I Still Have a Story to Tell
This is the first time I have written in my blog in quite a while. It seems that over the past few years, I have been learning how to live and how to implement everything I have learned from time in treatment. I was so focused on learning how to live, that I made little time for writing.
As I am writing this, a pandemic is spreading across the world. It is taking even medically advanced countries to their knees. Many are in fear and desperation. In some countries, dead bodies are piling up faster than they can be buried.
A little about me, I have a lot of both mental and physical health diagnoses. I have asthma, and a chronic version of the Epstein-Barr virus (the virus responsible for mononucleosis), which leaves me immunocompromised. I have learned that last bit just this year, when the illness left me sick twice, after training for big races. I am a runner. I lost 115 pounds in 2016, and started running after. I started small and have since run 4 half marathons (13.1 miles) and 1 ultramarathon (50k-31 miles). I learned over the past year that running these distances was a trigger for the illness, and had to make the decision to stop. Although my distances now top out at 6 miles, I do continue to run, despite the illness. And I am doing everything I can not to allow the illness to take running from me entirely. I do a lot daily to ensure that my body is in peak physical health, including a wealth of supplements, drinking both 67 oz of water and including electrolytes, and getting all of my fruits and veggies and also whole grains, as well as meditating to reduce stress. I do all I can so as to best equip my body to fight something that periodically attacks my system for no particular reason.
This new pandemic is especially tough on the elderly and the immunocompromised, or those with underlying heart and lung conditions. I am all of these, except elderly. I started paying attention to what was going on with the virus when it first began, and I have followed the developments closely, until the virus arrived at our doorstep. We, the United States, are amongst the last to be inundated with this horrible virus. And unfortunately, our government and our health care system are ill-equipped to deal with any of it. Our people are, regrettably, also obstinate and definitely not the brightest crayons in the box.
I started warning people early on, and no one listened. I was laughed at and ridiculed, called negative and alarmist. But I knew I was right, and it wouldn’t take long for them to know that. I also knew they would learn most tragically.
Right now, the population is split between people heeding the warning, and those ignoring it. We are all waiting to get sick, basically. Some won’t believe it until we do.
I made my regular Friday trip to my favorite grocery store, and the scene was insane. I’d never seen anything like it. By the time I was done, I was certain that while I had not been exposed to the virus prior to that trip, I most certainly had in the grocery store. I cried for my 45 minute trip home, thinking I was probably about to start the last of only two healthy weeks I had left in my life. Even now, the thought brings me to tears. I thought a lot of things. “How do I want to spend it?” “How do I make the most of it?” “Do I loaf around and eat whatever I want? Or work hard to equip my body for this fight?” “I want to make sure I run as much as I can.” “I want to find the beauty in all I can. All the little things we take for granted everyday.”
But of all the things that crossed my mind, one stood out the most. “I wish I had written more” The thoughts that followed were, “I still have so much I want to say. I have to say everything I can while I still have time. I have to write.”
That last realization struck me the hardest. Of all the time I wasted, when I could’ve been telling my story, and all that I’ve learned. What if I don’t have enough time now to say everything I want to say? I told my sister that if I do survive this virus, that moment will be my greatest gift. I had not even realized that was how I felt until I truly believed my life was about to end.
So, that is why I am here. I am starting now. I made a daily schedule for quarantine, and this is a part of it. Thank you for joining the journey.
On the Wildly (Un)popular Subject of Racism…
If this title made you cringe and roll your eyes, I dedicate this post to you.
In recent months, I have both read and listened to the literary arsenal of Brené Brown. I have devoured every word she has said and taken it all to heart. I find what she has to offer in Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone most universally relevant in our current political climate, however, it was everything else she has written on shame and vulnerability (similarly wildly unpopular subjects) that I found most relevant to tackling the difficult subject of racism.
Perhaps, because I read (and reread) Braving the Wilderness first, I started to think critically about the political tactic of dehumanization, and face the agonizing truth that both sides are equally culpable of this. This meant, as thoroughly opposed as I was to admitting this, I was just as guilty of dehumanization as the people I dehumanized for dehumanizing others. (Did you get that?)
