Tag Archives: Cheryl Strayed

Chords

It was my grandma who wanted me to become a musician. I don’t recall a time when I wasn’t one. I have always loved to play, to sing. It’s just a form of being for me. I could never be a music major though; I lack that sort of dedication.

The first time I sat at an organ, I was seven years old. I’m not sure who was more apprehensive—me, or the eighty year old teacher that I had no clue how to talk to. I have absolutely no recollection of that first lesson beyond the memory that her house smelled like cats. My house also smelled like cats, so it really wasn’t that bad. I may not fully remember that first teacher, but I do remember what she taught me—chords. 

Chords are the fundamental basis for everything in music. Basic chords contain three or more notes that play together in harmony. Each letter of the musical alphabet from A to G has a wide variety of accompanying chords. Major to minor, sharp to flat, augmented to diminished, fifths, sevenths…the possibilities of chord creation are endless. Knowing the things from an early age not only gave me an ear for music and very good pitch, it allowed me to play basically any song with little effort. Knowing chords gave me a strong musical foundation that I have always been able to fall back on.

*

Before your class, I had never heard of CNF. I signed up for it because it was required for the major, and because it was writing, and because I didn’t know. I honestly didn’t know what the course was. And it scared me. A lot. You broke my box in so many ways, and you made me a completely different writer. I discovered that I could write that which I couldn’t talk about, and that I could be heard while not being heard. I’m not sure I would have gone to grad school before that class. Or even thought about it, really. Because who goes to grad school to be a writer? Writers. Was I a writer? Before? I’m not sure.

“I don’t want to go to grad school anymore.” I slid the book that we had just finished discussing back towards my backpack.

“Why not?” N frowned, closing her own copy of the book.

“Because I’m not sure I can afford it. Because I don’t know how to choose. Because I don’t know if what I want is what I’m supposed to want. What I want and what I should do are two totally different things.”

“Well, what do you want?” N asked.

“New York,” I replied, without hesitation.  “For reals.”

“What is it that you like about it?”

I thought about this for a moment. “I like that they talk to me.” When she looked at me strangely, I continued, “Well, what I mean is…they aren’t so institutionally. I know who my advisor is; I’ve talked to her. I’ve been able to connect with other students. They signed me up for their social network. I feel like they are very open and friendly. Like what I have here. And I know that I am totally that student who needs a rock…”

“Surprise,” she interrupted. “Because I didn’t know that.”

“Ha ha,” I answered dryly.

“I get it. We have a rapport.  You want that somewhere else.”

“Yeah. I guess. I wish I could know who all of my advisors were. I feel like that’s a thing for me. New York is giving that to me.”

“The thing is, you don’t always know that you’ll have a specific advisor. Sometimes there are program advisors, or general advisors. You may not have one specific person until you are picking who to work with on your thesis. And even then, you might not get who you want. It depends on how many other people request that person, how that person might work with you, et cetera.”

“Yeah,” I replied, ever so eloquently. I stared at the computer screen, at the website I had pulled up.

“You also need to consider where you’re coming out of, the type of writing that the area is producing, what’s coming out. What’s being published.”

“They sent me a list of all the things from last year. The publications.”

“From graduates?”

“Graduates and current students. And a few professors.”

She thought for a moment before saying, “You can’t do something you’ll regret. If you think this is it, then you go. But you can’t get this far and then just not go to grad school because you’re scared. You need to make your own choices.”

The greatest thing I learned from you is that I can write. There isn’t necessarily one formula, one right answer, one right way to do it. There’s a lot of different things, different ways, and writing can fill a space inside.

I don’t know how to do these things, to pick a grad school, to set out on my own, to be this person I have become apart from him. I want to quit. I make excuses. It’s too expensive. I have the cat. I won’t have anywhere to live. I don’t know how to do this.

I will fail.

“Should I continue on or turn back? I wonder, though I knew my answer. I could feel it lodged in my gut: of course I was continuing on. I’d worked too hard to get here to do otherwise.” 

I read the Cheryl Strayed quote again, and again. And then once more for good measure. Because N is right. It is me. I have worked too hard to give up and go nowhere. Just because I am scared. Just because I am a little lost.

Where I am now is my foundation, and I don’t know how to leave that.  I don’t know how to give it up.

I’m scared.

