I used to debate with my father all the time about politics, about the world. Usually it was a healthy banter between the two of us but there were times when we would get heated. He was very Republican, very religious, a Fox News watcher and I was more on the Liberal side. He was more conservative and I was a little more Rock-N-Roll if you will. We stopped debating when I got older because my life situation didn't always line up with the values he thought I should have. The last huge debate we got into was one about single mothers and welfare. He thought that women were just having babies so they could feed off the system and that most were just using the government as an excuse to not take care of their own children. Well, those were his thoughts initially but it gets hard to think the same thing when you watch your daughter struggle to take care of your grandchild. It was in that argument where I asked him quite honestly if that's what he thought of me? I did have government assistance for daycare purposes. I did need a helping hand to pay for the extremely high prices of taking care of my small child while I went to work. And while that was the only form of government assistance I ever begrudgingly accepted, it was assistance just the same. He sent me a very heartfelt email after that conversation where he apologized and sincerely said once he put my face as the face of all those hard working, struggling single mothers out there just trying to do the best they could to give their children the best life, he no longer thought so harshly. From that day forward, we didn't really talk politics. Sure, I made a jab or two at his new source and he poked fun at me for watching The Daily Show but it then turned into something we could both laugh about. So, I watch the news now and I wonder what he would say, how would he react to a person like Trump, how he would feel about the Orlando shooting. Now that he's gone, I miss our discussions even the ones that became a little too tense. I read the news today and I think that about all the things that seem to be the common denominator in all of these things. Ignorance is not bliss. It is a lame excuse.
I keep reading these gun posts and I am perplexed. I know people who have guns, who went through the proper channels to acquire their guns, who went through the proper training and are of sound mind. These people aren't bad or the problem. When people are talking about gun control, they are not talking about these responsible individuals who did it right, who are of sane mind. They are talking about the people who did not go through the proper channels, who are not of sound mind. They are talking about the people that have hate in their heart because of preconceived ignorance. They are talking about the people who will walk into a kindergarten class and shoot innocent children. They are talking about people who will walk into a college and shoot innocent young adults just starting out their lives. They are talking about people who will walk into a night club of any sort and shoot people are there in love, in happiness, in support of each other. These are the reasons there needs to be better gun control. It is not because of guns. Guns can't get up and shoot themselves. Bullets won't just spontaneously pick a specific person or group of people to aim themselves at. People load the gun. People point the gun. People pull the trigger. People, these kinds of people who maliciously hurt people out of their own ignorance, are the ones that need better control. I have never held a gun. I have never been to a shooting range. I have never seen an actual gun. I never want to. It's not for me and it never will be for me. I am of sound mind and have a very understanding of myself but I know that a gun of any sort is not for me. I know that I am not the problem. I know that even if I chose to carry a gun, I would still not be the problem because I value human lives, all human lives.
This world is heartbreaking. There is so much hate for no reason. There is so much ignorance without merit. We are all different and so much the same. Judging someone for whatever they choose to do in their lives is such a waste of energy. I am a woman covered in tattoos. When my daughter was small, I would go to her parent meetings. I would be the only one in the room who looked like me. The rest were PTA moms with their perfectly combed hair and well thought out outfits. They had their freshly baked cookies and bumper stickers announcing how wonderful their children were so the whole world would know what upstanding citizens they were. The women would instantly judge me. The men would instantly fantasize about me. The teachers would immediately think that I ate babies. As a woman covered in tattoos, I understood how I was seen. As a single mother in her early twenties, I knew what the world saw when I walked in the door. I was obviously a slut with questionable moral status. It made me angry, sure, but the older I got and the more my daughter grew into a well rounded kid, I didn't care much. What these PTA parents taught me was that their ignorance didn't make that much difference at the end of the day but it sucks that this kind of judgement looms and poisons so many people. We're all people with hearts and souls and spirits and dreams. We are all going places to do great things. My tattoos didn't hurt anyone. The age in which I got knocked up only affected me and my awesome kid. However many I men I chose to sleep with did not change who I was as a person. It never does and it's sad that we allow other people's stupidity to affect the way we see ourselves sometimes. When I was a teenager, my parents thought I was a lesbian. It always made me laugh because of their Catholicism. I never told them I wasn't. I never told them I was. Was I? Who knows? Who cares? It was my business either way. I asked my father once if I had been a lesbian, would he still love me? I was half joking but there was a level of serious there because I knew how he felt about that life style. He rubbed his chin at me and told me that he would be disappointed in me. I laughed at him and told him that was the most ridiculous thing I ever heard. I was still his daughter. I was still of his flesh and blood and it wouldn't change anything about our relationship. After awhile, he understood. Whoever it was that love touched me with was not my choice. If my husband had been a woman, I would still have chosen him to spend the rest of my life with. Love is love, the most beautiful part about this life.
