Monthly Archives: September 2013

Stars

We walk down the dark road under the cover of trees, like something out of a fairytale once the lights go down.  I hold the Walgreens bought flashlight out in front of us and swing the beam back and forth to ward off animals.  And people.  I can’t decide which would be worse, running into an animal in the middle of the woods or running into a person.  I come to the conclusion that either would be terrifying, and then wonder why I didn’t just stay in the tent.  But E wants to see the stars.

“You can’t see them in the city,” she tells me as we emerge from the tree cover into an open area that is the junction of several different roads.  “It’s nice to just look.”

We both crane our necks so that our faces are parallel to the sky.  “That one’s the…” I pause, uncertain.  “It’s one of the dippers, anyway.”  It has been years since I had an astrology course.

“Which one’s the North Star?” E spins around in a circle, her face still pointed at the sky.  She points at one.  “I bet it’s that one.”

“That might be a plane,” I respond.

“Or a UFO.”

We are quiet, both of us observing the beauty that isn’t visible in the city limits.

“I love this stuff.”  E breaks the silence.

“It’s cool.”

“I took a class in this a couple semesters ago.  Did you know that the light from stars takes so long to reach us that the original star is dead by the time we see it?”

I did know that.  Everything dies. 

*

I am sitting on a table.  It’s cold.  The gown they made me put on does not in any way fully cover me, and I fight the urge to bury myself under the disposable blanket that covers the table.  It isn’t meant to cover me.  It’s meant to separate me from germs.  Rational me knows that, but irrational me just wants to dig a hole to China.  I could.  Dig.  But I don’t.  I stay, because that is what I am supposed to do.  

I always do what I am supposed to do.

I wish that someone had written a guidebook for this situation, a narrative that I could read and follow to the letter.  But there are no letters or tricks or people who have went before, because I am alone.  I want it that way.  I do.  I really do.

I keep telling myself that.  But the truth is, I wish someone was there.  I wish someone understood.  Anyone.

“I could call someone.  Is there…someone?” the doctor asks.

Drowning:  the process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion or immersion in a liquid substance.  I am drowning in this and I don’t know what to do.

I remember the conversations from the day it happened in a strange hazy detail, like I am watching them on television at the same time as reading a book.  Like they happened to someone else.  It couldn’t have been me.  Not me.

I shake my head no.  The person I came with doesn’t need to be here.  No one needs to see me like this.  I lay back and the doctor begins the exam, pokes around.  I close my eyes.

When I was younger, I believed that marriage was forever.  I believed that I would marry this awesome guy, buy a house with a picket fence, have at least three kids, and live happily ever after.  The “perfect” life.  What I didn’t realize then is that happily ever after is different for everyone.  Life is not always a fairytale.  The “perfect” picture isn’t necessarily the ideal it appears to be.  Allowances must be made.

“I’m sorry…”

I didn’t realize I’d spoken out loud until I opened my eyes and realized the doctor was staring at me.  “Are you okay?”

Fantastic, I think.  But I say nothing out loud.  The doctor continues.  There is a poster on the ceiling, a picture of a line of cowboys, all with tight jeans and cowboy hats.  And no shirt.  They have tight abs and awesome hair and their eyes seem to stare down at me.  I am struck by the irony of it, by the men staring down at me in the place that I am now.  Exposed.    

I would rather I die.  

I see stars.

*

My life is a series of flashes.  

Of him.  Of babies.  Cribs.  

I picture the hat.  A swirly white kaleidoscope of everything baby.  It echoes, bangs inside my head.  And all I can think is how sorry I am.  It all twists and turns and echoes inside of my head and I can’t make it stop.

So sorry.  So, so sorry.

I cannot be this person.  This person cannot be me.  Please.  No.

Too late.

*

I am expected to put on real clothes.  The nurse asks if I want help and I nod, but I’m not sure if I do.  I’m not fully aware of what’s happening.  They need me to stand up to put my pants on, so I do.  The lack of awareness inside me morphs into full blown numbness that morphs into a shattering pain when my feet hit the ground.  Ten million knives stab my insides and my heart.  They have to put my pants on for me.  I would much rather fold.

There are instructions, prescriptions, notes, talking.  So much talking when all I want in the world is to sleep.  Forever.

I am brought home.  I let myself out of the car, refusing help.  I am numb, medicated, deeply heavy.  I don’t want anyone.  Not now.  I take the stairs one at a time, hauling myself by the railing.  I’m dimly worried I will fall, but I don’t.  I make it.  I collapse on the bed.  

I won’t remember any of this until much later.  Until I come back out.  Until I see the light.

*

The light that is shining right now, the light we see?  It’s an old story.  

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Charlie the Lop-eyed Stuffed Cat

It is Christmas Day.

