Leadership on the Exhale Talkline

posted December 20, 2017

I used to think transitions were scary. If this past year has taught me anything, it’s that they can come at you from several directions and turn everything upside down. For that reason, I was surprised when I looked back on my time as an Exhale talkline counselor to find that I had gone from a passive member of society, to a fierce supporter of those voicing the muddy and complicated emotions attached to abortion experiences.

When I think of leader-full transitions, a couple things come to mind. I think of the leadership at Exhale, who had a significant hand in the development of us as counselors. Their support is unwavering and their encouragement has lifted me up from the most difficult calls. I also think of the callers, who are leading the way in the work that we do. With every call I take, I’m amazed at their strength, bravery, and willingness to talk about some of the most painful and intimate experiences of their lives. They're the ones leading the way in how we shape the conversation around abortion.

I’ve learned over the past year that the work of a talkline counselor is firmly rooted in facing transitions head on. Every single call I’ve received shows me that it’s possible to move from fearfully suppressing feelings to healthily expressing them; from believing you can’t speak about your abortion experiences to finding an unstoppable voice; from holding space for self-doubt to creating space for self-care.

During these conversations I often hear a change in the caller’s voice when they start to listen to what their heart is saying -- sometimes it comes as a quiet realization and other times it’s a crashing epiphany. No matter how it happens, it’s clear the pro-voice movement is working and that callers realize that they are the leaders in their lives and experiences.

Because of the training I received through Exhale, and my experience bearing witness to major transitions in the lives of others, I’ve come to realize that transitions don’t have to be scary. Sometimes they’re life-changing. I now see that what I thought was a simple volunteer position has actually woken my soul. Perhaps learning to change the way we talk about abortion can lead to revolutionary conversations outside the talkline. The one apparent thread that makes each transition survivable is the presence of leadership in some form or another.

I hope you’ll join me in investing in Exhale’s leader-full transition, and in their work in the pro-voice revolution that is changing the way conversations about abortion happen. Your donation will ensure that future counselors like me will continue to be trained to make space for the voices of people with abortion experiences.

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