You don’t know me, but I know you. See your shining face with hope already jaded in your eyes. I know of your struggles and your dreams. You are a fighter, dear child. A rainbow warrior ready to fight to be who you were always created to be. Ready to change the world so that others can find the same pride in themselves that shines out in you like a star. Sometimes it’s hard. This world is not always ready for a trailblazer such as you. I hear the words others would say to you, to your parents, to your sibling. I see the questions brewing in those who do not want to understand. Know this, they are afraid to understand because that means they might be wrong, and if they’re wrong about this they might be wrong about other bigger things. Human grownups are strange that way. They’ve forgotten what it’s like to learn. I see you, dear child, for all that you are. We need you so desperately in this world. Know this, when the road is hard, and people do or say hurtful things they are merely afraid and your fierce love will help them in this new world. Be who you are. Set the world free.
Dear young person,
I only know you a little, but already I love you for this shining handsome, lovely person you are in the process of becoming. You’re on the cusp of adulthood. There and not there at the same time. Learning you are free, but still held back. No person goes through this time unscathed. I’m here to tell you to have courage. You have the power to shape your future. There will be hard times, there will be people who don’t understand, but the same is true for everyone. Be who you were always meant to be. You can do it. Even as just one person, I stand behind you. Call your name out to the universe and let it be heard. You are more powerful than you know, and they fear the day you discover it.
Such love echoes though your soul. You would walk through the fire to give your children a fair and just world. You will not see the ripples you cause by walking this road with your child, letting them lead you on this quest. You cannot know how much it will impact the world when your rainbow warrior stands tall and leads us to our salvation. As a parent I know the fears. Both my children have chosen hard roads and walk them unafraid while I cower in the background swallowing my fear. I see the traps, I see the thorns, the snares. I see the places where the road ends and a leap of faith must be taken. No one can know, save those that love a child unconditionally, what it is like to have to watch them while they grow. Your courage is no small thing and it is not smaller than that of your rainbow warrior. It is your courage and faith and love that feeds them. Your joy in their being is what creates the fierce love they fight for their world with. Have faith. We all watch them galloping down the path on a steed of self actualization. I give you my love and faith. For you are a rainbow warrior too.
You are glorious in battle. Did you know that? Did you know how you shine when speaking out for others? I know you fight to fix this world because you’re fighting for your own right to exist. Don’t let those that fear you take away your joy. I know you’ve seen it all. The unspeakable atrocities our parents hide us from when we are young. The pain of seeing beautiful souls unloved for the petty excuse of changing their shell. Those things are real and speak to a society in distress. Fight. Break the dome of our existence in two. Show others a light they can’t even conceive of. You were gifted by knowing who you were from an early age. You are battle tested making yourself into that person. Now blaze through in justice and love, and carry us in your wake. You may not always see the ripples and tides you cause, but they will come back and lift you higher. Fear not loneliness or hate, for you are surrounded by love.
With gratefulness that you are all in my life, thank you.
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
Recently I had homophobia stare me in the face. It was a hard moment for me. I had a dear friend with whom I had been through many things, get offended near to the point of being irate because I said her adult, straight, happily married daughter was pretty enough to date. It was an innocent one off comment that meant very little. In retrospect, maybe it wasn’t the best comment to share with the world, but this was a friend; someone I trusted with my children. I trusted her so I didn’t edit myself. I thought that because she knew I was bisexual for years now and never judged me on it that she was one of the safe people in my life. A long friendship is now ended because of this.
I was so angry when this happened it prompted me to write the following FaceBook post: Dear world, I am bisexual. There is nothing wrong with being bisexual, heterosexual, or homosexual. We are all born to be one of the three or possibly more options. This is not something I can control. I will not hide myself because some people might be frightened of it. I will not refrain from thinking a girl is pretty especially when said girl reminds me of my girlfriend whom I miss. It does not mean I will chase after or proposition anyone. I have a lot of love in my life I am not going to 'turn' your daughter or sister. It doesn't work that way. Everyone now knows these things about me. Can we please move on peacefully and judge a little less?
