day 29: a friend loves at all times

Sunday, 4/3/16

I remember the first day I met Buffy. Her hair was slicked back in a pony, big hoop earrings in her ears, and she was wearing a t-shirt dress with some sort of trendy saying on it. A friend was introducing me to her so that I could join her connect group at church. I'd just moved to the city and was in need of community. I walked away from that interaction without thinking much of it. She'd be my connect group leader. Cool. Also, I needed cooler clothes. 

After our first connect group meeting, we became fast friends. She's from TX, I'm from TX. She likes to eat, I like to eat. She finds BS intolerable, I find BS intolerable. She's not super girly, I'm not super girly. She's not a needy friend, I'm not a needy friend. She loves country music. I love country music. Beyond that, I'm not really sure how such a strong bond formed so quickly. It just did. I think that's the way it is with some friends - it's just meant to be (or whatever.) Now, when we're in a room together, we read each other's minds.  

Buff was one of the two girls I texted after the assault. I couldn't tell you exactly what her first response was (I mean, it's been a minute) but within about 45 seconds, she pointed me to Jesus. Because that's who Buffy is. And in the months that followed, she kept pointing me to Jesus. She didn't run when I did. She stood firm in her faith, all while listening to me whinge on. She always pointed me back to the cross, even when I had no interest in looking that way. And after one night of particularly unfortunate choice making on my part, she stood in front of church on Irving Place and 17th St., yelled at me, and told me that at some point, I was going to have to choose differently - because what I was doing, wasn't working. And then she hugged me, said she loved me, and told me to get my sh** together. 

It took me a few more months to do so, but do you know who I considered while simultaneously weighing up making a poor choice in those months? Buff. Because I didn't want to hear it from her anymore. And because deep down, I knew she was right. And do you know who, despite her deep frustration with me, was there through it all? Buff. 

Today, Buff and I spent a lot of time reading one another's minds. Then we cleaned her apartment. And then we hung out. We didn't do anything exciting or fancy - we just did what friends do...life. As I rode the subway home from her house, I couldn't help but thank God for giving me a friend like her.

 Our journeys in life are equally as much about the people who say yes to taking them with us as they are about ourselves.

Buffy has taught me the type of friend I want to be. She continues to teach me about the type of woman I want to be. She doesn't know it (well I guess she does now,) - in fact, sometimes I think she questions it, but she changes the lives of those she walks with. I could go on, but that's not our collective style - short and sweet, eh Buff? 

IMG_0624 2.jpg
IMG_0119.jpg
IMG_0110.jpg

day 28: old & fat

Saturday, 4/2/2106 

So I recently bought a book called Ten Reasons You Feel Old and Get Fat. No, I am not kidding. Ha.

Ok before you freak out - no, I do not think I'm fat. No, I do not think I'm old. Am I sometimes afraid that this experience has aged me? Yes. Is that the reason why I bought the book? No. The book is just a KILLER lesson in all things health and wellness, and with a title like that- also a little convicting.  

A few days after the assault, I went to a voice lesson that happened to be recorded on video. I took an Uber with the windows rolled down. Being in the subway, or any confined space, gave me severe anxiety. I felt like I was going to explode while simultaneously crumpling up into a screaming, crying, hyperventilating ball on the floor. I didn't take the subway for weeks. I needed to feel the air on my face. To know that I was free to stop the car and get out at any time. 

When I watched the tape back that night, I realized that the girl on camera didn't look like me. She looked sad and despondent; unable to connect, lost in a million thoughts. Her face was dark and lifeless. I was really taken aback. I'm not sure what I expected to look like. I guess I just didn't think I would look so changed. After the experience of seeing myself in the hospital mirror, I hadn't really looked at myself in the days after the assault. I couldn't. 

"What were you wearing?"

