beauty

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
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day 8: rape & the righteousness of God : a glimmer of grateful light

Sunday, 3/13/2016

I watched the documentary “The Hunting Ground” today. I also had a conversation about the righteousness of God with one of my pastors. Talk about juxtapositions. 

These are two conversations that don’t go together. And yet, deep down in a place somewhere looking to get a little light, I know that they kinda do.

I know this because the idea that God is righteous in ALL circumstances, even circumstances that are heinous, is at the very core of my grievances with Him and this whole experience.  

Only 36% of rapes, 34% of attempted rapes, and 26% of sexual assaults get reported to the police. (National Institue of Justice)

26% of rapes reported to the police lead to an arrest. Of that 26%, 20% are prosecuted.” - FBI Uniform Crime Reports - 2010

The documentary is full of statistics, but these two haunt me and I have to do the math for myself:

- In 2011 reports from a 2010 study called "the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey” (which took place with the support of the National Institute of Justice and the Department of Defense) stated that 1 in 5 women had been raped or experienced attempted rape. Other outlets report 1 in 4, and some 1 in 6, so to be somewhere average, we’ll go with 1 in 5.

Ok so:

If 1 in 5 women in America are victims of sexual assault and there are about 157 million women in America   - that takes us to 31,400,000 women assaulted.  

- only 36% report their rape = 11,304,000 reported rapes 

- only 34% report attempted rape = 10,676,00 reported attempted rapes

- only 26% report sexual assault = 8,164,000 reported sexual assaults

The math in all of those situations brings you to at least 20,000,000 unreported assaults. So regardless of the fact that we can’t measure which 1’s in 5 experienced what version of assault, we can assume that 20,000,000 sexual assaults of some kind are unreported. 

Talking about rape only, 26% of the 36% of reported rapes (11,304,000) lead to an arrest - ok so that’s 2,939,040 arrests which = 8,364,960 cases without arrest. 

Of the 2,939,040 arrests, 20% are prosecuted - so 587,888 prosecutions, which = 2,351,152 cases without prosecution. 

So why does it shock people that survivors are hesitant to press charges? Especially when 98% of rapists will never spend a day in jail. (RAINN.org) Why report and go through the grueling process of attempting to bring a perpetrator to justice with those odds? 

Trying to give logic to that night and my decision not to press charges is a never-ending cycle. 

Trying to reconcile it with the righteousness of God is on another level.

But then I get a glimmer of light. And that inner conversation with God goes something like this: 

"What are you grateful for in that situation?" 

"What? Are you serious? What am I grateful for? Are you (expletive) kidding me?” 

“No.” 

“I’m not grateful. There is nothing to be grateful for.” 

“Really? What were you afraid of that night?"

“I was afraid that they wouldn’t let me leave. I was afraid that they would kill me. I was afraid that she’d been taken forever. I was afraid that I would have to call her mom and tell her that she wasn’t coming home and that I had no idea where she was. I was afraid that I was responsible for a horrible life she may be subjected to by whoever took her.” 

“And did that happen?” 

“No” 

Once I found one thing to be grateful for, it was a lot easier to come up with some more:

  • I’m grateful that my friend got out of that apartment.
  • I’m grateful that she doesn’t remember what happened there.
  • I’m grateful that this didn’t taint our friendship - she doesn’t blame me and I don’t blame her.
  • I’m grateful that I don’t remember the bulk of my time inside the other apartment.
  • I’m grateful that I had someone to call the next morning who answered the phone.
  • I’m grateful that my parents had the means to fly to New York from Europe.
  • I’m grateful that this was not the time that these criminals escalated to something even worse.
  • I’m grateful that I’m alive.
  • I’m grateful that I have amazing family and friends who have so graciously walked with me through the healing process.
  • I’m grateful that I’m not alone. 

I’m stunned to see even this tiny glimmer. 

Gratitude is a weapon of worship. It is allowing me a glimpse into where the righteousness of God exists in this situation.

My thoughts often veer off to,  “why did God save my life? Why me? Why not any of the other millions of people facing potential death each day?” 

In our conversation, my pastor stops me in my tracks - “stop trying to make yourself worthy of the righteousness of God; you’re not and you never will be. That’s the beauty of it. When you rest in your unworthiness, you honor His righteousness.”

This may seem harsh. I may never see the righteousness of God in that night. But somehow, it was exactly what I needed to hear. It removed the all-about-me attitude that was blocking me from seeing what I do see:  

- I do see that I not only survived, but fought my way through the recovery, and have come out the other side stronger and with a blazing passion to fight for change. So when God tells me that He will never let me be pushed past my limit, I know He’s right. (1 Cor 10:13, the MSG) 

- I do see that something guided me in the direction of home. So when God tells me that He will never leave me or forsake me, I know He’s true. (Deuteronomy 31:6, NIV)

- I do see that instead of this pushing my friend and I apart, we are closer than ever. I also see that my friend who helped me came, regardless of our history. So when God says that a friend loves at all times (is always loyal) and a brother is born to help in time of need, I know He cares about my heart. (Proverbs 17:7 NLT) 

- I do see that this experience has been one of the greatest trials I’ve ever faced, but that through it, I’ve experienced more growth than I could have imagined. So when God tells me to consider it a sheer gift when tests and challenges come my way because it means that my faith-life will be forced into the open, allowing me to become mature and well-developed, deficient in nothing, I know He is always on my side. (James 1:2-4 The MSG.)

- I do see that within hours of originally posting this blog, I had quite a number of people reach out to say that they were also survivors of rape or assault, and felt like they finally had a voice; or that their friend went through this and is struggling and they were sending it along so that they would know they aren’t alone. So when God says that He works all things together for good, I know that He can take even the most broken situations, and use them for good. (Romans 8:28 NIV.)

Now let me be abundantly clear - I AM NOT SAYING THAT RAPE IS RIGHTEOUS. What I am saying is that in my own personal experience, I am beginning to see that even in the most UNrighteous situations (caused by free will,) God can take what was meant for evil, and He can use if for good. And that right there, is in fact, the righteousness of God. 

So I’m understanding it just a little through the lens of gratitude. And this little glimmer of light shines ever so much brighter with each passing second. 

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. 

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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.