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How Tears can Water your Soul

Like the rivers of our earth that flow from the highest mountains and forge their way through the deepest valleys, our tears cut a path through the highs and lows of our emotional life.” ~Paula Becker

 

Today’s guest post is by Jane Smith

Jane Smith

Jane Smith

Carol Waid, one of the founders of Truth Be Told, who has been teaching classes at Hilltop and Lockhart women’s prisons for many years, uses tears as a subject for her students in her Talk To Me writing class. She shares Paula Becker’s article, “The Healing Power of Tears” that talks about how important it is to physically release tears and emotions. Carol’s experience has been that most women apologize for tears or try to laugh them off. She feels successful when everyone can hold a space for a woman’s tears to flow and then experience how their own empathy and compassion become engaged.

After the discussion of tears, the homework assignment is for the women to write about their own experience with tears. Below are writings done by two of Carol’s students.

HAVE A GOOD CRY – by Robin

Photo copyright by Milad Gheisari

Photo copyright by Milad Gheisari

When I was growing up, I was told not to cry, “to be strong.” I guess you could say that I was taught that ignoring your feelings was best. Don’t get me wrong, did I cry? Yes I did, but it was somewhere by myself, alone. I mostly cried when my weight was talked about. As a child, I was told, “you’re too fat” or “girls your size shouldn’t wear that.”

As I got older, my tears became anger, and this led to many enraged decisions. For so long I’ve struggled to swallow the humiliation of crying in front of other people, the feeling of being embarrassed, or made fun of. As of today, I absolutely feel that if you don’t allow yourself to cry, you will become emotionally furious, and this can become very serious behavior whether you know it or not. So what do I say to having a good cry? Get to the best place where you feel safe, and cry until you can’t cry no more.

HAVE A GOOD CRY – by Natasha

Photo copyright by flickr.com/volver-avanzar

Photo copyright by flickr.com/volver-avanzar

Before I read this, in my mind, crying was a sign of weakness and grieving. I never really went into deep thought about crying, and how it makes you feel better. Growing up, I only cried when I hurt myself, got a spanking and at my great-grandparents’ funerals. Other than that I didn’t cry too much. Now I cry in church when I have been touched by the Holy Spirit. Sitting here in jail, I cry thinking about how I messed up my life or became a disappointment to my family. I cry when I’m sad, but never just because.

After reading the handout, it makes me cry more just to feel the relief, but sometimes I still see it as a sign of weakness. But that’s just from growing up. I met people who told me a little about their past, and they would bust out into tears, and it makes me think about mine, and I feel like I’m gonna cry, but I stop myself until I’m by myself. I feel better, but every time I feel that, I have to be by myself to truly let it all out.

Hopefully with this class, I can learn to let go and get more in touch with my emotional side. Since learning that crying is healthy for you and helps relieve stress, I try and cry more.


These emotionally honest writings demonstrate how very important the Truth Be Told Classes are to these women. For what may be the first time, they are given permission to feel and permission to express those feelings in a healthy way.

Brene Brown says:

I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”

 

 

 

Restorative Justice Workshop and Amazon Smiles

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Amazon Smiles
Amazon just started a new charitable giving program. If you buy an eligible product at AmazonSmile, 0.5% of the cost is donated to an organization of your choice. Truth Be Told is a registered organization, so please choose us when you make a purchase. There is no additional cost to you. To shop at AmazonSmile simply start your regular Amazon shopping at smile.amazon.com.

 

Restorative Justice
Please join the Truth Be Told community for a one-day Restorative Justice Workshop we organized. By connecting with experts in the field, we have learned that many components of our programs promote restorative justice even though that isn’t the stated objective. Restorative justice is an approach to justice that focuses on the needs of the victims and the offenders, as well as the community involved. Victims take an active role in the process, while offenders are encouraged to take responsibility and to repair the harm they’ve done. This approach views crime and other conflicts as violations of people and interpersonal relationships that create obligations and liabilities and have a lasting impact on entire communities.

