When I met Lauren, I knew I wanted to help her get her book written. Like me, she’d gone on a literal quest to heal herself. After a break-up, she’d gotten on her motorcycle and taken herself across the country on a pilgrimage to find her way in her next chapter. I admired her spirit, and I related to the need to undertake a quest that would upset self-definitions that weren’t serving.

But Lauren added an element to her journey that I didn’t add when I ran seven marathons on seven continents. She made her solo trek about other people, too. While she rode a lot of hours alone, she made contact with an organization that put her in touch with survivors of human trafficking and offered to do photoshoots of women who were recovering from having had their sovereignty stolen away.

I was so struck by her project (and can’t fricking wait to read her whole book)! What a wonderful gift to give someone, to let the camera see into a person’s soul and reflect back the strength, the scars, the hopes and dreams, the JOURNEY. And what a gift to give yourself: to really LOOK at and SEE another person.

Have you ever looked into your own eyes in the mirror and truly loved the human inside who has been through hell and is still standing? Have you ever REALLY seen through the tunnel of your own pain with tenderness and admiration at all you’ve been through?

When I heard of what Lauren had undertaken, I knew she was offering a mirror to the women she met, and I could hear in the way she talked about her journey that they had mirrored her, too. She had been changed by meeting each woman she encountered. She’d seen and had been seen in return.

Because of the way Lauren opened her heart to her own humanity and then opened it wider to see and acknowledge shared humanity with people who had been through some dark shit and come out alive, I KNEW I wanted to be on her writing “team.”

And I also knew I wanted to support her in her work on behalf of survivors.

In my years as therapist, I sat for two decades in small rooms with people who confessed so many hard things to me. They told me things that happened to them they’d never told anyone before—things that were very difficult for ME (especially when I was a new therapist) to realize people could do to other people. I often felt, especially in those early days of my work as a therapist, like I wanted to fling myself across the room and hold those humans—to make the pain better by sheer force of will. I found it hard sometimes to simply hold space and be a mirror for their own gently growing self-respect. But I learned how to sit still. I learned that the best thing I could do for my clients and for me was to just really SEE—to look… and keep looking. To NOT turn away from the wounds but to reflect back how I saw they were attending to the sore spots for themselves, and then, whenever invited, to offer my readiness to help stitch up a cut or rub salve on a painful scar.

I also learned that every wounded person who came into my therapy space had a lesson for me—because you can’t encounter other people’s sacred pain without turning compassion back on yourself. You see the connections. She is me. I am her. Our circumstances are different, not even to be compared, but we are each both vulnerable AND powerful.

Because… you know… the thing that happened to her may not have happened to me, but it COULD have. And other things HAVE happened.

Do you know what I mean?

This is what Lauren has further opened my heart to.

And then…

Lauren referred Tom to my program for writers.

Tom is a deeply spiritual man who also took very long trip—for him, it was his 60th birthday that sparked the idea to do something epic. He rode not a motorcycle, but a bicycle. And on that long ride, he gave himself a good think about something most women I know wish men would think about. He pondered what it means to be a man, and he asked himself how he could do masculinity better than the “toxic masculinity” we are all so familiar with—so easy to fall into when it’s the “norm.” Tom is now writing his book about this outer and inner journey.  But during the time he was riding, Tom also committed to making his bicycle ride a fundraising event to honor the resilience of sex trafficking survivors.

Tom’s one-time ride has now grown into an annual, national fundraising effort, called the HARD ROAD CHALLENGE, enlisting teams from around the country to raise funds to disrupt human sex trafficking (see this link for how to donate).

Knowing Lauren and Tom has made me think a lot about how much I take my sovereignty as a person for granted–my freedom to run when and where I want. And also… how I want a world where every human belongs to him/her/themself. 

I am participating in the Hard Road Challenge this year. I’m running 10 miles a day for 10 days in a row to raise funds with the Epik Project.

            My goal is $2000. Help get PAST that goal, friends.

EVERYONE deserves to look in the mirror, to BE SAFE, and to see a free person looking back. Together we can make an actual, real, meaningful difference in disrupting human trafficking and can help survivors thrive.

To donate: Go here.

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