My opinion of bras. They suck! Man, I could end this right here. Bras have never been simple for me. I’m a very large breasted woman. So large in fact most places don’t even make my size. Anything over a DDD and you’re stuck searching. Even the rare G can find stuff in specialty stores. Not me. H’s are near unheard of unless you want to pay $90 a pop.
Let’s add insult to injury. I have not one but two, yes you heard that right, two frozen shoulders. It has become near impossible for me to put a bra on without help. Not that my willing spouse in the house has a problem with that (I think he enjoys it), but there’s something a little soul destroying about not being able to take care of your basic needs on your own. Let’s not even talk about what it’s like to dangle five pounds each from your shoulders (yes I weighed them. Shup. Don’t judge me). No matter how good your bra is, and mine are rather impressive with under support, when you get to my size pressure will be put on shoulders and upper back. Doesn’t matter how I wear them, it just hurts. Frozen shoulders are no joke. Some people don’t get a lot of pain with them, but I have a pain disorder so the universe decided I could handle even more pain. Gee, sometimes I wish the universe didn’t think I was so strong. Talk about karmic backhanded compliment…but I digress. Bras now hurt in a way I can’t cope with, so I gave them up.
I held on to my daily bra torture for a long time with these shoulders. I had fears of embarrassing my teenagers with their friends or school officials. See it’s really obvious when I don’t have one on. They are big , and a gift of genetics and the fact they were working breasts feeding babies means they hang. I personally do not care that they hang. Never had a partner give a rat’s boob about it, and these things made milk. That’s kind of a miracle when you think on it. I wear my stretch marks, saggy breasts, and gray hair with pride. They tell my story, and a big part of that story is being a mom. No regrets there. Not for one second (even when I want to toss the kids through a window). However, the last thing I wanted was to walk into school and the teachers and all their friends notice I had no bra on and the things they would say to my kids.
I also couldn’t shake the memories of women and teenage girls in my life and around me. Listening to their judgment of proper female dress code and the hell they wreaked on those that didn’t live up (not that I ever did live up as the school basket case ala’ Ally Sheedy in Breakfast Club). Isn’t it funny how we impose the greatest social mores on our own culture groups?
It came down to sanity. It wasn’t worth the searing pain, and I’m talking not able to lift my arm enough to adjust clothing and use the pot after wearing one for a few hours. I started out with really baggy and thick clothing, and scarves (forget that its like 60F outside…I’ll just sweat). I went out nervous as hell entertaining my spouse with a rapid fire monologue of all the reasons why I shouldn’t bother with a bra. How I was in so much pain it wasn’t worth it anymore and we were only shopping not going to a five star restaurant.
But something amazing happened.
No. One. Noticed.
Not one person did a double take or stole a backwards glance at my chest. No one said anything nasty. There were no whispered conversations when I passed. The check out people looked at my face (which was sometimes unusual because with a bra my assets precede me. I’m almost used to certain individuals seeing boobs first). I did not end up on People of Walmart. And, boy, I was ready for all of that if it happened. I had entire monologues of scathing repartee about minding their own business, and my right to go topless if I wanted. Even jokes both self deprecating and insulting to the other. I was armed to the verbal teeth. Haven’t had to use a single one. Talk about taking the wind out of my sails. I’m half happy and half disappointed I didn’t get go toe to toe with an asshole.
I started caring less and less about going out braless. I’m a modest sort naturally (not that anything is wrong with flaunting what you’ve got. You are an autonomous person regardless of what you wear or don’t wear. You do you, it’s not just me). I doubt I’ll go out in a tanktop braless, but pretty much anything else is fair game now. Oh I’m sure if I want to dress up I’ll put the girls on display. There is a certain amount of power that comes with big breasts when you want attention. On a day to day basis, though? You can forget it. My life is easier, less painful, and more confident without well presented boobs. In some cultures my shape without a bra is considered normal and even beautiful. Why have I let the others convince me I need this thing of metal and canvass (for those that don’t wear one underwires are curved metal rods…okay so they’re not typically canvass, but cloth can be stitched and layered in a way that is just as strong) strapping me down?
