Archives for category: Rape

My busy week has been nothing like “routine”. I’m still smiling. I did not see my Traveling Partner last night, as we’d planned, the hour of evening was later than we’d figured when my hair appointment ended, I’d started the day quite tired already, and my partner considerately suggested I get the rest I needed and embrace the late Thursday night ahead without additional fatigue. Good idea. I agreed. I’m still smiling. I’m alert. Rested. In no particular pain in spite of the rainy morning. I am ready for a late night! Bring it!

It’s been a busy week, sure. It has, however, been more ups than downs. More successes than failures. More challenges overcome, than challenges that thwarted me. More wins than losses. More beautiful moments than aggravating ones. I suspect that this is the truth of life, generally, much of the time, for most of us – if we can find the sweet spot in our perspective from which to view our experience.

This morning I sip my coffee and practice a favorite practice – I take the things I need to practice it with me everywhere I go: memory, experiences, presence, and a kindly disposition toward my very human self. I start simply enough, by remembering something, maybe looking through my recent photographs, or contemplating a moment, conversation, or experience – one that felt really good. That’s the important bit; start with something that feels amazing, before working towards transforming the perspective on a less comfortable moment. Because that’s totally possible too, and does not require compromising my values, telling myself pretty lies, ignoring painful truths, or constructing a fake narrative, it just takes some understanding, some compassion – and some practice. (I learned to transform some painful, awkward, or uncomfortable recollections into recollections with positive value more or less by accident, through the practice of “taking in the good“, and I don’t have “steps” to offer to make that a reliable thing; it requires practice, no avoiding that.)

Did the phrase “working towards” cause you to lose interest? Yeah… You’re probably going to have to get over that. Just saying. There are verbs involved. The effort must, in fact, and unavoidably, be your own. 😉

A beautiful way to say thank you (to me) (because I like flowers) (in vases) (and being appreciated). Flowers from colleagues. My work space smells like a garden. 😀

The complicated week has been dimpled with beautiful moments. A promotion. An appreciative gift of flowers. Smiles from colleagues in moments of shared success and celebration. A festive dinner out with my Traveling Partner and a dear friend. A delightful outcome on new hair color. It’s not even over yet – and there’s still more to appreciate, to pause for, to savor, to relish, to sit with in gentle contemplation over a great cup of coffee, too early in the morning. 🙂

So look, my life isn’t “perfect” (and that’s not a thing, so let that go now!) – my arthritis pain has been kicking my ass all this rainy chilly week, and I’ve had an on again/off again headache that has chased me for days. My schedule is a so far off routine at this point it is wreckage, calendar in useless tatters, which is deeply uncomfortable for me. My sleep, until last night, has been of exceedingly poor quality, offering little rest. A wee fish in my aquarium died. The first time my Traveling Partner ever saw my new place, my bed wasn’t made – which bugs me. The powerful “Me, Too.” meme unfolded on Facebook and Twitter, which although powerful and extraordinary, was also painful, uncomfortable, and saddening. Life is not about perfection. We are human. So human. Pain is a thing. Sickness is a thing. Emotional anguish is a thing. Running late is a thing. Being ditched is a thing. Disappointment is a thing. Setting ourselves up for failure is a thing. Learned helplessness is a thing. This is a “choose your own adventure” sort of experience – and you have choices. But…

It isn’t “easy”. It does take practice. It is utterly necessary to “do something” about “that” – whatever it is. 🙂 One thing at a time, and it’s okay to take it slow, to fumble, to get it wrong, and to have to begin again…

…like…

…a bunch of times.

This is your experience. The craftsmanship involved in making it a “good one” (defined by you) is yours.

This morning I’m fortunate to be sitting in the sweet spot. It’s been a busy week. I’m still smiling. That’s enough. 🙂

I was already feeling sort of testy about weird man/woman shit when drama erupted in a relationship totally not my own, still somehow spilling over into my experience, by way of my Traveling Partner supporting a friend going through a bad bit as a failed partnership ends. I’d have been, perhaps, less enraged by how that friend is being treated by an ex… but emotions are what they are, including personal loyalty, and I found myself wondering what I could do to actually help – and offering up “anything” that could be to my Traveling Partner.

I’m still angry this morning. Maybe it was the Facebook post about the news article on “stealthing”, maybe that’s what got my ire up? That’s some unsavory wrong-headed bullshit, all by itself, and enough to make any woman angry – even the suggestion of it, and reading the article, was enough to anger me. Ancient rage. The sort that does not stifle easily. For some reason, in April of this year it seems a popular topic for news articles. That bothers me too.

