Short Lived

Weeks ago something came to me; a vision of sorts. The message was clear: change is coming. I did not know what change was coming, now I do.

I started this writing space in May, just a few months ago, and now I know it is time to move on. When this clarity came to me I met it with some hesitation. I am just getting started. This is just starting to feel like home. I don’t feel like starting over.

I know with certainty stepping out of this space and into the next is what I am meant to do though. Whatever comes next I guess this space is not meant to hold it so it is time to put this writing space down.

My last blog held space for me for five years, next to that three months seems so small. I know better. I did big things here and am grateful to this space for being the vessel.

When I ended my last blog I shared the information for this blog in my last post so anyone who wanted to continue with me knew where to find me. I know I am not meant to do that this time.

I am going to walk forward on my own and shine my light knowing that if we are meant to walk with each other moving forward we will find one another. Thank you for your support. Thank you for seeing me.

With Gratitude,

Jillian
The woman adding

I am Going to Write Something True.

secret chapter

Let me first clear the air about the title of this piece. Me sitting down and saying I am going to write something true does not mean that everything I have written before this post was false. Tonight I felt the familiar tug to write and when I sat down to start this is the title that flashed across my mind. In that moment I knew it was time. I am ready to be seen in a truth I have not shared.

In this post I am going to share a chapter of my story I have never read out loud before. I have held this pain, I rescued this piece of myself many many moons ago, and now I am ready to share this small piece of a guarded part of my soul.

When I was 23, almost exactly this time of year 10 years ago I was raped.

I was raped by a friend. I did not call it rape, I called it complicated.

Complicated in that I blamed myself, complicated in that I knew him personally so who would believe me?, complicated in that when I told one of my best friends the very next day she also blamed me and minimized it – you should have known better, you know how he is.

He was excused and I was blamed. I never spoke of it again. I threw away my ripped shirt and bra, I made peace with the fact that I was never getting that missing earring back, and put healing ointment on my ripped ear that the earring had been torn from.

I got tested a month later and every month after that for 6 months to ensure my body was safe from what happened. He used a condom but still, this felt like the one way I could control something when everything else that had happened that night made me feel powerless.

By 23 I was so skilled at disconnecting from my body in times of trauma that it did not take me long to adjust and “get back to normal” as if nothing ever happened.

As if nothing ever happened is the lie I have been telling myself since childhood, I knew how to play this game.

I don’t know what my feelings are towards him. He shared his darkness with me that night, AND I know he is more than just that moment, he is more than just that darkness. AND I do not ever have to be okay with it.

I can know all of this AND I am not obligated to forgive and forget. My healing does not depend on my forgiving him or forgetting anything. My healing does not depend on him at all. My healing happened when I finally went back to that moment and rescued that girl who I abandoned that night when I was scared and in pain. It happened when I allowed myself to finally hold the pain, and shame, and fear, and rage I had spent a decade ignoring.

I am one of countless women who have experienced sexual trauma. We each narrate and make sense of our story and experience in different ways. This is the first time I am sharing this piece of myself so openly and while I am not sitting in shame about allowing myself to be seen in such a raw form, writing it and this sharing feels clunky.

Many of our stories we tell so often that they have a natural flow and ease rolling off the tongue or falling from our finger tips. My truth is: trauma stories rarely do. They feel clunky and misshapen, sometimes uneven and without that flow. I believe that is because these are our unspoken truths, we have never given these experiences words so when we finally try I think it takes time to find the words that fit, and sometimes there just aren’t any words for experiences – that is okay too.

This is my raw, unfiltered truth:

I was raped by a man who I know now was never my friend. I was shamed into silence by myself and (knowingly or unknowingly) by my friend. It may have taken me a decade but I went back for myself and I saved that girl. I took that shame and like an alchemist transformed into love. Nothing that I have ever done or that has ever been done to me in this life has made me unlovable. I am love.

 

You’re Not Having a Good Day

That is what my husband said to me after I experienced my 3rd major calamity of the day. I agreed. While I was having a rough time my clumsy alter ego, Calamity Jill, was really living it up!