While I was pleased with the overwhelming positive support I received, even from my family, I still morn for that friend.
Ironically, this post was also taken as my coming out of the closet speech, which is interesting to me. I never considered myself to be in the closet in the first place. I didn’t go to my parents house and talk about how there was this hot chic at store, but it was a pretty open secret if it was ever a secret at all. My husband knows. He even encourages my relationship with my girlfriend and the two of them are good friends. All of my co-workers and friends know about my girlfriend and my husband. My kids know. They wanted to know who the woman was Mommy was always talking to. So I told them she was my girlfriend and I love her like I love Daddy. They sort of shrugged and let that roll off. I’ve told my children for as long as they have been alive that I didn’t care if they liked boys or girls or both. I didn’t care who they loved or how they loved as long as they loved. They are 10 and almost 13 as I write this, so this is the time when their pituitary glands will begin to answer those questions for us.
I do have friends who are in the closet. I’m a braver person when I am fighting for loved ones. I think I tried very hard not to hide who I was so they would see it was okay, that even if the world did take a crap on them I was right there beside them. I know I stay public for my girlfriend so that she feels like our relationship is validated and hopefully has the strength to tell her family. I’m patient, but not a saint. I know the fear of people’s reactions and possibly losing those you care about. I understand it, even. I am pagan and remained in the broom closet where my family and certain friends were concerned for years. I rode my broom into the sunshine about two years ago. Funny how I found being bisexual more socially acceptable than being pagan.
In a way this was a coming out of the closet experience for me after all. Someone I cared about stopped editing herself and I was no longer seeing the world through the crack in the closet door. Now I was face to face with something I had hoped never to personally experience. The door was wide open and the light shone on my face along with the cold shadow.
Fear of me, of who I am, of how the All That Is created me from someone who should know better. What hurt the most was not that she had a moment of fear, but that it was fear of me. After all this time and all the things we had done for each other and our families, after all the hurt and pain and joy we shared, she found me fearful. I kept thinking there has to be something more to this. I don’t understand why this is a big deal. This couldn’t end like this. The reality is, something about me being bisexual frightens her.
Why is that? I know I will never get an answer to that, but I’m human. I’m drawn to ask. I’m drawn to rack my brain to understand why. I’d had conversations with her before and the logic of not choosing this and good people are good people was used. But when she was faced with the idea that her daughter was attractive to other women she had a knee jerk fear reaction. I knew fear existed. I’d seen it played out on social media sites and in the news all the time, but it never touched me. Not like that.
This is an anniversary of sorts for me. Six months. Six months since I first said, okay, I’m going to put my words out there for the world and see what happens. What a wild ride it’s been too, and so fast. I had no idea how fast things have gone until a friend asked me the other day how I got into publishing. Then I realized that on September 14th it will be six months.
Not to sound dramatic or anything, but six months ago, with my heart in my throat, I pressed the mouse button and self published Silent Heart. I’ve said before and I’ll say again, I’m a wimp. I knew Silent Heart was good, but I thought it was like high school essay good. I never thought it would hold up to critical review. I had no idea where this would lead.
Now I find myself as the executive editor with J. Ellington Ashton Press. Two books published, a story in an anthology, and another book soon to go into editing. I’m still a student, but I’m learning so much and having a great time. So much as happened. I’m doing radio interviews, recording commercials, even singing again. I’m making graphics for businesses and find myself being asked for more. I’ve found friends who are family to me and I’m on the road to where I want to be. All it took was one moment of staring fear in the face and just doing it.
I love my life right now. I love where things are going. It’s not always easy. There are days I’m little more than a puddle of goo on the floor. There are challenges and good and bad days. There are big things in my personal life I won’t go into here at the moment that keep me stressed, but it’s all worth it. All the work, all the ups and downs, even the stress. It’s all worth it. The days we all have where we want to give up still happen, but I just remember how far my life has come in six months and I know can I push through it.