Point is, I started to realize that you can’t dehumanize a group because you think they are the ones who deserve it. Because both sides thinks the other one deserves it. I had to face the truth that all peoples are just humans, trying their hardest to make it in a terrifying world. And admit that we are all capable of both good and bad. The only real monsters are sociopaths, and truth is that even now, they are pretty rare.
For a couple of years now, I’ve been coming to grips with the pain and divisiveness enveloping the world. As someone in recovery, I had to address, on a national and global scale, what exactly I was capable of changing. Where is my power? How can I make things better? We have to recognize our powerlessness in order to find our power. I cannot control governments. Fixating on the news cripples me from acting. We are so consumed by the powerlessness that we forget there is anything within our power at all.
I started to realize that my journey towards bettering the world had begun when I worked on myself. I started to realize that I impact, on a daily basis, those I talk to or cross paths with. People hear my words. They see my Facebook posts. They see what I do for my community and for myself and others. They are touched by small acts of kindness. I have an impact, one person at a time. I can choose to spread love, hope, and joy; or I can choose to spread anger, pain, or divisiveness.
This is what I came up with in the journey: LOVE. It sounds of the utmost absurdity to everyone screaming at each other and ready to fight, but truth is our power is in love. I had a friend fight and abandon me on this. And when she told me every horrible thing she could possibly think of about me, and why it made me a horrible human being, I simply told her that I understood she was going through a lot and that I loved her anyway. The only response she could muster before walking out of my life was, “I love you too.”
Right now, as much as we want to take up our weapons and go at each other’s throats, the MOST disarming thing you can do to oppose your opponent, is simply to love them.
Look them in their hateful eyes and tell them you love them anyway.
When it comes to the difficult subject of racism, I have experience with both sides of the coin. I am half Mexican. To the world, I am white. You cannot look at me and tell that I am even the least bit Mexican and as a result, I have sailed through life as a white woman, without the racists having a single clue. I have benefited from white privilege and in the years since becoming aware of it, I have wrestled with what I can do about it.
This is where Brené Brown helped me find my power.
Having placed racism into the frame of shame and vulnerability, I have realized quite a bit. And I wanted to share it, specifically for the white people out there, aware or unaware of their own racism, so that it can help us tackle an issue that is most largely ours to tackle.
I, very specifically, remember what I was taught about racism in elementary school. I was taught about the painful history of racism and that we are all equal, and the the color of our skin is irrelevant. And that, my friends, was where the conversation ended. And that, my friends, is where white people would like to leave the conversation. But ah, there is so much more too it.
In recovery, we learn about the peeling away of the layers of an onion. In the beginning, it also seems as simple as getting sober. But getting sober is just the first step. There is so much more work to be done if you are to STAY sober. Truth is, getting sober is but a small step in an ongoing journey of endless work. Self-betterment is not a destination, it is a journey, that we take one-step-at-a-time…. one unlearned negative way of coping at a time.
Our level of education on racism in school was “Racism bad. Colors good. The end.” Problem is, the story ended there… for white people. People of color are finding their voices and saying, “Oh, but there is so much more.” And the large response to that has been, *plugging ears* “la la la la la I don’t want to hear you, my teacher said ______ and teacher is always right.”
The problem with how it was taught, aside from no perspectives of people of color being included in the telling, was that there is so much more to the story than this. You cannot cover it in February and leave it at that. For fuck’s sake, February is the shortest month of the freakin’ year!!!!
I started to realize, reading Brené Brown, that we are dealing with an issue of very deep shame. The only thing white people were taught is that racism is bad. Developmental psychologists are starting to realize the deeply debilitating impact that being called “good” or “bad” can have on a child. It is inextricably linked to shame. The majority of racist people are hard working people trying their best to be good people. So, if you tell them that they are taking part in something as shameful as racism, the response is uninhibited rage or flat out denial. They are hearing that everything they were taught was wrong, and they crumble under the weight of shame. But at the end of the day, all they hear is the worst thing a child can hear, “You. Are. Bad.”
