My son is 17 today. One hell of a wild ride and a year to go before he's on his own. I don't know whether I should be relieved or scared. Probably both. For this week's #WednesdayWritings I submit to you Cry. A poem about motherhood.
A baby cries
Nothing fills me with more fear
Am i good enough?
Will he know me?
Am I up to this?
280 days of insecurity led to this
6720 hours of thinking and rethinking my choice
My desire for motherhood
Making a choice to try
403200 minutes of breathing for another
Listening to frightening advice
Feeling the naysayers tell me
This wasn’t right
Deflecting badly the 1001
telling me everything from
lanolin for tender suckling
to poisoned needles will make him sick
280 nights of worrying myself to sleep
A baby cries
Nothing fills me with more relief
I did it!
My body did this!
Through 6720 hours of his mother
Through doctors taking my choices away
And cutting him out
His beautiful face
Covered in the substance
That kept him alive all this time
Red skin and dark hair
I was made for this
I was created with organs
That held him close
I live in a world where science
Can create those organs for others
So that I could love him
So that he could grow up knowing love
A million tiny movements
Inside of me
And I meet him face to face
A baby cries
Exhaustion covers the worry
Is he hungry?
Is he scared?
Is he sick?
Do I need a doctor?
Does he have a rash?
Will it get worse because I didn’t see it in time?
Use diaper rash ointment every time
Never use talc
Don’t eat spicy food
Did I eat something spicy today?
Is that why he’s crying?
A baby cries
Blinking sleep from my eyes
I hold him close
The routine takes thought away
Endless nights rocking in place
No rocking chair in sight
Taught me it’s easier
To just lay side by side
Ignoring a thousand complaints
A thousand what if’s
Naysayers using it as explanation
For my bad parenting
For every time my son cries
His little baby cheek rests on my breast
Warm body tucked in next to mine
And I know I made the right choice
And all those nights ago
When I chose love
A baby cries
He cries and cries and cries
No end in sight
Makes one bit of difference
They’re all right about me
I can’t do this
I’m not a good mom
Why won’t he stop?
It’s all the spicy food I like
It’s the formula
He’s allergic breast milk
He’s allergic to peas
Too much sun
Too little fresh air
Everyone has an answer
That tells me I’m doing this wrong
But not one of them
Can make him stop
Make him sleep
A baby cries
For hours everyday
I’m a mess
I just want someone to hold me
Tell me it will be okay
That’s all he wants
This being with my son’s face
I rock him through
Singing to drown it out
Never giving up
Strength I never knew I had
Showing this tiny person
When the nightmares are too scary
When the bully pushes him down
He’ll know I love him
He’ll know he can come to me
You cry little boy
You cry for however long it takes
We’ll cry together
I’m your mom
I love you
A baby cries
Stretching his little baby legs
Urge to move and explore
Pulling him farther and farther
From my protection
What will he put in his mouth?
What will he touch?
Should I be keeping closer watch?
Should I spank?
Should I shout?
Should I laugh?
Should I pen him in to a tiny space
Or leash him to my wrist?
Should I let him find out
Or protect from every last lesson
The world has to offer?
I am not up to this
Moving about thing
Why can’t you just smile
From your carseat
And bat at toys I dangle?
Don’t put that--
--in your mouth
Well no wonder the tears
Stream down your face
That should never be in your mouth
I’m a horrible mother
And the questions
About my ability
A baby cries
Weary I shake my head
And hold him close
Cleaning the mess
He looks to me
Like I have all the answers
Like I can make any booboo better
For a moment
I think I can
There will be a day
When love is no longer enough
To heal the hurts of the world
But that day is not today
He’s a baby
Nothing is safe from
A marauding mind
And flailing arms and legs
And today a lesson was learned
He smiles reaching
For the next NoNo
I seem to have forgotten to move
He knows I will catch him
Every single time
I know I’ve done everything right
A baby cries
This one is not mine
But I know how old
I know what it wants
Just by sound
I didn’t know I had a super power
Given to me by my son
Instinct drives me to tell
This hollow eyed woman
Fear and exhaustion in her gaze
What the baby needs
But I only smile
Remembering all the advice
All the times I thought I wasn’t good enough
And I know my words are not what she needs
Eventually she’ll find the love
She’s strong enough
A baby cries
A little girl
While her brother watches on
Nothing fills me with more fear
Nothing fills me with more relief
Nothing fills me with more
I’m sad. Not depressed in a clinical sense. I’ve been there before. I know what that feels like. This isn’t it. I’m just...unhappy. I have things to be happy about. I am in no way destitute, but I am still unhappy with life in general. I haven’t reached the pinnacle, though in many ways I’m much closer than most realize.