It all started this afternoon.

I drove across town, roughly 35 minutes, to meet with a new family I will be working with and unfortunately the appointment did not take place. I got stood up. No big deal, sometimes wires get crossed. I left a voicemail after waiting outside their home for a bit and once they get back to me I will reschedule. Since my schedule was suddenly open I decided to pay some family a visit who happened to live nearby.

When getting out of my car at my family’s home I turned funny and managed to spill my entire La Croix into my play therapy bag of toys and books. Good Grief!

I went inside with my play therapy bag and spent time catching up with family while I cleaned out and Lysol wiped the contents.

No big deal, these things happen (especially to me).

The real mess took place once I got home.

I let Lu out, brought her back in and started working on some documentation for work. About an hour later I was done and started picking up around the house. I went into the office briefly to grab a canvas and to put away some work documents and went on about my business for the next hour until my husband arrived home.

Upon his arrival he called out for the dog which struck me as weird because she ALWAYS meets him at the door. Maybe she is sleeping in the bedroom and didn’t hear him? We both started calling for her: nothing. My husband asked me if I accidentally left her outback. I panicked! Oh God I hope not! It had rained- hard- in the last hour since I saw Lu, there is no way I could have left her out in the rain.  I opened the backdoor, desperately trying to temper my rising anxiety and terror, and starting whistling and calling for her: nothing. In the background I heard  my husband still calling for her in the house. The terror was really starting to grow. Did she get outside? Is she running the street with no collar and no microchip? Is she dead in a gutter? Where is my baby?

Just as I was reaching the point of hysteria she came bounding around the corner and jumped up to kiss me hello. Oh dear God Lucy where were you???

My husband came around the corner and said I needed to get a take a look in the office. This is what I found:

office

I didn’t even see her follow me in when I had been in the office an hour earlier. Luckily some ripped up paper and a destroyed pine cone was of little significance compared to what she could have gotten into while accidentally locked in the office during a thunder storm for an hour. My poor baby. This is what anxiety looks like. I felt like the worst mother on earth. I can only imagine the panic and abandonment she was feeling. I got on her level and we cuddled for a few minutes. Then I declared the rest of the night The Night of Lucy! to make it up to her (or at least try).

The night of Lucy started with a nice big puppy dinner. Then she and I went for a walk at the park just the two of us where we chased frogs and played in mud puddles. When we got home I carried her into the bathroom and placed her in the tub to wash her muddy feet. After her foot bath she got a treat AND a new toy. My husband and I have a bag of toys that we bought on sale a while back and there are tucked away for Christmas. A screw up like today definitely warranted a early Christmas present.

Lu was thrilled. She and I played chase and fetch and then.. catastrophe. I was ramping up to throw her new toy down the hall for her to chase after and she got a bit to excited. This resulted in Lu jumping on my husband who was minding his own business eating shrimp ceviche on the couch. Lu’s foot landed right in his bowl of fish and vegetables dumping the whole thing into his lap before she ran off down the hall to get her toy.

My husband just sat there in his fish staring at me. He said nothing. He didn’t need to, his face said it all. I quickly saved him from the soggy fish blanket (that thankfully saved him from fish REALLY landing in his lap), got him a new throw, and cleaned up the rest of the mess. He just looked at me, laughed, and said You are not having a good day.

No kidding. I can’t get anything right today.

Suddenly Fuel lyrics flashed across my brain:

Spilled her coffee, broke a shoe lace. She smeared the lipstick on her face. Slammed the door and said I’m sorry I had a bad day again.

Some days that song is my anthem.

Later I sat in my husband’s lap, tears rolling down my cheeks; do you think she loves me even when I get it wrong?

Yes.

Do you love me even when I get it wrong?

Yes.

I am going to get it wrong. I am going to fail. I am still loveable.

While writing this post and sitting in my shame and embarrassment even while trying to minimize these feelings by finding the humor in the situation (a favorite defense mechanism of mine), I thought of Virginia Woolf. More specifically I thought of what Virginia Woolf said about women who tell the truth:

A feminist is any woman who tells the truth about her life.