I’m sure if you pose this to anyone who claims to not be racist, they’d deny it. Brown talks endlessly about people who talk to her claiming shame or vulnerability doesn’t apply to them. And again and again, she reiterates that these two things are UNIVERSAL Everyone experiences them.
I learned very early on that you do not appeal to someone who is delusional, by simply telling them their delusions are delusions. That can, in fact, make their entire reality dissolve, which can lead to a total downward spiral.
So, let’s address real quick the “Racist=bad” and “Not racist=good” dichotomy. Here’s the thing, those equations simply equal to “Not white=good” and “white=bad,” and let me explain why. There is not a white person on this planet who has not partaken in or benefited from the system of racism. There is no such thing as a non-racist white person. It doesn’t exist. There are only those who are aware of their racism, and those who are not. Those who are actively seeking a solution, and those who are not. In the current national conversation, there is only the racist/not racist binary. While I am sure, as a result of the frustration stemming from obliviousness of white people, some don’t see a problem with the second set of equations I listed, my opinion on that was back in my paragraph on dehumanization.
Let’s all try to find our power here.
Being told you’re partaking in racists things is not an attempt to say, “You’re a bad person.” Its an attempt to say, “There’s more to this story. The ones who’ve experienced it should be the ones teaching about it.”
Whenever anyone asks me about the traumatic experiences of another person, I simply reply with, “That’s not my story to tell.” I would not want someone else explaining what happened to me when I was raped. No one else knows what I went through. No one else knows how it made me feel. I get my voice and my power back, when I tell my story. It is my healing, and no one else has that right.
And for years, white people have been the ones teaching about racism. But how would a white person know?
All I know is what happened to my grandmother, the history that was passed to my dad. I know how racism affected her, because she told my dad, and he has told me. And I will keep her story alive. It not only wrecked her life, but the lives of my father, aunts and uncles, and cousins, brothers, and sisters. The trauma she went through played out in her alcoholism, which in turn affected them, and now affects me.
That is how racism or terrorism or abuse work. The impact lives on for generations. THIS is why this is still important. This is why, in 2019, slavery is just as relevant of a subject as when it happened. The impact did not end with the slaves or the slave owners. Families are still reeling from the impact.
But do I have firsthand experience of racism? No, I do not. I cannot tell this story. All I know is the impact its had on my family. All I know is what I was taught and what I’m still learning.
There is nothing, I mean NOTHING, more rage-inducing, for me, as a victim of violence than to not have my voice heard. If you want to see me turn red fast, silence me, talk over me, address me like you know my story better than I do. I can go from 0 to 100 faster than a candle flickers if you do these things. So, take that into consideration if you are a white person who denies the experiences of a person of color. The most healing thing you can do for someone is to listen. Or, as they say in the recovery world, “take the cotton out of your ears, and stick it in your mouth.”
White people, this is a call to action, a call to vulnerability. Yes, realizing you are culpable of racism is a deeply painful and shameful feeling, but it doesn’t have to be disempowering. I’ve grappled in my years since coming to understand racism, and coming to understand what I’m capable of changing in this world, how the two work together. I’m living proof that change is possible. Brené Brown has taught me to challenging my fear of vulnerability spits in the face of shame. The only way to combat the shame of realizing your racism is to get working on vulnerability.
You are vulnerable when you admit you’ve benefited from these systems. That’s a success! You are vulnerable when you listen to the stories of people of color, without the need to say something. That’s a success! You’re vulnerable when you see something racist happening, and you challenge it, despite the risk. That’s a success! You’re vulnerable every time you get a chance to say to a white friend, “listen, you said something the other day that I want to talk to you about.” Its a scary thing, especially when you’re committed to maintaining a relationship, or paralyzed by people-pleasing, to have a compassionate talk with someone about what you’ve learned about racism, but the main thing missing from the conversation on racism is compassion and empathy.
Here’s your chance to change that.
Because truth is, you’re a part of this conversation whether you want to be or not.