A pleasantly distracting picture of the first spring goslings. 🙂

The scene on the bus ride home last night, though, irritates my consciousness in this whole other “see your therapist soon!” sort of way, like picking at a scab, or scratching a bug bite… I feel very much that I should not “pick at this”, unfortunately that’s often the rallying cry of “this is some root cause to a bit of your madness, but let’s not deal with all that now” that pushes things into dark corners of chaos for the later “amusement” of my personal demons. It wasn’t an uncommon scene, either… a young woman and a young man riding the bus together…

He was tickling her. She said “stop”, laughing. The way she said stop, and it came up repeatedly as the bus ride continued, caused more heads than mine to turn. Her laughter, to me, sounded uncomfortable. She said “no”. She said “stop”. She said “quit it”. She said these things firmly. She continued to laugh while she said them, mostly. He kept on. I was very uncomfortable, but in a confined space, like a bus, was an involuntary witness. When my stop approached, I stood at the door, which was immediately next to them, they were facing me. I turned to face her and made eye contact. “This bus ride was very uncomfortable for me.” I said. Heads turned. Conversations stopped. She held my gaze. People were listening.  “You keep telling him no”, I said to her, “but you are laughing. He keeps doing this thing that appears to be violating your boundaries, you keep telling him no – and you keep laughing. If you are enjoying this, why are you telling him no? If you are not enjoying this, why are you complicating your effort to set boundaries by laughing?” I waited. She looked uncomfortable and said nothing. He finally spoke up for her “she’s having a good time.” He said it firmly with conviction, he looked resentful of the intrusion. I turned to him as the bus pulled forward from the last signal light. I looked into his eyes for a long minute before saying slowly, with forced calm,  “I wasn’t talking to you, and it isn’t up to you to decide if she’s having a good time. It is up to you to decide if you will respect her boundaries and require clear communication of consent.” I turned my back on him deliberately, and turned back to her. The bus doors opened, and I felt my eyes fill with tears I didn’t intend to share, and only enough time to say “Your choice of behavior is teaching him that it is acceptable to violate your boundaries.” I can hope she heard me, but I’ll probably never know. I walked home sad and angry. Sad because this bullshit goes on all the time. Angry with the woman in the mirror because it’s my fault, too. Angry because it took men who understood consent to bring it to my awareness. Angry because I even had to be persuaded and cajoled into taking care of myself, into learning to set clear boundaries firmly, into learning that my agency actually matters, and that my consent is sacred and must remain inviolate – and is my own. I had to learn not to laugh uncomfortably any time I said “no”. I still struggle with these things, and that is one source of my anger.

I got home angry. The addition of needless break-up drama in other lives that matter (don’t they all?, isn’t that why it’s so hard to turn away?) didn’t help ease my simmering fury. It was an evening that touched on a lot of my chaos and damage. It all felt very personal. The pendulum swung from anger at a human experience of one sort, to a very different sort – that ugliness whereupon people behave as though they have some entitlement to what is not their own, in the midst of breaking up. Stealing things, tit for tat bullshit, and “getting even”. Ugly. I am so fucking sick to death of people behaving in these ways. We are not each other’s property. We are not chattel. We are not entitled to some particular outcome in life, which when deprived of it we are then entitled to steal, to break shit, or to commit assault or murder. Your relationship ended? Get the fuck over that shit, and walk on. Leave it all behind. Don’t chase after each other, poisoning the future. Treat each other well in celebration of love that once was. Vengeance? That’s bullshit. Walk away. Your life and your heart matter most, all the rest are just the material trappings of existence. It’s hard to stand idly by while a friend is robbed, and my anger at the pettiness and drama of his ex acting out surged again and again as the evening wore on… but not because of him (or even her, although her behavior has certainly cost her my respect, and any potential for friendship in the future; I’m just not okay with that behavior). I stayed angry because the events of the evening touched me – me personally, my own heart, and I am having my own experience.

More goslings, and a moment of perspective.

I’m fortunate to have a strong, reciprocal, boundary-respecting, loving relationship with my Traveling Partner. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that it is my first relationship in which my boundaries are respect and my explicit consent is required, just generally and day-to-day. When we got together, I was almost 50. It’s more than a little uncomfortable to be aware of that, and of the years of internal struggling and suffering that preceded it. I stayed angry through much of the evening, because I am still so very angry with myself, with my circumstances, and with all those preceding relationships in which my agency was not valued, my boundaries were not respected, and my consent was violated regularly. I am angry now, because I spent so much time then laughing uncomfortably, and waiting for unpleasant moments to just… end. I am angry because I have been punished for taking care of myself, for setting boundaries, for walking away, and for speaking up for myself. I am angry because it took so long to choose to change – and to understand that indeed, I had to change before my circumstances could. Even then, there were verbs involved.

