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Though passing time ferried us out of our childhood sexual abuse, many of us continue to feel stuck in the same current. In the river of life, we feel unable to paddle to new possibilities for happiness.

It’s the most natural thing in the world to float downstream, using the same skills that helped us survive. We might numbly accept persistent, upsetting rapids because we don’t know how to use our oars of personal power to guide us safely around them. Maybe we learned to blindly swim in any direction as long as it was away from our circumstance and we’re still doing that today. Many of us continue to fill every moment with activity so we don’t hear the turbulent waters of our secret.

We endured by learning how to cope, but we also diminished our ability to identify rich relationships that would feel like rainbows in our life. To find those, we can use self awareness. There is empowering magic in beginning a conscious adventure of making a list of the qualities we need, enjoy, appreciate, and must have to feel joyous in a relationship.

My list includes descriptions of characters in books and movies, people I barely know, and those I love. When I experience something that makes my spirit sing, I add it to my treasure of words. I can witness an interaction and know I want some of that included. Mother Nature, animals, and the beauty of things can inspire me.

This list is a powerful tool for survivors. It asks us to focus on the good in the world around us. It feeds our sense of well-being. This conscious connection to what we want will begin guiding our choices about who we want in our life. Our abuse taught us how relationships can be, but our list will show us who will fill our hearts.