Beyond My Power

As adamant as I am about the issue of sexual violence, I feel that maybe my take on it can come off misleading.  See, because of my own history with sexual violence, it is hard for me to actually be a part of the fight.

In 2009, I had a therapist tell me to “stop watching the news.”  So, I did.  Around the time, I had become fixated on the Shanyia Davis story.  A mom sold her 5 year old daughter into sexual slavery.  The daughter was later found raped and murdered, then tossed on the side of the road, like trash.  I was dumbfounded and destroyed by this story.  It pretty much shattered my world, and I couldn’t stop following it.  How could someone do that to a child?  How could a mother do that to her own child?  I couldn’t understand it, and it made a frightening reality come to light for me: there is evil in this world, beyond my comprehension, and even with what I’ve been through, I’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg.

I wish I could tell you that when I stopped watching the news, everything got a little lighter for me.  And maybe it did, a wee bit.  Even to this day, I go online, and pick and choose headlines based on their triviality.  “Reality TV is going down the toilet–literally”  The more serious stories, I avoid.  I know enough just by the headlines.  “Police: Florida man linked to up to 1 million child porn videos, images”  The headline says enough.  I don’t need to read about this pig, and start to mull over the fact that those 1 million videos and images, mean that tens of thousands of children were forced to participate in sexual acts to make that stuff.  I know that already.  Although, maybe some people don’t.  Maybe a lot of people are completely desensitized to that stuff, and don’t even consider those children when they read a headline like that.   For them, I say: READ THE ARTICLE, and think about it.

For those of us who have survived similar experiences, I say: Don’t torture yourself.

No, I understand enough without subjecting myself to it.  I heard tidbits about the Steubenville rape case.  Enough to get a gist.  I cannot read an article about it.  I simply can’t.  Maybe this makes me a hypocrite, or maybe it makes me self-preserving, I don’t know.  All I know is, I just can’t stomach it and hold my world together.

Similarly, I write about the fight to end this stuff, because I cannot actually participate in the fight.  I’ve been on the front lines of the battle, and I know how hopeless it is there.  For those of you who can stay there and fight this battle, I thank you.  I know what it feels like to notice that the army is lacking in numbers, and that all the people at your side are survivors.  A lot of times, it is survivors like me, who cannot manage to stay and fight and hold their own lives in tact, but they fight anyway, their very livelihood falling by the wayside.  I understand that.

It feels like screaming endlessly in a sea of people, who know you’re there, but choose not to acknowledge you.

I cannot actively delve into the numerous cases of sexual violence and survive.  This is what I learned in recovery.  If I want to survive, I have to take a step back.  Sometimes, this makes me feel helpless and useless.  Most of the time, I know it is what keeps me breathing.

I learned that in recovery, but I also learned something from my relationship with God:  This battle isn’t just a physical one, or an emotional or mental one.  This is a spiritual battle too.

Now this is where my two worlds collide.  I know a lot of feminists working without God, and a lot of God-loving people, working without feminism.  For me, these two worlds are not mutually exclusive.

I cannot be out there fighting emotionally, mentally, physically, or judiciously, but I can fight like hell spiritually.

I’ve started praying feverishly on the subject of sexual violence.  I learned from my relationship with God, that the fight to end sexual violence isn’t hopeless, it just can’t be fought alone.  Human beings simply don’t have the power to end it based on the sure will of the fight.  We aren’t that powerful.  But I fully believe, that with God at our backs, this battle can be won.

I pray for the victims, that they find healing and wholeness despite their experiences.  And I pray for those who are on the front lines fighting, that they have the strength and ferocity to not back down, no matter what.  I pray for the un-listening, uncaring world, that their eyes and hearts are opened to this battle, and that they join in the fight.  I declare miracles over this battle, that it be won by the side that is good.  And I rebuke evil’s grasp on so many of us through such violence.  I declare victory against evil, and an end to sexual violence.

For those non-believers, you probably think this is useless.  But that’s ok, we all have our opinions.  Maybe prayer isn’t for you, but luckily, there are plenty of ways to join in the movement.

For those believers, I hope you’ll join me in prayer.

We have the power to end this battle.  We just have to claim it.

 

C U When U Get There

This is the first rap song I learned all the words to.  I was 13.

This isn’t the original version of the music video, but I like this edit.  Enjoy!

C U When U Get There

by Coolio

Somehow I rise above my problems and remain here.
Yeah, and I hope the picture painted clear:
If you heart filled with faith then you can’t fear
Wonder how I’ve faced years and I’m still chillin?
Easy, let go and let God deal with it.

~ T.I.

Farewell California, Hello Home

I’ve always wanted to live in California, and swore I’d never live in the midwest.   As I get older, however, I find my priorities are changing.  Over the past year, I have had the pleasure of being in a year-long season of summer, here in San Diego, California.  I couldn’t be more grateful for my time here.  I do believe I have been pretty spoiled.  The twelve step community here is vast and supportive, probably the best in the country.  The weather is almost always sunny and mild.  There are constantly resources galore at my fingertips.

IMG_2517

Coronado in all its SoCal Goodness

And now… I’m saying goodbye to it all.