Let the ta tas free! Unless you feel better about you with one on and they don’t cause you pain or discomfort, toss the bras. They aren’t worth it. Very few people will notice or care. I promise. Those that do notice are probably not worth your time.
Side note for the bra believers: Yes I have been professionally fitted, and get refitted on a regular basis. If you choose to wear one, don’t trust what size you think you are, go to a pro and get fitted. It’s the difference between wearing pants made out of cactus needles vs. silk. An estimated 70% of people with breasts are wearing the wrong size bra. Most higher end dept. stores like Daltons or Macy’s, or actual lingerie shops, will have someone trained on staff to help you for free. You don’t have to actually buy, but if you’re big like me it might be the only place you find your size for under $100.
We need to talk about this spoon theory business. For those that are unfamiliar Spoon Theory was originally created by Christine Miserandino in the blog, But You Don’t Look Sick. The short version is she was in a restaurant with her friend who asked the loaded question, “What is it like to live with chronic illness.” Thinking fast she gathered spoons as a visual aid and used them to describe her life in units of energy represented by the spoons. The main take away is that people with chronic illness have a finite amount of spoons (energy) and we always have to think about how we going to spend it. Being sick for a short period of time is one thing, but when you live your life constantly thinking this way it changes how you see the world and the decisions you make.
This resonated strongly with me and I immediately jumped on the spoonie bandwagon. It was great to have this lexicon to describe my life to others and to help loved ones get that sometimes I just can’t do things because I have to spend my spoons elsewhere that day. As I got deeper into spoonie culture more and more fellow would be spoonies were unhappy with how this definition of living with chronic illness took over and sometimes fell flat.
I spent time looking into this trying to understand or think of yet another way to describe life that would fit these holes and there just is nothing. Looking at able bodied people’s response to spoon theory I realized they weren’t fully getting it, causing them to misuse spoon theory and create gaps in understanding. This is not to say spoon theory fits everyone with chronic illness or that there aren’t some issues, but I wanted to spend some time breaking this down a little better.
Imagine every day you have a finite number of spoons. Every person with chronic illness has a different amount of spoons. It has to do with medication, other treatments, self care, what needs to be done, weather, ect. Some will have five spoons in a day; some 20. Each day can start off with a different amount. Some days I’m down to three, easily, and others I have fifteen or more. There are so many variables I cannot tell you from day to day how many I will have. My ability level changes every single day. I have learned to gauge quickly what I *think* I will be able to do but I’m not always correct. I personally know a person with Fibromyalgia, like me, who gets through their day with 25 on average; and another person, also with Fibromyalgia, who is lucky to get seven spoons on a good day. It is all very individual.
For the purposes of this blog let’s say I average twelve spoons a day barring any weirdness. To help compare, using people in my life as a model, the average able bodied person starts most days with thirty. A younger or very fit person who is active will have more, and an older or unfit person who is not very active will have a little less.
Using myself and the twelve spoons, think about your day. Based, again, on myself and how much energy I expend doing various things, use this table as a guide for how you want to spend your spoons.
Remember you only have 12 spoons to work with and you’re not guaranteed having that many the next day, how are you going to spend them? You can sometimes steal from the next day in emergencies but then however many spoons the universe gives you the next day are down from the get go. You cannot just decide I will do XYZ one day and ABC the next. You are not promised the ability to do that.
Every day I have to think, consciously, what needs to be done, and what is most important and what can I let go if my body doesn’t work. I can’t go to the beach or get a random ingredient for dinner or sew a quick button on a pair of kid pants just because I want to or it needs to be done. Sometimes I will wake up feeling like I have 20 spoons and an hour or so later suddenly have five. I don’t make many plans because I don’t want to have to say I’m sorry, today is a no go after a friend or loved one put in all this work to do something that included me. I miss out on school things with my kids because even though we knew this concert was coming my body doesn’t care about calendars, and I can’t just push through it. When spoons are gone they’re gone. It isn’t about weakness or grinning and bearing it. You can’t magically make a dollar appear when you’re broke. Same thing here.