     "The clothes in your evidence bag. My favorite blue long sleeve sweater, leather leggings, booties, and a leather jacket" 

What was I wearing? The question struck me as odd. I guess that if I had been discovered with no clothes on, or had arrived to the hospital in different clothes, it would make sense. But considering the clothes were sitting in an evidence bag in the same hospital as we were, the question seemed redundant. Unfair. If it had been summer, I'd likely have been wearing cut off shorts and a flowy tank top. Or a summer dress. Would that have made some sort of difference to the crime itself? 

They never asked, but I've asked myself, "what was your face doing? It couldn't have been the clothes - leggings and a sweater aren't exactly 'come have sex with me' attire. My hair was frizzy from the rain. So it wasn't like I had sex hair. It had to have been my face. What was written on my face that made them think - 'yes - that girl is the perfect target.'?" 

Some experts say that predators can spot easy targets. Easy targets meaning a person who has already been assaulted or abused before. Did my face unknowingly give me away? 

Or what if it wasn't my face at all? What if it had nothing to do with me? Maybe what I looked like meant nothing. Maybe type was irrelevant. Maybe it was simply because there were only two of us, instead of a group of girls, and two was the only number that fit within their well thought out, and perfectly executed, plan. 

Or maybe type did mean something. Maybe one of their ex-girlfriends looked just like me, or just like my friend... 

I could go on and on and on and on and on and on and on. The rabbit trails are endless. But why keep trying to find logical reason for an illogical display of human behavior? Let's say that in an alternate world, Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler were assigned to my case. They met me at the hospital to ask about the events of that night and sent Finn (Ice-T) to the bar of the incident. He scared the owner into giving him the security footage that showed my friend being carried into a cab and me being led "like a dead fish" (to use the bouncer's own words) in the opposite direction. Through unrelenting detective work they found the guys and dragged them down to the precinct and Elliot questioned them until they broke and admitted to drugging me and then having what they deemed "consensual sex." Rafael Barba prosecuted my attackers and in a ruthless line of questioning managed to trick them into saying why they did it, and actually classifying it as rape. So after a long and arduous process, I get the reasoning behind the crime - the why behind the 'why me?'

...

 I don't think I'd find it comforting. It wouldn't change the events of that night. Understanding why people felt that I fit the bill, won't help me reconcile that I was used to pay it. 

I had to learn to love the girl in the mirror again. To see her beauty. To not study her features looking for the trigger. That took time and patience. And bravery. For a good, long, while all I saw was someone weak. Someone who couldn't fight back hard enough. Someone who questioned her ability to read others. Someone who was angry and defiant, reckless, and stupid. Then, I saw a girl who was tired, who didn't think she could fight anymore. A girl who was broken, hurting, and ashamed. A little while after that, I saw a liar. Someone so full of pride, that she couldn't admit to the pit she was living in. A girl who was past redemption. Unworthy of anything good. Totally and completely alone. Hopeless. I saw a girl who needed help, who desperately longed for it, but didn't know how to ask for it. A girl who was embarrassed that she'd waited this long. A girl who thought she was unloveable. Then that girl let go a little bit. She agreed that she couldn't do it alone anymore. After that, I saw a girl who accepted help, who opened up, who was brutally honest with herself and others, and who made the decision to find healing. Then I saw a girl who leaned on others. Who believed them and allowed them to speak truth over her. Finally, I saw a girl who decided to talk to God again - to ask him why, to beg Jesus to heal her. To throw her anger, hurt, pain, frustration, and deep loss at the foot of the cross and wait. She decided to walk with Jesus again, even if at a slow pace. To believe him, and to stop running from him. And after walking a while, I saw light, and maybe even a little joy. I looked in the mirror and saw a woman who realized she was FREE.

The reality is that our experiences do age us - but age isn't ugly. It's beautiful. 

