Gathered Here Today, 2021.

Tw: sexual violence, csa

Gathered Here Today,

16x10” acrylic, oil, charcoal on canvas panels

This piece began from a vision. 

The effects of s*xual abuse are profound, and in my case the effects of that violence on my 11 year old brain shattered my inner foundations including any secure attachments I felt. These experiences changed me neurologically, changed my nervous system, changed the course of so much for me. A change I still find myself grieving and will probably always grieve in varying capacities. These experiences fostered a self reliance whose edges were sharp, more so inwardly than outwardly. If I relied on only myself, no one could reach me, touch me, disappoint me, hurt me, betray me. Relying on others involves varying levels of trust and that had become a foreign concept to me. So far I knew that trust was dangerous. Something that healing has shown me is that everything I thought I knew and felt, likely is/looks and feels different from another angle. So much of my hurt and pain and fear as an adult survivor of CSA is anchored in past realities. +10 years of existing in an abusive situation is a lot to undo. My work now is processing all of those years of feelings and bringing my mind and body out of those realities and into the present ones, where I am safe and secure and willing.

Over the years I would often close my eyes and be visited by soft visions of support. Even before I knew what it meant or what was going on. My tactic back then was to repress and the ways in which I was manipulated made it extremely difficult for me to see clearly. Recently in my own meditations, the visualization or physical gesture(like my hand on my chest or a hand cupping my face) of support brings me to tears. It’s a safe touch and feeling that reaches all the way back through time to eleven year old Amanda. 

There is a garden sanctuary five minutes down the road from where I grew up, this special oasis is maybe the first place that helped me feel less alone. I felt safe there, I felt seen and held. I didn’t have to exist in survival mode in there like I had to outside. Being there made me feel a sense of belonging, beauty, and purpose. It made sense when my own world made no sense. I felt close to the earth in a way that contradicted the hurtful isolation expanding within me. “The flowers will never betray me”, I was drawn to their unwavering loyalty and promise of safety. It was one of the few things that without my knowing quietly distracted my trauma and survival mode, let me feel something other than full of fear, and allowed me to come closer to my true self. I owe so much to this garden, to the flowers. I want to be to others what this garden was to me.