1) Your job puts you in a position of power (so to speak)- does it change the way you interact with people?
I'm not sure I'd say that my job puts me in a position of power.
It puts me in a position to maneuver various sources of power on behalf of my clients. I'm not trying to be opaque with that answer- I swear. It's just that being a lawyer and going to law school is a privilege because it equips you with tools to interact with and impact the sources of power in society.
I think that this understanding of the power structures embedded in society must affect the way that I interact with people simply because it informs the way I view the world. At times that makes me an excellent advocate and, at others, it makes me a terrible cynic. I try my best to stick with the former. The knowledge and privilege of the legal profession also brings with it a great deal of responsibility. The ability to see the power structures in society means that I have an obligation to challenge those structures if I believe them to be unjust. I have always been an advocate, even when I wasn't yet a lawyer, but the addition of the power which accompanies a legal education and career gave me the tools to engage with issues of injustice in a more practical and, often, more effective way.
2) Tell us about the loss of power? How has it changed you?
I'll say first, a loss of control is not necessarily a bad thing, though it may be very difficult. A sense of powerlessness over your own being, on the other hand, is always bad.
I've experienced both on many occasions. In my experience, each time I've lost anything in my life, particularly that second type of power, time has shown me with greater and greater clarity how powerful and resilient I am. The depths of my sorrow and pain have always reflected skyward to equally great heights.
Experience has given me the clarity of knowing that, with time, power will follow powerlessness. It's repetition, really. I wish I could have taught my younger self this truth but I know it could have only come with repetitive experience. Eventually, your reaction to loss becomes quicker. Your faith in and knowledge of your strength to overcome moves beyond the realm of doubt. You actively say to yourself, "this hurts, but I know it has an end point." I now know that, despite immense pain, life will always change. It will get better and more difficult and better again. The way that loss changed me was, therefore, by showing me that I will always rise up. Always. My losses are some of the experiences for which I am most grateful because they've shown me the strength of my character, of my fabric as a human being. My loss has laid the foundation for my greatest pride.
3) You experienced a "rise up" power moment in life after an abusive relationship ~ would you tell us where the power from within came for you?
The power came from me and from other women. I began to write about my experience around the same time that the #yesallwomen movement began. I began reading the tweets and the stories of many of these women and I remember getting goosebumps all over because I realized, for the first time, that what I had experienced was, in fact, abuse. I saw myself so precisely in their words and the walls around me began to fall. It became clear to me that all the stories I had told myself, which were a reinforcement of my abuser's narrative, were false. If these women had experienced what I had, then maybe this was not ok. I began to write my story at that point and eventually published it.
Writing my story empowered me in so many ways. It gave my experience weight. It allowed me to talk about my experience with my friends and family- something I had hidden for years because I couldn't reconcile reality with the stories I had to tell myself to stay with him.
Sharing my story gave me an unspeakable sense of power. The women who reached out and honoured me with their stories gave me the greatest gift I could have ever asked for. They gave an enduring meaning to my pain. I wouldn't trade that pain for the world. In its absence, I would not have had the tools to support these women and to receive their support in turn. They allowed me to transform a story of isolation and shame into one of unity and strength.
4) Anything else you want to say/final thoughts?
I'm so thrilled to share a stage with the amazing women who will be speaking this year. I can't wait to meet all the speakers and conference attendees. It's going to be an amazing and inspiring day.
Blog Post: Nicole Parmar