I am a clumsy, forgetful, sometimes all together absent minded woman. I am woman who gets it wrong and sometimes hurts the ones she loves most in the world. I fail and I get it wrong and experience excruciating shame as a result from time to time. AND I stand in these truths and love myself, even when I feel so incredibly unlovable. This is my power. This is my strength. Love. My ability to stand in my truth and love myself there.

 

And Then She Quoted Joni Mitchell

After dinner tonight my husband and I took Lu for a walk. The weather was unseasonably cool with a steady breeze, I could have walked for miles next to him in weather like this.

He mentioned a tropical depression the news people were talking about, I shrugged and put my hand in his while we walked on. I did not need a reason for the weather, only to be grateful and enjoy it.

We took a detour from one of our traditional routes to stop by The Little Free Library a few blocks over. There are two Little Free Libraries near a home, both just a few blocks over from each other. This is a blessing for sure for a constant reader such as myself because sometimes I need something to hold me over until I can get to the bookstore.

This one is not usually as well stocked as the other but I checked the other over the weekend and found nothing of interest. I opened the wood door with the glass porthole window and started picking up books to quickly read the synopsis on the back. Still I was not feeling struck by anything. Feeling pressure to pick something because I knew if I didn’t I would have nothing to read tonight I landed on Both Sides Now by Nancy Sharp.

I chose it because of the title and the cover, no other reason. I didn’t know what the book was about but Both Sides Now sounds like a book that is going to embrace the AND in life, sign me up. I was drawn to the cover because it felt honest. It is black with gray running through and a small muted sun up in one corner. To me this signified the dark, the light, and the gray where they meet and life happens. I liked that the majority of the cover was black and gray, they sun is small, it does not feel like it is trying to force anything: ignore your darkness and be happy! This title, this cover, they felt real, like whoever wrote this book knows something. They get it.

Turns out the book is a memoir and one of the over arching themes of this woman’s story is loss. So far I have only read the author’s note and already a lot is coming up for me. She is discussing loss, so far, in a way many people can relate to; losing a loved one. Many of the losses in my life look different than that, her language is still relevant for me though.

Two pieces that stood out already are:

Seeing takes time. We have to be patient to draw clarity from the fog.

The question of Why? ultimately becomes What Next? because in order to live and love again you determine where to place yourself in this altered world.

I really really get what she is saying here.

My picking this book felt random, now I am not so sure. I feel like this woman is bringing me my work. And if all of this was not enough to convince me, at the end of the author’s note she quoted Joni Mitchell: Well something’s lost, but something’s gained.

both

Candida

I am still recovering from my junk food bender a few weeks ago. For years food has been my numbing tool of choice. I had a rather extended relationship with shopping, a brief fling with different drugs, another extended relationship with social media/the internet.. The one constant has been food though. Problematic relationships with other numbing tools may come and go but food, food is always there, riding shot gun, just waiting for the cue from me to step in and provide the void needed to consume whatever overwhelm I do not want to feel.

This is not one of my prettier truths. A truth it is though, and this truth belongs to me. To love myself here I have to first own it, and with reluctance and shame I do.

For the moment food and I are okay again and our relationship is balanced; I am not trying to control food and food is not stepping in to numb/control me. That balance is about to experience another shift.

As a result of the two week long binge I went on last month my gut is now completely out of whack.

Last year my allergies became so intolerable I finally broke down and went to a specialist. I have had allergy issues since I was at the end of high school, in recent years it has been hard to manage. The year I got married it was so bad I thought there was a chance I would not be able to wear make-up on my wedding day due to my constantly itchy watery eyes.

So I saw the allergist, did the scratch test and some blood work, and discovered the underlying issue was candida overgrowth in my gut. The solution: 1 year of allergy shots once a week (no thanks!) or 3 months on the candida diet to rebalance my gut. I chose the latter.

The candida diet sucked. It felt super complicated, I went through terrible withdrawals, my mood was over all over the place. It was not fun AND it absolutely did the trick.

