Meteorologist, Singer, and Survivor
Episode 12: I Hope You Dance
Broadcast meteorologist, singer, and survivor Meredith Garofalo joins Lori for a meaningful conversation about how she’s found happiness and success in life despite her childhood abuse. Meredith says artistic expression saved her life and she hopes to empower her fellow survivors to find the strength to discover what brings them hope and joy in their own lives.
Transcript of the Louder than Silence Podcast
Episode #12: I Hope You Dance
Transcribed by Adam Soisson
[Inspirational theme music plays.]
>> Lori: Thank you for joining us. In this podcast, we are real people, talking about real things. Child abuse and neglect: a topic that is all too often left in the shadows of silence, leaving survivors alone, fearful, and oftentimes without a voice. We’re having conversations to become louder than silence. It is here, where we will invite you to join us and be the change needed to end child abuse and neglect.
>>Lori: Hello everybody and welcome to the Louder Than Silence podcast. My name is Lori Poland and I am the Executive Director for the National Foundation to End Child Abuse and Neglect. Today our guest is Meredith Garofalo who is truly a magical person. The first time I met her, we met at a Starbucks and we had this discussion about the impact of child abuse and neglect and how it touches everything and it changes us forever. We’re sitting there and we’re talking about how we need to do this and we need to do that and how excited we were and this gal was sitting at the same table. There wasn’t enough seats so we were sitting at the end of the table and this gal turned to us and said, “Can I have your card because I’m listening to you guys and hearing what you’re doing and I am a survivor and I am all in?” Meredith and I just looked at each other and were like, “wow, we’re doing it right now. It’s happening.” We’ve gotten together a couple of times and every time I see you online or I read your posts, your optimism and the way you’ve taken your life experience and truly turned it into A. powerhouse of a professional and B. this person that is genuinely so good and kind and motivating and optimistic. I’m just blown away and thankful that you’re here so welcome Meredith.
>> Meredith: Thank you, I’m so happy to be here and I’m excited. You know I was getting goosebumps when you were telling that story because it was almost a Godsend or a sign that we’re in the right place right now and we are going to come together and help make amazing things happen. You and I have both shared our stories which we’ll talk more about. It’s through our stories and our experiences that we help empower other people. You’re amazing too, I gave a talk for Twitter Boulder and somebody connected. They heard my story originally and connected us through that so it just goes to show you that you never know when your story or you being real and open with people is going to help others. Here we are sitting together and I’m really excited to be on this podcast so thank you so much for having me.
>> Lori: Wonderful, thanks for being here. So let’s start with the nitty gritty, let’s start with the why we’re here. What ignites you and drives you about the topic of child abuse and neglect?
>> Meredith: This is a topic that for me, I really haven’t opened up about my whole life. When I was growing up, talking about child abuse and neglect was there but it was never really something that was a conversation piece. When you talked about child abuse it was only something that was on the news that was a big deal or it was something that happened that you didn’t touch. You turned the other way, you didn’t look at it. The hardest thing for me, to go on this podcast and talk about this has taken weeks of preparation because I’m opening up a part of my life to help other people hopefully. I never thought I’d get to the point of opening up about but I want to heal and I hope that other people can heal based on my story because I was a victim and I know it’s always hard to say. I was bullied at school as well as at home by my father emotionally and verbally. It’s tough to say that because you always think in the back of your mind that’s never the case, that’s never what’s going on but when I was growing up I never felt safe. I never felt that I had a safe space whether it was at home or at school. Other people looking in always had their opinions of what was going on in my life. I just listened and kept making excuses for the behavior that was going on. I was telling myself, “this is normal, this is okay. If someone loves you they do this.” Now in my adult life I think the hardest thing is when you realize what happened was not okay and there are a lot of people that went through similar situations. People even close to me – friends, people I’ve known my whole life. We always thought that it was just something that happened but now in my adult life and the reason I’m so passionate about this topic is because it’s impacting me as an adult. The memories, the yelling, the screaming, the horrible emotions that I felt as a child. They still haunt me. It’s something that’s impacting me as an adult and my relationships close to me. With my boyfriend, for example, with other people I care about in everyday life. Feelings and things coming out of me that now I look at and I’m proud to admit I’m seeing a fantastic therapist to help me along with this because I think a lot of time we feel alone but having someone listen and hear your story and telling you that was not okay. You were a victim of childhood abuse and it doesn’t matter what type of abuse. It’s still something that if you don’t heal from it, if you don’t try to stop the cycle that’s been going on you’re never going to be able to move forward but I’m really hoping that I can not only heal myself but I want other people to know that it’s okay to talk about these things and the more we talk about, the more examples we set that it’s not okay and we never deserve that, the more people will be able to break these cycles and heal themselves. Or to spot a pattern with a friend or family member and say, “that sounds to me like abuse. It’s not okay and we need to stop it.”
