Fear

Step 9-Making Direct Amends: My Letter to the Good Guys

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So, when step 9 came around, my sponsor suggested that I write an amends letter to men, which upon my dismay she edited it to be an amends letter to the good men out there. Conveniently enough, I never got around to it. I never made that amends. Well, as those in recovery and anyone who believes in a loving higher power can attest to, sometimes God makes you do the steps that you didn’t want to do. With the #YesAllWomen and #NotAllMen trend going around, I thought this would be a perfect time to write my amends letter to the good guys out there, so I can finally release my bitterness. So, here goes.

 

Dear Good Guys,

Hey, I guess I haven’t talked to most of you before, but I’m Noelle. I’m working the twelve steps and a part of those steps is making amends to all people we have harmed (except when to do so would injure them or others). I’m 30 years old at this point, so I guess I should make a point of apologizing to you. I apologize for generalizing you, for lumping you in with all the men that have hurt me. I was wondering the whole time where the f&%$ you were, but according to my sponsor, I can’t hold you accountable for something you did not know was happening to me, so I apologize for blaming you. I’m apologize for grimacing at you every time I walked by you. That probably wasn’t very nice of me. I apologize for assuming all men are sociopaths, when the percentage is actually significantly smaller and you were out there being a decent human being with genuine feelings and a heart for your fellow humans. To those of you I’ve gotten to know on an intimate level, I’m sorry for treating you like dirt, just because that is what had been done to me. I realize now that you, too, are human beings and I was being just as low as the men I’ve held so much resentment towards all this time. I’m especially sorry to the ones who fell into love/like with me and I ignored because I was annoyed by your “neediness.” I could’ve found a more compassionate way to handle that. Overall, I just want to say I’m sorry for being exactly like the a holes that have inspired me to build this gigantic wall around my icy, lifeless heart. From now on, I will do things differently.

Sincerely,

Noelle

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God has recently made it very clear to me that I’ve been holding on to this bitterness for dear life, and it is time to let it go. I honestly do not know how to function without it. All I have left protecting me now is Jesus Christ, and I know that will be more than sufficient, but I feel naked nonetheless. So, this is me, making amends to the good guys, and giving my dear, lovely, comforting hatred of the male species over to God. He’ll know what to do with it. Because honestly, it never has actually served me well.

Photo on 2010-07-09 at 06.35

 

 

What is God Telling You Right Now?

I have an assignment to write about what God is telling me, what God is saying to me right now. Honestly, more often than not, I have no idea. Probably because I listen to myself more than I listen to God. I have a constant narrative of selfish chaos running on loop in my brain.

For those who don’t speak Christianese, there’s this prayer saying that you hear a lot among Christ followers. “Break my heart for what breaks Yours.” Basically, we want to know what breaks God’s heart. We want to know how things going on in the world feel to God. I have prayed that prayer often.

See, sometimes people say “God hates ________.” This drives me crazy. I adamantly believe that God cannot, will not, does not hate. At all. God is love. Love can’t hate. Hate is a very strong word, and doesn’t belong in the same sentence with the word “God” unless there is a negative between the two. But sure, there is a lot in our world that HURTS God. How can there not be? God loves us so, and yet we do many awful things, the worst of which are done in the name of God.

I think a lot of “Christians” listen to themselves when it comes down to the truth about homosexuality. They’ve read the bible, and whatever trivial rules they overlook, they always highlight what it says about the issue. But when it really comes down to it, they don’t see LGBT people as human beings. They think it is a sin, and instead of seeing a human being, they see a sin. Nevermind the fact that if we were going to be going around calling people out by their sin, they wouldn’t be human beings either. 

I try to understand it, but I believe I can’t. I believe that God has placed an ache in my heart for the matter. I believe the way people treat LGBT in the name of God breaks God’s heart. We are ALL God’s children. Yes, of course, that means our LGBT brothers and sisters, but it also means the bigoted haters too.

