14 and counting.

November 13, 2017

Me, too.

I was verbally and sexually assaulted by a teacher at the age of 14.  My story is not unique nor particularly terrible. I am not special.

What is special to me, and every other woman who has experienced such assault, is how this affront ripples through one’s life… what shape it takes, and the myriad of ways in which it affects one’s perception…even forty years later.  The exposure of sexual predators in the news of late has brought up some crap memories for me.  Far too many, I’m afraid.

Something, though, about the memory of this happening at 14 is particularly acute.  I was a freshman in high school, mature for my age, both physically and intellectually, though emotionally right where I was probably supposed to be.  Like most teenagers, I wanted attention from the opposite sex (in my case), though I had no real clue what that actually entailed.  I was basically just a kid.  I’m sure I thought of myself as an adult, and fancied myself progressed.

I remember the day the first assault happened with this teacher.  I can tell you exactly what I was wearing, where he was located in the room, what the sunlight looked like as it shown across the tile floor.  Everything.  Everything he said and did.  I remember everything.

He planted something inside me that day as surely as if he injected me with a virus.

I was not safe in my body, was I?  I was an attractive person, so had I done something to warrant this behavior from him?  I had no idea what to do or how to act.  I remember the mind numbing feeling of trying to act normally in the face of his lewdness.  Nothing would ever be the same.

I was from that day onward in conflict with myself.  One half striving to be normal and desirous of being attractive to men, just like my friends, and the other half wishing for isolation and safety.  This battle waged not only in my psyche, yet in my body, as shortly thereafter, weight became a huge issue.  I have had psychologists since that time tell me that I used weight as a physical barrier of protection. yet all I could feel as a young woman was more depressed and abnormal.

My intention is not to belabor the already well known and documented correlations between sexual assault and weight issues, self harm, addiction, or the like, yet to highlight the fact that even if one understands the origins, the damage is not undone.  It cannot be undone… merely managed.

I manage a lot of things now I wish I didn’t have to.  Most of us do…and some days are better than others.  I am angry, though, that he added something extra to my plate.  Angry at the ways in which those experiences skewed my vision as a young woman.  Angry at the EXTRA SHIT he passed on to me because he couldn’t say ‘no’ to his perverted impulses.  Angry that even at 54 years old… 40 years after this experience, it is still as fresh in my mind as if it had just happened.

That is not fair, nor right.  It never will be.

I am not special.

 

 

 

 

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The road traveled…

March 23, 2012

When I went back to school in my 30’s to study art… it didn’t seem so crazy.  When I went back to school at 47 to study hair design, it seemed kind of whacky, but bold and courageous, indeed.  I was starting over, yet again!  How cool was that?

Most days, I am really just fine with the notion that I have a lot to learn, and so I keep learning and trying and getting better.  Some days, like yesterday, all I see is the distance in front of me, not so much as a beckoning force, but more like a daunting task.  I’m tired, I guess.  I’m almost 50, and some days… as I felt yesterday, I would rather be old and wise and accomplished.  I would like to be the one that others come to for advice on how to proceed, not the one always having to ask about how best to proceed.  Yes, I have a wide range of experiences and a passel of knowledge about a ton of things, but some days, I just wish I hadn’t set the bar so high at this stage of the game.

None of this is to say, however, that I don’t like what I do… for I do.  Some days… it’s just a lot.

Good, bad…right, wrong…

January 23, 2011

I saw the movie, Black Swan, recently.  It was OK, I guess.  Natalie Portman was pretty impressive in both her dancing and her acting, yet the overall story lacked some “meat” for me.  It does have me pondering the notion of duality and sanity, however.  I think I have blogged on this subject before, or at least touched upon it, so perhaps I am nuts and have multiple personalities…or, perhaps we all do… to some extent.

Once upon a time when I used to meditate more regularly, I would sometimes “see” a certain other aspect of me.  She was typically sulking in a chair, sort of defiantly un-groomed, with lots of anger about a lot of things.  I would think, “geez, why is this part of me so pissed off?”  I would try to engage this ‘me’ in conversation, in said meditation, yet it would usually just be a rant about all of the reasons why the anger was justified.

