Episode 28: Visiting with Vicki Clark and her story, ‘Break Down, Break In and Break Through’
Sometimes it takes completely breaking down so you can rebuild your life and use your experiences to empower and inspire others. Our guest, Vicki Clark, learned that lesson the hard way in her deeply moving story, "Break Down, Break In, and Break Through."
The She Said Project Podcast is recorded in partnership with Illinois Public Media. All materials contained in this podcast are the exclusive property of The She Said Project and That's What She Said, LLC. Learn more at shesaidproject.com.
ANNOUNCER: Raising women’s voices—one story at a time.
Welcome to The She Said Project Podcast.
MUSIC: intro music plays
JENETTE JURCZYK: I am so excited to welcome our friends back to this week’s episode of The She Said Project Podcast. I am Jenette Jurczyk, your co-host of this fun story sharing time and the national director of The She Said Project and it is my pleasure to welcome my co-host, Kerry Rossow. How are you?
KERRY ROSSOW: Hi, I’m great. I’m so excited to be here today and your fancy virtual living room.
JENETTE: We did have to take the podcast on to the Zoom Studio for a little while… you know, The She Said Project, like many, are pivoting and making this new reality work for us. But I’m so excited that we get to—we get to—continue our mission of raising women’s voices and sharing stories and we are not going to let a little thing like a pandemic stop us. You know what I’m saying?
KERRY: For the history of all time, women are like “Oh, please. Seriously? Like we got things to say—sit down, pandemic.” (laughing)
JENETTE: Okay, I can’t even breathe. I think I just shot some coffee out my nose.
KERRY: It’s alright. We’ve all been there…
JENETTE: It’s true—like we did a live show in February of 2020, and then—the world shut down and everything’s been pushed back. So we did what we had to do and we went virtual! We launched a series of virtual story sharing showcases and what that allowed us to do was welcome women that we wanted to spotlight and share a moment with that weren’t necessarily in our home community. I’m, of course, first speaking of today’s guest, the amazing Vicki Clark has joined us today and she’s here on our Zoom and she’s here on our podcast and I am so excited for our listeners to get to know her and hear her story today. Hello, Miss Vicki! Tell our listeners where you are and how are you doing in this crazy year of 2020?
VICKI CLARK: Jenette and Kerry—Thank you all for, you know, this is so fun. I am in Memphis Tennessee, and basically I have spent since March 12th in this chair and as someone who used to travel three hundred days a year, you know, speaking and, and training and all of that and I have to actually, you know, been doing it this way— you talk about the community of women. I think of the community of women as all of the women whose stories you so wonderfully bring to light and give us those opportunities—so I don’t think of community as geographic. You all have created such an enormous community of women that just—we’re connected by our stories and we’re connected by experiences and I’m just, I’m just blessed to be a part of this community. So thank you all.
JENETTE: You are so welcome and when I reached out to you and asked you if you would be willing to join us in a zoom call that would be recorded and shared with our audience in a virtual story-telling show—like you were so open to the idea and willing and excited and supportive. It’s people like you that made what we did possible so I can’t thank you enough. You also had such a great cohort of women who came together. You were in the second .. the second virtual show we released in 2020 and what a phenomenal group of women you got to ...
VICKI: Oh my God, The Dream Team! That’s what I call us—The Dream Team—we were—and I listened to the others, but I was really.. just to hear the other women’s stories, it’s about people’s journeys. And what good is the journey if you don’t share the journey and so that’s why you know, it was as much of a learning experience for me to hear the other women’s stories and just to learn about them and it’s just it’s inspirational. I’m never going to pass up an opportunity to be part of something like that because I get to learn and take in because I approach the world as a learner.
JENETTE: Well, the story that you chose to share with something very personal and intimate that you and I talked about—there was a big why behind sharing this this nugget of your life experience. So I think let’s go ahead and play the clip from the show so that our listeners can learn from you as well. And then we can talk about it a little bit.
So Vicki Clark joined us in The She Said Story Sharing Showcase that aired in October of 2020 and her story: The Breakdown That Led To The Break-in That Led To The Break Through, right? Are those the right pieces? So the break down that led to a break-in which became your personal break through. So let’s hear the story in Vicki’s own words.
ONE DAY IN LATE JUNE OF 1998, I FOUND MYSELF AT MY DOCTOR’S OFFICE; BEWILDERED, SHAKING, AND CRYING. I HAVE NO IDEA HOW I GOT THERE. I DON’T REMEMBER DRIVING THERE, I DIDN’T HAVE AN APPOINTMENT.