The hardest part about all of this and where the main problem lies in bridging the understanding gap between persons with chronic illness and able bodied persons, is that there is no formula. Explaining how we make choices about where our energy goes is only one step. The next one, and quite probably not the final one, is understanding that every day changes. I’ve said many times in this post that each day I have a different amount of spoons. One day I might have 15 and the next three in a row, four. I have many well meaning people in my life who love me and just want to help in some way look at my activity level from day to day like we would look at a financial budget and try to audit what I do and then “discuss” with me why I may or may not choose to do this activity they really wanted to do with me. I don’t have a simple answer for them and it gets very hard to explain in a loving way what is going on.
It frustrates me that people feel the need to do that. The belief that I must not be active enough or too active or not doing something right or I just need to push through it takes away my sense of autonomy over my own life and sometimes my own body. Even if I was somehow missing some important thing that would make life better or at least more predictable, no one has the right to judge whether or not I do it. I don’t have the right to judge if you decide a big screen tv is a better investment than new car tires. I’m not in your head. I’m on the outside and you may have a very valid reason I haven’t thought of yet. Able bodied people are by and large given this kind of autonomy.
I have to live in a way that most people can’t even imagine. All I want is to be trusted that I know my body and I know my illness. I am going on 13 years diagnosed, and a strong possibility I’ve had it since I was a teenager. Your friend with fibromyalgia is living life the same way I am but they are making the choices that work for them. Their choices will not necessarily work for me.
I want to say to all the people in my life that do this, and there are many: I love you! I love you so much I don’t have words. I recognize that you love me and want me to be healthy and happy and have a good life. I recognize you feel helpless watching me go through this and are grasping at as many straws as I am to help. Please remember, I know me best. Please remember, when I have to bow out, or just smile and nod as you speak of “all your other friends who are sick say to do this”, I am not angry with you or trying to hurt you. I’m just trying to live my life on my terms the best way I know how.
Feeling helpless is the hardest part of watching someone you love go through this. Here are things that help me. I encourage you to speak to your own loved ones about what helps them. Their answers may be different from mine. Some of these things we expect spouses/partners to do, but sometimes spouses/partners can’t or just need a break from constant caretaking.
I usually like to have a clear wrap up, thank middle school English courses for that. Today though I think I will just say: Thank you for reading, I love you, and I hope this helps you understand loved ones with chronic illness, or how to speak to loved ones about your chronic illness.
*Side Note* A friend recently pointed out to me this also translates well into mental illness and those coping with death, abuse, and/or violence. Sometimes we have limited emotional or mental spoons too, and when they’re gone, we’re basically goo.
This is one of those blogs that I’m unsure how to go about. I have this political soap box about religious equality in my head, and my feet are stomping on it. They’re not tightly organized and intricate, tap dancing for rhythm; these are all out, hard core percussionist playground stomps. I know this stream of thought has to come out, but my organization in it is lacking. My mother used to tell me I would go on these little journeys in my head, and when I finally spoke I was so far beyond the original idea that got me thinking, that no one knew where I was or how I got there. I will attempt to take you through the hoops and over the leaps with me.
I have a very dear friend, really he is my brother from another mother, that I’ve spoken about before, just not mentioned names. Those that know me best typically know who it is. This man was born to be a first responder. He eats, sleeps, and lives preparedness and survival, search and rescue. He’s got the heart of gold that puts others before himself in almost all things, and the calling to help others. He happens to be Heathen, like me. We follow the teachings of the Norse/Germanic pantheon best known of from the Vikings. Before finding Asatru, I was a non-wiccan witch studying the use of magick and pagan ways for most of my adult life.
I’m waiting for someone of a more well known mono-theistic faith to say something akin to, Isn’t it wonderful he is the exception. This pagan is here to help. You wouldn’t believe the amount of times in my life that I’ve heard similar things. I’m not too different from my brother. I follow a shamanic path as a seidr, a Viking witch/shaman/seer. I’m here to help. It’s in my make up. I actually can’t ignore someone in pain (emotional or physical) even if I highly dislike them. I’m just not good at the whole repelling-into-broken-buildings-to-dig-someone-out or reading-the-doplar-to-know-where-that-storm-is going-to-hit- so-they-can-be-there-first-to-help kind of thing he does (wow those dashes were long).
