Spiritual Dimensions of Showing Up to Illness

December and January have been deeply healing months.  I knew that I needed to slow down; that I needed to show up to myself more fully.

I wanted my smile to come back.  I turned to nature, knowing that I also needed some time to hibernate, that I needed to let certain things die, without knowing where this journey would end up.  Historically, my healing accelerates in the winter, and so I intentionally have made time to invest in myself at the start of this year.

I intentionally took a 4 week Christmas break.  It was so restful & needed.  I had a session with my therapist.  I set up an individual healing session with a resident teacher at my old yoga studio.  I have been participating in a weekly breathing circle.  I’m learning Qigong.  I traveled to Chicago to attend Mystic Soul and visit with friends.  I celebrated my birthday & came out as an asexual. I took several epsom salt baths.  I loved myself well.

What has been the result of all this healing work is a lot of grief dissolving, allowing creativity to come forward.  I’ve needed time to continue to explore certain spiritual practices in order to figure out how I am going to grow my energy reserve as I continue to grow my business and work more hours.

What this looks like right now is that I’m writing a book!  I have no idea where this will lead, but right now, I’m just focused on my shitty first draft.  It’s a memoir; my journey with chronic illness and the gifts that come along the way.  I wake up every morning, do some breathwork and then dive into writing for about 25 minutes, at the beginning of my day.  It’s becoming a beautiful rhythm, and a wonderful way to start my day, and my resistance to show up to my story is lessening day by day.

Although I still live in my body day to day and am affected my by illness, I’m gaining the skill to look at my life more objectively.

I’m learning to say, “The fact that I have a chronic illness is not my fault, and yet I do have the responsibility to show up in my body and be attentive to the lessons it gives.”

What I keep coming back to is that autoimmune disease is the pattern of the body attacking itself.  There’s a scientific way to describe this, but that’s not what I’m interested in now.  What I’m interested in is that in order for my body to attack itself—I must have moved very far away from my true self.  I must have tried to conform to someone that I was never meant to be.

So I’m learning to stop throughout the day and breathe.  I’m learning to check in with myself, to feel my own energy, to understand my own essence.

At Mystic Soul, we were encouraged to sit with this question:

“Who are you and how do you know?”

In one sense, I will be answering this question for the rest of my life.  In another, I am a healer, a witness, a truth-teller, an advocate, a friend.  I am a work-in-progress–yet there are spiritual dimensions to stepping into my own narrative, telling my own story.  Ultimately showing up to myself, so that I can show up with others.

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To Breathe More Deeply

There’s so much I could say about Mystic Soul, and yet I’m not ready to.

Above all, it was an experience.  A very different experience of spirituality and justice and healing, than I’d ever experienced before–and it was so good.

Maybe all I can do for now is talk about the shifts, speak to how my friends of color across the country are trying to decolonize Christianity.  There was a tangible feeling of healing in the body, for everyone involved.  We all breathed much more deeply together.

We faced each other in a circle, rather than sitting in rows.

We never sat for a full-hour lecture.  We talked to each other, engaged in spiritual practice together, got out of our seats and talked to people we didn’t know.

We told personal stories, rather than just quote highly-acclaimed authors.

We participated in healing silence and ritual in community.

We valued rhythm over time, not prioritizing order & efficiency over healing.

We engaged the reality that sometimes contemplation is quiet & sometimes it is loud.

We returned to the effects of trauma and how we all need to be in touch with our personal narratives in order to heal.

At times, the room of 400 people was silent and we all just breathed deeply together.

I don’t think any of these realities fit into the questions, “How was it?” or “How were you impacted?” or “What are you going to do now?”

I experienced wholeness in community.

I knew I was in a room filled with the leaders of contemplative spirituality for today & tomorrow.  And I want to listen and keep listening.

 

 

I Resolve…

2017 was a rough year.  Most of us can agree on that.  And yet 2017 did have white evangelicals having to make a decision if we were going to wake up or not.