My face never did look the same as it did prior to that night. Instead, it looks unmistakably different. It looks like I gained a little wisdom and allowed myself to be humbled. Like I learned to love myself and do my best to see myself the way Jesus does. Like I found unshakeable faith, dealt with real pain, and found healing. Like I stood in the face of opposition and asserted strength. I look in the mirror now and I see a woman I'm proud to be, and for a while there, I didn't know if that would ever be possible. 

I sought the Lord and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. - Psalm 34:5
<3 B -3.jpg

 

 

 

day 27: hope floats: HIV & hopelessness

Friday, 4/1/2016

Hope Floats is (if you know me) not shockingly one of my favorite movies. Sandra Bulluck? Check. Adorable, feisty, little girl? Check. Quirky grandma? Check. Texas? Check. Often rated one of the worst movies of all time? Check. Handsome cowboy? Chhhheck. #whatsupharryconickjr

The movie begins with Sandra Bulluck’s character, Birdee, being humiliated on a live talk show when it’s revealed that her husband and her best friend are having an affair - all in front of her daughter, Bernice. They move from Chicago to her tiny Texas hometown to start over…

Starting over... there’s something about this notion that we’ve decided goes hand in hand with hope. A fresh start –> brings hope. A new beginning –> brings hope. A new chapter –> brings hope.

But- where do you find hope if starting over isn’t an option? What if you need hope in the circumstance you’re actually in? What happens when you’re driving through a fog so thick that you can’t even see the lights in front of you, let alone find a new road to drive down in order to find hope? What happens when all hope is lost?

It had been two months since I was assaulted after my friend and I were drugged, separated, and taken to different apartments – me under the guise of finding her. I picked up the bottle of pills from my nightstand, took them to the kitchen, opened my cabinet, stuck them on the highest shelf behind all the sauces and spices I intend to cook with, but never do, shut the cabinet, went back to my room, shut the door, got in my bed, under the covers, and began to sob. If I put enough physical distance between them and me, then that horrible thought would disappear too.

There’s this worldwide, mutual feeling that we all know. It’s those first 15 seconds after we wake up, when the reality of whatever we may be facing hasn’t hit yet. And then it does – like a ton of bricks. For me, that moment came every morning, without fail, at about 7 seconds. I’d roll over, look at my bedside table, and BOOM – there it was. The bottle for the month-long course of HIV Antiretroviral Post-exposure Prophylaxis medication sat there, staring me in the face. PEP – as it is referred to in medical circles. Such an odd abbreviation for such a heavy thing.

In the hospital the morning of/after my assault, I was immediately given Plan B, started on a high dose round of antibiotics to prevent STD's, and given a prescription for PEP. I didn’t know my attackers and I was still foggy on everything that had happened, but the evidence collected indicated that should they be HIV positive, I had been exposed to the virus. Taking PEP within 72 hours of exposure is the only way that it’s effective. Once the course is completed, the protocol is to have an HIV test at 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, and one year “after the rape incident.” PEP may make me unbearably nauseous for the next month or so, but I had no choice, I had to take it. So I did. Every day for 28 days. And every time I did, I was poignantly reminded of a night I was desperate to forget. With each horse size pill that I swallowed, a little more of my hope disappeared.

I finished the course of PEP and went to the doctor two weeks later for my first round of HIV testing. It came back negative. I was told that while this was indicative of a good result, I shouldn’t get too comfortable – sometimes the virus can take time to form. The chances were slim that the results would change, but I should keep a realistic view.  Talk about being handed a sliver of hope only to have it quickly taken away. [1 year later, my final test would say what all the others had - I never contracted the virus, I was, and am, definitively, HIV free!!!]

Two weeks after that doctor’s appointment, I rolled over, got out of bed, and reached for my heart medication- glad that I was no longer reaching for PEP. I don’t know where the thought came from. But all of a sudden, my mind was running away from me –  “Ya know, that heart medicine you’re about to take, it slows your blood pressure. It slows your heart. If you took a few extra, all of this would go away. Your hopelessness would vanish. You’d be free.”