The movie playing on the television is “A Christmas Story.”  Staff is surprised that I have never seen it before and try to goad me into remembering.  Little boy named Ralphie.  Pink bunny suit.  BB gun.  Shooting out of eyes.  I shake my head, because I can’t recall something that I have never known.  Staff sits in a chair across the room.  There are three patients; they give us each a small present to make the fact that we are here better.  But that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s Christmas.  It doesn’t make it better that we are trapped in the RED unit, the place where the hide the disordered teens from the rest of the world.  Staff likes me; she tells me that I remind her of her daughter.  

I worry for her daughter.

I unwrap my present.  It is a small stuffed creature.  I think it might be a cat.  Its left eye drifts slightly to one side, making its entire face seem lopsided.  Like me.  I am lopsided and wrong.  The cat fits me.  I name it Charlie.

On the television, Ralphie finally gets his gun and ends up almost shooting his eye out.  I am sixteen years old, but even I see the irony.  At this moment, I would shoot my eye out to stop watching the damn movie.  Staff changes the channel.  The new movie is “Mr. Holland’s Opus.”  It was just released the previous year.  Much more up my alley, and I have never seen this either.  There is music, and I get excited.  This is a mistake.  One of the other girls complains, which results in the television being shut off all together.  I trudge back to my room holding Charlie by the paw, my slippers soundless against the institutional carpet.  I am alone in the world, except for Charlie.  If only he could talk.

I sit on my bed in my room; my roommate had been released the day before.  I remember when she first came and we hid under the beds and scribbled our names and dates and all sorts of fun things onto the mattress with crayon.  Crayons were the only writing utensil we were allowed to have unsupervised.  We couldn’t stab ourselves with them or tear our skin with the erasers.  Apparently that was a danger in these parts.  

I prop Charlie up on my pillow.  His crooked eyes are angled just right so that he always seems to be staring at me.

Down the hall someone screams.  I’m reminded of the horror movies I love.  I’m also reminded that I haven’t really spoken in the past few days.  It’s easier, not talking.  From my spot on the bed, I can see out into the snow-covered courtyard.  The view is scenic and Christmas-y, marred only by the vertical bars that stripe across the window.  

I am sixteen years old, and I am a failure.  It is Christmas Day, and I am behind bars because I can’t make myself be normal.  I can’t make myself fit into my life anymore as it is.  I can’t make myself better.  

Staff comes to my door.  It is time for dinner.  I do not want to go, minus the novelty of it.  Because there are so few of us and so few Staff, we are allowed to eat in the dayroom instead of making the voyage to the cafeteria.  I walk back to the room I have just left.  The television is back on, at the scene in “A Christmas Story” with the leg lamp.  The movie must be airing again.  

I sit at the place with the tray that has my name on it.  I asked for this food from the special Christmas menu.  Macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes with extra gravy.  Broccoli, with cheese.  Oh, and a chocolate chip cookie.  It isn’t dinner without a cookie, especially on Christmas.  We will sit at the table until our food is consumed or there will be consequences.  I unwrap my silverware from my napkin—linen instead of the normal paper.  They brought out the good stuff for the holiday.  I drape the napkin across my lap.  I know how many calories are each and every item on my plate.  I can’t eat all of it.  I won’t.

I can’t make myself be better, this is true.  But no one else is going to do it for me.  This means that I will never be better.  Ever.  I will be trapped in this hell-hole with “A Christmas Story” playing on a loop and bars sealing the windows.  I will fail all of my classes.  I will flunk out of high school and end up joining the circus somewhere because no one else will take me.

I lay my head down on the table.  Staff gives me a gentle reminder.  Sit up.  It’s dinner.  We’re eating.  

Correction.  They are eating.  I am staring at my food.  Poking it with a fork.  Separating each thing to a different side of the plate to make certain that they aren’t touching.  I will never be able to eat them if they are touching.  I move the food back and forth, trying to make it seem like it’s disappearing.  I wonder how many noodles there are.  I count them, separating them through the slowly congealing cheese.  Too many.  I start over.

My food grows cold.

I know what I need to do to go home.  Staff needs to be assured of my ability to eat on my own, like a normal person.  My ability to be sane.  My ability to fit in the carefully crafted box that is life.  

I cannot do it.  I don’t fit.  I never have.

I fail.  There are consequences.  No more “A Christmas Story.”  And no television tomorrow.  I am okay with that; it doesn’t matter.  I wander back to my room without a word.  I have managed to procure myself a magazine, and I flip through it and study the pictures.  Tall, skinny, beautiful women litter the pages.  Women that I will never succeed at becoming.  As I take in their image, I realize why we aren’t supposed to have these.  

