There comes a time when we have a choice to make. We can keep living the same old stories, same old characters and same old wounds over and over again, until we die.
Or, we can stand up, grab life by the balls and step boldly into something new.
That can be the scariest thing in the world—and the most freeing.
My story says, typed in bold italics, I’m a victim; I’m a voiceless weak little wisp of a thing; I’m a broken woman.
But I’m ready to let it go.
I see now that no matter the painful, shattering things that happened to me, no matter how broken I felt, I was never a broken woman.
I’m done with that chapter, that book, that well-rehearsed story. The final page is written, bound and sealed. I’m ready to honor those pages—love them and know them wisely by heart—but I’m also ready to burn ’em to a crisp with the hungry flames of my ruby spirit.
Because we are not our stories. We are not all the grand or terrible characters we’ve played. We are not our mistakes, our wounds.
We are spirit. We are soul.
We are infinitely more magical than the sum total of events that happened to us and the people who hurt us.
If there’s an old, tired story you’re ready to release—if it’s time to fully embrace the future, with your whole naked heart and a curious smile—then join me. Let’s lovingly burn those tired, limiting tales and soak proudly in the present moment, soaring above everything we thought defined us, but never actually did.
The best way to do this is to write out our stories in full. To painstakingly type out the exact tales and words and beliefs and memories we lean on, just a little too much. In doing so, we see that they never defined us.
In doing so, we change our destiny.
We transcend everything we thought we were and step proudly into everything we can be.
Here is my story. I write it to let it go. I write it to transform it.
The stale, sickly-sweet scent of old perfume on an old scarf fills me with the disgusting remnants of old, sour memories.
Not the pretty memories that we proudly display on our mantles in ornate gold frames for everyone to see.
These are the gross, dark, hidden, shame-soaked memories that haunt like wicked ghosts, like bad dreams, like the nightmares they really were. Memories I don’t ever want to talk about, but still exist whether I give them expression or not.
The times my flesh was touched when I didn’t want it to be touched.
The times my boundaries were violated, crossed and trespassed without so much as a second thought.
The times I was manipulated, trampled upon, bullied, teased, told to shut up.
The times I sat there in stunned silence, and let it all happen.
The stale scent of old perfume lingers in the air, sickly sweet, like a tattered, yellowed page, like a pesky definition that follows me everywhere.
An abused woman. A broken woman. A torn-up, people-pleasing doormat who had not a single thought of her own. A pathetic girl who would do absolutely anything to be liked or loved or even just mildly appreciated.
That’s what I thought of myself for so long.
I can still picture it, like a movie screen, the same scene on repeat: me, sitting there, frozen like a puppet, a sad marionette, catering mindlessly to everyone’s every whim and need. Never saying no. Only knowing the nod of my head, the sweet, automated smile, the resigned whisper of “yes.”
There are torn, scabbed pages in my heart; there are dark, tender chapters that still terrify me to think about. But I don’t want to hide them away anymore; I’m no longer ashamed of these wounded places inside of me. I own them. I own every squirmy ounce of their dark, sparkling magnificence.
And maybe I broke or shattered in spots; maybe my heart got badly bruised.
But I am not a broken woman.
I never was.
I am a phoenix rising.
I am a wild, healing woman reclaiming her worth, bathing in the radiant seas of her power, laughing loudly and rebirthing herself daily, with her own two hands.
I am a strong, bad*ss goddess constantly learning beautiful lessons from even the cruelest, wickedest twists of fates.
I am not a broken woman.
I am a falcon flying free, a dragon climbing out of the thick mouth of darkness with nothing but my naked heart, a shimmering smile and my own inner grit—my un-killable will to survive, my unstoppable thirst to keep trying, to f*cking thrive, baby, thrive!
I’m putting my hands on the wheel, to drive, baby drive—to exactly where I want to go, for the first time in my life.
And I can’t forget what happened to me—the ways I felt shattered, silenced and violated. Maybe I can’t even forgive it, but I can transmute it; I can transform it.
I can transform every piece of my pain into a mosaic of blossoming beauty. I can shade in the tender, charcoal-lined edges of my shame, fill in the bad memories with vines of chrysanthemum truth and from each layer of suppression—of suffocation, of sticky, sad, tear-stained sludge—I can make a new life.
I can become whole, not in spite of breaking, but because of it.
And so I will.
I will reclaim my soul, take back every ounce of the power that always belonged to me, and I will paint a brand new delicious life. A life that’s truly mine.
A life of freedom.
That’s the scent the breeze brings to me now, between bated breaths of stale, sour memories. I detect an empowered whiff of something fresh as dew, something softer, spicier, more substantial than the past ever was—like coconut, cardamom and sandalwood blending together, marrying in a sacred, nourishing incense for my soul.
It’s the buzzing, beautiful scent of freedom. My long-awaited freedom.
Oh freedom, I will devour you with every fiber of my being. I will taste you on my tongue like mango sorbet. I will make wild, fierce love to you. Because freedom, oh, sweet freedom, you were always mine; I just didn’t know how to claim you.
But I do now.
And now, I claim you hungrily with my whole heart, with a ridiculous grin on my face.
Because I am not not a broken woman. I am not a trapped, weak, voiceless, fragile, invisible woman.
I never was.
And the story of the past isn’t forgotten, made prettier or tied up in a neat pink satin bow by this freeing realization. It was a painful chapter. It hurt, and nothing will ever make that okay. But I don’t need it to be okay, I don’t need to go into the past and make it all pretty or all better. I can be here now and embrace the past, full of luscious darkness and pain and fire-breathing dragons.
Yes, the past, full of everything it took for me to become my own fire-breathing dragon.
The past, the ultimate reminder that I always was my own fire-breathing dragon.
“You’ve seen my descent,
Now watch my rising.”
Author: Sarah Harvey
Editor: Toby Israel