Be Unapologetically You, My Dear

 

My Dear, Beautiful Girl-

You came into this world unapologetically, born into your mother’s loving arms, full of promise and potential. You grew into a lovely little girl, filled with hopes and dreams for your life. You were going to change the world with a song and a guitar. But life happened, as life tends to do, and now you find yourself apologizing for your very existence and asking for permission to take up space from anyone who will give it to you. Too exhausted to get out of bed most mornings, you can’t help but ask yourself what happened between then and now? Why does that strong, darling little girl who was full of such potential feel like a stranger now?

Take heart in knowing that it is unbelievably easy for it to happen without realizing it. It sneaked in like a snake, insidious like, in the moments you gathered the courage to express an opinion with a shaky voice, but instead were met with laughter and commands to be quiet because you were stupid. Your face turned red and sweat beaded up on your forehead, but you laughed at yourself too, in order to blend in. And eventually, you started to believe their words, as they became louder than your own internal voice.

It gathered its strength every time someone mocked you or told you that your feelings didn’t matter. It grew in size every time you doubted that your story wasn’t good enough to make the school paper or got bullied for laughing too loud or wearing the wrong kind of jeans. It happened every time your validation lied in the hands of another.

Remember the times you got barked at in the high school hallway? What about the time you were chosen last for kickball in gym class and heard the quiet groans of the team members who got stuck with you? They didn’t know that you went home that night, looked in the mirror, and decided to quit eating. They didn’t realize that their words caused you to live the rest of your life battling an eating disorder.

What about the time you worked for forty-eight straight hours on a surprise party for your best friend, and she never said thank you? She didn’t know that you went home that night berating yourself over thoughts of how you could have made it better.

Or the time he told you that you were so stupid for not knowing how to do things like properly load the dishwasher? All of those times he made you feel that your existence was an inconvenience because you asked a question. He didn’t know that you could never afford a dishwasher, so you never had a reason to learn.

What about the times you were told to act appropriately as a child? That time they told you that singing and playing at the dinner table wasn’t polite, even if you had a story to share so funny you couldn’t keep the bite of soup in your mouth a moment longer, exploding in a fit of laughter. “That’s not appropriate,” they said excusing you from the table, sending you to your room. They didn’t know that this taught you that your stories didn’t matter and that you were not worth the time it would take to listen to what brought your nine-year-old self so much unabridged joy!

Remember the time you were told to protect your little brother at all costs? Of course, you did because you loved your brother, but this taught you that what you needed did not matter. This taught you that your entire self-worth was contingent on keeping him safe, and when he didn’t allow this to happen and he became endangered in some way, you felt like a failure.

It happened every time you were contained. Your truth became less every time you were ridiculed. Every time they told you that you looked amazing now that you lost the weight and figured out how to straighten your stringy, frizzy hair. You thought you would be more lovable if you looked the way they did, talked like they did, believed what they did. You went your entire life as a chameleon, blending into your surroundings, all to be loved and appreciated as someone vastly removed from who you were.

You divided yourself into a million tiny pieces and versions of yourself; sometimes you were a beautiful fashionista, other times, a football enthusiast, a vegan in one breath, and a fisherman in another. Who were you really? You hadn’t a clue because you were afraid to have feelings or opinions that differed from theirs. You buried your feeling so deep that you forgot how to feel. “It’s alright. It is what it is. I’m fine. I was stupid to think that,” you told them so often that even you started to believe the video reel of these phrases that played repeatedly in your mind.

None of these people knew how their words and actions affected you, yet you gave them the one and only key to your self-worth and identity.

But just as gradually as you lost yourself, you can find yourself again. It will take a lot of time and a painful amount of hard work and you’ll have to reteach yourself how to think and process your thoughts. You’ll have to learn its acceptable to have opinions that people do not agree with. You’ll discover that you don’t have to censor your feelings to make others feel more comfortable.

