Gutsy Goddess: Heidi

Arriving in French Polynesia, a 12,000 nautical mile passage from Maine—a lifelong dream—after surviving violent crime.

Your dreams can be bigger than your fears.

It’s a vision of paradise. Shafts of sunlight stream through windows in the clouds, illuminating towering rock pinnacles. Royal palms crowd their bases, rising above a turquoise sea. Luminous white birds glide between the spires and agile mountain goats scamper around precipices. The remote island paradise, Fatu Hiva, lies near the center of the South Pacific. You can’t drive or fly there. It took a decade of self-discovery and a treacherous, five-year sailing odyssey for me to find my way.

My story began at age eleven after sexual assault, and like many stories of violation was soon hushed. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I lost my voice: my perpetrator’s body slamming into mine; Mother screaming that I was “ruined for life,” her hands wrapping around my throat, almost choking me to death; waking up alone in a hospital; a team of physicians poking metal instruments inside my battered, pre-pubescent body; or a judge slamming down his gavel. I do know that the years that followed were ones of deepening silence.

Through an observant high-school teacher, I discovered an art history book of world masters. Paintings by the artist, Gauguin, were mesmerizing: colorful, alluring images of sensuous people and untamed landscapes. He lived in the Marquesas, a group of islands in French Polynesia, and his life there captured my imagination and sharpened my longing to escape. I dreamed of wearing a sarong and bathing under the shimmering waterfall. While much of my life had to play out before I started this adventure, I never lost the dream.

Forty years later, seeking rejuvenation, I quit my job, sold my house, and embarked on my lifelong dream—to sail 12,000 nautical miles to Fatu Hiva. Along the way storms at sea and PTSD flashbacks threatened my life. A tribe of courageous women stepped in to guide me, including a “third-gender” leader in the matrilineal archipelago of Guna Yala, Panama, a sailboat captain who had completed two world-circumnavigations, and a therapist who had climbed near the “death zone” of Mount Everest. Throughout my journey I met many women of courage, and witnessed incredible strength and beauty inside others who had been violated.

 

 

The truth can be hidden for years; dreams can elude. I went searching for a place I wasn’t sure existed. It was in pursuit of this dream—sailing a small boat to the Bay of Virgins—my voice emerged. I dedicate this site to wise and compassionate women, around the world with stories and inspiration to share.

 

Do you have an inspirational quote, song, book, or artwork to share? If so, please comment below. You never know whom it might inspire or where it might lead. It takes a tribe to hold up the sky.

And please support this effort by subscribing. 

 

To read about more Gutsy Goddesses please click here.

To nominate a woman of courage and inspire others please click here.

 

14 Comments

  1. “The depth of your pain is equal to the depth of the joy that is coming to you!”
    Dennis Whall

    Dennis was my hospice support group facilitator and he said this to me at an extremely vulnerable time, after my husband died unexpectedly and left me nursing our baby. THESE WORDS were my lifeline, and they proved to be true, 17 years later the expanse of my emotional range is far and wide. The joy that came, as a result of sinking into the pain as it ebbed and flowed, has been breathtaking to experience. I WOULD SCREAM AND CRY and then LAUGH OUT LOUD, knowing that that very moment was going to be my ticket to ride someday….toward a life of joy!

    • Thanks so much for sharing your experience and Dennis’ quote Anne. It’s heartwarming to hear of ones recovery from pain. I can’t imagine experiencing the unexpected death of ones spouse while having a young child. Your story reminds me of one told by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk. He speaks of a mother, and young daughter. who came to his monastery having lost her husband on a harrowing boat escape. She was so distraught that her young daughter was failing. He speaks of smiling, even a half smile for her daughter when you don’t feel like it. Through the months his words to her and her smile to her daughter began to bring joy back to the family. I’m pleased to know that you have found you way through the pain to joy. Please do continue to participate in our community. Thanks.

  2. Great site, Heidi. Thanks much for all the inspiration! Look forward to more.

  3. “When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways – either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength.”
    Dalai Lama

    Your inner strength and courage are an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your story and your celebration of strong women.

  4. What amazing courage! Thanks for sharing and for creating this site.

  5. You have turned into an inspiration for others. Wonderful! May you find many other growing factors in life that are “pearls”

    • Thank you so much Deborah and Welcome to our community. First I apologize for the delayed response; I’m so focused on looking at other Gutsy Goddess posts that I forget to check my own. I love the “pearl” metaphor. After my journey, I now have a single pear necklace from French Polynesia that reminds me to use my voice. And what is your “pearl” connection and “pearl” wisdom? I hope you too find many growing factors in life! Again, thanks.

  6. Glad to come into contact with a courageous person. You are an inspiration. Your blog is inspiration to many. Cheers!!!

    • Welcome to our community Reena. I am so sorry for the delayed response; I am often focused on the other Gutsy Goddess posts and didn’t realize I had my own. Thank you so much for your kind words. My hope is that we all continue to offer inspiration and courage to others, and that you will continue to join in the conversation. If you have more thoughts or stories to share please do. I will now check my own posts more ofter. Thanks again. Heidi

  7. My favorite quote is “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” (Aristotle). It’s a reminder that I don’t need to sit around and wait for excellence to happen. It’s not something I only hope for or dream about. It’s something I practice, something I make a habit. My choir director from middle school always comes to mind. Whenever we did something well she would say “Yes. That’s it. Now do it again. Make it a habit” Sometimes we’d sing the same three lines over and over for 30 minutes or more because she was making it a habit to sing it well.

    • Hi Sarah, What a great motto for life, making excellence a habit. It has really gotten me thinking. I’ve been feeling like I’ve already achieved my dream of sailing to Fatu Hiva and rising above violence. Yet if I apply your motto perhaps my next dreams could use the same energy, determination, and importantly courage. I’ve been wanting to stand with other women who have been hit with tragedy. Perhaps I can do more with practice, and seek excellence in this dream as well. Heartfelt thanks, Sarah.

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