When Father Comes Around, Part II

He’s Alive. And despite the permanency of death, it may have allowed me to finish the grieving process and move on. In that moment, I am afraid I regret he still exists. And for those who may have believed my brain has only room for compassion, be prepared for a major disappointment. I wasn’t prepared to invite him back into my life. I was prepared to send a card and tell him I was out there and happy, thank you very much-Bye (add vigorously waiving emoji here). I was NOT ready to open the door to relationship.

Get ready. There are lots of screaming capital letters and cussing.

Walk away now if you want pleasant.

I once AGAIN had to come to terms with the fact that my family history is so fucking complicated. I couldn’t be sure if I wanted yet another layer to it! REALLY!!! Really GOD, GODDESS, UNIVERSE, WTF!!!?? Now I have to talk to him. Oh wait. Can he even talk? I dunno. This was a call from a head trauma ICU after all. I am a complete asshole and I don’t care. This shit is a protruding fucked-up mess.

I paced around the house before remembering to breathe and then dialed the number. I quickly understand the alternative of just not knowing would leave so many things lost and dangly. How many thousands of children would give anything to just see their missing parent? I’m certain my hesitation makes me a little selfish, but then perhaps if I had a father who decided to fucking grow up and show up, maybe the years of sexual abuse I endured would not be the most prominent lens in my life. AND…and…and IF I invite this NOW sick person into my life, it would mean I have to give something I may not be willing to do. Hell- I may NOT want to and then who is the runaway asshole now?

You see; it gets thorny fast. I warned you. Now ya in and stuck with me.

Esther shared with me (once we passed through the HIPPAA keyhole) he had a stroke and was currently paralyzed on his entire left side. There were attempts at rehabilitation but he had been lying in a hospital bed for months. The Board & Care home kicked him out for being too sick, dumping him at the hospital. Now who wants to take in an angry paralyzed convicted felon? I am not even sure if I emotionally want to.

So we speak for the first time and he cries. He’s depressed and lonely and now the only human who will consider showing up for him is me and guess what—I AIN’T SO Sure! What kind of fuckery is this? Like seriously, who in the hell dealt these cards? Damn it. FUCK IT.

It’s my job to show up in this life even if I decide to kick God off my team.

Not REALLY, but DAMN.

Jason was homeless for many years in Northern California. I learned quickly how incredibly smart he is sharing how he created a way to power his television (in his tent) using solar power and how he showered everyday (in the woods) with his own hot water system. He even built a custom deck to keep his house-tent dry. Of course, this came along with regular methamphetamine use in between years of prison. I swear, I cannot make this shit up…even though it sounds like I did, even to myself.

Once the police caught him squatting deep in the Red Woods, he eventually got out of jail (again), got clean and sober for several years before the fateful day. Now biking 20 plus miles a day and living with a roof overhead, he had a massive stroke while biking and was subsequently hit by a car.

Yeah. I don’t know whether to be like ‘Hand over my mouth’ or ‘Holy shit. Karma.’ I cried touching my deep sense of compassion and wonder if anyone deserves this outcome? Permanently paralyzed and has burned every bridge from here to Egypt. That quickly dissipates returning to ‘What in the FUCK have I gotten myself into?’ I have reunited with the messy Jason-Father I knew I always had. The question lingered, what do I do and can I even see him if it is possible?

As I shared this unfolding story, my Mother shared how he was never without a paperback shoved into his back pocket. She was deeply saddened to hear of his physical demise but recalled knowing how awful his family was and the drug use that ensued even while he was an adolescent. Nothing surprised her more when I asked her to go visit him. She cried and was flooded with the sadness of our past. Jason was abusive and mostly unavailable to my mother, just a teenager herself. Unfortunately, I did not know when I would return home again since I was just there and I wanted someone I could trust to lay eyes on him and tell me how he REALLY was doing. Funny how I could be suspicious of even hospital persons. My lack of honesty with this man runs deep.

After some consideration and an honest ‘You CAN say No’ from me, she went. And my grandmother. AND MY DAD. And I revel in knowing that when all is said and true about the wild crazy that is my family, here is the heart of who they are………

Each one of them showed up, spent time and brought him chocolate cake. My Dad and I were texting while he was just outside Jason’s door, informing me that my Mom was there and he would not go inside the room. But he did. And in a most powerful moment I can only witness in my mind, my Dad stood in front of my Jason-Father’s bed and told him what he missed out on. PURE GOLD.

