Tag

bravery

Use your voice

And use your voice, every single time, you open up your mouth.

(My Chemical Romance)

One of the most empowering moments of each week is at the beginning of my yoga class. We stand at the top of our mats, with strong legs, rooted down. As we reach up and bring our palms to heart center, our teacher invites us to gaze down or close our eyes. She tells us we are going to open class with the sound of a single ohm, and then she says:

“And as I always remind you: of all the things to fear in this world, do NOT let the sound of your own voice be one of those things.”

That reminder, that statement, sends chills up my spine. It makes me grow a little taller, breathe a little deeper.

I used to fear the sound of my voice. I used to keep opinions and thoughts and worries and fears and dreams and desires and stories to myself. It’s scary and it’s vulnerable to speak, to make noise. It invites in the possibility that we may be quieted, diminished, dismissed, ignored, berated. Amidst those possibilities, it seems safer to wilt and hide from the sun.

The thing is, nobody is every really ready to use their voice. Nobody walks into yoga thinking, “Today I’m ready to chant ohm with my class.” Nobody wakes up thinking, “Today I’m ready to tell the world my story.” If we wait until we’re ready, we will be waiting our entire lives. This is the truth.

So instead, we have to just do it anyway. Sometimes in small whispers and sometimes in loud bellows. Last winter I posted a baby step post, and then I told my stories, and then one day I just said, “It’s time.” And then I wrote it and sent int into the world.

Turns out, using your voice, speaking your truth, doesn’t break you. Quite the opposite, in fact. It sets you free. It connects you with others. It invites in conversation. It helps dispel others’ shame. It sets off a ripple of bravery. It’s all good, wonderful things.

The other day I said to Laura, “Remember when we thought that we would go to the grave with it as a secret? I never, not in a million years, thought I’d be here. But look at me – standing in the sun.”

Using our voice gives us power. It raises us up. Makes us grow. Dispels fear. Washes away shame.

So, maybe you don’t feel ready. It’s okay. Go ahead anyway. Chant that ohm. Tell your story. It will not break you. Stand tall, root down, turn toward that warm sun.

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.

Musings

I’ve started weaving words together, into sentences. I’ve started toying with the idea of it. I’ve started thinking, “This is what I would say if I told my story.” I’ve started thinking what I would include and what I wouldn’t. I’ve started thinking about how the way in which I write it is more important than giving all the details.

Someone said to me, “You’ll get there, you’ll be ready.” I told her, “I AM ready.”

Which made me pause.

What’s stopping me? If I am ready, truly ready, to do this, to say what I feel is necessary, for my own reasons, then why am I not typing it out and pressing “Publish”?

Because of others! Because I don’t want to offend! Because I don’t want to upset! Because I don’t want conflict! Because I don’t want disagreement! Because I don’t want negativity!

Oh.

As the Queen of Feeling Other’s Feelings, and working to step down from the job of Head Security Guard for People’s Well-Being, my fears go something like this:

What if reading it makes someone upset? What if it hurts them? What if someone thinks I should’ve been more or less specific? What if someone I love is disappointed in me for sharing? What if they don’t understand? What if they tell me I shouldn’t have done that?

What I’m reminding myself over and over again in the hopes that it will internalize: People can choose what they read. People can stop reading at any time. People are allowed to have different opinions. People can have different reactions. My job is not to avoid doing what I believe in my heart to be right – but rather to do it, in spite of the fear. This blog is mine – mine. I write for me, above anything else. People don’t have to agree with that. It’s all good.

I have lived my life saying and doing, or not saying and not doing, based on how it would affect others. And I’ve justified that under the umbrella of “I am a considerate person who thinks about others’ feelings, which is what makes me a good human.” But as with anything, it isn’t black and white – it CAN’T be black and white. It’s not obsess over it vs. never think about it. In reality, it’s a middle ground, where you take into account other’s feelings, balance them with your own needs and feelings, and make a decision.

But middle ground is scary. 

Yes. It is. Because it’s vulnerable. And I am striving towards vulnerability. Isn’t this whole blog about vulnerability? A year ago would I have ever dreamed of writing the words, about the topics, that I have today? Would I have ever imagined I’d write candidly about anxiety, depression, grief? Haven’t I relished in the feedback I’ve gotten about it? Haven’t people come out of the woodwork to talk to me about things I’ve written about, to share their own secrets? Haven’t I meant it, truly meant it, when someone has told me that they haven’t read a blog post because it’s too emotional or upsetting and I’ve responded, “That’s okay”?

And this – this back-and-forth, this messy excuse of a blog post – this is reality. This is vulnerability. This is it.

All propelling me forward. To write more, to share more, to tell more.

Because I can’t stand the silence anymore. The fear and the shame and the sadness and the loneliness that so many people are drowning under. I know how that felt, I lived it, and I can’t bear the fact that so many others do, too. I sit in meetings, look around at conferences, and know that of all those faces I see, some are feeling it too. Living in that place.