Terrified doesn't do justice to how I felt. Where the actual EFF did this thought come from? My life was miraculously saved a year earlier from having brain surgery. Hell, it was saved the night of my attack – it could have ended very differently. And now I was thinking about this?

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. My body shook as I took that bottle of pills to the kitchen. I was devastated. And I was disappointed in myself. I was not raised to think this way.  I’m a Christian for God’s sake. As if I wasn’t ashamed enough already of this whole experience, I was absolutely disgusted with myself for this. I was better than this horrible thought.

But you know what? No, I wasn’t. The human response to trauma can’t be confined to a standardized response. We can’t box it up and say, “this is how trauma looks for [fill in the blank here.]” “Your response is selfish.” “Your response is acceptable.”

I didn’t want anyone to know what I’d just thought. But I knew I had to get it out. I was living with enough secrets, and one more might make me explode. So I texted my therapist, who reminded me of the truth she knew I already knew, somewhere deep in my spirit - first via text, then via phone, and then in-person the next day.  

+ I was not captive – my thoughts have been taken captive :

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ – 2 Cor 10:5

 

+ Even if I felt trapped or chained – Jesus came to set me free:  

He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners [captives]
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Luke 4: 17-21

 

+ - and His word does not return void:

So is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:11

 

At the end of Hope Floats, Birdee says,

“Beginnings are scary. Endings are usually sad, but it’s what’s in the middle that counts. So when you find yourself at the beginning, just give hope a chance to float up. And it will.”

Ok, listen – I love Sandra. I do – but like, what a load of MALARKEY. Give hope a chance to float up and it will...? Girl, please. I was giving hope ALL the chances. I was lying on the ground blowing into the air in case hope needed a little push. I was releasing balloons with the word “hope” written on them in Sharpie – ok, not really the last one, but I was close to not being above trying it.

Hope doesn’t need a chance to float up. In fact:  Hope deferred makes the heart sick... Prov 13:12.

The great thing is this: hope isn’t some far off ideal that we aren’t really sure about. Hope is found in Jesus, and Jesus is the truth.

God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.
Hebrews 6:19

 

I had accomplished the fleeing and now it was time to take hold of the hope. Sometimes you have to grab hope by the horns, hold on for dear life, and see where it takes you.

It wasn’t a new start that would give me hope – it was hope in Jesus that would give me a new start. 

If you have been the victim of sexual assault, oh sweet love, I am so sorry. Please, please, seek professional help to begin the process of healing. It is scary, but it is possible. If you would like help in finding help, please reach out via the contact page. If you are in NYC, I cannot recommend my therapist highly enough and would happily pass her info on to you. You are not alone. It is not your fault. You are VALUABLE, beautiful, and worthy. Nothing that anybody does or says can take that away. There is a God in heaven who has called you by name. He says that “you are beautiful and there is no blemish within you.” Even if you can’t believe that now, there are others who can and are praying on your behalf. If it feels dark, keep fighting - keep pushing. You WILL rise out of the ashes + into the light.  

if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call 1-800-273-8255 and get help.  life is worth it babe - even if it doesn't feel that way right now. 

- all my love, B

 

day 26: the flu, pt. 3: contingency plans

Thursday, 3/31/2016 

I never plan for getting sick. I mean, I don’t think anyone really does. “In two weeks, I’ll get the flu…” Uh no- that’d be weird. 

But before my brain surgery- I always had a plan for getting sick. Because I didn’t ever just get “normal people sick.” If I got a common cold, or the flu, oh holy Lord… - double the pain, uncomfortability, and frustration felt normally, and we’re in the outskirts of the ballpark of what my friends and family have lovingly dubbed “beckybrain." No lie. Your brain being strangely positioned will do that to you - both the pain and the horrible nickname. 

So I had a plan: icepacks. If I could strategically headband (yeah, those stretchy workout ones) 2-3 children’s lunchbox icepacks to the base of my head/neck, I could manage for a few hours until I could go home, lay down, put more icepacks on my head, and wait a few hours (aka 6-36 dependent on that days severity) for things to return to normal. 