My allergies cleared up, my symptoms of IBS (that I would never talk about out of embarrassment) went away, my mood improved, and I felt more alert/clear headed.

I went off the diet and started reintroducing certain foods to my diet while others I have given up permanently because of the way they make me feel. Mushrooms for example, I have a major mold allergy – mushrooms are no good for me.

In the last few weeks I have seen the signs that my candida issue is an issue again. The texture of my nails, my mood, bloat, craving certain foods that I know cause a reaction/overgrowth issue, and most of all severe allergy symptoms even with my meds.

So I am restarting my efforts to bring down the overgrowth and restore my gut to healthy functioning. I am not hitting the issue full force like I did last time. This time I am doing it for about a month, compared to 3 months last time. I am not going to be completely rigid about following “the rules”, I am just going to be mindful about avoiding foods that feed the candida in my gut.

When I was spiraling last month I allowed myself to have my moment with food because I knew I could stop. I knew I was struggling AND I knew I would not continue to struggle. I believe that I will get to a point where I can experience overwhelm, and struggle, and pain AND not feel the need to rely on numbing to get me through. I am not there yet and that is okay. I can see my progress. I am aware of my emotions, I am aware of my numbing, AND I am making a conscience effort to avoid judgment for how I take care of myself.

I am still figuring this out and these are darker parts of myself that I am working with. What is important is that I am showing up and trying to work with them. Rather than shutting down in my shame and judging myself for this numbing behavior, I am showing up in compassion and curiosity and trying to get know myself better here so I can love myself well in this space.

At the end of the day eating well or not eating well is not the thing that will make me feel better or worse. I cannot cure this with kale the same way I cannot cure it with chocolate. It is not about the food, it is about me and my relationship with myself. It is about showing up for the piece of me that is suffering instead of abandoning her in her pain. Loving myself well is the only cure to what ails me, that is my truth. Nothing from the outside can make this feel better; whether that be love/validation from another person, food of any kind, medication, my career, having children, my material possessions. That is just not how it works. It is inside work.

So I will mend the parts of my body that need mending, once again find my balance, and travel into that dark emotional space of pain to find whoever is hiding there needing to be seen and loved. So often self-love is a rescue mission, and today I am here to do that work.

whole.jpg

I Will Never Cut Another Dress

That’s a good look.

I lifted my head and peered out at my husband from behind the scarf that was covering the majority of my face.

Oh yeah, think I should leave it like this?

Oh definitely.

We both laughed as I continued to tie my head scarf and put my glasses back on.

My husband and I have a rule in our relationship: no body policing.

That means I am allowed to be in my body however feels comfortable without worry of non-acceptance and so is he. This is one area in our relationship where acceptance is not conditional.

So I can shave or not, wear make up or not, do my hair or put on a hat or scarf, dress however I feel etc etc.
He can shave or not, get a haircut or not, dress however he feels etc etc.

This is an important rule to each of us in our relationship because we have both been in relationships where we did not feel this freedom and we agreed that not having this freedom makes for an unhealthy relationship. We have to belong to ourselves first and one of that fastest ways to autonomy is through feeling full ownership of one’s body.

That is not to say that we never say anything about one another’s body/appearance. When my husband’s finger nails start to get long he sometimes scratches me on accident, I let him know so either:

A. He can choose to trim his nails OR
B. He is more mindful when embracing me.

Me saying something about his finger nails does not mean he has to cut them, he can make that choice, I am allowed to set a boundary stating: Hey that hurts please be careful how you touch me when your nails are that length.

This morning as I got ready and was thinking about this aspect of our relationship and silently counting my gratitude for it I thought of the times in my life when I did not feel in control of my body/appearance and acceptance was conditional on meeting the expectations of someone else.

As children we experience this all the time. For me it was my mother doing my hair the way she wanted it done while I cried under her comb that was piercing my scalp.

I started shaving my legs in 5th grade because two of the boys in class made fun of the hair on my legs. I had never given it any thought until suddenly I was made to feel ashamed for something my body does naturally.