Those kids in gym class, your family, that boyfriend you stayed with for one year too long- they all taught you that your self-worth was measured by their thoughts and words. You’ll learn that your self-worth is actually measured by your own feelings and thoughts. Eventually, you’ll stop talking to yourself like you are trash. Eventually, you’ll start to see yourself as worthy of that yoga class, time to journal, or after-work run. Instead of beating yourself up for going to bed at 7:30, you’ll learn that you just needed that rest. Instead of thinking of all the different ways you’ll work off the cookie you ate in the morning, you’ll tell yourself you deserve it. Period. You didn’t have to earn it. Any of it. In fact, you’ll learn that you don’t have to earn anyone’s approval. You’ll learn you are enough just the way you are. At first, setting these boundaries will make you feel like you are a tragic disappointment. Your closest friends and even your family will be angry with you. This is perfectly acceptable because setting your own internal boundaries is the first step in coming home to yourself. It will get easier in time, I promise.

I can tell you this with such vivid clarity because you see, I am you. I can guarantee it gets better. Brighter. It will take time, but please know you are strong enough to rebuild. Keep writing. Keep going to therapy, no matter how many roll their eyes at you. Keep telling your story, no matter how many people tell you that investing in yourself is selfish. You don’t know this now, but a beautiful fifteen-year-old girl who is working on rewriting her own story will hear your words and add them to her own survival guide. Keep going, one small day at a time. Your existence is not an inconvenience, my dear. You are here for a reason. And remember, beautiful girl, it is perfectly okay to take up space.

All my love,
Katie.

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Silence

Silence is a crucial and weighty part of an artist’s life. In an attempt to protect the artist, silence provides a way for an artist to regain his or her power. “Art becomes the enemy of the artist, for it denies him the realization- the transcendence- he desires. Therefore, art comes to be considered something to be overthrown.”

I used to be a full-time musician. I wrote songs, recorded albums, booked gigs, traveled, and toured. I went to a music conservatory and majored in music performance. I did what everyone expected me to do from the time I turned six and opened my mouth at church. Everyone told me from a young age that I had a talent for music and music was what I “had to do” with my life. No one ever gave me a choice or encouraged me to try anything else. And in all honesty, I hated it.  But, as much as I detested music, I adored the attention. Their reassuring praise embodied my self-worth. I let people use me and take advantage of me because it was what was expected of me. Because it was what I was “supposed to do.” Because it was the only thing I knew. No one ever tells you when you first start out as a musician that it is perfectly acceptable to say “no.”

The artist either “flatters or appeases his audience, giving them what they already know, or he commits an aggression against his audience, giving them what they don’t want.” I came to a point where I despised everything the audience wanted from me. I grew to hate the audience. And I grew to hate myself. Night after night, I played hole-in-the-wall bars to drunk men who yelled out terrible words and tried to touch me in appalling ways. When you first start out, no one ever tells you how lonely it is on stage watching all of the people in the audience laughing with their friends and snuggling with their loved one at the bar. You just sit up there, singing over-sung requests yelled out by the drunk, old, bald guy in the corner. When you first start out, no one ever tells you that singing “Brown Eyed Girl” for the 500thtime will make you physically nauseous. “The artist can persevere in the interrogation of his art until he or it is exhausted.” You go until you simply cannot any longer.

Exhausted, I turned twenty-three and stopped. Just like that. I sold my instruments. I took my recordings off iTunes and Amazon. I quit every band I was a part of. I stopped booking gigs. I quit singing, playing, and recording. And I felt blissfully free. “Silence frees an artist from anxiety.” Truer words have never been spoken.

I was taken aback by how angry people were when I fell silent. Furious even. People I loved told me that I was a disappointment and that I was wasting my life. I clearly remember looking around in that moment and becoming painfully conscious of the fact that and I hadn’t a single friend that liked me outside of my music. In that moment, I realized I was not skilled at anything else. At twenty-three, I became conscious of the sobering realization that I was going to have to rebuild my life from the ground up. Little did I know then that it would be the first of many rebuilds to come.

We have to give up our memories in order to make room for new experiences. Once we go to the end of our emotions, silence follows for a time. One would assume that after the silence fades, there would once again be room for new emotions to be felt, and therefore new art to be created. When my silence faded, I decided to go back to college. I became a writing major. I found my voice again. But this time, in words. Writing saved me. Writing gave me a purpose. I shared my writings and people liked me again. Almost as much as they liked me when I was singing. But it didn’t matter anymore if “they” liked me or not. Through the course of my silence, I learned to like myself. For the first time, I felt comfortable in my own silence and in my own skin.