As I look around at the landscape I realize this wasn’t the mountain I wanted to climb. It was so hard to tell down there at the bottom which one I had started on, and the crossroads were all blind instinct. Now, after all that work, I’m not where I wanted go or even on that path. There is nothing wrong with where I ended up. In fact some seem to be impressed by it. How do I explain that yes, there is some notoriety here, but I wanted the notoriety over there instead. It’s like shooting the hat off a person when you were aiming for the apple. Yeah it was a cool shot, but not what you wanted.
Some people find themselves in this situation, and happily surprised, just keep going. There are those that the question of which mountain they are on never mattered as long as they had something to reach for. There are those that any success acted as personal empowerment and they gladly set on that mountain path headless of the rocks. In fact those persons seem to be able to leap over chasms and move boulders. We look at them as shining examples. I am not in competition with anyone so I am happy for their success.
I was not meant for mountain climbing
I’m not made for that kind of life. Success to me is far less tangible. All those plateaus and peaks and crags and valleys are fun and interesting, but not meant for me. I’ve always rejected the rat race. I reject the idea that I have to reach for anything at all. I challenge the need to have a traditional job, or parent like our society says, or live my life by any standard. I fully resent money. I resent the need to earn by someone else’s standard in order just to live. Why can’t I barter for food? Why can’t I make my own shelter? Why must I live life in this way? I can fool myself, by finding something semi interesting to do for a time, into thinking that I can live by these means. I excel most of them time when I set my mind to it. I’ve even made a name for myself in certain circles, for what it’s worth. In the end, though, I always end up feeling dissatisfied.
I have a deep need to live life unfettered. I hate being tied down by anything. Some ties I choose, like my children and lovers, but my lovers know never to hold me back, and my children will one day fly on their own. While I love animals of all kinds I don’t own many pets, other than cats, because I can’t just up and go when I want to. Cats can handle a night or two without you as long as there’s ample food and water. My dream is to live out of a mobile home so I can pick up and go whenever. Once we almost did just that with plans on homeschooling the kids, but we didn’t get the financing in the end.
I’m tired of trying. I concede the need for gainful employment and income so we don’t starve, but I’m going to do it my way. The truth is while my body *does* make working from home a need, I’d choose it anyway. I’m going to learn what I want to learn. I’m going to write what I want to write. I’m going to do my weird crafts. I’m going to do the things that nourish my soul even if that means I’m a large woman belly dancing in the living room. If it doesn’t nourish me, it’s gone. There will be some changes. Some will not agree with my choices and some may even be hurt by them. I’m done trying to make my soul fit in a box. I’m done making the mountain top my only goal. I don’t feel good labelling myself or closing myself into a space. Some really need that to feel safe and to grow. There’s nothing wrong with it. Just not for me. I am expansive. I am limitless. I am more than the surface you see.
I am adrift in the All That Is, and I go where I am willed.
"My disease is progressing. It's getting hard to cope."
"Oh my. What do you have?"
"Oh. Well. That's just silly, you just need to get moving again, you'll feel better!"
Now I feel silly for having even spoken.
Fibromyalgia is not just pain. I've struggled with this post. Rightly or wrongly I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia for 11 years. I never wanted to be the fibro poster child. I never hid it and once in a while I'm moved to post about it, but preferred to let it sit in the background. I've tried a few ways to explain what this monster is, to varying degrees of success. Most commonly I am ignored. That is for a few reasons I'm sure. Answers that run from not wanting to hear the bad stuff to just being tired of hearing about it. People who live with chronic illness are known in the media as being huge complainers. If you have a sexy diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis or Lupus, diagnoses that are well accepted by the community, or if you have something new that no one's heard of that you can teach others about, then you are heard.