I don’t know what God wants me to do with this knowledge. Feels quite useless, and quite frankly painful. I can’t handle the state of our world right now. In the U.S. we are quickly reverting back to the pre-civil rights movement days. And in the world as a whole, we are seeing treatment of gays that is reminiscent of the ways Jews were treated in the beginning of the holocaust. Why would any of us want to go back to that?

I’ll tell you why, because people make assumptions too much about what God is telling them. People listen to what they are told, or what comes up in their brains, and they honor it. No matter how it makes others feel, they honor it.

I want you to know that there are a large number of God’s children hurting on this planet, and there are a great many of God’s “followers” perpetuating that pain. And as much as either side sees the other as not being human beings, the fact is that they are. The fact is that both sides are just following their hearts.

I do not believe that it is okay, for any reason, to make someone feel, or to treat someone as though they are less than you. You do not know when the day will come when the shoe is on the other foot, when that will be you being thought of as less-than. As long as we’re quoting the bible, remember that it says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” (Matthew 25:40)

So, as long as your making any human being feel less than, you best heed their concerns of maltreatment. For however you treat them, is how you are treating your God.

And quit telling yourself that you are treating them with love. You are not. They do not feel loved by you. I can guarantee you, that is the last thing they feel.

So, what is God telling me right now? What God is telling me right now, is that God is hurting. That these things hurt God. And I believe that the magnitude of God’s pain far exceeds mine, but this pain is breaking me.

Now, what is He telling me to do about that? I have no idea. Because the situation feels, quite frankly, hopeless. I don’t feel like there’s anything I can do about it. Surely, there is something God could do about it, but short of intervening upon free-will, I haven’t a clue. So, I’ll just keep going on in my daily life, waiting for some great revelation about how to fix the world’s problems.

You take that whatever way you will. I’m pretty sure that this post will piss off either side in one way or another, so I actually hope no one reads it.

It Really DOES Get Better

Take it from someone who has been there, it really does get better.

For those of you who don’t know the It Gets Better Project all started in 2010 when Dan Savage, in response to a rising number of suicides linked to bullying, made a youtube video with his partner to inspire hope for young people facing harassment.

The It Gets Better Project’s website says: “The It Gets Better Project’s mission is to communicate to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth around the world that it gets better, and to create and inspire the changes needed to make it better for them.”

The idea is great, but I also believe it is universal.

It doesn’t just apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, nor victims of bullying or high school students.

Whoever finds this post and is struggling:  It really DOES get better.  I promise.

I’ve recently been following the heartbreaking story of Rehtaeh Parsons, a young woman who was raped, then bullied until she decided to take her own life.  I wish this message had found her.  Because it does get better, even for those of us who have lived through the most devastating, terrifying, and degrading form of violence there is.  Even for Rehtaeh, it could’ve gotten better.

I’m in tears as I write this, because I didn’t make it to this conclusion for lack of trying to kill myself.  I had two life-threatening attempts, but somehow lived to know that these things come out on the other side.

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the light at the end of the tunnel

Life isn’t as hopeless and painful as it can, at times, feel.  I know there is plenty of pain to be felt, and despair to be trudged through, but I know something else too.  I know that as dark as it can get, it can get that much brighter.  I know that these feelings that consume, even they will fade away and make place for new ways of feeling.

I used to be so certain that the darkness would last forever.  For me, it was a good 28 years or so before the clouds started to part and make way for light.  I can look at that time now and understand what growth came from it.  I know that I am that much stronger because I went through it.  And I see now how my experience can benefit others.

That’s everything this blog is about.

Sometimes, in my darkest moments, I had a twinge of hope that kept me alive, even when I wanted so badly to die.  My hope plagued me, because it seemed to work against all the hurt I knew in my life.  I just wanted to let go, and sometimes, I did.  But I know something about that nagging particle of hope still imbedded somewhere deep within.  It was a glimpse.  It was a glimpse at what could be.  And for me, what now is.

I wish Rehtaeh could’ve known this.  There are so many people out there right now, who I wish could know this.  I don’t even know your names.  I didn’t even know Rehtaeh, but right now, I cry for her like she was a dear friend.

