I Get It.

I woke up this morning and had one of those moments where you examine things really quickly (almost like a recap for a television show) and come away more informed. It was definitely not something I do often, or even planned, but the thing that came out of it is a nugget of truth I will carry with me.

People want to speak and be heard-not just listened to.

I reflected on the various interactions I have and am privy to seeing/ hearing. I mean, I can tell you that one of the things which makes me upset the quickest is being asked a question to which the answer isn’t going to be paid attention. It’ll happen subtly at first and then all of a sudden the questions are robotic and I understand that I’ve been ignored. That’s what I mean by hearing vs. listening. I can listen  to music-but until I understand the lyrics, the deeper meaning, I’m not actually hearing it. Active listening, I’ve heard it called.

People want to be heard and believed.

Here’s another little piece which plays off of the first truth. We all have that one thing we wish we could tell other people without fear of judgment (or worse). Maybe it’s something like you ate the last donut. Maybe it’s more like you have a mental health condition. Maybe you were the victim of a crime. Or maybe you just feel too stressed, too hurt, too tired to carry on. No one speaks up about their story because they don’t feel like anyone will believe them. And it very rarely matters what exactly their story is-it’s that they don’t feel comfortable being vulnerable with their audience.

Do you know why?

Think with me, if you will, about a child who won’t eat what is on their plate. Do you know a pretty typical response form the parent? “There are starving kids in Africa who would love to have what you don’t want. You’re being wasteful.” And the thing is, it is that mindset that carries into adult life. We trivialize the suffering and experiences of others for the sake of making it seem “not that bad”.  Struggling with depression? “You just need to pick yourself up-it could always be worse.” Struggling with trauma? “You’re exaggerating. It’s not like you were X.”

Can you blame anyone for not speaking up? How many of us have felt more than a little dejected because someone just didn’t get it?

I talked about feeling the need to keep talking, but the thing is, I think what I needed to know more than just “keep making a statement” was that I feel it so strongly because these fundamental needs aren’t being met.

When I talk about my troubles, my passions, my thoughts, I am frequently met by vacant stares and “Mmm.” Or head bobs. I want to speak and see change in people’s hearts and minds. I don’t want to know about how lucky I am-because I already know. I don’t want to hear about how I’m overzealous or over-emotional or “in excess” in someway. You are trivializing my experiences.

So what do we do?

We change.

We hear.

We believe.

We accept.

We love.

Why the Kesha Ruling Matters

This week has been one hellacious week, as far as my reaction to court cases and life in general. You could say my faith in humanity wavered for a moment in time. But I write to you today from the perspective from someone who found the passion to pull herself from the depths of a hell-like depression into a full blown fighter. I have always been a fighter and now I’ve found my purpose.

Pocahontus Compass

I can no longer sit idly by and let our society, which I have endeavored to learn about and discover seek to oppress me by legislation which forces me to conceal that which is most basic to my existence: my biological sex.

I was born a female, and that is what I will stay, as feels right for me. But for whatever reason, that has been enough to condemn me. Michelle, are you talking about yourself personally or as a generality? Well, reader, I have to say both. And I can think of no more a potent case than the one recently involving Kesha. Kesha is a pop singer signed to the Sony label. She is known for song like “Tik-Tok” and “Crazy Kids”. And earlier this past week, a judge (more specifically Justice Shirley Kornreich of the Manhattan-New York Supreme Court) ruled that Kesha would continue to be legally obligated to fulfill her contract with the man whom Kesha has accused of sexually assaulting and raping her.

Michelle, you don’t even KNOW Kesha, nor anyone even remotely close to that case. How could it POSSIBLY affect you? Well, reader, pull up a chair and let me tell you a story.

—-Before I begin, I actually started this post 4 days ago, and had to stop because it emotionally drained me to the point of insanity. I would now like to finish what I started.

