she writes.

CategoryDeal w/it

I Stopped Speaking to My Parents: A Story Side.

I was originally going to call this post ‘pissed’, but there’s something about calling a thing a thing and then it becoming that thing. I call myself ‘pissed’ and then I become ‘pissed’. So it feels better to say that I’m ‘taking my time’, but that doesn’t make for a catchy blog post title.

So about a month ago, my father called me up to ask if I would create the funeral program for a man who touched me inappropriately in church when I was about 14 / 15. I don’t answer the phone when certain family members call, so I took a few days and then picked up the phone to have the confrontation call to say : what the hell is wrong with you? he said sorry, blah blah blah.

Then, I’m in DC about a week later telling my cousin about the situation and she said her sister remembered being there when my parents were at my grandmother’s house around the time this thing happened (again, about 20 years ago) she said someone in the house asked if I was lying, though it probably sounded more like asking if I was “making up story”.

When I heard that, I did the math real quick and realized the reason my father thought it was okay to ask me that stupid question was probably, most likely because HE DIDN’T FUCKING BELIEVE ME back then.

When I asked, his response was that he didn’t remember the conversation at my granny’s house.

When it originally happened, I told my parents. They knew within 20 minutes. But for some reason, the man was in my parent’s house within a week. I opened the door and my mother was there with this *look* on her face, she said something to me like ‘you don’t want to be here right now’ and I looked around the corner to see the man sitting at the table eating with my father. I went straight to my room and planned how I would move out of the house. Again, I was about 14 / 15.

For years I’ve done things that people in my “family” and the people my family know don’t understand, like move out of the house, stop going to church, stay away from certain functions or people I’m related to. Long time ago I realized the “outside world” was safer than my own house and church. I could at least rely on my own, protect myself if I was on my own.

And it seemed too weird to me that all of these allegations are coming out and this would happen, like some sick reminder. But what happened to me is how it happens to many others : how people are choked into silence by their families and communities, how they become chronically angry and repressed. How the communities and people around abusers rally to protect them instead of the girls, boys, men and women who are abused and assaulted. Sometimes the victim is told to stop talking, they’re shunned, ignored, they have the bible thrown at them, they’re not taken seriously, told ‘it didn’t happen’, and / or the people who perpetrated or witnessed what happened conveniently ‘forget’.

I’m gonna be 34 in January and have decided to practice forgiveness on these people. Almost immediately after that decision my mind runs : so, like, what does this mean, are we going to just hang out with them like nothing’s wrong? Go to Christmas at the house and shit like some fake-ity fake person? FUCK THESE PEOPLE, I’M HURT / PISSED. I’ve had to stand up to myseld to my own fucking parents AGAIN. LIKE. REALLY?! Then another part of me considers being alone during the holidays…

But I gotta do me.

So I’ve also decided to do what I’m comfortable with. I have to stick with myself through anything — there is a choice in that. It takes work to not get caught up in my head over this, late at night and during the times I’m not with friends shutting down would be getting lost in my own mind, which I do regularly. It’s work. So I’ve decided to take my time and just take it slow. Forgiveness doesn’t erase shit, it just paves the way for some inner peace.

Feature images photo by Neal Alves. I think the link to the license is here.

Beyond ‘Pretending to be a White Male’.

honestly, fuck pretending to be a white male

This blog troubles me sometimes. I want to write and publish so much, but I can’t right now. {I’ll explain later.}

There are things I can write about, but in a lot of ways I’m still negotiating with my fears every time I come up with an idea for a blog post that might mention sex. Or ex-boyfriends, relationships. Or if I write about what it’s like dealing with PTSD at work. Or if I put a swear, like ‘fuck‘ in a post…

As you can probably tell, my relationship with these fears is a little combative. I see the fears, I know they’re there, but I like giving them the finger. They are personified in my life by the people I work with, my parents and extended family.

I’ve been reading Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way and am on week one. The intention for this week is about recovering a sense of safety. I’ve read through the chapter a couple times. It started to come to me before I bought the book, but after reading it through the first time, I’m realizing how important it is that I say whatever it is that I want to say. To write and publish anyway.

‘Pretend you’re a white male’. I heard the joke and chuckled. But in order to move forward, keep writing, publish posts, sing, read out loud, I still play pretend.