If you’re looking for some shred of hope, a reason to stay alive, I pray the words of this stranger can be that for you.

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clouds parting, making way for light

I don’t believe suicide is selfish or wrong, because I know it is not an act entered into lightly.  I know the despair it takes to bring you to that decision.  But it cannot be an option, because your life has worth, and meaning, even if you don’t believe it.  The anguish doesn’t become extinct through your death, it is simply passed on to others.  To those you loved most.  No, the anguish is defeated only through living a meaningful life.  Through sharing your struggles with others.  Through finding your joy.

None of us are as alone as we sometimes feel.

It may feel like it is taking to forever to get there.  But you WILL get there.  It may feel like more than you can bear.  But you CAN bear it.  You may think no one understands, but I do. You may think this darkness is all you will ever know, but you will live your fair share of joy as well.

It really DOES get better.  I promise.

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 IF YOU ARE IN CRISIS, CALL: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Contact the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for more resources.  

Plenty of people are waiting to help you at any time.

Step 9: Making Amends

I finally reached step 12.  Although, steps 9-12 are an on-going process.  Nine is making amends.  Ten is taking a daily inventory, and admitting when you’re wrong.  Eleven is working toward a conscious contact with God, through prayer and meditation.  Twelve is helping others the way you have been helped.

I have worked all twelve steps, but these last four, I will still be working daily.

To be honest, I’m writing this blog post as encouragement to myself, prior to making more amends.  I’ve made an effort to do two so far, but going back to where I’m from is going to give me an opportunity to make a lot of amends with a lot of people.  Most of these, I am glad to do.  An apology for all of these people is long overdue.

There are a few, however, that I am scared to approach.  I’m sure a lot of people face at least one that they are hesitant to do.

See, the process is one of humility.  We admit that we were wrong, even in the cases where the other had a hand in it as well.  It isn’t our place to expect an apology from them.  We  are only responsible for our wrongdoings.  It is our chance to do what we can to clean up the mess we have left in our destructive wake.

Through the process of our inventory, we started to become humbled by finally facing head-on, the harms we had caused others.  The amends continues to humble us, but also empowers us.  It is our chance to clean the slate, and an opportunity to do things differently next time.  Finally, we can do all in our power to right our wrong, even though time cannot be rewound and actions cannot be undone.  It is a powerful step.

I’m hoping you all will pray for me in this process, that I will have the strength to do even the hardest ones, completely and with compassion.

This isn’t going to be easy, but I do hope it will help me in my work toward being a better person, and living a more fulfilling life.

Surviving Elementary School

“Seeds of faith are always within us; sometimes it takes a crisis to nourish and encourage their growth.”           ~Susan Taylor

I don’t typically watch the news.  I have a computer and a T.V. without cable, or even basic access.  I stick to Netflix, and I get my teeny bit of “news” from Philip Defranco, on YouTube.  That’s about as much as I can take.  In 2009, I had a therapist tell me to stop watching the news.  I took her advice.  I had, at the time, become overwhelmed, baffled, and distraught over the Shaniya Davis story.

I couldn’t understand how, someone could do that to their daughter.  I couldn’t understand how someone could do those things to a 5 year old.  I was starting to drown in a sea of headlines and news reports of just how evil this world is.

And it is true.  This world can be a very evil place.

I have spent a good chunk of the past few years overwhelmed by an issue that the rest of the world seems underwhelmed about: sexual violence.  Such violence is beyond an epidemic in our world, and repeatedly, our response is victim blaming, and sweeping it under the rug.  It makes me cringe to know that 1 our of 4 girls, and 1 out of 6 boys will be the victims of sexual abuse by the age of 18.  How do people walk around in their own little bubbles, oblivious of something so heinous?

I don’t know, they just do.

In some of the work I have done, I have teamed with people who had similar experience and ambition, wanting to do something on the matter.  What have I found?  That there are victims out there working toward solving a problem, without even having dealt with the issue in their own lives.  It is like someone with a still gaping and bloody bullet wound trying to fight for gun control.