>>Lori: Yes. First of all thank you for sharing your story and second of all thank you for your vulnerability because like you said, for you this is something new, being able to share. One of the hardest things about that transition from when we realize that maybe the things that happen to us weren’t ideal or acceptable. When we realize that, there is this transition that happens and a lot of times what comes with that is the pain of having to confront it, the pain of having to deal with it. The last thing I’ve found from most survivors I’ve ever spoken to, that they longed for, is to not hurt anybody the way they got hurt. So many survivors try beyond their capacity not to inflict harm onto other people because we know what it feels like to have that inner core hurt. When we share our stories, it’s almost like we become the bad guy in a sense and it’s not even about a bad guy. It just is what it is. It doesn’t mean that the people that harmed us are necessarily bad. Granted there are some people that are but that’s not what we’re here for. That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re not trying to point the finger and say, “you should have protected me or you should have done this.” That’s not it, that’s their story and their experience. It’s not about them. This is about you, this is your experience and your voice. I think that makes this so hard. What I find most beautiful about you Meredith, I didn’t know the bullying piece and that’s a whole other layer of abusive interaction that millions and millions and millions of us have experienced. Yet, like I said in the intro, I look at you and I hear you. In every conversation I’ve ever had with you, you are a model of optimism and courage and strength. How do you think that happened because so many people struggle with depression and anxiety and our own forms of fear and anger and blah blah blah, that list goes on and on. I’m not trying to say that you’re perfect. What I am saying is that you have found a way to take this thread of experience which is just one thread of your life experience and yet you did not let it take you down. You’re killing it out there in the world and maybe you can tell our listeners what you do and where they can find you on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook. I follow you on everything [laughs]. That was a loaded question with a lot of words but tell us how you do it.
>> Meredith: well I’m going to be completely honest because it’s something that is not easy. I’m a public figure. I’m a broadcast meteorologist so my job, I’m on television every single week nationally and even internationally in the Caribbean with my job that I do right now. I’m sure they’ll be some info, we’ll give you my social media. I’m on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, I am an open book. You can reach out to me, it’ll feel like you’re running into me at a grocery store. I’m happy to be here for you and I do want to put that out there that if there are people out there listening that need someone to talk to or need that positive experience I am somebody that nationally is doing her best to be that positive figure, not just for adults but for younger generations. Students, children all over the world and I say all over the world because I did a school talk for kids in China which was cool to talk to them about STEM careers and science. You know to go back to the beginning of that question I think what is the toughest for me because there’s good and bad with everything in life. What was very tough for me, I have to go on television four days a week right now and I have to be okay. I have to put a smile on every time, I have to deliver the forecast. I have to be on in addition to being on camera so I could be going through the biggest struggles, I could be feeling pain, anxiety, I could have had a horrible experience with somebody where that trauma from my childhood is starting to come back but I need to mentally clear the mechanism and go and do my job the best I can. I think that’s something that many people don’t realize. You look at people on television, you look at people in the movies and half the time you have no idea what’s going on behind the scenes so I always like to say that you want to treat people good and with respect because you never know what their struggles are. You know, there’s going to be hate and there’s going to be people out there that are not going to treat others with the same respect that they want for themselves. First off that’s not okay but the second thing is you never know, you never hear about a battle a person is facing until you hear it or you see what’s going on. For me, this experience, as hard as it was getting through and as hard as it is to talk about now, I really see the world in a completely