How long sho
What would you respond if I asked you point blank, in front of an audience of hundreds what your spiritual awakening in life was? Oh, and completely caught off guard and with coffee spilled across your previously favorited shirt. On the spot…on your marks…get set…and GO! Answer on the spot what your most vulnerable, private, and spiritual moment was with your most down to Earth authenticity.
If you are like me your mind goes to a place of panic and a million different excuses to get myself out of doing anything that intimate or deep in public. I, however, was asked to speak on what I felt about spirituality and my own spiritual awakening recently. I happily agreed to be a part of this day conference with the thought that I was going to be on a panel of judges evaluating speakers talking about spirituality. THIS is why you ask questions before you agree to volunteer for things. (I could be a smart ass and spell out why the word assume applies here…)
So I showed up. Dressed the best I thought a person presenting in a classroom should in a dress I felt comfortable in yet put together. I took time to do my hair and make up with a tad bit more care than I spend every rushing every morning for 10 minutes. I even bought those fake eyelashes everyone is wearing these days and took my time to apply them to look as Hollywood glam for a Saturday in Kalamazoo as I could. (The real story here is that the left one kept kinda coming undone like a bat winking at the world and this was NOT the look I really pulled off that day.) I swallowed a small army of vitamins and antibiotics to keep my disgustingly deep cough and bronchitis at bay so I could speak clearly.
I showed up and there was a large room filled with strangers and some familiar faces with a large stage and a microphone. This was when I realized with a sinking feeling that I was going to be up there speaking in front of all these people within the hour.
I would’ve felt more comfortable with being there in my underwear with acne medicine spotted all over my face at that moment. So I plastered a smile that doesn’t move at all to appear as normal and okay with this realization and scanned the room. I spotted the breakfast goody table. This prompted me to immediately ditch my protein smoothie and cruise right over to a Diet Coke and a sprinkled donut. ( Because carbonation mixexd with sugar and carbs cures all, right? )After eating the frosting off one very amazing donut and swigging down half a can of Diet Coke I was able to take a deep breath. I could have pulled aside the guest who asked me to speak and said my cough was too aggressive to speak on stage or I could face the reality that I was imperfectly here and do my very best. After all, I was here to talk about the very fact that my upbringing and beliefs of the world being so rigidly black and white were my blockade against any spiritual connection for years. I was here to tell my story and my understanding of spirituality. I took a deep breath and pushed aside the urge to inhale the top of another doughnut for false sugar superpowers.
MY spiritual awakening.
So I put my big girl panties on.
Imagine a person that didn’t even believe in a spiritual awakening being asked on the spot to do this exact thing. If I didn’t have my cue cards and sugar induced new found courage, would I spiral into a shame circle and clamor into sweat? Mind blank? For many others the very word spirituality would trigger a memory of Sunday school or Catechism class. Anxiety and humor could make the mind trickle to pockets of smartass humor of mockery of spirituality to images of SNL church lady portrayed by Dana Carvery. The Hanukah song sung by Adam Sandler as well as reflections of Tammy Faye Baker are not my premise here.
In order to tell my view, I need to go back to my own personal dimensions of how I viewed the world pre-full blown alcoholism. Light years before I had a clue as to who I could be in recovery. Before I had an inkling of who the hell I even was.
I STILL DON’T SO BEAR WITH ME!
Nearly all of my thinking in life has been in shades of black and white. Most of my worst thinking was done in the context of severe black and white when I was still very sick. (Just ask those who have known me for a hot second.) For me it was stringent and clear cut. It was either the beginning or the end. Chicken or the egg. You turn left or right at the crossroad. Ying to Yang. The start or the end of something. No in-betweens. I have concluded that part of this stems from my solid Catholic upbringing. This way of living and being was that you were either good or bad. Period.
This is why I was such a flaming hot mess when I first approached sobriety and recovery. I fell flat on myself so many times. You either are good and accomplish recovery or you are bad and fail. There was no in-between, just categories. You get better or your don’t. This is the same lens I viewed healing from trauma and couldn’t figure out for the life of me WHY I couldn’t get it. I was doing everything I was supposed to. It took every single painful relapse and failure to realize that just as healing cannot be linear, neither can recovery.