Womens-rights-are-human-rights

If the law says that a woman must stand by her accused rapist (or alleged assaulter, or abuser) for the sake of upholding a piece of paper, on which words are printed and names were signed, you are doing two things. First, you are saying that a contract is more important than a woman’s safety. Second, you are saying that women are not to be respected or believed if they come forward with accusations of assault, abuse or rape. You are saying that a women is expected to be grateful for the opportunities she has and that any reason she may have to want to remove herself from that opportunity is not good enough, and that maybe she shouldn’t have brought it on herself.

I was in class yesterday, and as I usually get there a couple minutes early, I found myself in a super emotional conversation about this very topic. I promise I didn’t start it, but I can proudly say I did pitch in. But because it pertains, I will record the pertinent parts.

Person A: My theater class was talking about the Steubenville rape today and Kesha got brought up. There are 4 women including myself in that class and I’ve never been so emotional in a class before.

Person B: What happened?

Person A: The men in the class all grouped up to say that Kesha should have had the wherewithal to know that she was being given date rape drugs instead of sleeping pills and that she deserved to face the consequences. Then one of the 4 women took their side and said that Kesha getting raped was like a person standing in front of a mass shooter and asking to be shot.

Now, I’m gonna stop my relay of the conversation there, because Person A and the rest of the class were getting into the problems of rape culture (some of which I will bring up in a moment) and because I made my point. Person A was physically shaking, and by the end of the conversation, more than just them was of that same response.

So when I say “rape culture” what is it that I mean? According to the Women Against Violence Against Women, here’s the backstory:

“Rape culture is a term that was coined by feminists in the United States in the 1970’s. It was designed to show the ways in which society blamed victims of sexual assault and normalized male sexual violence.”

rapeculturegraphic

Uh-oh! Did I just say feminists? YES I DID. And the Google definition of feminism is:

Feminism: noun: the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

Feminists are simply people who think that all people should be equal, and have equal rights. That’s it. Not men-hating crazy people. Just equality. It says nothing about what job is “appropriate” or what fashion a person wears or beliefs or anything. Just equality. Seriously. SO MANY people use it the wrong way and have no idea what it is. Educate yourselves!

gender_balance

Anyway, back to my point.

If we as a society are telling one young woman that she cannot escape her alleged attacker, then we are telling ALL women that they are stuck in the cycles of inferiority because of the sex they were born as. We are saying that women do not have the right to feel safe, or to expect to be protected by the laws which seek to govern them. We are telling women that their voice is to be muted, so that no one is to ever pay attention to it because all women are doing is seeking attention without having anything worthwhile to say.

And yes, it IS possible for women to be awful people and just make stuff up for attention. But one bad person is NOT justification enough to punish all women and oppress their needs just as it is not justification enough to punish all of MANkind for the actions of Hitler or John Wilkes Booth.

I try to keep my blogs from being overrun by politics. My husband is the political one and in fact, I think he may eventually come around to the idea of going into politics as a career. I’ve always seen myself as the justice keeper type. But I want to also welcome discussion. I don’t want to exclude views just because they are not my own. I want to know why people think what they think.

This topic is so personal for me. Not because of who is involved, or what happened, but because I am a woman. My husband and I have decided that kids would be great-one day in the distant future. The thought of having a kid now TERRIFIES me. I’m not ready, I’m not financially stable enough, I still go to college and that’s reason enough for me.

Why am I bringing up kids in my blog about the Kesha case? Because I need you all to see the pressures on women. And part of being a woman is being pressured about your biological clock.

I had a professor who told me that my experiences were not correct because they seemed to him to be wrong. He had asked about the pressures of having children on married women. I offered my story because I thought it would help the class understand. Here’s the transcript.

Him: I don’t know. Do any of you married women feel that there is pressure on you to have children?

Me: I had people asking me if I was ready to have a kid five minutes after I got married. And some of the congratulatory Facebook posts also contained questions about it.

Him: I don’t think that happens.

Another woman came to my defense, saying that it does happen and that people also force their ideas of how many children you are supposed to have on you. But the point is, I was told that my experiences were invalid because he didn’t believe them. How am I supposed to combat that?