WHEN I LEFT HOME THAT FRIDAY MORNING, I THOUGHT I WAS ON MY WAY TO WALGREENS TO PICK UP A PRESCRIPTION FOR MY VERY SICK MOTHER. WHAT I DIDN’T REALIZE WAS THAT I WAS ACTUALLY ON THE ROAD TO A BREAK DOWN.
ON MY 47TH BIRTHDAY, A FEW WEEKS PRIOR, I HAD A GREAT DAY. I RECEIVED BLUE HYDRANGEAS FROM MY HUSBAND OF 28 YEARS. A NICE DINNER AT HOME IN ORDER TO ACCOMMODATE MY MOTHER, CARDS FROM MY TWO SONS, AND WELL WISHES FROM FRIENDS.
LITTLE DID I KNOW THAT JUST TWO WEEKS LATER, MY LIFE AS I KNEW IT, WOULD COME TO A CRASHING END.
THAT WAS THE NIGHT MY HUSBAND GAVE ME AN ELEVEN PAGE LETTER, SAYING HE DIDN’T WANT TO BE MARRIED ANYMORE. YOU MIGHT BE SAYING, OH YOU MUST HAVE KNOWN. WOMEN ALWAYS KNOW.” WELL TRUST ME I DIDN’T KNOW, DIDN’T SUSPECT, IT CAME OUT OF THE BLUE.
LET’S BACK UP A BIT. PRIOR TO THAT EVENT, LIFE HAD BEEN MOVING AT A FAST PACE. OUR OLDEST SON WAS IN COLLEGE, YOUNGEST SON WAS IN TTHE 10TH GRADE.
MY BIG JOB IN DC WAS MORE THAN I COULD HAVE EVER DREAMED OF. I TRAVELLED… IT WAS EXHAUSTING BUT I LOVED IT. MY HUSBAND HAD A GREAT JOB AT A MAJOR OIL COMPANY, WE WERE BUYING A HOME, IN THE SUBURBS OF HOUSTON. FOR TWO WORKING CLASS BLACK CHILDREN, BORN IN 1949 AND 1951- DOORS HAD OPENED FOR US THAT OUR PARENTS COULD ONLY DREAM OF. WE WERE TAKING CARE OF MY MOM, AT THIS TIME SHE NEEDED 24-HOUR HOME CARE AND WE HAD INCORPORATED ALL OF THIS INTO OUR LIVES, AND I THOUGHT WE WERE MOVING FORWARD AND THINGS WERE GOING GREAT.
TO SAY THAT RECEIVING THE LETTER SHOCKED, STUNNED, SCARED AND HURT ME WOULD BE AN UNDERSTATEMENT. I HAD BEEN BETRAYED.
I HAD MARRIED EARLY FOR LOVE. WE MET IN COLLEGE AND BEGAN OUR LIVES TOGETHER. TRAGEDY HIT US VERY EARLY IN OUR MARRIAGE. OUR FIRST CHILD WAS BORN A PREEMIE AND DIED AT 10 MONTHS OLD. HIS NAME WAS KEVIN. I THOUGHT SURELY IF WE HAD MADE IT THROUGH LOSING HIM, WE COULD MAKE IT THROUGH ANYTHING. I WAS SO WRONG; IN FACT, I WAS SO WRONG ABOUT SO MANY THINGS. IF YOU CAN’T TELL I’M IN MY SIXTIES AND WHEN I WAS YOUNGER, I THOUGHT I KNEW EVERYTHING. AFTER BREAKING DOWN, I REALIZE NOW I DON’T KNOW NOTHING (AS WE SAY IN MEMPHIS) AND GUESS WHAT, I’M OK WITH THAT.
OH, BY THE WAY WHEN HE GAVE ME THE LETTER, HE HAD NO PLAN. NO PLAN TO LEAVE THE HOUSE, NO PLAN. SO, WE WALKED AROUND IN THAT HOUSE LIKE ZOMBIES. THE LIVING DEAD. NO SOUL LEFT IN OUR MARRIAGE. I BEGGED HIM TO TALK TO ME, HE KEPT SAYING, HE HAD SAID EVERYTHING HE HAD TO SAY IN THE LETTER. I JUST HAD TO READ THE THE LETTER, THE LETTER, THE LETTER.
WELL AFTER ASKING, OR BEGGING, ONE LAST TIME FOR A CONVERSATION ON A SUNNY FRIDAY MORNING AND BEING REFUSED I LEFT HOME TO DO WHAT I ALWAYS DID—TAKE CARE OF OTHER PEOPLE, RUN ERRANDS FOR MY MOTHER, BUY GROCERIES FOR MY FAMILY. BUT THAT PARTICULAR DAY, THOSE ERRANDS WENT UNDONE. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT TO-DO LIST.
