One year on the road

“The way your abuse was handled wen you were a child has a lot to do with its subsequent impact. … If no one noticed or responded to your pain … the damage was compounded. And the ways you coped with the abuse may have created further problems.”

— “The Courage to Heal” Ellen Bass and Laura Davis

“There were signs … And more than whispers.”

— “Goblet of Fire” J.K. Rowling

My sophomore year, I dropped out of volleyball. I’d been playing since Jr. High. Three years. My junior year, I stopped running track, a sport I’d been doing for four years. I didn’t do any sports that year, except for a club bowling team with some girlfriends. I also stopped going to Friday night games and parties. I gained 10-15 lbs. I spent much of those two years in my bedroom, succumbing to a slowly worsening depression.

I remember a piece of writing I did from that time, where I described being in the bottom of a dark pit that I couldn’t climb out of. And even if I could, I didn’t want to; it was more comfortable here. Familiar. Where I belonged.

I also got my first-ever “B” on a report card during that time. Not a huge deal, most of you will say. But I never got B’s. Never.

These were the signs. These were the whispers. That no one saw or heard.

Well, not no one.

My 16th birthday, four of my friends very sweetly brought me balloons and cake at school. A touching gesture, and a surprising one. I can’t remember them doing that for anyone else in our little group. I kept those balloons, with handwritten messages of love and friendship, for seven years, moving them from apartment to apartment around Orlando with me. They only got left behind when I headed to Colorado.

That year, our tenth, had been a rough one for us.We moved into a new school building. Our larger group was splintering into smaller cells; the girls that partied, and the girls that didn’t. The grown-ups and good girls. We all felt the strain. But perhaps I showed it more, probably because I was dealing with something on top of all the normal teenage angst.

The end of my freshman year, I ended a relationship with my abuser. It was months of emotional and physical pain, and one incident in particular that is still too painful to think of for long. That’s the one I’ve never spoken to anyone else. Ever. I can’t even bring myself to think of it without panicking.

We broke up a few months after The Incident. And then, I dropped into a deep depression that lasted for two years.

It wasn’t until I read the above words from “Courage to Heal” that I connected those two things, The Incident and The Depression. “If no one noticed or responded to your pain”

I’m very good at hiding my pain and panic. Even now, that’s something Mr. T and I are working on, with my therapist. Because even when I’m falling apart, I hold it together. I’ve had to. There was no falling apart in my life. My family didn’t have time for that. So those two years in high school were the closet I got. No sports. No friends. Gaining weight and dropping grades.

Subtle signs to the outside observer. But it wasn’t an outside observer I needed to notice me. It was my parents. And they didn’t.

I had two other periods of depression; at 13 and 19. Both followed sexual trauma in my life. But no one made that connection — not even me. Not until I read those words. “No one noticed your pain.” Not my parents, not my doctors. I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder, a label I never felt quite fit. Especially not now that I’ve been off prescription medication for nearly five years without another hospitalization or period of major depression.

When you connect the dots, they reveal a very clear pattern in my life: Four traumas — three cycles of depression. Now that I can see that picture, I can see what probably kept me from a fourth cycle of depression following my latest trauma: My support group.

This time, I reached out. I learned that just waiting and hoping for someone to notice would be a wasted venture. And so I made sure that, this time, someone heard me. Someone saw me.  And they did.

To say these women saved my life is, I think, not an overstatement. They are helping me not only to navigate the present, but to reclaim my past. Those long-ago experiences that went unacknowledged — they give me the recognition I craved. Beyond that, they accept my pain, without questioning or downplaying or telling me tomorrow will be better. They sit with it. They hold its hand. And they give me hope.

As we near Christmas, and as I mark the passage of a year in this support group (Dec. 16), I think about gifts. And by far, the gift these women have given me is life itself. Trying to struggle through this without support would be impossible for me. I could have ended up mired in depression, back in the hospital, or worse. But here I am, facing things with friends at my side.

One year ago tomorrow (Dec. 18), I wrote this post. It was after my first-ever support group meeting. I have experienced acres of growth since then, and broken the pattern of my life. All because of one simple choice to do just one thing different in the hopes that everything would then change.

