Owning My Story

Rose McGowan, the actor and activist, implored women to fight sexual harassment and assault by calling out harassers and naming names when she spoke at the Women’s Convention in downtown Detroit this past week. Yet she refused to do the very thing she asked her female audience to do. I found her rally cry to be disingenuous to say the least (even if she had a prior written agreement with her abuser not to do so), but I do believe women must begin to fight the shaming whether it is calling out the abusers and harassers or not.

Owning my story has been difficult but not quite as difficult as spending my entire life running from it.

“Shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story. It hates having words wrapped around it – it can’t survive being shared. Shame loves secrecy… When we bury our story, the shame metastasizes.” – Brene’ Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection.

Sheer panic proceeded pressing the publish button when I posted last week, Dear Alyssa Milano. In fact, I had tried for hours to bring myself to press that damn button on my blog publishing site. My paralyzing fear was what category would this hurricane of personal information become.

Since that blog post went live, I have heard words like courage, bravery, transparency, genuine honesty, and even the word, heroine. What I have heard most, however, is awkward silence. And in my anxiety-trapped mind means that this uncomfortable truth with all its’ vulnerability means that many have gasped in horror and are stifled in their own discomfort, “What was she thinking?”

Embracing my vulnerability was risky… and still is.

I’ll be honest again. Those words – courage, bravery, transparency, genuine honesty, heroine – they were given to me in a spirit of empathy, compassion, a sisterhood for a lack of a better word made me cringe even while saying, ‘thank you, it means a lot to me.’

I now must face the truth, my truth, every day because others now know it too.

“How horrifying for you.”

“Oh, you poor thing!”

“Who was it? What happened?”

“You rock. Everybody loves you.”

“Well, let me tell you what happened to me….”

Or simply…. silence. The silence of judgment, disappointment, or denial as a result of my sharing my story.

I will not speak of my #MeToo experiences ever again… not to anyone.

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” – T.S. Eliot

Exploring that darkness was necessary so that I could discover the infinite power of light and purpose to live my truth. I don’t need to call anyone out. I will leave that to God’s day of judgment.

Over the last several years, I did toy with the idea of writing a book. I wrote countless beginnings, renaming the file and pushing it around on my computer hard drive just as many times. However, this #MeToo revolution convinced me there is no benefit in writing it. There isn’t a benefit in my reclamation of wholeness because an individual’s story is rarely just the individual’s story. I don’t give a damn about the abusers or harassers or their story’s side of it. I have no pity, however damaged and screwed up their story. They had NO right to do what they did. But there isn’t any righting the wreckage for the collateral damage in telling my story, past or present.

Let me be clear on this point, however. I am not condemning anyone who chooses to call out as Rose McGowan advocates for abuses that occurred long ago or just yesterday. Nor do I advocate burying their story, but to gather the courage to seek professional assistance in revealing and rooting out shame caused by their abuser.

Nothing I say or write can be as inspiring as living my life in “genuine honesty.”

Imperfectly transparent as I may be, I know I am worthy. It’s been a long arduous journey and one I am still traveling. Embracing my vulnerabilities was risky, but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love, belonging, joy and the peace that comes with it.

I am who I am. I have all that I need in the loving eyes of my God, my husband, and my sons. And if there is anything worthwhile to dig up, discuss or to write about it, it is the danger of living in the shadows of secrecy and giving up on living my truth, each and every day.

Be true to you,

Peace

Dear Alyssa Milano,

I know your heartfelt intentions are to bring wider attention and acknowledgement to a dark, disgusting fact with the #MeToo campaign. Women (and men) of all ages, and from all backgrounds have courageously come forward to speak the truth about their sexual abuse and sexual harassment.

For me, all the Harvey Weinsteins, the Donald Trump pussy grabbers, the Woody Allen defenders, and yes, even the men AND women who will casually pass it off as, ‘boys will be boys, shake it off,’ or “he was drunk and he didn’t know what he was doing” put me back in a place I have fought very hard to break free. The abusers have no idea the lifelong trauma they inflict.

I cannot read anymore #MeToo stories. I won’t.

You see, my stream of Harvey’s started when I was seven by someone who I thought was to love and protect me unconditionally…

Then it was a boss who was constantly just a little too touchy, feely…

Then the guy who came to install the cable box in my first apartment who I somehow summoned enough strength to get off me and out my apartment door….

The client who I was introduced for the first time by his sales supervisor whose first words to me were, “Have you fucked her yet?” (He wouldn’t be the last one who felt he could make such comments or take liberties.)

Or the brute who followed me into a darkened hotel parking garage at 5:30 in the afternoon after a seminar, grabbing me from behind and shoving me into a concrete column and hearing him say… “you think you’re too pretty in your fancy car…”

NO! I won’t!

An unwinnable war

“The toxicity of your repressed memories” my therapist would say, “is the root of your anxiety.” Toxic shame syndrome I think is what she called it and something about manifesting itself in perfectionism and anxiety. I was too numb by the revelations to fully comprehend her diagnosis.

