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Archive for December, 2017

I was cleaning our bedroom yesterday, not just the weekly maintenance of taking water glasses downstairs or popping stray socks in to the hamper, but get-out-the-Pledge-and-dustrags-and-Swiffer type cleaning. True confession: I’m not a fastidious housekeeper. I really hate taking time out to clean, although I like a clean house and am a bit of a germaphobe, so I compromise with myself. I keep the kitchen, living room, and the main bathroom consistently clean, but the bedroom, while everything has its place, does not get the dusting and floor attention it deserves. Every couple of months or so, it finally gets to me enough that I dive in and do it, but there is a healthy accumulation of dust in the meantime. I really am okay with it, though. Life’s too short, although my husband and our kids would tell you that I always worry about cleaning. It’s all about perspective, right?

Anyway, I also usually do a purge of clothes, shoes, and costume jewelry at this time of year which involves going through all of the drawers, the closet, and such. I also go through the little drawers on top of my dresser where I keep treasured letters and cards that I have received over the years, including a letter that my father wrote to his father in March of 1973. I know that it’s there, but every time I go through that drawer, I pull it out to read. It makes me feel close to him and every time I read it, I gain new insight into his thoughts.

The letter was written at a time when my dad was trying to find himself. From other writings of his that I’ve read, I knew he felt like he didn’t quite fit, that he struggled with what was expected of him, and what his feelings were. To me, he sounds a lot like me.

The letter comes from California. He was nineteen at the time and had left home to go and live with his oldest sister, my aunt, in the land of peace and love. He had dropped out of high school, despite having a high IQ, had been honorably discharged from the Navy after only a few weeks, and really didn’t seem to have a direction in life. He and my mom had been dating on again, off again and things weren’t certain. He tempered his emotions and discontent with other substances, especially weed. He wasn’t getting along with his dad and wanted a fresh start out on the west coast.

The letter is dutiful in the beginning, telling his father all about what they have been doing in California and what the weather was like. Then, a tone of regret as he tells his father that when he gets home, he would like to talk to him, really talk to him, even though they had had their differences in the past. An attempt at reconciliation. He goes on to say that things were much better between him and my mother (A good thing, or I probably wouldn’t be writing this) and then delves into the environmental requirements of cars and lawn mowers in California, a much more comfortable subject for him.

It’s all very cool to read and sentimental, but the thing about this particular letter that floors me every time is that at the time he wrote it, he had just over a year to live. That’s it. On March 22, 1974, one week and three weeks later, he would lose his young life in an impaired car accident. Did he know that? Of course not. And that’s what brings me back to that letter again and again, forcing me to think about things that I would rather push to the side.

We don’t know when our last day will be. We have no clue. When my father wrote that letter, he had no idea that he wouldn’t live to essentially grow up, that he would never see his only child born, that he would never be able to fully repair that relationship with his father, that he wouldn’t marry my mother as he had planned to do. Those plans would never happen and it was terribly tragic, leaving so many people with holes in their hearts, including me, who never got to meet him.

My point is this: we all have plans, every single one of us. I don’t mean plans like redoing the kitchen or taking books back to the library, I mean real plans, like telling someone that they’re loved, or forgiving an old hurt, Plans like making a wrong right, or at least taking responsibility for it. Plans like letting someone know that you were wrong, asking for forgiveness, or maybe letting someone know that they touched your life in some way.  Maybe you need to make a life choice that involves taking a risk in order to be happy. You know, the important things, the things that you would deeply regret if you didn’t do them.

I don’t mean to imply that we should try to repair bridges with everyone who hurt us. There are definitely people who are toxic, who are the sources of trauma, who would hurt us again and again, physically or emotionally, and we should stay far away. I would never reconcile with my abuser or let him into my life in any way. That kind of situation is better left to trying to internally forgive and move on to bring closure rather than to make sense of what happened or connect with those involved. But there are other situations that can be fixed or at least improved.

New Year’s Day is coming up in two more days, a day of resolutions and new beginnings. Maybe, instead of halfheartedly resolving to quit smoking or to lose weight, we can resolve to try and heal an area of our lives. What have you been putting off that keeps whispering in your ear every now and again?

Many of us, myself included, don’t like making the first move on anything. My anxiety issues make me prone to obsessing over the worst possible outcomes until that seems worse than what I had originally intended to do, so I usually don’t. But what if we knew that we only had a year left, unlike my father? Would that spur us on to reach out, to make that connection to say what needs to be said? Maybe it would, maybe it wouldn’t. The thing is, we just don’t know how much time we have on this earth. We’re not promised tomorrow, whether we like thinking about it or not. What would be your biggest regret if you died tomorrow?

I haven’t put the letter away just yet because it’s been sitting on my mind this whole time and I knew I needed to write about what was inside. It’s sitting on my dresser, my father’s handwriting, the paper he touched and folded into a makeshift envelope staring at me. As I’m getting ready to click “Publish” on this post, I feel that urgency draining away and I’ll be able to return it to its accustomed spot in the little drawer, but I know that my mind will wander back when I think about him and out it will come. Even though he’s gone, my father is still teaching me life lessons.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy and Blessed New Year. Peace to you in 2018.

