Posts Tagged ‘stay soft’

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It’s not typically my nature to try and throw myself into the middle of a very heated, very volatile topic such as this one, but based on conversations I’ve had over the last couple of days, I truly feel the need to speak up here. Whether anyone chooses to hear what I have to say or not is completely up to them.

For the sake of context, I was raised in Canada. I was raised in a community that was basically colorblind. I was raised in a virtual multicultural mosaic. I was taught that ethnicity did not define a person; action did. Composure did. Character did. In 2012, I moved to Texas. While the social values may be different down here, mine are not. I am still the same person I was. I still judge people based on what they do and what they say, not on how they look or who they love.

Furthermore, I must also point out, again for the sake of context, that I am white. I am a pretty average North American. I’m not privileged. I live in what some would call a ghetto on the road to recovery. I interact with all manner of people on a daily basis.

In July 2013, I was the victim of a violent crime. I was kidnapped, raped and beaten. Following those 4 days I spent in hell, it took me seven weeks to file a police report. I systematically went to six different police agencies with my case, photographs of my injuries, copies of the medical records from when I took myself to the ER, as well as a clear paper trail and pictures identifying my assailant. In the first two weeks of this effort, you could still clearly see the trauma on my body. My face was bruised, I had burns on my neck and finger print bruising on my bicep. Those are just the marks that were visible at a glance. There was significantly more marks of my trauma covered by my clothing. But again, I had photographs of them all. Five independent police agencies basically told me “Not my jurisdiction, not my problem, sorry about your luck.” One officer did his due diligence and made the effort to at least provide me with GPS coordinates to take with me to the next agency. The rest of them couldn’t be bothered with the prospect of paperwork that wasn’t even in their jurisdiction for sure.

At the end of the seven weeks, and at the sixth law enforcement agency, I finally got a police report filed. The deputy was really kind to me, and praised the effort I went to to assemble what appeared to be a solid case. He said that I had made his job too easy. I felt relief, and cautious optimism that I would see some semblance of justice. A couple of months after that, I found out that my assailant had been picked up in a neighboring county and was being held on charges separate from mine. I thought that a little strange, but was just relieved to know he was off the street.

Fast forward another 3 months, into spring 2014. I was subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury in the county that had filed my police report to testify against my assailant. I didn’t know what to expect, but was once again feeling a sense of relief that maybe now was the time for justice. Maybe now was the time for someone to say that what had been done to me was not okay. How wrong I was.

I appeared before the grand jury, as per my subpoena. I was dressed professionally, and though nervous, I did my best to answer their questions. I had sustained a head injury in my trauma, and a lot of the specific details were blurry, but it wasn’t those details they seemed interested in anyway. These people attacked me. They spoke to me as if I was the criminal. They asked me things like ‘why didn’t you call out for help?’ ‘why didn’t any of the officers you spoke to ask for your financial records?’ ‘why didn’t you run away?’ These are all ridiculous questions. When a man twice your size has a weapon on you, and is threatening people you love, and takes you places away from where you are familiar, your survival depends on not doing anything to further antagonize him. Furthermore, how would I know why the police didn’t ask for my records? If memory serves, I am not the detective. I am not the one trained to build cases against bad guys. I realize it is the prosecutor’s job to find holes in the case that the defense could take advantage of, but nevertheless. I left that hearing feeling like I had once again been violated. I felt like these people were angry at me, and blaming me for what had been done to me. I was hysterical, and in tears. Surprisingly, or really not so much after what I had endured, I called up to the court house the following day to find out that the grand jury had no billed the charges of Aggravated Kidnapping and Aggravated Sexual Assault, citing insufficient evidence to proceed to trial. I was distraught as I could be. Ultimately though, my assailant ended up in federal prison on unrelated charges, and will not be a threat to me until fall 2017. While it isn’t justice, at least it’s something.

You might be asking yourself why I bring this up now. What does this have to do with current events? It has everything to do with current events. My point is, I’m tired of seeing the race card used constantly. I’m tired of minorities segregating themselves and then getting angry that they are segregated. I don’t have a racist bone in my body, so please don’t jump to that conclusion. As I said before, I am colorblind.