Sometimes I believe there must be something wrong with how I present myself. So many people discount this huge thing going on in my body. Twice I've been in a position where my diagnosis was largely ignored as me being whiny until someone else in my circle of people was diagnosed similarly. It's as if my experience is somehow invalid. I've learned to expect that from the medical community, especially emergency services (don't get me started on the time EMS told me I was lying or the multiple times I've been told I'm a drug addict). That's frustrating enough, but it's worse when it's those you allow close to you.
People with chronic illnesses speak loudly and often. No one can see the battle we fight every day just to breathe. Medical professionals often don't have a reason why your body has decided to break down. We have to almost scream to get noticed, and then that very screaming is considered evidence that we're unbalanced, it's all in our heads. That reaction leaves me feeling guilty every day. Why can't I get out of bed at a "decent hour"? Why can't I just walk there, it's only a few blocks? Am I a good mom? What are my kids seeing and learning when mom is always sick?
Like most people, I've learned ways to make the world work around all my stuff. We all do it. Healthy and ill alike. We create patterns and habits around preference, finances, fears, and dreams. My world looks different because of my illness. If I were healthy I'd be labeled eccentric or lazy. Because I'm ill others feel they can judge me and my choices. It feels like they are looking for a way to tell me it's my fault. When someone is sick we look for reasons and therapy. Cold and flu are viruses, bronchitis is irritation or bacteria. But this has no reason, nothing to blame it on. It is easier to blame the person for bad things happening than to accept sometimes life happens.
Fibromyalgia hits each person differently and to differing severities. I've often said there is no one big answer and cure. There are hundreds as varied as the people who have it. For me, the pain, while no easy thing is the least of it. Fibro pain centers around 11 groups of tender points generally near joints in the soft tissues. It aches like arthritis and flares upon over use the same way, but is actually more painful. It's not painful enough that you can't learn to cope, but enough to make you exhausted with the coping. The pain moves around. Most people with fibro have one or more places that are always a problem but then the pain in the rest of the body comes and goes almost at a whim. On a normal day my pain is about a 5. That is half way between no pain and pain so bad you break your teeth clenching. When I take the right amount of the right medication I can get it down to about 3.
Think about that for a second. The average run of the mill non migraine headache is about a 4. A stubbed toe is like 7 and then aches at a 2 for a few days. So your stubbed toe is a person with fibro's best day. Imagine walking around all day every day with 20 stubbed toes and nothing you can do will fix it.
The pain is also different. Normal touches that shouldn't hurt do. A tap feels like a slap. Sometimes rough clothing hurts your skin. Sound which shouldn't "hurt" can cause physical pain. For me it's sound behind and to the side, even low level sound. The timbre of my husband's voice often makes me cringe. I back myself into a corner so all sound is in front of me and constantly tell people to turn it down. Bright light hurts more than just my eyes. You'll see me with sunglasses even on cloudy days sometimes.
This unremitting pain and exaggeration of stimuli is caused by my brain misreading the signals. I cannot force my brain to read them correctly. There is no behavior modification, or neurological therapy that will change how my pain centers experience pain.
Like I said, this is the least of it for me. I have learned to cope with the pain. I actually have a higher tolerance than most because my body has been trained that extreme pain won't kill it. I don’t like pain and will cry out like anyone else but my body has ceased catastrophic systems failure that high levels of pain cause. That said, it's still not fun and I'd give much to not be walking around like an open sore all the time.
Next, like most neurological issues, is brain fog. It's hard to describe. We all feel funky at times, lack of sleep or need that first cup of coffee, but this is different. I can only tell you what I experience from the inside. I will sit on my bed because I need to get dressed. I know this has to happen. I can see my clothes. I can't tell you if they're clean or not. I might not remember the name of the color. I will hold my jeans in my hands thinking, "How do I put these on? I need to put these on…" Every task during this time takes a lot longer and leaves you feeling exhausted and frustrated. When I say I'm in a fog, I mean it. I won't be any good to anyone. It really is like standing in a grey mist, sounds muted, vision blank, even the air feels heavy. Once in a while if you wait you'll catch a glimpse of reality. A bright spot where you know the brain works but can't quite get there. There is no medication or regimen for this.
The thing I hate the most is costochondritis. It is chest pain near the heart. It's actually an inflammation of the muscles around the ribs where they connect to the sternum. It feels like a lead pipe going the center of my chest to my back. Movement hurts, especially changing position, anything that ups the breathing rate makes it worse. Breathing, talking, even eating are especially hard. My pain hits 9 easily during these episodes. For years I had no idea what it was. No doctor could tell me. I'd call in about this horrible chest pain. They send me to ER, ER rules out heart, accuses me of just wanting drugs, occasionally gives some to me for comfort, and sends me home.