For the midwest.

I came to California straight from residential treatment in Chicago.  I had 5 and a half months of treatment, and California was the place and I made a home.  I got connected right away with meetings, and built a safety net of support around me.  I have an amazing dietitian and an incredible sponsor.

As I have processed this move, I am starting to really take in all I will be saying goodbye to, and it has me asking, “is this the right choice?”

The YMCA here is incredible.  With one membership, I have access to 4 different Y’s.  They have classes like NIA and Meditative Yoga.

I can order Thai delivery.

Seriously, it is almost always sunny.  And I have a tendency toward seasonal depression.

Who would leave this?

When it comes down to it, California just isn’t a reasonable place to live, especially for those of us who are not gainfully employed.  Becoming a resident of California isn’t cheap, gas isn’t cheap, taxes aren’t cheap.

But that isn’t really why I’m leaving.

See, two years ago today, my sister gave birth to the most adorable little guy ever.  (Not that I’m biased)  She and I had been marching forward arm-in-arm in the firm resolve that neither one of us would have children, and then, as if in a single day, she changed her mind.  It wasn’t just a day actually, she gave more thought to it than I have ever seen a person reasonably consider such an option.  She did not make the choice lightly, and I respect her for that.

meeting sven

meeting Sven for the first time

When he came along, my life changed.  As I faced this baby, I faced the realization that this may be the closest I ever come to having a child.  And I wanted to be a influential part of this child’s life.

As my moods and my troubles ebbed and flowed, I was almost always tangled in my own darkness.  The October before I went into treatment, I missed a chance to visit my nephew due to being hospitalized.  I insisted that I come see him before going to treatment and my sister told me that she’d rather I not be around him at the time.  As much as it broke my heart, it was my sister’s wishes, and I respect her more than anyone.

When I was in treatment and I needed motivation, my sister and my nephew were the ones I was working to get better for.

sock monkey

my sister and my nephew

Now that I am doing well, I have the opportunity to move close to my nephew and be a full time aunt.  For him, and for the new baby, who is due in August.  🙂  I get to help raise mini-feminists! Haha…  Hey, they might not have listened if it came from a parent, but from a crazy cool aunt, maybe they’ll take in what I have to offer.  You never know.  I may never have kids of my own, but I will have a hand in raising some little beings into some incredible people.  That is invaluable.

So, I’m leaving all of the conveniences that are California, for small town life.  Part of it is a sacrifice, but mostly it is a privilege.  I’d rather be the full time aunt, than the twice-a-year aunt.  Not that there’s anything wrong with the twice-a-year aunt.  But if this is the closest I’ll come to children of my own, it is best I be vigilant.

To be honest, SoCal wasn’t a great fit for me anyway.  I’ve always been a country girl, so with the almost 4 million people in this county it is a bit crowded.  Everyone here is skinny, and hell-bent on staying that way.  Not a good place for eating disorder recovery.  And really, the weather is too warm for my taste.  I miss seasons.  And after all, who needs a YMCA membership, when you’re chasing around two little kids?  Or doing baby lifts?

I’m closing a chapter of my life and starting an incredible new one.  I’m moving somewhere I plan on staying for a while.  I’ve got a good 13 or so years before I’ll start considering a new home.  (Teenagers are a whole different ballgame!)

I may not be employed yet, but I already have a full time job: Loving Aunt.  And I plan on doing my job most diligently, and with the greatest of care.

aunt

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Do You Care?

Sexual Assault.  Do you have to go through it to care about it?

This question always arises for me every April.  I have a lot of friends who know someone with autism, and thus, support Autism Awareness month, which also happens to be April.  This year, I see that friends who know someone who’ve benefited from an organ transplant supporting organ donation.  April is also Organ Donation Awareness month.  What simultaneously inspires and disheartens me is the fact that these people know someone who have been through these things, so they support these causes.  Every one of these people, and the other 400 people on my Facebook page, know at least one person who has been sexually assaulted: me.  And yet, the only people I see supporting this cause are the people who have themselves lived through such violence.

Sexual_assault_awareness

I think this is a huge problem in our culture.  “As long as I haven’t been raped, then who cares?”  Right?  Why do I continuously find that the only people driven to stop sexual violence are those who have personally lived through it?  Is it really that hard to imagine how awful it is if you haven’t experienced it?  Do you really not care that much about the women and men in your life who have been victimized by sexual predators?

I think a lot of it has to do with the silence surrounding the issue, because it sure as hell isn’t the lack of prevalence.   1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted by the age of 18.   (Finkelhor, David, et al. “Sexual Abuse in a National Survey of Adult Men and Women: Prevalence, Characteristics, and Risk Factors.”)  Are you really going to tell me that you don’t know at least 4 women or 6 men?

No, a lot of it has to do with our silence around the issue.  Anything sexual is taboo.  You know, as long as it isn’t sexual imagery in time square, music videos, magazines, television, movies, or books.  From Fifty Shades of Grey to Abercrombie ads, sexuality is everywhere.  However, when it comes to sexual violence, we best not talk about it.  Virgin ears, and all.

abercrombie

Or maybe it is the violence part of it.  Although, I recently saw Olympus has Fallen, and it suggests Americans have an endless thirst for blood.  What’s a movie without a good knife through the head, eh?