The moral of my story overall, however, is this: the justice system is fractured and broken. It is thoroughly, completely and totally screwed up. I’m a young white female and I was dropped through the cracks of justice the exact same way Brown was. People choose to see prejudice everywhere, and choose to use it to justify their actions. There is no context in which that is acceptable. If we are truly going to progress as a nation, everyone has got to stop pointing fingers, drawing lines, and playing the blame game. We are all at the mercy of the law that governs us all. That law is completely and totally twisted from what it was originally intended to be. We have a far better chance of changing that, of fixing that, by standing united in a cause than we do of lashing out and acting so shamefully as to riot and loot. Is that any way to honor that young man’s memory? Is that any way to honor his family? Surely not. That kind of behavior will bring about change, but it is not the progressive change this country, the system, and the people need. It will bring about regressive, backwards change.

I don’t know about any of you, but I have no desire to go backwards, potentially to a time mirroring some of those shameful marks on world history. I have no desire to live in an ugly world fitting ugly statistics. I have no desire to be an element of a statistic. Surely I am not alone in this.

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It’s come to my attention throughout my journey of being shattered and then gradually putting my pieces back together and reintegrating into the world as it is that more people than not undergo struggles of this nature. Sure, the details vary widely but generally speaking, there is not a single person I know of that hasn’t endured an event that has forced them to completely adapt themselves or alter their thinking.
One of the prevalent themes in this seemingly universal phenomena is change. Change, in and of itself, can carry both negative and positive connotations, and some people are more adept at acclimating to it than others but generally speaking, I believe human beings are fundamentally creatures of habit. We thrive with structure. Positive, personal changes rarely occur outside of a carefully structured and applied plan. The negative changes are the ones that are more apt to blindside us when we absolutely don’t expect it. It is in those moments that our coping skills and sense of perseverance are tested.

I’ve been told by many that I am remarkable for what I have accomplished this last 18 months, and I suppose in some ways, that is true. At the same time though, it never really occurred to me that it could be any different. No, the things that befell me and events in my life were absolutely not planned… who has a continuity plan for that sort of thing, after all? No one I know. I guess where I differ from others is my adaptability. I was pretty accustomed to dealing with more mundane curve balls on a fairly regular basis. After all, that’s life. I had my moments throughout all of this where I felt completely crushed under the weight of it, and definitely at a loss of where to even begin to start rebuilding. I am fortunate in that I have amazing family and husband who love me unconditionally. Without their support, there’s not much telling where I would be today.

Those who know me will have heard me say on more than one occasion that perspective is everything. When a situation is less than desirable, some people are content to play the victim and ride that horse into the ground. I’m not one of those people. I couldn’t stand the way people looked at me with pity. I know rationally they meant no harm by it, that they truly regretted my situation and just didn’t know how to deal with it. But emotionally it killed me because every sympathetic stare and gasp seemed like it re-carved that title of Victim into my forehead. In hindsight maybe that’s where my motivation to be okay came from. I wanted to be seen as normal, or at the very least indifferently. I would take praise too.. just not pity.

That realization is what led me to structure one of those carefully laid plans of action to bring about change that I mentioned earlier. Achievement and accomplishment have never been foreign to me… I am no stranger to working for what I want. That realization was empowering. Sure, I started from lower than in my previous experience, but hey, the same formula was applicable.

I guess my overall point is this: change happens to all of us. It is normal to experience feelings that aren’t necessarily familiar as a result of whatever variables in your life have changed. It doesn’t have to be an ugly thing. Take the time to understand what you’re feeling and why. From there, you can establish a clinical perspective of your state of mind and then you’re just a few short steps away from formulating your plan of action to get from where you are to where you want to be. If I can do it, anyone can. Perspective is everything. Take control of yours.

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I’ve got some time before my appointment and have been in my head a lot this weekend so I’ve got some more thoughts for that jar.

The foremost thought on my mind is accomplishment. I feel like I have a lot of little successes recently. I’m doing well in college, which means the world to me, not because I would feel like a failure otherwise but because it is another indicator that I’m not broken. I have struggled a lot with short-term memory issues in the wake of my assault last year. He caused a cortical contusion of the frontal lobe. He made my brain bleed. It was explained to me as shaken baby syndrome, just as an adult. The fact that I can still not only perform, but also perform well, in an academic setting is a huge victory for me. I am incredibly grateful for it.