The CDC recently released a report about women drinking and pregnancy. If you took health class seriously, you know that alcohol and babies do not mix. It’s bad for the babies. But I personally think the CDC is taking it a little too far. Yes, I think that baby health should be at utmost priority. But I also think that if women who are of “sexually reproductive” age and not on birth control have to have their alcohol consumption monitored, then maybe so should men. After all, men are more likely to become alcoholics and if we’re really so concerned about baby health, then why would we want to be unconcerned about alcoholic dads?

The state of Ohio (in which I live) has recently passed a bill stating that abortions will not be funded unless it is necessary for health or in instances of reported rape or incest. Michelle, you just said you weren’t going to get political-what’s this? This is me showing you why Kesha matters.

So let me list this out for you.

ALL THE THINGS WRONG ABOUT THE KESHA RULING AND RAPE CULTURE IN AMERICAN SOCIETY

(The consequences spelled out for you by: a woman.)*

-Women are not to be believed in the event that they accuse someone of rape or assault because they are probably just seeking a better opportunity.

-Women are not to be believed about their experiences because they are probably lying.

-Women are not to consume alcohol because they are going to damage their unplanned children. (There is, to-date, no regulation on men though.)

-Women are not allowed to get an abortion (in several states now, not just my own) unless they have poor health, have been the victim of incest or have been the victim of a rape that they probably just want because they had the opportunity to have “consensual” sex and not worry about the consequences (and they probably lied about being raped anyway).

_________________________________________________________________

And now, you maybe see why the Kesha case is so important. It isn’t about Dr. Luke, Kesha or even Sony. It isn’t about Hollywood’s biases, intolerance, injustice (well, it kinda is) or anything like that. It is about the implications of a ruling based on sexism and oppression in a land where being a woman is already treated like a bad thing. I’ll be graduating Spring 2017 with a degree in Anthropology and then in 2020 with a degree in law. And I’m aiming for the laws which limit women’s rights. That will be my legacy.

female-power-anyn-rand.jpg*This explanation does NOT reflect my personal beliefs. I believe that the scenario I have explained is how the facts are being interpreted. I believe that ALL accusations of rape and assault should be looked into with respect and integrity, and am looking into a career in rape prosecution. The explanation I give is NOT how I believe the world should work and is in fact, just the opposite of how I want society to  be.

Spirit Animals

I wanted to go in a slightly different direction today. This is a mental purge, a way to get out of my system some of the bits of information floating around in there. I don’t think it’s too incredibly political, too advocating or too anything, really. It’s just what I said- a way to expel some of the thoughts which bound around in the top of my being.

  When I was younger, I had a deep fascination, and someone what infatuation with dolphins. I drew them all over my stuff, I bought posters and books and binders with them on it. And I mean, who didn’t want something with a Lisa Frank dolphin? That animal, to me, represented all that I wanted in life: freedom, the ocean, happiness and a boundless place to roam. Dolphins were a symbol of great beauty and I attached all my wants to that symbol.

  When I grew a little older, I found myself slowly attaching those same ideologies to butterflies. They were just as free, just as beautiful, but they took to the sky, drinking from the beauty that is nature. I once more drew them on my things, made little artworks with them on it, went out of my way to help them live, to feed them. I held butterflies in highest regard and found myself wistfully hoping to be one of them one day.

  I force-fed the next animal down my own throat. I felt like I needed something cunning, powerful and strong. I needed something that embodied those traits, but also some of the ones quickly seeding in me: introversion, solitude, independence. And I settled on the wolf. It isn’t flashy, like say a lion or a tiger, but it’s also very symbolic of the person I wanted to be, and still do. A wolf hunts ruthlessly, sometimes alone, sometimes with others, but remains a wanderer. And as much as I wanted that to fit, the wolf and I are just mutual friends. It was simply not to be.