This has been such a wild ride. I kind of feel like this blog post is all self congratulatory, but really its acknowledging that I worked for this and I deserve this and I love it. This is my life, and this is where I want to be. Do you have any idea how long I’ve struggled? If you’ve been keeping up with my blog (particularly the last post) you might have some clue. Six months ago my world was very different. I make mistakes and bad choices like everyone else. I’ve walked very hard roads. Some were worth it and some I’d rather forget. To be here now, maybe not at the top of my career but steadily climbing towards that is the most amazing thing.
There was this movie years ago I always thought was funny. Defending Your Life. It was the idea that purgatory was this great place where you could do anything and eat anything (you can see that writer’s love of food in this movie), but while you were there you went before a judge and defended your choices. Of course bad people didn’t get very far, but the honest every day person was going to go two ways. Back to Earth to try again or on to a higher state of evolution. It wasn’t being pious and good that got you the ticket further in your existence, it was conquering fear. That idea has stuck with me for many years. When I let an opportunity pass by or when I stare something hard in the face I go back to that. I think to myself, when my life is over and we look back upon it, was I strong enough? Would I move on? I want to be able to say yes. I hope I will be able to say yes.
This past six months has taught me that one single moment of bravery can change your whole world. Now when I’m scared, I try to think back on this. What will this next moment of bravery bring me? Say yes to everything even when it's scary and your whole world will change. Wow, this has been amazing. Wow, that was fast.
Well I'm learning I may have a gluten sensitivity. This was a bit of a shocker to me. I knew what celiac disease was, and I definitely don't have that. Until now, that was my exposure to gluten allergies. I do have Fibromyalgia and have been living with the disorder for 6 years now. I would say over 75% of the FM symptoms I experience are also symptoms of gluten sensitivity, and a few other symptoms not related to FM. I kind of had a moment of, "You mean to tell me I've been sick this whole time and I could do something about it?"
Living with FM is daunting. You are in pain everyday and no matter how serious it is the doctors don't have enough information to treat you. You can't take any drugs that help because you might be addicted. They won't monitor you because they can find nothing wrong. I recently had a test done where they stuck needles with electrodes in me and shocked me beyond pain limit to measure my response. Not fun. At the end of it the doctor told me he could find nothing wrong with me. I was in tears. I've learned how to cope and stay within my limits, but it is still hard. There is literally nothing doctors can do to treat or relieve the symptoms of FM. It's disheartening. At this point I'll grasp at straws.
Gluten sensitivity is the straw I'm reaching for now. I honestly can't tell you if this will do any good for me or not, but I'm willing to try. Starting after my daughter's birthday in a few days (Why? Because I want cake. That's why!) I will be going on an exclusion diet. No gluten for 60 days, and we'll see what my body does. It might be a miracle. It might be a disaster, or it might be meh. The point is, for the first time in a few years I'm willing to try to live without this syndrome hanging over me.
That's a brave thought. Sometimes when you get used to having a chronic disorder you sort of accept the world as it is. Living without FM for me would mean, more energy, less pain, the ability to do things outside of my home. Life in the sun. Nice thought eh? Well it also means people expect more of me, less excuses, and the inability to bow out gracefully when you hurt. Which means I have to be good about saying 'No' sometimes. With luck I won't hurt anymore, but still there's a security blanket there. Pain free is the unknown and a little scary.
I think my friends give me the courage to throw away the safety blanket. I have some truly amazing coworkers who inspire the best out of me and help me cope with my own brand of drama. I don't think I'd have the courage to do this without them.