The next big event… I attended Comic Con this past weekend. I was very apprehensive at first because I have a hard time even going to the grocery store. I experience high anxiety in public places, especially ones with open space and lots of people. I went to the Con with my cousins and felt little to no anxiety the whole day. It was amazing. I didn’t feel singled out or even the slightest bit threatened. That really bodes well for me. I don’t think I’m ready to try something similar by myself just yet, but it is most certainly a victory.

Aside from those happy things, I’ve spent more time thinking about my husband. I’ve been a little stressed lately as his parole hearing draws closer. I don’t sleep very well at all. If they grant him parole, he will go into federal custody and hopefully serve his 12-14 months in a facility MUCH closer to home. Furthermore, with the feds, he will actually have a set in stone release date. I’m beside myself just thinking about it. That in and of itself would make life exponentially sweeter. I would have a tangible date to look forward to, as well as a date with which I can really start putting effort into making arrangements for work when he comes home. I feel like it is a figurative light at the end of this long, dark tunnel. I long for it.

 

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Ever since I’ve known him, he has had this uncanny ability to calm my anxiety. I was anxious before this nightmare started, but not when he was nearby. The prospect of him coming back home to me and restoring the sense of peace and security that left when he did is almost enough to bring me to tears. We have both more than paid his debt to society, in so many ways. Any prayers and affirmative wishes for the parole board’s decision are most certainly appreciated.

It’s funny how losing so much can make you realize how much it all means to you. I mean, I’m sure some turn bitter rather than grateful… I’m not bitter though. Not completely anyway. There are some elements of this nightmare that will very likely be an outrage until the day they put me in the ground. For the most part, though… I am grateful that he and I are alive, that we are sober, and that eventually we will get a shot at the future we dream of.

Silver linings are truly in everything. It just takes a keen and hopeful eye to see them. Take it from me: it’s worth it. Every last pain is worth the joy that comes from seeing the upsides and from holding onto the positive. I think that is really the only way to stay soft in a world designed to make us hard. If I could give just one piece of advice, that would be it. Stay soft. Seek the silver linings, despite how well hidden they seem to be.

 

You know, I think it’s kind of funny how a song, or a scent, or a movie/book title or cover, or really anything can spark a memory and take you so vividly back to a place and time long since past. It’s really an amazing phenomenon, how we create these associations with otherwise mundane things. It can be something positive or it can be awful. I’ve experienced both myself, but more so the latter in recent days. It’s referred to as a trigger in the negative context. It happened to me a few weeks ago when someone randomly squeezed off four shots on a Sunday night around midnight. My dogs stayed close by me and didn’t react how I would have expected them to. That was a long, restless night that led into a long, anxiety filled day. It was the absolute worst. I thought I was going to have a heart attack. My pulse kept quickening and dropping again for no apparent reason. It wasn’t a good day, but I survived. Today, on the other hand, I blessedly got to experience the flip side of this phenomenon. A song I hadn’t heard in ages came on, and it was a genre of music I’ve never followed adamantly myself. Before I even recognized the song, I was taken back to September of 2011, when I visited a dear friend outside of Houston, Texas. On our way home from the McDonald’s drive thru and that very song came on and he serenaded me; made me feel beautiful, made me feel wanted. There was always potential for us to have been great, but we were so different. We were at different places in our lives and it wasn’t meant to be. We parted on good terms, and I have nothing but fond memories of my time with him. I feel very fortunate that I can still experience these little gems of pure happiness from the past, since my more recent past is so polluted with ugly, awful things. It also helps reassure me that I’m not broken. The head injury I sustained has consistently altered the reliability of my short-term memory and it has been an obstacle in and of itself. My grey matter is still functioning though, and clearly is adamant about reminding me of that fact every now and then. (:

Here’s to the past. May it ever be a firm but nurturing teacher to prepare us for the future.

 

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I like how it’s becoming a trend for me to arrive early to counseling and finding time to post here. How very fortuitous for me.

I’ve always known that I’m a hyper-emotional person. I feel my emotions in high def 1080p, both good and bad. I have long since accepted it for what it is and have adjusted accordingly. This last couple of weeks have brought my thoughts to this topic more than once though, in both positive and negative ways.

