darkness

day 16: who gon’ check me boo: found in the rain

Monday, 3/21/2016

Today is Monday and I began my day by spending over an hour looking for lost keys. I feel like this is the definition of Mon-daze. I mean I LOOKED. I emptied every bag I own, I pulled up all the couch cushions, I looked under the couch, I emptied out our storage closet, I stripped my bed, I retraced my steps 87 bajillion times and the only logical explanation I can come up with is that they either fell out of my purse on the street and I didn’t notice or a ninja spy person bungeed into my apartment while I was sleeping and stole them.

I noticed on Friday that they were missing, but the last time I used them was Wednesday - so technically they’ve been lost for six days. Or have they been lost for five days? At what point does something qualify as lost? At what point does someone qualify as lost? When the losing is happening is it already lost? Because usually when you’re in the process of losing something, you don’t know you’re in the process of losing it - if you did, you would stop yourself and not lose it. Right? 

Well I don’t know. Because if I think about my life and times I got lost, I can pinpoint moments where I knew I was getting lost - heading down a bad path - and I still walked that path anyway. I’m not talking about getting geographically lost - though I guess the point still holds. Sometimes I get purposefully lost in New York, just so I can see new parts of the city in a different light. Some of the best and most memorable experiences I’ve had while traveling have been when I got lost on purpose. I’m pretty much of the opinion that it’s impossible for that to not yield great results. The difference is that when I visit a new city and I get lost, I do it in the daylight, with plenty of time to find my way back to a place of safety before it gets dark. When I’ve chosen to 'get lost' in life, I may have started in the light, but when darkness began to descend, I didn’t look for a road back to safety. I just kept walking until there wasn’t anymore light to see. 

I gave myself about two months after my attack to be sad - after that, if I felt sad, I went out. I didn’t want to feel sad. I didn’t want to just sit at home. If I did that, I inevitably ended up thinking about everything and rehashing it, searching for answers I would never find. The problem is that the more I went out, the more I went out. It’s a vicious cycle that way.

On Halloween, while dressed in an elephant onesie, three of my closest friends sat me down over dinner to tell me they were concerned about: 

  1. how much I was going out
  2. that I was using it as an escape.

I assured them that this wasn’t the case and backed off of going out so consistently. But my newfound inconsistency didn’t change the end result of my nights out - a wicked hangover and lots of regret.

I knew I was getting more and more lost, and still I kept walking farther into the dark. It was all about defiance. I was angry. More than I was angry at what happened, I was angry at God. I was more angry at God than I was with the police. I was even more angry with God than I was with my attackers themselves. I almost felt sorry for them - what had happened in their lives that they were able to treat another human being this way? But God? He had no excuse.

My anger towards God was a deep-seeded, confusing, multi-faceted experience. How dare I be angry at the most high God, the creator of the universe, and the savior of the world? And yet, if Jesus is about relationship, not religion, how could I not be? The only way I knew to express my anger (as if He needed me to express it in order to know what I felt…) was to defy Him. I wanted to hurt Jesus the same way I felt He had hurt me. I wanted to desert Him. 

Time and time again, I’ve heard parents say that seeing their child hurt, hurts them more than if they were hurt themselves. I wanted that. After all, He’s my Father in heaven, right? So the parent/child dynamic of hurt holds. Even if nobody else knew the decisions made in the dark, Jesus saw them in the light. This meant that seeing me purposefully make decisions that would hurt me, would hurt Him, right? Right. So I intentionally lost myself until I didn’t recognize the girl staring back at me in the mirror. I didn't want to look like her anymore anyway. Maybe He wouldn't recognize me either - then we could both forget the shame I was wearing every day like an old familiar coat. I wanted someone, anyone, to hurt the way I was hurting. To understand my gut-wrenching pain. And that’s supposed to be Him - 

                                        The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. - Ps 34:17-18

You know that poem Footprints? And that part where the man is like - but Jesus, in some of these places I see only one set of footprints instead of two and those were some of my toughest times - where were you then? And Jesus is like - that’s when I was carrying you? Ok, well, I was pretty convinced that Jesus slipped and broke His back while running to try and rescue me and obviously immediately healed himself because He can, but was like - nah, I’ve tried a lot with that girl and it’s time for her to be on her own for a bit now that she caused me to break my back. She wants to keep rejecting every opportunity I give her for help? Cool. Let’s see how that pans out. So in my 'one set of footprints,' Jesus and His broken back were sitting on the sidelines with a brewski. 