It is Christmas Day.  I look out the window again at the snow and picture myself in another world.  If I picture it hard enough, it might come to be.  I might find myself ice skating on a pond with my new hat and my gloves and my happiness and my life that I will never, ever have.  There will be a cute boy to hold my hand and hot chocolate to drink after.  The good kind with the extra chocolate and mini marshmallows.  

I have removed the staples from the magazine binding.  I don’t remember doing it, but they are in my hand and the pages of the magazine are scattered everywhere.  The ends are bent out.  Sharp.  I hold my arm out in front of me.  I make no secret of what I am doing.  I am, after all, a failure.  I can’t do anything right.

Charlie watches.  Laughs.  The stuffed cat with creepy eyes revels in my failure to be human.  

I shouldn’t be here.

I am quickly caught.  Saved.

There will not be any ice skates.  No boy to hold my hand.  No hot chocolate.  I will not be outside today; I will not feel the snow on my face or the cold biting into my nose.  

Instead, it is Christmas Day and I find myself in the “quiet room.”  Solitary confinement.  No people.  No blankets, no pillow.  No slippers.  No window.  No bars.  Just padded walls and a cushioned floor.

But I do have my abandoned food tray, complete with globby lumps of cheese.

Happy flipping holidays to me.

I am such a failure.

I am certain that back in my room, Charlie is laughing.

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The Voice Inside My Head

“You look so good.  Professional.”

I respond automatically.  “I’ve been trying.”

That’s the god’s honest truth.  For a while, I wasn’t trying.  I lived in the land of jeans and sweatpants with my hair in a ponytail solely because I could.  I’m starting to change, and I see that but I don’t know how to articulate it.  I don’t know how to put into words the person that I’m becoming.  Confidence is a difficult concept for me to understand.  

I allow myself to be bound by my circumstances.  I claim that I want to be more but I often fail to give myself that opportunity.  Case and point: last week I was eating dinner with someone and we were having a conversation about teaching and issues that come up in the classroom.  She mentioned a problem that she was having and I suddenly found myself talking in regards to solving the issue even though I probably had no business doing so.  After I had been talking for at least a minute, I realized WHO I was talking to and clamped my mouth shut with a hasty apology—I was certain she knew better than I did what sorts of things would solve classroom issues.  Surprisingly, she encouraged me to continue.  It occurred to me then that I maybe know a thing or two about, well…things.  There are many times where I doubt this.

It is easier for me to be unconfident because it’s what I know.  When I was younger, I was made fun of for the clothes I wore or my makeup or the way I did my hair or really ANY number of things about my person.  My friends would chastise me for speaking when I wasn’t spoken to, for trying to force myself into conversations where I had no place being.  I went from high school to marriage; my (now) ex-husband tried to force me into a box of his creation and seal the lid, and I went along with it.  I didn’t see another option.  His voice was the strongest that I knew and the one that I was supposed to be listening to.  

Now, however, I have many awesome people in my life.  I wear decent clothes on a fairly regular basis (with the understanding that it’s because I want to look nice, not because it is required as was my previous thinking pattern).  I wear crazy colored tights and glittery shoes and I do my hair and I try.  Because I care more.  I have people in my life who think that I’m amazing, who appreciate the fact that I have my own thoughts, who support me in my decisions, and who just want me around.  I’m trying to reach out and make connections and be a real, whole person.  

Here’s the thing though.  It’s still his voice that rings the strongest.  It’s still the thought that I don’t fit, that I never will, that I will always be in the shadows.  No matter how many times someone tells me that I am awesome or strong or amazing, no matter how many publications I get or successes I attain, I still hear him telling me that I’m not good enough.  I’m not working hard enough.  I’m not doing the right things.  I, the person who I am, the real me, am not enough.

I am different though.  Sometimes I wake up and find myself afraid of the day, like today, and rather than caving as I would have with him I tell myself that I am not afraid.  That I am stronger.  That I am better.  I fake it until I make it, as my very wise advisor has told me to do so many times.  I hear his voice, and I tune it out.  I’m starting to forget what it sounded like.  I am detoxing from the box that he built for me and making a life that is my own.

I want more moments like I had the other day at dinner.  I want to know that I know what I’m talking about.  I want to be sure of my abilities on my own terms.  I want to be my own person who can listen and interpret but not absorb absolutely everything.  I want to be confident.  

Most of all, I want the only voice inside my head to be mine.

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One Two (This is Why I Run)

One two.  One two.  

I am running.  It is me and a trail completely surrounded in trees.  In another season, the leaves would block the sun from my path.  But it’s winter now and the trees are empty, bare of foliage.  The bushes along the trail are littered with tiny clumps of snow and ice.  At first glance they seem hardly alive.  Dead.

