Thank you, Jimmy Kimmel!

‘Til it happens to you, you don’t know
How it feels
How it feels
‘Til it happens to you, you won’t know
It won’t be real
No it won’t be real
Won’t know how it feels”

~Lady Gaga, Until It Happens to You”

 

The country is divided, picketing, marches, passionate advocates, mean tweets, slander, racism, bigotry, fear, arguments about equality, privilege, and healthcare are the back drop. Does this sound like narrative to a post global war book or film? An early episode of the tv series the Walking Dead? You bet it does. The sad reality is that it IS the reality of the United States. Our harsh, cruel, scary, twisted reality of 2017. Yes, I said 2017! We have the advantage of technology to fuel our arguments, passions, beliefs, and suffocating 24/7 news (sometimes FAKE) news feed. One of the biggest topics fueling the world of Washington is healthcare. You are either for the Affordable Care Act, or you are eager as a kid on Christmas morning when you see/hear a member of the GOP speak of “Trumpcare.” (Cue Paul Ryan in a Santa suit…creepy isn’t it….)

You might have already deciphered which way I am partial to by my underlying cynicism in the above statements. I avidly read up on all issues pertinent to politics in the law and could argue why I feel the way I do. Instead I will put it simply in layman’s terms (and use something my Papa taught me years ago.) “Put yourself in another person’s shoes before judging them.” It’s simple, follows my beloved character Atticus Finch’s mantra, and why I align myself politically the way I do. Until something happens to US directly, it can be easy to overlook how debilitating something can be. Then it, that awful thing does happen to you (or someone you know.) Job loss, cancer, death, bankruptcy, sexual assault, heartbreak or I could keep going. Then we care, we rally, we advocate to something we believe in. Something that has effected us directly. People of privilege use their platform to help the cause at hand. The news today is swirling with reports of late night talk tv comedian, Jimmy Kimmel and his raw, vulnerable, on air speech about his newborn’s son life saving surgery-and how passionate he now feels about healthcare being available to ALL new parents. (cue the clapping!)

A healthcare hell of invasive surgery I would wish on no parents. I hate hearing stories like this. Who does? I am elated to hear that baby Kimmel is doing very well. I am further elated that Jimmy Kimmel used his platform of a white, cis, wealthy, celebrity status to put a face to the healthcare debate going on in Washington. (We know he could afford the surgery, but he saw beyond his story.) He humanized something people are arguing about, mean twitting each other about, friends aren’t speaking to each other about (still) post election recoil, and he did it with the raw vulnerability of a new parent. Any parent I know would trade their own life to have a healthy child. He used his platform to put face to the fact (and something he realized) that there might be another family with the exact same situation….without the proper healthcare to save their baby if “Trumpcare” goes through.

I’m hoping for those that didn’t get the passion behind this had a slight aha moment. I hope that those not understanding the passion, activism and more reflected on this thought. What would they do in that situation with no healthcare?  Humanizing something that horrifically happens to us makes us connect, reach out, reflect, and understand. I admit to carrying  around guilt about not “caring enough” about causes I was not aware of. Ignorance can be a catch-22 of bliss. I have a laundry list of things I was not aware of (fully) or in action towards.  I will annually run a 5K to support a local (and acquainted) family I know that lost their oldest son to childhood cancer. I feel for them. I read up on what companies discriminate against LGBTQ communities and do not purchase their items. I think of my friends in this community. I even have a streak of teal in my hair as advocacy against sexual assault, as a survivor, inspired by those who were using their platform to raise awareness. People I now call my friends.

We need people like Jimmy Kimmel to put a face where we cannot. We need reminders that we don’t walk in everyone’s shoes and cannot possibly understand their sorrows, fears, and quest for equality. We also need to live in a world without so much fear. I have the fear. I just found out that as a sexual assault survivor, I am consider to have a “pre existing” condition that could deny me healthcare if the big, bad, “Trumpcare” goes through. I took necessary medication called Truvada post assault to prevent the horror of contracting HIV from my assailant. Therefore, from my understanding of what I read, I may have to prove I’m HIV or AIDS free for up to three years to obtain insurance if the ACA is overturned. If this happens, should a future assault survivor turn down the medication and just “risk it” in terms of contracting something? (Seriously, Justin Trudeau and Canada keep looking better and better…)

My what a slippery slope those who side with perfection of health, wealth, privilege, and well….what rhymes with orange undertones, pave!

Where do you fall on the slope? What has happened to you that could be deemed “preexisting?” Let’s face it death and taxes are the only things certain in life (oh wait, the last one doesn’t apply to the very person selling us on this kool aid of health care.)

