Posted in about me, storytelling, vulnerability

It’s my turn [deep breath]

“If you don’t do this, I’m going to tell your parents all the bad things you do when I’m here.” There weren’t really any bad things, but we were allowed to bend the rules when the babysitter was there, and as it was, I was the scape goat for the family’s ills…

So in 5th grade, I gave my first blowjob to our next door neighbor. I told no one. Who would I tell?

Years later, I realized what that white creamy stuff was. (He had come into a tissue.)

Years after that, I told my family. In a letter. My sister emailed and “screamed” at me. Why would I tell them that? I upset Mom and they have to deal with the fallout. (I was not living locally, which was true once I graduated college.) You’re being selfish. “He told me the same thing and I just said no.”

It’s your fault.

My freshman year of college, as a no-sex-until-marriage Catholic girl, I dated a guy who—as I learned much later—had the goal of breaking people of their Christianity. (He was Jewish.) Step one was sex, regardless of my clear boundaries that I didn’t want to have sex.

When I talked/cried about it later, he said, “You make it sound like I raped you.” But being the good don’t-make-waves girl that I was, I didn’t push that line. But yeah, that’s what you did.

I remember details of sex with him only two other times. Once, I was exhausted and told him no, I needed to sleep. He didn’t take no for an answer and then was irate that I fell asleep while he fucked me.

And the last time, he refused to take his shirt off. When I finally insisted, he was covered in hickies from the other woman he was sleeping with. He decided at that moment that she was better. They eventually got married and divorced.

We worked together at the campus newspaper. Everyone there (or everyone there who was vocal) thought I was insane for being so upset. I got notes in my mailbox (at the paper) saying “You’re a psycho.”

You see, we had gotten engaged, because if you can’t save sex for marriage, then you can at least marry the person you have sex with. (Another tangent for another day.)

From my vantage point now, marrying your rapist is a bad plan. At the time, it didn’t seem like a bad plan. Our breakup had a lot wrapped up in it.

A lot of people know parts of this story—at the very least that I was raped by my first college boyfriend. Very, very few know the story of what actually happened that night.

When I told the story to my therapist, the first words out of his mouth were, “How could you?” I don’t tell that story any more.

Those were the big ones.

They don’t include the teacher I had in 7th grade who used to hold my left hand while I sat and did writing work with my right.

Or the 7th grade boy who pinned me to a table backstage when I was in 8th grade.

Or the high school teacher who, when on a trip post-graduating (we happened to be chaperoning different schools on the same trip), interpreted me going to his room to hang out as me going to his room for sex. (He kissed me, and I stopped it right there, and he gave me all the reasons I was “sending mixed messages.”)

Or the guy who, upon my moving across the country, said he had some leads for places I could play my trombone (I had no contacts in the new location), met up with me for lunch without any leads—he just wanted to go out with me.

Or the guy in the band I played in who would tell me I was too pretty to play the trombone, then make a point of staring at my boobs and reading my T-shirt out loud.

(My boobs are not much to look at. Even if they were, it’s not acceptable, but there’s not even the “they were distracting” defense. B-cup boobs in a loose-fitting crew-neck T-shirt?)

(And there—I did it. Defended myself by explaining what I was wearing. IT DOESN’T MATTER. I’m leaving that there, instead of editing it out.)

I have spent a lot of my life being grateful that I was not “hot” growing up. By how many times would this be magnified?

All men? No. I’ve dated lots of boys (when I was young) and men who have been perfectly respectful. I’ve befriended boys and men and have not felt unsafe or uncomfortable with them.

Does that mean that they’ve never been the cause of someone else’s #metoo? Nope. I would be sad—in some cases, completely heartbroken—to learn that they carry that transgression.

This is the first time that I’ve seen men really speaking out, saying, “I believe you” publicly. Explaining why women don’t report. Arguing on my side. Explaining to other men. Sometimes explaining to women. (More on that in a moment.) It’s made me teary.

But there are also men I know who are very vocally feminist who have told stories that were “funny” that I’m reasonably sure the woman on the other end remembers differently.