I am dead.  Or at least I feel dead.  I wonder if people know, if they see when they look at me.  I can see.  I see it every day.  I see him.  This is why I run.

You have changed me.  

One two.  One two.  

The only way I can tell I’m alive is the beating of my feet against the dirt.  The ground is frozen solid and I can almost feel it through the soles of my shoes.  Wind cuts into my cheeks with every step and my tears freeze almost as soon as they leave my eyes.  My heart is wide open and my life is spilling out.  I’m crying for everything I have lost, bleeding.  There is too much that I can not get back.  

I imagine myself sprawled out on the frozen dirt, being absorbed back into the earth.  I think that I could do that, that I could be okay with that.  Disappearing.  I could be okay with that, but I shouldn’t be.  I need to fight.  I need to break through this; I need to not let him win.  

You have taken everything from me.  Again.

One two.  One two.  

My feet are moving on their own and I don’t have to instruct them.  One two.  One two.  My feet are moving on their own and I don’t have to think.  But I do.  I think of me and him and the end that is most certainly coming for me.  I am told that I’m courageous, that I’m strong, that I can handle anything.  But I don’t see it.  I don’t want to handle anything else.  I don’t want to do this.  I don’t want to fight.  I shouldn’t have to.  

When I was a kid, I dreamt of what I thought my perfect life would be.  I pictured an ideal wedding with ice sculptures and peacocks and beautiful flowers, to the man I loved.  I imagined that we would have two children, a boy and a girl, and that they would be just a few years apart—enough to play happily but maintain distance when needed.  We adopted a white german shepherd named Alfie who protected us and loved on us for many years.  As empty nesters, my husband and I would retire to Florida, where we would live out the rest of our days in the sun and provide a vacation home for our children and their children.  Happily ever after.  

I believed in a fairy tale.  A lie.  And the lie had disintegrated around me.

After that, I started to believe again.  I thought that things were better, changing.  Until they weren’t.  I will always look over my shoulder.  I will always be followed.  A person can’t walk away when they are completely immersed.  It never ends.  It can’t.  It isn’t possible.  I thought that it was over, that I was happy and okay.  But I wasn’t.  It was yet another lie.

One two.  One two.

I am not a person anymore.  I am a shadow, a shell, broken into a million pieces that can never be repaired and that fly down the trail at a break-neck speed.  I cannot run fast enough.  I cannot outrun his shadow.

I never could.

My breath is frenzied and wrong, not even as the running requires.  My form is broken.  

One two.  One two.  One.  Two.  

I stop and bend forward, my hands on my knees and my hair in my face.  My eyes are blurry; my head is blurry.  I close my eyes and I picture him; I feel him as if he is right there.  I want to run forever but I can’t.  I can’t take another step.  I’m cold, lost.  I pray for snow, but instead there is rain.  Icy, cold, and near freezing.  

I have lost everything.

I want it back.

This is why I run.

One two.  One two.  One two.

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Playing the Piano

When I play the piano, I get lost.  Not lost in the physical sense, lost in the mental sense.  It’s just me and all of those glorious keys and a plethora of music at my literal fingertips.  I love that feeling so much, but I hardly ever play anymore.  I’m not sure why.  I’m not sure when I stopped.

 

I teach piano lessons privately; I have several students of varying ages.  So I sit at the piano several hours a week.  But it’s rare lately for me to actually play it.  There are too many other things that get in the way.  Life is always moving forward, and there’s always something in the back of my mind that is more important.  

 

When I was a kid, I played all the time.  Of course back then I was playing the organ, not the piano.  There’s a lot more to the organ, in terms of the pedals and all that.  (Though as I recall, I always stubbornly played it as if I was playing a piano.)  I used to buy book upon book of sheet music and try to learn all of the things I could.  It was the only way that I knew to blank out the things in my head, the only thing that actually worked.  The only way to feel something.

 

Now I’m a writer.  I write all the time, and much of the work I’m doing lately involves connecting to the unpleasant things of the past.  It involves thinking, and that’s a bit all-consuming.  Life itself has been busy, a maze of negotiating for myself and figuring out all things social and worldly.  I’m trying to figure out where I fit, how I can incorporate the me who has been through too many things to number with the me who is smart and clever and strong—the me who knows things.  There is always something coming up, always something being pushed through or climbed over or worked on.  But not today.  For fifteen glorious minutes this afternoon, that was not the case.

 

Today I picked up a book I haven’t looked through in a while and played through some of my old favorites.  At first I was rusty, but then it was like I had never stopped.  My fingers knew what to do.  And the best part was that I didn’t have to think.  About anything.  I wasn’t thinking about school.  I wasn’t thinking about my classes, or homework.  I wasn’t thinking about the week I’ve had.  I wasn’t thinking about work or my students.  I wasn’t thinking about the ten million other things I had to think about, because I was busy.  I was playing.  I didn’t even think about the notes once I was really going, because there were just too many of them.  I played.  Really played.  I was free.