I’ve been hurt a lot, and I’ve wasted a LOT of my life. I’ve let time pass and leave me behind and I don’t want to let that happen anymore—I don’t want to spend more time doing things for other people, or doing things that I don’t LOVE. And I love this.

*

The hardest piano piece I remember learning to play when I was a kid was “Fur Elise.” I liked sitting down and just playing, and that wasn’t a piece I could simply sit down and play. I didn’t want to practice; I didn’t want to put in the work that would be required of me to accomplish the piece. I wanted to quit. There was an A minor seventh chord that I didn’t understand. I didn’t want to fail.

I had a strong foundation with chords. So I figured them out. And I can still play “Fur Elise” today. There was a large payoff for the work I put in. I can play many things that are harder than “Fur Elise,” and many things that are easier. Because I put the time in. Because I figured it out. Because that foundation didn’t need to be given up. It stayed with me; I built on it.

This too, I will figure out, I will build on. Because I have a strong foundation now, and because I am not willing to walk away.

I can still play that A minor seventh chord to this day.

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Plan B (On Rejection)

The first A minus I ever got in an English class broke me.  I was in eighth grade.  I wrote a twenty-two page story called “Searching for Becca Fischer.”  My teacher faulted it for the little things; she thought that some of the characterizations went too quickly.  At the time, I cried.  I had spent a long time on that story.  I felt like I really knew who Becca was, like she was a part of me.  I still think about her sometimes; she was the first character of mine I really identified with.  So when I saw the A minus, my black and white brain interpreted it as a failure because I was so connected to the work.  I thought that, in rejecting Becca, my teacher was rejecting me.  I reread the story last night when I couldn’t sleep, and I realize now that my teacher was right.  The characterization is weak in places.  There’s a lot that I could do with the piece now that I’m a better writer.  But at the time, I was so connected to my work that all I saw was the failure that wasn’t even a failure at all.  It was an A minus.  A bloody A minus.  But it was a rejection all the same.

Fast forward fifteen years to court and my (now) ex’s stupid face.  After all the things we went through, the end was sudden.  Jarring.  It wasn’t the same sort of rejection, but it was a definite lack of acceptance.  Over the course of our marriage, he invalidated everything that I thought I was.  I tried to change for him, but I was never good enough.  I never made the cut in his eyes.  I could never be who he wanted me to be.  I had ten years of my life between high school and college that feel like a waste, like time that went by and has left me nothing but older.  

I got my first graduate school rejection yesterday, and it brought me right back to that day in my eighth grade classroom, right back to all the time spent in court.  I cried a little.  Ate froyo.  And then spent most of today being sad.  Because a large part of me feels like a failure.  I know that it’s only one rejection.  I know I still have seven schools out there, pondering my future for me.  But I’m still really bummed for a wide myriad of reasons.  One—it was a school I REALLY liked, and they didn’t like me back.  Two—it feels like my entire life is on hold because I can no longer plan for my future.  Three—it feels like I wasn’t good enough.  I talked to a professor today who pointed out to me (or maybe this came from my mouth) that the graduate school application process is really like a lottery.  A bunch of little balls get loaded into a bingo-like cage and some big-wig pulls them out and calls a number.  That number gets in.  The hundreds (thousands?) that don’t get drawn just stay in the little cage.  It paints a stark reality, this rejection letter I received.  A reality where my future is incredibly uncertain, a reality where I have worked my ass off but might still not get in anywhere, because my number might not be called.  I have done all of the right things, taken all the right courses, kept my grades up, become a TA, tutored, edited at the magazine…and I might not be right.  I might not fit.  That reality is very much in the forefront of my brain now, because I am accustomed to not getting what I want.  I have worked my ass off and it might all be for nothing.  There might not be an MFA in my future.  I might not be a writer.  That is so, so scary.

I think that, over the last year, I have put a good 99 percent of my eggs in the graduate school basket—and I’m scared now because I worry I put my hope into the wrong thing.  I had a gaping wound that I needed to fill and I filled it with this whole graduate school process.  What happens if that process doesn’t come to be?  Will I start to hemorrhage again?  Will I lose my place?  Did I fill myself with the wrong thing?  Is it possible I won’t be a writer?  I have carved an identity for myself within academia and this plan that I have made to go to graduate school.  I will have to reshape it if I don’t get in.  It seems like I am always reshaping.  I want to be the cause of that reshaping, just once.  I want to prove to myself that I can be successful without him.  In my head, I’ve made graduate school equivalent to success.  Now I’m worried I will be lost. 