First, you need to address your own trauma.

The hard part is, no one else is stepping forward to solve the issue.  All of those people who’ve never had to suffer through the trauma have no interest in dealing with something so dark and ugly.

This is just what I have found.

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I look around me, and I see people becoming passionately driven about the issue of guns and asking themselves, “what could of we have done to prevent the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012?”

I would never venture to claim that this question is not important, pertinent, or should not be asked.  I do, however, think that it is too soon to be torn apart by these issues.  Our hearts are still breaking from what happened, and the details that continue to unfold.  Our stomachs are still twisted by what the children of Sandy Hook must’ve witnessed that day.  Chills are still shooting down our spines to imagine what evil it takes to commit such an act.

How have we allowed this to lead to a divide?  What the survivors need right now, is a community to come together in support around them.  They certainly have a long, tough road ahead of them.

Repeatedly, through the past several years we have witnessed tragedy and allowed it to, even for a short time, bring us together in mourning and solidarity.  For the first time in my life, I have witnessed the opposite happen.  That is what breaks my heart now.

I think ALL of us will agree that something has to be done to attempt to prevent these massacres from happening again, no matter what side you’re on.  What that “something” looks like will start to materialize as we work on the matter.  I trust that.

At this point, I don’t care what that “something” is just yet.  I am still far too stricken with grief to start thinking strategy.  Am I alone in this?

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I look at the faces of the victims, and my throat starts to tense.  I hear their stories, and my eyes are filled with tears.  I cannot look at December 14th with a hard heart.  I find peace in my belief that these children are safe and happy now.  I find strength in the stories of heroism in the adults that fought for these kids with their very lives.

I remember too, those who survived, and I give them this message: you can overcome your trauma and live a fulfilling life.  This may be a struggle, but it does not have to defeat you.  This dark moment in your lives can become a place of strength, and a place of motivation.  You are in the thoughts and prayers of so many, and we will still have your hands when the heavy realization hits you of just how blessed you are to have faced and survived a trial that many will never even have to face.

To the rest of us, I say: stand down.  This is not a fight.  We are worn and we are weary.  We have faced far too much as a country this year.  Yes, we must address this issue, but please, for God’s sake, can we take a moment to grieve first?

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To all of us, I plead:  Do not let this destroy us.  We will march forward and we will advocate for the changes necessary to prevent such tragedy in the future, but first allow yourselves to grieve.  Before you stand up to fight, address your own trauma.  Make sure that when your time comes, when your voice rises, that you are in a place where you are strong enough to argue your side.  So many times, I have seen angels fall short here, and lose the drive to carry on.  We can heal.  We can overcome.  But first, we must grieve.

A heart must finish breaking before you can begin to mend it.

It is true that this world can be an evil place, but what is also true is that each of us has the ability to contribute to the good.  If you are going to pour fervently into this world, be sure that what you are pouring is positive.

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Resources:

Post Traumatic Growth

NY Times PTSD Article

A Little Old Lady With A Walker Once Taught Me…

One afternoon, I was sitting with my mother on a bench at the front of one of those cafeteria restaurants.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been to one of those, but the elderly seem to frequent them.  The food is awesome and affordable, and the only downside is having to wait in a (sometimes very long) line for your food.

Anyway, as we were sitting there, a little old lady with a walker started walking into the restaurant.  Right behind her, a woman was pushing an elderly relative in a wheelchair.  She must’ve been unable to see how far away the lady with the walker was, because she accidentally hit the little old lady in the back of her ankles.  As the lady stumbled, I watched with horror, unable to figure out what I could do, and afraid that she was about to fall to the ground.  Though the lady stumbled, she did not fall.  She was startled, but caught her breath, and walked on.

