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Pretty. Tough. Stuff.

Tiara

Have you seen this? This much talked about, controversial FUKH8 video with little girls swearing and flipping people off? If you haven’t, then head on over and watch it and then come on back and tell me how you feel about it.

What does it stir in you? What does it bring up? It certainly can’t leaving you feeling nothing. There seem to be two camps on this video. One thinks it’s an exploitive marketing ploy taking advantage of girls and their idiotic parents to make a profit. The other says, “Who cares how they get this message out there. It needs to be out there. Period.” And since it is edgy and in your face, it does in fact get the message out there. Loudly. It’s an awesome message. An important message. I couldn’t stop smiling when I saw it. It made my heart race. It made me feel empowered. It made me feel hopeful.

I keep wondering what this blog is going to become. I ask myself often — is this going to evolve into a blog about my sexual abuse? Am I going to dive into my process of overcoming this trauma in my life? Do I even want that? Do I want to be pigeonholed or categorized as the blogger who writes only about surviving childhood sexual abuse? If I do that, have I lost you? Does my voice only touch the women and men who have suffered the same trauma? If so, then my voice really does risk being lost to so many people. And I’m just not okay with that.

I’m asking you to tolerate being uncomfortable. I’m asking you to hold a space for your feelings that come up as you read this. I’m asking you to simply be here with me. In doing so, I run the risk of closing the door on our human connection. You become “you” and I become “other.” I am in a category many aren’t in. Although statistically speaking, there are a lot of “us” out there. I found it telling that there isn’t a clear number on what the statistics truly are. Each site I found had slightly different numbers which futher attests to how difficult it is for us to get our heads around this subject of sexual abuse. There’s the FUKH8 video that sites 1 out of every 5 women are raped. When I was in grad school years ago the statistics were 1 out of 3 women and 1 out of 5 men. That’s one out of four people. There’s also RAINN which sites that every two minutes an American is sexually assaulted. And many, many others. I encourage you to take a look to see what you find.

The topic of sexual abuse is so freaking uncomfortable, no one wants to talk about it. Not even me. But if I don’t speak then a level of honesty and truth are lost. How can I tell you about the moments when I am awash with fear and sorrow and pain if you don’t know my whole story? Maybe more important, how can I declare that, for all of us, experiencing pain and sadness doesn’t mean that those emotions will sink their claws in and claim us forever? We fear this; we fear that feeling sadness will make us become Sadness. Feelings are a part of our human experience. They aren’t us. So here I am. Declaring.

What it really comes down to for me is a question: Is that my story? And I have to say, no. No, I don’t believe it is. It’s not my story. It’s a part of my story. It’s a part of me. But honestly, I’m so, so much more than my childhood trauma. And what I really want to say to you, what I want to convey to you with my writing, is that we all have our war wounds. We are all survivors of our own journey. Whether it’s a trauma, an illness, a loss, a major disappointment or even a wretched week or day. This is your life. This is your challenge and your gift. All the good and bad make you who you are. We can’t just keep the good pieces. We can’t shut the door on the bad. That’s not living. That’s being afraid. And living life afraid isn’t really living.

Let’s face it, do any of us really make it through this life unscathed? Isn’t that, in fact, a fundamental component of living? That’s the rich stuff. That’s the heart of it all. Feeling the depth and range of our emotions and owning our experiences allows us to become our whole-selves. All of these life lessons —  traumas, stresses, celebrations, victories and loss — are truly a part of who we are as people. We have all survived something. It’s what we do with our stories and the choices we make for ourselves that matter. I’m all about process. I’m about grieving and expression of loss and feelings. But I’m also about choosing to live life now. In the moment. With the grief and the happiness. Live it. Feel it. All of it.

So many times I wonder why I ended up okay. Why am I able to look at myself as a whole person and not just a victim and a survivor? Resiliency? Hope? A belief that there is, for most of us, always a choice? Most of us are inspired by people who overcome adversity and people who work with others to help them heal. People who are brave. I grew up watching the Boston Marathon as a kid with my dad. I used to cry when the women ran past me. We both did. I’d wait to hear the crowd yelling, “The first female is on her way!” “The lead women are almost at the finish!” I’d wait with baited breath and I’d have a rush of exhilaration, of strength, of joy and of hope as they raced past me. Working so damn hard. Exhausted and triumphant at the same time. It was so powerful for me to witness this act of courage and rawness. I think I felt a little bit of that when I viewed those cursing princesses on YouTube.