My mother was genuinely so sad about the state of what had become of his life that she wanted to know what he needed. She wanted to send reading glasses and books and has from since that time kept tabs on how he is doing. She even told me she was proud of me when he got pissed off when I didn’t call him on Father’s Day later that year and my response was “What am I going to say Jason? Happy Father’s Day?” I stood my ground in that he had met my DAD. I finally opened myself up to a relationship, but there were certainly limits.

It’s funny how courage is born;

Sometimes born out of the composted love we have buried

in roots way underground while others,

appear in the cracks of an aimless sidewalk.

This change opened me up to love my parents and grandmother more than ever. And as for Jason, we are friends and although so many more stories to tell, we have reconnected on my terms and will do my best to see the rest of his life through. What vibrates sweetly in my ear is the unexpected moment of gratitude from my family. I asked them to show up for me.

And they did.

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Drowning in Denial

I stood on top of a tall lumpy rock overlooking the Benicia Bay while my baby sister climbed down and went for the sand. She was barely seven while I had already left childhood long ago. Reaching into adolescence and ready to die.

The ocean is majestic. Drinking in the salty waves and noticing the sweet breeze run along your cheeks takes most of us to smiling places. But perhaps its enormous mystery felt equivalent to my damaged heart while my mind regularly wandered away for its own safety. I would often burn things including myself. I was finding tiny ways to inflict pain; attempting to bring my body forward to finally greet my mind. I desired to be home, but it was a deep hole with an endless sea of shame so only visiting on special holidays was allowed.

On that day, at the precipice of adolescence, I was done. My second family had fallen apart and my first stepfather was greeted by another man in my so called home soon after. My stepfather had retreated to his family and we were left with mounds of spoiling leftovers to stare at. My sister began her career at eating the pain while I dug in, literally, until I could take no more.

So, THERE. There I was swallowed up, desperately wanting it to all be taken back, swish over this broken and damaged body. Let someone or something else be accountable to this life as I just could not do it any more.

It’s cold since the Pacific Ocean is rarely for lounging in the sun and the lumpy rock looked like a good place to lay this tired body to rest. I watch my sister edge to the water, feet wet, staring back at me, making sure someone was not far away. Yet…..I had been a million miles from a grounded place since she was born. Do I leave her? Would it matter? I just don’t know. I am not even able to touch my own emotions to understand what hers must have been like. She separates farther from me, like one of those wobbly watery force fields and to see her clearly I have to poke at the space between her and I.

I was ALONE. Not a soul had gotten close to this dangerous and treacherous heart. Not even myself. I wanted desperately to belong, but to what? I did not have a family. What once was family now brought trauma and shame into my life. I was so frightened of what may come next. What if this was not the end of the horror? How much more could I take?

I stood a little longer on that lumpy brown rock and edged just a little closer to the end. My heart did not race. I felt at ease and perhaps was breathing normally for once. I could end this madness and stop flirting with pain like it really offered me more than a mere 50 cents of release. I had become someone’s play toy so why not throw the used up rag doll down this rock and into the ocean?

The sea spray picked up and my sweet sister laughed and ran away from the waves playing tag with the bubbly water. She took her tiny fingers and dug them in the wet sand drawing her name…..and then mine. I don’t even know her. My baby sister was trying to craft a life in this moment out of the brokenness that she must have felt. This was her father and her family. I was just along for the bodily ride.

Then, my body must have startled in the wind. Did I hear my name and the warbled water divide and disappear in the sea?

I don’t know. But I took a broken-winded breath from my chest and sat down on that lumpy rock. For today dying was over. Perhaps I would be brave enough to take my own life and spare myself the lifetime of agony that I foresaw ahead. Today, I felt like a coward. I couldn’t speak my pain and I couldn’t stop it. I would continue to be forced to swallow it for many years to come.

Inside that deep darkness, suicide seems logical and brave. It appears to the mind as the one way to have some control over what has puked havoc over your life. The chaos of trauma is like carrying a soaked wool blanket over your entire body. One might think this was a cute trick or a funny attempt to play Halloween ghosts; instead it makes your body and mind unrelated, unknown and separated from yourself. And despite the confabulation of bravery in suicide, it was not a story I took off the table until adulthood.