I shared the following poem in that post, one year ago. Today, I share it again to encourage anyone dealing with similar issues to take just one step to break an unhealthy cycle. Just one.

So, as I signed off a year ago, so I say again … Here’s to a new road.

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

by Portia Nelson

Chapter I

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk

I fall in.

I am lost … I am helpless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter II

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I am in the same place.

But, it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in … it’s a habit.

My eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

Chapter IV

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

Chapter V

I walk down another street.

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When I Stumbled Upon the Glass

For Roberta

Why didn’t you look,

she said

when I stumbled upon the glass

I had not seen.

When I stumbled

again

upon the glass

she said,

what did you do that for.

But I didn’t think

that I would fall.

Once more

I stumbled

upon the glass.

Didn’t you learn,

she said

but I hadn’t known

that it would hurt.

And now I sit

among the glass

upon which

I stumbled

that I could not see

that I hadn’t known

that I didn’t think

something so beautiful

could hurt

so much.

And I wait

for her hand

that does not come

while a voice

that tells without asking

when

and how

and why

I came to fall.

And I shout

to the legs

that pass me by

I fell!

I fell!

I fell!

But they do not stop.

So I cease my shouting

and sit

quietly

in the glass

that keeps on cutting.

But one day

A hand

and a voice

that does not ask why

that does not say how

instead

it reaches out

and helps me from the pile.

As we look down

on the glass

stained with blood

and dust

and the debris of years

I say,

I fell

and the voice answers,

I know.

And together, we clean away the glass

and the dust

and the blood

and the debris of years.

We pick them up,

piece by piece,

and arrange them into something

that makes sense

and when we’re done

I think,

it really is something beautiful to see.

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War & Peace

Bootstraps

“To pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps, one must first have boots.”

 

You heard this tossed around a lot in in the past few years, in the never-ending debate over public assistance, economic mobility and the plight of the poor.

I liked it, because it highlights the desperate situations that so many people come from, and the hypocrisy of critics whose backgrounds were decidedly more privileged.

I think of it now because of something my therapist said to me as we prepare to wage war on my infidelity.

Waging war.

Those were her words. But I’m starting to see it.

  • We’ve identified the enemy. (Poor/no boundaries, attachment issues, deep psychological need for affection)
  • We’ve prepared a battle plan. (A rigorous schedule, time off from work, a set timeline with multiple therapy sessions a week and an end goal in mind)
  • We’re fortifying the stronghold. (Strict diet and exercise guidelines, daily yoga and meditation practices)
  • We’ve recruited allies. (Mr. T and some work friends)
  • We even have a contingency plan if the battle goes ill.

But before you go to war, you must first attempt peace.

I need to make peace with my problem.

I am not the problem. I am a good person. I am not the problem. I am a good person.

I will repeat this — 1,000 times a day if necessary — until I can separate them in my head; myself and my issues.

We are going to war against my problem — not me, my therapist says. I am not a bad person, she says. I am a very good person, who very bad things have happened to. It is those things we are fighting, and their aftermath.

Know thine enemy, they say.

It is key to understand this, my therapist says, so that I can have some compassion with myself. So, too, it is important to understand that my response to these things is natural.

“It is the most natural response to the circumstances you experienced.”

If you take a plant and put it in the dark, it will not grow correctly, or at all.

If you hit your puppy, it will grow up cowering. It will always cower at raised voices and raised hands, even if you stopped hitting it long ago.

If you take a girl and fill her life with stress and yelling and anger and secrets and put-downs and attention or affection in exchange for sex, she will do what she has always done to get love.

And it’s not right. And it’s not OK.

But we are going to war against it, not her.

I am going to war against it, as I have been attempting to do all my life. But this time, I’m getting weapons first. The skills I didn’t develop growing up. The lessons missing from my education. The beliefs that were stolen from me, repeatedly, by family and boyfriends and co-workers and classmates and lovers, until I had no chance of recovery.

