• Cate

The Beginning of the Journey

Updated: Nov 14, 2021

On a beach in Florida 2018. Image Courtesy of The Woven Image. Unauthorized use of this photo is prohibited.

Hi. My name is Cate. I’m the founder of The Woven Journey. My path to the opening of The Woven Journey has been a journey of healing and empowerment. I didn’t always weave jewelry and string beads.

I have been on a journey of self discovery, healing, and learning for the past three years. It all started on a beach in Florida. I stood looking at my children enjoying the ocean for the very first time. This was the first family vacation I'd ever facilitated. It was the gift I'd wanted to give to my kids.

I was feeling many things on that day. Something was changing in me. I was about to turn 40 in a few months. Maybe that’s what started it. I was starting to realize I hadn’t given much thought to who I was. Ever.

That wasn’t completely my fault. I was born to two abusive parents. My mother was bipolar. When she was up, she was the center of the world. Everyone loved her. She was amazing. But when she was down, no one was safe. She kept that side hidden away.

But the verbal and emotional abuse I received growing up had zapped my confidence. I believed I was stupid. I believed I was ugly. I believed I was nothing. I let her control my life and influence my choices. And then she died. In January of 2010, I lost my mom.

When you’ve been told how to live for all of your life and suddenly lose that direction, you might get lost. At the time, I had just married my first abusive husband. He and my mom had been in a power struggle against each other. With her death, he’d won and the situation degraded almost immediately.

We had 2 kids together, Mina and Parker. Their father was from Colorado, and nearly 2 years after my mom’s death, he convinced me to move back there with our family. I had become very isolated. He’d made me believe it was because my family didn’t love me. I already knew I was nothing, so I believed him.

But being a mother had changed something in me. When Mina, my oldest, was just a baby, I realized that you had all kinds of choices as a parent. There wasn’t any genetic disposition for me to destroy my daughter as my mom had done to me, so I didn’t. Being a mom is my favorite job.

But being a mom was all I had at that point. My husband’s abuse had escalated. All I could do was protect my children. I didn’t think I had another choice. Who would take me in now that my mom was gone?

When we got to Colorado, things started bad and they got worse. Within 4 months, we were homeless. I’d always supported the family on my part time income with minimal contributions from my husband. It was no different here, but we couldn’t find a place to live.

We moved into an extended stay hotel and tried to manage as best as we could. We had been gifted a membership to the Denver Zoo, so I took the kids every week. We went to the park every day. Colorado weather is beautiful, we made the most of it.

I did the best I could. But as it began to approach one year in Colorado, I realized that we couldn’t go on this way. I was starving to death. I didn’t have enough money to feed myself and the kids, so I fed the kids. I didn’t realize it until my clothes were so loose they were falling off me.

I was losing the thread between dreams and reality. But something in me couldn’t give up. I knew I had to do something. My mother-in-law looked at me one day and said, “This is no life for kids. You take them and go.”

And so I did. With my Aunt Jody’s help, I rented a car and packed what I could fit into it and left the rest behind. I drove all night back to Minnesota. I cried most of the way. I was headed to a place that was unfamiliar: The Unknown.

Mina was 5 at the time and Parker was about to be 3. I had nothing. My Aunt Jody, my mom's sister, took us in, though she lived in a two bedroom condo. My mom’s cousin took me to a place called Cornerstone.

Cornerstone is a place in Minnesota for women and families fleeing abuse. I walked through the doors an empty shell of a person. But they took my fears and turned them into hope. They helped me into subsidized housing, they provided abuse counseling and support.

Two years later, Mina had just turned 7 and Parker was 4. I had gone back to school and money was tight. I still hadn’t figured out how to give any of us a future yet. I hoped school was the answer.

I reconnected with a man I’d went to high school with. He was great! He spent time with the kids, he helped around the house, he could cook! He bought us all gifts. He helped with finances. He owned his own home and seemed to be doing pretty well.

When he proposed 9 months later, I accepted. A life with him seemed so much easier than trying to manage on my own. He’d saved me hadn’t he? This wasn’t too good to be true, was it?

It was. But it wasn’t until I was standing on that beach in Florida that I really put my finger on it. I felt trapped. He’d lost all of those good qualities the moment we'd had a child together.

I’d just gotten a great promotion to a job I didn’t think I’d get for another year. I was making more than I ever had before. I enjoyed my work. Though I was unhappy in my marriage, life had stabilized to a degree it had never been at before.

Just after I turned 40, I read a book. That book shined a light on a place I’d locked away. It was my spirituality. I hadn’t thought about it since high school. But now I didn’t really know what I believed. I started to search.

I am an avid reader and will follow questions into book after book. I started learning about quantum physics. That led me to Buddhism. One day, I went to a zen center. I told them why I was there and they gave me a book. Then they taught me to meditate.

As I studied Buddhism and implemented a meditation practice, I started to realize something else was going on with me. Though I’d found a lot of clarity and peace and motivation, I realized I was sick.

It was months before I went to the doctor though. The HR lady found me leaning up against the wall one day because I was too weak to make it to the lunch room without resting. She led me to a couch, sat me down, and said, “Who do we call that will take you straight to the ER?”

My Aunt Jody of course. She took me to the doctor. They tested my thyroid. I had Hyperthyroidism. I had every symptom on the list. I found out it would take months to get on a stable medication regimen. I had to give up my position. It had become too much to handle in my state.