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Restorative justice practices heal relationships and build communities through restorative dialogues and the creation of mutually beneficial solutions. Nationally and internationally, restorative justice initiatives are addressing issues in a variety of settings such as student misconduct in schools and conflicts in communities.
The workshop will be led by Eric Butler from Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY) and is co-sponsored by Sherwynn Patton of Life Anew.

The RJOY website describes the questions restorative justice asks:
     1. Who was harmed?
     2. What are the needs and responsibilities of all affected?
     3. How do all affected parties together address needs and repair harm?

An emerging approach to justice rooted in indigenous cultures, restorative justice is reparative, inclusive, and balanced. It emphasizes:
     1. Repairing harm
     2. Inviting all affected to dialogue together to figure out how to do so
     3. Giving equal attention to community safety, victim’s needs, and offender accountability and growth

For more background on this fast-growing approach to wrongdoing that is proving effective visit the UT Institute for Restorative Justice and Restorative Dialogue.

Truth Be Told facilitators asked for a workshop to learn how to be more intentional about promoting restorative justice principles. Please join us for this unique experience.

WHAT: Restorative Justice Workshop

WHEN: Saturday, July 26th, 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.

WHERE: Booker T. Washington Terraces, Community Meeting Hall, at 905 Bedford Street, Austin, TX 78702. Map

REGISTRATION: To register contact Ginger McGilvray at ginger.mcgilvray@gmail.com or 512-740-1307and confirm there is still room.

FEE: $75 for the day. Please make checks payable to “Life Anew” and mail before July 20th to: Ginger McGilvray, 117 El Paso Street, Austin, TX 78704. If needed, you may pay at the door, but we would like to get most payments in ahead of time.

LUNCH: A community lunch is included with registration. If you have dietary restrictions or special needs, please let Ginger know.

WHAT TO WEAR: Please dress very casually. This day is meant to be a comfortable experience for us all.

Why I Serve on The Truth Be Told Board

Amber Vazquez Bode, a Truth Be Told Board member, is featured in Moms I’d Like to Know, sharing her experience of being a criminal defense attorney and a mother.

AmberBode

By Amber Vazquez Bode

As a criminal defense attorney, I have been a party to hundreds and hundreds of people entering the prison system in Texas. Almost all of them have broken my heart, because I got to know them as a person, and I am acutely aware of what the prison system does to chip away at a person’s humanity.

When I was asked to serve on the Board of Truth Be Told and began to understand what TBT did, it felt like the other half of the equation to my professional life. It was like a light breaking through the darkness to see healing, strength, and growth emerge out of an otherwise depressing and soul-crushing situation.

It also confirmed what I have always believed: redemption is available to every human until we take our last breath. It is never too late to start over and begin a new life. No one is too bad, too broken, or too “systemized” to heal their heart.

One of the things that resonates the most with me is that TBT does not disqualify people based on their crime or how many times they have been in prison, like everything else in the system does.

I am a part of Truth Be Told not only because I want to make the world a safer place for me and my family, but because the work that we do helps heal entire families for generations and that is a value that cannot be measured.

I am humbled by each story of pain and triumph and inspired to face another day in the harsh and frequently unfair justice system within which I work. Our graduates are the embodiment of everything I strive to be, and I believe that my involvement has not only made me a better advocate, it has made ne a better person.

What I Learned in Prison

One September day, I spent the afternoon in prison.

Photo by Global Panorama

Photo by Global Panorama

That Friday, I made the hour drive out to Lockhart State Prison in Texas with a dozen other women and a couple of men to attend a  Truth Be Told graduation ceremony for the women who had just completed the program. Most of these women have never really faced their pasts and traumas, much less talked about them.

We had come as respectful listeners – these women were going to stand up in front of the room full of other prisoners, and us – and tell their stories, out loud, for the first time. It’s an incredibly brave and vulnerable act for anyone. And for most of these women, it was the first time they’d ever had anyone listen to them respectfully.

I could hardly comprehend that – the idea that no one had ever really listened to these women with respect before pierced me. I was listened to respectfully as a child, when I went running up to my mother on little toddler legs with some crazy childish idea. I was listened to respectfully in school by my teachers. I have had many bosses who listened to and respected me; many wonderful friends who wanted to know my thoughts. I can sit down at the end of the day and share something minor that happened with my boyfriend – and he listens to me. Respectfully.