Dying to Wake Up The Child Within
Saturday, September 22, was the 3 year anniversary of when I was raped… most recently. Let me explain. This was not the first time. I have a long history of surviving these experiences, starting as early as the ages of 3 and 5. And this is not uncommon. Many people, especially those who started their lives as victims, are victimized again. Predators have a keen sense of who would be a good victim, and those who were victimized in their formative years know no other way of being. It has taken nearly a decade of intense therapy to unlearn the things that I was taught as a child victim.
I hear a lot of people substitute the word “survivor” in place of “victim.” In the years that you are just surviving, this is very accurate. You’re a victim when it happens, and a survivor in whatever you do afterwards to keep yourself alive, moving forward. I developed addictions, an eating disorder, and other self destructive behaviors to survive. My brain could not cope with reality. How could it? Reality was a living nightmare. Pure hell. These are the things I did to survive. To kill this thing inside of me. To get by despite it all. I thought I was doing pretty well. I didn’t realize the extent to which these experiences were destroying my life, until my behaviors came to a head. It was life or death from there. Keep doing what I was doing and let it kill me, or fight and as a result, live. My problem was, I didn’t want to live. I had no interest in it whatsoever. Which is why I nearly died numerous times. But there was some sort of secret spark in me. It was the bane of my existence, and it wanted me alive, when every other part of me wanted to die. It was my incurable hope. And thus, this blog was born, to document it. To explore it.
Today, I don’t see myself as a survivor. I am beyond that. I use the terminology, because it is what people are familiar with. Today, I am a thriver. My life, my success, my flourishing, is my big “fuck you” to everyone who hurt me. Though, today, I’m not angry or bitter. I let that go. It was too heavy. I punished myself with it long enough, believing that I was somehow punishing them by doing it. All I knew was someone had to pay. But I forgive myself for that now. I didn’t understand. I forgive most people, but contrary to popular belief, forgiveness is not necessary for healing. Some things, only God can forgive. I am only human. Today, my heart hurts for that little girl, for every little girl still living and suffering. Not just those who are still being abused, but those who are now grown women, with little girls still trapped inside, reliving it daily. Punishing themselves for the acts of others.
Look, I’ve come a lot further than a lot of former victims ever do. I’ve been blessed. But I do know this: I am supposed to share my experience so that the others know it is possible to not just survive, but to thrive. To use the pain as fuel. To live your meaningful lives. These are things you CAN overcome. As a matter of fact, there’s now even a name for that: posttraumatic growth. And you can achieve it. I promise you, you can.
I don’t want to make it seem like these these things won’t affect you for the rest of your life. They never go away. They will always hurt. At times, they still haunt me. But it is possible to get to a place where they no longer control you. Where they do not shake you. Where you can observe them from a distance that will prevent you from broken by them every. single. time. You’re heart can hurt for the child within, but you will be equipped to comfort her with the compassion you never received. You. Can. Heal. And you can help others do the same. Once you find that love for yourself, you will want to share it with others. ALL of us who were victimized deserve that.
Turn The Light Off When You Go
My eyes are very green today
And they reminded me of you
The way they billow in like smoke
And lie about the truth
I’ve written just as many poems
In your absence
As I did when we first met
They were exciting then
Of hikes in snow
And resting there, by waterfalls
And all that I have written now
Is about the way time has shifted silently
In the days since you’ve been gone
How the aching in my hollow chest
Is working its way out
Through the surface of my skin
My eyes are just as green
As the path that I refused to travel down
On our way that day
To our swimming hole
That I’ll never get to swim
When really, they should be gray
Like the days have felt
Without the color seeping in
And my eyes smiling shut
In the blinding brilliance
Of your love
Our Soul Mission and A Lifetime Alone
The other night, I asked God to explain to me in a dream exactly why I’m destined to spend my life alone. I asked for the dream to be thorough and clear, and for the ability to remember all of the details.
This is what followed.
I woke up at 4:40 am remembering vividly the two different dreams I had just had. Though I remembered them so thoroughly, that I felt the need to write them down immediately, I also felt very intensely, like I needed that last hour of sleep. I went to the bathroom, and when I lied back down, I prayed, as I quickly found myself hovering in a space between both awake and aware, and also in an REM state. As I prayed in that state, I asked for the ability to remember the details when I woke, if I was still in need of sleep. And I did.