Maybe whenever we judge, condemn, criticize, or otherwise label a part of ourselves as “bad”, or “wrong”, or ” not good enough”, etc., etc…. we help create this personality that feels so slighted?  The part that eventually has a huge fodder on which to feed the anger.

I’m guilty of this, pretty much on a regular basis.  My overall sense of who I am is that I am a person who wants to be nice, play nice, and share my toys.  I do have my days, however, where this is not the case.  On such days, whenever I criticize myself, for being “selfish, or strict, or ungenerous, or inflexible”, perhaps I just add fuel to a never ending fire?  Maybe it’s ok to just acknowledge that you don’t always feel nice?  Don’t always feel like sharing, or being gracious?  Is that really so bad??

I’m not advocating for the negative, or for the willy nilly rampage of our more ‘unpleasant’ selves,  just wondering if the constant assignment of good or bad, or right or wrong is damaging to one’s psyche?  The whole adage of “what you resist, persists”.

I wonder if Natalie’s character in the movie hadn’t so severely separated the parts of her self, would there have been the eventual split?  What if she were to have been able to find a common ground between the two impulses?  What if she hadn’t assigned a label to the more wild and passionate ‘other self’?  What if she had accepted the fact that she was, indeed, a multi-faceted person?  Would she have held onto her sanity??

Hey. It’s a movie, right?  Perhaps she was just nuts and was doomed from the get go.  I don’t know… I just know it has me wondering…

 

 

Notes to self…

January 4, 2011

Dear Alison,

Would it be possible for you to become an island unto yourself?  Just imagine how nice it would be on said island.  Warm with a light breeze; lots of sun, white beaches, and a turquoise green sea.  You could take Bodie and he could chase crabs.  It sounds like fun…

 

Dear Alison,

Remember when we used to live on Easy Street?  Those were good times.  I hope we can live there again someday.

 

…About that island.  I think it sounds grand, don’t you?…

 

…Yours in friendship…

AAH

 

I intend…

December 30, 2010

Something about the word, “resolution” evokes for me an image of a person girding their loins and pursing their lips as they bravely take on a difficult task, endeavor, or the like.  Resolved.  Having resolve. It feels way too serious in my mind’s eye, and I think the word, “intend” is much more fluid and easily manifested, perhaps, when one is making new year-like statements.

I am someone who digs rituals.  I like the notion of a new beginning, whether it is ‘real’ or not, and I remain hopeful as I always do, that I can begin again, and anew, each new year.  A whole new me!  Bright , shiny, improved and re-booted.

The classic new year’s resolutions (see, that word is just too intense or something…) of quitting smoking (check: November 4th, 1999), or losing weight (sigh…continual desire) seem lacking in any real imagination.  So, I thought it might give an added “oomph” to my intentions for the new year if I were to list them out to read and re-read.  In no particular order, here are a few:

To graduate from cosmetology school.  Hopefully with the highest GPA and attendance record ever seen at Merrell University!  (of course, this shall be in addition to my having garnered as much knowledge and skill possible about being a stylist)…

To take deep breaths when stressed or worried and remember at those times that 100 years from now, none of it will matter anyway…

To be nicer to myself, first and foremost, with the intention that said niceness will expand to encompass all who I encounter.

To get back into the studio and pick up my chisels.  Hello wood!  Hello stone!

To eat whole foods, exercise as much as possible, and remember to do my stretching.

To continue to create art, read good books, educate myself, and overall improve at being a sentient being.

To let go of the past and really mean it.  Hence, to really let go of the past.  This will help with the following intention…

To be here now, man.

To not wish my life away… (extension, indeed, of the aforementioned statements)…or as my Dad used to say, “treat each day as if it were the first day of the rest of your life.”  I can dig it.

To be a better listener.

To realize it is not all about me.

To better receive criticism when it benefits my growth as a human being.

To be more grateful, more often, and more sincerely about all the good things I already have in my life.

To be a better wife and partner.

To love, with more grace and compassion, the people closest to me.