I thought He deserted me - something He promises He will never do. 

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. - Deut 31:6

And I thought He broke His promise. Something He also, supposedly, does not do.

God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? - Numbers 23:19

And I. was. pissed. So I defied Him. I even ‘prayed’ him through my reasoning mid poor decision making one night. (Oh yeah, that’s me. You can't say I wasn't committed...) I don’t know if you could call it prayed, so much as challenged Him to prove His goodness. To prove that some people were safe. It was one of these: 

I walked farther away and I tried my damnedest to fill the deep, dark hole with anything except the truth.

But the harder I tried to block out His voice, the louder it fiercely roared for me.

For someday the people will follow me. I, the Lord, will roar like a lion. And when I roar, my people will return trembling from the west. - Hosea 11:10

The more I tried to ignore the light just barely creeping in, the brighter it shone.

The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. - John 1:5 

The further down the hole I went, the clearer the way out He was pointing me towards became.

 And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Cor 10:13

The more lies I believed, the more Truth fought back. 

Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. - John 14:6a

The truth was that Jesus never left my side that night. The truth was that in so many defiant decisions I subsequently made, Jesus protected me. The truth was that Jesus didn’t need me to hurt Him in order for Him to hurt - His heart broke for me enough already because His love for me is so unfathomably great. 

And I pray that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to comprehend the length and width and height and depth of His love, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge…” (Eph 3:17b-19a)
I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. - Romans 8:38-39

The truth was that no matter how much I tried to force Jesus to give up on me, He didn’t and He wouldn’t (and still won't.) 

It’s both the most amazing, and potentially the most annoying, part about being in relationship with Jesus - He doesn’t operate the way we do. I mean, I woulda kicked me to the curb a lllooonnnggg time ago. But not Jesus. The more I hated Him, the more He loved me. The more I ran, the faster He met me there. The more I used Him as a punching bag, the more firmly He held His ground. And finally one morning at 6am, after a questionable night, when I had no more punches left to throw, He scooped me up off the ground, stretched out His hand, and lovingly asked if I was ready to climb out of the pit.

         The Lord will fight for you; You need only be still.   -  Exodus 14:14

         The Lord will fight for you; You need only be still.  - Exodus 14:14

Later that morning, as hundreds of miles of Irish countryside passed me by out a bus window, I realized that I didn’t have it in me to keep running towards destruction. I didn’t have it in me to run towards anything. I was exhausted. I left the anger and rebellion and defiance in that Irish countryside - I didn’t need to carry it around anymore. When I got off the bus in Dublin, I just stood still in the terminal watching the world go by for a few minutes. Could I really do it? Could I let all of this go?

I stepped outside, and the second I did, the heavens opened up and let out a torrential downpour. I hadn’t slept in 24 hours and now I was destined to be soaking and cold for at least 30 minutes. As soon as the water hit my face, laughter sprang out of me, like an overflowing well. Maybe it was sleep deprivation, but in that moment, I knew that I wouldn’t walk the path alone again. I knew that I hadn't really been walking alone at all. I knew that God never stopped fighting for me, and the moment I stood still, He poured (literally!) out a love on me in a way that He knew I could not mistake as coincidence.

I’ve always had a love affair with the water. Growing up in Texas, the skies often opened up without warning, and when they did, you could find me running out to my backyard to just stand in the rain. In the 6th grade, my childhood best friend was hanging out at my house on one of those unexpected days, and we ran outside, fully clothed in our school uniforms to dance and play in the rain for hours. From that day on, for years to follow, we referred to one of our most fun days together as “Rain Day.”