different light. I know there are still triggers now from the trauma I went through as a child that impact my personal relationship with my boyfriend that I’m working on to be better for him as well as better for me because I’m seeing things resurface that I went through. Emotions, raising my voice for example and I have to go back afterwards and say that’s not okay, you’re doing what was done to you as a child and it’s not okay to put that on somebody else. Thankfully I have a loving and amazing partner and he is the best thing that’s happened to me. He understands, he never judges me for what I wen through. I’ve overcome so much now, I had a choice to give up or to move forward and help other people. Now I want to give a voice to those people that I’m finding within myself. I don’t want to be silent anymore. I want to be able to talk to people and say, “it’s not okay what you went through but you’re going to be okay because we can go into the worst situations of our lives and we can always find the strength and courage to stand back up.” Just like when you’re riding your bike as a kid and you fall and scrape your knee or you go out to a job interview and all of a sudden last minute it goes to somebody else and you feel like you hit rock bottom. That’s the thing, when we hit the ground and we’re at our lowest points in our life, you can only stand up and you can only get back up. I think had I not went through what I did as a child, had I not been through those traumatic experiences I wouldn’t be able to help people and I wouldn’t be able to use my platform or who I am as a person as well as a public figure to say, “I want to give a voice to this because I know what it can do.” I know there are people sitting there listening right now that have sat in silence, maybe for years, maybe for decades. I want those people to know that it’s okay. It’s your personal choice whether you want to come out with things but when you do you need to know that you’re not alone and you’ll probably be surprised by how many people will be there to support you versus how many people are going to be naysayers. To the naysayers, you just have to keep reminding yourself to say how dare you because anyone that’s not going to stand with you, you don’t need in your life.
>> Lori: Right, it’s like Rene Brown, in her presentation she did a YouTube video and I can’t remember what it’s called so I apologize for this but she says you can’t judge if you’re sitting in the cheap seats. So unless you are down in the arena with me I don’t want to hear it.
>> Meredith: I got goosebumps, I love it. Rene I love it. I need to quote you on my social media with that. That was awesome Lori.
>>Lori: Yeah, something along those lines. I butchered that but that was my favorite part of the whole thing. Like, get in the arena or don’t say anything. You know what I appreciate about you Meredith is how focused you are on others and the sensation of not being alone and being Louder Than Silence. What I find so honorable, my assumption is that you’ve felt that way. You have felt alone in your experience and I am so thankful. I only say that because for me for a long time my silence was because of isolation. My struggle and suffering was because I had to be on and I didn’t want anybody to think that I was suffering or hurting or fulfilled the idea that the assumption that people that have been through hardship are going to suffer. The reason they’re x-y-z is because of what they’ve been through. I never wanted to be that way, I wanted to be the opposite of that. I went through that and look at me. There’s also this internal pressure for me, I don’t know if you can relate to this, but to prove that I’m not what people said I was going to be feared I would be. I’m not that.
>> Meredith: Every day. Every day Lori, even when you have your good days. I know exactly what you’re saying. You don’t want to let people down, you don’t want to disappoint. You’re afraid of what people are going to say behind your back or what they’re going to think of you but at the same time you also need to remind yourself that this is my story, this is my life. I’m the only one that has to get up every single day and live my life so I need to be as good to myself as I can and not let the negative Nellys and all the hate or the people that feed on that in the world become who I am.
>> Lori: We are in it together sister, 100% so thank you. You know one last question for you. You are a musician. You can sing, I’ve watched your National Anthem. You have a voice and I’m just like, “holy smokes this girl, wow.” So tell us how that has been for you. What did singing do for you? Okay it’s two questions because I want to finish on a silly but I do want to hear about artistic expression, did that help you in your life?