 

I remembered today, once again, why I love to play.  When I play, I know one hundred percent what I’m doing.  I don’t have to think.  It’s such a huge part of me that I only hope I can find more time in which to do it.  

 

I’m worth that much.

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Life Beyond the Glass

My cat likes sunbeams.  She likes to press herself against the glass of the door to the backyard and bask in the sunshine.  I got her a harness, thinking that she might like to go outside.  When I put the harness on her, she flopped onto her side and refused to move.  I attached the leash, I tried to heave her to her feet, but no dice.  She wouldn’t budge.  I tried everything—polite coaxing, treats, tugging.  Nothing.  I thought that she would love the world outside, the life beyond the glass.  But she was too scared to cross the threshold, so she will never have that experience.

I don’t want to be that way.  

*

I pick the chair that allows me the best view of my surroundings.  My headphones blast a sad Ingrid Michaelson song about how we will never get to where we want to go, and I wonder if it’s true.  There are so many places I want to go, things I want to do, but I’m not sure I’m moving anywhere.  I feel like there’s not a place for me.  

I watch my friends, sitting at a table.  I think of how weird it is, to have friends.  I have had perhaps one in the previous few years.  I remember how someone very wise told me that I just needed to find “my people.”  She was right; these are my people.  They share my humor, they like school and books and writing.  All of my things.  But I can’t connect.  I’m on a different  wavelengths, with different experiences.  I have the mind of an eighty year old in the body of a twenty-nine year old.  

I want desperately to interact with them, but it’s hard sometimes.  I am so, so different.  I worry that I’m trying to force myself to be something I’m not, something apart from my experiences.

I’m behind a pane of glass and I can’t cross over.

*

Some things are completely overwhelming and difficult to process.  People wonder why I don’t talk about things; I learned not to.  When people ask me to talk about things, what they are actually asking is for me to relive them.  It’s hard sometimes to separate all of the things inside my head.  I can’t say out loud that this happened to me.  I can’t hear the words without cringing.  So I play pretend.  And sometimes I can’t.  Sometimes I am completely flustered.  

The world tells me that I don’t fit.  That I’m not normal.  That I’m doing it all wrong.  And I want to fight back.  I want to change that view.  But I don’t know how.  

*

I am completely flustered.  The comments of my professor run through my head.  

You have to be able to have normal social interactions with everyone.

I don’t understand this.  What is normal, anyway?  What am I doing wrong to deserve this?  I walk without thinking.  I don’t know where to go.  The air is squeezing out of my lungs and I’m on the verge of tears yet again.  I was proud, I thought that I was handling things well.  And then I let a tiny thing derail me.  So dumb.  Stupid.  

I am up the stairs and in the hallway and knocking before I really remember how I got here.  D is sitting at her desk, but spins around when I knock.  

“What’s wrong?” she asks.

I step in and spin around looking for a place to sit, but instead choose the floor.  I draw my knees up to my chest.  “Is this going to be the rest of my life?  Fighting?  Defending what I need to people?”  I don’t know how to do this if it is.  I don’t want to fight forever.

“Possibly.”  

“No one talks to me.  In my group.  Because when I freaked out, I really freaked out.  Literally bawled.”  I sound stupid and whiny even to me.  Can’t I just be the girl who knows the answers, the one who has relearned how to speak, the one who knows that she knows what she’s doing?  Can’t I just be her and only her?  I want to be the one who knows the answers, because she’s the real me.  She’s someone to be proud of.  This I am not proud of.

“They aren’t thinking of you as the girl who freaked out.  They’re thinking of you as the girl who’s sad.  And that’s okay.”

“Is it?  I don’t want it to be that way.”

“Imagine how hard it is for someone who’s not as strong or outspoken as you.”

Strong.  Outspoken.  I keep hearing these things and I want to believe them.  I want to be that person.  

I leave D’s office later and ponder how I’m worth fighting for. 

*

I don’t want to spend my life behind a pane of glass.  I want to experience all of the things that the world has to offer.  I want to be confident that I can handle life’s occurrences, even though it’s hard.  

I want to know the things that other people already recognize.

Life on the other side is hard and bright and loud.  But it’s also fun and enriching and educating and a million other things.

I want to cross the threshold and experience life beyond the glass.