Nah, it is just the careful combination of sexual and violence that sends people fleeing in a frenzy.

Let me be frank, you know someone, nay, you know A LOT of someones who have been sexually assaulted in their lives.  Not convinced?  Start asking around.  Your eyes might just open.  It is likely that your between your daughter, sister, best friend, mother, aunt, or cousin, at least one has been sexually assaulted.

What then is our problem with talking about it?

I venture to guess that this culture of victim-baming has a lot to do with it.  As most recently displayed in the Steubenville rape case, which has brought out the Ugly and the Brave around the issue of victim-blaming.  Keep her full of shame = Keep her silent = Let’s just pretend this stuff never happens = No one cares about Sexual Assault Awareness month, except for survivors of sexual assault.

Maybe I am being blunt, but I am personally insulted by the lack of interest around the issue.  And I expect a few more people to be displaying their teal ribbons after today.

Let me tell you, from personal experience, about the residual effects of trauma.  After it happened, I could barely sleep.  I stayed awake, alarmed by any small sound in the night.  I never felt safe.  I have yet to be able to trust men.  I have flashbacks, that feel as though I am reliving the trauma over again.  Therefore, I relive it over and over again.  My startle reflex is incredibly sensitive.  When I went to see Olympus has Fallen, I was jerking repeatedly, startled by the loud sounds.  Even a shadow on my computer screen makes me jump.  Whenever I am put into a vulnerable situation, I get disoriented and overwhelmed.  My pupils dilate, and I become sensitive to sounds.  Walking to my car in a parking lot at night, for example.  I avoid situations which might trigger these effects, such as: being around men, being by myself outside, being intimate with someone, or alone at night.  It has been years, and I am still working to undo the harm done.

I’m not saying I am not living a fulfilling life.  What I am saying is that it has taken years of hard work to get to where I can.  And what I want to impress upon you is that my case is lucky.  I’ve had a lot of resources that most people never have.  Such violence haunts a lot of people till the day they die.  It breaks their souls.  And mending a soul isn’t easy.  And even when mended, there will always be scars.

That is all I’m trying to say.  Sexual violence is an issue worth caring about.

controls our lives

Right Where I Am

 

I’m sure you’ve heard of baby steps, the small steps we make to work toward a larger goal.  It is keeping the eye on the prize, but starting with little prizes that lead us to the bigger picture.  As humorously as Bill Murray translated it, it can be a seriously helpful concept.

For me, it is a part of daily life.  Even the smallest of accomplishments can be considered a success in your journey to a greater outcome.  And after all, isn’t it said that this life is not destination, but rather, a journey?

What I really love are the people in my life who see my successes, when I see a struggle.  When I came to my sponsor, irritated with unreliable friends, she recognized a new accomplishment in this journey: I had learned what qualities I do and do not want in a friendship.  Success!  (Her perspective reminded me of the little old lady with a walker at a restaurant in NC.)

These are baby steps.

For a while, I walked around with a daily list.  That list contained 25 things that I could choose to accomplish on any given day, activities that would work toward a healthy life.  My goal, was to accomplish as many as possible during each day.  I highlighted as I went along, and could look back on each day as a success.  I had spent time that day, working toward my recovery.

You know, looking back over my years of drama, torment, depression, and darkness, I see that I always wanted to run.  All of my favorite songs were about running away.  To get where is uncertain, but I knew I didn’t want to be who I was and where I was.

Ironically, it wasn’t running that got me to where I wanted to be.  It was baby steps.  And I’m grateful that I had an opportunity to take the scenic route, because it was that growth that I want to hold onto, those moments of revelation that I want to reflect upon.  Today, I hear those songs and I cannot relate.  I can’t imagine anywhere I’d rather be than right where I am.

To illustrate my point, a baby polar bear, learning to walk:

polar-bear-learns-walk

 

My Prayer

God, I come to You humbled by the work You have done and are constantly doing in my life.  I thank You.

God, I ask that You show me opportunities daily where I can glorify You and serve others.  I ask that You give me the strength to serve You in every capacity, to step out of my comfort zone and work as Your disciple.

God, please stay always close in my mind, heart, and spirit.  You are my everything.  Help me live in such a way that my body becomes a tool to glorify and serve You.

Help me remember always that I am a new person in You, free from the bondage that used to dictate my life.  Show me also, who I am capable of being in You, and don’t ever accept less from me.  Guide me down the path that You designed for me, and help me fulfill my purpose in You.

Mold me daily into a better human being.  Help me to see others through Your eyes, and treat others with the same respect, love, and forgiveness that You have for them.

Help me stay moment-by-moment in a state of gratitude for the miracles you have performed and are performing in my life.

Help to perfect me, and help me to mature.  Give me the stability and determination it takes to accomplish even everyday, ordinary tasks consistently.  Help me to put away selfishness, stubbornness, and hard-headedness to accomplish all these things for Your glory.

Amen.

Who I Am

“I Am” by Kirk Franklin