As I watch life pass by, I realize more and more that I don’t need to be like everyone else, that I don’t have to use my twenties to make crazy, irreversible mistakes. I certainly can, and will likely do so, but I do not need to feel pressured into it. I do not feel the need to sit at a party, guzzling drinks. I do not feel the need to vandalize things and riot. (Although, there are several things I will defend vehemently, but non-violently.) Instead, I am the watcher. I look at the people who are where I want to be, people who are not on the path I want to be on and everyone in between. I embrace solitude, but know that I am not alone.

I could be free, free to travel the world, free to settle down. I can keep my eyes wide open, waiting patiently. I can sneak up on life, as it does to me so often, take it by the hand and lead it where I want to go. And I can choose to not be afraid to ruffle some feathers, even if they’re my own. It seems that all along, I was being chosen. And I love life’s little lessons like that-where you’ve been doing things which lead up to a certain point without actually even knowing it. Your subconscious is a beautifully terrifying thing. And I do not find it at all mystifying that when I searched for an animal who embodied all the traits I was after, I came upon the owl. 

  All of these animals have been my guides, my spirit brethren. And I will value each of them and their lessons. But I know that I am not finished and this journey is just one fork of many on the red road of life.

(No credits were given on Pinterest for these photos, so I unfortunately can offer no credit either.)

Hindsight

When I was in high school, there happened an event that has stuck with me ever since.

I was the field commander of the high school marching band. It was the best thing that could have happened to me, honestly. I took my job very seriously, regarding each of the band members and color guard as members of my own family, who I would defend to the death (I was very theatrical back then). Anyway, part of my duties was to ensure safe transport of persons and equipment post game. Our instruments were hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. So I would holler out “Band coming through!” And other things, like “Watch out!” And “Excuse us!”

 

(This is basically my podium/ladder-basically huge)

 The event happened one home game my first year commanding (I was commander for 2 years-the first in school history, I believe). I was VERY passionate about my job, but also very polite and I was trying to get all the band and guard members into the school without damaging anything or anyone. Carrying my “ladder” (it was a platform I conducted from which was more than twice my size and a workout all its own), I was announcing our departure when a group of our school’s football players came up from behind me and yelled “No one gives a shit about you band faggots.” And I do not think there has been a single moment in the history of who I am that I contemplated murder more seriously. I think I could have wafted my ladder at him (and yes, I know exactly who he was) and it would havebeen a blood bath. Thankfully my director saw and heard what had happened and talked me down. If I recall, I had to stay after the game because he was telling me about how some football player wasn’t worth my future. I fumed about it for days.  And when the football player came down to the band room to apologize to the director (but not the rest of us), I saw red once more. If it had been a band member, we would have been crucified! How dare he just get off with some shitty apology! Make him pay, dammit!

  

But this story doesn’t end there. Fast forward to the last day of the year 2015 (so today-6 years later), that same football player and one of his cohorts is playing Call of Duty with my husband. They know who he is, but none of them know who I am, other than his wife. So my husband (who was in the band as well) asked if they remembered that incident, as well as a couple others. And they did. I held no hopes that they might have changed, fully expecting them to make more slurs and laugh about it. My opinion was so low, even after over half a decade of separation that I expected them to be the same low-life people they had been before. And after six years of holding that grudge, I got my apology. 

  

So, there was enough time in 2015 to see to it that I learned one more lesson. I spent a good chunk of time today thinking about the implications of the entire event. How is it that I try so hard to hide the mistakes I made in high school from the me I am now, so that people judge me (and you know they will) based on the person they see before them and not the one from before-but would not extend the same courtesy to someone I barely knew? Why did I expect him and his friends to not change what-so-ever, but to have seen nothing short of a revolution in myself? What did that say about me?

And as I look at the clock, watching time pass by, I have a smile on my face. I cannot condone his actions, but my own are no different. I had originally started this post as a declaration of how we are all pressured into being unique but also conforming. And what I learned was that those are the struggles which have defined my past. I’m going into 2016 with a keen awareness that maybe I need to do more to be a kinder person, to keep less stereotypes, to open my heart to forgiveness and the pursuit of happiness. Because one of the only things that is more liberating than”I love” is “I forgive”.