What’s hard for us white people to come to grips with is that Trump, in many ways is the white, heterosexual, patriarchal, evangelical consciousness.  He reveals our sickness, our evil, our complicity.  And just patting our backs and thinking, “I didn’t vote for Trump” isn’t going to cut it.

For much of my life, I’ve been pretty ignorant.  And yet, I cannot be anymore.

There’s too many people of color hurting and dying.  There’s too many sermons about the Good Samaritan without it having any effect in the streets. And I am among the guilty.

On Wednesday, I leave for Chicago to attend the Mystic Soul Conference.  It’s a POC-centered conference bringing to life what the Christian contemplative tradition and healing justice looks like, led by those who have been silenced again and again.  Yet their voices are dynamic and strong; and I know that I will be richly blessed by them, as they ask me to follow, not to lead.  As a white person, I’ve been invited to attend to learn, and to continue to let go of the many layers of white supremacy and patriarchy that infiltrate my being.  I will definitely write more about the conference when I get back.

 

In 2018, I resolve…

  • To follow the lead of black women (make sure to watch the video)
  • To lean into difficult conversations, rather than shy away from them.
  • To support local POC-led organizations financially
  • To make steps to figure out how my business can reach those without access to high-quality dyslexia resources.
  • To call out racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, religious discrimination, etc when I see it.  To confront it in myself.

I want to dig into the question more, “What do I do with my privilege?”  I’m grateful that I’m on this healing journey-and yet I’m also very aware that it’s possible because of my privilege.

And having just moved to Westfield, I’m aware that I’m grateful that living in this apartment has caused greater healing for myself.  I’m also aware that I live in a town that’s 91% white, and I live down the street from the 6th best high school in Indiana.

In 2018, I resolve to be aware, to question, to be myself in the present moment.  And out of this awareness, hopefully come a little bit closer to loving my neighbor as myself.

 

Honesty Is a Good Way to Start the Year!

 

 

 

 

I’ve been considering this post for about a year and a half.

In the spirit of starting 2018 being more honest with myself and the world, it’s time to write this post.

I’m asexual.

Yep, it’s the A in LGBTQIA.

Being asexual simply means that I do not experience sexual attraction towards anyone.  That being said, I do experience romantic attraction towards men.

This post is not going to be a Q and A or what asexuality is or isn’t (but you can check out AVEN if you are interested!)

This post is about acceptance and visibility.  I’m going to reveal the questions I asked myself as I considered if I wanted to come out publicly.

I considered for awhile, “Why add another label?”

It took my awhile to realize that this wasn’t really my deepest question; it reflected what I thought other people might ask me.  Especially because this was true when I started speaking up and writing about chronic illness.

When I first started owning the fact that I indeed had a chronic illness, and started speaking that way, I inevitably faced the question, “Why do you so closely identify with your illness?”

For those who were Christians asking this question, it was in the context of “Why do you put your identity in your illness rather than in Christ?”

Simply stated, I needed to identify with an unknown illness, then to be Hashimoto’s, so I could integrate it into my being.  Acceptance could not come without integration.  But not to identify with it in some way, meant to ignore this part of myself.  It also meant leaving people to assume that I was a healthy, vibrant mid-20-something when I wasn’t.  I needed a label to say “I am sick, and this is lifelong.  I may manage it well, but it’s something I do manage every day.”

Also, notice how odd it would sound if I started asking people, “Why do you so closely identify with your health?”

A label simply says, “I experience life differently than you and both of our experiences are valid.” 

However, those with illness navigating living in a world of health, which can often feel foreign to us.  We want our experience validated as we live on the margins in a society that glorifies health and young able bodies.

Ok, back to sexuality.  Asexuals comprise 1% of the population and most people don’t accurately know what asexuality is.

So why a label?

Because I experience sexuality differently than most people.  And that’s okay. And it’s valid.