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On what they didn’t teach us

I feel the need to reblog this, which I don’t normally do, because it is amazing.  And it’s all the things I’ve been feeling and didn’t know how to say.  Don’t just read this here; go and visit the author’s page.  You won’t regret it.  http://starlitcorner.wordpress.com/

On what they didn’t teach us.:::

Every now and again, I take a moment on my other wise quite frivolous blog to say something serious. This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for so many months now. I had so much to say, half of it I can’t even begin to put into words. But after reading yet another article about it, I simply have to get some of it off my chest.

Throughout my life, my sometimes-paranoid, slightly neurotic mother would warn my sisters and I about the dangers of being a woman in this world and “risky” situations that we would find ourselves in if we weren’t careful. These are the rules that most mothers will teach their daughters. These are the rules most girls will learn as they grow up.

Don’t walk alone. Ever. Especially long distances or in places you aren’t familiar with.

Don’t wear overtly sexual clothes.

Don’t entertain the advances of anyone you don’t know.

Avoid dark places like alleys and parks.

If you’re home alone at night, check that all the doors and windows are locked.

Pay attention to what’s happening around you.

Why? Because as a woman, you are not safe in this world. And then there would be some explanation about what rape is and who rapists are. They were always men who stalked their victims. Jumped out of bushes. Broke into houses. They were deranged and evil and perverted men. The Ted Bundys of the world.

Some nights I would lie in bed, paralysed with fear, that somewhere out there in the world, there was a man who thought that he had a right to me simply because he was born with the penis and I was born with a vagina. I would wake up in the middle of the night, violently shaking and covered in sweat, expecting to see a masked man standing in my bedroom.

This was what I imagined to be the most likely scenario for a rape.

But there is one enormous problem with all of this. Yes, it can happen this way. Yes, there are men who do things like this. But rapists are more often than not, men we trust and know and perhaps, love. Men who are our brothers, uncles, friends and lovers. Rapes don’t always happen in dark alleys and bushes. The most dangerous for a woman to be is not on a street at night. It’s in a boys residence. It’s at a house party. It’s anywhere. Even places with people you consider your nearest and dearest.

Why didn’t anyone tell us this? Why didn’t they teach us to be wary of all men?

I guess, it is easier to stomach a story about a woman who was raped by a stranger who attacked her, beat her into submission and left her for dead. Easier because you can transform him into some terrible, disgusting half-human who isn’t even worthy of your time. But more and more we read about girls who are raped by their friends, while other friends stand around and laugh and take photos. And more and more, I read comments making it her fault. She shouldn’t have been drinking. She shouldn’t have been there. She shouldn’t have flirted so much.

My heart breaks into little pieces. I feel like I’m about to throw up until I die. I cry for them. And I think, what kind of boys are we raising?

Boys who don’t understand the severity of their actions? Don’t understand what consent means? Boys who rape and humiliate their friends without a second thought?580682_294313117320026_1860950876_n

I don’t get it. I just don’t.

In a room filled with kids who go to school together and have fun together, there wasn’t one who watched what was happening and thought, this is wrong, I should call someone, I should do something. Not one boy? Instead they take turns to rape their friend cheering each other on and sharing photos and videos the next day as though it were some grand achievement that needed to be remembered and celebrated. (I should mention at this point that even girls have witnessed rapes and done nothing. There have even been cases of women blaming the victim, which is a whole other issue.)

I wonder how these boys got to this place. I wonder how they stand up in court and say, I didn’t know it was rape. I didn’t know it was wrong. I wonder how otherwise healthy, normal teenagers become rapists. They aren’t psychologically fucked up. They aren’t sexual predators. They aren’t evil.

Someone just forgot to teach them to respect women. Someone forgot to teach them what consent means. Someone forgot to tell them to be kind and to take care of friends.

I try my best to get my head around it but some days, I just hate them. And on particularly bad days, I hate all men. I hate the way they speak about women. I hate the way they laugh and mock women. I hate that it’s considered normal for a teenage boy to be overtly sexual and watch hours of porn. I wonder where the line is. I wonder how much it takes to make a boy cross it because if the news is anything to go by, the standard appears to be a couple of drinks. I truly believe that boys have skewed perceptions of women and sex because there is less education happening worldwide. A person’s first experience of sexual relationships should not happen through porn.

And before I launch into my monologue on sex education and the porn industry, I’m going to just stop.

As I climb into bed tonight, I will wish the same thing I always wish: that tomorrow morning, every boy and man will wake up knowing the fear I feel simply because I have a vagina that some moron thinks he is entitled to. That they will experience that unsettling feeling I get when I walk into a room of men, strangers and friends alike, because at the back of my mind a little voice is

whispering: you never know.944933_563091423731630_200653824_n

If you are unfamiliar with cases like the scenarios I talked about, click here and here.