One thing I’ve learned over the years, every pagan faith has a call to help others. To give to the community. To respond when help is needed. I donate to shelters and volunteer *because* of my faith, not in spite of it. It is not two separate sides of me, but intricately intertwined. Embedded in the noble nine virtues, the cornerstone of Asatru, are words like bravery, honor, hospitality, perseverance. By the most basic principles we, as heathens, are called upon by forces that are greater than ourselves to serve the community. I would say I am hard pressed to find one pagan I have ever met that does *not* give or volunteer in some way. However very few are open about their faith when they do it.
There are exceptions, like the Hands of the Goddess in Florida, whom a friend of mine does a lot of work with. They work with local charities and separately with their own, openly, as pagans. I love seeing this. I love seeing the non-pagans that drop stuff off at her door because they believe in what they do, but they are still considered something unique.
Another friend of mine, landed a dream job, that centers around service to the community. They almost lost it because they were openly pagan and the rest of the group was Christian, even though this was a secular organization. The others felt ooky about working with a pagan. I don’t know man, they might be a devil worshiper. No one took the time to learn the belief system this person followed or that, that very belief system was the entire reason they were there and so dedicated in the first place.
I was angry when I learned this. It’s a free country with supposedly freedom of religion. No one should ever have to hide or modify or step back from their faith to appease the few. I was also told by this friend that most of the better organizations for community service, everything from search and rescue to soup kitchens, were Christian, Muslim, or Jewish based, as if the myriad of other faiths in this country didn’t exist or were all inherently evil.
Why is that? Why are faiths so intrinsically dedicated to service to fellow man not making a bigger impression on the scene. Why is Hands of the Goddess considered unique? Why are good pagans not being counted for?
You’re not going to like my answer.
This happens because religious intolerance in this country is so deeply ingrained and been going on so long, that it has been accepted by the pagan community. It is considered normal to hide one’s faith when giving for fear of the gift being refused.
That’s a real fear. I totally get it. You just want to make sure help gets to those that need it. Not only does it feel bad on a personal level when that happens, but it denies those that that need it, the help. It is still wrong. Let me say that again.
*It is still wrong.*
Allowing this situation to continue only perpetuates all the stereotypes we fight against every day. It allows people to remain ignorant and intolerant. It teaches the public nothing, and our community hides further into the shadows.
Nothing will ever change if we don’t make it change. I want to live in a world where my friends and loved ones can be proud of being first responders, volunteer coordinators, teachers, *and* pagan.
How do we fix it?
Simple. In fact it’s alarmingly simple. It’s so basic, that I bet every single one of you has already thought of it and passed it over as not being enough.
We educate. When talking to a volunteer coordinator: I’m here because as a heathen it is my duty to and my honor to serve. When collecting cans of food: The Goddess reminds us that we are all equal and to serve those in need. When pulling wreckage from a downed house: You and me are equal, and I’m here to help. My pagan faith teaches that.
That’s a lovely necklace. It’s my Thor’s hammer. It reminds me to be strong and act with courage. Or It’s my pentacle, it reminds me to stay in balance with all the elements. It stands for mother and earth and protection.
Believe it or not these sorts of simple statements will cause ripples all around us, and slowly, person by person, our voices will be heard, and the community will understand we belong at the table.
I have a favorite story. The Starfish. This lady walks out onto the beach and it’s covered in starfish. As far as the eye can see, thousands of starfish, all of them dying when they were washed up by the tide. She turns around stunned at the sight and finds another woman throwing starfish out into the sea. The first woman asks, “What are you doing? You can’t save all these starfish, there are too many.” The second woman replies, with a starfish in her hand, “No. But I can save this one,” and she chucks it back out to sea. She picks up another one, “And this one,” she throws that one out as well.
We need to get over this idea that small actions aren’t enough or don’t have impact. They have more impact than you or I will ever be able to track. We cannot allow a society to continue when even our attempts at service are pushed away.
