The Telling: The First Moment the Universe Heard the Story of my Sexual Abuse

Transformative Trauma

It is honestly difficult to remember the first time I spoke the words, “He hurt me” with out the memory being encapsulated in a snow globe. I watch it play itself out; nothing exists except for my house on Mosswood Drive, me, my mother and a Strawberry Shortcake suitcase. It is not uncommon for a trauma victim to have memories that can only be remembered as if you are a third party, a ghost, entering into the memory watching your physical self play it out while you loom overhead. Your emotional Self hangs out above, floating and separate from you. For what ever reason, this particular memory is even more distant, yet at the same time, in a snow globe’s tomb, immortalized in my mind.
I was eleven or twelve years old. We had moved from a condo in my home town to a rental house, now renting with my…

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A Love Letter To My Community

Little town Central Georgia still feels so far away from my California roots. I landed here some 17 years ago, dragging myself back to the south for the 3rd time. One might believe I had learned some valuable lessons in claiming roots, but I continued to attempt to flee for years to come. I demanded spousal job searches to any metropolis. I felt I had nothing to offer tiny towns. A foreigner in my own country; too progressive, too loud and certainly not womanly enough for the particulars of the stereotpyed southern gentile.

My first trip south led me to the realization of how incredibly naïve I was about so many things. Upon initial south bound impact, issues of race and ethnicity barreled in my face. My Dad is Latino and grew up in an all African-American foster family. We would attend family reunions with my sister and I -glaringly white. Although I noticed, I assumed everyone found themselves in spaces as the minority. Southbound, the tracks literally divided my university town and I thought perhaps I had been accidentally left on an old movie set. How little did I know and still have to learn. I also knew nothing of fireflies and words like “How’s your Momma and ’em?” I had no concept of consistently looking someone – anyone in the eye, smiling and with kindness, offering salutations. Why did strangers wave in cars as you passed? And southerners know how to make so many different casseroles for (insert event here). The south does forget time in ways that often speed up for others; what a gift to linger just a bit more to hear how a family friend is doing. Perhaps right here is where my perspective created its first true southern offering.

In the Spring of 2007, I gathered up all my collective roots laid in central Georgia and planted them in Gray while becoming my own boss lady. Now a therapist in private practice, from California to a 20k county in Georgia. Writing it today in 2019 still seems nuts. However, I return again and again to one of my many life mantras; ‘the worst thing that could ever happen to you, has already happened.’ Being a trauma survivor offers many strange gifts and I’ve had to learn to tote (see my use of a traditional southern word) them around and wield their wild magic. I’m never less afraid, but better at recognizing being brave without fear is a dangerous recipe for the ego. The years as a therapist boss have allowed for friendships and further commitments grounded in our community. The strange gifts of survivorhood kept urging me towards returning to the soil of southern ground. I lean towards the ‘Go Big or Go Home’ life model, so I needed soil enough for an entire peach grove. I was running full time in 2013, as emotionally well as one could ask for and felt my time for quiet was over. I had shared being a survivor fairly regularly with individuals, but going public was another matter.

I rang up the Sexual Assault Director of the Crisis Line and Safe House of Central Georgia and laid down my proposal. Apparently, to do something like this anywhere outside of tiny towns would be wholly illogical as the sticky red tape would become unbearable. As I blathered away with excitement, I can only imagine what the Director Dottie thought of this wild idea. And still, the organization said yes and away we went with my strange gifts bearing a new love letter to my world.

Instinctively, I also began publishing my stories out loud. It remains a quiet voice amongst the pressure of the great ether, but I continue to offer it as the symbiotic relationship of how soil and southern life give me roots like oak trees. As we have given back year after year, Phoenix Rising continues to unexpectedly change me. Spaces grow where I find myself more fierce while others have forced more dirt to my knees. Our first and favorite course I would run regularly to hold space for its intention.
Once, I literally fell to my knees crying in the grass alongside the road; weeping with joy – with sorrow knowing that what we are doing matters and still wondering if anything I ever do will make any difference at all? Maybe trauma makes us too wild for something as civilized as a path to run with a beginning and end. Perhaps my intentions today are all I can ever hold close; the experiences in my truth – where I allowed the words to seep out of my mouth in places like the Crisis Line. The trauma seemed to have no safe place to fall, but amongst a group of fellow survivors at a rape crisis center, I could finally come home to myself; say the words again and again until they seemed real. Perhaps spoken words are only real because someone else heard them.

