Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My husband's grandmother died this week, and it's been sad. She was an important part of our family. I wish I had learned more from her about my husband's ancestry, needlework, and how to be completely, authentically kind. I promised on her obituary guestbook to always look out for her family. I love them so much, and I'm so thankful to have them here.

I attended the first session of an 8-week mindfulness counseling group last night. I was so excited to find a therapist in the area that specializes in mindfulness. It's got so many similarities to cognitive-behavioral therapy, but I really wanted to work with someone who studies mindfulness practices from various sources. I want some counseling with a little injection of spirituality right now. I have gone to counseling several times but rarely stuck with anything for more than a few months. I like that this group only lasts for eight weeks.

Membership in this temporary group involves making a commitment to practice mindfulness for at least five minutes daily, preferably using seated meditation. I can commit to five minutes. My meditation practice has been dwindling for over a year now. I feel nervous about failing at this commitment, but oh well. If I fail and miss a day here and there, it won't kill anyone. As my tendencies to criticize and dehumanize myself are reduced, my desire to do these good things for myself will increase.

I'm grocery planning for next week. I ordered flowers for Memaw's funeral. I am moving. I am flowing. Life is going to take me on a wild course over the next few years, and I am ready to ride.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Just Need to Write...

I'm attempting to break a pretty bad habit that I've been carrying for about fifteen years... half of my life. And I hate to be cryptic, but I have to be right now. Don't stress; there's nothing exciting or scandalous involved. I just want to keep this part of my life private. I think I've always loved my secrets... but that doesn't really contribute to my authenticity. It's time to let this secret go. And while I go through the separation anxiety, I must write.

I powerwalked my first solo 5K yesterday! I've done a few races with friends, but was eager to see what kind of time I would make if left to my own motivation and pace. I figured that as long as I kept walking and didn't outright stop, I would finish in less than an hour. I hoped to finish in less than fifty minutes. I ended up with a time between 42 and 43 minutes! I jogged a few stretches and really enjoyed myself. It shouldn't be too difficult to do some training and get my time under forty minutes before the end of this summer. I read a fantastic article last week about how to maintain motivation after losing weight, rather than getting frustrated at the inevitable plateaus and reverting back to old behaviors or habits. It's helpful to shift your focus away from goals like, "I want to drop a dress size," or, "I want to lose five more pounds," and begin to aim for fitness-specific goals like doing a pull-up or speed and distance improvements. I'm still pushing to finish a rotation of ChaLean Extreme, but afterwards I'd like to do some distance training and heavy lifting a few days per week.

ATMOSPHERE IS TOURING THIS SUMMER!!! I got two tickets for their show at Pocahontas State Park, since husband wants to come too. I've always wanted to see an outdoor Atmosphere concert, so this should be a treat. I'm not sure that alcohol will be allowed since it's a VA State Park... but that would be okay I guess. We could even CAMP! Except once I'd bought the tickets, I realized that the shows are scheduled during the week in August that my boss takes off every year. Lame. The Richmond show is a Wednesday night, and I also picked up one ticket for their show in Charlotte, NC that Saturday night. My original plan was to take a long weekend and drive down to visit a best friend who is currently in the process of moving out there, but now I might have to try to make it a weekend trip. I'll figure it out when the time is closer, and just geek out over the fact that I'll get to see a show this year in the meantime. Atmosphere!

Not much else is going on. My husband had a few of his friends come visit for the weekend, and he had a great time showing off his skills in the kitchen for them. We had some yummy teriyaki chicken for lunch on Saturday, and FOUR delicious whole wheat pizzas for dinner. He also put some love into chocolate chip cookies and a delightful broccoli salad for Sunday family dinner. We're heading to a friend's potluck this upcoming weekend, and he's already decided that he wants to do the broccoli salad again - it's so yummy! It was so nice to see him proud when he discovered that the dish had been scraped clean during dinner. Love that man!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

2013 SAAM Day of Action - Possible Sexual Assault Triggers

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), and April 2nd is a nationally recognized day of action for the movement. The NSVRC website states that today, "provides an opportunity for prevention advocates to engage with their communities." And here I write. I can share a blog entry. I feel a deep urge to participate today, and while I didn't plan to attend a march or speak to a group, I have this blog. My gift is small, but it feels good to give anything.