My name is Susan Simone. I am an author, an artist, and a Heathen; and I proudly serve the community. Do you serve?
**This blog has been cross posted.**
The answers in my house are Yes, and No, respectively. There is a lot of debate on the value of disaster prepping and the sanity of those that actively do this. I saw a video on UpWorthy that put away the whole debate for me. You see the little graphic I put up? This is a punnett square. It’s usually used when talking about genetics and what different type of genetic mixes you can get when combining different sets of genes. Basically this is how they tell how likely it is your kid will have blue eyes.
However here it is used differently. The one I saw on UpWorthy was talking about the cost of protecting the environment. I found this translated over to a lot of things, disaster prepping being one of them. You have four possible outcomes here.
Well if option 1 happens, you can save a lot of life, a lot of pain, and a lot of hardship by storing up those nuts and getting ready. If option 2 happens, you’re out a little bit of money, but hey your loved ones can donate all that stuff to the homeless. If option 3 happens…this is bad. This is really bad. You might die. Your family might die. There is potential for a lot of suffering here. Just look at Hurricane Katrina, or the earth quake in Chile or many other natural disasters. If you didn’t prep, how would your family have gotten through that? Scary, huh? Then you have option 4. Life is good, always has been. Always will be.
The worst case scenario of prepping is you’re out very small amounts of money here and there you could have used to go out to dinner or take a road trip. The worst case scenario of not prepping is pretty huge and life threatening. The benefits and risks of prepping far outweigh the benefits and risks of not prepping. I have children. I can’t risk them.
Now you understand why I jumped on the prep bandwagon and count myself lucky to have done so. However it doesn’t have to take over your life or change how you live. It’s like putting money in a savings account for retirement or stocking up on candles and flashlights in case of power outage. There are a lot of small, easy to afford things you can do to prep.
The number one things professional preppers advise are Bug Out Bags (BOB). This is a bag for each member of the family you can grab at a moment’s notice, in a fire, a natural disaster, or other unforeseen emergency. You’re not going to have all these items today, but I bet you have a lot. You can start a little at a time with the more important stuff. Just say each month you’re going to buy or collect one thing for the bags…This month it’s personal water filters or extra socks (Socks are very important! Socks get wet and dirty and cause infections if left unclean too long. Extra socks are a godsend, and kids can wear grown up socks, so just get cheap ones and stock up).
Most of us have half a brain and will think of the basics, but here’s a list of what the pro’s recommend. Some of it may surprise you.
Plastic Bags….One tip is to actually store your clothes and paper products in plastic bags to keep them dry
· Flash drive. Scan important documents, medical information etc. and store them on the flash drive and keep in BOB. Make sure you password protect it.
· Duplicate identifications
· Prescriptions. Plan for 3 months….many people who are medication dependant either cannot afford to set medication aside or insurance only gives you exactly what you need for the month. In my house we put aside 2 doses a month. It builds very slowly, but most of us can skip 2 doses in 30 days without ill effects. ALWAYS ASK YOUR DOCTOR. You do NOT want expired medication. This is a good letter to start the discussion.
· Feminine hygiene items, extra glasses, soap…this is a great place to get cheap spare glasses.
· Diapers and wipes…baby wipes make great emergency wash rags
· A map and compass or GPS
· Duct Tape
· Manual can opener
· Sewing Kit
· Emergency blanket …you can get these in most hunting/camping supply stores already folded up in a neat little baggie.
· Bandanas…not just for your head, they have lots of uses
· Bug replant
· Paper and pens
· Checklist and phone numbers of what to do and who to call when the world crashes down
· High energy food bars or snacks
· 3 Gallons of water per person or my personal recommendation a Sawyer Mini Water Filter. They’re about $20, filter 100,000 gallons of water each, and are lightweight.
· Standard First Aid supplies
I know that’s a long list, but a lot of these are things we already have around the house. If you have kids update their BOB’s at least twice a year. They keep growing! Split your food stores up between bags so if you can only grab one you still have something.