Self-worth, peace of mind, independence, boundaries, self-protection, love, connection, authenticity, integrity, acceptance, support — these are the armor and weapons I hope to gain.

Finally, I am getting boots.

And maybe this time, when I try to pull myself up, I’ll make it.

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Why we speak/Why we stay silent

TMZ.com

TMZ.com

With Bill Cosby and his alleged dark activities in the news, there are questions I hear very often when the situation is being discussed. Questions that, I think, only someone who has been abused can answer. And so I will, because I think people are generally good, generally willing to accept the truth, and generally appreciative of a different perspective on a matter as complex, confounding and uncomfortable as sexual assault.

But first, some facts, because that is what every debate full of opinion needs.

  • Cosby settled with Andrea Constand in a 2006 civil suit for an undisclosed amount. 13 women were listed as Jane Doe witnesses in the case, and during the ensuing media coverage, at least three came forward publicly to share similar stories of being drugged and/or assaulted. While the Philadelphia DA declined to press charges in a criminal case, he had this to say:

“I didn’t say that he didn’t commit the crime. … What I said was there was insufficient, admissible, and reliable evidence upon which to base a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s ‘prosecutors speak’ for ‘I think he did it but there’s just not enough here to prosecute.’”

  • Cosby once persuaded National Enquirer to kill an interview with another accuser, fearing her claims would bolster Constand’s suit.
  • In total, 21 women (that number is growing everyday) have accused Cosby of assaulting them; 12 of them publicly, 9 anonymously.

(Read for yourself: http://www.vulture.com/2014/09/timeline-of-the-abuse-charges-against-cosby.html , http://www.buzzfeed.com/kateaurthur/18-moments-that-led-to-bill-cosbys-stunning-downfall )

And now to the questions, which I’ve heard from several people, all of whom I respect and care for enormously. Please understand that I am not speaking for these women; I am merely sharing my experience and the experiences of other women from the perspective of having survived sexual abuse and the terrible aftermath that follows.

Why is all this surfacing now?

In January 2014, NBC announced plans for a new Cosby primetime sitcom, putting the star back in headlines. In February, Dylan Farrow published her op-ed in the New York Times about why it is painful for her every time Woody Allen is in the news, possibly motivating Gawker to publish this article about another icon of pop culture who has been plagued by allegations of sexual assault, although the public seems to have forgotten about them. Three days later, Newsweek interviews two women who accused Cosby. In the months that follow, the story pops up here and there on various media outlets, but a biography of Cosby makes no mention of the allegation that span decades.

Oct. 16: Hannibal Buress mentions the Cosby allegations in a standup, and it goes viral, trending on Facebook and Twitter. This was the first time I had ever heard of the accusations. More media interviews with accusers follow. Then a meme generator on Cosby’s site becomes a fiasco, as people use the opportunity to make meme after meme referencing the accusations. This, too, trends worldwide on Facebook and Twitter.

November: More women come forward. NBC cancels the planned series. Netflix decides not to release a Cosby standup special. TV Land pulls The Cosby Show from syndication. Several venues cancel planned Cosby standup events. And the topic keeps trending.

Why did the women take so long to come forward?

This is what happens when a survivor elects to come forward about her abuse: She tells, usually someone close to her. Her family (or whoever) believes her and supports her; she is encouraged to get help. She may go to the authorities, but most likely not. Around 60% of rapes are never reported. (RAINN.org)  She spends some time in therapy. She might go to a support group. She gets on with her healing, a process that can take years.

And that’s the best case scenario. Most of the time, what happens is not best case. Many survivors are not believed. Many meet hostility, anger or oppression instead. Because so few people are equipped to deal with a survivor, they are often told to simply move on, forget about it, focus on the positive. Even worse, they face blame. Why you were alone with him? Why did you drink so much? Why didn’t you scream louder, kick harder, or fight at all? Worst of all, they are not believed. They are told that their attacker is a nice guy. He would never do something like that. They must be mistaken.