As she was stumbling, something stood out to me.  Not knowing whether or not she was bound to impact against that floor, every step she took, she said “Thank you, Jesus!  Thank you, Jesus!”  That struck me as bizarre.  I remember leaning over to my mom and whispering, “If she almost fell, why would she be thanking Jesus?”  My mom’s answer was simple, but powerful, “I guess because she didn’t fall.”

At the time, I thought, wow that’s really stupid.  I mean she almost just fell, I would be pissed at that lady who almost knocked me over!!!

My, how time changes us.  When I look back now at that powerful, teachable moment I’m amazed by that woman’s response.  I almost envy it now.  I think wow, what a positive perspective to look at something like that and see the good in it.

I think we could all learn a lesson from that little old lady with a walker.

All I used to look at was the negative.  Something small wouldn’t turn out my way, and my whole LIFE was OVER!  Such drama.  All I could see around me were the things that were going wrong.  All I could have seen, had I been in that old lady’s shoes, was the fact that some reckless lady who doesn’t know how to push a wheelchair almost plowed me over.  I’m a defenseless old lady, I would think.  How could she?! 

angry old lady

How often we look at something and lament over what didn’t go well.

How little we look at a stumble, and rejoice in the fact that we didn’t fall.

It is my prayer for myself and for all of us, that we become a little more like that old lady.

Tonight, on my way home from the gym, I stopped at a red light.  Suddenly, there was chaos right in front of me.  Two cars almost hit each other, and then neither one could decide who should drive away first.  In a fury of frustration and anger, the driver in one of the cars threw up his hands, beat his steering wheel, and spit furiously what I can only assume were violent expletives.  There were two cars who almost hit each other, and the drivers were enraged by the series of events.  Two cars that almost hit each other, almost.

Safe, with both cars still in tact, they drove away cursing the universe for the negative thing that just happened, never seeing the pain from which they had just been spared.

How can we let one small unpleasant event dictate our days, or even our lives?

How can we overlook all of the little successes and blessings, thinking nothing of them?

That little stuff we’re overlooking… that’s the powerful stuff.

I look back on that small event at a cafeteria restaurant in North Carolina with gratitude.  At the time, it seemed like nothing, but it stayed lodged in my memory through a lot.  I am grateful that I can look back at that moment now and understand what that lady was thinking when she thanked Jesus repeatedly as she stumbled.

Wow!  Thank God I didn’t fall!  I may have stumbled, but I didn’t fall!

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Staring Down the Pink Elephant

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” –Mother Theresa

On March 27, 2011, my life officially changed in an incredibly dramatic way.  I stayed for hours after church, hesitant to go home, and hesitant to make a commitment.  I stared back and forth at the pulpit and the exit, long after the service had ended and everyone, except for 2 friends and myself, had gone home.  Every time I looked at the doors, as much as I didn’t want to admit it, face it, or act because of it, I knew if I walked out those doors without God, I would die.  The pain was like a wrench in my gut, twisting with the thought of making that decision.  I didn’t want to lose myself, and as much as I felt like I wanted to die in that moment, I knew the truth was that I wanted to live.

I had stayed after service, hurling questions and arguments at the pastor, who mostly left it up to me, to look inside myself for the answers.  He knew that nothing he could say was going to be easily accepted by me.  And this had been the truth since the moment I had first stepped into this crowd of people who would become my family.

When the moment finally came, it was almost midnight.  In the following weeks, I would buy a little plaque that said “Even miracles take a little time” from the disney film Cinderella.  Without knowing what I was diving into, I dove, because I realized that if I wanted to live, I didn’t have a choice.

That night, I made a commitment to follow God, to be His faithful servant, to become the person He wanted me to be, and live the life He wanted me to live.  It wasn’t an instantaneous transformation.  It took time, and I fought.  I fought everyone around me, and I fought with God himself.  Quite violently, I might add.

The fact of the matter is, though, that I don’t take commitments lightly.  If I say that I am going to do something, I do it.

In the months that have followed, the transformation has taken over, and my life doesn’t even resemble what it looked like a year ago.  I am living in a different home, city, and state, with different friends, a different church, a different perspective, and a different way of living.