The concept that these women were sharing such painful, personal things – for the first time, and with complete strangers – made me sad for them.

But pity is not what I felt that day in the prison. I felt my insides ripped out by their words, their pain, their anger and their loss. Woman after woman stood up in front of the room and told her story, which invariably started with horrific abuses at a very early age. Yet they were not asking for sympathy, nor excusing their own bad choices that had landed them in prison. They cried, they raged, they hung their heads, they looked bewildered as they recounted their histories, the abuses against them, and their own mistakes for which they could never make up for.

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For most of these women, childhood abuse was a huge factor – and it seemed to always result in a pathological yearning for love – any type of love – that led to their troubles.  Almost all of them came across, to me, as lost and bewildered children themselves. And most of them had children of their own, who seemed doomed to repeating the same path if something was not done to end the cycles of abuse that had plagued these families.

photo 3[1]When I entered the prison, as I went through security and my pat-down search, as I was led along the ugly concrete hallways, past the stares of the male prisoners, into the “graduation” room and nervously watched the Truth Be Told graduates walk into the room in their blue prison-issued tops and pants,  I thought I had nothing in common with these women. I was there to listen respectfully, but I didn’t really think I could relate to them.

I was so wrong. At almost every moment, every turn in a new story, I found myself thinking, there but for a bad choice, a bit of luck, could I have gone. They were not so different from me, in so many ways, after all. I had simply been lucky enough to have a loving family and a good, abuse-free childhood. They were not so lucky. For these women, such things as love and abuse-free childhood were the great gaping holes in their lives – holes that they filled them with drugs, money and things gotten at any cost; holes which they filled with abusive relationships and children simply so they could have someone to love them.

But underneath it all, we were the same. By the end of the afternoon, I found myself not only relating to them, but admiring them. These women were the bravest people I had ever met in my life. Their honesty and their courage honed into my heart like an arrow and lodged there. I will never forget their words, or the haunted looks in their eyes as they spoke them.

My Freedom Will Hold, Thanks to Truth Be Told

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By Stephanie, a Truth Be Told graduate.

Stephanie and her daughter

I am Stephanie, graduate of the 2013 Talk To Me Circle class at the GEO Lockhart Unit. I came into this class with an open mind, willing to learn, but my main objective at the time was to have something to show parole. I had just gotten a year set off (a delay in release). I knew why I had received this set off. It was because the system was tired of me. You see I had spent the majority of my life in and out of prison. More in than out. I am a fifty-year-old, repeat offender. Been to state jail three times, TDC (Texas Department of Corrections) two times, and out-of-state once.

My prison journey started at the age of 19. So as much as the system was tired of me, I had finally become tired of it. So I signed up for everything that had a dotted line and embarked on the Truth Be Told class with my all. I really was tired of prison life. I knew I needed a change or I would die in prison or lose someone close to me and not be able to handle it. I took the Circle class where you have to write your truth with Katie Ford.

I was very distanced and I held my feelings inside. I didn’t know how to communicate very well. I felt I would do good with the writing. At least it was a start and I would let go of some of my junk and pain. In the beginning, I didn’t know that was a way of healing and finding your truth. I give thanks to Katie, because that’s a tool I learned from her and Truth Be Told, my tool of journaling. See I had never journaled in my life and this has helped me to face my truth. There were other tools as well as writing my truth. I learned to speak my truth, that I still have a voice, and that I am somebody besides a number. Most importantly I learned how to change and never go back to prison.

This class provided me with personal and spiritual growth. It’s true that these tools have held me together. I’ve been out for three months now and it has been a challenge for me. I have to constantly remind myself that I can do it, that I can ask for help, that I am not alone, and to trust in my Father’s Words that he will make a way. I am holding on and expressing my feelings through my journaling, because I know that God has got a blessing with my name on it and it’s not a TDC number.