SOMEHOW I FOUND MYSELF AT THE DOCTOR’S OFFICE AND I TOLD HIM THE ENTIRE STORY AND AFTER A LONG CRY I SAID WELL I HAVE TO GO NOW.
AND THE DR. SAID NO, YOU ARE NOT GOING HOME.
WHERE AM I GOING I ASKED HIM? AN INTERESTING QUESTION SINCE I DIDN’T HAVE A CLUE. HE SAID YOU NEED TO GO SOMEPLACE TO HEAL AND TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.
I SAID NO, I TAKE CARE OF MY SONS AND MY MOTHER AND JUST MAYBE I CAN PUT MY MARRIAGE BACK TOGETHER. AND BESIDES, I HAVE A TO DO LIST TODAY!
HE SAID NO, IT’S TIME FOR YOU TO TAKE CARE OF YOU. WHAT A NOVEL IDEA! I WAS RAISED IN THE 50s AND 60s AND THE MESSAGE TO WOMEN, ESPECIALLY BLACK WOMEN WAS THAT YOU TOOK CARE OF EVERYONE ELSE, NO MENTION OF WHO WOULD TAKE CARE OF US.
HE SAID I’M SENDING YOU TO SPRING SHADOWS GLEN, A PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL. I SAID I’M NOT CRAZY, HE SAID I DIDN’T SAY YOU WERE CRAZY. HE SAID I THINK YOU HAVE PTSD. PTSD? WELL AT THAT TIME PTSD WAS ONLY TALKED ABOUT AS A ILLNESS FOR SOLDIERS WHO HAD BEEN IN WAR. I SAID TO HIM I’VE NEVER BEEN IN A WAR, HE SAID TO ME “LADY, YOUR LIFE IS A WAR”, AND OFF I WENT- FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE I WAS A CHILD TO GET A RESPITE FROM THE WARS OF MY LIFE.
WHILE IN THE HOSPITAL I LEARNED A LOT ABOUT MYSELF. BUT I WAS NOT AN EASY PATIENT. DON’T FORGET I THOUGHT I KNEW EVERYTHING. AFTER ABOUT TWO WEEKS, I HAD RESTED, AND WAS ACTUALLY ENJOYING THE DAILY SESSIONS WITH THE PSYCHIATRIST. HE WOULD TALK TO ME AND I SPENT MOST OF THE TIME, TELLING HIM THAT HE DIDN’T UNDERSTAND, THAT EVERYTHING THAT HAD HAPPENED TO ME WAS MY FAULT. THAT I HAD FAILED, I WAS A FAILED WIFE, I WAS A FAILED MOTHER, I WAS A FAILED DAUGHTER AND I HAD FAILED AS TOP TIER PROFESSIONAL, CAUSE OF COURSE IT I HAD DONE THINGS DIFFERENTLY, NONE OF THIS WOULD HAVE HAPPENED.
HE KEPT TRYING TO GET THROUGH TO EXPLAIN TO ME THAT THINGS HAPPEN, PEOPLE CHANGE, LIVES TAKE A TURN, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH. BUT I WASN’T HAVING IT. DON’T FORGET, I KNEW EVERYTHING.
SO ONE DAY WHILE STILL AN INPATIENT I WENT TO HIS OFFICE FOR MY SESSION AND BECAUSE I’M A POLITE SOUTHERN PERSON, I SAID ‘HOW ARE YOU DOING?’
WELL HE DIDN’T GIVE ME THE PERFUNCTORY ANSWER OF “I’M FINE”. HE RESPONDED BY SAYING- I’M NOT DOING WELL, HE TOLD ME THAT HE HAD PLANS TO DO THINGS OUTSIDE THAT DAY AND NOW BECAUSE OF THE RAIN HE WASN’T GOING TO BE ABLE TO DO WHAT HE HAD PLANNED. HE THEN SAID HE WAS UPSET WITH ME. UPSET WITH ME, UPSET WITH ME? WAIT A MINUTE, I THOUGHT, I’VE LOST EVERYTHING AND NOW I’VE PISSED OFF THE PSYCHIATRIST? ANOTHER LOW FOR ME. NOW I’M A FAILED PSYCHIATRIC PATIENT IN ADDITION TO ALL THAT OTHER STUFF!
I ASKED HIM WHY HE WAS UPSET WITH ME. HE SAID HE WAS UPSET WITH ME BECAUSE IT WAS RAINING. I SAID TO HIM RATHER HAUGHTILY…WHY BE UPSET WITH ME?” I DON’T CONTROL THE RAIN.”