I had to learn how to die internally so that I may rise again and fly.

This way is not easy or simple like a crash onto lumpy rocks in the Benicia Bay. I was so long away from understanding how courage worked, but as I reflect back, I thank my sister for remembering how to live in the moment. All the while I am attempting to die, she played, calling the waves to dance with her, scribbling her name in the sand with those stubby cute fingers. She carried such loss in that moment too, but perhaps had not yet lost the ability to remember to RISE.

 

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Therapist Days Hidden in A Treasure Box

At times, this therapist’s work can be lonely. And it’s a rare occasion to experience the kind of positive or negative feedback even a formal performance review may offer. We are instead stuck with the ever constant looming audit from insurance companies and oversight boards. We fret as the “not good-enough” barfs on us sometimes.Tiny letters carry threats to return “their” money in an act of shame for our lack of paperwork perfection. Time and again I want to call my my faceless-nameless overlords and demand they spend time with me and my people before they lay down their box checking judgement.

Yet- the alternative is to become pretentious and only see those who can afford to care for their mental health out of pocket. And for that reason alone- I refuse. As a therapist, I am responsible for serving my community- ALL OF IT. So, (per usual) I own my giant rebellious size 11 personality and do my best work and say, ‘Just Bring It.’

We are good at what we do. But the outcomes are elusive. Did I truly have an impact and participate in my client’s meaningful change? Did I have anything to do with that lifting of depression and anger? Did the examination of profound loss lessen after being carried for years?

What’s even more tricky is that if done well- the work MUST ALWAYS be theirs. And so the gratitude that may show up cannot be gobbled up like you’re some damn super star! My people must revel in their own pride because they are the ones in it for the long haul.

I tell my people that the goal is to no longer be needed. Those are sad days for me. Good! Wonderful! But still sad melting right over the top. It’s not my job to see ‘til the end of the story- but I still wonder. I sometimes still want to hold their hand when the moment is rough shot with pain- but I shouldn’t. And I won’t.

No matter our presence, sometimes dark days will turn bleak and then to death. We have lost many in what would be a seemingly short career, but we are all too fully aware that if we genuinely sit with the shame of abuse, deprivation, rape, domestic violence and not just the exaggeration of life taking but the real fear of being killed; there isn’t always a simple answer out. These are breath taking days, ones where even this avid yogi forgets to breathe. I want just one more chance to tell them that they mattered to me and in my less enlightened moments, believe that somehow my words would count to create a change and the darkness might share a moment with the light.

On many of those dark days when I ache and I am certain the imposter police are coming for my precious credentials and perhaps my whole career, I turn to my treasure box. As many of my people have grown—taken in sweet deep breaths of happiness and moved on, many have given me small gifts and cards. In full disclosure, one did give me a pair of shoes (which is beyond hilarity) and I still wear them when I need to be brave with this often alone world.

I will find a quiet moment, open my treasure box and read my cards and am reminded that although I may feel lonely, I am not alone. Perhaps in that moment I have forgotten that I can do good work or even that my work matters. Reading love notes of kindness allows me to come back home again to myself, taking deep belly breaths.

Even more elusive is this space- my writing. I could just jot my wild thoughts in a journal and leave it just for me. But I have just kept figuring that if I can and do feel alone – Can I possibly be the only one? I cannot be the only human that worries that their work will just not matter? I don’t care if you are the up and coming Mother Teresa or local hired hit man, we all want to believe the work we put out into the world matters! So I write. I write to the masses of crickets chirping but I mostly write – and love – and be my own therapist. The entirely altruistic act fades quickly on me. I am well aware of the deep interconnectedness we experience and just the chance for good will trickle down towards my daughter who I love more than anyone.

My performance reviews are found in watching someone emotionally wake up to their lives and from time to time in a card found in my treasure box.

In those notes I cherish, I will return to my breath and rediscover my way. But like my brave face shoes, there have been a few things that won’t fit snugly in my treasure box. I cherish not the thing or even the card, but the words and sentiment in the giving. If I cared for things, I would have been a banker and fretted over my money rather than people.

Those words are reminders that just perhaps we matter. Perhaps the daily grind does have a purpose. Perhaps I am not alone and I have and can continue to use my transformation in the service of this one little world we inhabit together.