I feel like I need to make plans, somehow.  But without knowing where I will be next year, that’s hard. So, I’ve come up with an awesomely outrageous Plan B.  (The first of many, probably, since I have time to ponder before more letters come, but a plan I really like.)  I want to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.  Really, I won’t have anything to lose—it would be the perfect time to do it.  I don’t have kids or a family.  I don’t have any stuff.  I just have me.  And it would be nice to wander into the wilderness for that length of time and just…be.  I’ve read all of Cheryl Strayed’s books:  Torch, Wild, and Tiny, Beautiful Things.  Her writing is amazing.  Yup, she was pretty dumb to wander into a hike of that magnitude with little training.  Yup, she was very lucky to survive.  But she did.  And not ONLY did she survive, she wrote a book about it.  And that book is amazing.  That book is the story of a woman who figured out how to conquer her shit because she grappled with it and won.  She beat her shit.  I want to beat mine. 

I will start with the tattoo:  “How wild it was, to let it be.”   

How I finish will be up to the graduate school application lottery.

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Reintegration

Today was the first day back of a new semester, at least, the first real day as a student.  I was worried about many things going into today, the greatest of those being whether or not I remembered how to be a successful student.  Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I did.  I know that I’m supposed to have confidence, but I let that get taken away from me and I lacked the nerve required to take it back.  I had a choice.

This quote from Cheryl Strayed’s Wild sums where I was at well:

 

“The thing about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, the thing that was so profound to me that summer—and yet also, like most things, so very simple—was how few choices I had and how often I had to do the thing I least wanted to do. How there was no escape or denial. No numbing it down with a martini or covering it up with a roll in the hay. As I clung to the chaparral that day, attempting to patch up my bleeding finger, terrified by every sound that the bull was coming back, I considered my options. There were only two and they were essentially the same. I could go back in the direction I had come from, or I could go forward in the direction I intended to go.” 

 

Last semester was rough for me.  I reached a point where I couldn’t handle things anymore, where the thing that had to go academically was my voice as a student.  (Or my voice in general—really, I just stopped talking about things).  My brain was still there; I had ideas.  They just adamantly refused to come out of my mouth.  I remember numerous occasions where I would leave a class and wonder what the heck I was doing or why I was even there.  I remember feeling like I didn’t fit in anymore and didn’t have a place.  I didn’t think I belonged anymore.  I remember wanting to quit, and sitting in one of my favorite professor’s offices telling her just that.

I am SO glad I didn’t.  

I, like Strayed, had a choice.  I was bleeding internally, letting the things I had worked so hard for get away from me.  I was juggling a lot; what happened pushed me over the edge.  There were two ways that I could go—the way I had come from or the way that I intended to go.  I could stay in my circumstances and wallow in self-pity, or I could push through it.  I could let myself drown in the things that had happened to me, or I could learn how to swim.  I have never been bothered by a good swim; I made myself a life preserver and took off with the goal of just holding on.  I did that, and I did it well.  But it was merely holding on and coasting on life’s waves, nothing more.  I was taking no initiative to step forward and out of where I was.  

What I did do, in my efforts to process my life, was begin writing my memoir.  And write I most certainly did.  The work is now several essays long and over 200 pages of pure me.  I have tackled the experience I was struggling with last semester, and while I still don’t know how to process everything, I have pushed through it.  I have reached the other side.  But the memoir has been missing an ending.  I didn’t know how to signify the finish to something so life altering.  It really doesn’t end.  It never feels “better.”  It doesn’t go away.  It simply becomes a little easier to think about day by day.  I know that things have happened to me, and I’ve gotten through them.  I’ve survived.  I did not quit.  I won’t.  I’ll be okay someday.