I woke just after 6, and needed to start getting ready to go run. I prepared and as I drove there, I made a voice note recording the dream. This is my first time writing it down. I knew it must also be written, in order to be both fleshed out and processed.
The first dream began as I entered the apartment of a couple I am friends with. The apartment was old and filthy on a level that was beyond cleaning, but they obviously took very good care of the place, to make it was as nice as it could be. They were cleaning up after dinner and preparing for winding down for the evening. When I walked into the apartment, for what must’ve been the first time, I noticed the old wall next to the door had, at some point, been dug into as though someone were trying desperately to either get out, or get to something inside the wall, or perhaps just out of sheer madness. I noticed three specific layers in the wall. Maybe paint, plaster, then brick. Even the brick had been carved at, but not penetrated. And I was amazed by the fact that, as old as the building was, and as hard as that mystery person had tried, the wall was still fiercely resilient and standing strong. It also struck me that, rather than building the door there, the builders had decided to build the door right next to this individual’s feverish digging. It kinda seemed sadly ironic, and also a like a slap in the face to that person’s hard work.
As I sat in the kitchen, talking to my friends, they had moved on to doing things in the other rooms. Their cat proceeded to walk into the kitchen, stop right in front of me and sit, watching that area of eerie wall. It sat completely still and just watched for the longest time, and I thought to myself, “its as if the cat is watching the person who is still digging, after centuries, never realizing that the years had passed.” At that point, I was pretty thoroughly convinced that the place was haunted.
I followed my friends into their living room and sat on a loveseat perpendicular to their couch, chatting with them. I mentioned the unusualness of the cat’s behavior, and my friends rolled their eyes, as though people had commented on it before. As I moved my hands while talking, and tucked my hair behind my ear, I kept feeling a third hand on me. The hand wasn’t aggressive, or chilling, but rather, offering my hands support. It was trying to help me, as though it were my own, third hand. Totally creeped out, I mentioned the feeling and stood up. I moved to their couch. My friend then stood up, all huffy and annoyed. She said, “I don’t appreciate what you’re implying about our home. I know all of the superstitious things you believe, but you can keep that to yourself.” She also expressed offense at my suggesting that they’d make their house sitter who was coming soon stay in haunted environment. Obviously offended by my comments, I apologized frankly, and shut up. That pretty much had killed the conversation, though. And as awkward silence took over, that scene closed, and another began.
Dream number 2:
In this one, I seemed to be in a commons area of a church. It was hard to tell if it was a small church or a mega church. Two of my pastors were there. My female pastor from my most recent church, and the only pastor of my church in North Carolina. My female pastor was explicitly ignoring me the whole time I was there, which was hurtful and very similar to one of our last interactions in real life. As my North Carolina pastor pulled me aside, my other pastor pulled aside someone else.
My NC pastor spoke with me, checking in to see how I was doing. As we talked, the conversation of a group of men from my North Carolina church was starting to drown us out. Now let me say, the men in this church were the kindest, most polite, gentlemanly, and respectful men I have ever come across. In my dream, however, they were shootin’ the shit like a regular group of guys. I was generally ignoring them, but when something totally inappropriate was said, my pastor reminded them that I was in their company, to which one replied “well, she’s a bitch.” He said it very articulately and spitefully, making eye contact with me as it came out. I was totally unaffected by the comment.
The guy who was leading the disrespectful conversation sticks out to me. It is someone from that church who was a serial dater. He was one of those people who goes from relationship, to relationship, and so on, ad infinitum. They never lasted terribly long, and he ended up dating almost every woman in the church at some point. He recently became engaged, and as far as I know, that relationship still stands. (He seems to have deleted most of the people from our church off of his Facebook friends list, including myself. Which is cool, because I don’t have to worry about his seeing this. I guess things get awkward when you have a history with every woman in a church. Haha—I’m not included in that list though. Just sayin.)