  

Time may change me, but I can’t change time.

Collide

The title to this blog is the song, but as you’ll see, it also represents something else to me. Today, I want to try to describe a scenario which to me, is the singular reason why I can’t seem to get a grip this past year. I know that being prone to moods and their sways is also not helpful, but I can think of no other thing which makes me feel like a shitty person, friend and individual. I don’t need sympathies, but I hope that my words help someone. And if not, they at least help me.

Fear.

When I was younger I had a dream. Like one of those really vivid nightmare type dreams where you’re positive that it will come true. It was me driving a little car down a road in Columbus, passing under a bridge and getting into an accident. That accident (in the dream) caused me to die. I even remember looking at the black lamp post where blood had splattered. THAT kind of vivid. It’s stuck with me as a weird gut feeling ever since.

Going on a couple years ago now, my husband and I were in a pretty hellacious car accident. We were totally fine, but the car was not. In fact, had the horse (yes, we hit a horse) been any heavier, I would have eaten some very serious amounts of windshield. It ended up that the windshield was an inch away from my face. The horse, for all you animal people, was entirely fine. He got up immediately and ran off. Later the owner found him and got vet treatment immediately, or so he told me. I was in the passenger seat. It shook me a little, but for the most part I was entirely okay.

Fast forward a couple years and a couple cars and I now live in Columbus. I drove all my stuff up here when we moved, I drove back from the grocery store once and I drove to school (but not back) and other than that I have not driven at all. I’ve been here for almost 6 months. Why? I live so close to so many wonderful things that I could literally go anywhere I please and be amazed at the fabulous scenes and sounds. But instead, I stay home or catch rides with someone else (namely my husband). He doesn’t seem to mind, but there are moments when I know it bothers him. 

The reason I’m even writing about this is because well, really two things. The first being that I need to acknowledge that it holds me back. The second is that I want everyone to know that I’m not being a bad friend, or a bad family member, I have a real problem and I’m really just not handling it very well. So I want to describe to you the process of getting from my house to anywhere.

I have a good luck charm, which always goes into the right hand front pocket of my jeans. If I’m dressing up, it goes into another pocket on the same side. It’s full of herbs and charms and crystals which are supposed to bring safety and observation skills. I then put on my best face, grab my stuff and head to the car. By that point, I already have an upset stomach, my head hurts and I fell like I’m going to throw up. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I. GET. INTO. A VEHICLE. And that can be quite often if it’s during the school week. So we pull out of the drive and I’m already feeling sick. I look down at my phone while my husband drives and check the news or Facebook or anything I can to keep me occupied. It doesn’t last for long though, because soon enough we’re on the highway and that’s when phase two of my passenger ritual begins.

I have a little chant that I say while clasping my hands together between my knees. It goes a little something like this:

We shall not break down, crash or die today

Not no how, not no way.

And I say that probably for a good 15 minutes solid. Even longer if the traffic is bad, which it usually is. I do this because I’ve developed a nasty habit of pointing at brake lights, gasping a braking cars and saying my husband’s name when people merge into our lane. He put up with it for a while, but my fears were (and usually are) unfounded and he thought I felt that he was a bad driver. I don’t feel like that at all. I’m just literally terrified of being on the road. So I try my hardest to remain quiet in the mornings for our commute, finally starting to open up when we make it to the school. 

In the afternoon, I try a different approach. I say my little rhyme once or twice, usually just at the ramps and then I try to talk to him about what happened that day. But I think even he notices that I don’t look out the front window. And in fact, that is a constant no matter when we drive. I look out the passenger window if I look out them at all. Because each car is one that might hunt us down, cause us to swerve off the road or mangle us up horribly.