Next, to all of the women who are putting down women right now: you’re hurt. Something happened to you that still hurts, and when things like this come up (as they seem to on a constant basis lately), you can’t have empathy for her, because it hurts too much. Instead, you put her down.

Work through your pain. Start to heal it, so you don’t feel like you have to hurt others to protect yourself.

If you made it this far, let me say thank you. For reading. For letting me share my thoughts, my experience, my life with you. A lot of people already know some or all of these stories, but putting it here and hitting “publish” is terrifying. I see other brave women standing up and owning their stories, not just to the people they trust, but to everyone. I see the backlash.

It’s my turn.

Posted in ebb & flow, exercise

A Golden Age of Exercise

Exercise has been a near-constant part of my daily life since my mid-20s.

But only sometimes has it been amazing. (It’s always been good for my physical and mental health, whether I’m enjoying what I’m doing or not, whether I’m putting in as much time and energy as I’d like or not. But that doesn’t always make it something I want to do.)

I’m slipping into another era of Exercise is Astounding! Hooray!

I’ve been running a few days a week very consistently all summer, which I’m going to take a moment to pat myself on the back for. In part because running several days a week consistently takes some discipline, but people. It’s hot. I live in Phoenix.

(Yes, it’s a dry heat. But it’s still hot. My favorite part of the pic? Besides that I cracked myself up making it? The wind chill. Pic was taken after an evening run in July. So it was cooler than when I started.)

The payoff for that, besides all the usual payoffs for running several times per week for several months, is that in another month or so, I’m suddenly going to have WAY BETTER endurance. And it’s not because of me—it’s because the weather will break. And suddenly running will be easier.

Happens every fall. Well, every fall that I run through the summer.

Anyway.

Besides running, I’ve been climbing at the rock gym a couple of times per week. (I have so much more to say about climbing, but I’ll save it for another day.)

We put a pull-up bar in the house, and I’ve been working on pull-ups every day when I walk by it. (Can’t do any yet. Getting stronger, though.)

And I’m going to be training with a trainer again in a couple of weeks! I’m so excited about this! It’s been many years since I’ve had a trainer. I have loved training with a trainer every time I’ve done it and am ready for the extended soreness that comes along with sessions, especially the early ones.

There have been times when there’s been less exercise, when exercise has been more doing it because I should/need and less because I want to. But nowadays? It’s a lot more fun than work.

Where are you in that spectrum? Does the pendulum swing for you, or do you need a push? What’s your favorite way to get some exercise? Anything you’ve been toying with trying but haven’t? Here’s your sign—go try it!

Posted in meandering, storytelling, vulnerability

Speaking plainly is not necessarily dismissive

Sometimes, I talk about significant things as if they’re just another thing.

For example, I’m divorced and re-married. I plainly talk about things in my first marriage, about things in my divorce, about things as they are now.

It doesn’t mean that none of it is significant, or that it didn’t matter, or that it was easy, or that I don’t feel feelings about it.

Simply this: it’s part of my story. I own it.

Some of my story, I’ll talk about with most people (or I’ll write about it). Some of it, you’ll need a higher security clearance before I get that vulnerable with you.

But it happened. Lots of amazing things have happened. Lots of horrible things have happened. Lots of mundane things have happened.

Some have been my fault (for better or for worse).

Some have been dumb luck (for better or for worse).

Some have been someone else’s fault (for better or for worse).

Most have been (D) all of the above.

Regardless of how any person or event or outcome came into my life, it’s part of my story.

So. Don’t interpret casual conversation to mean that the topic is light. It’s just part of me.

Posted in from the book, gardening, hope, marriage, meandering

Hope

I’m writing a book. This is a little piece of it, written about six months ago. I expect that I’ll share a few more bits of it, and also that some things I write for the blog will end up in the book. Editing is likely.

I was recently struck by the abundance of hope in my life.

A couple of weeks ago, I built garden beds and planted a garden.

I don’t know a lot about gardening, but I’ve been able to grow a fair amount of produce in the past. The whole process of gardening, right up until you taste what you’ve grown, is a continuous act of hope.

Actually, I might argue that eating truly fresh produce isn’t the end point but merely resets the cycle to the beginning.

In a few weeks, I’m getting married, an act of hope unto itself.