I remember watching Joan Benoit Samuelson win the Boston Marathon at a time when women were still told they couldn’t run long distances for fear that their uterus would fall out. (Can you even believe that?!) Joan gave me hope. She inspired me beyond measure. She risked going after something people said she couldn’t do. She made me believe that, if an ordinary woman from Maine can win a marathon, win a Gold Medal in the first Women’s Olympic Marathon and change history forever, well then, anything is possible. Anything. And I still believe this. I do. I think that’s what helped me become who I am.

I don’t plan to give you a long-winded drawn-out synopsis of my trauma and my recovery. But my guess is that woven throughout my writing, much like my life, you’ll find pieces of it. As much as I wish it wasn’t a part of me, it is a part of me. I can’t take it away. I can’t wish it away. I can never know who I would have become had I not suffered. Would I have had more opportunities for greatness? Would I have lived a life unencumbered by self-loathing and self-doubt? Maybe. Probably. But perhaps I also wouldn’t have the empathy and compassion I have. Maybe I wouldn’t be the mother and wife and friend I am. Maybe I wouldn’t be writing to you (and me), to tell you to rise up to your one life and stop second guessing, stop self-doubting, stop wondering if you should or shouldn’t. Just embrace your life and your self.

Ironically my daughter asked me this morning if I could rewrite my life, would I? I paused for a minute, surprised that she would ask such a heart-felt question, and then I answered without hesitation, “No. Not one thing. Even the horribleness of my childhood. I’d keep it all. Because without it, I might not have you and your brothers and your daddy. I love you all fiercely and I wouldn’t give that away for anything.” Now don’t confuse that with forgiving. It’s not. It’s just living my whole life.

So folks, this is it. This moment. This day. Now. Get up and love yourself with all of your hang-ups and all of your goodness. All of your happy moments and all of your sorrows. Just live. Deeply. Honestly. With integrity and self-respect. I guess that’s what this blog is about. I am truly trying to be my best self. It’s as good a place to start as any. Live now. Be here now. Dare greatly.

15 replies »

  1. Jess, You inspire me so much. This post made me cry. True, you wouldn’t be who you are today if you didn’t endure what you did. You are incredible and that’s why I love you so!!! Tell me when we can play, coffee, run, both? Big hugs, Alisa P.s. your writing is absolutely beautiful!

    Sent from my iPad

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  2. Wow. I came across your blog from another bloggers page. There was something that drew me to you and now I understand it. I feel like you wrote pieces of my own story right here. The way you question the “how did I turn out ok” and how you embrace the “I wouldn’t change a single thing”. That is me. I am a survivor of many unfortunate events, childhood sexual abuse among them. I’m 33 yrs old with two babies of my own and am finally at a place I have been working to get to my whole life – a place where I finally feel free. Free to talk, shout, laugh, love, cry, live without apologies. In the moment. I am definitely sharing this. I’ll be sharing it on a facebook page that I and a fellow blogger have created to promote an anthology we are working on creating. It’s focus is on parenting as a survivor. From the little bit I have read of your work, I feel like you would be a great fit for the project. I hope that you will check it out. And of course, I will be following along with you from now on. A note from another essay I just read of yours…I fully and truly understand craving that window you talk about, to explore your own interactions with yourself, your kids and others. I am a constant self-barker. lol. Oh and I watched the fkh8 video. Effing loved it. I’m leaving a link to our Fb page. Be sure to check out the about section as it has all the info for submitting an essay if you choose to do so. I’m so happy I “ran in to” you. Much love ~Dawn

    https://www.facebook.com/TriggerPointsAnthology

    p.s. Sorry for the book of a comment!

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    • Wow! Just wow. And Thank you. I’m up in the middle of the night with a cold, unable to sleep and just found your response. What a great thing to wake up to! 🙂 I checked out your FB page and your blog pages and I’m flooded with so many thoughts, tears and honestly, joy and relief. So incredible to see so many strong women out there getting their voices out! I am overcome. What great work you’re doing. Thank you for connecting me to all of you! I can’t stop smiling.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I wouldn’t rewrite a moment of my life either. I really believe that I wouldn’t be who I am if I didn’t go through what I went through. And I really like myself. My cousin told me the other day that it’s really brave of me to write about my sexual abuse and at first the compliment made me uncomfortable. I took it to mean that it was brave to expose my shame to the world. Then she clarified that what she meant is it’s brave to have the confidence to show vulnerability. She admires my confidence and that I’m not so hung up on what people think that I’ll stifle my voice. That’s bravery. I think you’re brave too.

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    • Okay, Karen — you just made me all teary again. Thank you. I love what you wrote. I’m really looking forward to spending time with your blog and getting to know you. I’ve spent a few minutes and I’m excited for more time … when I’m not in after-school-shuffle mode. Be well!

      Liked by 1 person

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