Today was a test for me, and I passed with extra credit.  I exceeded my own expectations for myself and the day.  I’m learning to articulate my thoughts and my needs on my own, without having to use someone else as my mouth piece or apologize for the things that leave my mouth.  This manifested itself in two ways today.  In my first class, I opened my mouth without even thinking about it, not giving myself the chance to overanalyze my answer and shut down what I was trying to say.  What came out was good, making me wonder about everything that I gave up on last semester because I stopped trusting myself.   The second moment was when I went to my next class and quickly realized that classroom positioning and being completely blockaded from the door was going to be an issue for me.  I go straight from one class to the other, and by the time I get to the second class, all of the non-blocked in seats are taken.  The real ticket here, the real notice to me that I was coming back, was that I was able to calmly and matter-of-factly explain my need to the professor in her office after class, a professor that I have never really conversed with much, and she was able to easily come up with an accommodation.  She will save me a seat towards the front and by the door with a book.  And it will be my seat for as long as I want.  Speaking up about what I need to be successful was really not so bad.  Admitting that I have a need?  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  I don’t believe that she looks at me any differently now.  As a matter of fact, I think she found it admirable that I was able to be so upfront about things.  This experience with her has changed how I view my interactions with the people around me; I’m excited at all of the news way in which I can approach things.  I’m reintegrating, putting the old me back in with all of the things that I’ve learned about myself.  I’m glad that I took time to write this summer, to work on myself through putting things down on paper.

This is what I do.  I write.  I survive.  I keep moving forward.  While this may seem small to many people, it’s deeply important to me.  I’m incredibly proud of myself and the way that I handled the events of the day.  Up until today, I highly suspected that good-brain me, for lack of a better term, was gone.  But rather than receive confirmation of that fact, I received confirmation of a different sort.  I know now that I’m overcoming.  Real me is coming back; I’m getting there.  But really, I suppose I’m already there.  I’m back.  

I can write the ending to my memoir now.

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Recovery 2.0

(This is a rewrite of the previous post, which was a draft of the introduction to my memoir.)

When I was twenty-eight, I was in the third semester of my undergraduate career.  I was carrying my typical huge credit load, but it was the first semester I can recall where one class stood out as a hands down favorite.  That class for me was Advanced Expository Writing.  In laymen’s terms, it was a class in the art of writing creative non-fiction.  Writing about myself was not an activity I had done heavily; however, like most fiction writers, a lot of my fiction has a basis in truth.

In this class, we wrote a myriad of different things on different topics, but every single one of my works pertained to my life.  One of the main focuses of the class was to get a legitimate workshop experience; each of the sixteen students in the class would submit two things for workshop over the course of the semester.  The other students were expected to read, mark up, and constructively critique each piece and then return it to the author in class, at which point a discussion of the piece would ensue.  I sat on my couch at the beginning of April, downloading and printing things off of our discussion board.  I didn’t read them, I just printed one after the other after the other.  I took them off of the printer, stapled each piece together, and settled in for a night of reading.  But the first piece was about rape, with some (at least to me) graphic pictures of women interspersed throughout the text.

I set the piece down without going past the first page.  I stared at the dog.  She stared back at me.  It was a full minute before I remembered that I was supposed to be breathing.  I picked the piece back up, ripped it into tiny pieces, and threw them all in the garbage can.  Immediately after, I emailed the professor and asked if it would hurt my grade to take a zero on the workshop.  I was willing to go and sit through said workshop, but if it got to be too much to deal with, I was going to have to leave.  And I would not be able to actually read the piece.  She replied that I had to do what I had to do.  So that’s exactly what I did.

I went to class the next day sans a critique for the author in question, but with my steely mental armor on.  It was my goal to not make a scene.  But I had forgotten that the author would be reading a portion of the piece out loud, and hearing the word was like nails in a coffin.  Rape.  God.  It brought everything back; it made it fresh.  In my head, I instructed myself to remain in my seat, to not get up, to not cause a stir.  Even though I had made previous arrangements, even though it was perfectly okay for me to leave, I grounded myself in my chair.  At least until the conversation began to disintegrate.  The class listened to the start of her paper, and then some idiot made the connection between rape as an act and rape as an herb.  The class started cracking jokes.  And they laughed.  I listened for as long as I could, until I couldn’t breathe.  And then I got up and walked out.  The door slammed shut behind me.