Philosopher Plotinus says that to see the beauty that a good soul has, one must allow his or herself to see his or herself as beautiful. If one does not see his or herself as beautiful, he or she can remove the parts that are not beautiful and work on his or herself until he or she sees herself as beautiful. Once this happens, and one is one’s true self, one is true light alone and does not need another to show him or her the way. Through the process of silence, I found my true self and I found beauty in my little corner of the world once again. I rescued a cat and named her Delilah. I bought a little yellow VW bug and moved to Alaska. I trained for and ran my first marathon. I left an abusive relationship. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree and started a master’s program. It is amazing what you do when you start to respect yourself. It’s amazing what happens when you let the silence make way for your inner voice to surface.

Philosopher Hume believes that every piece of art has a purpose. I would like to believe that my musical art had a purpose for that time. I think that silence is an art form as well. Just as Plato believes that art is unnecessary unless it is spreading truthful messages, I think that silence is just as important because it stops an artist from spreading untrue messages. Silence prevents an artist from being untrue to his or her own self. By going silent, I was able to begin to speak my greatest truths again.

It has been years since I stopped playing music. And for the first time, I understand that my silence was actually vital for my survival. If you are reading this and feel the need to silence a part of you, maybe my experience will help you to know that it is perfectly acceptable to be quiet. Let the silence envelop you, and in time I believe you will be able to listen to your innermost soul.

She Who is Brave is Free

When I first heard about the #MeToo movement, I was ecstatic to give a strong voice to something that society had deemed filthy, dirty and secretive. I thought, Finally! We no longer have to be small and pretend nothing ever happened for the sake of not making others feel uncomfortable. But, with every post I saw, my joy and vindication slowly turned into this heart wrenching sadness. In time, however, I realized that every “me too” I read was a challenge to win back every part of every person that was stolen, and win it back with love. Because love is stronger than hate. Love is stronger than abuse and violation. Love is the most powerful weapon we yield.

This time last year, many of us who fell pray to sexual assault felt those same feelings of violation all over again. We watched a few brave women come forward and share their experiences. Many of us felt the pain in their words reverberate in a place buried deep within us. Many of us felt like they were narrating our own stories.

A year ago, we lived in an age where those of us who had been violated were expected to wrap ourselves inside our stories like a patchwork blanket of secrets. That blanket became our identity, yet no one knew it because the blanket was invisible. And it was filthy. It was something we were never allowed to discuss or show to anyone. The soiled patches on the blanket were gag orders, embarrassment, humiliation, secrecy, and shame. Sexual violation was something we simply did not discuss.

Fast-forward one year. Those few fierce women who came forward last year inspired a movement that spread like a wildfire in a dry forest. We have all seen how many brave and heroic humans have come forward since, less afraid to share their own stories because of the fearless few who used their words.

We live in a world now where movements like the #metoo agenda are becoming the new normal. People are coming forward and sharing their stories like the beautiful badges of honor they should be.

I remember being nine years old, forced to face and forgive my own assaulter. I asked my Mother, “Why, Mom? Why did this happen to me?” Her response has stuck with me for twenty-one years. She said “One day your story is going to help someone else. You did not go through this for nothing.”

NONE of us have gone through what we went through in vain. A lot has changed this year. There has been a great deal of heartache, terror, fighting and confusion. But, my hope is that 2017 will be remembered as the year where we took off our blankets of shame and found the courage to tell our stories. The year that we found the strength to turn our violations into victories and beautiful stories of survival. The year we found freedom in our bravery. The year we were heard. Amidst all of the confusion, hatred, and division that 2017 has brought, let us remember this as the year that light finally got to shine in the darkness. The year that we got to watch broken things learn how to shine brilliantly.

Never be afraid to share your story. You are heard. You are enough. You are brave and beautiful. And you are not alone. For she who is brave, is free.