Blaming the Victim

I have a problem with the way victims are treated.  In particular, rape/abuse victims.  There’s a phenomenon in our society that’s referred to as “blaming the victim.”  Blaming the victim occurs when the victim of any crime or wrongful act is held in anyway responsible for the thing that has happened to them.  The victim is lying.  Faking.  She asked for it.  She didn’t fight back, so she got what was coming to her.  Time has passed.  She should be over it.  

 

Why isn’t she over it?  It’s been so long.

 

It happens every day and it’s utterly ridiculous.  And wrong.  So wrong.  I do what I need to do.  I sit where I need to sit, I leave when a topic makes me uncomfortable, I try to do the best I can.  I can’t always prevent things from happening around me.  I cannot control my environment, just as I can’t control the things that have happened to me.

 

You should be able to do these things, interact with all members of society.

 

Society wants me to stay quiet, and so I have.  I dance around topics and I never really say anything outright.  The things in my head are uncomfortable for people and hard to talk about.  I GET that.  But the little voice in the back of my head says, “But what about me?  If it’s hard for other people to talk about, how do they think it is for me?”  I’ll tell you.  It sucks.  So I don’t do it unless I have to.  And I have my select handful of people that I will talk to, because I know that they won’t hate me for it.  

 

You brought this on yourself.

 

PTSD is a beast.  It sleeps for a while, and then it doesn’t sleep.  It wakes up.  It isn’t always controllable.  It’s random.  There are precautions a person can take, and I do.  And I do well.  I take care of myself.  I’m amazing and strong and I do the things I need to do.  Life is out there, and I show up.  I show up every day, and I do the best that I can.  So when something happens, it catches me by surprise.  And even though it shouldn’t, it overshadows all of the other things I have done.  It overshadows me showing up.  It makes me feel like I shouldn’t even bother, because this thing happened to me.  That I am somehow worth less because this thing happened to me.

 

You’re being ridiculous.  Nothing happened.

 

Here’s what I have learned from my journey today into asking for the things I need:  What I’m seeking isn’t there.  Why?  Because my reactions are not normal.  My feelings are not normal.  I should be past these things, better.  I should be able to interact as a normal participant in society (which for the most part, I do).  I should be able to control my emotions and feelings (again, I mostly do).  

 

Here’s what I hear them say:

It’s my fault.  What happened is my fault.

 

It’s your fault.

 

Nobody actually says this out loud.  But it’s in their actions, in the things that they don’t say.  I read between the lines, and I project my garbage onto the world.  

 

Damn you society, for making me feel like shit.  Damn you and your ideals of normalcy for never allowing me to measure up.  And damn you for making me feel like I should.

Because that isn’t right, and it isn’t fair, and I don’t want to do it anymore.

 

I just wish I knew what to do about it.  

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Landscapes (A Piece of the Puzzle)

A landscape.  Perfect and flowing and green.  Yellow and purple and oranges and pink blossoms are abundant.  The sun is shining through the clouds and the trees are perfect, like the kind you might have climbed in as a child.  It is the ideal life.  Take one piece out of the puzzle however, one thing in the middle, and you leave a hole.  Without that piece, the picture is never what it was.

*

As I take my first steps into daylight, I am hesitant to even breathe.  I am struck with the realization that when I came in it was night, and now the sun is shining.  The world is different than the one that I left behind.  It is louder, brighter.  I can see the car.  I can see where I’m supposed to go.  But I want nothing more than to walk, to venture, to get lost.  My life is misshapen.  It’s broken, irrevocably altered.  I am a puzzle piece that no longer fits into the landscape.  This is the point in my life at which I will turn, this is blatantly apparent.  I will go one way or another.  I will break, or I will stay together.  But nothing will be the way that it was.  It isn’t possible.

How do you come back from an experience that changes you forever?  How do connect to a world that you don’t trust to hold your secrets?  How do you move forward when it feels like time is stuck?  Answer—you don’t.  You just don’t.  You curl up into a ball and you don’t come out again.  You wear your favorite pajamas and you wrap up in a fluffy blanket and you deny that the rest of the world exists.  Because to you, it doesn’t.  It doesn’t.  It never will.

I reach out, feel the air through my fingers.  Breathe in the winter surrounding me.  Breathe in life.  I need to take what I can get; I’m not sure if I’m living anymore, and  I need confirmation.  I need to make myself feel something.  Anything but him.  He is all I feel and there is nothing else.  I imagine that a wall surrounds me, a bubble.  I am isolated from the rest of the world and living in my own time.  My own space.  

He has the power.  I have none.