We deserve to be healthy. We must understand what it is to walk in another’s shoes. We must use what resources we can stand on to advocate for what is right. We must have activism. We need people like Jimmy Kimmel to stand up and put a face to, have us walk in their shoes, humanize, and understand the importance of things. We need more of this.

Thank you, Jimmy. You used your tragic, real life happening to bring many of us back to reality. We needed that.

Thank you.

Disowning Your Shit

“It doesn’t matter what they say
In the jealous games people play
Our lips are sealed
Pay no mind to what they say
It doesn’t matter anyway
Our lips are sealed”

~Our Lips are Sealed, The GoGos~

Ever notice that women feel the need to constantly apologize to others, for well, things they need not apologize for? We apologize for being too late when we overbook and over volunteer ourselves. We apologize if we do not think we communicated in our own “perfection” time frame with emails to colleagues, before publically speaking if we feel not 100% prepared, for sending out Christmas cards in (gasp) the “correct time frame.” We apologize too much for being overbooked, busy, and imperfect human beings. By apologizing, we all ourselves to be instantly judged right off the bat. I never judge a late card in the mail, I’m grateful for the gesture. I have given my best public speeches on the fly and the audience had no clue how little or copious my time was preparing. I have to admit that I have fallen victim to what I will refer to as “the woman shame sorry trap.” I have been overcommitted and apologized for being late to an event I volunteered for. I have started professional emails with apologies for timeliness, length of necessary information, and what I was imploring I need from colleagues. I’ve given out gifts later than birthdays and apologized when giving a dear friend something I have carefully selected. I’ve apologized when I’ve run into others in public not dressed up, fresh from a run, without make up on, sick and getting medication etc.

I’ve been the I’m sorry woman and while inviting instant judgment of others; painfully judged myself in the process.

I had an a’ha moment this past week with another woman (a past friend, coworker) in a public place. I stood at the entrance of a local Meijer practically still dripping with sweat from the gym, loaded with groceries and my huge gym bag, hair literally in a banana clip, not wanting to be seen while waiting to be picked up. In walks this woman and we instantly make eye contact. Mind you, it was brought to my attention by a mutual friend that this person has said some horrible and untrue things about me. This woman was someone I had once invited into my home when she had recently moved and offered up dinner and wine. This woman was spiteful and did not wish me well-at all-with very hurtful actions. This was probably the very last person I wanted to run into, much less in my current state. I felt a slight twinge of pain and then started to overcome with guilt for my current state of how I was going to “run into her.”

My a’ha moment came from making eye contact, smiling, and simply saying hello. Not trying to hide, not apologizing for being a hot sweaty mess in public, not a fake apology to try to figure out her exact intentions. I did not hurl accusations or even mutter bitch under my breath. I did not allow myself to be judged, judge her, apologize for being human, imperfect and easy to “kick while down.” I treated her the exact way I would want to be treated-straight forward, polite, without malice, and guilt free. By not allowing her to judge me further, I dropped the “I’m sorry shame” and moved forward with my day.

A few years ago, hell even a few months ago, I would’ve stammered out an apology for my appearance and tried to use that shame to correct a situation I had no control over. I would’ve left feel dejected, ashamed, embarrassed, and judging myself in second by second playbacks of the interaction. Ever notice how much more enjoyable life is when we drop our shields of imperfection and can finally genuinely connect with another person?

This was a meniscal interaction in the scheme of lives. People are going to think what they want and put their own judgments on others (possible projections) regardless of what you do. Women will sadly tear each other down (Entire other blog topic.) Women will continue to overapologize for being imperfect. The cycle will continue. Its important to “own your shit” when you need to be an accountable. Its just as important to “disown your shit” when needed. Knowing the difference is an evaluation of priorities. Understanding this is not allowing any of that to percolate into our own assessments and judgments. Stop apologizing for being your authentic self. Stop opening the door for extra judgment right off the bat. Stop apologizing for things that do not matter and reserve the apologies for when its genuinely, sincerely needed t o be stated.

I challenge you all to “disown your own personal shit” and just BE! Rock the banana clip, go out in public after the gym, take a sweaty selfie, be polite, treat others as you want to be treated, understand friendships change, be kind to yourself, and for God’s sake–STOP saying you are sorry!