Anyway… While this was all going on, the guys were around a coffee table, playing a strategy game. The game was a series of stacked circles, 3 or 4 to each row. The board was actually reminiscent of the mat in Twister. I watched closely and diligently trying to understand how the game went, as they had invited me to play the next round. I was almost able to understand the game, when it ended.
In real life, playing new games is one of my biggest anxieties. Despite being a gifted writer, everything else has always been difficult for me to understand. I suck at reading comprehension, and the number of repetitions needed for me to understand a concept, far outnumbers most people. Even the most basic concepts are like a foreign language the first 38 times I hear or see things. So, games are always stressful for me, as I fear my inability to understand the rules will reveal how utterly stupid I’ve always believed myself to be. The only game I’ve ever excelled at has been scrabble.
So, just as I started to learn the game, it ended. And that board disappeared, and a new one appeared. These circles where in an oval, curving, kind of resembling the outline of a lake. Apparently, the board changed with each round. My stomach dropped, right when the guys decided they were done playing for the night anyway. At this point, a wave of relief washed over me.
Reflecting on this part of the dream, the pastor from my North Carolina church feels like a very Jesus-like figure to me, which seems accurate. He was listening carefully, engaged, and invested in what I had to say, though there wasn’t much. I think it is interesting to consider, knowing that, the fact that I paid him very little attention. I was too focused on the guys and figuring out how to play that damn game. Sooooo, that’s an interesting side note, that means so much more when I read it back to myself. Yikes.
It has been days since this dream, and I have had a lot of realizations since. I’m not sure whether to include them here, in a new post, or at all, as they might be revelations best left to my book.
I will say this, the next day I went to have a reiki session after a yoga class. In the session, two Netflix shows came to mind, which both feature a group of people intensely connected, whom are on very important missions in the world. One is Sense8, about a group of spiritually connected people who can pop into the lives and experiences of each other. The other is Travelers, in which a group of time travelers have gone back in time to, of course, save the world. Both of these groups are fighting powerful evil forces, and are deeply, fiercely connected. But what they both most importantly have in common are their soul missions on this earth.
Similarly, during the session, my practitioner got the image of two energies, one being my own, and one being another. At first, these energies were raised up on a platform together, but then they split off from each other, going in opposite directions. She said that she got the word “mission” as if these two souls were parting to go serve and important earthly mission, but she said she got the sense that they would reconnect down the road.
What she reported seemed very interesting, as I had not told her of the question I had asked to have answered in my dream the night before. Only that I had asked one, and it was answered. I gave no indication of what the question had related to. The vision she received seemed to pose the possibility that the question itself had been based on a falsehood. It seemed to be a confirmation that my belief in a lifetime alone was wrong. That being said, I cannot really say whether these souls will reconnect in this life, or realm, or another. Only time will tell. Unless, of course, I ask another question.
Honestly, whenever I have a question for God, I have simply asked for an answer, and He has consistently offered answers to what I have asked. I truly believe, He will tell you anything you want to know. All you have to do is ask.
Let Me Get This Off My Chest
Ugh. There has been so much lately that I’ve wanted to say, and it has all piled up. I’ve started blog post after blog post, never finishing or sharing. At this point, I feel like I’m going to explode.
And Also, I don’t even know where to begin.
I am going to start with a letter to someone whom I shall not identify. People who know me will know who it is.
After you left, I started my memoir. It is going well, and I appreciate your contribution. I was so thrilled to start it, that I did not get sad about your departure. But, in the days since, there is much that I have missed.
The way you appreciated my athleticism and my dedication to running. I’ve been told since that I’m either not a runner, because I’m slow, or that being slow makes you “bad at it.” No one has appreciated my hard work like you did. It made me feel good, and now I’m feeling like I’m not even a “real” runner.
I watched a segment on CBS Sunday Morning about the California redwoods that made me think of you. It made me cringe to hear about how 95% of them had been destroyed, and I couldn’t even watch old footage of them being cut down. I saw the prettiest tree yesterday while lying on the ground, and thought of you.
I miss our hikes. I’m not sure it’ll ever happen again. Here, at least.