The problem with this world isn't guns. The problem is we as a people not understanding the damage that hate truly does. Whatever ignorant assumptions we have about people because of their race, their sex, their sexual preference start to fester and that's when they become a problem. Hate is hate and it can't be excused with poetically inclined verbiage. It eats from within and spreads like a virus. We learn it from generations before us and then we give it to the generations after us so shouldn't we today start fixing that problem? I have always taught my daughter that the best trait to have is compassion. When someone falls down, you offer them a hand up. When someone is crying, you hold their hand. When someone is beaten, you help them stand. The only answer to darkness is light. You be the light to help someone out of that darkness they have found themselves in. I often think of 'Ben', wondering what it would be like to see him today as the person that I have become. Would I allow the anger that he gave me dictate my actions towards him? Or would I hold on tighter to the love that I have accepted lead my reaction to him? Truth is I will never know but I do know that I would not allow his hate to pull a trigger. I think of my father a lot and though we didn't always agree on many things, I hold tight to his kind heart because at the end of his life even though he was in pain, his heart was still as kind as the day he was born. I see the world and sometimes I don't understand why people have to let hate be their answer. We have the greatest potential to be amazing and so many of us get lost along the way. The answer will never be hate. At the end of my life, I hope my heart is as kind as my father's. I hope that regardless of all the turmoil, the tragedy, the sadness that I may endure, I hope that love still sits on my lips, that love is what I leave in my wake. Love is love, the only answer there ever was.
I came across several articles this morning about the Stanford Rapist, the comments from his father, and the verdict from the judge. A post was put on Facebook blasting this kid's name, what he did, and how we should all say his name over and over again so we all know what kind of horrible person he is, the horrible thing he had done. But then you know what I came across? You know what is, who is the most part about this story? It is the woman he violated, the woman he hurt. I don't know her name and I don't need to know her name. And truthfully I could give two shits what this boy's name is, how much he liked swimming. I found a letter the woman wrote to him. It was eloquently written with the amount of hurt that this boy had caused her and will continue to cause her throughout her life very evident. I commend her writing that letter and putting it out in there in the world for all survivors to read. It's not an easy thing to tell people as a survivor your story.
It took me seventeen years to find the courage to talk about my own story. It took me nineteen years to be able to say the word 'Rape' without feeling like I was dying inside. It took me nineteen years of letting my assailant having some power over me taken away and given back to me. When something like that happens to you, you don't want to believe it. Whether it was a friend or a complete stranger, whether you remember every horrible part of it or nothing at all, that act of senseless violence rips a part of you away. The power that is stripped from your very being leaves you empty, ashamed, broken. For years, I walked around broken, feeling like I didn't matter because he made me not matter anymore. I purposely gained over one hundred pounds because I never wanted anyone to look at me as something to take. I gave people parts of me because he showed me for so many years how people were just going to take it from me anyway. This woman who I don't know her name will now carry these things with her forever and he will continue to believe that what he did wasn't wrong. She will have to explain why she flinches, why she gets scared, why sometimes she just has to cry. She will look at every man afterwards as a threat... at least for awhile. This boy somewhere along the line thought that taking something so precious from this woman didn't matter. He won't have to deal with the nightmares that will come for her or the looks people will give her when she tells her story or the constant explanations to every one she meets of why she keeps her guards up. She will be eighty years old and she will still carry the scars from what he did with her. When you take something so intimate from someone, you will forever leave a hole that that someone may never be able to fill. And I can't explain to you really what it feels to carry that cross. I hope you never really know what I mean but this brave woman sadly does. I want her to know that she's not alone, that she will never be alone. No one can take who you are away from you, not really.