Now you've read this whole thing and are probably sitting there thinking, "What is gluten, already!" Sorry. It's a blog and I tend to digress a lot. Gluten is the binding protein found primarily in wheat, oats, barely and malt. For people who are sensitive it throws them into an auto-immune overdrive and generally makes them fell crappy. An exclusion diet means nothing with flour, wheat, oats (unless specifically gluten free, there are some believe it or not), barley, or malt. This means no malt powder in my malts at ice cream shops, no gravy thickened with flour, no soy sauce (many have wheat added), no bread or baked good obviously, no pasta (unless rice pasta), watch the cereals and read the labels on everything. Gluten hides everywhere. This is not an issue of bad foods being given for public consumption. I want you to think about cooking dinner in your house. How often do you add a little flour to thicken something without thinking? How many recipes call for pasta or bread products? What about making a sandwich for lunch or pancakes for breakfast? How about pie? Nope, can't have that, the crust is made with flour. Flour is a staple of our country. It goes in almost everything.
This will be hard, but having known someone who lived with celiac disease I know it's possible. It will just look different for awhile. Wish me luck and many good gluten free recipes.
Okay so are you all sick of hearing about it yet? Too bad! I'm just so excited, you're going to hear about it again. What the facebook group knows and the few who occasionally stop by the website know, but the GoodReads folks don't know yet, is that I am officially moving out of the indie market and into the mainstream. Frankly I'm still a little shocked, but a publisher actually wants my work...current and future work too if you can believe that. I've signed with J. Ellington Ashton Press. It's a little operation that's just beginning but these folks know good work. I feel like they want to take a chance on me, so I'm going to take a chance on them. I think this is going to be great. Sometimes you just know in your gut it's gonna be good.
I'll be honest. I went straight to self publish and skipped all the usual agonizing steps trying to land a contract. Fear effects us all. Kind of funny that most of my heroines teach themselves to rise above their own fear in impossible situations. I never thought I was that good. I knew I was better than some that get published but more like high school essay good, nothing that would hold up to critical analysis in the mainstream. I put my books out on the self pub market more as an experiment than anything else. Then the weirdest thing happened. People liked it. Strangers. People I have no connection to what so ever were reading my words and liking it. Amazing.
I'm a bit of a chicken really. I don't think I would have submitted my work to JEA at all if it weren't for a friend insisting I talk to one of his friends. He wouldn't even tell me why I should talk to her or how he knew her, just that I needed to talk to this woman. One day he asked me if he should go get 'Catt'. I said I had no idea and laughed it off. Next thing I know I'm having a conversation with the CEO of this little publishing company. I never felt more like a writer in my life than at that moment. I'm asking intelligent questions and words like 'distribution' and 'royalties' are rolling off my tongue. Two months prior I'm not even sure I could have told you what a good or bad distribution was. That convo made me say, 'Why not?'.
Just to be clear I didn't get any special treatment. These people don't publish crap no matter how much they may like you personally. I had to go through the same submission process as everyone else. I had to sit for a few weeks wondering if I was good enough.
This was rougher on me than it normally would have been. Towards the end of my wait my husband ended up in the hospital. He does have heart problems to begin with but this visit was hard. They shipped him 2hrs away from me. I *shame faced* do not have a licence so I couldn't get to him. There were complications. The kids were acting out from the stress... Life was kicking my ass all over the place. There are no words for how stressed I was. I'm still feeling the after effects. I almost *almost!* went to my friend and said, 'Look if it's good news I really need some now, if it's not please wait until this is over.' I stopped myself but only barely. Then the night my husband finally came home, very late in the evening, the contract was waiting in my e-mail. I'm of the opinion they were watching my facebook and waiting to see what happened before sending it, which I greatly appreciate. Made for a very good ending to a long day.
Now I'm just so excited. My dreams are coming true. All the things I've worked so hard for are paying off. Life while you're writing your first manuscript is lonely. Everyone sort of brushes it off as a pipe dream until someone in the industry recognizes it. They might accept that you love to write, but you have no credibility. Being signed is huge! There are 100's of amazing writers in the self pub market that never get noticed, never make a dime. I suppose a lot them are like me and afraid to submit anything and others are getting lost in the hustle and bustle of the larger companies. Give an indie writer a chance. You might find a jewel in the rough.
Susan is a plural writer and artist by day, a child and pet wrangler by night, and occasional crazy person on the weekends.