Now, that you’re gone, the end seems so petty. What a waste.
There’s a lot I miss that I will not post, but it’ll be in the book.
I pray for you at night, though, when I’m going to sleep… That you go where you want, and get the job you want, and find happiness, and beat your demons. That doesn’t make me feel stupid. I will always pray for people I love. But missing you does. And caring.
The last time you told me you loved me, I didn’t say it back, and that’s the only thing I regret. If there were only one thing I could say to you, it’d be that.
I honestly, did not realize how much I’d miss you. I guess you can never truly mentally prepare for something when you have no idea what it’ll be like. And it is harder than I anticipated.
And in an “I’m not going to say I told you so” sorta way, I’m totally not going to admit that I totally hope you miss me too.
No one will ever get me like you did.
“I’m not sorry I met you. I’m not sorry its over. I’m not sorry there’s nothing to save.”
All Your Broken Pieces
I am a part of a running group that chooses a cause or charity every month as their focus. Everyone in the group donates towards that cause. We get a ticket in a raffle for every mile, or 20 minutes worth of exercise we do each day. At the end of the month, the tickets are drawn for raffle prizes. It is called “good running” because we are using our running to work towards bettering our world.
Everything I do is an attempt at improving the world around me, and this is just one way.
I volunteer for Hospice. I share my triumphs and my struggles. I express my gratitude and apologize for my mistakes. My main goal in life is for the world to be a better place because I am/was in it.
Many people don’t realize this, but my self-care is an integral part of my effort to have a positive impact on the world around me. I believe is was Rumi who said, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today, I am wise so I am changing myself.” This has become my philosophy. In order to be of any use to anyone else, I must first address my needs. Also, I AM changing the world, by starting with myself. Believe it or not, I have seen that have a HUGE impact on those around me.
This week’s celebrity suicides have brought to the forefront of our minds the issues of mental health, suicide, stigma, and survival. It just so happens, that this month’s cause in my Good Running group is mental health. As someone in recovery from addiction and an eating disorder, and as someone who struggles with the affects of a mood disorder, and the lingering effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, these issues are always in the forefront of my mind. This is my every day battle. This is why I try to go to bed at a reasonable hour, and get plenty of rest. This is why I wake up each morning and make my bed. Why I organize and take my meds religiously. Why I try my darnedest to eat a balanced diet and practice moderate, regular exercise. Why I go to AA meetings, a psychiatrist, a therapist, a dietitian, and work diligently as both a sponsor and a sponsee. This is my life. This is my every day. Even when the suicidal thoughts aren’t present, I am working tirelessly to make sure they don’t have the environment they need to appear or grow or fester in my mind. My mind is like a garden that I tend to each day. And my body and spirit are just as important, in keeping my mind a healthy place. They are all intricately connected. It is hard, constant work, but it is so amazingly worth it.
Words cannot convey how worth it, it is. But let me tell you this… if you’ve ever seen the change of the light in someone’s eyes, when they finally grasp and really begin to pursue recovery, you’ll know. Something changes. It is just as palpable as a corpse once the spirit has departed. Only this is the opposite of that. It is like, for the first time, someone is finally ALIVE!
I have so much love in my life! I cannot REALLY look around at the people who surround me and not start to get choked up. Runners, artists, teachers, caretakers, addicts in recovery, patients who devoted their lives to becoming the counselors, survivors of sexual violence, those who’ve conquered their eating disorders, those who’ve taken back their power, and declared victory over their lives. I’m surrounded by them. Supporters. And when I struggle, a single post on Facebook sends them the battle cry. And they step up. They always step up. They are always there. To run with me. To go to a meeting with me. To combat ed’s voice with me. To remind me to keep going when I just want to sleep. To ask me if I’ve taken my meds, or written recently, or called my sponsor, or had a hug. I’m blessed.
And the exciting thing is… THEY. ARE. EVERYWHERE. And they will help you too. Because that’s what they do. They’re helpers. And when they’re the ones in need, and you’re the one who is able, you return the favor. You can’t keep what you’ve got unless you give it away. That’s how this works.