The Little Dome Shaped House by the Sea

It was raining. It was raining for the 17th consecutive day in a row. She yearend to enjoy it as much as her best friend Jane did. Jane felt like the best version of herself on days when the skies hung grey and rain soaked the streets and sidewalks. She longed for that joy that Jane felt, as she sipped her earl grey tea in a corner of the coffee shop, reading her book and watching the caffeine addicts come in for their morning fixes. Enablers, she thought to herself, eying the barista behind the counter slinging lattes. She thought about Jane and her red polka dot umbrella and matching raincoat. Jane never worried about the frizz that would find her hair and force it grow to wild and unmanageable proportions. Jane was never bothered by her wet feet or soaked backs of her jeans on her ankles. The things that people with straight hair don’t have to worry about, she thought to herself, scrunching up her massive mess of curly red hair in the window’s reflection, secretly jealous of Jane’s love of the rain. And her straight brunette hair.

She, on the other hand, craved the sunshine. She longed for the heat. The rain made her feel entirely too much. She worked hard for the unbreakable, positive outlook she was known for and the sunshine fueled it. But the rain? The rain just washed it away, just like it did the sidewalk chalk drawings the neighbor kids made the night before.

Attempting to find some peace with her hair and the rain, she nestled into the overstuffed blue patchwork chair in the back corner of the coffee shop, staring out the window as the rain pummeled the green leaves on the birch trees. Her cat was next to her, in her purple Jansport backpack. Sir knew better than to poke anything out of the backpack other than an occasional paw, as he wasn’t technically allowed in the coffee shop. The baristas knew he was there, but they never said anything. They all had this rather unspoken agreement that Sir could stay, as long as he was quiet. And stayed in the backpack.

She watched the leaves grow greener with each drop that splashed on them. She listened to the water patter on the roof above her. She did love that sound, the one single aspect of the rain she found rather enjoyable. Holding tightly to her mug, legs pulled under her for comfort, she tried to talk herself into the “cozy” day the rain would bring. She wore her favorite oversized sweater, softest socks and yellow rain boots. Sir had dawned his yellow rain coat as well, complete with holes for his ears to stick out of, and was snoring from the backpack on the table beside her. Urging Sir to quiet down, she continued her mental list. She could work on her writing today. Or finish the book she’d been nursing for weeks. She was trying not to think about how she wished she were on the beach or drinking peach iced tea on the swing outside. It was hard to find a reason to smile on a day like today. Just like the rain made the flowers and grass grow, it made her anxiety grow as well. The rain made her feel. It made her feel too much. She wished she were alone at her house listening to the rain fall on the roof shingles, rather than in the coffee shop. But it wasn’t her house anymore.

From the outside, the place she used to live looked rather unassuming. The paint was faded and chipped from wind exposure. The windowpanes were slowly pulling away from the exterior. It was one of three houses on a one way, dead end street. To most, it seemed like just an odd house shaped like an upside down letter U that overlooked the sea. But, to those who had a chance to be a part of it’s story? It was much, much more.

Two years ago, right before she moved into the little dome shaped house by the sea, she was quite shocked to learn of how many people had a story to share about it. Joyous exclamations and nostalgic smiles met her from those that had the pleasure of spending some of their time there, “I did yoga there! I rented a room there for a few months! I remember having coffee there.” With excitement, she and Sir and their carload of meager belongings and set out for their winter adventure to housesit at what two years later, lovingly and affectionately became known as “the dome home.”

I became the best version of myself there. She thought, fondly remembering. Hot steamy French press coffee and the most exquisite, stunning sunrises met her every morning. Sir spent his days lounging in his own wingback chair, watching the world saunter past. Friends came to visit and shared the French press coffees and the sunrise views with her. She finished college at the wobbly card table in the kitchen, although she figured out the perfect placement of dishtowels under the table legs to fix the unsteady shake. She learned to be a writer in the creaky, wooden rocking chair in front of the wall of windows that looked out over the mountains and the sea. She settled into herself there. She learned that she was wholly and beautifully herself in the walls of that house. That house became a part of her being. And she became a part of its.

Her tea was cold and the coffee shop was getting too crowded with the after church crowd. So, she and Sir spontaneously decided to take a rainy walk toward the little dome shaped house by the sea, something they hadn’t done in quite some time. She closed her book, finished the last swig of her cold tea, put on her rain coat, slung Sir’s backpack on her left shoulder and set off down the rain soaked road. As she rounded the corner onto the one-way street, she saw it. It was dark. And gloomy. And all of the curtains were drawn, and cinched closed. Clashing with tears that were fiercely winning the war she was fighting with them, she exclaimed in utter dismay to Sir, “The little dome shaped house by the sea deserves so much more than these shady curtains closed in front of the windows. The windows should be open! Because that’s how the light gets in! Who would do such a thing?” She was heartbroken.