The very lens of black and white I self-imposed on my life was what I viewed my own spirituality and religion. Two separate ways to identify myself to seek God, my Higher Power, a connection and more then that a purpose. So this is the scary part with the truth of my story comes out and I must share. I always have known how to fit into the “good category” of life. I knew how to earn merits of accomplishments from the start of elementary school when marks determine your worth of good or bad. A’s are good and less than that is not. I know how to push myself while running a race to the point of excelling past the person I seek to beat. I know how to work obscene amounts of hours, put on a brave face, and have everything appear to be in “perfection” or in the good category.
Then I suffered horrible trauma. My life was forever uprooted. Everything I had worked so hard to project that I was good and had a purpose in this world was shattered. I didn’t know how to cope so I allowed myself to be pulled into the time out category of life. I drank to numb and not feel. When I was numb I didn’t care that was no longer good. I felt worthless, ashamed, and completely alone. Yet the progression of my disease proved that I couldn’t even be a “good alcoholic” and hide it anymore. There was never enough in the bottom of a chardonnay bottle and I never felt numb enough. I was a fallen angel or disgrace.
So I tried, in vain, to get into recovery for two years. I went into inpatient treatment 5 different times within these two years (over three months of my life when you put them together) and tried so desperately to be “good again.” Yet I kept falling. My first rehab everyone thought I was a staff member there to spy on others. I took notes until my hands nearly fell off in group sessions. I read, I reviewed my notes. I treated it like a class that I wanted to be the shining star in and judged pretty much every other person there. I was just a wine drinker who took it too far after all….I was not like these other people with the real problems. I was going to apply these principles to practice and life would be great. I would excel and never need to numb again!!!
Its hard for me to laugh and cringe with pain while reflecting upon how I felt. I would come out humbled a bit more each time and try again. I wanted to scream. WHY wasn’t I excelling at this? I knew how to do it so many areas! For me recovery was either success or failure. Relapse was failure. I was really, really good at the relapse part.
By the time I was in my fifth rehab stint I was so incredibly sick of myself and my own bull shit. I came into an entire way and self told myself that I really did not have all the answers to master this recovery thing. I took a step back and didn’t introduce myself with a laundry list of accomplishments, just as Kate. Kate, another person seeking to find help and recover from so many things in my life. Alcohol drinking really is just a physical and ugly symptom of my disease. I surrendered and allowed myself to be receptive to forms of help I was never open to before. Here, I was offered EMDR therapy to help unlock the horror of my own personal attack and trauma. The spiritual awakening from that session will forever change my life.
EMDR can be really scary and amazing all at the same time. (google it if you are unfamiliar.) What it did for me was unlock something that allowed me to let go of the biggest resentment in my life. My anger with God, my higher power, for allowing these things to happen to me. After what I will call my awakening, my body literally went in to heal mode. I slept for the soundest two hours I ever have in the past three years. I needed to.
After I woke up, I was exhilarated, I was going to take control of this awakening and grow from it. It just had to mean so much more. I spread out my notebooks, notecards, and recovery materials all over my queen sized bed trying to make sense of all of this. I (thankfully) caught myself. I was doing exactly what kept setting myself up for failure. I was trying to control and make even my own spirituality black and white by solving it. The truth to this was there was no black and white here, and if I did that I was going to miss out on all the beautiful messes of grey and pink swirled in the middle of it.
I now am such a huge fan of the grey and pink swirly mess in the middle. Its so much easier to be there.
So I breathed and prayed to God to allow him to trust me through this process. I prayed that I would be able to feel the different layers from hot pink to soft and fluffy grey speckled white. I scooped up my materials of learning and allowed my personal journal to be my compass. I went with my gut to surprise everyone, myself included, and submit myself back to Wings of God for needed continue healing. I admitted I was broken, and finally allowed the early process of recovery to unfold. The beautiful up and down process of recovery that has allowed me nearly 200 days of continued sobriety to date.
Before I went on to stage and spoke of my process in this journey of recovery, I looked for inspiration from my own personal sheros. Women in likeminded recovery really get each other. My friend Robin calls us “sober goddesses” and I adore that. I reread what Dr. Brene Brown tells us about spirituality. “Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power great than all of us and that our connection to that power and to one another is ground in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning and purpose to our lives.