Labels have to do more with “the majority” (and that can mean many things depending on the context) accepting diversity which means changes in language to depict that diversity.

Another question I thought for awhile about was, “Why come out when you can pass as a straight person?”

Deciding that I needed to come out publicly is a personal decision related to my own emotional health.  I felt like I was hiding a vital piece of who I am, which was just breeding shame and self-contempt.

Also, for celebrating my uniqueness.  For visibility. To challenge assumptions. For a more complete acceptance of myself.

I experience my life as a white cisgender asexual woman, living with chronic illness.  I could add other identity markers like Christian, middle class, American. These are all true.

Labels can be seen as over-kill or they can be seen as an incomplete, yet important way to talk about how we experience the world differently based upon race, gender identity, sexual orientation, class, religious affiliation, health.

For we all have labels if we bring them out.

A white cisgender heterosexual Christian male born into an upper-middle class family are all labels too.  We are just taught that this is the norm.

Here’s to 2018: more honesty, more listening to the perspectives of others, more love, empathy, compassion, and forgiveness.

Advent, Healing Justice, & Cake

Yesterday was the third Sunday of Advent yesterday and I’m sitting in an Episcopal church in Carmel, Indiana.  98% White.  Scripted prayers (not bad, but scripted nonetheless) and out of this formal setting, the first reading:

“They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.  For I the Lord love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense…”

We sit there, respectfully following along in our bulletins.

And I ask myself, “Who are they?”

The image in my mind as the passage is read is my POC brothers and sisters who lament and know what systemic oppression looks and feels like.  Who keep on lamenting, trusting, and hoping in community because that’s the only thing that brings dignity in daily life.

Who clings to the faith of their ancestors, who survived slavery and lynching, and still believed in Jesus, in their desperation.  Who believed that they were the crucified ones.  That maybe if Christ could say, “Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” they could have the courage to forgive those behind their daily experience of multiple oppressions.  That they could find their voice even in the midst of white supremacy.

We in white culture like to sanitize the Christmas story.  We like to make sure Jesus’ skin tone was white and that all the animals were behaving in the stable and that kids look cute in their choir concert.  Truth is, Mary and Joseph were poor and they had a dangerous journey to Bethlehem.  Mary had to have her baby outside (no health insurance).  Jesus was a refugee who barely escaped genocide.  (Good thing Joseph believed the angels in a dream!)

We in white culture have a hard time sitting with the Christmas story as one of multiple oppressions.  Then we have to take seriously the fact that we oppress, directly or through silence.

I believe that people of color will repair the ruined cities.  They have the persistence that I don’t yet have.  They know that lament and joy are always intertwined.  Healing must be grassroots work and be collaborative.  I believe that people of color are finding ways to practice healing justice, to find ways to heal the devastations of many generations, while still taking care of themselves and their community.

A big part of my job is to get out of the way.  To amplify the voices of color and learn from them.  To take an honest look at my life and see ways that I oppress.  (A big shout out goes out to Faith Matters Network and Mystic Soul Project for the work that you are doing.  Thank you for allowing me to see faith from a different vantage point.)

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I also wanted to write about ways I’m smiling and laughing this Advent.  I’m waiting for my smile to return and I’m doing small things to recharge this month, rather than scurry around like crazy.  Yesterday, I made a cake, along with the help of my roommate.  If you have food allergies, you know how hard it is for cake not to taste like cardboard.  Well, this 6 layer-cake with layers of an Oreo cookie crust, chocolate cake, and chocolate mousse did not disappoint! It’s also gluten and nut-free, so if you want the recipes let me know!

The Waiting of Advent

 

My melancholy side naturally resonates with Advent on the Christian church calendar.  Waiting.  Longing. Questioning.  How long? Sitting in pain without knowing when it will stop.

If I make it more personal and actually ask myself the question,

“What are you waiting for?” there are so many answers I could come up with.

All would be valid.  None would be wrong.