Sir meowed in agreement, raising a paw to the bay window he used to spend most of his time in, but quickly retracted it as it was getting wet. Both of them shed two tears that day, a tear for their memories and a tear for the house’s current state. “Whoever lives here now is missing out on so much light. And joy,” she muttered sadly to Sir, yearning with all of her heart to go inside, open up all of the windows and dance on the hard wood floors once again. Regretfully, they turned around, wishing they never came back at all.

Leaving the driveway and the memories behind them, they carried on along the road and made their way to the beach, as it was not far from the little dome shaped house. Standing on the beach, watching the waves gently caress the sand through the raindrops, she and Sir started writing a letter. “It’s only way I know how to bring closure to all of this,” she explained to Sir. He extended a paw to her soggy cheek in support.

The letter read:

Here’s to you, little dome shaped house by the sea. Thank you for helping me heal. Thank you for helping me to become a better version of myself. Thank you for being there when I rescued Sir from the pound and for being there when my Jane’s heart was breaking over her lame boyfriend. Thank you for being there when I cranked up the Beatles and danced with Sir when I turned in my last college essay. Thank you for being there when I was lost, and when I was found. And to those of you who get to be a part of it’s story next, please never take for granted one moment you get to spend there. It’s a place of healing, peace and joy.

She signed it and Sir placed his mud covered, sandy paw on it as well, adding his own endorsement. Together, they situated the letter in an old root beer bottle and chucked it into the sea. The rain had come to an end and the sun and blue sky were starting to parade their way through the clouds. For it was time to take what the little dome shaped house by the sea had taught them and advance forward. Gazing up at the bluff one more time at the little dome shaped house by the sea, she whispered “thank you,” unleashed her hair from her ball cap and she and Sir made their way down the beach, heads held high towards the sun.

The Revolving Door

She knelt by her old wooden trunk upstairs in the attic of her Mother’s 1940’s house on Willow Lane. The snow gently fell outside as she shuffled through the papers of her past written works. As she sorted through the journals and typed pages, she couldn’t help but reflect on the last year of her life, as we all tend to do in January. Holding a tattered leather journal, she took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and let her memories play in front of her like a slide show. The kind of slide show her Uncle Bo talked about his mother making him sit through when he was eight after her most recent adventure. He didn’t want to admit it, but as boring as it was, he enjoyed the old black and white photos of the Grand Canyon on the screen, projected by the old clicking photo machine.

As she watched her own slideshow weave a wandering story through her mind, she couldn’t help but feel like a shell of her former self. A self that she worked three raw, solid, and extensive years to reinvent after she lost herself to him. As his face found itself at the forefront of the slide show, she shook her head violently to make her mind click over to the next memory.

Kneeling over the trunk, holding tight to her peppermint tea in her favorite chipped sage green mug, she pulled out a piece she wrote her junior year of college entitled “The Wizard.” A story about a road trip with the mysterious accordion playing, straw hat wearing Wizard, a metaphor for surviving her failed engagement and abusive relationship.

“I found such great healing in writing that story. I feel like I knew the Wizard and goodness, I do miss him something fierce,” she muttered out loud to her calico cat. Clementine meowed in approval, as if she too remembered when her human wrote that story.

Over the past few years, she became the girl who drove the 1982 baby blue Jeep. She had a cat and most recently, a geriatric terrier she found on the side of the road, who much to Clementine’s dismay, was now an intricate part of their lives. The three of them lived a life full of adventures. They paddle boarded in February between the ice chunks in the inlet. She turned her jeep into an RV for her and her fuzzy comrades, perfect for summer outings. She majored in Writing and wrote story after story for writing class after writing class. She fell in love with words. She fell in love with yoga and running and everyone around her. She fell in love with herself. She lived in a dome shaped house on the ocean and took more sunrise photos than she knew what to do with. And she shared them. She shared them all. She wrote stories about her adventures and discoveries and shared them with anyone who might take the time to read. She loved her life. And this life she loved became her identity.