Right…  No small efforts, those, yet worthy endeavors indeed!

May 2011 be a treat for us all, and may this new year lead each of us into our highest potential.  See you out there!!

Identity crunch…

November 3, 2010

I got a second opinion yesterday regarding my wrist and the torn ligament.  Suffice it to say, something will need to be done, and that something will probably mean recovering after surgery and readjustment to a wrist that is no longer “normal”.

My right hand is my dominant hand, and is the one that is compromised.  After surgery, it won’t be the same.  Something better than a wrist that is slowly deteriorating, I hope, yet not the same as before.  I don’t know right now what it will be like to sculpt, or even if I will be able to pick up a chisel.  I’m questioning the sanity of cosmetology school and the pursuit of a career cutting hair with a prognosis such as mine, and I’m wondering who I may be after this is all done.  So much of how I view myself is tied in with what I can do with my hands.  It’s humbling and quite unnerving at this point to realize how many eggs I have placed in that one basket.

I’m wondering how I will define who I am.

Who am I if I can no longer chisel on stone or wood?

Who am I if I don’t finish school and become a hair stylist?

Who am I if I don’t contribute in ways I have always seen as having value?

Who am I if I no longer call myself an artist?

Who am I if I drop every single notion of what I thought defined me?

and on a more superficial layer…

Who am I if I change my hair color?

Who am I if I give up my life long obsession with my weight?

Who am I???  Who will I be??

We place so much value on what we do, how we look, how much money we make, how much we ‘fit in’, and on and on, ad nauseum.

If you strip it all away, surely there is something left?  How do we define the non-tangibles?  How do I measure the other gifts I may have to offer?  Does it matter that my cat loves me?  Does it matter that I can offer solace and friendship to another?  Does it matter that I love and feel deeply?

I don’t want this issue with my wrist.  I want things to be like they were before, but they are not.

I’m scared.  I’ll admit it.  I am unsure of what the future holds.  Maybe I’m most afraid of what will be left, and what will not be…

Mirror, mirror…

October 6, 2010

I’ve been in a bit of a funk of late despite receiving relatively good news regarding my wrist.  I’m more than grateful that I don’t require surgery at this point, and though it’s a bit of a nebulous mystery as to what my future holds with wrist/pain/mobility, I am still pleased to know that my school venture will not be interrupted.

I’m just bummed that seemingly ‘old’ issues and repetitive nonsensical and damaging responses and ways of being are still floating around in my space.  I feel like I’ve run many ‘personal growth’ races, only to find that I’m still standing in the same spot.  I’m sure this is just a dramatic viewpoint, yet it is tangible, nonetheless.

How does one actually progress as a human being?  Is it circular, linear, haphazard, two steps forward…one step back, or is it one step forward…two steps back??  Any of the above??  None???

What gives me a modicum of hope at this juncture is that even when I’m in the heaviness of feeling like life is going backwards, or falling apart, I can feel whispers of the ‘other side’ of that particular experience.  Like a oasis seen on the horizon in a desert, or the sense of a cool breeze in a hot room, there is a reprieve…even for a moment, that I didn’t used to have.  It’s the sensation that if I only stood just a *little* more to the left (or right), I would be in a better space.  A more harmonious space…  A space that is life supporting…

Maybe that *is* progress??  I never used to have even a sliver of this feeling whilst in the midst of despair.  Perhaps I’m being offered an escape route?  An Alice in Wonderland type mirror to step through, without all the additional odd characters and challenges awaiting me on the other side.

I want to leap out of this old, used-up, crusty way of being in martyr/victim-mode.  Good lord but it gets weary…

I know that there is another Alison on the other side of that mirror.  She beckons…and I hear the call.

Time to enter my own personal wonderland, and explore the delights…

BFF

September 25, 2010

It’s 6:22 a.m. this Saturday morning and I rowed to get some exercise.  My wrist bothered me a little, yet I figure I should row while I still can…at least for a while, anyway.

I was pondering the notion of kindness and friendship this morning, too, while rowing.  I want to turn over a new leaf and be kinder…nicer.  Not so much to others, as I already put energy in that direction, but to myself.