Dr. Brown brought us this definition to publication in the Gifts of Imperfection. “For some people, that power great than us is God, for others, its fishing. Some are reminded of our inextricable connection by faith; others by expressions of shared humanity. Some find that religion is the best expression of the inextricable human connection that is guided by love and compassion. Other believe no entity has done more to corrode that connection than organized religion.”
I work on just showing up daily personally. Knowing that I am enough, reminding myself really, and working on my own definition of spiritual fitness with layers upon layers of grey and pink. Another personal shero of mine, Glennon Doyle, states that her main spiritual practice is self forgiveness. I love this. I have learned to forgive myself daily for not understanding or know how to be “good” or perfect in recovery. I cry in the grey areas and laugh in the delight of pink goodness brought to me and do the best I can. I got up and faced my fear in the love, compassion, and warmth of an audience of recovery. Messy layers with spilled coffee, messed up fake eyelashes, and probably a few doughnut crumbs.
Ran into a friend post speaking and that’s me on the right, bronchitis, exhausted and all!
So this is Christmas
And what have you done?
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong
And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let’s stop all the fight”
~John Lennon~ , “So This is Christmas”
Twinkle lights, shiny bulbs, snippets of Bing Crosby, UPS trucks round the clock, and sugar crashes to tide you over until the new millennium. Ah, yes ladies and gentleman, its Christmas Time again! For so many of us Christmas and time with families can be brutal with a capital B. I like to refer to it as “brutiful” as one of my personal shero’s Glennon Doyle does.
Glennon (yes I call her Glennon, because I like to fantisize we are already friends)’s explanation on the brutality of life are as follows. “Most days I decide to show up, because I was right when I was little. Life is brutal. But it’s also beautiful. Brutiful, I call it. Life’s brutal and beautiful are woven together so tightly that they can’t be separated. Reject the brutal, reject the beauty. So now I embrace both, and I live well and hard and real.”
(Insert Mic Drop or A’Ha Moment.)
Among the tinsel and joys of the season I have been convicted lately. Despite the immense gratitude I have for my recovery, nearly 90 days of sobriety from alcohol at Christmas, and for the turnaround to my life as 2018 ends–I simply cannot escape and ignore all of the brutality around me. Instead of goodwill to all, there is literally a go fund me campaign going on capitalizing on the hypocrisy of “Making America Great Again.” This Christmas in America there will be children who go without, people who struggle with poverty and homelessness, sick without ability to be properly treated, veterans who need so much more than what is provided and addicts still suffering. Yet, we are going to put money in reserve for a fictional wall built to keep people out instead of loving inviting them in and offering help. There is nothing great about this; its fucking brutal. Its the least Christ life thing I have heard of and yet those who donated will dress in their finest and smile at their neighbors in church on Christmas.
The beauty of my own recovery is that it allows me to break free from any masks or facades I once proudly displayed. It has given me the gift of realizing what things really matter to me. I am a woman steadfast in her faith, who will always stand up for what is right. I show up in the brutiful world out there. I show up and I am unafraid to stand up for what I believe in. Hell, I was tested just this morning by someone looking for a fight to prove his own agenda for greatness. Christmas didn’t come so we could all pursue our own agendas, one up each other and oppress those others who have less than we do. God knows life is brutiful and can be very hard. Recovery is hard. Showing up is hard. Christmas is a time for us to remember the real reason of the season. I believe Jesus stood up for all of us and got more of the brutal end of the stick. I do not believe Jesus would not contribute to making anything great again. Great is not a fruit of the spirit.
Peace and Harmony.
During this Christmas season I wish for you all to be able to enjoy this brutiful life with peace and harmony. Show up. Know you are enough. Know that no wall will keep you away from God’s love. Know you are worth it. Know you do not have to numb yourself from anything or live with conviction. Fight and continue to pray for the beauty. I know I will be.
One prayer at a time.
One day at a time.
One miracle in every mess.
“All those crazy nights when I cried myself to sleep
Now melodrama never makes me weep anymore
’cause I haven’t got time for the pain.”
What is time mean to you?
