1 in 3

The summer of my 16th year was a blackout that only in recent years has begun to resurface for me.

Three things happened that summer:

I lost my virginity and became pregnant
I was confirmed into the Catholic Church
I had my first abortion

In that order.

These things did not belong together. I cannot be Catholic AND be a teen mom. I cannot be Catholic AND be a girl who had an abortion.

I do not get to be both, and I HAD to be Catholic to belong to my family, and I HAD to belong to my family.

There was no other way, so half of me was left behind. 16 and pregnant. 16 and a childless mother.

I disconnected from myself so hard that I lost my memories. This is a skill I learned in childhood. I have talked before about our magnificent minds and the lengths they will go to in order to protect us from painful, frightening, devastating realities.

I told myself; This is not part of my story. This never happened. The level of disconnection I experienced was severe, complete-loss-of-self severe. I was lost for a long time, and I only became more lost in my twenties.

I remember sitting in the gymnasium of my church the summer of my 16th year, unaware of the change likely already taking place in my body. I was sitting on a metal folding chair between two girlfriends from my CCD class, we were listening to a guest speaker. This speaker was warning us of the danger of premarital sex. This speaker was impressing upon us the importance of abstinence.

This speaker was not telling us about consent, or affirming our rights to our bodies, or empowering us to make choices with our bodies from a place of being informed and connected. Our bodies did not belong to us, they belonged to God or the Church or our parents or our future husband’s or something?

It was clear that sex was dangerous. I remember the speaker recited a statistic meant to scare us, something about 1 in 3 of you girls will end up pregnant out of wedlock or something. The statistic is not what stands out, what I really remember was looking to my right at my friend Megan, then to my left at my friend LeeAnn, and thinking Well I know it won’t be me.

It already was.

My patron saint was Mary Magdalene. It was my way of thumbing my nose at the church. I had always felt other-than, their rules had always chafed me, felt like nonsense. I had questions that could not be answered. I had questions no one appreciated me asking. I always felt wrong.

I chose Mary Magdalene because my Catholic brain saw her as the persecuted whore, I felt sisterhood with her. I was struggling with the fact that only weeks before I had lost my virginity, I needed someone in my corner and she seemed like a good someone to me. I liked that no matter what society said about Mary Magdalene, she and Jesus knew she was inherently worthy; that she was part of the divine, that we all are. On some level, even in my darkest corners, I have always known too.

This truth is why I did not stay lost. In my Found place I know I am worthy, I am whole, I am enough. I know this because of my connection to the divine.

This part of my long walk home is not just about picking up that mother and her babies and welcoming them all back in love; it is about the repair of my connection with my own sacred holiness.

I have to unravel from the untruths I learned about belonging and worthiness. The Church does not get to define these things for me just as they do not get to withhold them.

 

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Cry Cycle

Every 28 days or so, with the shift of my body’s tide, I have a major cry.

Before birthing little bubby I experienced the intense emotional upheaval that comes with shifting hormones most women experience during their body’s monthly cycle. Back then, I did so with complete disconnection from myself.

For most of my life this experience, that is actually very natural, has felt anything but to me. It has felt scary, unnatural, and wrong. As a result,  I have spent most of my life either in a wild spiral or fighting against being sucked into that spiral. Either way I have not allowed myself to experience the healing release that my body and female spirit need.

Last month my moon cycle started flowing again for the first time since becoming pregnant November 2017. Once again my emotions swelled, and once again I fought against the wave. I was reluctant to give in and allow myself to experience the ecstasy and relief of the release.

I cried and fought and resisted one whole night until the wee hours of the morning at which point my husband, unsure how else to support me, encouraged me to show up for myself however I needed to and then rest. He agreed to take care of little bubby and go into work late the next morning so I could sleep to recover.

I stopped fighting and allowed myself to cry. I allowed myself to flow through my emotional state freely, without fear or judgement. The next morning I slept and that day, after waking slowly and quietly, I was gentle with myself.

This was a different experience, and it felt better.

I had allowed myself to surrender to the release and much like menstruation itself, I was able to shed all the emotional debris that I had collected over the course of that month (and truthfully the 16 months prior).

Last week I felt the familiar build up as the wave of emotions started to peak. I knew I was scheduled to begin my next moon cycle and all of me was crying out for release.