Each voice that speaks heals a piece of anyone who hears. Chips away a bit at the shame. Erases a bit of the stigma. Glues back a bit of the brokenness. Kindles a bit of bravery.

And so.

It’s almost time. Whatever form it takes. However many words I write. However cryptic it needs to be.

Because one person, or the world – it doesn’t matter which –  is waiting.

It’s Hard to be Human

After my last post, urging you to write, hoping you would, an old and dear friend sent me a message, essentially saying, “I’ve never put myself out there, but after your last post, I was inspired to write.” And so she did. I don’t think there’s a single person out there who will have trouble relating to what she wrote. Her writing is proof that we don’t have to consider ourselves “writers” to be a writer. The way in which she conveys her experiences is so uniquely beautiful.

And so, I give you her heartfelt words.


It’s Hard to be Human (posted anonymously)

I was a psychology major in college. I read the textbooks. I listened to the lectures. I know that humans are incredibly complex and that our cognitions often can’t be explained. We’re controlled by an electrical grid of neural connections that fire this way and that, sending us into overdrive. The same systems that allow us to run, laugh, love, causes us to freeze, cry, hate. I know to avoid catastrophizing and all or nothing thinking, and to calm my anxiety by trying to release the things I can’t change and focus on what I can. I have a loving family who talks openly about our genetic history of anxiety and depression and shares tactics for coping. I have a therapist who listens. So I must be doing well…right? Not quite. Having all the tools doesn’t mean I successfully use them. Having all the tools doesn’t equal relief. Having all the tools doesn’t stop the day to day moments of intense panic, sadness, or inadequacy. The hardest part is that I do consider myself a smart, successful person who is so blessed. Sometimes I remind myself that I am doing my best. I am human. But sometimes I decide that I’m therefore not allowed to be depressed, or feel helpless, or struggle, and that’s not fair. Ups and downs, highs and lows. Frustration turns to anger because any glimpse of a silver lining can become dark in an instant. Happiness can become loneliness. Pride can become self-consciousness. Innocent thoughts can become obsessive thinking. I’m trapped, trying to make sense of it, but the harder I try the more out of control I feel. It’s hard to be human.

How can one person experience different extremes so close together? I don’t understand it, I don’t like it and I resist it. It’s an out of body experience, as if I’m watching helplessly from the sidelines. I’m standing on the set watching a scene. I am the actress and she is me, but I can only watch, not do or say. But I feel her emotions. All of them. The director sets the scene and yells, “action!” and I watch her recite her lines. One with ease, then one with anguish. A back and forth between the positive and the negative, the confidence and the uncertainty. Both equally as strong and equally as real. And I can’t look away. It’s hard to be human.

[Scene] Morning mirror
First: “I love my eyes, I love my hair, I look happy. I look healthy.”
Then: “I hate my body. I am fat. I feel sluggish. I’m not good enough. And I never will be.”

[Scene] Breakfast
First: “I’m so lucky to be able to afford food. This tastes good. Nourishing my body is important.”
Then: “I have to be more restrictive. Less carbs. More nutrients. I’ve been eating too much. I’m going to start binging again. I won’t be able to stop. I have no self control.”

[Scene] Office
First: “That event was amazing because of me. I’m good at my job. I’m reliable. I’m valued. I learned something new today. My company is better because I’m a part of it.”
Then: “I messed up. I failed. I should be doing more. I should be making more money. I’m wasting my time and theirs. I’ll never find my passion.”

[Scene] Gym
First: “I’m so strong. I’m impressed with what my body can do. I feel empowered. I can do anything I set my mind too.”
Then: “I can’t do this. I’m too weak. Everyone else can go farther. I’ll never get my body to where I want it to be.”

[Scene] Cuddling with him
First: “This makes the hard times worth it. I love him. I’m safe in his arms.”
Then: “This only feels good because it’s rare. It won’t last. A fight is coming. I’m unsure. Why can’t this be simple? Maybe it’s my fault.”

[Scene] Phone
First: “I’m glad my best friend is happy. She’s finally found someone who treats her right. Maybe I deserve that too.”
Then: “She has it so much better than me. Why can’t he be that way with me? It’s not fair. She judges me because I’m not as happy. Will I ever have what she has?”

[Scene] Bedtime
First: “I had a good day. My family and friends are happy and healthy. I am grateful.”
Then: “I am not okay. This is too hard. Why am I the one struggling? When will it get better?”

Getting this out may do nothing. Admitting how trapped I feel might not make a difference. But all those psychology textbooks say acknowledgement is a necessary step. So maybe, just maybe, sharing these scenes will allow me to eventually accept the actress as she is, even if I can’t intervene yet. Sometimes she is troubled and sometimes she is content. Sometimes she is soaring and sometimes she is sinking. But she is human, and it’s hard to be human.