I want healing for my body, for our nation, for division to stop, for pain to end, for all those who feel forgotten would be welcome, for the lonely to find meaningful community and friendships.  The list could go on and on.

What is at the top of my list though is:

Silliness.  Laughter.  Adventures. My smile.

I miss these parts of myself that have been suffocated by grief.  I miss the parts of my personality that have changed drastically in the process of illness.

You see, when I was 14, I was the happy-go-lucky kid.  It’s hard to believe that now.  I was silly.  I smiled and laughed all the time.  Yes, I was young and not so rooted in the world’s pain, and yet I miss her.  I miss the part of me that wasn’t so acquainted with grief, with pain, with fatigue.  I miss the girl who was always trying to make someone’s day just a bit brighter.

I know she’s still there, trying to emerge.

Some people today compliment me for my smile-and say, “I never would have known that you live with a chronic illness.  You make it look easy.”

I take this compliment for what it is, and yet in the back of my head I’m also thinking, “I miss my old smile.”

My smile now isn’t forced, but it’s weightier.  I can actually feel my jaw using more effort.  There’s more resistance now.  It doesn’t come quite so naturally.

One day (hopefully in the near future), I will write a book with a title something like this:  When Your Personality Changes Overnight: Chronic Illness in Your Teens and Twenties.  I will talk about that weighty smile and the laughter that seems to come with a small hesitation.

I’m back in therapy right now reprocessing trauma, helping my neural networks to find another route in my brain besides fear.  That seems to be the route most traveled.  Because of the length of my illness, and several traumas piled on top of each other, I’m spending this Advent season coming to accept the fact that I have a minor form of PTSD.

Living with PTSD is a humbling experience.  Learning to heal from PTSD is a stretching experience.  It’s taking all of my drive to go even deeper, to heal just a little bit more.  To be patient and kind to myself, as I mess up, as I cry (yet again!), as I long so deeply to be well, that I think I just can’t take any more pain.

Simple things make me profoundly happy.  A card.  A compliment.  An unexpected text. A drive down Meridian to see my sister.  On Saturday, we went to Winterlights at the IMA and it was wonderful.

Lightshows.  Bantering about why we hate taking pictures.  Going the wrong way into the Lilly House and being told we had to go around.  Watching kids run and teenagers dance to the Nutcracker.  Trying to find a place to park.  Deciding that we didn’t want $4 Swiss Miss and going to The Best Chocolate in Town 10 minutes before it closed to get Ghiradelli in our hot chocolate instead.  Laughing about how we should have brought in bags of our own marshmallows to sell so we could have made money for all those people wanting the perfect Christmas outing roasting smores at the IMA.

My night was a whole lot lighter because of laughter.  That’s what I’m waiting for this Advent.

Thankfulness and Apple Pie

I had a very restful, beautiful Thanksgiving.

The healthiest I’ve felt in a long time, even though fatigue came and went.

I was able to share cooking with my mom and I cooked for half the day on Wednesday and enjoyed eating and playing games on Thursday.

This Thanksgiving was more quiet.  I read a book on Native American wisdom this year and was outside more appreciating the land where I live, and grieving the exploitation of many.

And this year, Larry Nassar pled guilty for molesting young female athletes. I felt glad that in this long case, there have been glimpses of hope and justice.  And yet I grieve the fact that as a woman, assault is so rampant, and that so many women had to come forward for it to seem “believable.”

It’s a both/and world of thankfulness and grief.  I suppose you can’t truly be grateful unless you’ve grieved, or at least be grateful in a way that goes down deep.

As I’ve reflected on the past year, and all I’m grateful for–the list is long.  There are many people, and places, and lessons learned, and decisions made.  There have been new practices, new travels, new friendships.  Yet at the top of the list–I’m thankful that I’m discovering my voice.

I like what I hear and I’m discovering the rough edges that I need to integrate into my being and not suppress any longer.

You see, when you’re a victim of sexual assault, you start to distrust your body.  And if you can’t trust your body, you can’t trust your voice.  But that’s not the only piece of the story.