*

In the land of Foucault, my favorite theorist, discourse and knowledge and power intertwine and blend together.  Discourse brings power and knowledge together, and when someone is allowed to have their own thoughts and ideas they gain knowledge.  With that knowledge comes power.  Nobody gives them the power and they don’t take the power.  It’s tied to the knowledge.  Until a person who is abused knows their options and knows that they are their own person, they lack the knowledge that necessitates power.  One of the things that disempowers the abused is silence—that we don’t talk about it or that we talk about it quietly.  It’s all about keeping things quiet. 

*

It can be hard to separate from something when you’re in the moment, in the thick of it.  With time comes perspective.  Trying to take power from me was a way of making up for his own lack.  I didn’t know any better, I put power onto him that he didn’t have or deserve by keeping quiet.  I know better now.  I’m older.  I have distance.  I think that that’s the most important thing.  We have to confront our demons in order to be stronger people, and confronting our demons means naming them.  

You don’t come back.  You only go forward.  

You connect to the world in new, different ways.  You find different places in which to fit instead of cramming yourself into places no longer for you.

You move forward by putting one foot in front of the other.  One step at a time.  One thing at a time.  One day at a time.  

Some days I break, and I need to keep telling myself that that’s okay.  It’s okay to sometimes not be okay.  It’s okay to be scared when a guy comes up behind me and places hands on my shoulders.  Justifiable, even.  It doesn’t make me bad, or wrong, or abnormal.  It makes me human.  It means that I’m feeling.  And in feeling, I’m accepting.  

I’m tired of talking about things quietly.  I’m tired of hiding.  I need to find a way to use my experience.  I’ve realized that I’m stronger than I know.  And I figured it out.

For real.  I need to publish the damn book.  And then I need to let it go, or it will break me.

“How wild it was, to let it be.”

*

A landscape.  Flowing and wild.  Colored blossoms and animals are abundant.  The sun is shining through the clouds and the trees reach for the sky.  It is life, but not ideal.  It’s real.  Take one piece out of the puzzle however, one thing in the middle, and you leave a hole.  Without that piece, the picture is never what it was.

So you take a crayon and you color in the hole.  You make a new picture.  You rebuild.  And you make it okay.

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Six Months Today

Six months today.  Checking in.  How are you holding up?  Doing okay?  Moving forward?

I’m stuck.  Moving in circles.  I’ve gone as far as I can go with this and I don’t know how to go any further.  I don’t know what else I’m supposed to do.  It’s scary.  Life is scary.

Do you need to?

I don’t know.  Do I?

You’re the only one who can answer that question.

I don’t feel normal.

What is that?  Normal?  Does it matter?  You go above and beyond expectations.  You shouldn’t be here, and here you are.  It’s amazing.  You’re amazing.  

There are too many things I don’t understand.  Too many boundaries that have been broken.  Things that I can’t ever touch again.  And I can’t be touched.  Ever.  Today I broke.  As in.  Completely cracked.  I swore that I wouldn’t let that happen and it did.

What does it matter?  Do you think people will even remember?

Probably.  I would remember.  I’m flustered.  I’m embarrassed.  I knew it would happen eventually.  I’m surprised it took so long.  I’m so mad at myself.  It shouldn’t have happened.  I shouldn’t have let it happen.

It isn’t your fault, you know.  What happened.  You know that, right?

Do I?

If you don’t, you should.  God.  Give yourself some bloody credit already.

For what?  What have I done other than fall apart over something ridiculously stupid?  I’m a compete idiot.

You’re anything but an idiot.

Stop it.  That’s ridiculous.  I freaked out.  I lost it.  I can’t hack it.

You stop it.  You survived and you’re here and you’re fighting.  And it’s scary, yes.  But that doesn’t mean that you can’t hack it.  It doesn’t mean you’re supposed to give up.  Because if you haven’t given up before, you can’t start now.  And you won’t.  You know you won’t.

……

You won’t.

I can’t do this.  Damn it.  It wasn’t supposed to be like this.  I just want to be normal.  I just want to be a student.  I want to be free of these things.  I can’t walk around and pretend to be okay and not know if something completely and unexpectedly dumb is going to trip me up.  I can’t.  Can’t.

Yes you can.  You can, and you will.  Because you’re stronger than that.  You’re stronger than giving up.  There is no normal.  And you’re right.  You don’t know.  You don’t know when something like today will happen.  But look at you.

What?

Look at you.  It happened, and it’s done, and you’re past it.  You’re through it.  You’re on the other side.

I suppose.

It’s okay to not always be okay.  It’s okay to break once in a while.  It’s okay to feel.

Feeling hurts.

That’s okay too.

I don’t want to do it anymore.

Feeling means you’re alive.  You’re coming back.  You’re going to be okay.

I’m going to be okay.

Let’s start again.  Six months today.  Checking in.  How are you holding up?  Moving forward?

I’m sort of a little proud of me.  Maybe.  A little.

It’s about damn time.