Beaten to Love
I was born in South Africa in 1949. My father was Charles, a doer man from a Calvinistic family who spent days and nights drinking in the pub, coming home drunk and then beating my mother, me and my sister. My humanitarian mother, Isabella, was rebellious and an activist with a big heart. She became active in the Trade Union Movement in the Garment and Distributive Trade Union in South Africa where she worked first as a rank-and-file member and then secretary and treasurer, and finally became an organiser in the union, raising awareness and coordinating strikes.
Isabella says, “There, I really learnt about the suffering of the workers, and I had to become politically active.” She refused to remain silent even though it meant she sacrificed her family life. We, her children, also bore the brunt and difficulties of leaving our homeland when Isabella was banned and had to flee imprisonment and we left behind everything we had known. Our family moved from house to house, often the three of us staying in one room. This was not unusual for the less fortunate in the world; for a middle-class Jewish family, it was. Also, to escape Charles’ torment and abuse and for Isabella to find work, our family moved countries: South Africa to Zambia to Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Explicit memories are hazy, but I do remember being with our African nanny, Regina, whom I called Beauty. She was the opulent mother – big, all-embracing, solidly connected to the earth like the Great Mother Ma in Credo Mutwa’s Indaba My Children, where the nations were born from the tree, Ninavauhu-Ma.
Beauty wiped the blood running down my legs from the beatings. She held me close in her lap and nestled me in her arms to keep “Father Death” from me. When the pain and heaviness got too much, I sat on a cloud in the sky in my imagination, and would climb the tree outside our house and hide. From there I could see and hear my mother and sister calling for me. I would remain so still and quiet, as I had come to know that was the best way to be. If not seen, nor heard, I was less likely to be beaten.
Franceska Jordan, AM., B. Soc Work. MSWAP. MAASW – Reiki Master and Masters in Social Work, is an internationally recognised counselor, speaker, author and healer. She has trained in Australia and internationally and worked in Africa, Europe, Latin America, Asia and India. Franceska has been working in the welfare, health and academic field for the past 40 years as a counselling clinician, educationalist, planner, administrator, advocate and researcher. She received the Australian Medal – AM – for her Alzheimer’s, aged care and mental health work. Her passions include writing, reading, being in nature and talking to trees.
Yet we overcame. We did not allow the beating of our bodies and minds to determine how we live our lives and define ourselves. We did not shut our hearts to loving and being loved. We found the hardship of others a call to comfort, and with this have been able to triumph through the abuse and exile.
I don’t know when, but one day I made the decision that the abuse in my family stops with me. I determined that I would love myself and others. I became a social worker and accredited mental health practitioner. My life’s work is devoted towards healing. And now I am writing my story, to share my experiences and offer glimmers of insight to others who have not yet escaped their childhoods.
Each day, I go outside, and reconnect with the earth. As the gentle breeze touches me, I return to the love and optimism that is the core of my being. For there I am free.
And from this place, I am my most powerful in the knowledge that I am here to bring love into the world.
Joanne Fedler Media blog joins the global women’s campaign, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which starts from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November) up to Human Rights Day (10th December). We would love you to share these stories on social media (using the hashtags: #OrangeUrWorld #OrangeTheWorld #HearMeToo #EndVAW), with your girlfriends, mothers, daughters, friends and sisters.
During this period, Joanne Fedler’s book, Things Without a Name (10th Anniversary Edition), can be downloaded for FREE.
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Things Without a Name
(10th Year Anniversary Edition)
by Joanne Fedler
At 34, Faith has given up on love. Her cleavage is disappointing, her best friend is clinically depressed and her younger sister is getting breast implants as an engagement present. She used to think about falling in love, but that was a long time ago. Having heard one too many love-gone-wrong stories from the other side of her desk, Faith is worn thin by her work as a legal counsellor in a women’s crisis centre. Then one night, an odd twist of fate brings her to a suburban veterinary clinic where she wrings out years of unshed tears. It is a night that will slowly change the way she sees herself and begin the unearthing of long-buried family secrets so she can forgive herself for something she doesn’t remember, but that has shaped her into the woman she is today. Faith will finally understand what she has always needed to know: that before you can save others, you have to save yourself.
Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough
A Five-Day Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler
In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.