Defining Moments

What defines us? What shapes us?

What defines you? What experiences have defined you in one way or another?

I watched the Netflix interview with Viola Davis last night. Viola is a favourite of mine. She dives deep into her characters. As I have a kinship to the theatre industry due to half my life on the boards, I admire her exploration into every role and you can tangibly feel that she pulls from a very deep place to access her emotions in her authentic portrayal of the character.

The interview was about her book and her personal story of survival. She was raw and authentic and my goodness I admire the will and the courage she has had to never give up no matter what, considering how very little she had to begin with both on a practical level and the trauma that she experienced.

Her willpower to me is akin to a warrior, to not only survive but thrive. Playing the Woman King recently seems very apt.

There were great pearls of insight to reflect upon within the interview. How one perceives life from lenses filled with trauma and abject poverty and how one finds the light at the end of the tunnel by sheer tenacity and yes luck, but mainly a strong will to know that things could be better and that you are the one to create that.

One question that was discussed, stood out strongly for me and put me into a state of deep self-reflection.

Moments in life that defined you.

Viola spoke of her inner child running from the abusive racist schoolboys and how that was symbolic of how she felt like she was always running away from abuse. Another was when she stood up to her father, terrified beyond measure, but something in her had had enough.

These two defining moments were incredibly powerful for her and naturally led me to my own reflections, Which I am inviting you to participate in for your own growth and insight.

Reflecting back on the past doesn’t mean we live there in that story of pain. I want to make that crystal clear. We enter into the past to retrieve the aspects of self that were lost, damaged and fragmented. We do that so we can feel more whole and less disassociated. If you go into the past to look at how bad it was or use it as a reason for not moving forward, then it’s of no use and it can make you feel like you are stuck in a swamp of upset. It’s of no value.

If however you can look back as an observer of pivotal moments in life and see how they shaped you both the positive and the negative, then you can see from a less charged perspective what you may have lost or gained at that moment and then cleanse it and reclaim or purge in some way.

So, as always, I will share my experience.

Defining moments in my life

Firstly, I am ‘allowing’ a memory to surface rather than going searching for which one I think, ‘should’ be the defining moment.

The one that arises strongly as a visual memory is a powerful one.

As an army brat, we moved around a great deal and I went to all sorts of schools. Rough public schools where bullies bashed kid’s at lunch time for entertainment to the elite boarding schools where you were made to suffer via peer exclusion and humiliation.

I was at a boarding school after attending a very rough public school. Initially, I was put into the school as a day kid to then merge into a boarder when my parents were overseas. This boarding school was co-ed and felt better than the other all-girl boarding school where I begged to leave.

Julie Dillon art

I adapted fairly quickly and was involved in quality theatre productions as was my way. I had returned back from work experience at a Theatre Company to my private dorm room which was modern and architecturally pleasing.

I had only just showered, leaving most of my bag to unpack in the morning as I was bone tired. As soon as it was lights out time, 11 girls without invitation filled my room.

I was trapped in my bed and bullied beyond belief. They were all accusing me of stealing and one pulled something out of the top of my bag that I know I did not put there. They were vicious and relentless, threatening to take me to the headmaster. My inner victim took it hard. I tried to speak up but was gaslit and harassed at every turn. The woman closest to me I thought was a friend, was loving it. This went on for what seemed like an eternity. Nothing was resolved. They suddenly all got up to go upstairs, clearly not caring about what they had done and even had the gaul to invite me for a cup of tea. I was so numb, so shocked, so fragmented, I actually followed and in the dim upstairs area sipped a tea watching them all chatter and smile at each other.

The defining memory is not that night, it’s what happened after.

I’m not sure if it was the next day or the one after but I vividly remember the upstairs loft area of the boarding unit near the tea area. I remember the handrails of the staircase and the large windows view of the trees being blown by the breeze.

I was standing in front of a head girl, the ringleader of the eleven girls. I recall that she was a great deal taller than me. She approached me on the landing wanting to talk.

As my body drew back, ready for another emotional assault. She said, ‘Hey sorry about last night, we knew it wasn’t you, but we needed to flush the real thief out.’ The real thief was the girl sitting the closest who I thought was my friend.‘It’s all good, we found all the stuff and she will probably be expelled.’

At that moment, the very small, insecure pleaser me, snapped and snapped hard.

My recall is raising the one thing I had, my voice. I raised it for the whole world to hear! (Directors always told others to follow my lead in voice projection as I could hit the back wall with my voice without even trying.)

‘How dare you do that to me!! Who the fuck do you think you are!’ it began and went on for a good while. I was an angry cat on a hot tin roof emotionally and my righteous need for justice was spitting out of my mouth! What I recall of her reaction was big brown eyes not blinking. She did not move a muscle. She was not expecting what I was delivering.

This moment defined many things for me upon reflection.

I have never ever let anyone treat me that way ever again after that. If I have been wronged I make my feelings perfectly clear. I have never allowed anyone to gaslight or abuse me as an adult.

My inner protector is very strong, and for a good while there, it was way too strong and pushed people away. It’s tempered much more nowadays, but it has made me a huge advocate for justice.

Why was this defining moment more relevant than any other bullying I had to endure? And believe me, there was a lot. It was because when the bullies came for me in other instances, my self worth was crap and somewhere in there I believed they were right. I was worthless and deserving of being a scapegoat for their amusement.

The framing situation however was different. Even though I bought into a lot of their cruelty towards me as a truth, I knew deep down somewhere that it wasn’t true. I wasn’t a liar or a thief.

What they did to me was completely unjust and I knew deep down I was not what they were saying I was. I knew it for a fact. I was no thief. That belt in the bag was not mine, nor did I put it there! I was not brave enough to take eleven of them on, I was a tiny framed thing and honestly, I was incredibly scared. However, on finding out that they used to me to flush someone else out, my inner victim switched over into the protector. The protector in me had already arrived but it was laying dormant, ready for when I had had enough and it burst out in righteous indignation.

I have been asked if I reported it. I didn’t. Honestly, I was in no headspace to explain it and make my life as a boarder more unbearable. Later some of them tried to be nice to me and my protector showed them the ice wall and yes that so called friend was expelled.

I have spent a great deal of time melting that ice wall and replacing it with better tools to protect myself. There are kinder more stable boundaries to looking after yourself than ice walls.

Now just to give you a taste of another defining moment, that may not sound positive but to me it really was due to what came from it, this path, my path of service.

When I went to study shamanism and I was coming from a really bad place via horrific nightmares of women being burnt, hung and drowned and voices and thoughts that were menacing me.

Fortunately, I had insight enough to be able to do journeywork. The journey took me to a time of Bedlam the insane asylum of London. That life was full of tragedy, betrayal and great loss and what I witnessed in that life, clearly defined the subject matter that I have a personal kinship with…the path of being of service to the sensitive people of this world.

That life was a massive eye opener and put everything that I felt inside me into context. Later when I researched the archives about that time and what was done to patients, I found proof that substantiated my strange physical convulsions at several points in the journey.

Other life work can be like that. It certainly changed my life and to this day it’s one of the most powerful defining moments of my life. That memory of that teen has no charge due to my work with my fragmented inner teen but by reflecting upon the memory with a little more investigative insight showed me when exactly my protector took hold and makes all my other feelings around the need for fairness and justice for those that are harmed, make sense.

Listening to Viola’s story made me reflect on mine. May part of my story help you to look back on yours, what you feel you have lost and also gained or wish to regain in regard to the defining moments that have impacted your walk.



(c) O. Nightsky 2023

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