beach

Day 2: don't ya know that you're toxic?

Monday, 3/7/2016

So in the past few weeks I’ve become pretty obsessed with the idea of removing any and all toxic chemicals and allergens from my life in my food, beauty products, and household cleaning products (yes, yes - this is me being your typical white girl. Case in point: I simply cannot let the chance for an apropos Britney gif go by without taking it.)

But seriously, I was shocked when I learned about the harmful chemicals present in what we are lathering our bodies with ladies (and gentlemen.) Unreal.

What’s more unreal, is the junk we allow into our minds. I’m realizing that part of my desire to remove all this material toxicity from my world might stem from my subconscious knowing that I need to deal with the mental toxicity too.

Chemicals are the toxins affecting my physical body, and negativity is the toxin affecting my mind. 

boat jump.jpg

Negativity: well, that’s general. But I think it’s only general because it’s so widespread. It’s a pesticide that seems to spray every part of life. When was the last time I didn’t feel negative? Four days ago on the speedboat in Antigua. Jumping off the boat, eating on the beach, flying through the waves (sometimes whilst seriously questioning if I was about to go overboard,) hearing JD’s story, and laying in the water while it rained. Four days?! Four days is a long time. The inner knowledge that my life doesn’t look the way I want it to still existed that day, but I felt the teeniest part of my adventurous spirit peak it’s head around the corner and say, “hey, nice to see you again.” I remembered that I get to choose which steps I take next. 

Not too long later, I got some news that inspired one of the worst feelings around. Envy. 

Envy is an icky icky thing. There’s a reason that its known as one of the seven deadly sins.     

[Can we talk about that ‘America’s Next Top Model’ seven deadly sins photo shoot though from like a million seasons ago for just a second? So good.]

Envy makes me feel gross. Like what type of person doesn’t want to be happy for someone else when something good happens for them? I don’t think anybody wants to feel envy. It’s certainly not something we go around advertising. “Hey everybody!! I’m so jealous of blah blah blah, hear me roar!” But we do feel it. We are human after all. 

What’s interesting about my experience with envy these days is that it always turns to annoyance at myself. Probably rightly so. My thought pattern tends to go like this:

  1. “I wish                            would happen for me!” 
  2. “ Yeah but how could                            happen for you when you're too afraid to try?” 
  3. “Uhhhh hello have you seen the last two years of my life? Cut me a little slack.” 
  4. “Yeah, Becky, you’ve given yourself enough slack - it’s time to put your big girl pants on and get over yourself. If you want                    ,  go get it.” 
  5. “You’re right. But what if I try and                    happens and [insert negative emotion or experience here.] 

So, I have the awareness to know that envy is childish and unhelpful. Thank God. #winning (at least a little bit.) What I have trouble getting away from is the “slack" part. The me version of the little Lizzie McGuire cartoon that tells us Lizzie’s thoughts on the show, Lizzie McGuire, (a very important part of my pre-teen years) having this internal convo is not wrong.

I have needed to cut myself slack - yes. But I’m thinking it’s been the wrong kind of slack. It’s been the slack of excuses instead of the slack of mindfulness. And excuses lead back to negativity. And negativity leads back to the pit. And the pit sucks.

Negativity accuses and mindfulness observes. Negativity beats you down and mindfulness asks to help you move forward. For example: 

Thought: “I really need to prioritize my health and wellness.” 

Negativity: “ Yeah but today has been a tough day. And if ordering Indian food and cookies makes you feel better, you go ahead and do that. But don’t complain when you’re fatter tomorrow.” 

Mindfulness: “Am I actually hungry? If not, what am I trying to ignore by eating Indian food and cookies? If I am, is there a healthy option that doesn’t employ deprivation?” 

Negativity complicates everything. It strips away the simplicity of - this is how I feel - ‘x.’ This is what I want - ‘y.’ 

The more I read about life and health, the more I realize that to live a life of mindfulness requires retraining the brain. It is 100% the opposite of how the world communicates with us and therefore, 100% the opposite of how we’ve been conditioned to communicate with both ourselves and others.