HE SAID “OH? YOU’VE BEEN TELLING ME FOR THE PAST TWO WEEKS THAT YOU CONTROL LIFE AND DEATH, THAT IF YOU HAD TAKEN BETTER CARE OF YOUR FIRST BABY HE WOULDN’T HAVE DIED, IF YOU HAD TAKEN BETTER CARE OF YOUR MOTHER SHE WOULDN’T BE IN SUCH FRAGILE HEALTH, YOU SAID THAT YOU CONTROL OTHER PEOPLE’S FEELINGS- THAT IF YOU HAD BEEN A BETTER WIFE YOUR HUSBAND WOULDN’T HAVE WANTED TO END YOUR MARRIAGE, YOU SAID YOU COULD CONTROL ENTIRE ORGANIZATIONS, THAT IF YOU HAD WORKED HARDER- DESPITE HAVING WORKED 12-15 HOURS PER DAY AND TRAVELING EACH WEEK- YOU WOULD STILL HAVE YOUR “GREATEST JOB EVER.” SEE, THEY DIDN’T WANT YOU BACK AT YOUR BIG VICE PRESIDENT’S JOB AFTER YOU’VE HAD A BREAK DOWN. THAT IF I WAS A BETTER MOTHER, DESPITE ALL THAT WAS GOING ON AND THEIR STABLE WORLD FALLING APART THAT YOUR SONS WOULDN’T BE SHELL SHOCKED.
WELL HE SAID JUST LIKE YOU DON’T CONTROL THE RAIN, YOU DON’T CONTROL ANY OF THESE OTHER THINGS. I’VE BEEN TRYING TO GET THROUGH TO YOU FOR TWO WEEKS THAT NONE OF US CONTROL ALL OR MOST OF THE THINGS THAT HAPPEN TO US IN OUR LIVES. ALL WE CAN DO IS MANAGE IT, TRY TO STAY WHOLE, AND GET THROUGH THE TOUGH TIMES WITH HELP AND SUPPORT.
HELP AND SUPPORT. I REALLY NEVER ASKED FOR HELP. I WAS ALWAYS HELPING EVERYONE ELSE.
WELL THAT DAY I HAD TO ADMIT THAT I DIDN’T CONTROL THE RAIN OR ANY OF THE OTHER THINGS THAT I WAS FEELING SO GUILTY ABOUT.
IN THE MIDST OF MY HOSPITAL STAY I WAS ALLOWED TO GO HOME FOR A VISIT, TO SEE MY MOTHER. SHE WAS TOO SICK TO COME AND VISIT ME. WE HAD ROLE-PLAYED AT HOSPITAL WHAT I WOULD DO WHEN I WOULD SEE MY HUSBAND, WHO WAS STILL AT THE HOUSE, TAKING CARE OF THE BOYS AND HELPING WITH MY MOM’S CARE. HE WASN’T A BAD GUY. I PRACTICED MY BREATHING, I PRACTICED DIVERTING MY EYES SO I WOULDN’T MAKE EYE CONTACT WITH HIM. AND THEN I WAS READY, OR I THOUGHT I WAS.
MY OLDEST SON CAME TO PICK ME UP AND THE MINUTE I GOT HOME I REALIZED SOMETHING WAS VERY WRONG. MY MOTHER WAS STRUGGLING AND I CALLED 911 AND SHE WAS TAKEN TO THE HOSPITAL.
I WENT IN THE AMBULANCE WITH HER AND IT WAS EVIDENT SHE WAS HAVING ANOTHER STROKE. I WAS ONLY SUPPOSED TO HAVE BEEN ON “LEAVE” FROM THE PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL FOR THREE HOURS AND HERE I AM CAUGHT UP IN A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. I CALLED MY HOSPITAL FROM THE OTHER HOSPITAL AND TOLD THEM THAT I WASN’T COMING BACK, THAT MY MOTHER HAD BEEN TAKEN TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM AND WAS GOING TO BE ADMITTED AND I WOULD STAY WITH HER. THEY BEGGED ME TO COME BACK TO SPRING SHADOWS GLEN, THEY SAID I NEED TO CHOOSE ME.
HOW COULD I DO THAT, WHAT KIND OF DAUGHTER WOULD LEAVE HER MOTHER IN THE HOSPITAL HAVING YET ANOTHER STROKE- THAT’S NOT WHO I WAS. EVEN MY MOTHER TRIED TO GET ME TO RETURN TO SPRING SHADOWS GLEN.