I want to be my own BFF.  The one who, no matter what, is there for me.  One who does not sit in judgment, or overreact, or pity, or mistreat.  I want to be my own best friend, forever.

Time to take hold of my hand…maybe even the injured one, and move forward.  If this sounds like I’m doing a Sally Field imitation from Sybil, I’m not.  This isn’t a psychotic split, yet more of a psychic joining.

I just want to be kinder to myself.  I want to be the one that is in my corner, even if all I have to offer is worry and concern and fears about an injured wrist.  I want to be the one that soothes and comforts, saying, “it will all be fine”…. “you’ll see…”…”we’ll get through it together.”  The kind of self-talk that is life-supporting…not haranguing.

Yes, that sounds nice.  I’m ready…

MRI’s and maudlin notions…

September 23, 2010

I had an MRI on my wrist on Monday and heard the results this afternoon.  Tear in the scapholunate ligament.  Apparently the ligaments in the wrist are named after the bones they connect, and this particular ligament joins the scaphoid and lunate bones (carpals) of my right wrist.

I’m trying not to panic.  I’m in school, and the last thing I need to hear is that I need surgery on my wrist to repair the tear.  I won’t know all the details until my follow up appointment on the 4th of October, yet my mind is already racing.  It will be hard not to google all the ways in which I should be concerned, and my most sincere hope is that I can stay centered throughout this process and *know* that my goal of getting through hair design school without any major hiccups will be feasible.

Did I mention I’m trying not to freak?

This is my precious right hand.  My intricately executed and beautifully designed right hand.  I don’t doubt that it has been seriously comprimised by two falls.  Ever watch those slow motion videos of people running on treadmills?  Notice how it seems impossible that their knees and ankles can take such impact?  Yeah.  I guess my wrist is pretty damn miraculous for being in one piece *at all* after several falls.

Good lord.  This is not what I need or want.  I’m feeling kind of sorry for myself (hence the title bit, ‘maudlin notions’), and I just don’t get it.  Like Lee said, perhaps there is nothing ‘to get’.  It just happened, and now it just needs to be fixed.

Fortunately for me, I’m way ahead for my quilt show in January, and I think and hope and pray that I can find a way to continue with school, sans interruption.  I just don’t know how that picture looks just yet, and waiting is not my strong suit.

Wish me luck… Wish me the courage not to expect the worst.  Let me be like the water and flow around the obstacle(s) that seem to be in my path.  Fluid and formless.  Adaptable.

Maybe that is the lesson…  if, indeed, there is one.  Acceptance and adaptability.  The “A” words…

Wish me luck…

A row of grown ups…

September 2, 2010

For a myriad of reasons, I’ve been thinking about the ‘younger me’ these past few days.  Somewhere in the eleven year old range, I would guess, and back to a time when life felt safe.  As I seem to be on a never-ending quest for a very personal sense of inner peace, I have been exploring the notion of feeling safe in a rather esoteric way.

When I was little, thanks to my parents in a large part, I did feel safe.  Safe in a literal sense, yet even more important in a way, safe to explore the world around, and the world inside…  Safe to be me…

A row of grown ups.  That’s what this knowing felt like…  As if a protective barrier of adults walked right behind me at all times, and because of this, I was free to explore the day.  Open and hopeful and joyful.   What did I want to BE??  What did I want to do??  Oh, the possibilities!!!

Now that I am the grown up, I find I miss that particular sense of security.  How can I be the row of grown ups for myself?  How do I tell myself in a way that I will believe, that it is safe to be the totality of me these days?  Especially in a world that repeatedly shows us otherwise?  A world that wants to mold us into just another cog in the machine?

I want that feeling of freedom and security from so long ago.  Perhaps real enlightenment these days is when you can be the grown up and yet retain the childlike sense of wonder and fearlessness we all had at one time.

I think it’s important to offer this sense of safety to ourselves.  It’s portable, it’s personal, and it’s “about time” for me…

Maybe if I turn my head at just the right moment; I’ll find that they are all still right behind me…

Little Me…

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