 

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*Disclaimer* This post is about harassment and assault, but does delve slightly into politics, so if you don’t like it when I write about politics, don’t read it. I’m not debating politics with anyone. Fair warning.

So, when is sexual assault and/or harassment acceptable to you, exactly?

When is it okay to sweep it under the rug?

When is is okay to brush allegations aside?

Is it when the perpetrator is white?

When the perpetrator is a Democrat?

A Republican?

When it’s someone who fought for civil rights?

When it’s someone from your party in an election?

A television personality?

A senator?

A representative?

An entertainment mogul?

A comedian?

A woman?

The President of the United States?

How do you decide whom to excuse and whom to condemn when the allegations begin to fly?

How do you choose which victims to believe and which to shun?

What is your reasoning? What does your heart say, no matter how much you want to fight against it? If your religion, politics, or family ties have anything to do with your decision on believing whether or not someone is a predator, that’s the wrong answer. Religion, politics, and family ties mean nothing to someone who’s been victimized, who’s been subjected to unwelcome advances, or worse.

I heard it said over and again that if allegations were true, victim(s) would have stepped forward immediately or much earlier than they do. False. One million percent false. I didn’t tell the majority of my family, including my husband, about my years of abuse because I thought no one would believe me. The truth made me sick and scared and the prospect of losing my family over it was terrifying, so I stayed silent. It wasn’t until I had my own child that I took that risk and revealed the truth. The thought of my son growing up in the shadow of a predator was worse than being alienated from the people I loved. Painful? Hell, yes. Necessary? Absolutely.

Like many girls, I was harassed in high school and in waitressing jobs that I had, mostly by customers making sick comments and once by a creepy dishwasher. One drunk actually grabbed me by my wrist, only to be thankfully removed from the restaurant by my friend. It was always uncomfortable, and sometimes scary, but I never really felt that I could say anything about it, except to friends or coworkers afterward. There were always customers we watched out for, asking the busboys or male waitstaff to stay close by. It still amazes me, and grosses me out, how some middle-aged men think it’s okay to make lewd comments about a teenage girl’s body, or about anyone’s body for that matter. It stays with a person, even after all this time. Remember that.

None of this is new, it’s been going on ever since there have been people. The difference now is that people are finally starting to speak out, we’re finally beginning to not be afraid of offending the powerful. Several giants have fallen in the last few months, most admitting to at least part of what they are accused of, some have admitted to everything. It’s been difficult to watch, even shocking sometimes, but necessary. Ugly secrets, even about the rich and powerful, have a way of coming out, sometimes years later. Nothing stays hidden forever.

When I talk about harassment or assault, I’m not talking about playful banter, or silliness between friends. I enjoy bawdy jokes as much as the next person, but the key to that is knowing when the other person is comfortable with it or not. If they’re not laughing, shut up and back off! Using your position or power to behave inappropriately toward someone else or to coerce them into sexual favors is WRONG. Don’t touch what you don’t have permission to touch.

Watching all of this happen just makes me angrier and angrier. I’m angry that allegations can be overlooked in order to beat out another political party. Just this morning, the Today show, which is going through its own crisis, revealed the 71% of Alabamian Republicans were planning on voting for Roy Moore, even with everything alleged against him. Even more sickening is that many of them profess to be Christian. How would Jesus, the champion of the downtrodden and voiceless, feel about this? At the very least, Christians should be asking for an investigation instead of instantly blaming the alleged victims.

Think for just a minute. What if he is voted in and later admits to everything? I have a feeling that he would still have supporters. After all, the prospect of what he allegedly did doesn’t seem to bother them one bit now. I don’t understand. People are willing to vote for a sleazeball into office even with some pretty strong testimony from several women about his actions in the past. Even with many in his party encouraging him to step down, more have stayed with him, someone with huge creeper potential, because they don’t want an evil Democrat in office. Barf.

For more info: https://www.snopes.com/2017/11/17/roy-moore-banned-mall-harassing-teen-girls/

Speaking of Democrats, several accusers have come forward against John Conyers, the longest-running person in the House of Representatives who conveniently retired today in the wake of many allegations of inappropriate behavior ranging from holding meetings in his underwear to groping. This stuff isn’t confined to one party, one religion, or race, folks. It’s widespread.

I’m angry and deeply disappointed that people I have admired or followed are now tainted. I’m angry that this culture exists. I’m angry that people think they have the right to abuse others. I’m angry that people are deceived, that lives are ruined. I’m angry that powerful abusers have supporters, excusers, sympathizers. I’m angry. I’m just…angry. Mad as hell, really.

Until we take a stand, until we say, “No more!”, until we knock the feet of clay out from under giant golden statues and give a voice to the wronged, the problem will go on. Force the ugliness out into the light so that it shrivels up and dies. Give victims a place to turn, educate our children, and make this world a better place. Don’t make excuses for bad behavior.

The world is a scary place these days and I’m really trying to stay positive.

Hang in there.

 

 

 

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