AFTER MUCH CONVERSATION AND YES, PRAYER, AND WITH THE REASSURANCE THAT MY OLDEST SON WOULD STAY WITH MY MOTHER, I.. CHOSE… ME. SOMETHING I HAD NEVER DONE BEFORE. (applause)
IT WAS NOW CLOSE TO MIDNIGHT AND THE ONLY PERSON WHO COULD DRIVE ME BACK TO SPRING SHADOWS GLEN WAS MY HUSBAND. WE RODE IN SILENCE, I KEPT MY EYES STRAIGHT AHEAD, NEVER LOOKING AT HIM. MY HEAD WAS POUNDING AND MY HEART WAS BREAKING ALL OVER AGAIN. WE ARRIVED BACK AT THE FACILITY AFTER MIDNIGHT AND I JUMPED OUT OF THE CAR. HE ASKED IF HE SHOULD WAIT TIL I WAS INSIDE—I TOLD YOU HE WAS POLITE— AND I SHOOK MY HEAD AND SAID YOU NEED TO GO NOW!!! AND HE DROVE AWAY.
WELL HOW DID I KNOW THAT YOU COULDN’T GET INTO A PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL THROUGH THE FRONT DOOR AFTER MIDNIGHT??? (laughing) NO BUZZER, NOTHING BUT DARKNESS. WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO?
I REMEMBERED A GATE AROUND THE SIDE OF THE BUILDING BY THE ART ROOMS. I THOUGHT IF I CAN GET IN THE GATE, I COULD WORK MY WAY TO THE WING WHERE MY ROOM WAS LOCATED I COULD GET IN. I WAS DETERMINED TO GET BACK IN. I KNEW THAT IF I COULD GET JUST GET IN I’D BE OK. AS I MADE MY WAY AROUND THE SIDE OF THE BUILDING IN THE DARK, BY THE OVERGROWN BUSHES, I WAS CONFRONTED BY A SECURITY GUARD.
HE ASKED ME WHAT I WAS DOING. I TOLD HIM I HAD TO GET IN THERE. I BELONGED IN THERE, CAUSE YOU SEE AT THAT TIME, I DIDN’T FEEL LIKE I BELONGED ANY PLACE ELSE.
HE ASKED ME MY NAME. I TOLD HIM MY NAME WAS VICKI FLOYD. MY LEGAL NAME IS VIRGINIA AND MY MARRIED LAST NAME IS CLARK, BUT I HAD DECIDED SINCE I LOST MY LIFE, MY IDENTITY THAT I WOULD GO BACK TO BEING VICKI FLOYD, SHE WAS THE HAPPY GIRL, THE GIRL WHO HAD IT ALL GOING ON, SO HAPPY AND LOVED. BUT, OF COURSE, THE NURSES DIDN’T KNOW THE HEAD GAMES I WAS PLAYING. SO WHEN HE GOT ON HIS WALKIE TALKIE AND SAID SOME WOMAN NAMED VICKI FLOYD WAS TRYING TO BREAK IN TO THE SPRING SHADOWS GLEN THEY SAID THEY DIDN’T HAVE ANY PATIENT NAMED VICKI FLOYD.
I FINALLY BEGAN TO NAME STAFF MEMBERS AND TO DESCRIBE MY ROOM AND HE CALLED AND ASKED SOMEONE TO COME TO THE DOOR. WHEN THE NURSE CAME, SHE SAID WE’VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU, WE’VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU, WE’RE SO GLAD YOU CAME BACK. THE GUARD WAS DUMBFOUNDED AS I FELL UP THE STEPS AND INTO THE ARMS OF THE NURSE, SOBBING. SHE KEPT SAYING THEY WERE SO PROUD OF ME. HOW COULD THEY BE PROUD OF ME FOR LEAVING MY MOTHER- THEY SAID THEY WERE PROUD OF ME FOR FINALLY CHOOSING TO TAKE CARE OF MYSELF.
THE GUARD SHOOK HIS HEAD AND SAID HE HAD WORKED THERE FOR YEARS AND HAD KNOWN MANY PEOPLE WHO CHOSE TO LEAVE THE FACILITY BUT HAD NEVER, EVER SEEN ANYBODY WHO WAS AS DETERMINED AS I WAS TO BREAK BACK IN.
WELL THAT NIGHT I BROKE IN AND I BEGAN TO BREAK THROUGH. THERE WAS MORE HEARTACHE IN STORE, AS MY MOTHER HAD TO GO TO A NURSING HOME AND WOULD PASS AWAY A FEW MONTHS LATER.
I WAS RELEASED FROM THE HOSPITAL AFTER A FEW WEEKS AND I CAME HOME, I CONTINUED DAILY OUTPATIENT VISITS. EVERYTHING I THOUGHT I WAS, WAS GONE. EVERYTHING I WAS, WAS GONE. I HAD A LOT OF DECISIONS TO MAKE.