Place those women in a very public forum with a celebrity as the accused, and the stakes are higher. Death threats, threats of violence, threats of sexual attack and assault, personal information shared online, hackers breaking into personal accounts … These things can and have happened to women who have come forward.

I have not publicly named my attackers. I’m not sure I ever will. Because we have mutual friends. Because he is a nice guy. Because he is in the military, and criticizing our nation’s heroes is tantamount to sedition. And, mostly importantly because I’m not sure I want to believe what happened.

I don’t want those guys to be abusers. I don’t want what happened to me to be abuse. Because then it really is scary, and horrifying, and I’m not sure I can face it.

It took six  years for me to tell anyone what happened to me; 13 years since the original incident, and I’ve shared only a fraction of it in therapy. The worst of it, I’ve still never spoken aloud to another living soul.

It takes years, sometimes a lifetime to face what happened to you. Asking these women to share their stories is asking them to relive the very worst moments of their lives. That’s something I’ve not been able to do. At least not yet.

Why are all these women speaking up at once?

You know the one thing that could make me speak up and name my abusers? If somebody else did.

A friend, a co-worker, even a complete stranger; it wouldn’t matter who. Seeing someone else be that brave would not only inspire me, but it would make me feel as if I had a duty to stand alongside them, in solidarity, as they face what would surely be an onslaught of negativity and questioning of their character.

Secondly, if someone else spoke out about my abusers, it would provide something that I have been searching for my whole life, yet haven’t found: Confirmation. I need to know that my instincts are right, my experiences true. If they happened to someone else, as horrible as it is, I feel more validated. I would stop second-guessing myself; my thoughts, feelings, recollections, my memory and intuition. My sense of self. I would know that I was right.

Don’t you think some of these women are lying/jumping on the bandwagon to get attention?

The false accusation rate for rape and sexual assault is 8 percent. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_accusation_of_rape)

If we use the facts we are given, the rate of false accusation among the 21 or so women who have accused Cosby, then 1 of them is lying, statistically. One of them is opening herself up to hatred, public scorn, and threats of violence and death.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there is one person, one very sick person, looking to capitalize on the biggest news story of the day. But I don’t think that’s the norm.

It is more likely that these women feel as I do, as most survivors do: Emboldened. Compelled. Relieved, even. And finally ready to come forward, their trails blazed for them by another brave soul.

These are the questions that have been asked. Now I have one of my own.

How many women will it take?

How many need to come forward before their combined allegations are taken seriously? How many women spoke up before your opinion shifted? Before public opinion shifted? These allegations are decades old, some of them. Cosby settled with Constand in 2006. 13 women were prepared to testify against him. But be honest: What convinced you more, the shared stories of more than a dozen females, or the statement from the DA about Cosby’s guilt?

Maybe you still don’t believe, not fully. To you, I ask: How many women will it take before you believe? How many women is this one man worth, to you?

I understand the hesitation. It is a hideous thing to be accused of, and particularly painful for his fans.

Cosby the character, the actor, the comedian, was funny and gentle and upstanding. His aura of fatherly wisdom and familial devotion said to us, “Trust me.”

And we did.

To accept that he is the same man who drugged and assaulted even one women, let alone the dozens that have now come forward, is to admit that we were wronged. Not wrong. Wronged.

I wasn’t wrong to think that Cosby was funny; he is. You weren’t wrong to admire the character he presented, that of loving, likeable father. That character was and remains who it was created to be: Kind, caring, relatable. That doesn’t change because the man behind it was a monster. Neither does the monster become less so because the persona he portrayed was someone we looked up to. The two are separate matters. The only thing that changes, given the facts before us, are how we perceive them both, the man and the character.

It feels disgusting to realize that someone we once admired was capable of such atrocities. We feel raw, exposed, ashamed, vulnerable.

I want you to do something Americans are terrible at: Keep feeling those things. Concentrate on them. Really let them sink in.

Now multiply that by 100. 1,000 even. That is how it feels to be a victim of such an assault.

To accept the stories of these women lessens those feelings. And not just slightly; tremendously. Being believed is, for so many women, the first step on the long and painful path to healing. Without it, we cannot even begin.