Food is another thing that is surprisingly easy to stock up on and prepare. We spend $20 a month for 2 weeks worth of emergency food. Rice is cheap, easy to cook and filling. Throw in some lentils and split peas and you’re nutritionally sound. Add some dried beans, nuts, jerky, dried fruits and vegetables and you’ll be able to go a long time.
In a big bowl I combine 5 parts rice, 1 part lentils and 1 part split peas and mix them up. These have roughly the same cooking time. 1 cup of that mixture will feed 2 people very well, 3 people pretty well, and 4 people moderately well for one meal. I put one cup in a baggie and throw in a bouillon cube. This is not only for flavor but also iodized salt. I know it’s hip to go sea salt right now, but our bodies NEED iodine. We can go the sea salt route for the most part because of all the other iodized salt or fish that has made its way into processed and restaurant foods. If all you are able to eat for a time is this rice mixture you’re going to need iodized salt.
I package the beans separately because we need less of them and they have to be soaked overnight and then cooked for 2 to 3 hours. I put about ¾ cup of beans in a baggie. I invested in a dehydrator years ago and it has served me well. I take out two pieces of steak and two pieces of chicken each month to make jerky. We eat half and store half. I found If I store it with rice, the rice absorbs all the moisture. Kind of like if you drop your phone in water you put it in a bag of rice. I dry half of all the produce we get and again store it with rice. I label and date everything and check it once a month for damage or decay. Each month my family saves 2 week’s worth of food this way spending less than $20. Times are tough for everyone right now and we have before had to tap into our supplies to make dinner, which is another benefit of prepping. In a short period of time we have built up stores that will get us through most disasters.
Copy Canning is another easy can cheap idea. Every time you buy a can of food, buy an extra one. One you eat, one you set aside. This can show you the items you eat the most and very cheaply build up your stocks. Store what you eat, eat what you store. Canned goods are great and if you are in a place where you can hold down the fort in most situations they are a great way to go, but they are heavy and bulky and hard to transport. Our home? We need to be able to leave and travel.
Prepping does not require you become a gun toting militia wannabe survivalist. It just requires a little forethought, a very little bit of money here and there, and a little bit of time.
Thanks to a couple friends from Zombie Squad for helping me with this information. A great organization that is committed to serving the public and teaching disaster preparedness.
I wrote this to help people so it is cross posted to both my blogs.
I’ve debated about writing this blog. I’m not sure at all that this is stuff I want to share with the world, but the thoughts about it are running loose in my head bouncing around the edges of my skull like grown up bounce house. I had to write it out, if only to save my sanity. If you’re reading this that means I found a home for it. This is raw and personal and posting this is by far one of the hardest things I have ever done.
Boy that’s a heavy word once it’s out there. I’ve always hated the word as if something of the ugliness of its meaning somehow rubbed off on me long before I had firsthand experience. It’s a harsh, short word that at the same time being apt loses its veracity by its very simplicity. Shouldn’t it be some long, complicated, hard to pronounce word? Something that can never fully be pronounced correctly so that we end up using initials in common every day conversations? Well that’s silly too, isn’t it? This isn’t something that comes up in every day conversations. I’m on the fence as to whether it should or it shouldn’t be talked about. On the one hand this is something no one should ever have to suffer in silence. They should be able to scream about it if they want showing their anger to the world. On the other hand it is something no one can truly understand until they’ve been through it leaving all those shouts of anger as meaningless to society’s ears as this simple, harsh, little, four letter word that stands for an act so horrendous it destroys your world.
I’m avoiding. Can you tell? It’s easier to talk about etymology than to explore the definition and what it means to me.
I haven’t really hid this part of me. Those who know me best know it happened. You have only to read the details in my books to get a really good clue. However, I don’t talk about details. I’m one of those that never had the guts to report it because I knew what I would have to go through. I’m the one that wanted to hide and make it all go away, thinking if no one knew, it didn’t really happen. I thought I knew myself well enough to handle it. I didn’t. I didn’t handle it either. I have grown and healed some since and learned to live, but every once in awhile it rears its ugly head. That’s the reality. This is something that once it happens, you don’t get over. Ever. Tired of listening to someone go on and on about what they went through? Guess what. They’re tired of living with it.