She didn’t share to brag or get attention. She didn’t share to make anyone think her life was stunningly superior. She shared because there was entirely too much beauty all around her to keep it to herself. It actually felt selfish not to share. After all, if she was finding so much joy in Clementine’s mitten shaped paws and the fact that she had thumbs to hold things, it felt like she was doing her loved ones a disservice not to share this joy with them. The sunsets were far too striking to keep to herself. She felt like everyone deserved to see that exquisite beauty too. She had been through a lot, but found a way to bring a luminous light to the darkness in a way that qualified her experiences. When asked why she shared such personal events with strangers, she always replied, “Because it’s the only way that what happened to me makes sense. I went through it all to help someone else feel less alone. I survived it all to show someone else that they can too.”

But, two years later, she graduated from college. Her housesitting job ended at the dome house on the ocean. Her jeep started having problems. She lost the energy for her adventures and yoga. She stopped writing. She stopped taking photos. She stopped sharing. She just started going through the motions, waiting for something else to validate her existence.

Fastening her red and white flannel robe tighter around herself for warmth and security, she started reading another poem she pulled out of the chest that she wrote for her favorite creative writing class.

The broken windows bay as the sunlight finds a way through the broken glass and dirty pains. Let us burn all this fear and run like children through the ashes who have fallen, fought the fear and flown on…

Lost in thought at the depth of the words written by a woman she didn’t even recognize anymore, the thump outside brought her back to the present. Checking outside the single paned window, she realized it was just snow falling off of the roof. Noticing the moonlight shining in through the glass and glimmering off the green paint-chipped windowsill, she couldn’t help but smile and remember how this very window inspired the poem she just found.

She dusted off her laptop, opened a blank word document and started typing. It felt scary. All of that blank space in front of her. All of these emotions she would have to face. She began to write a letter to the stranger who wrote the poem about the window and the story about The Wizard.

 Dearest Woman Who I Used to Be:

 I ask of you to remember what it is that causes you to write. I ask this of you because as hard as this may be to believe now, there will come a day when you stop writing. You will become someone in the future so far removed from who you are now. But why? And how? Maybe it is because sharing your thoughts has caused a few conflicts. Maybe it was that with the ending of this particular chapter that you find yourself in now, you lost your identity and with it, the confidence that your words had any meaning at all.

 You’ll find yourself in your Mother’s attic years from now reading pieces you wrote, but you won’t recognize the author. How is it that you feel so much confidence in your words? Because currently, this giant piece of me is petrified to share. Scared that my words might hurt someone or cause someone some sort of disservice. And the idea that something I share might indeed damage someone else is enough to make me never want to write another word again.

 If you wouldn’t mind, could you tuck a little reminder somewhere that might help to spark a wee bit of passion a few years into the future?

 Sincerely,
Your Future Self.

 And with that, she emailed it to herself. She felt a little silly and foolish doing such a thing, but she couldn’t help but feel slightly better about the fact that she actually wrote something. Still shuffling through the trunk, about ready to call it a night, as her tea was cold and so was she; she found an envelope she didn’t recognize. “Where did this come from?” She asked Clementine.

Clementine placed her paw on the envelope and meowed as if to say, “Go ahead, read it. You’ll see.” And then got this glimmering look of excitement in her yellow feline eyes that said, THIS is the good part. This even made the geriatric terrier lift his head from his sleeping place on the wingback chair.

With her fuzzy support system beside her for courage, she reluctantly opened it and found a letter addressed to her. Her heart started pounding as she read:

Dear Future Self:

 Something you must remember is that terrible things happen to people every day. Someone might find himself or herself in an abusive relationship without a way out. Someone else might be the victim of abuse as a child. People have eating disorders. People have affairs. And suffer from depression. But then people survive these events. They fight their way through it, only to come out on the other side fierce and passionate. They then use their experiences to help others through the very same things. Everyone has a voice. YOU have your very own voice, and an eloquent one at that. There are people out there that need to hear what you have to say. Please don’t be afraid to share beautiful things with those you love. Please don’t be afraid to use your words to bring light to the darkness.