That is why these national stories, these women who are strangers, are so important to me. To all survivors of abuse. Because their story is our story. Because we watch, obsessively, every case of assault that plays out across the Internet. We follow, in fear, the fate of those courageous enough to step forward, knowing that their treatment at your hands is a looking glass into our future, should we ever choose that path of radical honesty. We measure, constantly, the public mood on rape and all it means for survivors, gauging whether or not it is safe for us to speak up.

As we beg you to believe them, there is a separate and additional plea: Believe me.

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What’s my age again?

Me, at 13.

Me, at 13.

This week, I am 13.

I am 13 because that is the age my therapist ordered me to be.

Remember 13? When crushes felt like they were literally squeezing your insides. When the first touch of skin on skin — even holding hands — sent electric chills through your body. When a good makeout sesh was the height of sexual excitement.

At 13, there was possibility.

When I was 13, that’s when all those good things stopped, and shame entered the equation.

When I was 13, I had my first trauma. After that, everything got messy.

My therapist was intrigued but not surprised when I told her that when I cheated, I set a firm line with my co-conspirators that mirrors exactly the first sexual boundary of mine that was ever crossed: My pants stay on, and your hands stay out of them.

The kissing, the hand-holding, the sexting, the feeling up — all these things are cheating. As my therapist said, “The affair started before you even touched.” But I have always been able to commit these acts with relatively little remorse. It is only when I violate my own rule (or have it broken for me) that the guilt kicks in.

That invisible boundary exists even in my incredibly loving and stable relationship. I’m generally happy as a clam (pun intended) to round bases 1 and 2, but anything beyond that, and I have to work really hard (pun also intended) to stay present, and even harder to, ahem, get there.

It’s been 13 years since that night at my friend’s house, but the results are often still the same: An arbitrary line of sexual conduct is crossed, and I freeze up.

Apparently, I’m still 13. Sexually.

Because that’s when I last felt 100% safe and 100% excited about sex. The last time I still had 100% ownership of my own body.

And so I seek out that 13-year-old feeling of novelty. I go for the forbidden to give me butterflies in my stomach. In short, THIS is why I cheat. At least in part.

Another part? My brain is trying to heal that original trauma. At least, according to my therapist.

There is a psychological term for this, called reenactment. (Also repetition compulsion).  It is very common among survivors of trauma, whatever that trauma was. Essentially, people place themselves — consciously or unconsciously — in situations similar to those in which the trauma occurred, sometimes many times, in the (typically subconscious) hopes of being able to “resolve” that incident: In other words, to get a different outcome, one in which they are in control and the trauma does not happen.

So this, too, is why I cheat.

Whenever I would get myself into a situation where there was potential to stray, I would tell myself, ‘This time will be different. This time, I’ll just not do it.’

I would set benchmarks of behavior for myself, as described above.

“This time, we’ll only hug.”

“This time, we’ll only kiss on the lips.”

“This time, we’ll only make out.”

But every time, I would go past that. Every time.

At the very moment that self-imposed rule was flouted, the emotional effect is immediate and very, very familiar. Excitement turns to remorse, sexiness to shame, confidence to disgust.

Just like when I was 13.

I would say that my therapist has taxed me with reliving this trauma, but the truth is, I have relived it a million times. I have been living it, folding the shame associated with abuse into the whole of my sexuality.

MeNMrTSo the only difference in reliving it now is that I have a trained professional and a loving boyfriend at my side to help me: She makes sure I don’t freak out during therapy, and he makes sexy time fun by respecting me when I say no, reminding me that I’m safe and loved, and by generally being up (or down) for anything I need. Which this week means pretending we’re 13 again.

Remember 13? When crushes felt like they were literally squeezing your insides. When the first touch of skin on skin — even holding hands — sent electric chills through your body. When a good makeout sesh was the height of sexual excitement. When the threat (or promise) of sex wasn’t a dark cloud of expectation hanging over your heads, but an exotic location to be visited someday.

13? It’s looking better all the time.