I now feel overwhelmed. 

This whole 52 day thing is starting to feel like a total chore and why did I even set out to do this in the first place? I need a little reminding. So I go stalk the Team Wadadli (the Antiguan rowing team) Facebook page, and subsequently stalk a ton of other teams' Facebook pages and blogs, as one does, and I’m reminded why I started. (Don’t even try to tell me that you do not do some social media stalking every once in a while!)

The fact that I need reminding on DAY 2 scares me a little, but hey - keep on keeping on. And looking at those photos and videos of them coming into the harbour, the excitement, the sense of accomplishment, the victory... well, it gave me just the reminder I needed. 

In case you can’t guess it by now, I don’t believe in chance encounters, but I do believe in divine appointment. I believe that people are put in our paths and we are put in others’ paths for specific reasons, usually without knowledge of it. I know that JD was put in my path to jolt me awake to the adventure of life. It’s only with a sense of adventure that I would be willing to fight my way back. And the only way I'd hear that was if the vessel was completely new.

PS: I can’t decide if this is going to be suuuuuuper awkward if for some bizarre and very unlikely reason JD ever reads this. Hopefully it would fall on the - I’m so glad my story impacted a complete stranger in a positive way spectrum and not a - this random chick is crazy spectrum. But as one of the best people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing once said to me, “it’s none of your damn business what anybody else thinks about you."

I have no idea where this leaves me and I have no idea what the next step is. There seem to be a bajillion to choose from. But I do know that the negative part of me wants to say that I’m getting nowhere, while the mindful part of me wants to encourage me to keep moving, even if at a snail’s pace. And for the first time in a long time, I'm going to choose to be mindful - not negative.

Day 1 : pants-less

Sunday, 3/6/2016

Well, I woke up in denial about not being in Antigua. Utter denial. Pure denial. Like, I don’t think a greater denial exists in the world that what I was in. I mean - would you want to have gone from seven days of doing nothing but waking up, eating, laying on the beach, basking in the sun, being on or in the water, reading, talking with your parents (who also happen to be two of the people you’re closest to in the world) and sleeping? If your answer is yes - go ahead and keep that to yourself, because you’re a weirdo, because I was here: 

I am rarely happier than when I am at the beach and in the water. I was born in London and raised between there and Texas - mostly in Texas, but I swear my soul was born in the ocean and out of the sun (go ahead and mock me for however cheesy that sounds - I’m aware, with you, can take it, and also love it)

Bottom line: New York is hard for me.

It’s dirty, smells bad (versions of bad include: pee, body odor, and trash,) is crowded, expensive, often cold, people are mean (or crazy,) there’s no space, if you want to see the sky in most parts of the city you have to crane your neck up, you can’t walk around barefoot or easily put your feet on grass, fresh air doesn’t exist, you can always hear your neighbors, the catcalling is ob-nox-ious, it’s transient, getting out of the city takes an immense amount of effort - the list could go on, but if you (and I) remember correctly, one of the things on my Prep Day list was to not be needlessly negative, sooooooo…yeah…I think you get the gist.

Basically, I need…..wide open spaaaaaaces…. if you don’t know who the Dixie Chicks are, we legit cannot be friends and I don’t know if I even feel comfortable with you reading this blog. Kidding. But please go listen to them on Spotify - conveniently and thoughtfully linked for you here ASAP as it will only make your life better. 

To be frank, there are many days in New York where I feel like I’m suffocating. "But you were born in London" you say, "that’s a big city, you should be used to it." Yes. But in London YOU CAN SEE THE SKY. But I (semi) digress. 

I recently read a book that asked you to list the things that make you happy - things that you’re grateful for - which are often, and not coincidentally, one in the same. My list included, (I won’t list everything because 1. you probably don’t care (I wouldn’t either) and 2. who’s got time for that?) in this abridged but unchanged order:

the beach, sunlight and how warm it feels, wildflowers, art in all forms, football, Texas, family, best friends, driving, safety, love, adventure, travel, food, joy, yoga, elephants, babies, wine, reading, cheesy things, sports, sweating, going for runs in the rain, cozy sweaters, photos and videos.