Last month’s cry cycle was dedicated to my mother. This month’s cry is dedicated to my body and everything she has held; life, pain, lies, physical and sexual abuse, joy, love, all of it.

I have decided I am done fighting against my divine feminine nature. Each moon cycle I will allow myself to flow with the changing tide. As I begin to flow so will as many tears as are needed to release what my body, heart, mind, and soul have been holding from that cycle that are ready to be released. I will not fear this flow, I will not fight it. I will allow myself to be held, I will float. I will not sink, I will not drown. This is natural, this is sacred, and I am safe.

Each month I will be gentle with myself. I will rest. I will honor this sacred time and hold myself sacred and worthy.

Love is so different on the other side of healing. Love is so expansive when everything is allowed to exist as it is meant to; together, in connection and love.

Running Through an Open Door

My lightening bolt hit almost immediately after finishing my last post.

Killer still hurts because I am trying to belong somewhere I no longer belong.

My family of origin is Catholic Republican. I grew up surrounded by the following messages:

No sex before marriage.
Your female body is inherently shameful.
As a woman you have no power.
Any woman who has sex out of wedlock is a slut.
Your female body is inherently wrong.
As a woman you belong to your father or husband, never, not ever to yourself.
Your female body is inherently bad.
The only thing worse than sex out of wedlock is pregnancy out of wedlock.
The only only thing worse than pregnancy out of wedlock is abortion.
Women who have abortions are KILLERS.

HOLY SHIT. Literally. This is religious, men-making-rules-that-disempower-women, bullshit.

I am NOT Catholic. I am NOT Republican. NONE OF THIS IS MY FUCKING TRUTH.

I would never believe any of this ridiculous bullshit about another woman, so why have I been carrying around these lies about myself?

I do not belong here, in your untruths, in your religion, in your politics. I do not belong anywhere that sees me as less worthy. I AM WORTHY. I AM MY OWN. I AM POWERFUL.

I release my need to belong in this place I do NOT belong. I am picking up ALL of myself and walking through that – now open – door to LOVE. I am no longer on the outside looking in.

I am not empty. I am not shameful or wrong or bad. I am not a slut. I AM NOT A KILLER.

I am a mother. I am a woman full to the brim with my sacred power. I am the owner of all of me, no one owns me. I am BIG. I AM BIG. I am the fucking hero of this story – I will always do the saving.

Come on sweet girl, you do not belong here anymore, we are going home.

my baby saved

When You are Ready I am Here to Hold You

I have been sitting with myself following my last post.

A lot came up for me after sharing my abortion story.

One of the first things that came up for me is the fact that I did not use the word abortion.

My pain related to my abortions is ever present. I love the part of me that experienced this trauma AND my unraveling is a work in progress. What I have learned is that I cannot unravel and come home to my truth without holding myself in love as I do it.There is something I want to unravel once and for all and now that I am loving myself openly, freely, publicly, TRUTHFULLY, I feel BIG enough to step through my fear and start this work.

Two years ago I attended a healing retreat with my soul family. It was powerful.

The healing work I did had to do with words and how they have been used in my life as weapons, as a way to keep me small, as a way to keep me disconnected and standing ever on the outside of love.

I shared specific words with the group that have caused harm, things that have been said to me or messages I have energetically received. There is one word I left out.

It is a word I have tortured myself with for two decades. Anytime I have ever thought I could love my darkness, stand fully in my color, be BIG – this is the word that knocks me back down.

I still was not ready to say this word out loud.

After the exercise I shared with one person, my soul friend who participated in the exercise with me, my truth that I was still holding on to one word that causes deep shame, disconnection, and smallness. She asked what the word was..

Killer.

This word has always been the door slammed in my face.

Me on one side, love and all the goodness of life on the other. There is no AND big enough to create connection. I am here in the dark, a killer, I do not get to experience light, love, sacredness, my true essence, holiness, color.

I want to unravel.

First I need to start with the function of the word, what is it being used for?

To keep me small.
To create and maintain disconnection.
To keep me enveloped in shame, in fear.
To keep me empty.
To keep me separated from love. Love of myself and love of my babies.

None of this is my truth any longer. So it would seem Killer is not doing its job.