I suppose to begin with I was feeling pretty heavy last week because I hadn’t heard from my husband in a while and I was missing him, for many reasons. At the forefront of that was my ‘homework’ assignment from my counselor for last Thursday’s session (which ended up being canceled.) She asked me to write a letter to my assailant for her, to give her an opportunity to see into my feelings on the matter. She instructed me to wait until Wednesday evening or Thursday afternoon to write it, so that I wouldn’t have to suffer in the mindset all week long. This made sense to me because I have excellent coping skills in place. I don’t have time to fall apart, so the less time I spent on the thought process, the better. Unfortunately that is a good idea in theory only. The prospect of completing the task loomed over me basically the entire week. Just the idea of performing the task caused me a great deal more anxiety than I had anticipated. I was in a pretty somber mood all week long. Naturally, no mail from my husband, my best friend, my soulmate, definitely didn’t help matters.

Thursday afternoon, I dutifully put pen to paper on my lunch break and wrote the letter. I was a great deal angrier than I’d realized, and managed to scribble down three pages before I felt sufficiently vented. Within an hour or so before I was due to leave the office for my appointment, my counselor canceled. She offered to reschedule apologetically but being as busy as I am, I opted to wait until this Thursday, so I wouldn’t have to reshuffle my days. I strive to keep a very organized schedule. (Possibly yet another of my myriad of coping skills… control thing? I feel like I am very together when I have plans in place. Who knows?)

I left at the same time anyway, feeling pretty loaded down with the anger brought to the surface by the letter. I stewed in it some. I cleaned my home repeatedly, cooked as usual but opted to treat myself more than I usually would.. I have the mother of all sweet teeth. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I comfort eat… since moving to Texas, I’ve shed more than 100 lbs and am proud of that fact. I recognize the dangers of comfort eating in regards to keeping that weight off. I don’t deny myself little treats now and then though. I always found that I would eat more if I denied myself and then broke under the inward facing resentment. So I never deny myself. Anyway, I made it through the remainder of the week and got to visit my husband on Saturday. That was nice, but brought up a few unrelated stresses, which I promptly vented in inmate mail on Sunday. I learned on Saturday that he had written the letter I’d requested and put it in the mail Wednesday or Thursday and that it should be arriving any day now. I was hopeful it would be waiting for me when I got home Saturday – not so. That fouled my mood further. The letter I wrote Sunday definitely reflected the discontented nature of my mood.. it’s fortunate he knows me as well as he does. I’m sure it would be a great deal more distressing otherwise.

Well, here comes Monday… back to the grind and as stressful as work is sometimes, I’m still grateful for it. Performing my duties keeps me out of my head and keeps me busy. Time passes much more quickly and productively when I’m working. At quitting time on Monday, I hurry home, thinking the letter MUST be there today, surely. Not so. I almost fall apart this time. I cry for the first time in months. And really it’s silly. I just saw him Saturday. It’s really a very little thing. I’m so ate up by my mood and emotions though that it may as well be the end of the world.

I struggle through the work day Tuesday, in an awful mood and just generally displeased with the world. I head home at the end of the day and try not to be too hopeful about the letter, my reasoning being that if I don’t get my hopes up, I won’t be so upset if it isn’t there. Well apparently that worked. There was my inmate mail waiting for me when I got home. I was elated.. almost walking on sunshine. Scrawled across the front of the envelope in an unfamiliar hand was a note that said it had been delivered to the wrong address and to please redeliver. Now in my mood the previous week, I would have been all hellfire and brimstone over the screw up by the postman, as naturally I checked the address and my husband hadn’t erred. But instead all I felt was an overwhelming sense of gratitude to the accidental recipient of my letter for taking the time to write this and then put it back into the mail. I’d probably hug this person if I knew who they were.

Isn’t it funny how such little things can mean everything? That little gesture of selflessness by the hand of a stranger helped to completely alleviate my funk. Don’t get me wrong… my anger and general stress brought on by various aspects of life is still here. I still carry it. But it’s not a defining factor in who I am right now. It’s just something I do… not who I am. Moments like these where I am in tune with these little gems also make me feel like I really have it together. If that makes me crazy, so be it. I’m crazy. I’ll graciously accept that title and many others provided I keep getting to (and more importantly, remembering to) celebrate these little victories.