So you can more than likely see that being back in New York isn’t exactly thrilling for me. But add to that that I had decided to embark on this 52 day journey challenge thing - and I just didn’t want to wake up. They say the first step is the hardest for a reason. Changing my life (which is the basic way to say what I hope the next 52 days bring) is going to be hard because it’s going to mean I have to change. And the stuff I want to change isn’t like changing a pair of pants. Wait - actually - yes, yes it is. It’s like trying to change in and out of your skinniest leather pants. 

You wind up pants-less, trying everything you can think of to get them back on, covered in a baby powder-lotion messy paste that you made when you tried to get out of your predicament, realizing you have no other option but to take the first awkward step… without pants...  It’s actually not that far off. I’m stripped to my core, covered in a mess I made myself after finding myself in a predicament that wasn’t my fault (how was Ross supposed to KNOW that the leather pants would be hell’s prison?) 

                                                                                                    Side-note: never did I think that I would tie a Friends episode into a metaphor for life... This may be a high point.

The only difference is that Ross called Joey - and I’ve been reluctant to call anyone. I may have admitted to some hard days here or there, but have I told anyone it’s been consistent hard days since August? Nope. Because that means accepting that I haven’t been honest with myself about the place I didn’t just magically arrive to out of the blue. It’s been a slow descent to a pit that has felt seemingly impossible to crawl out of. So I did some research and wasn't exactly thrilled with what I found.

If I’m honest, my first thought is - “oh good - one more lame statistic to fall into. First I’m a sexual assault victim and now I’m depressed.” (I’m not saying that’s a kind or valid thought, but I also pledged to honesty yesterday….dang those annoying pledges.) Prior to doing some research, I thought clinical depression was the term we only stamped on people who were always depressed and needed to take antidepressants forever due to a chemical imbalance in the brain. I was wrong.

Clinical depression is "marked by a depressed mood most of the day, particularly in the morning, and a loss of interest in normal activities and relationships  -- symptoms that are present every day for at least 2 weeks.” 20-25% of adults will suffer a bout of it in their lifetimes and women are at a higher risk (twice as many women experience this than men.) Two weeks, huh? Errrr try 5 months… Depression can be triggered by grief, social isolation, major life changes, personal conflict and any type of abuse. And it doesn’t always stick around forever. It can pass. 

Well, hallefreakinlujah. There’s a bright spot of hope.

Recommendations to treat clinical depression include, among other things, therapy. I was attacked in April 2014 and was in therapy until July of 2015. I struggled heavily with depression for the first four-ish months (with the fleeting thought of suicide coming once,) and then it more or less 'went away.’… there’s also a chance I willed it away and quit therapy that July because I just didn’t want to talk about it anymore. But the residual effects that I refused to deal with once those first fourth months were over, did not go away. They bubbled and boiled, always turned down at the last minute, until Thanksgiving 2015, when circumstances beyond my control finally turned the stove on HIGH. Every ignored and stifled piece of pain came bubbling up, blew the lid off the pot, and everything in me boiled over, creating a complete mess. The pot was empty and I had nothing left to give…and here we are. 

Tonight I went to church for the third time since abandoning it altogether last May. Showing up is hard. I more or less feel a silent rage when it comes to God and it feels hypocritical and fraudulent to sit in church when, if God was a person standing in front of me, I would probably punch said person in the face while screaming a few choice words… After all, nothing happens in heaven or on earth without His ok, right? So, where was He that night and why did he ‘ok’ this? 

Louie Giglio preached a sermon entitled 'The Comeback' and within the first five minutes of preaching he says, “God Almighty can turn the page of your life tonight and begin writing you a new story.” Well, ok. Day 1 of 52 days, and that seems pretty fitting. Not shockingly, I took that as another sign (I warned you in entry one about me and signs: see 52 Days.) I mean, write you a new story? And I’m writing about the 52 day journey? And today is day 1 which is basically page 1. And journeys are always stories to be told…I’m telling you - coincidences are not a real thing. 