Because of this, it never occurred to me that there was such a thing as “normal people sick” and that it sucked too. Until this week. And I was not prepared. No plan in place. Totally planned for the crisis, but never planned for the normal. 

This shouldn’t shock me. I’ve never had a contingency plan for my life. Why would I have any type of plan for being sick? I feel like normal people have back up plans. Not me. Which is funny because I think I’m currently living in one - the backup, contingency, never-really-thought-this-through plan. My original unplanned plan, was to be successful in the entertainment industry. That was it. There wasn’t much planning to the plan. So I guess, somewhat inevitably, here I am, living in a contingency plan that I made up along the way. Geez - how many times can I say “plan” in one paragraph?

So, now what? 

Well, I’m still young. 25 is still young, right? Even though, when I was little, 25 seemed ancient and I was convinced that by 25, I’d be a millionaire, a popstar, a business owner, in movies, a wife, a mom, a gymnast, a teacher, have won every award imaginable, somehow have managed to compete in the Olympics, and have met my ever elusive goal of being a teenager? Yeah. 25 is still young.

Yeah.

Obviously those dreams have shifted and changed. I mean, be a teenager? Been there, done that. #winning. So beyond that, what is there…? Just kidding. But they have changed. (Thank God.) 

Some days I don’t even totally know what they are anymore. And I find that everyone around me asks me (and wants me) to define them.

“What do you want to do? What’s your dream? What’s your end goal? What’s your plan? How are you going to make it happen?” 

Well, put it this way. I never in my wildest dreams thought that doing this would fall into the dream category. Writing. Speaking. Sharing my faith. Wanting to be in ministry. “In ministry” - not a huge fan of the term, but I should get over myself - bigger fish to fry, B, bigger fish to fry.  

Having this little outlet to write about all the unreal stuff that God has done in my life, share my insights (hopefully theologically sound ones,) and encourage those who read it… that’s spurred on a whole new dream - a big one. One that still somehow fits in with the old dreams - the changed ones - not the list above. Though some still make the cut. Believe it or not, being a popstar is not high on the list of priorities these days.

And you know what? There’s still no concrete plan. I’ve got ideas and goals. But I still have no idea how it will all fit. Like none. Some days I don’t even know what the next right move is. But I do know that if I make the next right choice, take the next right step, and listen carefully to the next right nagging of the Holy Spirit, I’ll be ok. I’ll be more than ok. 

When I was a baby, my nana gave me “my verse."

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. - Ps 37:4. 

I always found it so encouraging - but I would also get so frustrated. 12 year old Becky’s prayers went something like: Ok Lord, I love you. I delight in you. Why am I not a popstar? 

But now it’s the verses around it that get me. 

Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong. For like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. -  Ps 37:1-7a

My nana was the wisest lady I’ve ever met. She passed away before I began the blog - but she was around for the attack and the aftermath. She was around for a lot. When she gave me that verse as a baby, she couldn't have known that it was the first place I would turn when I decided to go on this journey, but that my eyes would fall just barely above those familiar words…

“He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”

She couldn’t have known how desperately I would need those words when I didn’t feel righteous. When I felt I was to blame. But Jesus knew. He knew that when I was so angry, I didn’t want to open my bible, I’d need to turn to a place that was easily found. And He knew that when my eyes landed on those words in the verses preceding "my verse," I’d be set free from blame and self condemnation.  

We can’t plan for life. We can dream of how we’d like it to go - but we don’t know the twists and turns - both good and bad. We don’t have a play by play of those we will encounter who are evil. I mean, I never planned to be on a journey ignited by sexual assault. But here I am. And now I’ve got a cause. And one day, the justice of the cause will shine like the noon day sun.

