This morning I am sitting here in the quiet of dawn, and contemplating this sweet chill moment of satisfaction and contentment; I want for nothing. At least right now, this very specific and limited immediate moment of now, I am not experiencing desire, hunger, craving, yearning, or any urgent sense of need. It’s lovely.

It got me thinking, though, of recent tragedies, and lives lost to the dark side of desire: entitlement, jealousy, possessiveness, attachment, and yes, craving, yearning, wanting, ‘needing’ – those urgent hard-to-resist feelings that say there is something amiss in the world when some object, experience, or person is not available for ownership, possession, or purchase. I doubt it is the desire itself that is the challenge. My own experiences tell me that the difficulties (and horrors) develop when a person is overcome by the conviction that some outcome is their due. Expectation. Demand. Entitlement.

I’ve struggled with it, too. It’s very human to want something or someone so badly that it takes over reason and good sense, destroys compassion and consideration, impedes respect, or seems to justify bad behavior; it isn’t appropriate to take action on those feelings in any way that encroaches on someone else’s will, personal liberty, control of their own body, sense of safety, or freedom to withhold consent.  Rapists are a problem, and the lack of consent is the defining thing, and even in the face of the obviousness of it there manages to be discussion about it, as if there is some permissible amount of non-consensual conduct that is acceptable. (There isn’t.)

It took me a long time to get here. I have been wading through a lot of wreckage, and looking back on me over the years, I owe a number of very good-hearted people apologies of one sort or another; damage doesn’t truly excuse being a shitty human being.  I have struggled with myself, and I still do, figuring out the consent piece, for myself, as I find my way in the world.   I wasn’t exactly brought up to respect my own boundaries, to expect that my consent – or lack of it – would be respected, or even to say no and mean it in clear, explicit terms.  The result? I sometimes didn’t treat other rape survivors well; I treated them as badly as I treated myself. I didn’t understand the nature of consent, or that the word ‘no’ had any power to change events. My own experiences didn’t support that. I didn’t understand it is my right to choose, to say yes or no, and to have those choices be accepted and honored.  I spent years as an unwitting accomplice to rape culture; the survivor-apologist, so busy being ‘accountable for my own actions’ that I was willing to excuse my violation.  Getting past that and building a healthy understanding of the sanctity of my consent has been a complicated battle.

[Are you listening? It isn’t too late to show yourself compassion, to respect your own pain, to stand on your values and say ‘no’. It’s okay, too, to feel shame at the damage you’ve done as a tool in your own destruction – and to choose another path, now. You said it would matter if just one woman, one survivor, would say “I’m sorry I made things worse.” I’m here. I’m one woman. I’m sorry.]

So… here we all are… talking about the issues more openly, more insistently, more frankly. That, in spite of the pain and the circumstances, is an important step forward.

In the midst of pain, there is still beauty.

In the midst of pain, there is still beauty.

Today is a good day to talk about difficult subjects honestly. Today is a good day to be compassionate and concerned. Today is a good day to respect myself, and others. Today is a good day to change the world.