In my previous armored up and angry Mean Self life, it was easier to be confrontational than it was to offer gratitude. It can still be difficult today. So when I receive it or give it in my own words, I relish the bright red glitter magic it brings.

Absolute – PURE – MAGIC.

And for that, I am Grateful.

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Why The Phoenix Rises

Five years ago, in 2013, the staff of The Crisis Line and Safe House of Central Georgia took a chance on this survivor/therapist in the hopes of perhaps a little fundraising and likely a whole lot of chaos. To date, we have raised close to 70,000.00 dollars and it goes without saying there has definitely been some chaos. I have this terrible problem of being the kind of ‘Go Big or Go Home’ type of woman and tend to manage to swirl in a little crazy with my philanthropy projects. Still, none of our very committed staff and volunteers cannot say there is no fun going around! Phoenix Rising 5k has become something I believe many in my community take great pride in being a part of.

2013 was also the year I began this Blog, leading down a path of being public about my position as a survivor. I hoped my own coming out and sharing my rising would create a depth of love and support for others in my community. I still continue to feel afraid sometimes when I hit that ‘publish’ button, but I certainly have heard the reverberation from my fellow survivors over these last five years. Phoenix Rising has not only allowed me to continue in my healing process, but has also provided a safe place for other survivors to give back. This was an unexpected gift and one I gather up in my heart every year as I watch so many volunteer, sponsor and pound the pavement asking for donations, silent auction items and support.

In January of 2013, I sent out my first call for support and the responses of love and generosity were tremendous and many continue each year. You will find below that first email I sent and many of the kind responses I received. Today, I do not share these for pats on my back (although I do keep copies of them in treasure box for rough times) but to show you- my fellow trauma survivors- that shame dies when we speak it. We can die to our old selves and rise up again out of the ashes, beautiful and reborn like the phoenix.

January 2013

Dearest Friends and Family,

There was a time in my life when I felt fairly certain that I would not live to be 37 years old. Not because of some melodramatic twenty something drama, but genuinely, that my soul had been taken and would never return. I was sexually abused from the age of 6 to 11 and until college carried the grief and self hatred that not even my enemies would have for me.

In my office bathroom, you will find a movie quote, maybe just a cliche’, but the start of a real life for me. One of my best friends in college was close to his own feelings of suicide and once he returned after a break from the stress of what to make of himself, he said, “You better get busy living or get busy dying.” That is what I have been doing ever since. I am a therapist today as a part of the giving back that I was given. If it weren’t for him and the therapists that walked with me along my journey, I am certain that this path would have been cut short.

So today, I stand at the precipice of one of my life dreams. I have wanted to publicly give back to my community in a way that would model for other survivors as well as create a legacy that we as a community could support. What has been most overwhelming, is that the moment I verbalized to my loved ones that this race was something I wanted to do, NO ONE and I mean, no one, once, questioned me or suggested that I could not.

So here we are….this race is real and I am sending you this email to ask that you consider being a part of my history…..and then, make it your own. One in Four women over the course of their life time will be sexually assaulted and One in Eight boys by the time they reach the age of 18.

All of the proceeds go to support our only Rape Crisis Center in Middle Georgia. I will be happy to send you the shirt from across the miles. If you cannot register, sponsor. If you cannot do either, get the word out. If you cannot run, walk. If you cannot walk, come and be together on what will be one of the most special occasions in my life. If none are possible, be with me in spirit and know that you are with me. I may have known you all of my life, or for just a small amount of time, but we all know that sexual abuse affects us all. I will not remain silent and I will no longer carry the shame of a victim. I am a survivor and this is my chance to create a community of survivors. Please consider taking part now and every year to come……

And The Loving Notes that followed:

I am so incredibly honored to know you.

Words cannot express the depth of gratitude or the love my heart and soul hold for you, Allie. I am not sure you will ever fully understand the critical role you have played and continue to play in my life,not only to help me overcome my own crises and hurts to regain the sense of self I had lost, but also to help and guide me as I strive to serve the young people in our community.

Your email subject, The Phoenix Rises, struck a chord with me which prompted me to want to make sure you know how much you mean to me……..My last tattoo, designed and applied during the time in my life when I was your client, is a Phoenix 🙂 How fitting to me that you, the person who taught me how to rise from the ashes, also chose that same symbol to describe your own journey.

