Above photo: Sherry with her adorable children
As I sit here and filter through the ideas on how to give you a snapshot of who I am, I think of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Book, “No Mud, No Lotus”. I was in a dark place before seeing the beauty of my life as it started to blossom. Lotus symbolizes Freedom in my culture and I held on to the strength of freedom to push myself through the darkness. Words that are true and lived every day in our household. To get to know me, I must first take you back to my grandparents. There, you will see the progress my family has made over the years.
My grandparents were slave servants in Vietnam and were able to escape in their teen years to have a life of their own. After my grandfather was killed because his village thought he was a traitor, my grandmother had to take care of her 10 children on her own. I remember my family telling me about when she caught a robber in the house and instead of screaming for help, she offered to cook for the thief. The thief ended up staying for awhile and helping out with the house chores. This act of compassion and empathy lead me to forgive and try to not to stay attached to hardships in my life.
My parents fled Vietnam during the great exodus and found themselves in a new country with new rules and new struggles. They did their best learning a new culture while trying to provide for their family. My parents would take in strangers that needed a place to stay and warm food to eat. Our house always had guests. And my parents never asked for anything in return. Most guests were appreciative but some took advantage of the young and unsupervised girls. My mother was the breadwinner of the house and she worked every day with little time to nurture herself.
My kids and I are domestic violence survivors. We have been living on our own for over 13 years. My greatest job is raising my kids to be kind, strong and courageous humans. We have great support in this town and know we are blessed every day to have each other.
The first time he hurt me was when I was 6 months pregnant with our first son. We got into an argument about him spending money on alcohol instead of food. He slapped me for raising my voice and then choked me while pinning me to the wall. He proceeded to throw me on the bed and have his way with me. I was so scared and I believed him when he apologised and said he wouldn't ever do it again. I convinced myself he wasn’t himself because he drank alcohol without eating.
It was a cycle with breadcrumbs after that. He would hurt me, apologise, and then blame me for what happened. I talked with his parents and they, too, blamed me for not being a "good enough" wife. My last two children were due to him raping me. I had no sexual desire to be with him anymore. I didn't know how to get out of the situation. I would catch him with other women. We moved every few months. Once I made friends, he didn't like them and I could no longer be their friend or he would just move us again.
It wasn't until he was beating me on the stairs while my children were eating when I realised my children had normalised the abuse. I had to stop the cycle. I did not want my daughter thinking this is the kind of man you want in your life. Nor did I want my boys to think this is how you treat women or anyone. From that moment, I made a plan of escape. Freedom had a new meaning to me. Freedom for my children was the biggest drive to keep focus and to not believe the empty apologies.
It took about 12 years to finally be able to protect my children and have the court system on my children’s side. Most people in the community would not know our family history. My children are now not so little. I never knew anyone could have so much proudness with their children. They have worked hard and found passion in life that you can feel and see when they take the stage. They have exceeded in every interest they touched. Music, martial arts, athleticism, academics, and compassion.
Watching their journey has been the biggest teaching lesson for me. Mental health became a key focus in my practice of healing. The more I dived into healing others, I would reflect on myself and what I needed. My heart started to feel home when I started to help others find their mental health balance. We would do this through bowen therapy and circus arts. Yes, circus arts. I started to teach aerial silks and pole with my daughter. The connection between movement art and body positivity began to shine bright.
Time and time again, I would get feedback of the gain of mental health through movement arts. I started creating a body positivity curriculum through movement arts for a local private school for at risk girls. It was a huge challenge to take on strong minded teens. But the results were powerful. The students found their freedom. They found their power to “get back into the normal world.” This brought me so much joy. It wasn’t always rainbows and sunshine but the joy the students found in themselves gave me strength to keep going. I started to incorporate the body positivity style to my adult students. I began to see the messages pour in on how they were able to look at themselves in the mirror again and loved their bodies.
Body positivity gives you a sense of mental clarity. I would not have discovered this if I didn’t stop the cycle for myself and kids. But I had to be in that dark place to “see” what was happening to my freedom. I continue to highlight body positivity as a tool to empower your heart. Movement art is one piece of the puzzle. I currently advocate for people to explore their physical pleasure. To find the sex positivity within yourself for mental health. My goal is to take my training and education to advocate for Asian women to take their sexual power back. It is long overdue and the barriers are quite treacherous. However, there is no better time than now to start bringing the light to the many Asian women who are trying to push through the mud and become the lotus they are meant to be.
Femme identifying gender fluid human
Heritage-immigrant refugees from Vietnam. First generation American. 6th of 7 children.
Bowen practitioner, Aroma Acupoint Therapist, Licensed Massage Therapist
Certified Master Sexpert, Advanced Clinical Sexual Education
Pole and Aerial Silks Instructor. Lover of martial arts and dance.
Domestic violence survivor.