But this is my second marriage. Wrapped up in all of the same hopes as the first one are the hopes that it will be better, that I will be able to implement lessons I’ve learned, that I’m not ignoring red flags.

We bought a house. Are the neighbors friendly? Is the location good long-term? Will it age well? I hope so.

People need hope to live well, even if it’s not something we actively label. (I don’t really think about it most of the time with regards to gardening, for example, but it’s definitely there!)

As a person who has battled depression off and on, hopelessness is heavy. Even a little bit, any slice of light through the darkness, is life-changing.

My senior year of high school, I took World History. I remember two things from it, and only one is academic.

NO HOPE

People change when they are without hope—sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. I’ve seen it in my own life. I’ve seen it in others. I was shown examples over and over through history. I see it in our current events.

The other thing I remember? Being on the high speed line (a local train) on a field trip—no idea to where—and Jeff asking Mr. Burke if we could leave our lunches on the bus.

Where do you have hope in your life? Are there places you’ve given up? For better or for worse?

Posted in gifts, hope, meandering, thoughtfulness

Gift-giving

When I got married the first time, my mom gave me an earful for not registering for towels. “Towels make good gifts,” she said.

But he and I were both adults, combining independent households (we both owned our own places at that point), and we had more than enough towels. And we had received good-quality new towels as a gift for registering.

Towels would not have made a good gift (unless, I suppose, there was something unique about them, something that made them different enough that having more towels wouldn’t simply be a storage issue).

But the issue here isn’t really towels. It’s gifts.

I’m strongly of the opinion that as a general rule, a gift should please the recipient. Giving someone else something that I want is not a good gift—unless they want it, too. The best gifts please both parties—one is happy to give it and the other is happy to receive it.

I’ve given gifts off of registries that were not at all interesting or exciting to buy. But I knew they were the mundane stuff that many of us hate to spend money on, and I knew they’d be welcomed and used. Not an awesome giving experience in some ways, but in other ways, it was perfect, because I knew they wanted and would use it.

Now … I’m going to say that we can’t always know that the recipient will be pleased. Even people I know well don’t always love gifts I’ve given them, and it’s often harder when the people are more removed. There is definitely a thread of “it’s the thought that counts” in gifting. But I do think there should be more to it than social obligation.

Most of the time, I personally would prefer not to receive a gift at all than to receive a “generic” gift. But I don’t like scented things, I don’t use many “luxury” personal care items (bath bombs, lotions, etc.), I don’t enjoy wine, and that eliminates the majority of generic gifts for women. Maybe if I loved smelly lotions and candles, I would feel differently about this. *shrug*

It’s important to me to make my best effort to give gifts that I think people will like. And I have a special affection for people who do the same.

Because of a bunch of factors that I had written out but made this too tangent-y (even for me!), I don’t often receive gifts, so much of this is academic.

But.

For my 42nd birthday, my husband threw a surprise party. Some of the people who came brought gifts. Each gift was different (a bag for dancing shoes, a stainless steel water bottle with a cool saying, earrings, a vegetarian camping cookbook, and others), but every single one—no exceptions—in some way said, “I know you.” The party was amazing without any material extras, but gifts were, on that day, a way for friends to show love in a different way.

“I know you.”

Maybe that’s why I’m not into generic gifts so much. I don’t have a couple of wrapped up scented candles in the closet in case someone brings me a gift and I don’t have one in return. I give without receiving. I receive without giving. Over time, it evens out.

This thread pops up for me many times in September or October. People are talking about how much Christmas shopping they’ve gotten done. I can’t possibly start Christmas shopping this early. I don’t know what the few people I buy for are going to want. My husband might just go out and get it himself between now and then. My son changes his mind every 45 seconds. (Last year, I started planning a big Lego birthday surprise a month ahead of time, and he was marginally still interested in the kits we bought by the time his birthday rolled around.)

I’m sure there are some things I could pick up now that would still be relevant in a few months. But what if I find something better in six weeks? (Oh yeah. I suffer from that disease, too. I’ve saved so much money in my life by not buying something because what if I find something better later?)

What about you? How do you shop? What do you prefer to give and receive?