Evenings are short during the week. My temper simmered over dinner. I continued to fret and stew over drama in the shower, and as the evening began to reach its end. I didn’t really want to go to bed angry… I wished my Traveling Partner well, and logged off of devices, and sat down on my meditation cushion in front of the open patio door. I let the cool marsh breeze wrap me the scent of meadow flowers. I let everything else fall away, and just took time to breathe, and to be, and to listen to the rain fall. Over some unmeasured time, I found my way back to the present moment, content and calm. It wasn’t that my anger no longer existed, it simply found a welcome home within my own heart, and some understanding. Calm anger. Weird. I went to bed and found sleep while listening to rain tapping at the window.

Sure. I still feel angry about the things I am angry about. There are plenty of things worth feeling angry about. This morning I sip my coffee also feeling content that I am able to put things in context and gain understanding from them, over time. I can grow. I can choose change. I can be more removed from drama than I once was. I can offer support to people close to me, without being destroyed in their dumpster fire. I can heal. I can walk on.

I can begin again. So can you. 🙂

[Trigger warning: sexuality, sexual assault, female anger, vaginas]

Today is weird and wobbly. I’m just finally finishing up Vagina, by Naomi Wolf. Powerful material that really resonates with me. I feel heard. I feel understood. I feel… betrayed. Shit. That’s not what I expected… Wait… did I expect something? What was I looking for? Healing. That’s going to mean staring into the damage… Scary.

I can read a book. There are still verbs involved in changing anything.

I can read a book. There are still verbs involved in changing anything.

“Vagina” could be one of the most important books I’ve ever read. I finally added it to my Reading List, too, linked for convenience of course. I considered and reconsidered adding it, again and again, because… well.. hey, only half of us or so actually have vaginas in the first place… and… well… I’d have to use the word ‘vagina’… in public… Facing that I feel resistance to doing so pushed me in a whole other irritated direction, because why the hell should I be the slightest bit self-conscious about the word ‘vagina’ when half of us have one?? Seriously? I am so irritated with myself over that. I am sick to fucking death of cultural defaults intended to meet male needs or support male emotional comfort at the expense of my own. (If that came out with a snarl, you’re hearing me correctly, and I’m even sorry about feeling the way I do… because… brainwashing. So fucking over this bullshit! How do I end it without… ‘ending it’?) Sorry about the anger. Why? Um… I always apologize for my anger. I don’t know. Shouldn’t I? I’m a woman. (Yes, I heard it, too. It’s a journey.)

Every sexual relationship I’ve had has contributed to real-life challenges I now have as a sexual human being, including the relationship I have with myself. Maybe that one most of all… I have profound difficulties feeling comfortable sexually, and have for a while. I feel as if my sense of ‘agency’ is completely lost. Facing ‘having to’ ‘fix’ it seems a mammoth and overwhelming task, and I don’t even think I know what ‘fixed’ would look like, for the woman in the mirror. These are very ‘me-centric’ issues, far more than they are issues to do with partners, partnerships, lovers, techniques, frequency, orgasms, sexual satisfaction, or any of all of that; this is about being and becoming, and sorting out the chaos and damage, and healing the woman in the mirror. It’s about taking back my soul, and my personal authority over my own experience. My agency. Over my life. Trusting myself on this very dark bit of path is scary. One foot ahead of the other… one step at a time… It’s time to take a deep breath and get to work on the hard stuff, the scary stuff, the stuff that is so very painfully real it generally goes without mention. Fuck.

I think about my physical therapist saying something to me yesterday about having to be patient about restoring motion to joints that have been stiff or frozen up for a long while. I think about my feelings, my very hurt feelings about being female, and about the impossible standards, impossible odds for success, and very different demands, limitations, and expectations placed on female human beings. I think about my anger – because thinking about it is far less difficult than feeling it. It seems beyond cruel to have to exist in a world that doesn’t value me as a human being solely because of my gender. That sucks… most particularly considering how powerfully valuable females are to the survival of a species. It sucks that it’s almost impossible to discuss easily with trusted male friends; it isn’t part of their experience, and defensiveness often precedes actually hearing me… and it is hard to hear, harder still to accept how terrifyingly commonplace it is, for all the women they know.  I’m emotionally impaired in my relationships with women on this whole other level, and trusting enough to be vulnerable enough to talk about some of this is painfully awkward – and then I’m ‘preaching to the choir’ anyway. We can commiserate, but there is no satisfaction in it. No sense of being more understood, or nurtured, or healed… or changing anything. I don’t want to injure them further in the telling, either…  I guess that’s the hope in discussing feminist issues with male friends and lovers; I somehow hold on to the possibility that the world will change for having had the conversation. They can’t easily change something they aren’t guilty of themselves  – in some cases they can’t even see it happening around them. 😦