You are so precious to share this. I would NEVER have known that was in your past. I have actually marveled at how humble and down to earth and transparent you are (rare in a person so evidently intelligent and gifted). I recall when you were doing our ethics

workshop last year, I had a quick image of an adorable, precocious little red headed girl with her Converse sneakers. You are a walking miracle, Alicia. I opened the registration to fill it out and it is the same w/end we have reservations, but I will surely plan to be there next year! I also was molested as a child during an intensive (seemed to me) 6 month period when I was 4 yo. You are a radiant gift from God and I pray the run will be all you have dreamed and that it will grow exponentially over the next years.

The day I meant you I know where was something special and powerful in you. I am soooo proud of you. I would miss it this year but u would be in my thoughts.

Alicia…I have not previously been aware of your survivor status, but am, of course, not surprised given the statistics you mention in your message and given my work of now 40 years as a therapist. Not surprised, but deeply saddened and sorry that you have experienced such trauma, pain and grief. I am very grateful for the work you are doing and for the very public attention you are bringing for the need to continue to bring abuse out of the shadows. I think I am committed to an out of town trip for that weekend. If I can change those plans I will.

Thank you for sharing with me; I had no idea that you went thru that!!  But as you said, you are a SURVIVOR. And that is wonderful!!!!! I have found over the years that so many people do not want to share their“true” life stories. I guess my life has always been an open book because growing up in a small town, everyone knew my family business. I am a HUGE believer in sharing….and I always encourage others to do the same. Hiding behind something does not make it go away. But not everyone is me….LOL!!! You have taken a tragedy and turned it into triumph!!! That is the kind of happy ending I love to hear!!

Alicia thanks so much for your transparency and your vulnerability….it is refreshing and so inspiring. I am so happy for you and that your journey to this moment has brought you full circle to a place of peace and giving. I hope that you will have the time to not only give, but to receive the fruits of your accomplishments! You really deserve it.

See You on Saturday April 1st

Phoenix Rising 5k

Event at 3:00pm, Race @ 6:00pm

Live Music, Silent Auction, Bounce House

Find more information on FaceBook:transformativetrauma

LIVE.OUT.LOUD.

When Father Comes Around,Part I

I last saw my birth father in 1994 at the age of 19 when I was getting ready to leave for college. Somehow my grandmother got in touch with him, mostly a mystery as to how, and invited him to come see me before I left. Memories of him for the most part are iconic, as if I quickly painted a portrait crystallizing the moment because I knew there would be so few.

He sat in my Gram’s rocking chair out on the enclosed porch of her Kendallwood house. It was one of my favorite homes and we shared it for eight months before I shipped off to Alabama for a southern style college life. He always wore one of those grey fidora hats with a fancy feather in the side to cover his bald head and this time a pair of boot leg jeans with his blaring red beard. He always said my mother was the cause of his baldness from the early days of beauty school, but I know better. We drove around in his gold dated Honda and he showed me how his police detector worked, illegal in California, but that was always part of his problem. He played Pink Floyd from the CD player and when he learned my appreciation for the old school, quickly gave it to me. It is the one and only possession he ever gave to me. He told me how proud he was of me and wanted to know all my big plans. He always spoke of his big changes, plans of stability, frequent phone calls and relationship.

It was AWKWARD. All awkward. My relationship with my mother was strained, yet as we drove by her neighborhood in town, I felt like I was betraying her and my Dad. My step-Dad–DAD- the person who had shown up for me during the worst of the unconsolable adolescent years. And I knew, despite wishing for real wishes and magic, this would be the end. The only thing that frequently changed in my father’s life was his address.

The years rock by along with years of therapy. During the end of my first round in college I recall my therapist suggesting seeking out my brothers who were last known to live in Texas. I suppose I was not ready and only did many years later. For us siblings, we are a reminder of him, our one and only vague link to each other and understandably, not the brightest of subjects to discuss. With a little energy, I found them and once again- the father.