Restless legs is my enemy. I can't stop moving. It's more like restless body syndrome. I’m always bouncing, moving, twitching. To stop actually hurts even as the exhaustion of the constant movement sets in. If I spend time to think about it, I can make it stop, but as soon as I am concentrating elsewhere it starts again. This makes bedtime dreadful. Worry over shaking the bed and waking my husband, taking hours to not get comfortable and waking up frequently only to have to go through the same process of flopping like a dead fish to get to sleep again. Thank gods there is a medication for that…when it works.
Sleep. Sleep is my frienemy. I love sleep. I need it so badly. I am constantly tired. On average I need about 10 hours of sleep to be functional. But then I oversleep and miss things that I felt were important for the day. It takes an hour at least to even try to get up. It takes 2 to fall asleep. Sleep aids do and don't help. The pain medication wears off before the sleep medication, which means I wake up basically paralyzed in pain. Not fun. Sleep is where people get the idea I'm lazy. I keep crazy hours because I work nights, then I can't sleep until the kids are off to school then I can't get up until it's almost time for them to be home, then I didn't get enough sleep so I'm not at my best, it’s a vicious cycle and leaves me basically a vampire. I've heard many "jokes" over the years saying "If Susan can get up…" or "Let me guess, she's still asleep." If I could just be allowed to sleep the way I need to sleep without having to hear those things I would be a much happier person. It's exhausting to know what your body needs and then to deny it in order to fit what others are imposing upon me. I know that what others think of me is none of my business, but you can't always shut it out.
Raynauds is not strictly a fibro thing but it is common. Magic color change toes! Raynauds can affect toes, fingers, nose, and ears. What happens is stress or even a cool breeze or air conditioner triggers a hypothermic response causing the body to remove blood from the appendage. Your toes or fingers turn white or blue in response. There's nothing that can be done. It just happens. It does not cause permanent damage. It's more annoying than anything else. I’m cold all the time. It will be near 80 degrees in the house during those stubborn late spring days when you're avoiding turning on the air, and I will be using a heating pad on my feet. I live in shawls. Even working the mouse on my computer can set it off. Winter in Wisconsin may have been a mistake.
Migraines. If you’ve ever had one, no explanation is needed. If you haven't, no explanation will suffice.
Irritable bowel syndrome. Certain foods will make me very sick for no good reason. Extreme stomach cramps, constipation and diarrhea taking turns. This is largely controlled by diet, but can cause some serious issues if not kept in check. If an attack goes on too long it can cause sores in the bowel which can bleed. Bowels can also become impacted. So I'll stop there before it gets too gross. You get the point.
My fibro symptoms are resistant to medication. Some people get relief from various medications, diets, or natural medicine. I get so tired of being told, my best friend did this, or I tried that and it was great! Each person is going to react differently. You don't know that I have or haven't tried this or that or that it will work for me. I have been on many medications from weed, nerve mediations. Only one has had any effect. However, that one medication only helps with a small portion of all I experience. I watch what I eat to a point (I still like food). I'm into yoga and tai chi and belly dancing. But the symptoms are pervasive and all encompassing. And it's getting worse. I don't know yet if this is a random cluster flare up that happens or if my disease is truly progressing. It's taken from me energy, thought, ability to do basic things like grocery shop, it's even taken the sun. What else can it take from me?
I still feel silly. Like it's all in my head. Everyone seems to think it is, right? But that's the reality. My disease is progressing and there is nothing anyone can do to fix it. I will have more pain. I will have more fog. I will have constochondritis more often. I will need even more sleep.
But all I need to do is get out there and move some more, right?
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
I’m going to start this blog with a plea to the readers. Please remember when raising your children, you are not looking to create a well behaved child; you are looking to create a well rounded adult the rest of us can live with. How many people did I just piss off? I hope a lot. That will keep you reading, and now I have the chance to explain why.