I wanted to scream; I could hear their laughter from all the way down the hall.  I didn’t know if I would be able to go back inside.  I wandered down to the store and bought apple juice, and then came back up and leaned against the window in the hallway outside our classroom.  They were right, at least partially.  Rape is an herb.  The word rape, in botany, belongs to the mustard family; it’s the same group that covers the cabbage, the mustard plant, and the turnip.  It’s used for lubrication, cooking, illumination, and making soup.  To plunder, to pillage.  To seize, to carry off by force.  Abusive improper treatment, a violation.

The crime of forcing another person to submit to sex acts.

And they laughed.  They made jokes.  I couldn’t wrap my brain around it.

Every two minutes, someone in the United States is raped.  Each year, there are about 207,754 victims.  44 percent of rape victims are under the age of 18.  80 percent are under the age of 30.  54 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to police.  97 percent of rapists don’t even spend ONE day in jail.  Two-thirds of assaults are committed by someone the victim has met previously.  38 percent are committed by a friend, acquaintance, or spouse.  It’s this on one hand, this horrible indescribable act; it’s a yellow plant on the other.

It’s grapes.

It’s soap.

It’s sex.

I suddenly hated college.

I pressed my forward against the grass and started to cry.  I knew then that what had happened to me would never go away.

This is what it means to be in recovery.  Sometimes, it just hits you like a ton of bricks, that moment when you have to admit that “yes, this happened to me, yes, this is a part of me.”  It can be something small and insignificant that sets you off; it isn’t necessarily a flashing neon sign.  Something as small as a word can remind you of this awful thing that has happened to you, something you would never dare tell anyone.  Something of which you are greatly ashamed.

The word recovery has different meanings depending upon the context in which it is used.  But no matter what the situation, it’s an indication that someone is getting past something(s).  It doesn’t mean forgetting, nor does it mean dismissing the experience(s).  It simply means moving on, and accepting that one can still be a person despite the things that have happened to them.  That person will not necessarily be the same as who they were before, who they were when they started out.  But they are still a person, and they still have value.  We all have value; recovery is when we start to remember that.

For me, recovery includes copious amounts of writing.  Every day.  I grounded myself in the telling of this story; it was literally how I found my way back.  I believe that recovery comes from finding even the tiniest scrap of meaning in what has happened; I believe that our experiences should be used to help others.  But I have a hard time grappling with my experiences.  That is what writing this story is about for me—letting people in and caring more about the message than what they might think.  My dedication to writing gives me strength, even when I don’t think I have any left to draw from.  For me, there is always writing.  Sharing my story is about losing my fear, about accepting all of my past experiences as part of myself, and about realizing that I am still a person.  Writing is taking care of myself, forcing myself to a point of moving past things.  But it’s also a beacon for other people that I hope will lead them to their own path of acceptance and healing.

Cheryl Strayed writes “I make my own stories public for the sake of art.  A painful experience is not art, but art can be made from painful experiences.  Writers are truth tellers…Often that means we need to write about the darkness within.”  Writing about myself is a fairly new adventure.  I think of it as a purging experience, a shedding of the bad feelings that allows me to incorporate my real self back into a life devoid of choice and feeling.  I have had a lot of darkness in my life; I have had a lot of experiences.  That darkness is still deep; I lost a son, I lost a marriage, and I had my identity completely stripped away.  I lost my place, but my writing has remained a steady placeholder.  Some things are too awful to ever fully put into perspective, but writing lends a small edge to the task.  Even when there are things I have trouble talking about, I can write about them.  I’ve found a method in which I can discuss things, even when I can’t physically talk about them.  The how and the why and the where don’t matter; what matters is that I have found a way to “speak.”  And through writing, I am teaching myself how to literally speak again.  Writing is helping me to take my voice back.  Perhaps reading it will help you gain the courage to find yours.  I’m not a girl; I’m not a woman; I’m not a victim.  I’m a survivor.  And I’m a writer, confront the demons that have taken up residence inside of my head.  I am here; I am alive.  And that is more than good enough.  I’m writing, and with that writing, I am giving one hundred percent commitment to my recovery.

Recovery is different for everyone; everyone is recovering from something at some point, and everyone is different.  Some, like me, are not good at talking about things.  But I hope that everyone can find some way to accept their experiences, and to begin moving on.  If reading my story can touch one person, that it has done the job I only hoped it could do.

This story is not always pretty.  It isn’t unicorns and rainbows, it isn’t flowers and chocolate.  But it’s mine, from start to finish.