You might imagine I attempted to find him through various ‘where are my people’ searches, but instead, I knew where to look. Arrest and conviction records often tell a succinct story and one can always hope that the gaps are the bright spots where he fell off the radars of law enforcement. The luck of living in a small town affords me the ability to ask for a first look help. But how do we openly invite that kind of shame into our lives? No one would fault me for a convicted felon father, but they would also just know. And just wonder. Hell, I couldn’t blame them, I certainly wonder how a man with an active drug addict and felony conviction a mile long (probably not much exaggeration there) have any part in the life of a successful therapist; much less partnered for 19 years with happy kid and no arrest record to speak of??!!!

I recall lining myself up along the pew of the jail. Literally, and I hope you can see the irony in the church pew as your place to sit as you await your fate at the jail. It was a visiting day and people came from all around to love their orange jump suited people through the heavy glass. There were creases in every inch of the officers uniform, but the people were sloppy and disheveled having honest reason to loose track of themselves while the orange people blared ugly in their lives. My blue sear sucker suit and red sude heels stood out. Clearly, I was not them and yet had my life been about chasing orange uniforms, me and the thick glass would have been best friends.

Apparently the officer supporting my ‘let’s conquer the daddy issues’ had read one too many of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo books and as he began considering fishing around in the dregs of my life, he asked me what my purpose was. The dragon tattoo girl sought out her father to kill him. I think I was past that stage, but did have to giggle that my life could reflect a fiction thriller. And so the online pursuit began and eventually he popped up in jail….and then prison. Again. A petty theft led to more probation time and I very shamefully write that his love affair with the police was very short tempered and he allowed a dog to attack an officer. He went off to prison for that bullshit to complete his time and when I arrived at this knowledge, he had been released with no further probation and a last address.

I sent a card. I wanted him to know he may be lost, but I was not.

He had a successful daughter and grandchild. I couldn’t want anything from him.

But it was returned, floating between here and there for weeks.

And many more years collected dust on the relationship table of me and him.

Then, just this year during the cold dark days of January, the phone call came from a nurse named Esther. A little biblical and breath taking. I assumed she was Jesus’s messenger and delivering the news that he was gone and I was the only connection left, the glue that held what was left of my Gregory family. I was panicked and alone. My namesake, one that I have kept unchanged, was potentially further broken down while I waived in the wind of the Gregory name.

As I picked up the phone to call back, my hands shook in fear and anticipatory sadness. Was it just easier to keep him the iconic memory and could I withstand the change that was about to plop like wet poop into my lap? I just didn’t know……But my silent sister Glennon Melton (that gurl NEVER calls me) tells me that we can do hard things and I say that if the next step makes you squirm and uncomfortable- its likely the next right one.

So I called to hear the voice of Esther and learn of the news she had to share. Either way, the dust would rise and make noisy floating specks in the suns rays on our relationship table…………

My Mother Didn’t Teach Me to Hate: Compassion First

I grew up in the naiveté of Northern California, a place where I thought the only match of Us vs. Them occurred in movies and television. My neighborhood was wild with diversity and that was easily reflected in both our work and personal lives. My Dad is of Hispanic descent and grew up the majority of his life in an all African-American foster family, sometimes making my nuclear family the only white people at my larger family gatherings. There was little discussion of race in our house and I believe, much like not experiencing religion shoved upon us, it left me with less scarring of the heart when it comes to issues around race and ethnicity. This is not to say there weren’t consequences with the lack of discussion. It led me to believe that the days of racial and ethnic divides were behind us and only when I moved to Alabama for college and saw the literal dividing line of the railroad tracks did I realize I lived in some bizarro cosmic bubble where my utopia obviously was solely in my own head. I remember feeling like the wind had been torn out of me and I spent the majority of my college years building up my knowledge and understanding of what I severely lacked.

As for my understanding of myself as female, it was rotten from the sexual abuse I endured and to this day I am still called that girl with all her “women’s lib shit” by some of my family. Then, I was just angry and hungry to hurt someone back the way I was hurt. I had a low level of understanding about what it meant to be a feminist, but I knew that word gave me some small amount of power and autonomy. I am afraid my mother thought I was just going to be a lesbian because despite her own open ideas about some things, she refused to buy me a dirt bike or Converse shoes. (Hey Mom- I have seven pairs of them now, including some mint green low tops- and I have a pair on my Christmas wish list.) My college experiences have allowed me to grow and understand myself in context of this belief system. I have learned to be fierce and cunning as a feminist rather than running around clumsily cutting people with knives.