The childhood condition is a temporary one. In the average lifespan of 80 to 90 years, the time a person spends as a child is less than 15% of their total life. I’m not a math person, so that’s as close to a solid number you’re going to get from me, but let that sink in. 15% of a lifetime is spent learning how to be a person. This doesn’t count the teen years, where you are mostly an adult just learning how to make good decisions and what your beliefs are and how to handle society with those beliefs. With 85% of our lives being adults why do we have such a short view of parenting?
I’m not raising children. I’m raising people to be functioning adults. From the very first lesson, to the day they walk out my door the last time, I am making an effort help a person become the best they can be. I’m not super mom. I make a lot of mistakes. I try hard, and cry a lot. But I’m not focused on my kids being kids. I’m focused on who they will become.
This is one of those things, that once said (or written) becomes an ‘aha’, ‘well that’s a no brainer’ kind of idea. Deep down we all want our children to have a future and the choices we make in regards to parenting, both good and bad, are all to that goal. The problem is the everyday choices, good and bad, get lost in the shuffle.
Parenting is hard. No one age is any harder or easier than any other. They all come with their own joys and pitfalls. Occasionally individual children have ages that are easier than others, but no one GREAT age over all. Kids have temper tantrums. My 10 year old STILL has temper tantrums almost daily. People see this and try to judge what kind of parent I am. Obviously I must be doing something wrong. Children who are given consistency don’t act like this, right? In this case, wrong.
I have never once in either of my children’s lives given in to a temper tantrum. Not once. I have one particularly interesting memory that many parents laugh over when they hear the story of my son at age 2. I was very pregnant with my daughter. About to burst in a few weeks. I was a single parent at that time. I won’t bore you with the drama, but things were very hard for us. I’d had to take public transportation with my heavy belly and a 2 year old on a 30 minute ride to get to the closest store I could pay a bill at. I’d learned by then to pack snacks and toys and things to do. I used the small cane stroller for ease on the bus, and otherwise employed all the tricks I could think of. But my son was 2 and having to sit still and behave on a bus ride and walk for long distances and wait in lines. Honestly there’s only so much a kid can take in that circumstance and there was no babysitter to leave him with, no kindly grandma nearby or even a trustworthy neighbor. I couldn’t wait to pay the bill or I would lose electricity. I couldn’t pay early because the doctor had taken me off work so I had no income worth talking about. All the standard ideas parents and well meaning non-parents alike had for avoiding this situation were just not going to work. We were in this ‘melt down waiting to happen’ place and no way to get out of it.
Anyone used to small children, parents or not, can see what is coming. I don’t remember what I had to say no to, but that was the last straw for his baby mind. He reached his limit in the middle of a store, waiting at the service counter. I was rightfully exhausted, in pain from pregnancy problems and pretty much at my limit too. I think it was the exhaustion that led to my response. He sprawled his little baby butt on the floor of the store kicking and screaming. As tantrums go, this was a mach 4. I sighed and conducted my business. I carefully scooted him away from everyone else and leaned against the counter watching him. After a bit he stopped and looked at me as if to say, “Have you had enough yet? Did I get my way?” I know he was 2 and probably didn’t really understand what I said, but I looked at him and asked, “Are you done yet?” He wasn’t. This went on for another 10 minutes before he was tired enough to give up. I’m not entirely sure he even remembered what the problem was.
I was too tired to carry him out of the store, but if I did where was I going to take him? Truth be told he was beyond my high risk pregnancy weight limit so I could have done myself and his germinating sister damage. The responses I got from people during this episode were an entire study in psychology. Some laughed and encouraged me. Even not knowing I really had no choice here, they got it. They may or may not have been parents. Some shook their heads in disgust. They may or may not have been parents. Some openly glared at me. I’m pretty sure they were not parents, but they might have been.
All I could think during this was that I was too tired to care what anyone thought of me and if I gave into him now, no matter how tired I was, he’ll never learn. I wasn’t thinking, oh then he’ll be bad more often. I was thinking how pathetic it would be to watch a grown man throw a tantrum (this of course excludes people with various issues like autism or FAS, etc.). The bad part is, in my lifetime I have seen, otherwise mentally and emotionally healthy adults throw temper tantrums or think the world is their oyster. These people, as annoying as they are, have not been taught to be adults. For whatever reason, their parent’s eyes were not on the prize…the end result.