 I understand that we loose ourself somewhere along the way. But the way I see it, life is a series of reinventing ourselves in the revolving doors of loving others. We never loose ourselves because I do not think we are ever one person forever. And don’t forget what our favorite Professor told us, writing has a way of making sense of the present through the fictional story lines.

 We are not defined by what we drive. Or the adventures we take. Or the houses that we live in. We are defined by how we love. And by how we take what we have been through, good or bad, and use it to help someone else. Because isn’t that the point to all of this? To make broken things shine like brilliant diamonds in the end.

 You’ll write again, my dear. Your voice never left you; it just needed to listen for a while.

 With all of my love-

 And with that, she knew she had no choice. She poured herself another cup of peppermint tea and got cozy in the wingback chair next to her snoring dog. Clementine took up residency on top of the chair and watched the words pour from her fingers as gentle and purposeful as the snow that fell outside the attic window.

To the Sexual Abuse Survivor Triggered by this Election

To the Sexual Abuse Survivor Triggered by this Election:

You probably have feelings and emotions that you are searching every back hidden crevice of your mind for a word to explain, but are doing so with no success. Please know that you’re not the only one. I know you probably feel all alone right now, but I promise you that you are not.

Being told at the young, susceptible age of ten that the abuse one endured and suffered didn’t really happen and was simply made up in their head causes a person to reinvent their perception of reality. Armed with years of counseling and a Mother with the strength of twelve armies, that little ten-year-old girl learns to move past her grief, forgive the man and eventually move forward with her life. Twenty years later, that now thirty-year-old woman is led to believe she is past it, over it, through it. She tells herself and others that this part of her history is far behind her. She tells herself and others that she is actually stronger because of it. That it is a part of the reason she is who she is. She might even help other young women through their own trauma, helping to build an army of over comers and survivors who are stronger than their past has defined them to be.

All is going along quite smoothly, until a man who blatantly disrespects women is elected as the leader of the place where she has worked unbeliebably hard to be proud to call home.

As a sexual abuse survivor, seeing Donald Trump elected president may cause you to feel that same violation all over again. You are not alone. I felt the same.

Before hearing the results of the election, you probably felt like a fervently strong woman whose gender was finally seen as a hard fought equal. You felt strong. You felt unbreakable. It took you a lifetime of work to feel like you deserve to take up space. Within minutes of hearing that Trump was elected, were you filled with shame? Shame for your gender? Shame for your history? Shame for taking up space? Shame for your very existence? Did you want to feel small? Invisible? Did you weep uncontrollably? Because I did.

I wept for every six-year-old child that was never heard or believed. I wept for every young woman and man who was told it was in fact their fault for what happened to them. I wept for every human who had to face their abuser in plain daylight and soak in the shame of being told they could have prevented it if they just did a little bit more. I wept for every confused child, trying to understand how the “love” they experienced as a child wasn’t love at all. I wept for my ten-year-old self who was forced to hug the man who took away my innocence and apologize to his friends for the “lies” I told about him.

Did it take you some time to figure out where these new foreign feelings were coming from? Did it take you some time to figure out where your confidence went? I know that I sat there on my living room floor, shocked, asking myself, Where did my confidence go? Why do I suddenly feel this unbelievable shame?

In the end, the answer was simple. Right or wrong, I felt violated. Again. I felt like everyone around me took the side of the man who violated me as a child. I felt as though the man who took my innocence won. Again. Trump’s victory was a trigger.

I have stayed silent throughout the entire election season. I wanted all of my friends to know that regardless of their affiliation, I love and respected them and their opinions.But, I listened to all of the stories from all of the women who felt violated. My heart broke for each one of them. No part of me, however, thought that the man who feels that it is his fair right to do whatever he well pleases with a woman would be elected the President of the United States.

It will probably take you a long time to understand your loved ones for supporting the man who symbolizes what you have spent your entire life fighting to overcome. You will probably feel betrayed. You will probably feel deceived and let down by the men you respected who dismissed the notion that “grabbing women by the pussy” is normal manly locker room talk. I know that I will be spending a great deal of time wrapping my brain around their thoughts, trying to dissect how they have rationalized this as acceptable. I am not angry with them; in fact, I actually understand them now. They felt disrespected too and felt their vote was going to help them reclaim their own power back. We all deserve to be heard and respected. All of our opinions matter. Respecting each other’s differences are what make us a beautiful nation.