Interestingly, sexuality was a conversation on the table. Harvey Milk was the first openly gay politician in 1978 in San Francisco and the waves of HIV positive (mostly) males followed in the Castro District. We watched Phil Donahue parade around the gays like the new world wide pariah and although when the rubber met the road it may have been a different story, my mother openly told me she didn’t care who I loved. As an aside, sex was also on the table and given that we were a blended family, we had loads of fun making fun of my parents’ sexual activity at the dinner table. I know- weird huh?!! However, this is one of the many aspects of my family I am grateful for.

Despite my very staunch belief in participating in our civic duty to vote, very few adults in my life did and I recall very little about politics until I was 18 and participated in my first election. Then, I was limited in my understanding and did not want to vote for Clinton simply because Al Gore’s wife was the head of the PMRC ! Freedom of speech was very important to me and EVERY heavy metal CD that I purchased had one of those parental advisory stickers on it! Thank goodness my mother didn’t care or I would have died a horrible death as an outsider in my own peer group. We were known as the “Stoners” back then. I think the equivalent group today are the “Emo” kids, although neither us tend to use substances as much as the label implies.

Only in this most recent election did my parents take part in their civic duty and voted. And I have participated in the last seven presidential elections and hope to participate in many more in my lifetime. As a feminist, I do not take lightly the sacrifices made in order to participate in this privilege.

I know what you must be thinking…..either ‘what is your point lady?’ or ‘Ah, hell. She is about to politic us over the head-and I have had enough.’ Hang in there with me; I have got some good stuff for everyone.

Like many, in the days following our recent election, I have run the gamut of emotions. From afraid to angry followed by puzzled and making cynical jokes. I am not sure even those who voted for our President Elect- Donald Trump really believed he would actually do it, while so many others had their emotional heart set on having our first woman president. 110 out of 116 polls were wrong and so few of the experts that may have had some knowledge appeared to ZERO political voice. This is the dawning of a new era and whether or not you are excited or appalled, the sun shall rise and change is coming.

So let me begin by speaking to my fellow democratic brothers and sisters. I am an avid believer in equality for ALL people and there have certainly been times in my life when I have twisted my life into a pretzel to fit into some perfect ideology, however, if a liberal thinker is to grow and change, we cannot play the game of Us vs. Them. Who are the people that primarily voted for our next president? Yes, it is true that the non-college educated white male was the majority of the group while 42 percent were females. Some may be considered the “self made man” who have some wealth through hard work and time. Many live in the rural areas of our country and perhaps a very small percentage (as things like violence and hate continue to be) of this group is interested in maintaining sexist, racist and xenophobic ideologies, but most- just like you– are complicated and intricately different humans. I don’t want to in any way make excuses for the ongoing “isms” that exist in our country, however, if we are going to make any headway in working through the shame that we carry in this nation, we must grow our lens.

I have had the unusual pleasure of living in the rural south for the last 14 years. And when I say rural, I mean like I live with a mere 20 thousand people in the county. Like everywhere I have lived, there are those folks who just aren’t my people (and yes I do mean asleep at the wheel assholes) and the few that I find ways to create meaningful connection with. And it has little to do with politics. I find that, in general, people who live in rural areas are very much the salt of the earth. Yes, in these parts of the country there is more fear that stems from a lack of exposure to the unknown and sometimes cultural knowledge. As I have found my way to fold into this rural community, I have found a tremendous amount of kindness and generosity that I never experienced living in a large city.

There are many complicated elements of a typical life in a rural small town. There are still young teenagers working at the grocery store and sometimes if you want to get out of there quickly, you better put your head down and not do the usual direct eye contact and speaking because you may get caught in a conversation while your ice cream melts in front of you. I share names and history with the people I bank with and collect my pharmaceuticals from. I see them out in town and we speak and share stories of our children and family. This crosses ethnic and racial backgrounds. Is it all lollipops and rainbows? No kids. That’s ridiculous. None of us live in Oz. But my southerners try to live in the world a little like we are supposed to in church; we are expected to be kind and although not ideal, I surely miss it when I leave to go home to California where not one human will smile at me walking down the street.