“R is for Regression”

Last week I had a very bad week. It felt like a lightening bolt had struck down from above and stunned me into a negative, off kilter, zombie like state of functioning. I had no desire to do much of anything. I emotionally worked myself up to being physically ill. Sick to my stomach and in tears….leading me to have to leave work. Leave work with wide eyed stares of colleagues wondering what the hell was going on with our “happy-go-lucky, energetic, workhorse Kate.” I isolated and became a person many people in my current life do not recognize. The thing is I recognized her. I have  been her (THAT version of Kate) before. I somehow had regressed back into this state of being.

I had regressed from thriving all the way back to victim.

I have the education and copious amounts of reading background to intellectually understand healing is not linear. I know what triggers are and what they can do for others. The hard part of moving on from a sexual assault, personal trauma, relationship hurt, professional heartbreak, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and two eating disorders during my teenage years is that I have not figured out my own personal triggers. My personal mentality is that moving on is fragmented into different levels. Set to the same parameters my Nike RUn app is, first you are at the green level, then you graduate onto blue once you have accomplished 700 miles, then you hit the milestone of purple when you hit 1000 miles, and so forth.

So it would appear that I have set my own set of rules to apply only to myself similar as I have with physical fitness goals. Well knowing its unattainable, knowing healing is not linear, knowing its unreasonable, but making myself go through it anyways. A bit of regression into perfectionism…shit.

I have spoken in pieces of having moved on from two eating disorders I struggled with starting as early as junior high. I self taught myself to withhold food as a method of control and staying “skinny.” Once my hormones and heartbreak of high school set in, I learned how to eat an enormous amount of food, stick my finger down my throat, and purge everything inside of me. It felt great, cathartic, and cleansing. I was thin, popular, in great athletic shape, and in a false “sense of control.” Then it started to become apparent and I developed shame over my control tactics. I have not purged since my early 20s or regressed into anorexic like behavior since I was assaulted in Fall 2015. (I refused to eat for the most part, I just …well..I just couldn’t…)

My reason for sharing all of this is that I realized last week I haven’t figured out my triggers, but I have figured out my own personal “tells.” I can’t manage triggers or how they make me feel, but I can manage my coping skills much more efficiently. I skipped meals and felt proud of it last week. I stared at a piece of food and wondered if I would absorb any calories if I devoured it and purged for the first time in over a decade. I chose chardonnay over protein shakes and longer planned runs. I lashed out at others, my stomach hurt, I slept too much, and then too little.

I knew what was happening and fought with myself internally about it. My mind trickled back to my best friend staring at me in our high school bathroom asking me “Why do your teeth look yellow again? Please be honest!” (She was one of the few that knew about the bulimia.) I looked in the mirror at my 32 year old smile, down at the whitening trays stored in my vanity and briefly flashed back to my 17 year old self scrubbing my teeth with baking soda and peroxide in the mirror.  I do not want to go back here, I don’t have time to go back through the exhaustion of this. I regressed, but I found a way to talk myself out it. I went for a walk with the dog instead, and went to bed early (with something to help me sleep because I knew I needed too.)

My own word definition for 2017 is growth. Just as I am working to redefine forgiveness and where it fits in my life; I have to understand growth may have to be a fluid definition. Anytime I have a setback, I need to acknowledge it versus chalking it up to utter failure. Chunks of miles are measurable, unwinding of emotional damage are not. It’s not a marathon I get to finish and sign off as “check” completed. All of my past happenings are components of who I am today. For the first time in years, I have admitted to a part of myself I blocked out. My attack and assault at 31 was not my first. There is 20 year old inside of me that has also been stunted. Isolated until the next trigger comes forward.

My healing growth is going to have to be a roller coaster, one day at time, and working through the destructive coping skills I have. I regressed and felt useless to helping myself and others. This is not growth thinking. It’s hurtful.

I am far from the growth I wish to have (in all areas of life), but admitting my imperfections, thoughts, areas, of weakness, are the first steps. Crawling, walking, and running have to be interchangeable depending on the day, and that is OKAY!

May be the R in growth is also interchangeable between regression and renewal…its a thought.

“Underlying Cracks”

“If it keeps on rainin’ levee’s goin’ to break
When the levee breaks I’ll have no place to stay.
Mean old levee taught me to weep and moan”

~Led Zeppelin, When the Levee Breaks~

 

Ever feel that innate feeling of satisfaction of fixing something? A thrilling moment of gluing back together the pieces of a vase you knocked over. Reconfiguring a new electronic system to stream your shoes. Sewing a snag shut or a button onto a favorite piece of clothing. I’ll even admit to taking a Sharpie to a piece of black furniture and a favorite pair of stilettos. Viola! When we put something back together again or make it “good as new” there is the secret excitement that we took something broken and made it whole again. We didn’t have to discard or throw out away something we wanted to hang onto for much longer. This is something many of us (myself included) do with prized material items. We enjoy taking something broken and making it shiny, new again. What happens when the item shattered, torn, dismantled, scuffed, wilting or more isn’t material? What happens when its not material, but it’s ourselves that needs to be put back together again?