I’m also unraveling layers of being a woman in this culture and all the messages I’ve taken in about being too sensitive, too smart, too athletic, too intimidating, etc.  I don’t want to fit into the box of the “I can do it all-woman but still appear quiet and servant-hearted when the situation calls for it.”  I’m breaking those rules.  I’m learning to forge my own path and not just be in solidarity with a group, although that feels more comfortable.

I recognize how difficult it was to navigate the medical system as a teenager, when I had symptoms but nothing to show on lab tests.  I wanted a doctor who would believe that my body wasn’t lying–who would listen to me over science.  That’s hard to come by.  I internalized that I must edit my story to be believed, that I must fight to be seen.  These beliefs have wreaked havoc in my life–and yet I’m aware of them, and I’m learning just to be.

I’m thankful for yoga, for helping me believe in my body’s messages again.

I’m thankful for other body workers who believe that energy work changes lives.  It has changed mine.

I’m thankful for how my theology has expanded and grown–where the body must be in the picture now-or the belief is too narrow, too abstract, too ungrounded for me.

I’m thankful for a retreat in Omaha where I learned how to hold difference in silence and stillness.

I’m thankful that I started a business, even though it’s changed a lot of how my life looks.  I’m learning as I go 🙂

I’m thankful to connect with female small business owners who thrive on collaborating, on mutual sharing, and on wanting everyone to succeed.

I’m thankful for this journey of fighting for my health, of meeting others along the journey and letting our limitations enrich our friendship.

I’m thankful that I live in an apartment where I’m not reacting to mold.

I’m thankful for being able to eat apple pie.

 

 

For Those Women Who Keep Speaking Up

I first started tracking the Larry Nassar’s case last summer.  The story reminded me of my own; the details were all too similar.

Switch out gymnastics doctor for a physical therapist and OBGYN, specializing in chronic illness patients.

Switch out young, vulnerable female athletes with vulnerable, “I’m in the worst health I’ve ever been in” patients.

The abuse of power is there.

The city of Indianapolis covering up abuse cases is there.

Victims being silenced when they sought out help is there.

The statement, “You should feel honored that you are receiving treatment from one of the best….” is there.

USA Gymnastics poor handling of sexual abuse complaints and Indiana’s poor rating in terms of how it protects its patients is there.

So, as I watched Aly Raisman tell her story on 60 Minutes last night, there existed both sadness and hope.  Hope that justice may be served.  Hope that telling my own story is part of my liberation, but is also part of the liberation of the millions of women around the world who are sexually assaulted.  And their liberation is mine.  We really need each other as we pick up the pieces and muster up our courage to seek wholeness day after day.

For most of us, the courts are not going to turn in our favor.  Many, many criminals still roam free.  And yet, women are speaking out and challenging the institutions and questioning the “respectable” positions of power that have gone unchecked for far too long.  We are finding our voices–and actually see that they are strong.  They are loud and we know exactly what we want to say.

Abuse can happen by anyone.  Anywhere. This is wrong.  And this must stop.

What I didn’t realize is that Raisman is hoping to be a part of the 2020 Olympic team.  When asked if coming forward might jeopardize her chance of making the team, she responded similarly to, “It might.  But being honest and coming forward is worth more than any gold medal ever could.”

I think together we are all saying, “Thanks for speaking for you.  Thanks for speaking for me.”

To Be a Walking Contradiction

Fall is truly here; and I’m glad.  I love the weather changing, the leaves turning.  I can even embrace all the rain and the short nights.  I enjoy the countdowns to Thanksgiving and Christmas.  On my more reflective days, I think about a year ending and another year starting.

I think about how 2017 has been a year of tremendous growth, and yet a year where I’ve seen my own grief erupt and almost overtake me.  It’s been a year of confusion, of decisions I had to make too soon, and continuing to learn that my health fluctuating is my new normal.