Some of the reasons we have to accept their votes are due to the abject poverty in which many live. There remains a weekly food bank and local ministries that provide clothing to our community. The overwhelming majority are white families that are struggling to survive. Eleven of the schools in my county are considered Title I schools; meaning that a high percentage of children are eligible for free lunch. Programs have begun popping up during the summer time just to feed these same children because it is a known fact they are going without food. To demand that this part of my community have clarity on something like the higher good related to race relations and whether I am being treated fairly as a woman becomes a ridiculous prospect to a person trying to make enough to feed their family each day. This does not mean we let all the privileged white folks off the hook. I am asking that we pull the lens back onto the entire country and examine how we can show compassion even when we are frightened and understandably angry.

As for the many who voted for our new president-elect and do not fit into the catogories described above, the disenfranchisement with government and the lack of connection with the everyday American has led to this severe uprising and perhaps a silent revolution with the intention to reclaim the government away from the seasoned politician that is often bought out by the lobbyists swarming every crevice of our United States House and Senate. With this considered factor, perhaps those are the true ‘liberal’ thinkers who wanted to revolt in their own way through their vote. Of course, the outcome remains to be revealed.

This leads to my thoughts to my fellow Republican brothers and sisters. It is true that whenever their person is not the chosen one, there is a major let down that often follows for several days. This election has already shown to be something more than this. For many, the grief is in multiple layers and some is the loss of a wish that America is less racist, less sexist and more accepting of the LGBT community than ever before. This election showed the entire world that perhaps that is not true just yet. I know for myself as a trauma survivor, I spent years rebuilding that layer of grounded trust that humans were potentially less sexist and have a greater willingness to protect little children than in the past. And for now, the results have attempted to shake that foundation. Honestly, it is all a reminder that our fears are not unfounded. I felt betrayed and once again back in my naïve young life of Northern California, just wanting the fear to subside. For so many minority and marginalized people this was just another amplification of the fear they live in everyday and it warrants our concern and honest understanding.

Change did not have to come packaged in a man that had such terrible vitriol, spewing hatred and causing the trickle to ride all the way down to my daughter’s sixth grade class where a young African-American student was excited about the Trump victory to only hear another student say they ‘shouldn’t get so excited, they are going to be sent back to Africa!’ I am afraid that Trump did not really understand the consequences of rallying the hate that resides within all of us and will now have to spend a fair amount of time putting out the sparked hate fires that have been spurred on by his rhetoric.Voting for Trump did not necessarily symbolize that you are sexist, racist or xenophobic; that you don’t hate. It does represent a lack of care about the marginalization of people not like you. The fear of being abandoned or rejected is a kind of shame that makes us all want to vomit.

Further, it has been a long time wish to see a mirror rather than possible attempts at reflection. Although HRC was a long time politician and a member of the elite establishment, it was a great time to follow the first African-American male president with our first woman. I understand this is not in of itself a good reason for a vote. However, how many voted for Trump simply because he was NOT a member of the establishment and could overlook many things others could not? In the faces of so many young women who wept, we are anxiously waiting for someone to have the highest office in the country reflect who we are as women. And then to get the extra smack in the face while already down has made the pain and damaged feelings even deeper.

We still have a LONG way to go.

Maybe this reminder will allow ALL of us to do more.

We need not swallow that bitter fruit of hatred.

Hatred cannot be our way. Lacking compassion and taking the angry way out cannot be our answer. I was given many mixed messages as a kid, but hating others was not one of them. My Mom and Dad taught me the face of kindness and how a deeply giving heart can win over even the surliest of men. I have watched them just keep at their intentions of kindness even when I am sure the sour neighbor is plotting how to blow them up. And most of the time, their love wins. I believe in the freedom of speech and I am grateful we have a mechanism to protest and be heard when we are passionate about something. This passion cannot come forward without compassion for all Americans. Take the time to work at understanding each other and continue to draw the lines of connection that already exist, but may remain unseen. We are ALL connected within the intricate and complicated lives we lead and if this once naïve girl from Cali can find her connections in rural living, I will remain hopeful and proceed with compassion first.

So now, let’s get to work.

Audrie & Daisy Film Screening

Wednesday, November 30th at 6:00pm

Wesleyan College, Taylor Amphitheater

Public Film Screening of Audrie & Daisy

A powerful documentary about sexual assault and social media

JOIN US FOR FOOD AND DISCUSSION

Hosted By: The Crisis Line of Central Ga and Reflections Psychotherapy, LLC

 

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