I’ve experienced rape twice in my life. Once by a woman; my first “gay experience” that sent me screaming back into the closet for many years. The second time was my daughter’s father who was so oblivious to his actions to this day I’m not sure he realized what he did. In both cases these were people that were supposed to love me, cherish me, but instead they took my trust and ground it beneath their feet. There is no imagery that accurately captures what they did to me.
During the actual attacks you’re more in shock than anything else. We’ve been taught this is bad. Every woman and man knows not to let themselves be in this situation. I kept asking myself what did I do wrong? Where could I have made a different decision? What clues should I have been looking for? What parts of this are my fault? I must have done something wrong for me to have been in this situation in the first place, right?
I can already hear the screams and murmurs right now telling me it wasn’t my fault and not to beat myself up all the while thinking the same things I was thinking. Admit it, some of you want details so you can find some formula that would have somehow made these things avoidable. No one has the guts to say that, so instead you hold to the repeated confirmations that I was the innocent victim.
It doesn’t matter how many times you remind me, with sincerity or not, I will always wonder if I could have changed it. Always. My mind know it wasn’t my fault despite us both running through the details over and over again. My mind knows there was nothing I could have done in either case. The rest of me will always wonder.
This is a senseless act. There is no understanding senseless acts. They are by nature illogical, an enigma.
I will not describe in detail my mind going somewhere else, or the terror. I won’t describe how exactly I was held down or what I was forced to endure. We all know the definition of rape. I don’t need to relive it for you to understand.
I will tell you; however, that TV has it wrong. There are no tasteful cutaways. There is no music in the background or sound effects to tell you danger is coming. There is only that moment and whether you scream and fight or just try to make it end as fast as possible, the world goes on outside your space as if nothing was ever wrong. There is no one to come and save the day just in time. The sun still rises and sets on your bruises both inside and out, and the clocks keep ticking as you fight for your life.
There’s another point. Whether your attacker intended to kill you or not, it is always a fight for your life, because your life as you knew it gone forever…but you don’t know that yet. You think please God just make it stop! Then it does. And then…you’re nothing. Just a piece of discarded garbage on the floor or bed or wherever you happen to be.
Your mind isn’t reeling at first. At first you realize you’re alive and you’re not sure if you want to be. Then the lists start. What the hell just happened? Who to tell, do you need help, are you ready to let people know? If you have the strength to tell right away before you start really thinking and you’re just going through the motions of what society has told you to do in such an event, then things start happening without you and you’re forced into the process regardless of what you want. If you don’t act right away, each minute slips away and you do what I did. Hide it all deep inside and pretend it never happened.
Bruises fade, injuries heal. If you avoid people long enough no one will look at you and know.
You know. The person you were is gone. You look in the mirror and it’s someone else looking back at you as if you don’t recognize your own face. That never goes away. The person I was before is not who looks out at me from the mirror now. I’ve grown to like the person I am now, but at first I hated her. It was her fault. I would never have let that happen. She did it. This other me that had my eyes and fake smile.
I would walk down the street and I knew people, friends and family included, would see the old me with maybe a few more stress lines around the eyes or a smile that didn’t quite go as wide as it used to, but I knew deep down they were seeing her. This new person I had become and I hated her. I wanted to hide. I did for a long time.
Time heals all wounds right? If I hid long enough I’d heal and be able to come back whole.
Now that’s a joke. There is this hole in me. Two in fact. Those holes were beat into me by my attackers. They were the pieces of me that made me, me, and they stole them. Obliterated them. There is no stealing them back and replacing them. They’re gone. And now there’s a new form to me. I’m still made up of all the shapes and lines of my experiences and memories, hopes and joys, but it’s not in the same figure as it was before. It skews everything about me. My likes change. My hopes and fears shift position, my very soul and being morphs to accommodate this new form. It’s confusing and frightening, but it will happen whether I want it to or not, whether my loved ones want it to or not.
It took me many years to accept this new form as me, to love the face that looked back at me from the mirror. I can now take my shape and face and let it forge a stronger me, but I am not who I was before.