He went on to talk about how we are so often shaped by what was and don’t lean enough into what we could be; that we have to stop re-reading the old chapters and walk in new life. Merp. Sometimes when you’re mad, hearing the truth is hard. Forget that - anytime you’re mad, hearing the truth is hard. Hard like, I go to a church where people ’shout down’ our pastor, (it’s not as terrifying as it sounds - stuff like - “That’s good, Louie!” or “Amen!” or “That’s real!”) and I just wanted to shout him down with, “Go away! Stop somehow weirdly seeing into my soul. It's annoying.” I restrained myself and through my severe annoyance, I felt a little truth slide through a crack of the barely open door of my heart and mind tonight. With it came the smallest amount of light. Maybe I should stop focusing on how mad I am at God. I’ve been doing a very solid job of making that clear… So now my question is, how do I actually deal with the old chapters without dwelling on them? No clue. 

But Louie (is it weird that I feel like I’m on a first name basis with a pastor after they speak a message I connect to? Probably, but it is what it is) suggested two things:

1. A desperate plea

2. ask God for the faith to actually believe for a new chapter. 

At the end of the service, another one of our pastors gave us the opportunity to raise our hands in prayer if we needed a renewal of the mind, and I (awkwardly and through tears) raised my hand. That was tough for me - for my pastors who once trusted me to be a leader in our church, to see that I’m in this place? It’s a pride thing (that I need to work on.) But you know what else? It was brave. And in that bravery, I felt a weight lift. It was trust. And it that trust, I felt my heart lighten just a little.

So I’ll start there even if it feels weird and I’m annoyed. Clearly, I don’t have any better ideas. My journal entry tonight finished with, 

“well on day 1, I cried out to Jesus for help and was honest for the first time about where my heart is at. what will day 2 bring?” - 

who knows? 

52 Days

out of the ashes and into the light

When I sat on the beach meditating that morning (you may already be like, "oh geeeeez make it stop!") and had the thought, “if JD can do that, what can you do for 52 days?”, I decided to begin a 52 day challenge. I’d been stuck in a negative space (that's a kind way of putting it) for months and wanted to drastically change my life. So, I starting thinking of personal mantras that I could adopt for 52 days, all with the underlying feeling that this was a silly, new-age-y, foundation-less idea that I was concocting. Basically, I was annoying myself. 

But then I felt prompted to count out 52 days on my calendar. Day 52 would land on April, 26, 2016. Uhhh what? That couldn't be right. So I counted again. And again. And one more time for good measure because I don’t believe in coincidences, (also because anything in the math realm, even something as rudimentary as counting, is not my strong suit.) My friends might tell you that I have a tendency to take things to be signs. I can categorically say that this was not one of those instances. Because of that, I decided to not only go on this journey, but write about it. Don’t fear - that idea was immediately accompanied with humbling and self-deprecating thoughts like: “Becky, who the actual eff is going to want to read a '52 day journey' about some random, normal chick who doesn't have any idea what it is she's journeying toward or even what she wants out of it, inspired by a random encounter on an Antiguan speedboat?” But that date...

Two years ago, on April 26, 2014, nine months after moving to New York to pursue my dreams, I was drugged at a bar, taken to an apartment with the promise of finding my missing friend, forcibly held there, assaulted, raped, and then physically thrown into the rain with the trash. It changed the course of my life. 

Sadness, anger, depression, anxiety, fear, recklessness, shame, confusion, pretense, destruction, excess, bitterness, self-hatred, and doubt became the foundations upon which I very secretly, and somewhat unknowingly, rebuilt my life. (Geez, that's a lot of emotions for one sentence.)

I didn’t want to be hurt. I didn’t want to give my attackers any power. I didn’t want to be another statistic. I definitely didn’t want people to identify me as this. And I certainly didn’t want anyone to know the deep wounds, previously healed with some antiseptic and a bandaid, that this ripped wide open. I didn't want to think about any of it.

