2017 – What I Learned

What an amazing year …

I start out the year struggling to figure out how to breathe after my husband left, fighting alone to save the sinking ship of our family while he jumped to his backup plan with a shrug and a ‘sorry’…

and then the humiliation and overwhelm and bitterness arrive, sweeping me up into a whirlwind of ‘not good enough’ and my teenage daughter echoes every insecurity as she tries to figure out why men always fail at parenting and deduces it must be because her mother is defective, and she’s not entirely wrong …

and then this bizarro curtain rises as our President uses the phrase ‘grab ’em by the pussy’ and people I love and respect (men and women alike) begin to argue that it’s no big deal while my pussy shouts ‘Mother Fucker I didn’t say yes!’…

and then I post #metoo and finally give voice to my own violation – my own rape and it has a name and a date and is finally … after 26 years … absorbed into my life experience instead of living in a dark room of silence and shame …

and then my divorce is final and I realize the man I loved was never the man I thought he was, and maybe I was never the woman I thought I was and I wonder if there is ever a time to commit suicide where it won’t hurt your children quite so much .. and I cry because there isn’t and because knowing there isn’t saved my life.

And here, at the end of the year I sit and feel all the pain and the sorrow and rage and realize it didn’t kill me, that I felt it all and learned how to take a breath with my heart in pieces.

I learned how to step off the ship he wanted to sink even if I cried watching it go down.

I learned how to say the word rape without choking on my own shame even if only in a whisper.

I learned how to see myself with my own eyes, no longer counting on the eyes of the men who promise forever but really only mean as long as it’s easy for them.

I learned and I survived and I have every intention of doing this again and again until there are no more years to survive or no more lessons to learn.

This is the suffering Buddha spoke of.

This is life.

And all the while .. I draw.





8 Comments Add yours

  1. Gwinn is my maiden name. My father, John Gwinn, was an artist who passed away in January of this year at 81. Just two weeks ago we did a Celebration of Life for him which, of course, brought back all the pain of losing him in the winter. Anyway, tonight, I was looking for pieces of his online and so I stumbled upon you – also an artist, also named Gwinn. And I just thought, hmm…what if…we’re related somehow?

    Your work is incredible, wonderful, haunting, intense, fascinating, illustrative, meditative, sublime. I love it!

    And your words: wow. I’m a writer and I’m not sure I can find the right words to say to how what you wrote in this post made me feel. Other than a pedestrian wow, I can say it was beautiful. I hope that shows it touched me. I have felt that depth of desperation and pain, too. And lived through it. Man, I truly believe we need more of this kind of shared humanity in our lives.

    Thank you for taking that brave step to connect.

    I’m so filled with joy for having discovered you, this stranger who shares my family name and who is also a rich and vibrant artist. Cheers to you Heather.


    1. Wow Jessica, what an amazing comment to find this morning (I don’t know how I missed it earlier). Thank you so much for reaching out to connect with ME.

      This is exactly why I do what I do and throw things out there into the world, because sometimes a connection is made and I believe we are all stronger for it.

      Hugs to you as you grieve your father and I hope that you are surrounded by love and support.

  2. komal says:

    I have so much admiration for your strength and how you choose to rise and face the day. You are an extremely inspiring person. I hope 2018 proves to be a fulfilling year for you. *hugs*

    1. I appreciate your words of encouragement so much, it means the world to me! Best wishes for 2018 and all the years to come.

  3. Alexis Pruitt says:

    You are an amazing woman Heather. You give voice and freedom to thoughts many of us have experienced and still hide behind. Your comments just made me realize that I still can’t say rape. I’ve only said “attack” (after 29 years). Thank you for your courage, strength and wisdom. You mean so much to people and you don’t even know it.

    1. Oh Alexis … I had to practice the word with my therapist, sometimes I still whisper it to myself but it’s very very hard to say aloud to other people. I’m so happy if my words brought you any sense of safety or community or understanding. Thank you so much for your comment, it makes me feel like these awful experiences maybe can be turned around into a strength and a tool for compassion and healing. Much love to you!

  4. John K. says:

    You are loved beyond measure by those who want nothing from you but you being here with us. Your art is amazing too!

    1. Thank you John! I’m so very happy (and proud) to have found my way back from that very dark and lonely place!

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