I’m back in therapy working with a medical trauma specialist and last session she asked what I was taking away from this session.  My response was, “I can see all the hard work I’ve already put in, and I see that I still have the drive to put in more work and heal.  I want to heal so badly.”

You see, I’m learning to realize the effects of my illness in new ways.  With all of the mold reactions I had this summer, both from my home and my workplace, I suffered some brain damage.  Since it was prolonged enough, new neural networks formed in my brain while I was living in fight-or-flight mode for several months this summer.

I lived in different homes, bought air filters, quit my job, moved, started a business.  My body is still tired–but not just fatigue-tired.  My brain is tired, and I still have days where I don’t remember words or routines or how to get somewhere.  I notice that after I spend 5 hours lesson planning on the weekend, my brain is completely wiped out.  And I just hope on Monday that I’m ready to go, and have enough energy to get me through the day.

The new neural networks that formed were challenging all my beliefs-ones that I have challenged often in this health journey:

  • Do I have what it takes?  How do I find the strength it takes maybe to wake up and not remember much about the day before?
  • Will people still be around?
  • Do I believe that I’m worth it?  Can I find even more grit to trust that every healing step is worth it because I’m worth it?
  • Is joy attainable?
  • If I have to quit my job, where do I go next?
  • Can my pain be transformed into a life that I think is beautiful and fulfilling?

Some days I feel pretty good.  I like my work, I feel confident, and joyful.  Other days it’s hard to get out of bed, and I get through work, crash and hope I have energy to get out of bed the next day.  Both are me.  Both are true.

The hardest negative belief to observe, notice where I feel the tension in my body, and to breath my way through it is, “You are alone in this.”

Here’s the thing.  Intellectually I know that I’m not.  I have friends who struggle with chronic illness.  I have taken meals to hospitals, and made allergy friendly Christmas cookies.  We have talked about doctors not believing us, and the struggle to be seen and heard.

And yet, in those moments where it feels like my brain is firing in all directions, my body feels alone.  My brain and body are fighting with each other.

Part of chronic illness is realizing along the journey, ways I have over-compensated because of being sick.  So when I was physically fatigued, there were many years, where my mind was the strong suit.  I overcompensated intellectually, because while I had to lie in bed for many daylight hours each day, I could still think.

The hard part currently is some days I can’t think.  My brain isn’t always my strong suit anymore.  I have to do everything I can to stop the inflammation from forming in my brain, but I also have to accept what’s happening.

It’s both/and.

And both/and is messy.  There are tears out of nowhere and things that take 3 hours longer and cancelled plans and small moments where I smile at the sunrise and feel like I’m an 85 year old who’s just happy to be alive.

My relationships slowly shift.  I have to say no to things I used to say yes to.  I stop yoga for a time and start therapy.  I learn to listen to my body before my mind (because the mind can only put language to what the body knows anyway).

This both/and world is unpredictable.  It’s both wonderful and scary.  It’s freeing and frightening.  I see both the ugly and beautiful in myself.  It’s a place of kindness towards myself and my limitations and celebrating my strong, persevering stance in the world.

Even writing this post has been emotional, because yesterday I couldn’t do this.  But today I can.  And for that I am glad.  Yet the gladness does not wipe away the sadness of yesterday.  They co-exist and always will.

The more I heal, the more I deeply know that trauma and transformation must live side by side.  There’s really no other way.

My illness has taught me more about humanity than anything else has.  It’s taught me about paradox, about this both/and world.  That’s it’s okay to be in progress.  I’ve learned about structures and powers that do not listen to the weak and about my own anger at injustice the the doubling power of trauma when you stay in the state of victimhood too long.  I’m learning to see myself as a walking contradiction, along with everyone else.

Reflections on #metoo

 

Many of you know who follow my blog, that I posted about my sexual assault at the hands of a female doctor this August.