I DON’T REMEMBER MUCH ABOUT THE NEXT TWO YEARS. I DRAGGED MYSELF THROUGH THE DAYS, NO JOB, NO MOM, NO MARRIAGE, NO LIFE. GOD SENT ANGELS IN THE FORM OF FRIENDS WHO WOULD CALL. I NEVER ANSWERED THE PHONE, BUT I WOULD LISTEN TO THEIR MESSAGES ON THE ANSWERING MACHINE AND I WOULD FEEL THEIR LOVE, BUT I STILL FELT UNWORTHY, BECAUSE EVERYTHING THAT I WAS SO PROUD OF WAS GONE. WHO WAS I? WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO NOW?
I KNEW I NEEDED TO STAY IN HOUSTON UNTIL MY YOUNGEST SON GRADUATED HIGH SCHOOL. I WAS NOT GOING TO UPROOT HIM. MEMPHIS WAS HOME FOR ME AND I HAD BEEN SO HAPPY THERE. MY FATHER WAS THERE AND TWO OF MY LIFELONG FRIENDS. MAYBE IF I COULD JUST GET BACK TO MEMPHIS, I WOULD BE OK.
I FINALLY MADE THE MOVE. MY FATHER WANTED TO MAKE IT CLEAR TO ME THAT HE DID NOT NEED TO BE TAKEN CARE OF AND THAT I BETTER NOT THINK THAT I WAS COMING HOME TO TAKE CARE OF HIM. I FELL TO MY KNEES CRYING AND FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE I ADMITTED TO HIM AND TO MYSELF THAT I WAS COMING HOME FOR HIM TO HELP TAKE CARE OF ME. ANOTHER BREAKTHROUGH MOMENT.
THE JOURNEY OF LIFE HAS LED ME BACK TO WHERE I BEGAN, BUT I SAW MYSELF AS A BROKEN FAILED WOMAN. MOST OF MY CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS WERE ABOUT WHAT WAS, WHAT HAD BEEN. HOW COULD I TALK ABOUT A FUTURE I COULDN’T SEE OR IMAGINE?
MY BEST FRIEND CAROLYN, WHO IS MORE LIKE A SISTER, AND SUCH A FAITHFUL WISE WOMAN SAID TO ME. I KNOW GOD HAS SOMETHING FOR YOU, BUT AS LONG AS YOU KEEP TRYING TO HOLD ONTO THE PAST, YOU’LL NEVER MOVE FORWARD INTO YOUR FUTURE. SHE TOLD ME THERE’S SOMETHING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THROUGH. YOU’VE JUST GOT TO GO THROUGH….SHE WAS RIGHT, I WAS STUCK IN THE PAST, I WAS DOING THE TIME WARP. ONCE I BEGAN TO RELEASE THE PAST, FORGIVE MYSELF AND FORGIVE OTHERS, MAKE SPACE IN MY LIFE FOR A FUTURE—A NEW LIFE BEGAN TO UNFOLD.
I BEGAN TO GET CALLS FOR SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS AND TRAINING AND BEFORE I KNEW IT, I WAS IN THE TRAINING AND CONSULTING BUSINESS. SOMEBODY TOLD ME THAT. YEAH, YEAH—THAT’S WHAT I DO. A WHOLE NEW LIFE BEGAN TO UNFOLD, ONE I DIDN’T CHOOSE AND COULDN’T SEE, BUT I HAD GONE THROUGH AND I CONTINUED TO HEAL, TO FORGIVE MYSELF AND TO FORGIVE OTHERS.
BEFORE COVID HIT US I WAS TRAVELING THREE HUNDRED DAYS A YEAR, TRAINING, SPEAKING AND CONSULTING. MY LIFE IS VERY DIFFERENT NOW. I HARDLY LEAVE THE HOUSE, I’M AT THE TOP OF THE LIST FOR THOSE WHO WILL HAVE AN UNSUCCESSFUL OUTCOME IF I GET COVID- THAT MEANS AT MY AGE AND WITH UNDERLYING CONDITIONS, I’LL PROBABLY DIE. BUT I’VE HAD ANOTHER BREAK THROUGH- MY WORK HAS BECOME VIRTUAL AND TO MY SURPRISE I’M REACHING MORE PEOPLE AND MORE PEOPLE ARE REACHING ME.
I’VE ALWAYS BEEN A BIG TALKER, BUT IN THE PAST FEW YEARS I HAVE FOUND ANOTHER VOICE AND I’M USING MY VOICE TO TALK ABOUT DEPRESSION, ABOUT ANXIETY, ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES, ABOUT RESILIENCE. I’M NOT ASHAMED OF MY JOURNEY. WHAT GOOD IS A JOURNEY IF IT DOESN’T HELP SOMEBODY ELSE? SOME OTHER WOMAN. SOME MAN. SOMEBODY.