The one time my husband needed me to come to the school to pick him up, I nearly threw up in the car. I even took the back way, so determined was I to avoid the main roads and high ways altogether. My hands were shaking so badly that it really might have looked more like a person coming out of rehab than someone who was simply driving. And I thought to myself, maybe this is the worst feeling in the world.

But it isn’t. The worst feeling in the world is being trapped by your fears. I have to make a trip by myself in a couple days and it turns my stomach just thinking about it. I’ve tried meditation, I’ve tried convincing myself that I’ll be okay. I’ve even tried to force myself to suck it up and drive anyway. But in the end, there’s no success. I literally just sit in fear and wait for the next time I’m going to have to suffer through these feelings. We go back to school in just a short little while and I’d really hoped that this would be the semester that I could share the drive with my husband instead of cowering in the passenger seat. But I think it might be the semester I convince myself what a shitty person I am because I don’t know how to be a functional adult and therefore no one will ever hire me and I will die alone and poor. Literally that is how this thought process goes. There is no logic in fear, there is just an overwhelming, all encompassing feeling of inability and failure. But I didn’t even have these fears while I lived in the old place. So why am I so afraid?

I’ve always been afraid of change. I can outwardly speak about accepting change and change making you a better person, but inside I fight against it with all my might and I frequently cry about how hard it is. Any change is like that scene in one of the Chronicles of Narnia books (Voyage of the Dawn Treader, maybe?) where Aslan is de-scaling Eustace. That’s how it is for me. I’m putting off graduation because I’m afraid to move to somewhere new. I was a nervous wreck when it came to living in this apartment for the first few weeks because it was new.

  And you know what? All I’ve wanted to do my entire life can be summed up in two things: I want to help people and I want to travel.

Seriously. I can barely walk by myself alone on campus without being afraid. I can’t even drive myself around because I am afraid. And I want to see the world and meet new people? Who am I kidding?

But that’s the thing. When Eustace got his scales ripped off, he because a better person. He was in pain, he was scared but he was better. And I guess that’s what’s important. It’s not entirely okay to be afraid. But only in the capacity that you be blocked from your destiny by your fears. So this year, for my New Year’s Resolution, I feel like it is very simple.

I want to drive myself places.

And you can laugh all you want, but when was the last time you took on your greatest fear? 

I’ll Never Be

I’ll never be good enough, will I?

Excessive demands around every turn,

Lies that we all tell 

But noone believes.

I’ll never live up to the bar, will I?

The one I set so very high

All starry eyed, 

Looking for that hint of perfection.

I’ll never be perfect, will I?

The way you thought I should be,

The way I should look, or behave, or think

But I don’t.

I’ll never be that girl, will I?

The one with her life together, 

Making strategic moves to get ahead,

Even at the cost of others.

I’ll never be so lifeless, will I?

That when all is said and done,

You’ve lost the me that I’d always bee,

That I always wanted to be.

I’ll never be far away, will I?

Just below the surface of the one

Who was forcefed all the bullshit excuses

About why I could never fit in.

I’ll never be the winner, will I?

Making my way across a size zero, plastic stage

With crimson grimaces in place of 

Raw emotion.

I’ll never be a work of art, will I?

The pristine capture of a timeless tragedy,

Wraught in crisp jackets and perfect makeup

Like a mannequin.

I’ll never be like them, will I?

The ones who think that the only thing that matters

Is the size and color of the skin I wear

Like a toy in a skeeball game.

I’ll never actually care about those things, will I?

I’d neer forgive myself for being a carbon copy

Of the unnecessary lies told by everyone else

When all the world ever needed was someone who told the truth.

But that’s never been my strong point.

So maybe you were wrong.

And the truth was something you murdered a long time ago.

I never gave up.

You did.

You gave up listening, seeing, believing in the truth.

You gave up unconditional love for the immitation.

You gave up looking at the heart inside, didn’t you?

But don’t worry, so did they.

And when they buried me in artificial waste, 

They didn’t know:

I was a seed.