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Rewind now, ohhh 13 years.

I’m a 12 year-old child, only just coming into my love for video games and technology. It’s the time of the 56k modems and, fortunately, I hadn’t yet developed my fixation on MMOs (thanks for that, by the way, Blizzard.)

There is turbulence in my home. A lot is going on that I don’t understand, but I know that my parents are at odds.

A lot of things transpired but that’s not what this story is about. What matters is this: so many people dismiss the problems of a child as insignificant. I was struggling with a lot, because I hadn’t altogether developed coping skills yet. I was an angry tween. Most just concluded I was just acting out.

The Internet became my retreat. No one judged me or dismissed me there. I had real friends online, even if I had never met them face-to-face. I frequented several chat rooms as well as online games. These were my safe places.

In one such chat room, I met a Dragon. He was always kind to me, and listened to my stressors. He never dismissed my issues as insignificant. He was never rude or untoward, and I naturally clung to him for dear life.

The highlight of my days was coming home from school to see if he was online. Eventually, once we moved into the time of cable internet, he would leave his webcam on even if he was at work, so that I could look at his fish tank while I did my home work. I had pictures of my Dragon in my locker in school. I was beyond infatuated with him, all because he was kind to me, patient with me. He was a dose of stability in an otherwise tumultuous existence.

He had helped me cope with the most trying events in my life to date and that’s what I remember most when I think about those times and about him. As time passed, we both got older of course and life happened. He moved to the city and I was a teenage girl, making my own fair share of mistakes and learning life lessons. I had assumed that he had settled down and had moved on with his life. I held no hard feelings. In my mind, he had given me the gift of my life. There was no tainting that.

I went through my fair share of long-term relationships. I skipped the dating game and just committed to each as they came along, then cut and run when the nose dive became inevitable.

In March of 2011, I broke off the last of those doomed relationships. It was at that point that I realized I had spent virtually my entire post-puberty life as part of a pair and didn’t really know how to function as just me. So I plunged into the dating game, determined to learn how to not only exist, but also to function & thrive as a single, solitary unit. I spent some time with a friend I had met on WoW near Houston, TX. We were absolutely not at the same place in our lives though, so it would never be meant to be. Following that, I dated locally in the Ottawa area and met all kinds of interesting people. I was learning how to socialize. It was an invaluable period in my life.

Skip forward to February 2012. I recall that my father, sister & I were cruising around working on a photography school assignment for my niece. It was lots of fun! I was driving, so I didn’t pay a whole lot of mind to the Facebook notification I had received from someone by the same name as one of my bosses at work.

It wasn’t until much later that evening, seated at my desk at work, that I actually looked into my updates. I pulled up the profile, wondering why the boss man had created a duplicate profile, when it hit me. The location of this 2nd profile matched that of my Dragon. I was somewhere between shocked and elated. It had been years (a good 7 or 8) since I’d heard from him. I was awestruck; dumbfounded.

I added him and we got to talking. We discussed what had happened in the time since we had last been in touch. Turns out my theories had only been half right. He’d moved to the city and had settled somewhat with a girl, but the vast majority of those years had been spent in incarceration. He had gotten into some legal trouble over drugs. I was sad to hear it, and honestly a bit surprised since he had protected me from the darker side of his life the whole time I had known him.

It didn’t take long for me to decide I needed to visit him. I wanted to be supportive of him as he readjusted to life in the free world as he had been so supportive of me through the trials & tribulations of my youth.

I bought a plane ticket and flew into DFW in the third week of March. The time between making the decision and the actual trip seemed to crawl. But finally it had arrived!! I was an anxious ball of nerves for sure. I knew already how I had felt about him before, but had no expectations. I was making the trip as a friend and would not place undue pressure on him. That was not what he needed, after all.

He met me at the airport. If memory serves, I was wearing purple. He was wearing red & blue jeans. I was so shy but giddy as I could be.