I don’t mean to be accusatory. Parenting is literally the hardest job on the planet, and the most important…and the most rewarding. As I said before I have not always made the right choice or been perfect, but my eye is always on the prize. My kids suck at doing dishes. They rush through and put things away dirty, they leave water everywhere, they break things. Sure it’s easier and more effective to just do the dishes myself, and sometimes I’ve so had it with them I do, but what do they learn? If I don’t stick to it now, when they move out on their own they’ll get sick or have bug infestations because they don’t know how to do the dishes right. Sure it’s easier to just let them wear the morally reprehensible clothing options (tube tops, skirts that show butt cheeks, writing across the ass of pants, adds for drugs or alcohol) their friends wear, but then what kind of self respect am I teaching them? What kind of mates are they going to end up with (gay or straight) then? Sure it’s easier to just give the kid a candy bar or chips or caffeinated soda, but if I don’t work to give them healthy bodies now, how can I expect them to be healthy adults? How can I expect them to make good food choice and to know that while this piece of pizza tastes great if they have too much they’ll feel sick. I have to show them those connections.
I read a great blog post by Matt Walsh about peoples’ reactions to public temper tantrums. It was a great read and made some valid points. I encourage you to read it. What I loved even more about the post was the conversation that ensued about it. It wasn’t heavily abusive like I’ve seen some of those things go, but had a lot of great points and counter points. The readers really thought about what he had to say. Some agreed and some didn’t. But it prompts me to say this:
When you see a child melting down in a public place, I know you are annoyed and irritated and parents and non parents alike wish the child would just stop remember this: What kind of adult do you want to live with for 85% of their lives? This 15% where parents work their hardest is short lived and the choices they make now effect an entire generation. Remember as well that you have no idea what choices the parent has so don’t assume they can just leave or that good parents don’t have kids that throw temper tantrums.
Society as a whole, parents and non parents alike, need to keep their eyes on the prize and stop judging. Maybe if you, the person who may or may not have children, who may or may not be well behaved, took a moment to think about what kind of adult you want to share space with will do things like encourage the parent in question to stay the course because you don’t want this child thinking adults get to do these things. You know that if the child does grow up thinking they can act like that, you’re the one that will have to share this planet with them.
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.
I will not mention your name because I know how you value your privacy, but I’m sure you will know this you by my words. I have seen you struggle; struggle with pain, struggle with family, and struggle with things too deep to share. I know you worry about making an impact in your children’s lives, and worry about making the best life for them. I’m here to tell you I have faith in you. I have faith in all the things you do and I know your children will grow up to be amazing human beings simply because of who you are.
You have impacted my life deeply and in more ways than I think you know. I’ve never been the popular person or the person to have very many friends. I spent a great deal of my life trying hard to fit in and not understanding why it never worked. The single biggest gift you gave me was acceptance. You never seemed to think I was weird, or if you did you accepted that as part of me. I needed that in my life so badly. There’s no way you could know just how much.
I remember when I first met you. I was a little too old to be at that summer camp but I was afraid to move on and the family friends that ran the camp humored me. You were there as a young counselor and something in your soul just shined. You made me feel like a person by doing nothing other than being yourself and treating me as you treated everyone around you. The world hadn’t given me much at that point. I remember thinking, ‘Wow! She’s cool!’
I didn’t see you again for a few years; maybe once or twice at Green Lake, but our circles of friends went different directions. Now as young adults we joined a group of other young adults to train for a year of service. My adventure never happened. Yours had already started and stopped and started again. I had gone through some terrible things that year and felt less than human. I really wasn’t ready to move on and deal, but I pretended to anyway. I remember sitting by myself, trying to cope with this new reality that I wasn’t ready to accept. I wasn’t prepared for how hard it would be to deal with other people after such an event. I won’t say what it was because that is information the world does not need. You came to me wondering why I was melting down into a puddle of goo. I confided because it had to come out somewhere. You told me you had been through the same thing and understood. No one had understood to that point. No one got it. I don’t remember what it is you said to me, but that was the time I really started to heal. I went home from that training program a different person. I never did do my year of service, but I think I needed to go to that training if only for the healing.
I have not always led a good life. I’ve made many mistakes and many bad choices, but that is the human condition. In essence I was young, dumb, and out of control, like many people my age. Another few years had passed. I moved to a different state, never knowing exactly where you lived. I started a life on my own but still too young and naïve to stay out of trouble. I had connected with a group of singers and made some dear friends. One of which would become your husband. I remember one of the leaders of our group on the phone with him when he was getting ready to ask you and I heard the name. I remember asking for a last name because somehow I knew. I was told it was no one I knew. But it was you! I was shocked and happy. Again you walked into my life on the fringes.