Hell yes, I’m an angry feminist. Get over it. I’ve been egregiously wounded, trauma specifically directed at my very femaleness (some literal physical trauma directed at my genitals and brain through violence; rape), repeatedly, over time (some of it legislated, by putting me permanently at a disadvantage on purpose, creating a culture of diminishment, dismissal, and disregard – yep. Traumatic.). Why would I not be angry? How could my anger not affect my relationships? How could my anger and pain over being sexually assaulted not affect my emotional life and my sexual wellness? Why would anyone reasonably expect women to ‘just get over it’? Does that even sound sane? Or supportive? Or healing? Go fuck yourself – I’m not over it. (Sorry, it hurts every time I recognize that some bit of me is still locked up, frozen in time, wounded and stalled over things that are so far in the past.) I can’t retrieve what was taken from me.

I want to be over it. Fuck I am so grateful for the strength of the women who have told their stories in so many public ways, lately; I have been silenced for so long. Silenced – and everywhere the silence touches my heart, my heart is frozen. When does summer come?

Today is a good day for meditation. Today is a good day to understand I’m not alone, however alone I feel right now. Today is a good day to walk on – anger and all – and keep practicing. Today is a good day to cry honest tears, and remember to begin again. I’m okay right now.  ❤

I woke to a gray morning, following a late night. I spent the evening hours meditating, studying, writing and reflecting. Today is the 21st anniversary of the end of a nightmare. Bits of chaos and shards of damage still linger, even 21 years later; my back will remind me every day of the high price of freedom. My scars are my receipt. 21 years ago I walked on, and I began again, ending my first marriage with some finality, and a great deal of relief. I survived it, and that’s enough, now.

Art therapy

Self-portrait in progress – I don’t have words for some experiences.

I spent quite a bit of time reflecting on my very human mortality, too. Not in an angst-y “not me! why me?!” way – Death comes for us all, at some point. It’s more that… I’m only just starting to really live… it weighs me down just a bit; the not-quite-sad tears that perch on my eye lashes when I think about it weigh much more than they seem they should. I’m okay – I’ve known since I was a small child that Death is a thing. I’m not there, yet. I’m not having to face Death in person in any known immediate way. Last night found me gentle with myself, and accepting that this is something that I’m needing to think over a bit, letting it come, letting it go – accepting it. Hell, it wasn’t even the “most important” thing on my mind last night. 🙂 It is probably a decently adult idea to ensure all my end of life stuff is in good order, regardless… wills don’t write themselves, and mine is out-of-date.

I enjoyed the evening less quietly than I often do, pausing everything else at intervals to learn something more with my bass. My fingers are sore, and the muscles in my forearms. I took the necessary step of checking in with the guys next door and finding the sweet spot – amp loud enough to be ideally audible for me, but not filling their apartment next door with the sounds of me practicing – because there’s probably going to be a lot of that going on, for a long time. 🙂

It was an evening of meditation.

It was an evening of meditation, too.

I write several paragraphs, and delete them after re-reading them and realizing that I’m ‘just chattering away to myself’ in a rather… well… I’ll be honest, it sounded too much (to me) like an eager toddler tugging at my sleeve to share something, when I’m “trying to have an adult conversation here, honey.” I laugh at the visual image, which is of my mother on the phone rolling her eyes skyward as I earnestly try to shove some beetle or weed at her, eager for her attention. I sometimes feel I live on a plane tilted at an angle from everyone else in which very different things are fascinating and noteworthy. lol This has not changed about my experience of myself over the years, it is part of who I am. 🙂 I’m fortunate to have so many friends and loved ones who enjoy me as I am, and quite a few also living on ’tilted planes’. I take a moment to enjoy the warmth of the happy smile on my face as I linger on the awareness of the acceptance and affection I am so fortunate to receive. It feels very nice to consider acceptance. Just that – some small moment when another human being communicated that I am okay with them, no problem. However hated or diminished I’ve felt in some moment in life, if I’ve been able to lift my head from that pain to raise my eyes, the truth of it has been that I have also been well-loved, valued, respected, and found worthy by those dear to me! It took a long time to recognize that a lot of the hate I felt surrounding me sourced from within. I smile, and offer my gentle heart a moment of regret and apology; it never needed to be that way, it was a painful choice.

There is valuable perspective in taking time to look at things quite differently.