After going through the motions & collecting my bags, I headed out the prearranged door. He was leaning right up against the railing just outside the door, so still and quiet that I walked right past him. He texted me and told me to turn around. I do & he’s shaking his head, laughing in a good natured manner. We are both a little shy but it isn’t an uncomfortable silence. He takes my luggage and leads the way to the car, where grandmother is waiting.

It was an hour or more drive back to the house. My Dragon & I sat in the back seat, chattering a little and… Holding hands. I felt like a grade school girl all over. I had dreamed of this all through my youth and finally, here I was with the man who, in his youth, had been a pillar of strength and kindness to a wayward little girl. It is my firm belief that I would have turned out much differently had it not been for him.

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I had made an opportunity to begin to repay the kindness that had been so pivotal in my life. I felt (and still feel) that I would never be able to repay it in full. How do you properly compensate someone who has granted you your life?

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I spent 12 days there. They were amazing. We talked a lot, and after some time, we loved a lot too. We just seemed to synchronize with one another. It was surreal how well we just… Clicked. I felt like he not only belonged in my life, but like he had always been there. I felt a sense of calm and ease that I had never before experienced. Those who know me understand how anxious I am, how prone to worry I am and just general high strung I am. It was like he stunted all of that. Like he muted or muffled it. His very presence created a sense of calm and general contentment the likes of which I had never known. I was acutely aware before much time passed that the feelings I’d had for him in my youth were not only still there, but were so much stronger following the life experiences between now and then.

I told him of my desire to move back south, to spend some quality time with this side of my family before I missed everything. My nieces & nephew, all of my father’s side of the family and of course my big sister, were all down here and I wanted life with them. I also (seemingly jokingly) informed him that, should I manage to make my way down here, that he’d best watch out, as I would most certainly chase him. He was laying on the bed on his back, hands laced together behind his head, when I shared this last bit of info with him. I was sitting cross-legged on his right side, next to his hip. He made a dramatic show of considering it for a log moment, grinned, and so informed me that he just *might* let me. I giggled, thanked him for his benevolence & leaned over to kiss him.

During my stay, I met most of his family and we spent some time on the family farm as well as helped paint his mother’s new home. Relatively normal affairs, and not particularly eventful, but it was good. It was true and it wad comfortable.

Towards the end of my trip, I attended the orientation for his federal probation with him. I became as well versed in the conditions of his freedom as he was. I remember when he had asked his PO (who, by the way, ran a background check on me prior to allowing me to visit) if I could attend, the man told him that it was really intended for someone a little more permanently affixed in the life of the parolee. My Dragon smiled and told him he hold I would be.

Like all good things, the end came too soon. April 2nd was the date of my return flight. Grandmother took us for lunch at The Cotton Patch. On our way out for lunch, Jeff clipped a perfect wild rose out of the garden & gave it to me.

 

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Such a simple thing, and yet it was everything. I wore it behind my ear all day, until we arrived at the airport. He unloaded my luggage for me, and I bawled. I felt like I had only just got him back in my life. Leaving felt so unjust, so cruel.

After I arrived back home, I virtually had a phone glued to my ear. If we were both awake, we were on the phone. Period. He observed in that first week apart how profoundly silent it was without me there. I truly believe he missed me every bit as much as I missed him.

One day, during one of my morning rituals following a shift, I was cooking breakfast. My sister was working on homework and my Dragon, of course, was whispering in my ear. I don’t readily recall the topic of conversation, but it was light hearted. Context be damned, my Dragon told me “Well he may not know much, but he knows he sure loves you.” I paused, my jaw dropped & I swallowed the urge to giggle like a school girl. He was silent, like he had surprised himself as well. I asked him, in as level a voice as possible, to repeat himself. He refused of course, acting all embarrassed. I finally took mercy on him & shared the sentiment. I knew full well I had loved him since before I knew what love was. To hear him say the words to me… Oh, I was soaring so high with no descent in sight.

I knew then that I had to get back to him. The following few weeks were filled to the brim with overtime. I worked as much and as often as I could. The first week of May, I submitted my resignation notice. And of course, that brings us full circle back to May 15th, the day my whole life would change and the very purpose for my existence came within reach.

I knew love, and nothing would ever keep him from me again.

Or so I had believed, with every fiber of my being. I was wrong. I was so, so wrong.