These essays are the story of my journey, and the pathway to my recovery.

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Recovery

The word recovery has different meanings depending upon the context in which it is used.  But no matter what the situation, it’s an indication that someone is getting past something(s).  It doesn’t mean forgetting, nor does it mean dismissing the experience(s).  It simply means moving on, and accepting that one can still be a person despite the things that have happened to them.  That person will not necessarily be the same as who they were before, who they were when they started out.  But they are still a person, and they still have value.  We all have value.

For me, recovery includes copious amounts of writing.  Every day.  I believe that recovery comes from finding even the tiniest scrap of meaning in what has happened; I believe that our experiences should be used to help others.  Sometimes writing is hard and completely sucks, but I still do it.  In her article How to Write Like a Mother#@%*&, Cheryl Strayed writes “Writing is hard for every last one of us…Coal mining is harder.  Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal?  They do not…So write…Not like a girl.  Not like a boy.  Write like a mother#@%*&.”  What does this mean exactly?  To me, personally, it means many things on many different levels.

To me, writing like a mother#@%*& means being committed to the task and not caring what anyone thinks.  This is a goal that I want to achieve; I am not at this point yet.  I write, all the time.  But I care what people think.  I’m scared of letting people in.  In the end, this will keep my memoir from ever being published, and so I need to get over it.  I love writing more than anything.  This dedication gives me strength, even when I don’t think I have any left to draw from.  There is always writing.  I need to lose my fear; I need to accept all of my experiences as a part of myself, despite people who dismiss them or tell me to let them go.  Writing is letting go.  The more I write, and the more I let people read, the more I believe this fear will dissipate.  

Writing is taking care of myself, forcing myself to a point of moving past things.  My number one excuse for not writing has always been that I don’t have enough time.  There is always something else to do:  teaching, school, volunteering, et cetera.  But writing is what I want to, have to, do, therefore, writing is my job.  As human beings, we make time for our jobs.  When I teach, I make time for that; all of my private students are in prearranged time slots.  I have several hours each week blacked out to work on curriculum for classes that I teach, and I spend time teaching each of those classes.  Why should writing be any different?  My writing, my recovery, matters just as much as my work.  In fact, my recovery is vital to my work.  If I spend, on average, twenty five hours per week engaged in teaching related activities, that equals out to about three hours per day.  So why not spend one hour writing, one hour taking care of me?

The dilemma once the decision to write has been made is what, exactly, I should write about.  Strayed addresses this issue in the same article when she says “I make my own stories public for the sake of art.  A painful experience is not art, but art can be made from painful experiences.  Writers are truthtellers…Often that means we need to write about the darkness within.”  Writing about myself is a fairly new adventure that I have not done much of until recently.  Last semester, I had an awesome professor who taught a class on writing in the creative non-fiction genre, and I latched on to the idea of spending most of my writing time there.  Strayed is right, we write to tell a story, and sometimes that story involves negative experiences in life.  Writing is a way to tell my story, to realize that there’s nothing wrong with it, with me.  Writing can be thought of as a purging experience, a shedding of the bad feelings that allows for the incorporation of the self back into a life that has been stripped of choice and feeling.  

I have had a lot of experiences in my life.  They weren’t all bad.  The darkness within for me is still deep; I lost a son, I lost a marriage, I lost an identity, I gained it back, and I lost it again.  I lost my place; writing is my placeholder.  Some things are too awful to ever fully put into perspective, but writing lends a small edge to the task.  Even when there are things that I just can’t talk about, I can write about them.  I’ve found a method in which I can discuss things, even when I can’t physically talk about them.  The how and the why and the where don’t matter; what matters is that I have found a way to “speak.”  And through writing, I am teaching myself how to literally speak again.  Writing is helping me to take my voice back.  

Recovery is different for every one.  Some, like me, are not good at talking about things.  But I hope that everyone can find some way to accept their experiences, and to begin moving on.  And I hope that perhaps, as I begin the process of sharing, my story will help someone some day.  

I’m not a girl; I’m not a woman; I’m not a victim.  I’m a survivor.  And I’m a writer.  I’m just a writer, confronting the various demons that have taken residence inside my head.  I am here; I am alive.  And that’s more than good enough.  I’m writing, one hundred percent committed to exorcising the darkness within, and I am writing like a mother#@%*&.

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