I ALSO FIND MYSELF SPEAKING OPENLY AND BOLDLY ABOUT THE EVILS OF RACISM AND HATRED AND INJUSTICE. I’VE HAD TO ADMIT THAT WE HAVE A LONG WAY TO GO. THAT THE WORLD REALLY IS NOT MUCH DIFFERENT THAN IT WAS WHEN I WAS GROWING UP IN SEGREGATED MEMPHIS ALL THOSE YEARS AGO. IN SOME WAYS, IT SEEMS WORSE. BUT I REFUSE TO GIVE UP, AND GIVE IN. I ALWAYS WANT TO SEE THE LIGHT, AND I ALWAYS WANT TO BE THE LIGHT. CALL ME CRAZY.
I’M LEARNING, GROWING, YES, AT THIS AGE, I’M STILL A WORK IN PROGRESS. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT LIFE HAS IN STORE FOR ME. BUT SUDDENLY I JUST KNOW IT’S TIME TO START SOMETHING NEW AND CONTINUE TO TRUST IN THE MAGIC OF BEGINNINGS.
THAT’S MY STORY OF THE BREAK DOWN, THAT CAUSED ME TO BREAK IN, THAT LEAD TO MY BREAK THROUGH. I REMEMBER EACH AND EVERYDAY, THAT THERE’S SOMETHING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THROUGH. AND I JUST KEEP MOVING THOUGH THIS JOURNEY CALLED LIFE.
KERRY: I think those words were so perfect for what we’ve all been going through in these past trying months and you know, the only way through is through and we just keep plugging along—they were such words of encouragement, you know, specific to your story but words that we could all, we all were ready to hear that.
VICKI: It applies to, it may not be specific circumstances, but it really applies to that idea continuing to not give up .. but be okay with being down sometimes, you know, I’m not one of those people who said I sail through every day was a lovely day—it wasn’t! You know, that’s why I started off with the breakdown cuz you got to have to go down. You beat up on yourselves—you say other women can handle it, why can’t I handle it .. we handle everything in our own way and it’s okay. However, we handle it and I just want to be encouraging to people and also is very cathartic to be able to share that I’ve never been tell you. I never been quiet or you know What’s happening to me? I’ve never been ashamed of what has happened to me. It just is part of my life and I would not share it as much as any other part of my life.
KERRY: All I knew was sort of the glossy cover of what you are and I think when we first posted that you were going to be speaker, someone wrote THE Vicki Clark—like, that’s the image. I think that’s why it’s important that we share the whole story and it’s not that things are always rosy and things are always great its or gives permission to other people like it. Sometimes it really sucks. And sometimes we go through some terrible things, but you get to the other side of through and you just keep trucking and, and it’s nice to hear that from.. I don’t know if it’s like we all want to hear that everybody’s been through something and then it gives us that open door.
VICKI: I think it also we, we are so we, as women, we are so hard on ourselves and we don’t give ourselves permission not that the universe needs permission from us cuz our journey is going to be our journey as much as we can try to avoid it what’s going to happen— you know, it’s destiny. And how we deal with that and how many times we get back up and not that, you know, I failed and all of that it’s just we just need to keep getting back up. And I think we need to give ourselves grace. You know, I don’t think we give ourselves enough grace. Many of us, we’re very kind to other people but we don’t give ourselves grace and we’ve got to. You know, we got to give ourselves some grace.
JENETTE: I feel like in 2020 we need to just stand on the street corners and like dish it out—a scoop for you, and here’s a cup for you, and here’s a dollop for you… we all need that grace right now.
VICKI: Exactly. Yes. It is so important—you know, I’ve been doing a presentation for women about the imposter syndrome, you know, and about what we need to let go of—it’s been an interesting conversation about how we all put the mask on. It’s just really time to take the mask off and just reveal are genuine selves because I think that is what we were here to do is to show who we really are and that’s really how we build a sense of connection with other people. Not by, you know, I’m great. I’m wonderful. I did this. You know, I’m me. I struggled—if you haven’t struggled yet, trust me—you are going to, but the other thing I can tell you is that you will stand again.You know, not that I want everybody to go through, to hell and back—but everybody’s going to struggle with something in their lives and just know that, you know, and it takes a community of women I can’t —you know, it was my friends and people around me who once I let them in, you know, and stopped trying to do it all by myself and hide from people and all that—they were a blessing to me and that’s where our humility needs to come in: grace and humility. We need to allow people to minister to us and to help us in whatever way they choose to.