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#FierceFriday

Combo

This is a photo of me and my Chive twin. I took a picture of myself (left) after finding this one (right) online. I thought the girl looked just like me. If I didn’t have a longstanding personal rule against duck lip selfies, I may have thought that girl was me. I immediately knew I had to recreate the outfit, the pose, the duck lips, and send it to the Chive. I needed to meet my twin, if only on social media.

But this picture has never seen the light of day. Because after I took it, I realized we couldn’t look more different. She’s a size 0, easy. I’m a 6 on a good day, a 4 whenever I buy Calvin Klein. (As often as I can, because, hello, I fit into a size 4.) My hand’s all wonky, my duck face is more like a ‘Holy shit, was that a bug in my drink?’ face, and her cleavage is seriously outclassing mine.

I actually photoshopped myself thinner in the hopes of ‘salvaging’ it and therefore my epic post.

I’m sharing it now, unedited, not to draw attention to the sameness of the images, or to their differences. I’m sharing it because a few days ago, I saw this video:

For those of you who didn’t watch this, first off, I’m going to tell you that you suck. Watch the damn video! Secondly, I’m going to share these little tidbits from the talk with you:

“When it comes to exams, if you don’t think you look good enough, specifically if you don’t think you are thin enough, you will score a lower grade point average than your peers who are not concerned with this.”

“Women who think they’re overweight — again, regardless of whether they are or are not — have higher rates of absenteeism (at work). Seventeen percent of women would not show up to a job interview on a day when they weren’t feeling confident about the way that they look.”  (Meaghan Ramsey, Dove Self-Esteem Project, #KissTheMirror)

I’ve never missed a day of work or a job interview because I didn’t like my hair that day, but I have stayed home from a party. I have skipped out on meeting up with friends; canceled a date; sat in the back of the classroom and kept my head down, instead of the front row where I could ask questions if I needed to.

And — perhaps more humorously but ultimately as important — I have not engaged sexually with my boyfriend on days that I feel fat, fugly or otherwise less than appealing. You can laugh if you want, but think for a minute of all the orgasms being missed out on because of hairy legs and armpits, food bellies or missing makeup. And, yes, forgoing potential climax does not cost our economy millions in lost productivity annually, but think about what that implies. If we are so uncomfortable with our own imperfections that we can’t even let ourselves be seen by those closest (literally) to us, how is there hope for us in the wider world?

I’m aware that this isn’t only a female problem, but I do think it is predominately ours. To my gentlemen readers: Ask yourselves, when was the last time you stopped your girlfriend from going down on you because you hadn’t trimmed your pubes in a few days? Or have you ever not gone out because you had a really big breakfast burrito and your T-shirt fit a bit more snugly than usual?

I’ve done both of these things this week.

I’ve also done something most guys would never dream of: Photoshopped pictures of myself before posting them to Facebook. I’ve made my arms thinner. I’ve tucked in my tummy. I’ve trimmed down my luscious bubble butt. I’ve even sculpted my face. If I could with any success, I’d even out my nostrils, which always seem to face at different angles to the camera.

Let me be clear, in case you can’t tell from my photos: I look pretty damn good. I’m in adequately decent shape. I’m average weight for my height; I have nice, clear skin; and that hourglass figure everyone loves. But it doesn’t matter. Because the photos I see online of other “regular” people? They still look thinner, tanner; their nostrils more even.

And it doesn’t occur to my that they might have photoshopped their pictures, too. Or employed another one of my favorite tactics: Selection perfection. In scouring my phone for this post, I couldn’t find a single “bad” photo. Not because I can’t take a crappy picture, but because I immediately delete those not up to snuff. So it continues, the myth of perpetual beauty and casual perfection, a standard we cannot attain but that we never stop trying to reach.

We’re in a selfie arms race. 

But I’m laying down my weapons.

I’m starting #FierceNotFatFridays. Once a week, I’m going to post a photo that I normally wouldn’t. One that I don’t particularly like. One with weird eyes, a double chin, or the noticeable absence of a thigh gap. (Which will be all of them. I have never had, nor will I ever have, a thigh gap. Because I am a real person, not a Barbie.) And I am going to notice the things that actually make me worthwhile as a person.