Gratefully, I haven’t always lost

This unwinnable war has taken a toll emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. Trust doesn’t come easily for me, but thank God, I eventually found love with my husband and soul mate, Vinny Sal. My blessings, our two sons and my faith have kept me alive (literally). It hasn’t been easy for them either.

My greatest fear, besides encountering another Harvey, however, has always been what people would think of me if they knew my #MeToo experiences. My husband, my sons, my friends and colleagues… Would they think differently of me? Would they be disgusted? Would they think I am too weak? Would they still respect me? Would they still love me? Would they….

This is what Harveys do to the people they abuse. They shame them.

There are reasons for sharing, I guess. Maybe my family and friends would finally understand my many quirks and anxieties… Like why I will keep circling to find surface parking rather than park in a parking garage unless someone is with me… why must I insist the garage door at home be always down… Or why it was always necessary that either Vinny Sal or I be at home with the boys when either of us traveled … Or why I don’t like to visit my childhood town… why I am easy to piss off at odd times… and so on… and when I say, “please be safe,” a sentiment that is normal for a wife or mom to say but for me has a deeper meaning.

All I know is that I am tired of dragging all this shame baggage around with me trying to out-run all this anxiety shit. I need to live my truth.

I’m sorry. I cannot read anyone more #MeToo stories. I have too many of my own.

I thought as I grew older it would be easier. Forgiveness and all that stuff, you know??

But it isn’t easier because there are too many Harvey stories out there reminding me of it day after day. Too many #MeToo stories that tell me I am not alone.

I’m sorry, Alyssa Milano, and I’m sorry to all the #MeToo women (and men) out there.

Sadly, #MeToo

P.S. To my mentor and confidante, may you rest in peace, I’m still writing my way through it.

 

Reality Check

Getting personal

My mother hurt me to the core this past summer. A hurt cutting so deep that it opened-up once again childhood wounds that I had worked diligently to confront and heal over the past several years. I saw a new side of her, or rather a side, I tried not to see for a long time. And because of long standing childhood wounds and this last straw, my behavior had become a blaring, blinking, red danger light and it was becoming apparent in everything I was posting online, writing or journaling.

My attitude was becoming belligerent a result of coming from a place of anger and deep sadness. I was retreating more and more into a self-imposed exile away from family, friends, and even God.

Getting real

Attitudes are shaped by past and present experiences, perceptions, long standing exposure and repetitive feedback of those around us, particularly those who have raised us and who are closest to us. And our behavior is the result of that attitude that reinforces our beliefs of being bad, good, or worthy.

To make a long story short about the current state of my attitude, I was coping with my anger and emotions versus managing them. Coping, in my opinion, puts a person on the side of weakness instead of empowerment. I needed to get real about my current state of mind.

The outside world

We have become a divisive nation on almost every front and it seems to be getting only worse. I cannot control the world, but I can control what I see, hear, and read. Mind you, I am not putting my head in the sand, which was my own initial fear, but the fact of the matter comes down to these 3 questions I have had to step back and answer:

What do I stand for?

What I am unwilling to negotiate?

What are my core values and how are they being defined in my life?

My personal world

What’s in my control in my personal world just like in the outside world is a bit more daunting when personal slights can trigger emotions regarding long-standing issues. I began to realize how the outside world was feeding the negative experiences and perceptions I had of myself – a few of those auto-wind tapes from childhood I thought I had shredded had been left behind. My parents are who they are, but they have taught me many things, and in some instances how not to treat my own sons. But my parents are not the whole of who I am, their experiences are not the totality of my experiences, nor are they the sum of who I am as a person, a wife, as a mother, as a colleague, as a friend, and so on.

“Getting me” is the same as “getting the other person”

Take for example, University of Michigan coach, John Harbaugh’s response when his son came out as being gay and he immediately responded to his son, “Live your truth.”

Our behavior is determined by our beliefs, either our ability (or inability) to express ourselves and talk about problems comes from our individual frame of references. And are we each open to communicating with each other in a supportive atmosphere? If social media has taught us anything is that making a simple statement to putting our laundry out on the Internet is ripe for ridicule. Whether it is social media or my personal interactions, I am going to live my truth and try to abide by my motto that I developed years ago which is….

The 4 R’s – Resist Reaction Let Reason Rule:

• What is the motive behind my behavior?
• Are my words or my behavior, according to my principles, or they in response to the other person?
• What is my intention with my interactions with others?

Recognizing the danger signals:

Can I?

• Actively listen?
• Acknowledge the other person’s position?
• Accept the other person’s perspective?
• Avoid accusations?
• Move on in grace, knowing my values may not be honored or accepted?

Final note

Whatever that “TRUTH” is even if it is never shared with or honored by another, may we all resist to control, blame, judge, misinform or be indifferent to one another.

Reality check

I’m still in my imposed self-exile working on being positive, kind, and more importantly, healing myself and trying to help others thrive.

Peace