A Heart Without Fear

A Heart Without Fear: Cynthia Smith’s Perseverance Story

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Cynthia Smith woke up and looked out her car window. She checked the clock. Her three children needed breakfast and a place to wash up. And if she didn’t figure things out quickly, the kids were going to be late for school.

After fleeing an abusive marriage, Smith and her children had been sleeping in her car on and off for months. It never got easier and she soon reached the end of her rope. The fear of being discovered by schools or co-workers gnawed at her thoughts like the sound of ceaseless traffic. She was just tired–tired of pain, tired of disappointment, tired of fear. But in her most difficult moments, the words of the grandparents who raised her slipped into her mind like whispers from the back seat: “You gotta do what you gotta do to keep yourself afloat. Just. Keep. Going.” Smith now says, “Whenever things seem to go sideways, or when I can’t see light at the end of the tunnel, I think: ‘What would my grandparents say? How would they handle this?’”

From an early age, Smith lived with her grandparents because her mother chose not to provide her with the safe, loving environment every child needs. But when her grandparents passed, Smith was left without a support system. And when her husband began abusing her physically, emotionally, and financially, she felt she had no way to get out of the relationship.

She endured the agony for seven years, until one morning, when Smith was cooking breakfast, her husband came downstairs and into the kitchen–angry that his wife was feeding the children before him. He picked up a skillet, and came toward her. This time, something inside Smith snapped. “He was going to hit me with a skillet in front of the kids,” she recalls. “And I thought, ‘That’s it.’ I ran over to his gun rack and pulled one out. I told him to put the skillet down and leave. Now.” With only moments to grab her children and escape, she ran through the Wisconsin woods, to her neighbor’s house. The local shelter helped Smith and her kids into hiding for a month before they left the state. “It was horrible. He threatened to kill me if I ever left, and I believed him,” she says. “Even after we got out, I had no one to turn to.”

Smith reached out to her mother, something she hadn’t done in years. Looking to start life anew, at the safe distance of California, she was hopeful when her mother invited her to stay. “The little girl inside you always hopes your mother’s going to be there for you,” she says. But after a few months, Smith’s mother threw all of her and the kids’ belongings out onto the driveway. They were back in the car. Once again, Smith remembered her grandparents’ words of wisdom.

“They always told me: ‘Don’t be afraid of nothin’ little girl. You’re bigger than anything,’” Smith recalls. “Fear had been crippling me. That’s what happened in my relationship. That’s why I moved in with my mom. But that was it. I found the strength within myself, and I took control. I refused to let fear control me any longer.”

Slowly, Smith began to rebuild her life. She worked tirelessly, fearlessly until she could provide a roof over her family’s heads, food on its table, and she could keep a stable job. Today, Smith is an esteemed clinical esthetician at The Ivy Day Spa in Valencia and an influential force in the skincare industry. Her intelligence, strength of character, and ultimate transcendence of extraordinarily challenging circumstances have inspired all who know her. “Life is an abundance–a bounty of love,” Smith says. “But you gotta take the blinders off. Open your mind and open your heart. Think highly of yourself. Tell yourself, ‘I got this.’ There’s enough for you in this life.”

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