If I were a vase, I would’ve required the owner to own stock in superglue. I am a woman who has been completely shattered. Scattered porcelain pieces. A large piece my bleeding heart scared from the hurt of relationship heartbreak. A jagged spear of professional shame for not being as successful as I craved to be. A large, shiny fragment representing a physical beating and attack. Splinters of glass from lost friendships that left residual hurt. Shards representing internal struggles with anxiety, depression, trauma, body image, perfectionism, and shame.

I am not a vase, I am a 32 year old woman.

I am also grateful for having been broken.

Being broken has allowed me to examine what was under the surface needing to be fixed before being put back together.

Being broken has forced me to be human.

I use the vase analogy, because I have an imaginary doctorate in the “quick fix” theory. My lifelong dissertation of covering up hurt has consisted of temporary stitches, band aids, duct tape hems…you name it. The quick fix to my heart and healing have only allowed the cracks to permeate deeper, and be more profound when “dropped again.” Deep down this has always made me feel like a fraud, like I have been plagiarizing my life to appear, “whole, happy, unmarred.” A identify with the vase’s beauty above the real cracks. Just as some injuries are meniscal, I have realized my biggest traumas have forced me to pick up the other shards I’ve been piecing together. To admit to myself, at some point, a huge crack was going to put things in perspective to me.

That huge break to me was an aggressive physical and sexual assault. It broke the vase in half, and took along with a few other deteriorating pieces. This break shouldn’t have ever happened, but it did. It is exhausting to appear polished and perfect all the time. Its also a catch-22 to be honest, vulnerable that parts of your life are a struggle; wouldn’t want to called a complainer or a whiner after all. I could point a finger at the largest break and allow everything else to be placated on that one occurrence.

Doing just that will never glue me back together again. It would be a façade. The reality is trauma, truly and profoundly changes a person. I have come to realize, its not just the initial trauma. Its being forced to look at everything else about ourselves that has been hurt, that we’ve tried to move past, that we didn’t allow ourselves to feel, or (ouch) that we weren’t honest with ourselves about. I will never be grateful for my “big break” or assault, but I have to be honest with myself (and others) that I have (had) other pieces that needed to be put back together.

I am strong enough to hold a bouquet of flowers these days, but there are still cracks not properly adhered.

Just as old antiques with flaws are stunning, there really, truly is beauty in the human breakdown.

“Drawing my Line in the Sand”

“And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it’s about forgiveness
Forgiveness
Even if, even if you don’t love me”

~Don Henley, Heart of the Matter~

What is your definition of forgiveness? Forgiveness is such a simple concept and complex ideology rolled into one word that glides off your tongue. We teach toddlers this concept before they can even form a complete sentence. You hit, kick, or physically do something considered “bad” you look the victim in the eye, and mutter, “I’m sorry.” Most young children are taught to hug or show affection after words, to inherently drill into their little sponge like minds, “poof, you are good again, forgiven.” When behavior is deemed as wrong in elementary school, more formal apology methods are implemented. Written letters, meetings with both sets of parents, you get the picture…its more structured. (I only found myself in a serious setting like this the one time-again, Matt Chaput, I’m sorry spitting is wrong. I got sent to the principals’ office, you still were a jerk to insult my team of choice worn on my sweatshirt for non uniform day.) I had to write an apology letter, and was “forgiven.” Little shit smirked at me knowing he didn’t care I acted out towards him, he just wanted to tattle on me (as a well behaved student.) I paid him back the next year in the third grade, when he purposely ate glue to show off.

The rolling theory of forgiveness theory and modeled teaching, appropriate behavior is further complicated for me. I was raised Catholic, and, a cornerstone of our religion is the sacrament of reconciliation. So around the age that I was figuring out other classmates will throw you under the bus to humiliate you into an apology (and karma for future tattling); I was learning to bottle things up and save them for confession. I remember being terrified to go in the first time I had to go to confession, to the point my stomach hurt the entire day at school. But, like a good Catholic school girl, I made my list during theology class, marched in, hung my head, and said what I had done wrong (mostly fighting with my younger sister.) So then I was told to recite certain prayers until the next confession, patted on the head, and avoided making eye contact with the priest during Sunday mass from then on after. Why, because one of the very first male authority figures I wanted to please in my life now knew that I was bad. I sinned, and any future wrong in my life I would have to ask to be forgiven for.