So while bleeding out, I stuffed some lap pads in there (avid Grey’s Anatomy watcher over here,) abandoned my dreams, and said I was fine and “healed."

I “knew" that one day I would understand why this was allowed to happen and that "God was at work somewhere in it." But I didn't actually believe that. I just knew it's what I was supposed to say. When you really know something is true, you feel it in your bones (or in your fingers and toes… Love Actually anyone?)

I felt like I was being blown around in a tornado. But because I didn’t want to be feeling enraged and embarrassed, I decided to "trust God" the way I have been taught to my whole life. And I believed that the longer I blindly trusted Him, the healing would just come; the more that I got on with life and ignored it, this would fade into the background. That I was exhibiting faith. But I wasn't and it didn't.

Within a month, I stepped into new leadership roles at my church. Within nine months, I decided to start a foundation (this is how I ARISE was originally born) that would raise awareness towards the issue. But being a highly functioning, jerry-rigger of an emergency surgeon on my heart helped no one, least of all me, and the in-between was filled with patterns of self-destruction, often hidden in the dark of late night and early morning hours. 

I wanted I ARISE to be a non-profit, activist, organization that pioneered change, raised awareness and shifted the reality of so many women in the world. My free time was filled with researching sexual assault statistics, finding people who wanted to partner with me, watching documentaries, building a website, putting together a support team, partnering with a production company and filming the beginnings of a documentary. But I quickly burned out. How could I build something designed to help others when I hadn’t even begun to truly pick up my own pieces? But instead of asking for help, I ran in the opposite direction. I stepped down from leadership in my church and within two months, stopped going to church altogether. 

A blog was certainly never on my agenda. The thought just kind of arrived in my mind a few days prior to meeting JD, and I immediately dismissed it. I’m one of those cynics who is almost instantly annoyed at anyone who starts a sentence with, “Well on my blog…” - oh yes, please do tell me about your surely earth shattering blog filled with political opinions, healthy recipes, spiritual guidance, conspiracy theories, and an essay on how if you were the coach of your favorite sports team, they would absolutely, positively, never have suffered such an embarrassing and clearly avoidable loss to                          (insert winning team here.) Not that I don't understand the anger that drives that last one - I mean, I still feel personally victimized by the Texans loss to Miami last season where at the half, they were down 41-0. Sorry. Not the point and I will now get back on track.

Despite my hoity toity attitude toward the blogosphere, here I am blogging, so clearly God humbles our negative attitudes and pride even when it blows - actually let’s just be real here, being humbled pretty much always blows because it means admitting you're in the wrong….oh wait, is that just me? 

So the idea is this: one entry for each of the 52 days of this journey. The day of the idea is March 5 and will go up tomorrow, April 30. Day 1 = March 6 = May 1. 

I have no idea what these 52 days will hold, and therefore, no freaking clue what this blog will look like. Today is March 14, aka day 9. I started writing this introductory entry on March 8, aka day 3, and it'll probably get another edit before it goes live. All other entries will be in the voice of that present day. Here’s what I do know: this will not be a curated blog where everything falls under the same well thought out theme, follows a fluid storyline, or depicts photos all edited the same way for aesthetic consistency. It will be honest (likely to a fault) and at times will seem random - but uh HELLO, we all have a million random thoughts a day...I'm just the ding dong that's putting mine out on the internet for all to see - I'm also the ding dong who is immediately beginning to question this decision.  

But here I go - 52 days, huh? Doesn't seem so long until you come up with a weird idea to span them, and then it's like uhhhh what was I thinking? But if JD could survive his 52 days (I tell you all about that tomorrow,) I can get it together for this. And if I can't, well, I've got a lot more to figure out than I realize! 

 If you've stuck it out thus far, thanks for reading. Hopefully you'll come back and see what happens. 

One thing I've learned already - adventure isn’t for the faint of heart, that’s for dang sure.