Today, the Phoenix has literally been etched in my heart and on my back as a tattoo. And each year, I am overcome with joy and bewilderment at what our community has done. This year we will collectively cross over the $100k mark. Without volunteers, sponsors, organizers, runners and walkers alike, it would just remain a silly dream born out of a girl from Cali. Perhaps it still is, but we will keep writing this love letter together just the same.

 

LIVE.OUT.LOUD.

 

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YOU CANNOT STOP ME

You may scowl at

my lack of pretty words

and silky thin thighs

But You Cannot Stop Me.

You may shudder and

wish for my reality

to stop being shoved in

your face,

But I Won’t Stop.

Press hard onto my mouth

and shove me into your

box of screaming silence

Tell me lies like

‘this is just the way things are’

and hover like

an Angry Dog.

Swat at my breasts

while I’m grabbing for

seats of POWER.

Continue to inform

and define my lack

of humanity.

But You Won’t Stop Me.

Scare me into submission

with your red faces and

screaming penis’s

And perhaps, for a moment

it will work.

But only long enough for

my teeth to grind

and bite off what

was OURS all along.

The farther, father, you unfurl

Your Patriarchy,

The less shit I take.

So point your penis boys,

show us the way you will

attempt to stomp out

my light

And I will show you how

in a single collective breath,

we will take our world back.

Because It never belonged to just you.

You call the woman, the lesbian,

the disabled, the brown person,

the immigrant,

Your Slave.

But we can see from our

once cornered and silenced

low places,

You are simply weak.

So Mr. Penis Directors,

Times Up.

you. Cannot Stop ME.

Every word I speak, every single

placement of my foot

will be my pursual of a checkmate.

Each move will take us closer to

your END.

Because you cannot STOP ME.

We All Need Someone To Stay

I catch a dusty glimpse

of light dance across

Your face

               And I am called

               home again in your

               smile.

I can so easily drift

away in laundry and

the smell of cleaning spray.

But you call me back

in the sweet groove

of the song on the

kitchen dance floor.

I may say—Well,

I will say

Many of the wrong things.

But I will always stay.

I will show up.

I will hold your hand

for as long as you

will allow.

Because we all need

someone to stay.

It will be messy

and bedraggled at times.

We will loose our way…..

          But I will always stay.

As I watch you grow,

I breathe and revel

in the marvelous human

you continue to become.

And when it’s time

to move along — live

a more separate life;

I pray I will always

Be YOUR Champion

And Perhaps from time to time….

groove on the kitchen dance floor

Cry tears of joy

And gracefully rail

against lifes’ weights.

And Smoosh our faces

in the scent of clean

laundry.

Because we all need

someone to Stay.

I’ve Only Got One Love

You are someone I thought

only existed in my

silly teenage dreams

~

I would be your rebellious

drummer girl and we

would eat cake on

top of glass tables

~

But, with rising whispers

of two simple

Hallmark cards

~Love Appeared.

~

It was readily enmeshed

with awkward kisses

on thrift store couches

in those early days

~

We had nothing to possess

but what we chose to

grow and nurture

in Each Other.

~

I had no idea you were

my one love

until separation felt much

like I had forgotten

how to breathe.

And your return was

all bedazzled and shiny

–catching glimpses of

shiny smiles

and

Intertwinement

~

You are my sanctuary.

In your presence ~

my world could disintegrate

and I know….

You will stay and hold me up

when nothing else can.

~

And when I am wild

and my passion becomes

ghastly

(and let’s face it, it really does).

~

You are the quiet

Gentle tug

that calls me back to myself

–asking me with a simple look

To Re-Ground.

Come Center.

~

You ask me to Grow

Change

Be. Come.

~

You cherish my wild

independence and

know that my whimsy

has its own way

~

You are my One Love.

~

With each day and

each passing breath,

We are ALL called back

to BE what we LOVE

To Honor who and what we Love.

~

I am not brave and beautiful

Because of you

~ but as long as I am those things

with you,

I am steady and confident

in the ME

that continues to grow

with this One Love.