I’ve started to imagine myself as a protector, standing guard as my inner child plays, dances, reads, whatever. I have a spear in one hand and leave the other free. And I’m watching. Though most of the time, I have to guard myself against my own imagined fearful thoughts.

self-protection takes on a new meaning.

This image hits home for me because it reminds me of the people who were supposed to play that role in my life. It mainly reminds me of my father, who invited a man into our house who had touched me inappropriately in church when I was a teen. The man had never had reason to visit our house before that happened, and he never visited afterward.

Not being safe, for me, wasn’t just about singing even if cousins or my sister told me to shut up. It wasn’t about writing a letter that would get me in trouble, or telling my father to his face that he was an alcoholic even though I knew he’d probably try to beat me if I did.

Not being safe was about not having people who encourage, defend, protect. Being out alone as if in a field with predators I couldn’t see. It’s a feeling that something was going to happen, there was some danger, but there was nothing I could do — nowhere to hide except to get down. Get as flat to the ground as possible. Do anything but stand out.

I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance. -bell hooks

Other people, the ones who write and publish blogs regularly and have followings, who say what’s on their mind and who have stood up to say they’ve been assaulted (by the types who think they can do anything because they’re famous and the types that don’t), I imagine those people have a whole army behind them. One or two persons are very close to them and help them feel safe. They amaze me, those people and their people.

In reading this chapter of The Artist’s Way, I have decided that I do not want to add my voice to those who told me to ‘shut up’, ignored me or dismissed what I felt. I wanted to fight those fears more, sing more, write more, everything more. It was an easy decision, and I’m grateful for that.

I love myself enough to even pay attention to the frantic voice that would convince me I’m in danger, that would paralyze me with thoughts of what this person might think, or what would happen if that person read this. It needs to be heard too, but it also needs to be put in its place.

how I know when I feel safe

I’ll never feel completely safe.

I don’t expect to completely ‘recover a sense of safety’ (partly because I don’t remember ever having that sense to begin with). It’s a part of myself I’ve learned to accept. I’m even curious about it — maybe there’s a way to work with it, find out if there’s a reason for its existence.

To move forward with doing the things I most want to do I’ve created an idea of what a basic sense of safety feels like, and am imagining my way towards it.

A Note for When You Have to Keep Going.

do not stop.

do not stop because you think you won’t make enough money, because you’re afraid of what people will say, because you’re not sure you’re {something} enough.

do not detour.

do not get distracted by other ideas.

do not lose yourself in the world, in new love, in old love.

do not talk yourself out of it.

do not spend your time making excuses.

do not believe your own excuses.

do not hold on to the excuses you’ve already made.

do not believe that because you stopped once that that means you can’t start again.

do not be afraid.

do not be shy.

do not ignore the voice inside that tells you what must be done.

do not allow the friends who don’t want you to succeed talk you out of it.

do not allow your husband to manipulate you out of it.

do not allow your wife to scare you out of doing it.

do not create circumstances in your life that will later on prevent you from doing it.

do not allow your kids to take up all of your time so that you can later say you had no time to do it.

do not allow your parents to guilt you out of it.

do not allow work to take up all of your energy so that at the end of the day you say you “can’t” do it.

do not fill up your life with drugs and alcohol and television and food and everything else so that there’s no space for it.

do not allow yourself to be consumed by jealousy because other people are doing it.

do not fall for the illusion that it’s “so easy for them” and get frustrated because you think it’s not easy for you.

do not let the fear of criticism scare you out of doing it.

stay steady.

stay steady

Tough Scenes: Writing Through It After Writing Through It

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The main character in a novel I’m working on goes through a lot of the same stuff I went through as a kid and young adult.

I never considered how I would feel, doing this. I had a story I wanted to tell, and abuse, depression, isolation and alcoholism were going to be supporting characters. But it’s obvious now why, after every time I sat down to write, I would feel exhausted, cry easily, want to crawl into my apartment and hide.

It wasn’t clear at first, but I realized that if I was going to continue, I would need to do something to help take care of my brain. If I didn’t, I’d probably continue feeling so bad that writing would become associated with pain, and eventually I’d quit.

A few weeks into working on the book, I came across a blog post by Erin Pavlina on how to create a new story about your life. It seemed (and was) perfect as a tactic to use after I had written a tough chapter or scene. I was having a hard time emotionally telling this story, so of course storytelling would be the answer (a little sarcasm with a smile).