MeConsider this my first one. In this photo, my hair is fabulous. And now some little girl has my fabulous hair because I am unselfish and giving and not as vain as I could be.

My legs are strong, and they push me to work each day on my bike, which conserves oil that I would use driving, and cuts down on harmful emissions.

My eyes are big, blue and beautiful. But best of all, they see things. They see potential in others, and beauty where others see struggle.

My lips do so many great things. (Keep your BJ jokes to yourself, haters!) They sing. They speak words of encouragement and inspiration to friends. They make jokes. They tell the truth.

Here’s one: When I first conceived this concept,  I was afraid. Scared that by posting unflattering photos, by looking fat or ugly, people would think I was fat or ugly.

But a bad picture doesn’t make me an ugly person, any more than a good one makes me beautiful. A photo is a moment in time, representative of nothing more. It can’t capture what defines me; my actions and attitude toward others. I’m hoping that adding this one more action will help me bit a little bit better of person.

I hope some of you will join me in this. We might not be able to kill the Internet trolls, but we can make it cooler to be confident than cruel. And we can’t force the magazines and advertisers to abandon photoshop, but maybe we can convince regular people (and maybe some celebrities. You hearing this, Beyonce??) that it’s not worth the effort. That thinner thighs don’t make you a better person.

We won’t magically transform the haters into lovers, but we can at least make an effort at loving ourselves a little more.

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Are humans sexual omnivores?

“Our fight is not with each other; our fight is with an outdated, Victorian sense of human sexuality that conflates desire with property rights, generates shame and confusion in place of understanding and empathy.”

A really great TED talk about how agriculture gave rise to sexual monogamy in humans.

Tidbits:

“Human beings are not descended from apes, despite what you may have heard. We are apes. We are more closely related to the chimp and the bonobo than the African elephant is to the Indian elephant. We’re more closely related to chimps and bonobos than chimps and bonobos are related to any other primate – gorillas, orangutans.”

I’m arguing against is the shame that’s associated with desires. It’s the idea that if you love your husband or wife but you still are attracted to other people, there’s something wrong with you, there’s something wrong with your marriage, something wrong with your partner. I think a lot of families are fractured by unrealistic expectations that are based upon this false vision of human sexuality”

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Welcome to the woo woo

*Not my actual therapist.

*Not my actual therapist.

I’m back in therapy.

My therapist — who shall remain nameless until I conclude my sessions with her and can do an honest and complete evaluation — is completely fucking nuts. She’s what I call “hippie dippy.” She’s SO Boulder.

She talks of chakras and Divine Life Activations. She told me she once reversed her own hand injury by focusing all her consciousness on it. She is not just a therapist — she’s an energy healer and spiritual teacher.

Welcome to the woo-woo.

My first session was Friday, after a 10-minute consultation via phone Thursday. We skipped the small talk, the get-to-know-yous. I didn’t tell her about my family, my past relationships, my current Mr. T — none of it. And I have no idea how old she is, where she’s from, if she’s a legal resident, if she’s ever been a member of a cult. You know, the things that matter.

Except they don’t. Not anymore. I’m here to heal. Keep your batshit to yourself, lady. We’re here to deal with my guano.

We started with my goals: Overcome intimacy issues (with platonic friends and in the bedroom); stop cheating; stop thinking about cheating; stop defining myself by my sexuality.

Then we moved on to some, uh, let’s call it creative visualization. There’s me, then there’s “emotional me” and, finally, “traumatized me.” Like some very seriously fucked up version of Barbie dolls. Except that your imaginary conversations (with yourself, as yourself) also involve physical contact and sensations.

“OK, I want you to look at yourself, your emotional self. What does she (you) look like? How is her (your) body language? How does she (you) feel? Is there sensation in her (your) stomach, her (your) throat? Is her (your) heart racing? How is she (you) feeling? OK, I want you (me?)  to take her (your?) hand now.”