Justice. This word now that has a broad meaning. There was a time when your punishment fit the crime but with cases like these that is hardly the case. This brave woman came forward, put her story out there, and thought that her injustice would be appropriately handled. Then, this father pleads with the Judge about how a severe punishment would alter this boy's life... but what about hers? Even though she did nothing wrong, she will forever be on the defense. Even though she did nothing wrong, it was her who was put on trial. All that she is, all that she was was put on display and dissected to prove what? But he likes to swim, right? This boy's father is part of the problem. This Judge is part of the problem but this woman? No, if anything, she is part of the solution for her bravery, for her honesty, for her humanity. I never came forward until years later about my experience. The school wanted to press charges. My parents wanted me to press charges. I just wanted it all to disappear including myself. I did not have the courage to step forward and say, "Hey, this boy hurt me." I lacked the ability to stand up against him because I had been drinking, because he was my friend, because it was my word against his. I knew the minute the words, "we had been drinking" came out of my mouth it was me that was going to be put on trial. The fact that alcohol was in our systems threw me under the bus immediately. And when I told the people that I loved what happened? Unfortunately, I saw the disbelief in their eyes much too often. I couldn't do what this woman is doing and, for that, I couldn't be more inspired by her. There are so many survivors out there, men and women, who have kept our mouths shut out of fear of being judged, of being persecuted, of being torn apart all over again. And there are people like this woman who inspire us to stand up even if we can't bring our own attackers to justice.
I was eighteen years old when it happened. I was just starting college. I was home sick and heart broken and I turned to my friend for comfort. What he did was inexcusable. While I have forgiven him, I understand that he will always be a part of me. He changed my life. I don't know if I would be who I am without what he did. Without what he did, I wouldn't have met the man who helped me create my beautiful daughter. Without what he did, I wouldn't have married that kind man sitting in the other room. I will always have conflicting feelings about that. I never got justice through the courts. I never had to stand up in front of a jury, a dirty judge and put the bruises he left on my wrists in plastic bags as evidence or explain in horrific detail what it felt when he was ripping me apart physically. After awhile, I became angry at myself for not being strong enough to do that. I was angry at the fear he caused that paralyzed me for so long. Then, a few months ago I learned that this boy died. He died alone in his apartment with no one there. I looked around me, heard my daughter giggling with her friends upstairs and I saw my husband sitting across the room watching YouTube videos, and I realized that my justice had been served. My life was full of love, the part of me that he ripped out was filled. I published my story because I was no longer afraid of that night, of him, of the girl I used to be that I couldn't protect. I published my story because I was proud of how strong my feet now stand. I published my story much for the same reason this woman is now telling hers.
When I used to hear the word Rape, the word victim used to always follow behind it. Over time and through a lot of pain, I decided I was not a victim. He wasn't going to make me that. The world wasn't going to label me that. I am a survivor. She is a survivor. Her words are what should be heard. Her words will be the beacon that carries her and every survivor out there into the light. Justice shouldn't have a broad meaning. Justice shouldn't be inspired by ignorance. Whatever this woman's name is, I send my utmost support. Whatever this woman's name is, I hope she understands that he will fade and her light will continue to shine. And for every person out there who has struggled or is still struggling, you are not alone. You are not a victim. You are a survivor. She is a survivor. We are survivors.
Sometimes I have a million ideas about what I want to blog about. Some are good and others? Well, others probably should just be kept to myself. This morning as I was having coffee with a dear friend I couldn't help but to feel so appreciative of the people in my life that have been there for me. Friends, this amazing support system that we're all lucky to have. Sometimes we can't count how many friends we have. And other times only one name comes to mind. Then there are those times when it feels like we don't have a friend in the world. Truth is we all have someone we can reach out to even if we don't realize it. There are people in your life right now that if you picked up the phone and asked for help even if you hadn't seen them in a hot minute would be there to catch you when you fall. And, sure, there are people who will turn away when you need them the most. I've met so many people in my life, so many wonderful people and quite a few rotten eggs. I've been surrounded and felt so incredibly loved. I've been alone in a crowd as well. And I've broken down on my kitchen floor with no one to tell me it's going to be all right. These waves of people that come and go are a beautiful part of life, a plethora of knowledge and love that lay a brick on the foundation of who we are.