In the in between - I’ve got to continue to trust. To do good. To dwell. To enjoy safety. To delight in him. To commit. To be still. And to wait patiently. I’ve got to be ok with being 25 and being where I’m at. I’ll have to be ok with the fact that I never competed in the Olympics. (The hilarious thing about that is that I have no idea what it was that I thought I would compete in.)

And duh, 25 is young. There’s a lot of time left to do it all - whatever “all” is. What’s nuts is that three years ago, I didn’t have a lot of time left. I was living “on borrowed time” as my doctor said, and I didn’t even know it. So I’d say things are looking pretty freakin great. 

I’m actually not living in the contingency plan- I’m living in the plan. The one God had picked for my life from the very beginning. I’ve obviously taken a few detours - where’s the fun in a straight line - but it’s the path. The life path. I’m in the plan and I’m on the path - and it just doesn’t get much better than that. 

 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jer 29:1 

day 25: the flu, pt. 2: my golden hour

Wednesday, 3/30/16

Pressure cookers are interesting right? Cook something faster by putting more pressure on it. If you forget about it, the cooker more or less explodes. Turn the cooker down at the exact right moment, and the food is cooked as desired, in less time, with (potentially) less hassle. 

Ignore your feelings, and you, much like the forgotten pressure cooker, will explode. It’s just a matter of time. The intention is to put those feelings that hurt, away; out of sight, out of mind. Focus on something else. Do something else. Time heals all wounds - isn’t that what they say? But what we don’t realize is that the drawer those feelings have been shoved into is actually said pressure cooker - equipped with all the means necessary to speed up the explosion we are doing our best to avoid. Put enough of those hurt, ignored, waiting for time to fix them, feelings in there, and it’s a given that the mess they create will be worse than the one that would have been created, had we tried to cook the meal the slow, normal, time-consuming way. It’s the absolute irony of the whole scenario - the thing we want to ignore by pretending those feelings aren’t real, is the very thing we invite over a high speed connection. 

I wish somebody had told me that a long time ago. Actually, somebody did- I chose not to listen. 

For the majority of my life, I put my feelings into a pressure cooker, but I never failed to turn the cooker down at the exact right moment. I may have cut it close at times, but I always regained control. That ability to regain control quickly disappeared after I was attacked. I questioned every instinct I had. I couldn’t have any good instincts - I mean, I went with them willingly. I understood that I had been drugged, but I couldn’t recognize it as playing a part in my instincts being compromised. Before I could really identify that it was happening, I felt myself spinning out of control. The faster I ran to try and catch up, the faster I spun out. 

"How wild it was, to let it be." - Cheryl Strayed : saw this beauty on a hike in Ireland the day before I stopped running. One of these days, I'll tell you all about our magical encounter...

"How wild it was, to let it be." - Cheryl Strayed : saw this beauty on a hike in Ireland the day before I stopped running. One of these days, I'll tell you all about our magical encounter...

5am is my golden hour. Some of you are like, uhhhh 5am is a crap hour, also known as shitty o’clock. I hear ya. I don’t love when the alarm goes off that early - but it’s in that hour that God has historically spoken to me the most clearly. The 5am silence is beautiful and peaceful, but one morning a little while ago - it was deafening. 

After over a year of shoving every feeling I had into it, the pressure cooker finally exploded. I sat staring out my window at the Irish countryside, embarrassed, exhausted, and nauseous. There was no one to call, everyone back in America was asleep. Nowhere to go and nothing to do but sit. As I sat, and the minutes ticked by, I felt the tiniest sense of relief creep in. I knew that I was done - done numbing the pain, done pretending that it didn’t exist, and done running from my reality into lie after lie after lie. I knew in that moment that God loves me in a way I might never comprehend. In the deafening silence of my golden hour, God sat down next to me, waited, and offered me His hand to begin the climb out of that pit.   

The mess created by the explosion may have been astronomical, but it was free and in the light. 

3 B -3.jpg
In the light... 

In the light...