Last month, we introduced you to Truth Be Told co-founder Nathalie Sorrell, and shared her journey of starting this organization. Today we share the story of our other co-founder, Carol Waid.
How did you get involved with Truth Be Told?
Well TBT wasn’t conceived when I started with the work of Nathalie Sorrell. In the Spring of 2000, I was invited by Nathalie to come to Lockhart and tell my story to the 15 of her very first class, which was at that time called Telling Your Story (or something like that). I was invited, because I have a background of insanity and Nathalie saw that my life had some parallels with the women that she was serving in her classroom. I was 3 years sober and a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, so when a call to service comes along one of our commitments is to say yes, especially if it’s about telling your experience, strength and hope. I actually went into the prison with my sponsor, who was a moving FORCE for me to actually say yes. I was terrified to even think about telling my story, or getting the attention that comes with speaking about yourself, but I trusted Nathalie, and my sponsor, so YES was the word.
I remember when we got to the GEO unit I was nervous, but not terrified. I had never been in a prison, nor had I ever had a desire or curiousity to know what would be inside that concrete building, with those very tall chain link fences, topped with barbed wire. I remember walking to the double doors and seeing this pink rose in full bloom, just before we entered into the doors. I would stop to smell this rose, with a full breath, as we left the unit that day, but I would be walking out of that concrete building, which I began to think of as a concrete vault with beautiful humans living inside, a different woman that day.
I timidly asked Nathalie if I could come back. The 15 women that I met in that prison that day, those women who were incarcerated and living in prison, saw me, loved me, nurtured me, inspired me, noticed me, and respectfully listened to me. I met women who knew the road I too had crawled, and many times stalled, on. One of those women, Teri Dyer, saw the pain I was still in over my first husband’s sudden death. She too knew what it was like to be widowed and I remember her seeing the pain in me and encouraging me to keep on keeping on. That woman was one of Nathalies’ first participants and she has been out of prison for over 10 1/2 years and she has never missed a fundraiser or event that we have. She is loyal and she did the hard work that was asked.
So, what turned into an afternoon of service work, to share my experience, strength and hope, has turned into an 11 1/2 year life transformational walk for me. I NEVER NEVER NEVER thought that I would grow into the woman that I am today. I never thought that my working alongside Nathalie, basically a facilitator in training (although I didn’t know that and Nathalie didn’t know that) would turn into me one day facilitating not just one class a week, but two classes a week, and I NEVER thought that I would actually create classes, but I did. So, the TRUTH about TBT, for me, is that it has given me the tools to live, just like it does for the women we work with. We are all given the tools of communication, community building and creativity, and now we have the caring for self, which we call our 4 C’s, and using these has kept me sober and growing saner all the time, but it has also healed my family and I found a purpose and passion, which I had no idea I even needed.
Why do you feel this work is important?
I feel this work is important because it is sacred work. I went to treatment some 13 years ago and in treatment I pretty much did the same kind of work that the facilitators guide the women to do, telling the TRUTH about our lives, through a process of using a lifeline to see your life. I did not even know my own story, much less know how to talk about. When I did a lifeline I was able to see the reasons I would try to take my own life at 15 and why I would choose the vehicle that I chose. I began to see why I would choose a violent teenager to fall in love with and obsess over, even beyond his death. I began to see how depression was in my fabric, and the fabric of my family. I was shocked to discover that I had moved 32 times in my short 17 years of life and it began to make sense to me why I didn’t know what a friend was, or how to be a friend.
I also began to understand why I was scared to say my name and be seen. What I didn’t know, for a very long time, and still struggle to accept, is that I am courageous and strong and compassionate and loving and smart and gentle and authentic, but I have to fight off what rules, which is fear and timidity and anger and depression and insecurity and the curse of believing I am nothing and not special.
In treatment I saw my life’s path before me, which gave me a map to work with all these years. This is the work we do with the women who reside in prison, for many of them they are creating a map of their lives and they are discovering what has been the thread that was sewn into their fabric. They are then given the tools to pull out threads that do not belong in their tapestry and to appreciate and respect the threads that remain and so beautifully they get to continue creating a new rows…. This work is crucial to healing. Healing is what opens the door for living a blooming life. A blooming life includes living in the “free” world and becoming a citizen that can help the world change for better.
What is one major thing that YOU have received back from your work with TBT?
The particular instant that happened with a graduate happens EVERY single semester.
Barbara is 60+ years old and she has been in prison for 19 years. She came to the orientation and I remember her so well, because she was me, she was my mirror image. We do an exercise, right away, coming together in a circle and holding hands and, because our time is limited and we have much to pack in each week, we dive off the high board. We ask the women to say their name and to say a feeling word and then a movement to go with it. This is a pretty big package if your job, for most of your 60+ years is to live invisible.
Barbara’s turn came up and I can recall the pain I felt, and I feel, when I see a woman put her hand over her mouth and nose and her eyes express how stuck her voice is, because the terror has a grip. I can feel the knot in my stomach right this instance. You could not hear the wisp that was tried to come out of her, but you could hear the heaviness of the alligator tears that streamed down her beautiful face.
When Barbara chose to come to the TTM Circle class I was ecstatic. I love women like Barbara, because I know, from these years of expereince, that if she will come back each week we will ALL experience a transformation WITH Barbara. When you can see as dramatic a change, in just 7 weeks, that Barbara would make, then you can believe that Miracles do happen. Well each week was a wondering, “Will Barbara come back today?” When Barbara showed up, knowing that it was going to be her turn to tell her story, I was so happy. I’m glowing again, right this second. When it was her turn to stand up and speak, I said, “Barbara, we are going to give you the time to find your voice and you can do it. We are not going to hurry you, we are going to listen and wait.”
She took her white paper, which so matched her white clothing, which was such a bright contrast to the color of her skin, and she slowly, slowly, (turtle style, because this is how she moves), walked that long road to the spot for the speakers, which was like 4 steps, and she had her hand over her mouth and her puddles fell. She held her paper in front of her and she tried to read her writing. We would learn that she didn’t know how to read when she came to prison and she had trouble reading, but she said one word at a time, and it was like watching someone take a heavy concrete block, one block at a time, and setting it down. It was excruciating for me.
And then, she got the part about her daddy, I can see it right now, she got to the part of the story that was stuck in her body, she got to the part of being 7 years old, and the paper came down to her side and her tears flowed freely and her body trembled and she grieved that story right there as we witnessed her. She talked, she shared about that painful story that had us all weeping. Barbara stood up there for 18 minutes and she turtled back to her seat. We can’t hug in this prison and it aches me, but I want you to know that that classroom became a more sacred space at that very moment. Yesterday, some 4 weeks later, I watched “Bold Barbara” which is what she claimed for herself when we were in our last day of TTM Circle and the question is raised, what will you be taking in to the new community we are about to join?
Barbara said, without the need to cover her mouth, I am taking in boldness. Yesterday, our first class to be a community, she was a new human being. This is a woman that was not only speaking, laughing, and having joy, but she was raising her hand to ask questions and answer questions. She was expressing and being a part of. The other part of this is that her community was cheering it on and recognizing the enormity of it all. Barbara changed my life yesterday and gave me the courage to do another day. This happens EVERY single semester, without fail. Love rules these roosts and it wins over that grip.