Reading that post by Erin also helped me figure out the stories I already had playing in my mind.

If I was telling myself things like: “That could happen again,” “I’ll never get past it,” or “I’ve been through so much I can’t do it anymore,” of course a tough scene would be hard to write, and not just because it would trigger memories. It would trigger those same thoughts.

Giving myself a moment to breathe and come back to the present has become kind of a short form of storytelling. It started to become clear in my mind that I was writing a story. That ‘I’m writing a story’ then became part of the story I was / am telling myself, and it’s helped me frame those painful experiences.

For a while though, I was very interested in different techniques to change the stories we tell ourselves:

Then there are things that have nothing to do with writing, like practicing dance move the young kids are doing or belting out Adele, that can help change the energy.

If you’re also using painful experiences for your writing, do you feel exhausted after getting it all down? How do you deal?

From Personal Experience: Writing a Character Who Gives Off Bad Vibes

sitwithme_header

I’m writing my first book. It started with an idea I had, one that I wanted to explore. I was curious about what people do when they have to figure shit out on their own. Not how to make more money, or tell someone a secret.

I wanted to write a story about someone who has to figure out what to do when their life’s purpose becomes a big, fat question mark.

hashtag no bad vibes slash good vibes only

The book I’m writing features a character who gets to a really bad place in life.

She’s depressed, but to the outside world she’s a bitch, to some people she gives off “bad vibes”.

I’ve seen this ‘#nobadvibes’ (this one might be nsfw?) or ‘#goodvibesonly’ business on Instagram, and as much as I get that, I wonder if what people consider “bad vibes” are actually something else.

I feel like sometimes what people see is depression, anxiety, fear, etc. showing up as anger, rage, pettiness, meanness… or bad vibes.

Sometimes people who give off bad vibes are just extremely sensitive, and they’re using whatever they can to protect that part of themselves because if they didn’t, they’d end up home at the end of the day in pieces.

Tupac Shakur quote: "I'm very sensitive--that's why I'm so harsh, 'cause I'm so sensitive."

Other times, long term confusion, hurt and disappointment build up and can weigh someone down. This is what happens to the main character in the book I’m working on. In short, she doesn’t know how to deal.

She goes to the self-help gurus, but Oprah and Dr. Phil can only go so far. Beyond that there’s no one around to tell her what to do with all her shit. She goes to anger as a way to protect herself, and as a way to lash out.

From Personal Experience

The reason I went there with this character is because I know what it’s like. The only thing that sets me apart from my character is I’ve grown to become very conscious and self-conscious.

I touched on what goes on in an earlier post about self-care, but when I’m not feeling great, it’s very easy to feel like life is unfair. It sounds juvenile and ridiculous, but I’ve constructed my stories and they are easy for me to believe.

Seeing that “good vibes only” line thrown about on social media sometimes made me feel that self-consciousness even more. Maybe that’s me being hyper-sensitive, but *shrug*.

Writing about someone who has experiences similar to mine has given me a chance to take a step back and really look my own issues from a different perspective.

Sure it’s aired out my own shit, but it’s also made me more compassionate towards myself and other people. Sometimes when I see someone who seems angry, I wonder if they’re dealing with something really difficult.

You can sit with me even if you're in a bad mood.

Iyanla Vanzant Voice: “You Have to Do the Work!”

I’m working on being aware, admitting what my problem(s) is / are, creating and telling myself new stories about my past and experiences, and practicing self-care.

It’s not a perfect process. The hardest thing is remembering to do these things. More often, I’ll start ranting in my head about someone getting too close while I’m waiting for the bus before realizing: oh wait, I’m really angry about {insert issue here}.

What I have noticed is that lately I can more quickly point out what the real issue is. Used to be that I would just start getting pissy and that attitude would last the whole day, or at least an hour.

Sometimes I would be angry all day and end up in bed still angry but confused as to why. Lately I’ve been able preempt these “bad vibes” — I know when they’re more likely to come up and am able to mentally prepare myself.

I’m not at the place yet where I know what to do when I can recognize what’s going on, so I allow myself to be angry or do whatever I feel like. Other times I can get back on track. It continues to take work, but I can see some progress. And that’s encouraging.