This is community.
There is a wealth of hope and resources and people ready and willing to tell you how much you matter, and how worth the fight you are. And you are. There are so many just waiting to offer a hand, to lift you up and walk with you into hope. So, don’t give up. Let’s figure out a way to surround you with these kinds of people too. Because life can actually be so fucking incredible. I promise.
The Poem I Did Not Write
I’ve been going back and reading old posts, which I never do. My mind has been revisiting the things I used to feel, and I happened to be led there. It might not be a good idea, but it is a good reminder from where I came. I’ve been reading a lot of my posts about suicide, and my attempts. One, which I wrote on the anniversary of one of my attempts, I intended on adding another poem to, but it seems I did not. So, I want to add it now.
The Poem I Did Not Write
I see my life in seasons
unfolding behind me
rolling hills with greenery,
the brilliant colors of trees in fall,
or sunsets over water
in my rearview mirror as I drive away,
and it is gone.
I revisit these places
that once were home.
Each previous address.
The walls, they do speak.
The men that came and went;
The labor it takes to remove the smell
of vomit-drenched carpet;
The ghosts that waved good-bye
when it wasn’t my time.
The echoing of sobs.
I am making this journey in solitude,
but aren’t we all?
At the end of the day,
it is only ourselves
And those who drop in for a visit
once in a while.
I’ve spent years wondering
if my wails will rattle these walls
long after I am gone.
Will I haunt this place
like it still haunts me?
When I was 12, I wrote a poem
in which I stated
“I was meant to die by my own hand.”
I have not forgotten the line,
it rings loudly in my mind
like a catchy tune
that you cannot shake.
And the only way to ease the urge
is to listen to it
one more time.
When I was 31,
a medium told me
that I would not wed,
and those words too,
they will not leave me,
though everyone else has.
I never realized until now
That each morning is the clean slate
I was searching for
That each sunrise is my chance to try again.
Each face I meet, I memorize
inside my heart,
appreciating its beauty,
savoring its presence
before it is gone.
Though I am not sure
whether the recalling
either harms or heals.
And this is where I’ve found myself
stopped along the road.
The joy, my God,
It is infectious.
Vibrant and healing!
And I come alive.
It soothes me in the waiting.
It holds me in the dark.
My loveliest companion.
And even so,
I still have times
when I can hear the darkness whisper,
calling me back.
And despite my knowing
how deeply it aches
I find myself tempted
to revisit it as well.
The Silence of Solace Echoes In My Ears…
…It is a cacophony.
How to ruin a relationship:
Sleep with them.
How to scare someone away:
Tell them you love them.
Things I wish I could say:
I love you.
Things I wish I could stop saying:
I love you.
How to connect:
Take a chance.
How to have a fulfilling life:
Want to become disillusioned with love?
I’ll show you.
Off the Cuff
The men I’ve loved have allowed me
to rely on no one but myself.
You can bare your soul, you know
at the distance of an arm’s length.
It is possible to bask
in the warmth of an embrace, and yet
walk away feeling even more alone.
And yes, I’ve known connection
and there are many who have glimpsed
the intricacies of this spirit.
(a vast kaleidoscope of pale purples,
flowing, constantly in motion)
And I too, having seen their own.
It is possible to dive into the pool of love
for a brisk swim
and struggle to stay above waves
that you, yourself, have made.
And it is also true that you can
and when dragged out, revive,
still feeling refreshed from the water
left rolling off your skin.
(there is an incredible majesty
it the moment before you succumb,
like dusk has just begun to break)
Reminiscing of your brushes with death
while drying your skin
with towel swipes.
I know there are times
when I stare off into the distance
and it is hard to say whether I am recalling
love or loss.
The gut-wrenching kick of solace?
Or strolling down the short path
of memory lane, that I even dare revisit.
There are moments in the silence
when I can still feel the touch
of a ghostly fingertip
against my surface of my skin.
And I am forced to open my eyes to the darkness
despite my fear that
I’ll see something standing there
Finding myself then,
startled by the void instead.