As I watched Facebook this past week and saw a multitude of comments (both good and bad), I felt several emotions.  I felt sad, for myself, and for numerous women around the world.  I felt slightly triggered and needed to monitor how much time I spent on Facebook, because some comments got pretty ugly.  I felt thankful, that many women felt like they had a platform to speak honestly the harm done to them, and that they got to say #metoo in solidarity with other women.

I saw women try to sort out if they should say #metoo if they had just been harassed, but not actually assaulted.  I saw a few posts where women mentioned as a side bar that men and boys are assaulted too.  I saw men respond “I am listening.  I believe you. We need to do better.” Many emotions were stirred up in general.

Although my assault was committed by a woman, I know what it feels like to be a woman in this world, that often feels unsafe because of men’s actions.  I felt this strongest when I lived in Chicago for 4 years, and took public transportation and walked everywhere I went.  There wasn’t a day where I walked in Chicago that I didn’t experienced catcalling.  I knew certain areas of the city where I had to pay extra attention and walk extra confidently.  I knew that if I was walking alone at night, that I would be the one blamed if I was raped.

Slowly I started disconnecting, because that’s what feels safest.  I would make phone calls when I walked, because that felt safer than facing the fact of all the emotional energy it took to “armor up” just to transport myself to where I needed to go.  Maybe I could tune out catcalling or having unwanted stares by men, if I was focused on whoever I was talking to on the phone.

While that’s a simple example, it matters, because that was my way of numbing reality, of distancing myself from how much energy it took wondering if I would feel safe that day.  And not feeling physically safe matters.

I do believe the phenomenon of the “unbalanced masculine” is alive and well in our culture today.  Men are raised to be dominant, to be strong and not weak.  That emotions are weak.  They live in fear, because they are not culturally “allowed” to integrate their masculine and feminine sides.  Women, then react to this dominance, by putting up walls.  Not often enough letting their intuitive and tender sides come through.  To survive this world, you have to “make it with the guys.” Notice all the dualism here.

Instead of being both weak and strong.

Intuitive and logical.

Nurturing and Independent.

The beauty of #metoo is the solidarity amongst women that puts the response in the hands of men to be part of the solution of a safer, and more just world.

And yet, I also to write how the sexual assault landscape is much more nuanced than #metoo.  The stats are 1/4 women and 1/6 men.  Boys are assaulted by men.  Women are assaulted by women.  Women assault boys. Boys assault boys.  Girls assault girls.  Incest is prevalent.

As Brene Brown writes in her newest book, Braving the Wilderness, “Facebook is the catalyst.  Face-to-face is the connection.”  I wondered as I looked at #metoo’s all week, how all the talk and attention may have triggered many who have been sexually assaulted.  I hoped that these people had someone to talk to face-to-face.  Because Facebook may be a catalyst for awareness, but it’s not going to heal trauma.  And Facebook can be filled with such dehumanization, that some survivors may have felt like they had to defend themselves yet again.

To all survivors of sexual assault-you are so brave.

You are believed and heard and loved.

But I will be honest-not everyone has emotional capacity to hear your story.  To listen.  To grieve.  To take the steps of healing with you.  To understand that the affects of sexual assault last a lifetime, although tremendous healing can occur.  But you will always walk with a limp.

However, some people can.  I sincerely hope you find those people.

Because to me, from here, we raised awareness on Facebook, now we must have the courage to have face-to-face conversations.

Does every survivor need to tell their story?  Absolutely not.  They get to decide the time, place, details, who will be listening, basically every detail.  They must feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually safe.

But maybe we all should ask this question, “Am I a safe enough person for someone to tell their sexual assault experience to, if he/she/they were ready?”

Maybe another question, “How would I make sure this person felt exceptionally loved and brave and believed after he/she/they told me?”

Sure, part of the solution to the rampant sexual harassment and assault in this country is political.  And yet, maybe the first step is being a safe person.  Being available and willing to listen without judgment.

And believe me, as a sexual assault survivor, there always could be more and more safe people in the world.