I am NOT small. I am NOT disconnected. I am NOT enveloped in shame and fear, and when they come to visit I now welcome them into my lap to be heard and loved. I am NOT empty. And I am absolutely NOT separated from love. I AM love.

So my question is, if all of this is true, why does Killer still hurt?

Is there a place I am not being honest with myself?

Why does the word abortion hurt?

I am missing something, a piece, a part. Something or some part of me is hiding behind a curtain afraid to stand in the light. I am not here to force anyone or anything forward, just to send the message that my lap is open when you are ready to be held.

I want to feel my pain. I want to feel openly, freely, publicly, truthfully. I want to release my fear of my story. I want to be BIG.

Hand at my Heart

I had no title for this post and as I sat here grounding, being with my body, allowing the words to come forth – I noticed my hand at my heart. This post is about my ability to hold myself and be with my body and here I am doing just that.

So with my hand at my heart I start this story.

This story does not start here, it starts over 35 years ago inside the ocean that is my mother. Her ocean is in one way my source, while I know my soul has existed much longer and many times over, my body grew in her depths. My mother has always felt like turbulent water; water can be the giver of life – it can also pull you under so deep you feel you will never see the light again.

This is where my body work truly begins, at the source.

Today I focus on my relationship with my body presently. She and I have come a long way, our connection is ever growing, AND our disconnection was so all consuming that the journey of coming home to myself is a daily conscious practice.

I mark the time by my wedding day.

I took the first step towards coming home a few weeks after by cutting off all my hair. A few years later I stopped wearing make up. I realized I needed to peel back the things I was hiding behind in order to truly see myself; no more hair dye, no more blanket of hair to distract from the rest of me, no more mask in the form of mascara and blush. No more.

After YEARS of not recognizing myself in the mirror, there I was staring back at myself, naked faced and absolutely magnificent.

The next step was a rescue mission, the first of many. I had to go back and rescue the girl who believed at 10 years old that her body was wrong and dirty because of the hair that naturally grew on it.

I stopped shaving my legs. This rescue mission, this unlearning, it took time – years to be precise. At first I did exactly what I did the summer of my tenth year when the boys at school started ridiculing girls for the hair on our legs – I wore pants everyday. My ten year old self still felt shame for my body’s natural state. This went on for a year.

I wore whatever I pleased at home where it was safe and when I would leave the house I wore pants or long dresses/skirts to hide my shame. Healing takes time and you cannot force it or it is not actually healing, it is just a new wound.

A year and a half later I was pregnant and uncomfortable and my body begged me to be free of the extra layers – I am hot please do not cover me up! 

Finally I relented. I will not hide any longer for fear of judgment, I will not shrink. I energetically picked up that 10 year old girl and my body and said – Enough! This lie has controlled us long enough, no more. We are enough as we are and there was NEVER a moment when this was not true.

During my work with the hair on my legs I also decided it was time to reclaim my truth about all of the hair on my body. I stopped shaving – period. I wanted to be the tall grass on the plains, I wanted to be branches of the Old Nana Oak Tree, I wanted to be the flowers – allowed to grow freely, in my true form, as I am made, and find my truth about beauty there.

I never feared rejection from my husband because I am not playing by society’s rules for beauty, he has never policed my body. With that said, it took sometime to feel not only comfortable but sexy in my new hairy state.

It has been two years. I no longer think about the hair on my legs when I get dressed in the morning. I no longer live in fear of who will see my wrongness and dirtiness. I feel both comfortable and sexy when I share myself with my husband. I have learned that as  my connection with myself/my body grows deeper, I am able to experience deeper connection with those whom I love as well. I love what I see when apply lotion to my naked self after the shower now- this is who I am. I know that woman. I no longer feel confused and lost when I look in the mirror.

Body work is a big piece of my over all healing work this year. I think I had to rebuild my connection through self-acceptance before I could take this next step. My body is now ready to tell me her story of pain. I had to have love and connection in order to be able to finally hold the pain and perform my ultimate rescue mission – this is where I stop fearing my truth and own it. It is the only way to save myself. It is the only way to be free.

Smaller versions of myself have spent much time and energy running from this work, but I am not small and I can do hard things.

body work

 

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.

 

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