Around this time I got pregnant with my first child. As someone trying to be active in our faith community, this wasn’t necessarily a fun time for me. I felt I had disappointed everyone, my family, my faith community, my friends. I was so scared and felt again so alone. We were at an event for the choir just weeks before your wedding. Again I was a puddle of goo, and again you were the one to ask what was wrong. I told you I was pregnant, and you exclaimed, “Congratulations! That’s Amazing! You’re creating a life!” You were the first person to be happy about this impending life. You have no idea how much that meant to me. I think I cried at some point. Joy. Life is joy. To be alive is joy! We get so wrapped up in how we THINK we should live our lives and we forget that. You reminded me.
We lived closer for a time. In the same city at least until you left for more adventures. I remember my birthday the next year; you and your husband brought me roses. Such a small thing. Honestly in my entire life no one had ever brought me roses. Not a boyfriend, not even my child’s father. I was so touched I actually dried them. I’ve dried almost all the flowers ever given me. I think I might have one of those roses tucked away someplace still.
My trials and tribulations were far from over. I had to conquer much darker times. I had to leave my home for a time with an infant son. I lived with mutual friends for a month, and though I don’t speak with them often at this point as our lives go different directions, I will always be grateful to them. But this story is about you. You were even on the fringes of my life there. You visited these friends often and I saw your smiling face many times. I discovered our mutual love of a certain Mediterranean restaurant that was nearby. I returned to my home and another few years went by.
After some of the worst events in my life and being homeless for a time, pregnant with my second child I got a new apartment in an entirely different corner of the city. I found myself next door to these same friends I had lived with and a few streets from you. It was almost surreal. Our lives went different directions and we didn’t see much of each other, but after everything it was an interesting coincidence.
Our lives changed greatly. Your adventures took you around the world, through love and loss. You had a family of your own while mine grew up. Several years passed and I found you online of all places. Again you are back in my life, on the fringes, but always there, and this time when your adventures take you near and far I can still see this journey you are on.
I’ve watched some amazing bravery and truth. Without even knowing it you validate all the things I experience. We have different but no less all encompassing pain disorders. We both struggle with the same ideals to teach our children, many of the same fears, and many of the joys. Your words have affected me as deeply as always. The honesty about the things most of us try to hide and your willingness to fight for the causes you believe in.
I know not what all your struggles are, but I know you will conquer them. After all these years I know that much to be true. After all these years, I still think, ‘Wow! She is cool!’ And my dear friend, even though we have never been as close as family and our lives continue to take us in different directions, you are still dear to me and my life would never be the same without you in it. I cannot take away your pain or hold you while you cry, but know I will always be here for you. You have but to ask.
I have joined the 21st century, folks. Didn't see that one commin' did ya? In any case you can now follow me on Twitter @SusanS_Writer.
It's been no secret I have been reluctant to join the mass market of social media. I never saw myself as someone who had a whole lot interesting or important to share. I have brief flashes of soap box material tangents or causes that mean something to me, but never a large amount on any one topic. I hate being spammed. I hate reading tweets like, "In the line at the store," especially from authors and musicians I follow. Because these things bother me so much, it never occurred to me that someone out there might genuinely want to know what I do with my day or the types of things I find important or funny.
Trying to market the things I do and my books has forced me into a borderline spammers market because everything is a numbers game. If only 10% of the people who read my posts buy a book...well then 10% of 200 people is more than 10% of 50. Exposure is everything. I always feel uncomfortable spamming but force myself to do it for the greater good. I think being forced into a corner doing something I take issue with has made me stay away from other uncomfortable corners out of spite for my situation.
Well I finally decided to put my big girl panties on, and deal with it. I won't be posting about long lines at the market or the quintessential search for my keys, but you may find excerpts and teasers from up coming books, art, jokes, and maybe a cause or two. Social media is what you make it. It is only vapid if you make it so.
Susan is a writer and artist by day, a child and pet wrangler by night, and occasional crazy person on the weekends. She walks the path of a Siedr and strives to grow day by day.