KERRY: Long before the Me Too movement, we now know the power that those words can have as it relates to sexual assault or harassment, but it’s applicable to everything—you know, whatever the thing is that you’re carrying, when somebody can say, “me too,” it’s powerful! And just, it’s that instant connection of ‘I’m not alone’ and ‘I’m connected to this other person with fill-in-the-blank whatever it is’. It’s pretty powerful and that’s what you do.
VICKI: Well, thank you. And I’m not the only one, you know, when we’re going through tough times we think it’s only us and it’s not. There’s a lot of people who are dealing with some of the same things that we’re dealing with and, or other things that we can relate to and that’s what just so important. That’s why I think of community as not geographical but as this community of women and that’s what one of the things that the pandemic has done, it has created new communities.
VICKI: You know, and as much as we all complain about Zoom or Microsoft Teams or whatever you’re using, the idea is that it has created Community—of bringing people together that otherwise may not have been together and I think that’s, you know, when I look back trying to say, ‘okay, so what can we take from this?’ That’s one of the things that I think we can take from.
JENETTE: Yeah, new ways of bringing people together that wouldn’t have found each other. I love that—and Vicki, I just want to say, if it weren’t for all the things you’ve been through, you wouldn’t be the Vicki Clark that you are today. It is because of everything you experienced: the good, and the bad and the ugly, that you have such an intimate way of connecting with people. You’re so authentic. You’re so .. you just put it out there. You just put it on the table. This is me. This is my stuff, my baggage and you go from there—and it makes people feel so comfortable and so welcome to, to be who they are as well, baggage and all. And when Kerry made the comment about THE Vicki Clark. I mean, you wouldn’t be THE Vicki Clark if it weren’t for everything you have been through.
VICKI: My thing is just meet everybody where they are. No judgement. And whether I’m working with a person and coaching or whether I’m working with an organization—I just meet you where you are and then we just go from there. That’s the best to me—meet you where you are and go from there. I like people. I’ve always liked .. I’m an only child, so I cling very close to people. And I’m an only child of an only child, so I really do like people and I just believe that everybody has some value. You know, and I’m a call in person, not a call out person—what can we do to call you in, to help bring you closer to whatever the topic is, not to call you out on what you’ve done wrong to call you out on your frailties or your failures but to call you in to whatever it is we’re trying to do and that may not be everybody’s approach but that’s always been my approach.
JENETTE: That’s a good approach. I like it.
KERRY: We always say everybody has a seat at the table, and when we’re looking for women sometimes, you know, like by joking about THE Vicki Clark, but what we, we always look for people who are team players—people who are doing that call in and are inviting people to the table because if you .. I mean you would have every opportunity to be like THE Vicki—but you were such a team player and you were part of the ensemble, never—you know, you do call people in and we are grateful for it. But the masses of people that you called to the table are grateful.
VICKI: Well, thank you. I learned that from my Mother. You did not know my Mother, but my Mother was always, you know, you are no better than anybody else. You know, you’re a great person, but you are no better than anybody else and, you know, that’s… you respect everybody. And that was the way I was taught. When we did the She Said Project, just the support of the other women. I loved that Sunday.. and it was kind of crazy cuz the technology was going goofy and all of that and people were cheering other people on and people were saying, “it’s okay, you got this” and it was just, that was just wonderful—it was like we were our own cheerleader and I never been a cheerleader cuz—again, my Mother, she wasn’t gonna let me wear no little skirt, uh, yeah, I was in the ROTC, it wasn’t pretty—but, so it was fun, you know, being a cheerleader for other women, but it was also cuz it was all so wonderful to have other women to support, you know, me. And people are saying, “okay, we got this,” and we were all going, “we got this,” and it was, you know, and I know Jenette and Kevin were going nuts, but I just thought it was like—oh wow, and we didn’t even really know each other! That was what was so wonderful!
JENETTE: When you can find the right group of women and bring them together with no pretenses and there’s no divas at the table—just this pure environment of support, it is so much easier to take off those layers and get to the, the true authentic story. And that is what we have worked really hard to create, is that environment at That’s What She Said and I want to thank you for coming on that journey with us for being, you know, in the virtual world. You were still part of a beautiful cast of women who shared stories and helped us connect women everywhere. And that’s what we continue to do each and every week on The She Said Project Podcast by connecting with the women, who have gone through this experience like you have, Vicki Clark. Thank you so much for your time. We know our listeners are feeling all the feels right now—cheering you on—woo hoo! Me too. Me too. Because we all need to know that we’re not alone. So thank you friends and everyone who’s joining us each week. See you next time on The She Said Project Podcast.
ANNOUNCER: Thank you for listening to The She Said Project Podcast, in partnership with Illinois Public Media.
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