than fifty times, there is a level of strength and endurance that is learned. Also, a certain wherewithal that comes with age. I don’t panic when the storms of life may blow and I have learned to pray about everything.

I am intentional about keeping my mind and the physical space around me clear of clutter and confusion. I walk and move peacefully. I try to surround myself with positive people and positive energy. I take time to read things that make me smile, plant in my garden to enjoy being a part of creating life through vegetables and flowers. Spending time doing even the smallest of things that bring me happiness is what keeps me grounded and in an attitude of gratefulness.

No one has a right to make another person feel hurt or shame. Whatever the situation, no one deserves to be abused. There is a path towards victory and overcoming abuse.

I allow myself to cry when I need to, but the key is getting up and out of those moments. It is ok to experience your emotion because of the cathartic release that allows for healing, but don't stay there. I still struggle with self-doubt and worry from time to time, but I chose to focus on what is true and not the lies of dark thoughts that come and go. Thanks to the serenity prayer, which I cherish, I can see most situations quite clearly these day.

Life is a journey riddled with hills to climb and valleys to travel, trials to overcome and triumphs to celebrate. It can be a long and difficult road to get to where God’s wants you, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are resources to help you find your way.

“Yes, that Girl!” is all about me saying yes to life, yes to embracing the joy, pain and everything in between. I can dare to cry if I want to these days because I know that trouble does not last always. We must find the courage to escape fear, darkness and the people and situations that push us off into downward spirals. Instead we must strive to be the best version of who we were created to be, using the time, space and opportunities that God gives us.

What we believe of ourselves, others will act upon the same. If you believe you are victorious, strong, and an overcomer then that is what you shall be and the world will see it. Let the redeemed say so!

Yes, I am that girl who lives and breathes each day with gratefulness, with a heart for others who have known pain similar and far greater than my own. I am her and she is me. May faith continue to bring us forward.


If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence please seek help through prayer as well as any of the many resources available online such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.7233 or thehotline.org, womenshealth.org, and Family Violence Prevention & Services Resource Centers.

#domesticviolenceawareness #courage #victoryoverviolence #nomore #nomoreshame #helpforvictims #courage #mentalhealth

In the latest "Yes, That Girl!" podcast episode, J La Trina, an Atlanta based motivational speaker and author shares her story of triumph over domestic violence and embracing a new life of purpose.

Valerie shares a bit of her own journey towards the same. Listen to learn, and please share with someone who may need encouragement.

Valerie Winrow is an author and a women’s lifestyle writer/blogger highlighting women's health, wellness, and finance. The “Yes, That Girl!” blog and podcast is dedicated to inspiring others to live an amazing life of purpose. Listen to the Podcast, on AnchorFM, Spotify & Apple Podcasts

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