~

Perhaps we can all grow in

our beauty,

Standing tall in

Our Own One Love.

~

Creating Sacred Space

Wherever We Go.

(even when she cusses

and fusses like that

rebellious dreamy teenager).

~

May we all be called home

in one Love.

Transforming and Transcending

Renewed each day with

Our One Love

And Perhaps.

Perhaps Tap in.

Touch the Divine

In You.

And In Me.

~

One Love.

*This Poem was Written and Shared at My Birthday Yoga @SouthernSoul Yoga, Macon

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I’d Like To Place a Recall on Mother’s Day

Happy Fierce Woman’s Day

This is your official notice. You have less than 24 hours to return that Mother’s Day ridiculoisty and pick up a new holiday. I‘m calling it, Fierce Woman’s Day. I understand I may not be popular with some, but this day (which we will no longer speak its former name) has been officially kicked off the island.

I will never forget this moment crystalized while joyfully celebrating a birthday; just me my kiddo and a friend. We had breakfast in bed and laid around watching TV all morning. With wild hair and dressed to return to bed as soon as possible, we schlumped down into the lobby dragging ourselves to the car only to find an alternate universe waiting on us. For a moment it felt like I was watching everything through a holiday glass window at a department store. There were so many pretty people dressed in dazzling white dresses carrying white plates with brunch and mimosas. Beautiful children tugged and whined in their beautiful outfits. Everyone was equally bleary-eyed with a side of rouge and struggling with their life decision to have brunch on their so-called day.

I couldn’t believe it. Who in the hell picked this as their celebration as a fierce woman? Why would I EVER choose to spend my damn day paying for brunch? I remember staring inappropriately for a few moments bewildered with no words to describe the tragedy before me. I kept thinking, ‘if you want to celebrate me, don’t you dare ask me to get out of my pajamas!’.

So many of us had the privilege of a good enough parent. But that is simply a made up bullshit fairy tale for so many others. Their version of ‘mother’ sucked ass leading the offspring to want to hide, run and absolutely pretend this Hallmark Holiday could actually get a recall!

What kind of card do you get the sucky parent? “Hey, I didn’t die on your watch…..that was good right?” How about, “It really would have been better if you made other choices.” Or here’s my favorite, “I am participating in my obligatory duty to acknowledge that I came out of your vagina.” Could someone please make that card? Since when is motherhood so superior to womanhood? Moms can be serious badasses, but you’re no real woman unless you have kids? Last I checked, there are plenty of us who had NO business putting THAT on life’s agenda.

Life is already so hard. Really hard. Why do we need to have something else shoved in our face if it is not something to celebrate? I propose on this day to celebrate a Fierce Woman in your life instead. Find your special way to turn up the music in a woman’s life that you love. Show her just how fierce and powerful she is in this wild world of ours.

As for me and my day, I did NOT have a kiddo just to force her into expensive celebration with overpriced eggs and orange juice (that’s what my birthday is for).

So to All the fierce women in my life; I love you and could not do this life thingy without you. I send you my love and bright shiny disco lights so you may dance with abandon in your pajamas.

Juuussssstttt……. before you take a long nap.

LIVE.OUT.LOUD.

Screen House Rules

On the eve of our kiddo’s thirteenth birthday, we collectively decided she was ready for the wild and sometimes emotionally dangerous road of the SMART PHONE (insert the ‘Duh-duh-DUHHH’ sound bite). We had spoken over time about the pitfalls and responsibility that comes with allowing something so potentially pervasive in her life. This took place as needed over the past year and concluded with her reading a great book called Good Pictures, Bad Pictures by Kristen Jensen that discusses the problematic invasion of pornography on the internet and the larger issue around how much of what we use on our phone is purposefully wired to make us addicted. Collectively, we agreed on ground rules that would, in general, apply to everyone in the house to ensure we did not allow our devices to take away from the most important aspect of us as a family- our ability to connect. I share our credo as a way to consider and explore your relationship with devices as well as how we can work at both recognizing and engaging with technology in a more responsible way.

Screen House Rules

As a family, we agree that our smart phones and other digital screens can distract us from real connection. With that, we mutually agree on guidelines to maintain healthy use of our digital devices.