Have you cried more times since hearing of his election than you would have ever imagined? I have. Are you mourning the loss of the people who stood up for those of us who worked so hard to reclaim our identities that were painfully ripped from our grasps without a single apology? I have.

But the truth is, I am not six years old anymore. I have a voice. I am a strong independent woman who has the right to speak her mind and the right to stand up for her beliefs. My heart is sad, but it’s not broken. And neither is yours.

I choose to still love the people who support Trump with unconditional love. I still choose to support the country I am still honored to call home. I choose to willingly accept the challenge to win back every part of every woman that was stolen, and win it back with love. Because love is stronger than hate. Love is stronger than abuse. Love is the most powerful weapon we yield. Be proud to be a survivor. Be proud to be a woman. And remember, regardless of political stance, we are and will always be stronger together.

With love and an unconditional understanding heart, you are not alone.

 

R.E.S.P.E.C.T

R.E.S.P.E.C.T

What does it really mean to me? What does it really mean to any of us?

What does it mean to respect another human being? What does it mean to be respected? It’s a word people believe that they want, but rarely know how to explain.

When asked what it meant to be respected, I was given many replies and responses.

Respect is when other people’s thoughts and opinions have merit. Respect is shown by including others, rather than excluding them. Being respected means not demeaning another. It means souls are mutually admired and care is evident. Respect happens when one is consistent with action, value and word. Respect is honor. Respect prefers another. Respect is acceptance without expectation. This is not to say there is complete agreement on everything, but rather an acceptance of another’s soul as it is and not what we want it to become.

I have always respected my Grandparents. We grew up at their house and their knowledge has always surpassed mine. An odd thing happened this year, however. Dementia and aging became an evident factor. They started making choices that were not healthy or safe for them. They stopped wearing teeth and refused to make proper eating choices. I found myself slowly loosing respect for the six foot four strong, tall, red headed bearded man I called my Grandfather. I watched him pull away from my Grandmother’s incessant repetitive questions from shear exhaustion. I watched him recede further into his man cave and further away from us. Through these events, I found myself once again loosing that proverbial respect. What was happening to the man who always made me feel safe? What was happening to the woman who would call me in the middle of the night because she just had a feeling I needed her in that moment? I still loved them, but my love was changing form.

I had to learn to meet them in this new place- to embrace this as the new normal. What it came down to was simple. That no matter what, I still loved my grandparents. And if I still loved them, I still respected them. I just had to learn to respect them in this new foreign place we now seemed to find ourselves in. I had to let go of my prior beliefs of who they were and learn to accept them now without expectation. I had to resign myself to attempt to understand who they had become, not who I wanted them to be based upon my previous experiences of who they used to be.

My respect for my Mother grew exponentially as I watched her heed to their every beck and call, frustrated as well by their choices. But, she never handled them with anything less than pure, authentic love. She consistently included my Grandmother in her day-to-day life, even if she couldn’t remember it and asked the exact same questions in the exact same tone of voice seven minutes later, seventy nine times a day. She loved them. She was learning to respect the new normal as well.

Nothing can prepare a person for the aging process. No one can prepare a person for the horrors of dementia. Due to all the special circumstances that came  with this September’s arrival, I can honestly say that that this has quite possibly been two of the the hardest weeks of my life.  I  wanted to mentally remove myseld from the whole situation, goingkng through the motions without actually feeling the unimaginable pain of accepting the fact that these people who were my rock now need me to be there’s. But, that is a part of respecting them too, being who they needed with authentic generosity, regardless of my own selfish desires.

I’ve come to the conclusion that respect is love. And love is respect. I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to understand how to separate them as two separate entities, but upon farther inspection, I believe them to be one in the same. As I begin to embark on the journey into my thirties, I am honored to take the lessons they have taught me and use them in my own life and in my own relationship. When I say, “I respect you” I believe I am indeed saying, “I love you enough to meet you where you are at.”

“And the seasons they go round and round. Painted ponies go up and down. We’re captive on a carousel of time. We can’t return, we can only look behind from where we came. And go round and round in the circle game.” – Joni Mitchell