Will you write for me?

I’ve posed this question casually on Twitter on on the blog’s Facebook page. But I haven’t put it out, as its own post.

In keeping with the spirit of my last post, I’m thinking about how many people out there have stories that they’re not telling. Out of shame, out of fear, out of embarrassment. Or maybe out of having never been asked. Maybe out of not having the space to do it.

Here is your space.

My space is your space.

Let me hold space for you.

Do you have a story to tell? Do you have something you’d like to say? A sentence, a paragraph, a poem? Do you have an experience that you’ve kept to yourself, because you think you’re the only one living it?

Would you be brave? Would you write something for me? I want to share your stories. I want to share your thoughts. A word, a sentence, a paragraph. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have to be “good”. It doesn’t have to be anything. Whatever it is, is what I want to share.

The idea being – that we all have stories. And we all think we’re the only one with our story. And so it’s time to share them. Because we aren’t alone and it’s enough of thinking we are. It’s enough of feeling shame. It’s enough of feeling constrained.

Nobody has to know it’s you, if you’re not ready.

Share anonymously. Share under a pen name. [If this helps encourage you – there’s a website on which I publish articles under a pen name. Sometimes it helps. Makes it easier to share. If it helps you, do it.] I don’t care. Just share. Write a comment here. Write a comment on Facebook. Tweet at me. Or email me and tell me, Yes, I want to share my thoughts. Post my story. Post my words. Post my experiences. 

It doesn’t matter if I know you now. It doesn’t matter if I knew you then. It doesn’t matter if we talk daily or if we haven’t spoken in years. If you are reading this, and you are thinking, Maybe I have one thing to say – I want to hear it.

There’s no judging, opinion-forming, telling, gossiping.

Just listening. Holding space. Caring. Compassion. Admiration.

The idea being empowerment. The idea being strength. Bravery. Community.

I hope – I really, really, really hope – that following this, I’ll get even one person who shares, even one thing.

Will it be you?

Why I write

I’ve had people ask me (or ask each other), Why does she write? Why does she feel the need to share intimate details of her life? Why does she put such personal information out to the world?

It’s not a rude question. It’s a great one. Especially given that, I still feel butterflies before pressing, “publish” on a blog post. Especially because I still sometimes wonder, What will-so-and-so think of me if they read what I wrote? It’s not easy, and I certainly don’t share everything. But I do what I can, when I can.

So, to the ones who wonder – here is your answer.

I write for a sense of community. I write because I’m not alone, and neither are you. I write because even though I am a very uniquely created individual – I am not the only one who has the thoughts and feelings and experiences that I do. I write because you, and you, and you are all out there, reading. I write because someone has to. I write because I have to. I write because when I keep things in, they turn into a sticky tar, rendering me sluggish. They turn into hot bolts of fire, paining me. They turn into ice, paralyzing me. I write to keep myself light and moving.

We live in a world, where, although improving, people tend to keep things quiet. There used to be – and still is, in so many ways – shame about sharing things. So much was/is expected to be kept quiet and dealt with alone. Only recently has a shift started. People speaking out about mental health struggles. Drug and alcohol abuse. Sexual assault experiences. Relationship struggles. Many people are sharing – yet many are still quiet. Usually out of fear. Out of shame.

Many are still sitting there, thinking,

I’m the only one in my life who struggles with alcohol.

Nobody else would understand my struggle with depression. 

I carry so much shame about having been raped. Nobody would get it.

She wouldn’t understand my struggles with food and my body. She’s completely confident about hers.

Everyone’s marriage seems perfect. Why is mine in such a bad place? 

Everyone else seems fine. It must just be me.

Let me tell you: everyone else is not fine. They are just faking it, day in and day out, like you are. And they are sitting there, quietly, like you are. And so maybe you’re walking past each other on a daily basis, but neither of you have any idea.

I can’t tell you how comforting it is to read a blog post, or article, or story, or memoir, about someone who gets the experiences I’ve had, the thoughts I’ve thought, the emotions I’ve felt. It’s akin to a hand reaching out and grabbing yours; a blanket safely covering you up; a gaze holding yours.

And so – if I can do that for someone, I will. And I have. So many people have come out of the woodwork – old neighbors, elementary school classmates, co-workers, relatives. People who have all said, in one way or another, You are writing my story. You get me. It’s such a relief for someone to get me. 

And maybe then, they will write, or share, or speak up (and some of them have) – and they will feel empowered, and freed, and light. And then the ones they share with will feel that same feeling. And then they will share. And they will know they aren’t alone. And they will find that hand to hold. And, do you see what we’re accomplishing here?

Community. Together. Bonded. No shame. Not alone. Not just you.

So, that. That is why I write.

Why do you?

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