The Sweet Spot, a film about a TBT graduate’s story

University of Texas/Austin student filmmaker Shelby Hadden made a film about Truth Be Told graduate Liz. Read Shelby’s blog post and watch the video below.

By Shelby Hadden

ShelbyHaden

Shelby Hadden

I pulled in the driveway of the rundown blue shack on the side of Highway 290, wondering if I was making the wrong decision jumping into the car of a total stranger — let alone into the car of a convicted felon. I had just moved to Austin, and it’s not like anyone would be checking in on me.

Earlier that summer from the comfort of my bedroom in Nashville, I scoured Austin newspapers and websites searching for a story. I knew I’d be making a documentary my first semester in the Film and Media Production program at the University of Texas. When I found Truth Be Told, I knew I had come across something special. I had just finished a documentary about an art therapy program for patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia, so I was very aware of the healing power of creative expression.

I contacted Truth Be Told and had a long conversation with co-founder Carol Waid. I instantly felt a connection through our shared passion for storytelling. As soon as my Austin apartment was unpacked, I met Carol for coffee. She got me in touch with a few Truth Be Told graduates as possible subjects for my film. Liz was one of them.

The night before we were supposed to meet, Liz called me with a change of plans. The only way we could talk was if I joined her for the drive to San Marcos to visit her parole officer. I was wary of this plan, but having seen how protective Carol was of her Truth Be Told students and graduates, I thought I could trust Liz.

The next morning, Liz greeted me with her beautiful, perfect smile and instantly put me at ease. There wasn’t a moment of silence during that car ride. She told me her entire story — what drove her to prison, her experience behind bars, and her hopes and dreams for the future. I was blown away by her honesty and vulnerability. I knew that I had to tell her story.

I packed my trunk with video equipment and drove to Dripping Springs at least twice a week from September to November. I was with Liz when she woke up her three children and drove them to school. I went to orthodontist appointments and lunches in elementary school cafeterias. I was back at that blue shack when the siding was re-done, the shelves lacquered, and the candy bins filled. I was there opening day to see Liz’s vision of The Sweet Spot become a reality.

The Sweet Spot

The Sweet Spot, before

I am so grateful for Liz and her family for opening up their lives to me. I will always look up to Liz for her strength and courage. She is living proof that each of us is more than just one decision or event, and that everyone has the ability to become a better person. I am proud and honored to call her my friend.

View more of Shelby’s work on her website, http://www.shelbyhadden.com/.

Truth be Told at Creative Mornings

Kathleen Littlepage Today’s post is by Kathleen Littlepage,
Executive Director of Truth Be Told.

At Truth Be Told, we often talk about the powerful impact our programs have on the incarcerated women who participate in them. Many of us who describe the transformational experiences that happen in our classes are longtime volunteer facilitators.

What we don’t often talk about is the effect our programs have on us.

The truth is that walking alongside participants as they embark on a journey of self-discovery is life-changing for us as well. How can I present a class on forgiveness without coming face-to-face with my own forgiveness issues? How can I witness a brave woman overcoming her debilitating fear of speaking her truth without wondering how fear holds me back?

In May, volunteer facilitator Katie Ford went public with our secret when she shared with a large audience of strangers her growing awareness of what imprisons her, and how that awareness is changing her life. Fortunately, her revelation happened on a beautiful spring morning at TOMS Café, a wonderful new community space on South Congress, to a friendly group of creative types at the Creative Mornings monthly event. The spirit of that morning is conveyed so well in the video of her talk, and an audience member even contributed an illustration of what he heard. Click here to see both.

Watch Katie’s Creative Mornings talk about Truth Be Told:

Truth Be Told is grateful to Katie for faithfully teaching a writing class, Talk To Me–Circle, at the Lockhart prison since 2010. Since Austin is the “City of Ideas,” it is perfect that we have a chapter of Creative Mornings, a monthly breakfast lecture series for the creative community that started in New York and has spread around the world. Volunteer hosts and their team members organize local chapters that not only celebrate a city’s creative talent, but also promote an open space to connect with like-minded individuals. Attendance is free and there is always fresh coffee, breakfast food, and friendly faces.

KL Signature

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