There are different types of friends, all with the qualities that help make you that better person and the toxic ones who, in their own way, make you an even better person. You have friends that you've made since childhood who have seen you through your most awkward, through your most trying, through your success. You have friends that have only been around for a little while but feel like they have always been a part of you, the ones that make you laugh and don't have a past to hold against you, just a future to look forward to. You have friends who are straight forward and bitterly honest sometimes that will call you out on your greatest of bullshits. They are the ones that keep you grounded, that don't let you fly away when the world fills you with hot air. You have friends who are the dreamers, the ones that sit with you on a sunny afternoon, planning road trips and great adventures, both knowing that these grand escapades are just a lovely thought but you both keep dreaming anyway. And you have the ones that though you still think fondly of them your lives no longer travel in the same direction. You still love them and you still wish them the best but for whatever reason you chose different directions. Sometimes we hold onto those negative friends, too. It's not because we think they are good for us but because we know that they are not. Sometimes the toxicity they provide is motivation to keep yourself in check... until the day you realize that the negative motivation does more harm than good.
I sat with my dear friend this morning. It was nice to just sit together, not as coworkers but as friends. It was nice to feel like I had a confidante who understood, who could listen to my current trials. Throughout my life, I've had a hard time trusting people. I always felt slightly abandoned, slightly tossed to the side. Was it me overreacting? Sometimes. I'm honest enough to admit that but not always. We go through tragedies in this life. Sometimes people catch us. Sometimes they don't. Sometimes they take your hands when you reach and other times they turn the other way. Being rejected is one of the loneliest feelings in the world and, unfortunately, there have been times in my life rejection happened too often. So, I learned to not reach, learned to not ask. I learned to take care of myself and not trust anyone's intentions, kind or not. I got lost in my writing, got a dog, had a baby, and lived a very solitary life for a long time. I thought the moment I trusted someone it as the second they would turn around and leave. And you know what? A lot of times they did but what I couldn't see was the moment there was a glimmer of hope, I was the first one to run for the door. I fled because it was better for me to hurt myself than it was for me to allow anyone else that power. Friends? I didn't want that kind of responsibility, that kind of commitment, right? In reality what I honestly didn't want was to be disappointed. I could always tolerate being angry. I could handle someone pissing me off. I could swallow the meanest of words being flung in my general direction. What I could not tolerate was putting some kind of trust in someone and being disappointed when they broke it.
It wasn't until my husband came along that those bitter, skeptical parts of me started to change. For whatever reason he shed some sort of light on my heart that I had shut out so many years before. For the first time in a long time, I wanted to trust someone, wanted to grow this relationship and the chances I was taking didn't seem to scare me as much as they once did. Sitting with my friend today made me smile, grateful for the progress I had made over the last eight years. I have made some solid relationships over the last four years because of that place, relationships that I plan on taking care of, of putting the effort in, of making this garden grow. I have always been very quick to flee from people but the older I get the more I understand that just like romantic relationships sometimes friendships need a little water, too. There are friends in this world that will always be there regardless of how much time goes by like my very best friend from high school. We will always be able to pick up the phone and talk to each other like it was just yesterday even it has been six months since we've talked. And then there the friends that need some love every day and that's all right, too. Both kind of relationships stem from a place of love, of respect, of gratitude. I realized today that the places I have been in the last eight years have softened a once very hard heart. While the person I used to be would think that weak, the woman I am now couldn't feel more empowered by this tenderness.
I've had some time to myself lately. I've had time to take a long, honest look at where I have been, where I am, where I want to go. I have the opportunity to truly feel the amount of love all of these people in my life bring. I don't know if they understand how much they mean to me. I don't know if they understand that it has been my pleasure to know them. I don't know if I understood completely how much I was learning from them in turn. Through them, I saw how incredibly strong I am. Through them, I saw how kindness is the best gift anyone can offer even if it is the hardest to muster. I understand now that though my big heart is one of my best attributes, it is also my biggest weakness. I have no regrets either.
I am always open to meeting new people, to learning new things but I have also realized in the last few weeks that I am not emotionally in a place where I am able to invite new people in, not yet at least. I grew some amazing friendships at that village, friendships that I will continue to grow and explore and love. I have grown some amazing relationships throughout my life that I will continue to cherish, to nurture, to embrace. Where I am now is leaps and bounds from the girl that just wanted to be left alone, that thought the world was out to get me. Some of these relationships may not last and it's all right. Sometimes no matter the effort, people's paths change but that doesn't mean the imprint of them is forgotten. This amazing support system that I have luckily landed in has been an amazing gift. And though I may always be that quiet girl in the corner of the coffee shop, I'm no longer afraid to offer you a seat.