In the same Psalm I quoted before, David says: 

“those who look to Him are radiant, their faces are never covered with shame.” - Ps 34:5

And as I made my way down the cobblestone streets of Dublin, drenched by the rain, with a smile radiating from the inside, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was walking right next to me, and that old coat of shame was nowhere to be found. 

day 14: choosing to care | a real actress

Saturday, 3/19/2016

This is the post I never wanted to write. The one that when I first realized where it was going made me think, “oh my gosh, I’m a statistic.” But maybe, since it’s the one I’m most afraid of, it’s the one that most needs to be written. You see, this post will be an “a ha!” moment for some people that knew me growing up. Some may even know who is referenced in this writing. It’s not so scary to write about an attacker I, nor my readers, know. It’s a lot harder to write about a predator that I, and some readers, do.

This post cracks open the door to a conversation about revictimization. It reveals that April 26, 2014 was not my first experience with sexual assault.

That was one of the first 10 questions the police asked me in that hospital room - "have you ever been the victim of sexual violence before?” For some reason, having to answer, “yes,” filled me with the greatest sense of shame. Multiple studies conducted by The National Sexual Violence Resource Center “suggest that sexual victimization in childhood or adolescence increases the likelihood of sexual victimization in adulthood between 2 and 13.7 times.” A 2010 CDC report concluded the same. I don’t go into it much, but one day I will, because it’s a conversation that needs to be had, and there is SO much to it. 

 

So here goes… 

Today I cried in my Saturday acting class because I’m afraid to care. (oh yeah, welcome to the first, and potentially most cliche, post from someone you will now be able to clip into the world’s actor stereotype. Oy.) Crying over your art or career in front of other people is not an enjoyable experience. I remember when I first arrived for my freshman year at college, I was really afraid to cry in front of people. Boy was I forced to get over that fast.  

When I arrived to one of the most highly ranked acting conservatories in the country, I had never been in a play. If I’m being really honest - I didn’t actually like plays…or I didn’t think I did. I didn’t know anything about writers, or theatre history, and I certainly had no clue that there were different techniques to acting. Here I am sitting in orientation and our dean starts talking about how we will dive into the worlds of the Stanislavsky technique, the Adler technique, and the Meisner technique…. Huh?! When the cute boy next to me leaned over and asked me if I wanted a toothpick, it was about the only sentence that sounded like English. 

The first week of classes when our teachers asked us what our favorite plays were, I had to embarrassingly admit (every single time) that I didn’t really know any plays, so I didn’t have one. (The only play I remember seeing up to that point was a high school production of “Our Town.”)

The first time I gave that answer, it just kinda fell out of my mouth. Word vomit tends to be a problem of mine. After I said it, I vaguely considered going back to my dorm that night and googling “best plays” and just picking a title for next time the question was asked. That idea was soon quashed when I heard the amount of follow-up questions involved to one’s favorite play answer. I was so embarrassed. Sitting in my first week of classes being talked to about art and craft and what it means to be an artist, and I was dumbfounded. I had certainly never identified as an artist. What had I done? Why had I come here when I was accepted into plenty of amazing musical theatre programs? I would have definitely been able to answer their questions. 

Seven months earlier, I got very sick [see day 12.] Over the course of nine days in the ICU I went from being a healthy 18 year old to a really not healthy 18 year old. My doctors became the authors of my life. They narrowed down the list of schools I’d been accepted to by distance to major medical center. I could not be more than 10 minutes away via ambulance. 

That left two schools. A week before decision day, I’d signed and sent off my papers to another program. A double major BM/BFA program. But one of the assistant deans at NCSA, would not stop calling my house and telling me to "just come visit." Sensing I could use a break from the monotony of school and an endless cycle of doctor’s appointments and tests, the headmaster of my high school and my mum suggested a visit to North Carolina. If nothing else, it would be a pretty three days.

My mum and I were standing in the drama office after a meeting with the assistant dean, and the drama school secretary, when she suddenly called from her office, “oh Becky, Gerald is driving over to performance place now - he can take you over there so that you can observe the senior’s acting class.” 

Now is as good a time as any to tell you that being observant is not my strong suit. Neither is talking to people that I don’t know.

This little, white-haired, older man, with a newspaper hat on, came shuffling out and motioned for me to join him. I gave my mum a hug goodbye and off I went. I was intrigued - I’d never seen a real acting class before and had no idea what it entailed. Also, I tend to think little old people are cute, so I was cool with him being my carpool leader.

