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This story is dedicated to everyone who have survived domestic and family violence and abuse, but especially to the women's support group that inspired it - thanks ladies!
I was walking in just over ankle height waves along a sandy beach as a special Birthday treat to myself. I had completed about one third of the walk I wanted to do when I started to see jelly fish dotted along the sand just out of the water. I had heard that strong winds had brought them down our way, but had assumed they had already left. I decided to err on the side of caution and get out of the water and walk on the sand.
I was very disheartened to have to do this, as walking in the water was just so nice. As I walked along I started to notice a shell here and there. That's nice I thought, I haven't seen shells on a beach for many years. What's more collecting shells on the beach was something I used to enjoy as a teenager - a white speck on a black sheet in my memory.
So I started collecting shells - well only the ones that caught my eye and were not broken. As I walked along I noticed that all the ones in my favourite colour were broken. That's not fair, I thought. Anyway I kept on looking and several other shells caught my eye - they were very unusual. As I picked them up for closer inspection I noted that what had caught my eye with these shells wasn't normal. They were chipped and pitted with indentations, some of which went right through the shell making holes. Useless, I thought and threw them back.
Yet the more I searched for good shells the more I found with holes. They were not good enough for me as I wanted to take them home and glue them to a picture frame - and who wants to do that with broken shells, right? Then in my mind I saw a picture of a women's support group that I attend. Suddenly what I wanted to portray in the picture frame changed.
Quickly I picked up many shells that had been beaten, bashed, holes punched right through them, and ones that were broken - all of which most people just consider rubbish, not worth the time of day, something to discard, and totally useless. I also collected some sand to complete my project.
I purchased two picture frames and I was going to decorate them with my findings, yet one quite differently from the other. Not only this, but I was going to make an object lesson out of them.
On the one frame I wanted a smooth layer of fine sand. So I brushed on a nice smooth layer of glue and sprinkled on the sand and let it dry. When it was dry I glued on some of the nicest looking, most complete shells that I had found. I then sprayed this with polish before putting another coat of glue between all the shells and adding some more sand with a little silver glitter mixed with it. I completed my project with several layers of spray polish.
To me this first picture frame represents most of us when we are young. Life is fairly smooth sailing like the smooth sand, and life is usually not too bad either. We usually look rather nice, are considered normal and useful, and most people don't hesitate to take our picture just like the nice looking, most complete shells. There are usually some bright spots in our life; highlights here and there just like the silver glitter in the sand.
On the second frame I wanted the sand to be in lumps and bumps, and the sand itself courser. So I brushed the glue on the frame in streaks and lumps to achieve this effect. I then selected shells that were chipped, pitted, holes punched through them, and just plain broken. I glued these on the frame just like the others. I also put a coat of polish on this frame, and more glue and sand mixed with a little pink, aqua and gold glitter. I also completed this project with several layers of spray polish.
To me this second picture frame represents those of us who have survived domestic violence. Life has been pretty rough just like the coarser, lumpier sand. We usually don't look as nice as we used to either, but more so we have been repeatedly told we are ugly, stupid, unlovable, useless, and the like to the point that we believe it. Whether physically, emotionally, sexually, or psychologically we have been repeatedly battered, bruised, chipped, at times felt like holes have been punched right through us, and yes, at one time or another, we have felt useless. Yet on that beach that day I found a use for the battered, bruised, chipped, hole ridden and so called "useless" shells. They too make a very different, very unique, and very beautiful picture frame - one that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Our lives too have been more colourful just like the colourful glitter I mixed with the sand.
The moral of this story is:-
it does not matter what you have been through, what hardships you have endured, how you see yourself, or whether you feel that you have any use any more - because what you have been through has made you the person that you now are with all your likes and dislikes; what you have endured has given you strength to face new challenges in life; how you see yourself is not how others see you for beauty is in the eye of the beholder and an inner beauty will always shine through; and no matter how you feel about yourself -
you are different,
and still useful!
© Sandra Goeldner, February, 2013.
© S. D. Goeldner, 2013. Last updated July, 2019.
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