It’s like me, talking to me to the second power. “Shay, meet Shay squared. Oh, who’s that cowering in the corner? That’s Shay cubed. You don’t have to talk to her. She’s waaaay scary.”

A note of apology to you, dear reader, for my injection of humor into this discussion. Not because these things aren’t funny; therapy’s often hilarious. But because my humor is meant to deflect. It’s my way of saying, ‘See, I’m still normal! I’m making fun of this whole therapy process, because you might think it’s weird and that I’m weird for doing it.’

Because I make fun of people who talk about energy fields, and getting in touch with their feelings. Because, so often, that stuff and those people seem full of shit. But I am apologetically diving into the woo woo. I’ve tried the other stuff. And I still need help. And I love myself (or will someday) enough to do whatever it takes to get to a good place.

So, yeah, that’s me, sitting in a therapists office, crying my eyes out as I talk to myself in the third person. And maybe, someday, communing with nature and running naked in fields of flowers. Or doing laugh yoga with a group of long-haired, patchouli-smelling weirdos. But you know what? You can laugh, but I. DON’T. GIVE. A. FUCK.

All the fucks I could be giving to you for judging me? I’m keeping them for myself. Because I give a fuck about myself. I give all the fucks. And I will do whatever it fucking takes to make sure I live a happy life. Free of the fucked up-ness that plagued most of my formative years.

Yes, this shit is weird. Yes, it takes a certain suspension of cynicism that, until now, I wasn’t sure I was even capable of. And, yes, I’m still a worshiper at the altars of SCIENCE and FACT and TRUTH. But the fact is, this shit — strange as it may be — is working. And the truth? I’m finally dealing with the truth of who I am and what I’ve been through.

So I’m checking in, before I get too lost in the woo woo. Because the next time you visit this blog, I could well have moved to a commune and changed my name to Heartflow Love Warrior and the domain address to http://www.ThisIsWhyILoveAndEmbraceAllSentientBeings.com. So, you know, heads up.

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Friends, frenemies and forgetness

My friend is in need.

A childhood friend and old boyfriend — the one she dated when we were closest, the one who went on camping trips, birthday bar crawls, game nights — passed away. Heart attack. In his mid-30s.

Roxie* and I are not close right now. In fact, I recently blogged that we didn’t care about each other. But this morning, when I heard the news, I knew that I was wrong.

I do care about her. Because, even though we aren’t speaking; even though our last attempt at reconciliation failed; even though we can both be bitchy and mean and hurtful — I wanted to go to her. I cried for her. And I knew, in my heart, that I still do care for her. That I love her. That we are bonded. Maybe not right now, but at one point, we were. And that’s not something you can just throw away.

400425_2830245602920_1401365422_nWhen you lose someone, you want to be surrounded with people that knew the both of you, that knew the you you were when you were with him. And that’s me for Roxie and Dave.

I’m not good at everyday friendship. I don’t do the weekly phone calls, the daily gossip. I don’t forgive easily, I can hold grudges for longer than the average length of a first marriage, and I never forget when people hurt me.

But this big stuff — that I can do. I can be there. I’ll hold her hand as she cries — or her hair as she pukes after a night of stiff drinking, if that’s what she prefers.

Maybe she won’t want me at all. That would be understandable, given our last two meetings.

If that’s the case, then I will do what a good friend would: Accept it. Love her anyway. Send her all the positive thoughts and vibes I can, but stay away. Because that’s what she needs.

And a good friend will always support you.


To my dear friend, Roxie, who is a shot of tequila: You may not always like how it treats you, (or how you treat it), but you always love it, because it’s awesome. We’ve had some great nights and some really shitty ones. I’m sorry that I let the hangover make me temporarily forget how much I fucking love tequila. I love you, girl.

*Not her real name

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Avoiding potholes in the dark

light-nov-8

 

Sometimes, when I am riding my bike home from work or group at night, my light goes out. I often forget to charge it.

So I ride in the dark.

I find that the trick to not running into something that can throw me off balance is not to look too far ahead, at the illuminated patches of path.

Instead, I look for the darkest spaces, and I avoid them.

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