I left the company and took a step down so I could have some space to heal. The pay cut hurt a lot, but I started to feel better. Even though it wasn’t where I wanted to be, it was a good place to regroup.

Once I felt better, I started to look for a new job. But then the pandemic killed my industry. I went to work one day and was laid off. I was in hospitality. The industry died overnight. All of a sudden, I was home with my 3 kids.

Now that I was home, I started to spend time with the kids again. I’d been working so hard, we’d grown apart a bit. Now we were all playing Minecraft together. My youngest child, Juniper, still took a lot of attention at 3 years old, but she was starting to become more independent.

Mina was 13 now and Parker was 10. They started to explain why they’d been hiding away in their rooms. They said my current husband was not very nice to them. He called them stupid. He treated them with contempt. He favored Juniper. I started paying more attention.

It was true. That wasn’t all. I realized that he’d been treating me indifferently. I realized he didn’t really do much anymore. He was gaslighting me, telling me I was mistaken when I knew I was telling the truth. The spell was broken. It had all been a lie.

He wasn’t all bad. It was more that he had tried to be what he thought I wanted him to be. When he couldn’t be that person anymore, he gave up.

But there was a pandemic, my job had disappeared, and the housing market had gone insane. How was I going to free myself? I was going to have to figure this out at the worst possible time.

It was the summer of 2020. I’d gotten bored and redone the whole house. Then I landscaped the yard. Then I tried to raise awareness about water quality. Then I started writing.

I’d forgotten how much writing soothed me. It felt good to be putting words to the page again. I realized that I’d given up so many things to be married to this man. I wrote on. I decided to try free writing. That’s when things got weird.

My meditation practice had been floundering. Without the community, it was hard to stay focused. But there was something else. It had become a little scary to meditate and I wasn’t sure why. It felt uncomfortable.

As I continued to free write into the fall, I was writing some disturbing things about my childhood. I started to think about my childhood. I realized I had some pretty big memory holes. I didn’t remember being 6. I didn’t remember my dad or my aunt or uncle. I remembered hiding a lot.

Then one day, I did remember. My meditation had unlocked memories my mind had hidden away. Memories of something so horrible, my mind couldn’t do anything else to get through it. My dad had sexually abused me.

But that wasn’t all. His sister and her husband had abused me too. And when my mom and my dad got divorced and my dad had to pay child support, he trafficked me to his fraternity brothers to pay for it. I was 6 when that happened. The abuse continued through my teenage years.

Being hit with all of those memories was devastating. All at once, my childhood was out of order. I didn’t know what fit where. I couldn’t assimilate these awful memories. I was freaking out. I called Cornerstone.

They said that I qualified for counseling since I was a former client. They said I could do video counseling on my computer. I just had to fill out paperwork and go through some consultations and it was right before Christmas, so it would take a few weeks.

I couldn’t sit with the memories alone for that long. I needed a distraction. I’d taken Mina to a craft store to spend a gift certificate and was mesmerized by the beads. I remembered making bracelets with my sister when I was a kid.

I bought some beads, but I wasn’t sure what to do with them yet. I needed to learn more. So I turned to a book about bead weaving. I started learning stitches and patterns. More books, more stitches. I had become very good at weaving.

Bead weaving, for me, was a place of solace. I turned my attention to something that required all of it. There was no room for memories. The amount of concentration and focus was enough to make me tired and able to sleep at night. I spent hour after hour weaving, taking breaks here and there to spend time with each of the kids and feed everyone.

I began to heal. Very slowly. There were so many things happening at once, my head was spinning. I was trying to balance an equation with too many unknown variables. I had to find the ground somehow. I started to make a list of all the things I had to do. I started to work my way through it.

I found some legal help. They started helping me with my divorce papers. I looked into daycare for Juniper. It wasn’t available in an affordable way. My husband had taken my shift when the pandemic hit. There was no way I could go back to work now without childcare for Juniper.

I continued counseling. I learned that my body had done what it had to do to get through those times when I couldn’t run and I couldn’t fight. My mind had dissociated. I’d lost the connection with my body. I had been in a perpetually hyperaware state since childhood. It wasn’t just about assimilating memories. It was about learning how to be a whole person too.

I started taking ballroom dancing lessons. The first time I got knocked back into my body, I didn’t know what happened. I became disoriented. It was uncomfortable and my teacher asked if I wanted to stop dancing. I said no. I danced through it.

I took a weekend off from being mom. I started to take care of myself. I started personal training. I'm reading books about trauma. I'm writing my way through it.

Here I am today, a completely different person than that person I was 3 years ago. I know myself now. I know peace now. I know the source of my suffering. I can heal. I continue to push through it.

I’ve found that being a photographer has given me a different way of looking at color. I approach beading as an art form. I never understood how you could have a job doing what you love until I started beading. I want to continue to learn and grow as an artist.

My story is not over. The journey I began 3 years ago remains unresolved. I am still trying to solve that equation. I still need to finish my divorce. I still need to find a place to live. I am still healing. And now, I am starting a business.

The Woven Journey is my first step into my new life. It’s a whole new world now. I am whole now. Healing will be a lifelong journey, but I am learning that it’s not all work with no reward. Dancing is FUN! Bead weaving is FUN! Being a mom is AMAZING! I’m just getting started! There’s a whole lot more to come.

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