October 2016

When being different is so hard

I had a conversation with an 11-year-old last week that I can’t stop thinking about. It tugged at my heartstrings because while my story wasn’t her story, I just so get her and I get it.

The minute we sat down together that day, she immediately said, “I’m like a multi-sided die. There are so many parts to me and I’m still trying to figure it all out.”

She happens to be one of the most introspective, super awesome girls I know. She’s brilliant, with an IQ that likely surpasses mine. She’s hilarious. She’s socially awkward. She has trouble in school. She has ADHD. She’s awesome.

She proceeded to tell me about all of the different parts of her – the nerdy part, the quirky part, the studious part, the part who likes art. “And there’s probably a lot more parts that I’m trying to figure out still,” she added.

We got down to work, but later on, seemingly out of the blue, she blurted, “I’m an odd duck. Strange. Peculiar.”

“What makes you think that?” I asked her.

“Because I’m not normal. Because I’m weird. And I have ADHD.”

“That doesn’t mean you’re strange or peculiar,” I responded.

She rolled her eyes. “All adults say that. They say I’m special and unique. But special is just a word they use to mean ‘different’ and unique just means ‘not like anyone else’. It’s just sugar-coating.”

I paused. “I wasn’t going to say that, actually.” I told her. “I was going to say that having ADHD wouldn’t make you strange or peculiar. It’s just a thing. Everyone has things.”

“No they don’t,” she slumped in her seat. “Everyone else is normal.”

I know. I so know exactly how she feels. Think. How would I have wanted an adult to respond to me? 

I took a breath. “Here’s the thing. And you have to trust me on this because I’ve been there. Okay? As you grow up you’ll realize that everyone has something. Everyone HAD something. You just might not know it right now.”

She slid a sideways glance at me. “Because it’s inside. Not on the outside.”


She thought about it for a minute.

“I wish I had x-ray vision so I could see what everyone else has…”

“I don’t blame you,” I told her. “That would make it a lot easier.”

“….but, then I’d be a cheater when I play Battleship.” she finished.

Excellent point, my little friend.

In a week and a half

A week and a half ago (is that all it’s been?) the Trump tape came out. The next few days I was filled with anger. We took to social media, I mainly lived on Twitter, and we expressed our outrage and disgust. The debate followed and more anger followed. Everyone knows this story. This is nothing new.

And then this past week I still felt angry and fired up. But Friday night, I deflated. Maybe I just am not meant to be angry for so long. Maybe it was bound to happen no matter what. Maybe a balloon can only get so big before it’s bound to pop.

And I lost it. Not in a crazy way. Not in a meltdown way. But anger turned to tears and I cried. And periodically this weekend, my heart has felt heavy.

It’s great – truly – that this tape, and its results have inspired thousands of women to share their stories. Check the Twitter threads #whywomendontreport and #iamasurvivor. Look at what Kelly Oxford started, simply by inviting women to share their stories. People started talking and sharing stories that maybe they had never shared before. People are connecting and talking. And maybe, as a friend suggested, this is the beginning of a revolution.

But that doesn’t change that there are still so, so many girls and women that are in pain and hurting and I just want to hug them all. And where it gets me the most? That we can all share our stories, I can scream my stories from the rooftops over and over again – but girls are going to continue to be assaulted. People are going to continue to be abused. In talking, we’re collectively healing, but we’re not stopping the problem.

There’s so much that I want to DO. And I don’t know how to do it. I want to work on laws and policies around rape and assault. I want to end the backlog. I want to create more online support, particularly for children and adolescents who are too afraid or unable to tell their story to an adult in person – but with the advent of technology would seek out support online. I want to tell my story over and over again to anyone who wants to hear. I want to listen to anyone who needs to tell theirs. (Because if statistics are accurate – which they are, they’re statistics – there are a lot of people out there with stories.)

I am sick of people referring to someone sharing their story as “personal”. “She keeps sharing so much personal information,” or “Why is she telling the world about that – it’s personal.” Must I scream it until my throat is raw – it’s not personal. Nothing about it is personal. The events (which were crimes. Don’t lose sight of that.), the shame, the guilt, the fear – we made them ours, but they were never supposed to be ours. We don’t have to carry it anymore. It’s not personal. It had nothing to do with us.

The thing is, I don’t know what I can do or how to do it. But tonight, I can write. And it’s not new, and it’s not eloquent, and it’s not brilliant. And so be it.

Speaking is healing

Last year, our brave little elf girl destroyed a spiderweb that had her stuck in captivity. Patiently, she cleared the web, taking rest and nourishing herself more than ever. She was eventually freed from the web and had her garden back.

But deep inside of her she held a truth that she didn’t think many others realized: Just because she got rid of the spider web didn’t mean she wasn’t still afraid of spiders.

Oh, she still felt freer than she had in years. She worked in her garden, played with the fairy sprites by the river, and drank lemon drop tea in her hammock.

And she was still afraid of spiders.

Her friends were kind.

“The spider scared you so many years ago,” the water nymph told her. “Why are you still afraid?”

“You’re older now. You know that most spiders aren’t harmful,” the garden gnome added. “Don’t you know that?”

They didn’t speak unkindly. They just didn’t understand, and they could only see things the way that they saw them. That a spider from many, many years ago, is one spider. All of the other wonderful spiders who lived in their land didn’t go around scaring elves, and so, why should the elf  worry about it anymore?

Once a year, on chore rotation, the elf had the job “feeding the spiders.” This chore only came into rotation every year or so; but every year, she dreaded it. She took elixers before and after, to calm her beating heart as she did what she had to do. She didn’t tell the Elder Elf about her fears. She didn’t want to talk about it, and she didn’t want to seem weak. She preferred to just silently push through, though it meant days of recovery afterward.

But one beautiful Fall day, she walked to work with the sun beating down through the rainbow-colored leaves. When she got there, she saw that her assignment that day was feeding the spiders. She felt her heart start to beat out of its chest. She put a big smile on her face as she nodded and smiled, and walked out to where the spiders were eagerly awaiting their meal. But something shifted. Maybe it was the magenta streak in the sky. Maybe it was the glitter shimmering down from the trees. And so rather than quickly taking 3 elixers, and silently taking the food and getting the job done as fast as possible, only to need days to recover from her fear, she stopped. She looked at the Elder Elf who oversaw her job, and she spoke.

“I must tell you something, Elder. I become fearful with this job.”

The Elder Elf smiled, kindly, and replied, “I don’t think it’s many elves’ favorites. They’d prefer trimming the mint bushes, or harvesting the dragonberry fruit, or playing with the unicorns.”

But the elf pushed on. “Yes. I know. But I’m afraid of spiders. You see, when I was little, one hurt me. And then I got tangled in its web, for a long time. And so when I am around them, I remember. And I become afraid.”

The Elder Elf looked her deep in the eye, and beckoned. “Come, child. We will feed them together.”

And they did.

Walking home that evening, the elf thought back over her day. She had worked with the spiders and yet wasn’t still thinking about them. She wasn’t remembering being scared. She wasn’t feeling the fear in her chest. And she didn’t think she’d need any elixers to recover. In fact, she felt like it had just been a regular day. She thought about the moonbeam lily soup she would make for dinner. She felt…fine.

Could it be, she thought to her herself, that words are as powerful as elixers? Could it be that by speaking my fear, my fear was released? Could it be that by telling the Elder Elf of my fears, it made them more manageable?

And as she paused, and looked up into a sky filled with fireflies, she knew the answer was, yes.

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