As a teen it was all about trying to fit in order to stay invisible and survive. My face was marked with noticeable scarring after my car accident freshman year so I was already getting some harsh unwanted attention, I did my best not to stick out by way of appearance.

And in my twenties when my identity was usually wrapped up in whoever I was dating I followed their lead. My boyfriend said he likes brunettes better than blondes so for the first time in my life I dyed my hair and played the role of brunette for a few years.

There is one instance that always come to mind first when I think of why this (whole body ownership/autonomy) is so important to me: my ex and the dress.

I have a few great loves when it comes to dresses over the years. In high school I had this denim jumper dress that I loved so much I have it saved in a box to hopefully give to my one day daughter. In my twenties it was the Joni Mitchell dress, so named by my then boyfriend. Now it is my long blue wrap dress.

These dresses were my go-to dresses during these periods of my life because they all possessed the same magic: no matter how I was feeling before putting the dress on, the second I was wearing it I felt beautiful and grounded and myself.

I remember when I bought the Joni Mitchell dress, I got home and put it on to go out with my boyfriend that night. I felt invincible, like the most luminous, stunning version of myself. I got to his house, walked in surrounded by the energetic light I was feeling, and was immediately verbally shit on.

What are you wearing? You look ridiculous. You look like a hippy. You look like Joni Mitchell (which was totally meant as a dig – but she is fucking fabulous so jokes on him)Did you bring a change of clothes? I hate that dress. Never wear that around me again.

Honestly I loved it so much that as hurt as I was in that moment I still felt beautiful. And this was during a very insecure time in my existence, so for me to be able to rebound so easily from this verbal attack when my feelings about myself were completely wrapped up in how others feel about me.. that just further speaks to the power of this dress.

I was faced with a dilemma though. My boyfriend hates the dress and never wants to be seen with me wearing it again and I love the dress and never want to take it off. I was desperate to find a way to make this work. I was desperate. Those three words pretty much sum me up back then.

Acting on this feeling of desperation I did something that I immediately regretted, I cut the dress. The dress was long, white, and flowy with explosions of color splashed all over. It looked like art on a blank canvas. When I cut it all the magic was gone. I was Delilah cutting Samson’s hair. It was awful.

My boyfriend loved it. He thought I looked amazing. I suddenly realized just how much that does not matter. I did not like it and every time I saw myself in it all I could think was how I ruined this amazing piece of art. I think what I was truly feeling but was not ready to see was how I had once again abandoned myself. No amount of outside love and validation will fill the void created when we abandon ourselves.

I kept the dress for a very short period after the alteration before gifting it to a friend with the condition that I never have to see her wear it, ironically enough. I did not want the reminder.

Clearly that relationship did not pan out and I had time to myself before meeting my husband. That time was spent getting to know who I am outside of other people, that time is when I took myself back to my foundation and started rebuilding. My husband has only ever known me as a builder, as a woman under construction, as a being of growth and transformation.

Certain boundaries were set very early on in our relationship to ensure we would always belong to ourselves first:

No body policing.
Our books will have their own bookshelves.
Time apart is every bit as important as time together.

More boundaries were added as the years went on and adjustments are made as needed. One of the underlying messages in our relationship being: freedom to be exactly who we are and that be enough. And with that freedom I hold this truth sacred: Never in my life will I cut another dress.

joni mitchell dress

 

Labeling

light and dark

This theme has come up quite a bit within the last week or so. This might be the first of multiple posts on this topic because I feel the direction I want to go is only half-baked, I may have further insights at a later date. Let’s call this a first draft.

It came up first when discussing an ex with other women who were also discussing ex’s. One of the women labels her ex a narcissist and while she and I discovered similarities in how we both experienced our ex’s this is one place where we differ. I do not label my ex anything other than an ex. Maybe that is not true. I label him a liar, and a manipulator, and a betrayer of sacred trust, and a phony, and insecure – AND at the end of that sentence I say: Me too. If I label my ex I do so knowing that anything he is, I am too.