>> Meredith: It saved my life. It really did because I go back to memories from childhood to high school, whether it was things I was dealing with at home or things I was dealing with at school and I always found music to feed my soul, to take me to a safer place. When I didn’t feel safe wherever I was at, music to me was that one place I knew I could go and with that God-given talent I could just go in my car, go in a room and just sing. It made me feel safe and it put me in a place where I wasn’t really afraid anymore. I think when you have something that you’re passionate about like that you need to embrace it. Anything artistic like that, whether it was singing or being involved in school, say the marching band because I played musical instruments as well. Whether it was sports, for example, I really put myself wholeheartedly into those things. Singing is something I’ve always found has been a safe place for me. I still sing, if I’m having a bad day I’ll drive to work even if it’s just an eight minute drive I’ll turn on a couple good songs in the car and I know what songs I can listen to. One of the goals for me moving forward, I can sing and I can write and I’m hoping to maybe start writing some music. I can’t play it but I’m hoping to find someone who can put notes to my song because I have stories I need to tell and I always feel like a song is telling a story in a way that is comforting sometimes, to put those words on paper.
>>Lori: So there it is, that’s a shoutout and a call to action for anybody that knows how to write music Meredith is looking for you so let’s make that dream come true [laughs]. Let’s manifest it. That’s so beautiful and I’m going to put you on the spot. We were talking about the [EndCAN event] No Dinner Dinner before we started recording our podcast because Meredith was a presenter and she orated her own experience on our 2020 No Dinner Dinner which is an online educational opportunity for EndCAN and I am going to put you on the spot to see if for 2021, it’s a Louder Than Silence event and our ask is for survivors to join us in showing their way of being Louder Than Silence, not just by orating their story but by way of their artistic expression so I’m going to ask in advance for you to sing us a song at that event on April 29, 2021.
>> Meredith: I’m in. I’m definitely in so hopefully I can find someone to help put some music to my lyrics and we’ll help make it happen.
>> Lori: So part two of that last question and that’s our final question and we’ll wrap it up which is – what is your favorite song?
>> Meredith: You and I were talking about this because I would’ve loved to get the music to perform this. It’s not my song but I remember even going back to high school, with all the challenges, the song I Hope You Dance by Lee Ann Womack. I’m getting goosebumps right now because the lyrics in that song give you hope. It reminds all of us that despite what’s going on you don’t have to be afraid. If you’re not okay there’s always going to be another day ahead you’re going to have. I hope you dance because a lot of times dancing is a way to free your soul. People who know me will probably laugh because whenever there’s a first snow or a really good snow I do my Meredith dance [laughs] to celebrate snow or that moment. I mean, if you go and look up the lyrics, I don’t know what copyrights are with this podcast otherwise I’d probably sing it for us. The lyrics, they speak to you and you know, those kind of songs, they give you hope. That was a song that even from back when I was a child, I still hear it on the radio and I start singing it at the top of my lungs. It’s good and I think people need to find that. Whether it’s that song or that story or something to remind you that you’re not alone. You can do this. If you need help, and I know I’m kind of going off the topic but I want to say this. It’s okay to get help. I am so thankful that you actually recommended to me somebody who is a fantastic therapist here in the Denver area and she is really helping me not just feel myself but also the relationships surrounding me that have been impacted by what I’ve gone through. It’s okay, we can always get better and I think that’s the thing. If you have hope, if you’re always surrounding yourself with positive people, with music, with dancing, there’s always something better around the corner and you just have to allow yourself to accept that.
>>Lori: So beautiful. So well said as well. Thank you Meredith for being here and being on our podcast, Louder Than Silence. You have been such a model for hope and possibility and truly for being Louder Than Silence. I appreciate your courage and your willingness and especially your vulnerability so it’s honorable. I know that anybody that’s listening is also very, very grateful for your words. That’s a wrap for us today on the Louder Than Silence podcast. My name is Lori Poland. Stay tuned for our next recording. We’re real people having difficult conversations about a topic that is hard to talk about but is very possible. I wish you all the best and have a beautiful day.
[Inspirational theme music plays.]
>>Lori: I want to thank each of you again for joining us today and listening in. If you or someone you know is being abused, please call 1-800-4-A-CHILD. To learn more about EndCAN, visit www.endcan.org or find us on all social media platforms. Join us in being Louder than Silence and being a part of the change. Please leave a comment, like our podcast, or share with your friends. The more the word spreads, the more of a collective impact we can have. If you have a question or you know someone who would want to be a guest on our podcast, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks again, and have a great day.