There is valuable perspective in taking time to look at things quite differently. “Chrysanthemums” 36″ x 48″, acrylic on canvas, 2004, shot in blue light.

I sip my coffee and smile. The gray morning is quiet, although a Monday; it’s a holiday. The sounds of traffic are muted, hushed, and minimal. The windows are thrown open to morning breezes. My coffee tastes good. My posture feels more upright than has been the case, sitting at my desk, in many years – I smile, recognizing early changes resulting from my renewed commitment to fitness. It’s a lovely morning. I feel whole and well and delightfully human – which is a pleasant experience. I breathe it in. As I exhale, I imagine letting go of past baggage, and inhale again, deeply, imagining welcoming Love home. My smile deepens. Contentment has proven to be such a wise choice for me, versus chasing the glamour of Happiness and her fickle ways. Happy comes and goes. I’m learning to accept that too. Contentment can be built, sustained, improved, deepened, practiced… No, it’s not ‘easy’. There is practice involved, self-awareness helps, acceptance is a nice value-add, and a willingness to embrace sufficiency doesn’t hurt, either. It’s not always clear which practices are ideal for me – I’ve taken a trial and error approach, and then also had to learn that practice is about incremental change over time, and follow through with learning to observe the small changes, not just the big change that is achieving a goal.

I didn't find freedom with a gun in my hand.

I didn’t find freedom with a gun in my hand.

I finish my coffee. The cat beyond the window finishes her patrol along the edge of the meadow. The morning remains quiet, so quiet. Coffee #2… or a walk in the park? It’s only a choice, either option is lovely, and I’m not attached to the outcome. Today is a good day to celebrate independence – how will you free yourself? 🙂

 

 

I had a lovely dinner with my traveling partner, after a very productive and thought-provoking appointment with my therapist. “Effective” is a good word. Maybe follow that one with “important” and “relevant”, maybe add “needful”… now I am alone. Alone is hard right now.  I don’t even know why I’m crying, right now… It is a measure of progress that I know it won’t last and that trying to stop the tears has other, sometimes profoundly negative, consequences. The tears themselves serve a purpose, the science says, and will reduce my (apparently high) cortisol levels faster than most other things might.

The a/c is on, and the house is cool. The day has been very hot. I got home with a headache from the heat, and more than a little noise-sensitive, uncertain if I might be ‘dealing with the appointment’ – there is often a delay between the appointment dialogue itself, and ‘when it hits me’ later. Often. More often than not.

It passes. I remind myself that it will. I breathe. I let the tears fall. I feel grateful that I didn’t get to this place while hanging out with my traveling partner – he is supportive on a supremely deep and connected level, but I know that going through these things with me is hard on him, too. It is, frankly, one of the reasons I moved into my own place – some of this is ‘easier’ to face alone. Sometimes is just harder, in general, to face it at all.

I have all the usual choices in front of me. All the practiced practices supporting my emotional resilience – much improved over the past two years – and I feel equipped to take care of me, even now – but fuck it’s harder than I want it to be. I think back to the morning’s contentment and ease. There is another morning tomorrow, and surely I will not still be weeping. I don’t understand why I am weeping now…unless it is simply that some stuff really is worth crying over – at least once – and some of it I just never got to that part at that time. I was too busy enduring, surviving, overcoming, managing, withstanding, and holding on to whatever fragments of self I could maintain in the chaos. The damage piled up, and now I am crying. So. Okay. Now what?

A bit like squinting at fruit I can't reach, with the sun in my eyes.

A bit like squinting at fruit I can’t reach, with the sun in my eyes.

A few more deep breaths. A big drink of water – it’s a hot day and the headache itself is enough to make me weep. A cooling shower…comfy clothes…yoga…meditation…medication (medical cannabis, I’m looking your way on this one!)…and being gentle with this fragile vessel and the tender hurt thing resting within it. We’ll be okay, this woman in the mirror and I; we’re making this journey together – and we aren’t traveling alone; I’m never far from my traveling partner’s thoughts. I could call, right now, and he would answer.

Hell…incremental progress over time is – and in fewer than 500 words, harder already seems a bit easier. I wonder for just a moment whether posting this is “necessary” and realize…maybe that isn’t about me, at all. It wouldn’t be a very complete narrative if I just take the bits I don’t find comfortable out of it. Isn’t that part of what hasn’t worked for me before? It seemed ‘too easy’ – and not relevant to the very real ups and downs. The failures. The struggles. How much harder it sometimes seems…the tears. I get back up. I start again. I let it pass.

It rained the other day, quite a lot. It isn't raining now.

It rained the other day, quite a lot. It isn’t raining now.