Huh. What a concept and its no wonder why in my early adult 30s I am struggling with the paradigm of what role forgiveness plays in my life, within relationships, and perhaps with the most important relationship I need to cultivate, with myself. Putting the successive thoughts down, upon reflection of recently reading “Love Warrior” by Glennon Doyle Melton have put me into a mental swirl. It’s no wonder I am struggling to keep my head above water in an ocean of perfectionist hell. I was never once explained why it was so important to forgive someone, or why any wrong I had done was wrong and should not be continued behavior. It was black or white, you are either good or bad, absolved or with sin-there was no middle ground to help sort out behaviors, lies, wrongs, hurt, or open space to not internalize things. I have been taught my entire life to take the high road and forgive others, confess my own wrongs, and basically to “suck it up buttercup.”

How could a child not develop a complex as they mature into adulthood?

I have forced myself to do some serious digging into this topic as I’m mentally exhausted from beating myself up for mistakes I deem as “greater sins.” Past behaviors I have tolerated. Majority of them with men I was trying to keep happy or please. I will use a solid example. One of the best relationships I have ever had started in a whirlwind of pure bliss. We were in that amazing state of wanting to spend as much time together as possible, while learning about each other, and molding into one another’s lives. I was a tad over 27 at the time, and felt so grateful to have finally have found a great man who treated me so well. Remembered I took my coffee black, brought it to me in bed, was not afraid to be affectionate in public, would put Elvis on the jukebox at a dive bar and twirl me around (still a favorite memory), and I was falling for fast. I consider trust to be a huge part of a relationship, and was very open about a past ex who had strongly violated my trust. I voiced my need for trust, but never found a way to break out the fact that I needed him to love me for me. As I was, as a I looked, without question or conviction. I will own that I was in the best physical shape of my life when I met him, and darn proud of it. Mind you my new time spent sleeping next to him cut into my 6 am Boot Camp classes I attended religiously. Morning sex trumped burpees and sprints. We also dined out a lot, I drank more than usual, and I had a serious asthma flare up that put me on prednisone (steroid.) So guess what; I gained weight!

The thing was I had noticed it, but wasn’t as upset about it as I was in a happy relationship. I knew things would even out, the “crazy steroid pills” would no longer be needed etc. I was happy, I didn’t care. I will never forget waking up on my side of the bed next to him one Sunday morning, and him rolling over to what I thought was to spoon me. Smiling in the morning sunlight trickling in at another morning happy next to this man. Instead, he grabbed my stomach and said, “jelly belly.” I smacked him off of me and instantly said, “What the hell? do not do that to me!” I plodded to his bathroom and stared myself in the mirror. Did that really just happen? Did my amazing boyfriend just fat shame me before I had even had a chance to take a morning pee, brush my teeth, coffee? I felt defeated and as if I had been punched in the gut. He had started coffee and I awkwardly got dressed in my gym clothes as he made breakfast for us. THEN, he brought it up again. I can still seem him sitting on his brown leather couch, coffee cup in hand stating this to me. “As for what I said to you this morning, you know I make it a priority to take care of myself, and I expect the girls I date to do the same.” I literally stood there with my heart beating out of my chest. I wanted to scream and cry, I was so happy just an hour ago. Wtf was happening? Why wasn’t he loving me for…ME?

This turned into our first fight because it was pretty noticeable I was trying not to cry and had turned to silence before trying to leave. He actually stood in front of the door and tried to hug me stating, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, please don’t cry. You can’t drive or leave when you are this upset.” I broke down sobbing and shrilly yelled, “how do you expect me to feel?” He took my coat off, stumbled me to sit down, put his arm around me on the couch, kissed the top of my head (in effort to calm me down), and rambled a long apology about how neither of us had been eating healthy, and lets just work a bit harder on it during the week. That he was sorry, he hadn’t meant to go about talking to me that way, please eat something before you leave (seriously…in front of you who just fat shamed me) and please forgive him.

So I did. I managed to mumble out, “you really hurt my feelings and yes I forgive you.” So then I internalized what I really felt at that moment, and turned it on myself. I did this, I should’ve been keeping up better appearances. I turned my anger to myself and “forgave for the sake of forgiving.” I get so upset when I look back at this and reflect on my pattern of forgiveness. I wish I would’ve stood my ground and said I’m not a Barbie, or perfect. Shouted how broken I felt at that moment, and who the hell was he, I was 12 years his junior for Christ’s sake-his friends all teased him about have a “hot” girlfriend. Instead I said I forgave him and left completely dejected. I never felt 100% around him after that. I never let him touch my stomach again (which made him mad and then I would snap, “its YOUR fault!) I used to report back how much I had worked out, if I had lost a pound, you name it to compensate for insecurity I felt with him. The thing was, this was not forgivable behavior in my mind and I knew it. I remember hearing a little voice in my mind saying, “leave, walk out right now and don’t ever come back.”

