In 2020, I gave up.
Good Morning Party Peoples
I am Lindsey Knapp, an Attorney, Army Veteran, and Executive Director of Combat Sexual Assault, a non-profit organization that empowers survivors of military sexual trauma by helping them overcome barriers to obtaining justice. I've made the decision to share the ramblings that go on in my brain with others. For better or worse, at the end of this you will come to learn one very important thing about me, I am human. In all of my messy, broken, and beautiful glory.
So now if you're up for some fun, I like for you to take a walk with me and unpack the million dollar question. It’s a question that stands to either eat us alive, or set us free.
The question is…..“Why are we here? What is your true life’s calling?
Well, in the East, they call this Dharma.
Dharma is a Sanskrit word referring to "the great work of your life.”
Dharma is what you have been called to do. Dharma is your unique gift that YOU have specifically have been given and have been charged with sharing with the world.
Figuring this out can be tough and I’ve been not so enjoying the process.
I often get asked why I do the type of work that I do. I’m always put off by this question. It feels like they are asking me to explain what trauma that I have experienced that has given me the drive and passion to do what it is that I do. And that feels invasive.
Because it feels like they are fishing. Fishing for a software glitch that they hope to exploit. Or maybe they ask because they themselves have experienced sexual assault and hope to somehow distance themselves from organizations such as mine so they can say, “Well, I’m not like that, so it won’t happen to me” or “I’m different from you, so I am protected and this won’t happen to anyone that I know” or “Tell me more so that I convince myself that this is a problem only for other people and not for folks like me.”
I wonder if everyone is asked this question. Do cops, doctors, firefighters, accountants, and software engineers get asked…..”why?”
As much as I hate getting asked this question, it’s a question that I should at least be able to answer for myself, even if I chose to not share that answer with anyone else.
So why the hell do I do this work? Its hard work. I meet everyday with suffering. I hear traumatic stories, suicide attempts, I meet clients at the ER and console them as the Doctors address their injuries. Sometimes I even get the call that a client has died, either by their own hand or at the hand of their attacker.
So why do I do this? For a long time, I really didn’t have a good answer. Sure, I’ve got a ton of lived experiences that have certainly prepared me for this work. But that’s not why I do it.
I would normally begin this story by saying that I do it for my survivors. Yeah, that sounds good. I do it for them. I do it for the folks in my life that have experienced this, I do this for myself who has had to walk this path. But that answer never felt authentic. And as the words rolled off my tongue, I immediately wanted to bring them back in.
It felt like a lie. It didn’t speak to my soul. It didn't encompass the fire that I felt in the pit of my belly.
So I kept on digging and followed the breadcrumbs. I walked through a dark cave with a little candle that only lit the path but a few paces in front of me. I didn't know where I was going, all I could see was the next step.
Then I took the next step. And another, hoping that the light got brighter to help show me the way.
Now its probably important to note that at this point in my life, I was crippled with anxiety and depression. I felt numb. Conversely, my husband was going through a very bright patch in his life and was showering me incessantly with his love and support. And I hated it. And I hated that I hated it. I didn't yet understand why I could not receive this love. My tank was on empty, it was exactly what I needed. But I couldn't seem to feel much of anything. So I went through the motions.
I drank, I smoked, whatever it took to take the edge off. And it worked, in the short term.
But what I learned overtime was that the key to the unlocking my pain was through the breath and the body. I began to explore meditation and yoga, and began to control my breath.
What I found then was that by controlling my breath, I could then control my mind. The ocean of my mind was a hurricane. Winds blowing, ships capsizing. Complete and total chaos. But just below the surface of the waves, if you dove a little deeper, the water was calmer. And if you dove a little deeper, it's quieter, and even calmer still.
And by continuing to dive into the abyss of my mind, only joy remained. An overwhelming calmness and stillness persisted. Every time that I made it to this place, I’d try to stay a little longer. I seem to like to swim back to the surface to see what is going on, and when I do, I would get smashed by another wave.
But as I was being pummeled by wave after wave, I asked myself….why do I stay here? Do I have to stay here? Let’s dive back down and explore that some more.
And as I dived in deeper, things got more clear. I was able to keep my mind still. And my when mind was still, not only was I happy, but I always knew what to do.
This was when I was able to answer the question of why I do what I do.
I do what I do because it is my dharma. It is the calling that has been placed on my head, and every step I take off this path the Universe hits me with another wave to guide me back on track.
Ten years ago, if you would have asked me what my highest calling was, I would have told you it would have been to get a boring job and live a boring and predictable life. That’s all I ever wanted. Everything in my earlier days was so chaotic that I just really wanted to have a boring predictable life.
And I wanted it so bad that I got it. The Universe gave it me, gave me a taste for a few years, then took it all away. I didn’t understand why, and I didn’t like it. But it was to correct my course and put me back on the path of my dharma. And my doing that, it allowed me to polish off my rough edges and do the intense self-introspection required to get there.
So I surrendered. I gave up. But not in the way you may think. I gave up the idea that my plans of how my life should be mattered. I surrendered to what was in front of me, and did the task the Universe called me to do. I surrendered to my purpose, my highest calling, my dharma.
And because I did that, I can do the work that I do with a smile on my face. I can show up to the ER, take a call from another client, fight with the Department of Defense, and I can do it all with a calmness, ease, and passion that is unparalleled.
I can do it with a smile and a laugh. I can do it because I know that each of my clients is also being called to fulfill their highest calling. The Universe has crashed a wave upon their head and are directing them back on course. The Universe is dead set at getting you to embrace your highest calling.
And it's hard at first. Your highest calling may not be the path that you thought you were going to travel. And it sucks. It sucks even more if you fight it. And I fought it for a looooong time.
I had to understand that everyone has been placed in my life for a very specific purpose. Every experience had to happen to me just the way that it did.
And if I’m having an experience that throws me off and I feel another wave crashing down on my head, I now have the wherewithal to ask myself what in me do I need to address to keep my peace, to dive back deeper into the calm of the ocean.
Because now I understand that the Universe is conspiring in my favor. Everything is happening to me to bring me to my highest calling. Its bringing me closer to my dharma.
So why do I do what I do? I do it to complete the great work of my life. It’s the calling that has been placed upon my head. I do it because once I surrendered to the flow of the Universe, everything fell into place.
It’s a wild ride, and if I’ being honest, most days I have no idea where I’m headed. But I take notice of the pulse of the earth, and follow it's beating drums. I notice when a wave crashes on my head, then take a breath and dive a little deeper in the calm abyss.
Ya know, its amazing what you can get done when you just get out of your own way.
The author Stephen Cope says it best:
"If you bring forth what is within you, it will save you. If you do not, it will destroy you."
So in 2020, I gave up. And I encourage you to do the same. The sooner you jump onto your dharma my dear friends, the sooner you will be free.