I did not express this to her because I felt no need to. People have different reasons for why they do or do not choose to use labels, my truth about this belongs to me and I felt no real need to voice it in this instance.

Later we talked one on one in further detail, her separation from the ex is recent so I know she is still processing. My separation occurred over a decade ago. I am still processing as well but my processing is coming from a different place. My processing is less about him and more about me. There are unresolved emotional wounds from that relationship that have been left unresolved because:

  1. In the moments where I was experiencing his darkness I abandoned myself.
  2. I was not yet ready to experience my own darkness that I brought to the relationship.

So now my work is going back and picking up all those pieces of myself that I left behind and have not wanted to see because they feel/felt unlovable AND now loving those parts of myself well.

It is not about the other person, it is about the pieces of you that you left behind. This is my truth and my first reason for not labeling him in this way. Because at this point it is not about him so what difference would a label make? None.

Here is my bigger underlying truth about labeling:

Labels are used for lots of different reasons. For example it feels to me (I could have this wrong) that the woman I have been speaking with is using a label with her ex because it is helping her detach and make sense of what she experienced with him. Labels can absolutely help understand something that feels confusing.

Related to that detachment is another reason I believe people use labels, to create a sense of separation. Us and them. In this case narcissist and empath.

This is where I get uncomfortable. I do not believe in us versus them. That concept eliminates all the possibilities that exist in between and that is just not my truth about the world at this point.

I do identify as an empath. That is a label I choose for myself, that does not automatically make this person who I was emotionally wounded by a narcissist though. He is no more narcissist than I am and I am no more empath than he. We both possesses qualities of each.

In that relationship we both experienced the darkness of the other. Empaths are not just beings of light. They are not only as capable of manipulation as narcissists, they are masters of it. That is what comes with the power of feeling others on this level, you can misuse that power and go into a shadow space with it. There is this notion of a divide between empath and narcissist..

That divide says:
One of us is good and the other is bad.
One of us is the abuser, the other is the victim.
One of us is light while the other is dark.

I am sorry but I call bullshit on all that. It is just not my truth. Narcissism is a real thing, absolutely. And if you have ever been the victim of a narcissist than you know how painful their darkness can feel. I am not meaning to minimize anyone’s trauma or experiences. I only mean to underline one of my personal truths and that is: in adult relationships we ALL show up in both shadow and light, some of us lean more one way than the other, sure, it is always both though. I know individuals who have been emotionally wounded by diagnosed narcissists, I am not trying to take that experience away or make it invalid; I am merely trying to bring to light a fuller picture which includes those who have been emotionally victimized by empaths as well. If you think that is not a thing I know my ex would disagree with you.

Another place where labeling has come up recently relates to how labels can make us invisible. I am going to continue with this example of my ex and the label narcissist to avoid outing the other people I spoke to about other labels they experience in their lives. It all applies just the same regardless of the example I use.

So relating to labels and how they make us invisible:

Calling someone a narcissist allows us to strip them of their humanity rendering them invisible. He is no longer (insert name here) he is my ex the narcissist. The moment I say that I no longer have to experience him as a complex human being made up of both shadow and light, I get to detach all of that truth and see him just as a monster. Well I do not believe in monsters. And my truth is if one person in this world is a monster than we all are. Whatever one person is capable of, we are all capable of.

The reason labels exist in the first place is to help sort and understand commonalities. It is not black and white though and that is why it is so important to never lose sight of the person.

Think about all the different labels you identify with- truly take a minute and bring these labels up in your mind – now imagine if you were only seen by everyone else through that lens:

I am someone’s wife AND I am not just someone’s wife.
I am a social worker AND I am not just a social worker.
I am someone’s sister AND I am not just someone’s sister.
I am manipulative AND I am not just manipulative.

I am light AND shadow.
I am grateful AND entitled.
I am you and you are me AND we are no different AND we are completely different.

It’s all of it, everything in between and then some. There is more than one way to add to nine, the possibilities are infinite, and one measly little label will never be able to contain the vastness of a human being. That is my truth.