I remember thinking I was the one that needed forgiveness or to say I’m sorry. I had put on about 7 lbs, and it showed. So just like I had done in 2nd grade with another male, and a male authority figure, I tolerated, endured, and internalized for the sake of putting on an “I’m sorry face,” Guess what 27 year old Kate, I am sorry, I am sorry you thought that behavior was acceptable and something you needed to allow.

The thing I am learning about forgiveness, is that not everyone deserves it from me. People want the validation of “I’m sorry” because we learned so young that is how we move on. Sometimes, an apology isn’t appropriate. Sometimes we have to say I am really not okay with the way you treated me, talked to me, etc and voice that you need space to compartmentalize yourself away from the situation. “I’m sorry” should not juxtapose the framework of a relationship and friendship. Saying I understand someone is sorry, and stating you need space is completely appropriate. I have forgiven quite a bit in my personal relationship world. I have allowed lying, cheating (during our entire relationship), yelling, name calling, disrespect and more. None of it was helpful to me in the long run. I need to think about space and how I should forgive others. It allows me to dissect on my own timeline, and to not revert back to the horrible habit of internalization. Internalizing creates havoc and further allows that person to have power over me.

In the book mentioned above, “Love Warrior” Glennon is forced to evaluate her own habits of internalizing things because she was not holding herself in a position of true worthiness. She didn’t like her body or herself, so tolerated and forgave bad behavior. I found myself relating and reflecting back on past patterns of forgiveness. I’ve put up with enough shit and think sometimes a hard line in the sand may be appropriate. I do not have to accept forgiveness from anyone. Tolerance and allowing resentment  fosters negativity. Fosters feeling of unworthiness. I am worthy. I am so fucking worthy of happiness, respect, and getting what I want from a relationship.

I am not saying I will never go to confession again, or forgive petty disagreements (for the sake of moving forward.) I know this, my forgiveness moving forward in life is not going to bountifully given out at an all you can take buffet. Also, to the 27 year old Kate who has been mentally kicked across my mind for not making a different decision that day, you are forgiven. You did what you were taught, trained, and what you knew to be right. Live, learn, and sometimes, stand the fuck up for yourself.

“Let’s talk about Sexism, Baby…”

“Yes I’ve made my mistakes, but listen and understand, my mistakes are no worse than yours just because I’m a woman.”

“Just Because I’m a Woman~ Dolly Parton”

Photo credit to AAUW

Let’s be very real about how glaring the topic of sexism has been in our lives for the past year.

I am currently home sick with the flu. A nasty, consuming, had to leave work early flu. Its embarrassing enough to be ill at work (especially in a public bathroom.) What is further worse was that a female supervisor chose to subject me to sexism in front of other colleagues. I had my arm rubbed and was asked, “Is it flu or is there something you want to tell me?” Because I’m a woman of my early 30s, the assumption was that “she must be pregnant.” I retorted back a snarky remark of “don’t you think I would be even more awesome if I was getting some?” rubbed her arm back, and excused myself to be sick again.

Sick and pissed off.

A man would never have been asked such a question or had their personal reproductive health issues brought forward. I also have huge reproductive insecurities. I had the shock of an accidental pregnancy & miscarriage in my mid 20s. This was also during the midst of a very emotionally abusive relationship ending. I had cancer removed from my right ovary when I was 27. If I ever do choose to attempt to have children, I will be keeping this very tight lipped. It’s personal, and if I was experiencing morning sickness, not something I needed discussed out in the open. But I’m a woman, right, so my reproductive system is common discussion for everyone?

In a sexist society this is very true.

Spending the day in bed gave me time to reflect about some of the sexist behavior I have personally experienced both personally and professionally. It is hurtful and hard to dwell back on. (words and stories are my own.) Based on the public avidly following #shepersisted and marching for all women; I know I am not alone.