When I opened my mind to a church that truly conveyed a life modeled after that of Christ, it was a battle.  I always had this concept “well, if they really followed Christ, it would look like this…”  The difference was, this church actually embodied that.  Did I cut them any slack because of it?  Ohhhhhh no, definitely not.  I gave them hell for dragging me there.  I sat on my seat, arms crossed, scowl painted firmly on my face.  When they sang, I didn’t move.  When they greeted each other, I didn’t move.  Did that make a difference?  No.  They treated me, from the very first moment, like I was family, and that never wavered, even when they learned of our differences.

I wish I could say that churches like that are common, but they are the minority.

I came in with all of my doubts and anger.  I was drowning in resentments of what churches had done to me and my loved ones for years and years.  I hurled this resentment toward these innocent people with my laser beam death stare, and they never once treated me differently.

Eventually, I had a realization.  I expected these people not to judge me.  That is what real Christians would do.  But what about me?  Shouldn’t I be willing to do the same for them?  Why was I taking out all of this resentment on people who had never harmed me.  I judged them before I had a chance to walk through the door, accusing them of judging me.  That was my hypocrisy wake up call.  I had to give them a chance, if I expected that of them.

So, I did.

“Do not condemn the judgement of another because it differs from your own. You may both be wrong.”  –Dandemis

That is when I realized that they were actually everything I had always thought churches should be.

Go figure.

I wish I could say that the judgments stopped from that moment, but as I have grown in my faith, I have noticed the other side of my friend pool shift.  They don’t directly tell me they hate me, but they definitely are weirded out and leery of this change in me.  As though the fact that my newfound relationship with God gives me a reason to live, just isn’t a good enough excuse.  I have, as of late, felt incredibly judged by a lot of my friends who are atheist or agnostic.  They are immediately on the defense with me, as though I am going to show up on their doorstep with a pamphlet.  As much as I understand that feeling, I don’t understand it coming at me.  I am not suddenly a horrible person because I believe differently.  I have started to realize that I feel far more judged now than I ever did when I was spiritually ambiguous.  The funny part is that, though I do have some strong specific beliefs, I am still spiritually ambiguous in a lot of ways.  And as for the current religious/political blur, none of my political beliefs have changed.  In fact, I would say I stand stronger in my political beliefs than I did before, because I believe that, although they are not the norm in my spiritual community, they have been distinctly placed on my heart for a reason.

I guess that, although so much of my life has changed, the only parts of me that have changed were the parts no one wanted here in the first place.  I am not destructive anymore.  I am not as selfish.  I am working hard to live a productive life.  I stay focused on ensuring that I am being kind to myself and to others.  I am learning balance.  I am implementing self-care.  I am capable of so much more.  I am grateful for each day, and I genuinely want to live it.

So yeah, something HUGE changed, but it didn’t change my heart.  My heart is in the same place, I am just learning how to put it into action.  I am learning to act upon the passions that have driven me all this time, and to grow and heal so that I am capable of doing that work.

So this is for those of you out there who think I have been brainwashed or suddenly became incredibly stupid.  This is not the case.  I heard that your IQ starts declining at 25 anyway, so maybe that part is true.  I’m just not the asshole I used to be.  And the truth is, that I am thankful for all of my friends.  For those who do not need a God to give their lives meaning, I do not judge.  I have learned in AA that living a life without a higher power is just a prerogative that some of us do not have the luxury of indulging in.  I need God to take a step further in this life, to march on.  The passions I have for change to come about in this world, are not efforts that I can make alone.  I will surely need God behind the work I want to do for our world in order to make it a safer, more beautiful place for each and every one of us to thrive.

I don’t plan on apologizing to my spiritual community for my political beliefs, and I don’t plan on apologizing to my political community for my spiritual beliefs.  I am going to march forward living in the way that I feel God guide me.  And you two groups can sort that crap out amongst yourselves.

That’s all.

“We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation.  It’s the one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.”  

–Paulo Coelho