  1. We agree to stop looking at our screen (phone or Ipad) when another person is talking to us and make eye contact. If we need to complete some task we are doing, we will ask for a pause so we are not attempting to listen and write/read at the same time.
  2. If someone is sharing a story/interacting with you, we will not text or pick up our phone until the interaction is done.
  1. We agree that if you are under 18, no screens will be used in private areas to protect from others who may intend to infiltrate your life inappropriately. This also helps reduce unhealthy behaviors like needing to repeatedly check the phone, even in the middle of the night and immediately upon waking.
  1. We agree that if at anytime another person is harassing, sending inappropriate photos or experiencing any pressure or bullying; we will share it without any consequences. We will support each other in keeping the internet as safe as possible.
  1. We agree that all our social media will be mutually agreed upon and the ability to see what each other post will remain open to each other. If anyone disagrees with a post, it will be discussed and potentially removed. This could include any photos or information that make another person uncomfortable.
  1. We agree mutually to have reasonable limits on our social media screen time and will consider an App limiting our time to ensure we do not overuse distraction. In general, we will actively work to remain below averages.
  2. We will stop all screens when we each move towards ending our day and getting ready for bed. That time may vary, but will be accountable to ourselves and each other.
  1. It is understood that privacy is important and each will respect privacy overall. However, to ensure healthy and appropriate online behavior is sustained, parents will occasionally check the child’s phone.
  1. With #8 in place, no history or text streams can be deleted to ensure proper and appropriate use of smart phones and other digital devices.

The Legacy of O’Riordan

My sweet spouse looks in my direction this morning and makes a sigh that closes in on the room for just a moment and tells me she is gone. At just 46. An icon and anthem to our college years; my ongoing love for boots with dresses and even a secret wish I could pull off a bleach blonde pixie cut came from her. One of the few reasons my husband learned to play the guitar was to make their music. He can still strum out some of their chords with pursed lips and pained finger tips. The loss of Dolores O’Riordan is yet again another long list of losses (most likely) for the same damn FUCKING reasons. I would like to be wrong, but I’m not.

O’Riordan was a sexual abuse victim.

She attempted suicide in 2013 recognizing her history as part of her struggle.

Now, another member of my survivor tribe is gone.

I am heartbroken. She had this wild robotic wide legged ‘dance’ only an Irish girl could get away with. She could sing, dance, play guitar and call down an audience with her heavy rock rhythm like so few women in rock could. In today’s cultural moment of women empowerment, her lyrics of “you’re so pretty the way you are” were some of the foundings of the beautiful ‘lovin yourself’ moment I continue to be inspired by. You almost wonder how could this person who appears like a baby thumbnail in my music play list have made such a powerful impact on my life.

And yet, The Cranberries was the first song our daughter ever heard

as we traveled home with her from the hospital just days after her birth.

How’s that for music memories?

And here She is. Gone. Sexually abused for years while a child, suffering mental health issues most of her life. The therapist in me wishes I could have scooped her up, held her in my arms and beg her to see the way home. Why is it that I could and not her? I will never have an answer to that.

I want to be bitter, swallow a thousand limes and puke on every image of a perpetrator I can muster in my mind. I want to scream and be ugly. But instead, I vow, with every single cell I will ever make- I will make every SINGLE effort to get in YOUR FUCKING way.

You want me to be quiet- forget it.

You want me to be pleasant because it makes you uncomfortable- NOT GONNA HAPPEN.

I am taking up too much of your space and my presence makes you want to look away- BYE Felicia.

You think the cussing and loud clothes are not lady like- I eat your lady likes for lunch.

Perhaps this one life of mine will not account for much, I will never be a Dolores O’Riordan, but I will carry the legacy of her life and I will never forget that she was a surivor just like me. I can tell you the one beautiful, crisp bright spot to his horrible loss was watching my Donovan listen to her videos and playing her live concert in Paris today on the television while playing right along with her, strumming his guitar. To see a man not just listen but truly celebrate the beauty and magnificience of women remains astounding. Many of the female feminist musicians I love today were found, shared and revered first by him.

Dolores, you may have physically left us today; but two little people in a small town called Gray, in the middle of nowhere Georgia, celebrate you. We will hold both you and your sweet children deep inside us- Forever. Watch for the clouds. She makes her music from there now.

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