Those with loved ones that have been through such things are hoping beyond hope that their precious girl or boy will come back to them once they’re healed. They won’t. Who they were is gone forever. You truly want to help? Love the new them unconditionally even when they are unable to accept who they are now.
Rape is not non-consensual sex that involves forcible penetration. Rape is murder of the soul, of self. It is more damaging to loved ones than death. It is more significant than this tiny, little, harsh, four letter word.
Date rape is in some ways the worst of all. When you’re injured the world is forced to acknowledge that something life changing just happened and you can grieve while your scars heal and fade giving you time to accept the new you. When there’s not a mark, when you’re like me and hide the marks, you’re forced to pretend you are the same person you were the day before. Nothing has changed. No one grieves the old you because they don’t know it’s gone. You suffer in silence.
I suffered in silence.
I still suffer in silence.
It was my own fault I never talked about it much. Now, years later, settled comfortably into my new form, things happen, semi-horrid things are said by unassuming people, and I’m forced to deal. I’m forced to look at the holes, the edges worn smooth by ignoring, and remember what once was there. Now I have to grieve all over again. I have to mourn the death of someone I once loved. She is gone and I remain, and no one knows it but me…and now you, whoever you are reading this, if you haven’t been so horrified by my revelations that you stopped reading.
There is no conclusion to this. As long as we treat Rape like an ugly, four letter word, and not the complete death of a soul, more people, men, women, children, will have to suffer in silence alongside me.
Rape culture sucks, but if these were bloody deaths out for the world to see would we even debate that it needs to change?
If you need help or you want to help a survivor go to RAINN.org
You may have noticed, even when I don't, but there are pieces of me everywhere. I suppose that's the nature of life and the exchange of ideas that leads to language and communication. The very act of conveying a thought and seeing that thought filter through another soul leaves a piece of your energy on that person. Every thought and idea leaves its imprint not only on you but on everything around you. We leave pieces of ourselves with every step.
Where was I going with this? I did have a more mundane point. It's Beltane so my mind is on the ethereal. I've noticed that pieces of me end up all over my writing. One heroine is a singer. I've sung all my life, with bands, with choirs, with symphonies.... One is an artist. Another plays cello. I played cello as a kid, but broke my bowing arm and lost interest when I fell behind. One heroine is a pagan through and through, but another is a teacher raised in a bible thumping church. One of my favorites is demon possessed and diagnosed schizophrenic. A little known fact is my mother is schizophrenic. All them are real in that they are scared and often clueless of how to handle the huge revelations that come upon them. And all of them have attributes about them I wish I had.
Each of these characters is a piece of me. I didn't do that on purpose. I do spend a lot of time thinking about what would I do if these things happened to me. What kind of raw emotions translate through different personalities. While I have always loved fantasy and sci-fi, I've never been impressed with the fantastic.
If a bomb goes off, you're going to feel it. Even the most battle hardened hero or heroine in the world is going to feel that. The noise that leaves your skin tingling like miniature shock-waves the vibration of the earth, the bright lights even in day...the utter sense of wrongness a bomb creates. Ask any veteran. The fear never goes away, you just learn to ignore it. Most of our military heroes will tell you they were scared shitless and aren't sure how they did it. If a bomb goes off the hero/heroine is not going to just watch calmly and walk easily though the heat and flames into the sunset. They're going to have a ton of emotions and fears and random thoughts, and mostly "Oh shit!". Bill Cosby once said, "First you say it, then you do it." Very true I've found. I try very hard to make sure those bits are included. The scene is only half of it. I guess it's no wonder that my characters are all parts of me. They would have to be for me to understand them.
What does this mean of me? I'm not sure I could tell you. If you combined all my heroines you *might* have a small idea of who I am, but that picture will be skewed with who I want to be and who I don't want to be all mixed up. It wouldn't be a clear picture, but I'm not sure I could separate these characters from the true picture of me either. It's all a piece of modern art, evoking emotion without a clear reason why.
Susan is a plural writer and artist by day, a child and pet wrangler by night, and occasional crazy person on the weekends.