I can recall being out to a “wine Wednesday” at a popular location when I was in my younger 20s and working in off campus housing. Quite a few employees for this company would frequent these evenings, and it wasn’t uncommon for the company CEO to also be there. It was unspoken work event, and it wasn’t uncommon for the CEO to strike up conversation with me. I’m outgoing and not shy (especially after a few pinots.) One of these evenings, the CEO told me how much promise I showed professionally and how lonely his friend was after a divorce. It was very much implied to me that it would benefit my career if “a young, good looking thing like me” helped his friend physically not feel so lonely. So, I was told to sleep with someone 20 years older than me to move up at that company. I wormed my way out of that conversation and stopped attending those “Wine Wednesday off campus events.”

A few years back I walked over to the sports bar near my apartment to watch my Chicago Bears on a Sunday afternoon. I didn’t have the channel the game was playing on. I am very comfortable going places alone, ordered lunch, a cold beer and sat down at the bar in front of the game playing. There were two men about the age of my father sitting near me, who struck up a conversation asking me which team I was watching. I would chalk it up to light banter you’d find at any sports bar with strangers. Near the end of the third quarter one of the men said to me, “why aren’t you married or taken, you are HOT, drink beer, and watch sports!” So despite the fact that I knew stats of my team, had a promising job interview the next day, and was independent enough to go out for a game alone-I should be married.

Because sexism….

I had a conflict with a male coworker that kept building, getting worse, and others were aware of it. My male supervisor (supervisor’s supervisor actually) asked me to discuss it with him in his office. I was at a loss for how to move forward with this situation so obliged. I will never forget sitting there and hearing these words, “I am concerned about the amount of anger he has towards you personally.” I looked right back at him and stated, “What you say if your wife came home from work, and told you that her male supervisor pulled her into an office to discuss another male’s anger towards her.” He started to answer and then caught himself before answering as a partner, not my boss. So basically I was told (as a professional woman) that I was responsible for a male coworkers behavior. If had been volatile towards another male, it would have been addressed immediately. As a woman, the initial problem of his anger problem was deflected back to me to correct.

I left that office stunned….

I was a late bloomer and avid runner in my late teens/early 20s. I came home from my first semester of college, finally, well….blossomed. Instead of people asking me how I was enjoying college, I was accused of having plastic surgery openly and from men who shouldn’t have been critiquing my body. Period. I deflected with humor and said, “I started drinking beer, I can’t help where it went” and would walk away from the conversation. Yes its snarky and humorous, but it taught me to be very self conscious about my new found curves. Weight distribution on women often results in curves. So my male friends were asked about gpas, housing, sports teams, and I, was asked why my body looked different.

I have various fleeting examples. I was told by a female supervisor that I should just “play dumb to get ahead” at times. She said it would be easier for me in the long run versus standing up for things I am passionate about. I brought up that the dress code needed to be enforced as a female coworker’s very low cut attire was causing issues and was told if I was saying something out of jealousy…”Is this the hill you want to die on Kate?” My attire was critiqued as being too dressed up in the work place, where a male coworker was praised for his new suit and tie. I’ve overheard conversations about my chest size and marital status by male coworkers who thought I was out of ear shot. I’ve been told repeatedly to “be careful” when out running as I am a woman.

I could keep going with a longer list of things I have experienced. My point, women are routinely judged, treated differently, physically critiqued and sexualized. We just came off of a long election that nearly resulted in our first female president. The media have been swirling with objections and examples of how sexism does or does not exist. I will close with the term “nasty woman” that has become a feminist mantra after our new elected president attacked the female candidate with this term. He didn’t demean her politics, or what she was saying at that time. He, instead, attacked her character as a woman. Because in our sexist society she had committed a solitary crime of being born female and acting female. Being female means you are open to critique of everything. All bets are off.

Still think sexism doesn’t exist?

Miss Weber, if you are nasty, sure as hell does.

“Back to My Future”

“Stayed in bed all morning just to pass the time…..

…Its too late baby, now its too late. Something inside has die and I just can’t fake it.”

~Carole King, “It’s Too Late”

********* Trigger Warning: This was originally drafted on the 1 year anniversary of my sexual assault, October 21, 2016.*********

Do you ever replay things in your mind and wonder if a split second decision, leaving 5 minutes earlier/later, choosing a different route, listening to a different radio station, and so many other of life’s smallest moments could’ve changed your fate?

I torture myself. I go over every detail of that day and I wonder how I could’ve changed the course of my history. I lie awake staring at the cracks in the ceiling above my bed and go over every mind numbing, meniscal, isolated second of that day. I had slept somewhat later that morning. The combination of too much chardonnay the night before, a late night (out of character) outing that kept me out until nearly 1 am, and a personal shit storm of a shame cloud due to personal decision making. I swung my feet over the right side of my sunlit grey warmth of my bed as I did every morning and staggered to my Keurig in the kitchen.