I read a lot of blogs about sexual assault, and I've yet to fully agree or disagree with anyone's guesses on why it happens or what we can do to keep it from happening. There are so many opinions out there. There's also a ton of information and statistics that detail how incredibly harmful the issue is for all humans. The psychological studies are fascinating, though depressing.

My opinions are based on my experiences as a sexual assault survivor, and my experiences with rape culture.

I'm a survivor of several types of sexual abuse and assault. I am friends with several women who are also survivors of multiples types. I'm friends with women who were sexually abused as children but still cannot acknowledge that it happened. I'm friends with women who were sexually assaulted as adults, but still hold themselves accountable despite clearly saying, "NO!"

I imagine that many young women exhibit the same patterns that I followed. Following my first sexual assault as a woman (15 years old), I began to believe that men were going to take my body no matter how I acted or what I wore. I had tried dressing sexily to get attention from the boys. According to everything I was watching on TV, the only way to get power was to be desired, and then manipulate those who desire you. When my stepdad called me slutty, and other parents told their kids that I was going to be raped if I didn't wear more modest clothing, I figured I'd better straighten up. I didn't want to get raped! So I wore jeans and t-shirts for a while.

I was wearing plaid pajama pants and an oversized t-shirt when I was first sexually assaulted as a young adult. So I learned that I couldn't dress to avoid rape. I learned that something else must be wrong with me. I was trying to be the powerful one, but somehow this guy had taken control in so many ways. There was some other weakness that men could pick up on, so I had to be stronger.

Here's where I made the shift that I thought would keep me safe. I took my new label as "slut" and embraced it with passion. If I couldn't physically keep myself safe from sexual assault, then I'd keep myself safe with an attitude. An attitude that focused on women having as much right to sleep around as men. A belief that I enjoyed taking advantage of men the way that many took advantage of women. If I got too drunk and woke up after a one-night stand, I could just convince myself that I'd been the one to initiate the sexual encounter. If I were enjoying touching or kissing, and then the guy wanted to go farther, it was easier to pretend to be a nymphomaniac than to come up with a reason to ask him to stop. It was very simple to convince myself that I always wanted sex. In this way, no sex was ever assault, because even if I'd said no, I was just mistaken - I always wanted sex.

I don't have any one person or event to blame for the ways I've mistreated my mind and body in the past. I don't even regret most of my meaningless sexual encounters, though I do regret not seeing the true motivations behind them in those moments. I regret that most of us don't see our true motivations in each moment. I'm sure that my assaulters could have made different decisions if they'd taken a few moments to examine their true motives. They were never trying to accomplish a goal like, "Force myself on this young woman and give her years of restless sleep, nightmares, guilty and conflicting feelings, PTSD." Something else was going on there.

So while I've moved forward with my life in many ways, attended therapy and worked through many of my sexual assault issues, and even entered an incredibly safe and loving marriage - I'm also stuck back in time with that rapist, and the several assaulters who came after him. I'm hoping that everyone can stop yelling at each other. Stop blaming victims for being raped simply because they dressed a certain way or had too much to drink (raise your hand if you had to experiment to discover your limits - or that your limit is NO alcohol). And stop screaming at rapists to die or to cut off their own genitalia. We're living in a really confusing society and are descendant from beings who had to rely on their physical instincts for everything. No, I do not forgive perpetrators of sexual violence - but I do wish that they had access to more affordable, less stigmatized mental health care.

This entry is jumpy. I have so many other thoughts that bounce off these, and simply writing this out has gotten a ton of things stirring around in my head that had been resting complacently for a while. My action this afternoon is to sit with these thoughts and offer my love to each one. It's a Day of Action, even if that action is inaction.