Time recently became redefined to myself as a a tool to do some painful hard digging, really understand why I keep regressing back to the same place yet harder worse, and scarier. Time is dwelling on why I keep relapsing into alcoholism. Why the warm feeling in my blood is needed to numb away every feeling I loathe. Time takes me back to being broken and battered on a sidewalk over two years ago. Time is taking the cloud of numbing isolation away and making me think hard and feel. This past week, time has been my friend AND foe.
Time has been…welll my least favorite word ever….
…..time has been a motherfucker.
I have come to realize this week that all of my relationships with men have had a common denominator. I am still reeling back the bile in the back of my throat upon this startling revelation. Every single one of these men at the end of the day lacked one underlying factor. Dependability. Kind of an important trait in a relationship, right? One was older an emotionally unavailable, quite a few were long distance so there was the built in excuse for dependability, one financially drained, and the last one took about every shred of ingrained trust I give out and destroyed it. It’s not about money and cuddles though. It comes down to not giving me the stability and security, and dependability I craved and needed.
So now at this avenue, time has pissed me off. Have I been that desperate for love and belonging that I allowed this behavior? Am I really THAT doormat girl? Where the hell did I learn this behavior? Carly Simon croons out to me…”suffering is the only thing that made me feel like I was alive…” Carrie Bradshaw has an entire season 2 episode of Sex and the City about being a masicist in her relationship with Mr. Big. I don’t have Daddy issues. My Dad checked math homework, made breakfasts, played board games with us, taught us to fish and drove us to church every Sunday.
So I have to ask myself the painful question. How did I learn this was going to be my thing? The serial and forever heart broken girl.
The truth is raw, uncut, and painful. It’s because deep at my core I have never loved or even liked myself. Ouch. So really pain and relational suffering has become an entirely different caveat of my addiction. A side of myself that said as long as I smiled pretty in photos the tears two hours prior when my carefully constricted plans when to shambles, again. A forgiveness dinner on Labor Day made spending the Sunday before wound up with me alone reading on my balcony….again. The jab about my appearance and weight that stabbed my sole like a jagged triton in front of his friends was forgivable because we will go to Happy Hour at the place you like. Irresponsibility became a common theme of behavior I was willing to accept.
At the core of it, I am actually not a Fixer. Time has made me realize this. I am worse than the woman who seeks to fix everyone around her. I am the (self diagnosed) “I don’t judge, I accept you as the kind of person gal.” I am an imposter of an acceptor. I am an imposter because at the meat of every relationship, I am constantly let down and self-talking myself into WHY I deserve this treatment. Oh, but wait I am supposed to be the woman who understands: addiction, gambling, low self esteem, emotional unavailability, financial woes, infidelity (yes, I went there), breadwinners who hold the cards, and someone who is clearly trying.
So this behavior is accepted. This behavior is accepted and impedes darkness on my self esteem. “You deserve this because of that time you got too drunk on New Years Eve and passed out in you beautiful gown on the couch.” You don’t want to be judged, so don’t judge others I tell myself as memories of “I can’t believe you wore that” in front of his friends flashes in your mind. Don’t judge Kate, you say, you are a broken alcoholic. Kate, you don’t want to be judged. Another lie brushed under the rug ends with you ugly girl crying to your Mom about abandonment on Christmas Eve. Mistakes at my job and a friendly I want to get to know you and help with your career. My non judgmental self does her best but winds up in a fetal position alone 10 days after a brutal sexual assault after hearing,”I can’t talk to you anymore. Good luck.” I wind up miserable and drunk on “one” glass of Merlot that brought my feelings full circle and number simultaneously.
It’s time to understand that by “not judging,” I am thriving another addiction. This one doesn’t come with a commercial price tag and a corkscrew. This one is to emotional pain. The price is my soul. Haunting, life altering emotional pain. Pain so deep I now wince when I look in the mirror. My tanned skin and blond hair have dulled to pale and an unkept version of myself. Years of allowing this has turned me into what I perceive to be a shell of myself. Dark roots, twinkle missing from my green eyes, runners psyche that’s gone to complete shit.
I can’t blame the emotional addiction and codependency on others anymore. It is time (that word again!) to pull myself back up, and put myself back together again. Not for anyone else but for ME. The me that so deserved more all these years and brain washed herself for years.
And this version of me has decided she “hasn’t got time for the pain.”
‘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.
“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!
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.
“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.
“And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it’s about 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.
“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.
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.