I had the best of intentions to make it a great day. It was one of those amazingly gorgeous Fall days in Michigan that you hear Tim Allen voice over on ” Pure Michigan” commercials. I had paused to take in the splendor of fall foliage from my balcony view. I was still clad in my nightgown, and popped open the screen to let my cats slink out wide eyed to the balcony. I saw the date on my phone as a familiar morning message broke my face out into a smile. It was about to be “Back to the Future 2 Day” tomorrow.

I go over this scene of my ordinary, unassured bliss from that morning over and over in my head. I ask myself a million questions all starting with “what if?” I revert back to the them of the same movie I would share a horrendous occasion with, how can I go back in time and “undo” my future?

  • What if I had swung my legs over the left side of the bed?
  • What if I had gone out for coffee, walked to the bagel shop down the road?
  • What if I had gotten up earlier and gone for a long walk or run?
  • What if I had turned off my phone and let my mind think free of interruptions??
  • What if had stayed home the night before, and not created the guilt hiding in the back of my mind?

I once read a statement by the late Christopher Reeve regarding the days leading up to his accidental fall from a horse that left him paralyzed. He was a huge movie star at the time-handsome, wealthy, happy, athletic and in his own “unassured bliss.” Reeve stated in the interview that he saw a man in a wheelchair not too much before his life altering incident and had pity for the man. He describes his actions of almost being arrogant or “better than.” Reeve stated in this interview that he had reflected deeply on this one, brief moment, and pondered if he had thrown bad karma into the universe. He wondered if that moment helped lead him to his physical sentence of being wheelchair bound.

I deeply relate to this interview as I have tortured myself with the same shaming thoughts as I replay this moment over and over again. It was a beautiful day outside, but I was not in a beautiful place in life. I was lying to myself, to others, I was not performing at my full potential and settling for relationship behavior that I knew deep in my heart was wrong (and I had said I never would have engaged in.) I had committed some “serious girl on girl crime”, as  Tina Fey would state. Do women wish each other such harm? Had I put bad energy into the universe, “planted a seed”,  that I deserved to be punished for?

I assimilate further in my darker moments, is there such a thing as “rape karma?”  I define it as “torturous, self-inflicted victim blaming that I can nightly impose on myself. Its a brand new term of hell that I have branded myself with. Let’s be honest most of its self inflicted by replaying the BEFORE that day mixed with a special recipe of horrifying victim blaming after the fact.

I had been listening to John Lennon with the door open that afternoon. Music specifically chosen to let my mind think, and in an odd way of deep reflection. The mid-morning warm embrace that left me feeling lonely this afternoon had sparked months prior  with a dance to John Lennon on vinyl. I had no idea that would be the last embrace either. I can see myself pacing my living roon, pondering what I should do that evening. I had waited to charge my laptop before dinner. Pacing and listening to music.

Why didn’t I go pick up the books I had on hold at the East Lansing library? I had been dying to read “Rising Strong,” why hadn’t I just gotten up and traveled the few blocks? Why hadn’t I picked up this book, sat outside, and let the late afternoon sun hit my face? My face was raw, pure, and unmarred that day. Afterwards, would always carry a faint scar I would try to hide-reminiscent of brutality and forever marked. It may have been the last time I was vulnerable to allowing my naked face to hit the sun. Before I externally and physically showcased my internal self.

Where is my Delorean? Why do I hear Carole King echoing in my brain that “it’s too late?”  How do I go back in time and change the days, hours, minutes, seconds that became my fate?  10, 20, 30, 60 seconds? How much could I change? How many seconds was I unconscious? How many seconds do I need to correct in order to not wake up broken on a public sidewalk. How much further do I need to go back to not dance to John Lennon, how much further back do I need to go?

You could argue that the nightly “Kate beatings” are reminiscent of the film “Ground Hog Day” instead of the previous title. Of course I know I didn’t deserve this, but did my actions leading up to this magnify the risk? What could I have done differently? Where in time did my destiny become apparent? WHY can’t I stop blaming myself and reliving that day when I can’t sleep?

Victim blaming topped with a whopping side of PTSD is deep. The reality in life, is that we don’t get “do overs”, we don’t get time machines, we never get to know  what split second decisions we made would have full blown consequences, consequences that would lead to a less desirable fate. When things do go horribly wrong though, I will quote Carole King, “something inside has died and I just can’t fake it.” I reminisce in that day because something inside of me DID die that day, and I can’t fake my reality.

The only plus side is I will probably never, ever take a beautiful sunny Fall day for granted again. Ever.