As we climbed into his equally cute BMW, I decided the correct move was to make some small talk. 

B: “I’m Becky - I’m deciding whether or not to come here for acting school. Uh, classes. Uh to the drama school, I mean.” 

G: “ Oh that’s nice. I hear it’s a pretty good school.” 

                         awkward silence

B: “That’s good. Have you seen any of the shows here?” 

G: “A few, yes.” 

                         awkward silence 

B: “So you must like theatre then?” 

G: “I do.” 

B: “Have you ever done any theatre?” 

                         as he pulls into a parking space marked “DEAN OF DRAMA"

G: “Here and there. (chuckles to himself) Come on, we don’t want to be late!” 

B: (incoherent words, sounds, and head nodding as I stumble out of the car and realize that I just asked one of the most revered pioneers of American theatre, if he’s ever done any theatre.)

I was MORTIFIED. In a state of mortification. Is that a word? I don’t know. But that’s where I was at. 

Thank the good Lord in heaven that Gerald has a sense of humor. Later that day, as I sat in his office, I was told that if I wanted to be an actress - a real actress - I needed to come to NCSA. If I went to one of the other schools I’d been accepted to, I’d be successful. I’d likely see many of my dreams come true - but if I wanted to last, to have longevity, he and the rest of the faculty of NCSA needed to teach me. It felt honest. And it was one of the only times in my life where telling someone that I wanted to be an actress didn’t embarrass me. For the first time since I could remember, the word didn’t fill me with some sense of shame. 

I’d spent the last 10 years performing in musical theatre. I'd taken I think I took two 1 hour acting classes once, and when I was twelve, I began to take private acting lessons. I wanted to be an actress - "a real actress” (hello, Moulin Rouge.) The artistic director at one of the theaters I worked at suggested to my parents that I take private lessons with one of his company members who I had performed with, and taken group lessons from, many times over the previous two years. 

My pre-teen years were a trying time for my family and caused me to put up some seriously fortified walls. It was almost as if he knew that - like he had x-ray vision and could see that behind my tough exterior, I was crumbling into a million pieces, and my vulnerability was just waiting to be exploited. I had a callback for the role of Abigail in "the Crucible” at another theatre, so my mum scheduled a private lesson for me to go over the material I’d been given. I was so excited. I’d never auditioned at an equity regional theatre before. I didn’t totally know what that meant, but I knew it meant something. I remember walking into the building for my initial audition and being in awe of how big it was. How professional it all seemed. How real. When I got a callback, I couldn’t believe it - it was the first time I ever felt like a real actress. 

After my lesson, I never wanted to feel like that again.

My teacher explained to me that we would do an exercise that they often do at callbacks - especially for roles as serious and complex as this one. The director would want to see my chemistry with the actor cast in the role of John Proctor. I froze. Confusion and disbelief took over and then all of a sudden I found myself doing some ninja moves to break free before it got any farther and run to the bathroom. Maybe that was something that real actresses in plays did to prepare. But I didn’t want to. He was my teacher and he was trying to help. I must have misunderstood… Maybe being a real actress just wasn’t for me. So I didn’t say anything to anyone, and the cycle of intermittent abuse continued. 

I don’t really remember my callback, only that it wasn’t very good and I didn’t get the part. I do remember wanting it to be over as soon as possible. I never auditioned for a play after that.  

Sexual assault of a child is dark. In fact, I believe it is one of the darkest, lowest, and most depraved forms of sin and evil that exists. There’s no way to paint it as a pretty picture. To try to do so would be almost criminal. But I needed to be at NCSA. I needed to learn all the things that the faculty there would teach me and I needed the personal growth it would provide.

As we’ve established, I believe in signs - and nobody else had used the words real actress to me in five years. Seven years later, I can tell you that this was God at work in my life. If those words hadn’t been used, I don’t know if I would have gone. Only God can do that. Only God can take the darkest of the dark, and allow a little light in. I did a lot of healing at NCSA - I don’t think I ever would have found my voice if I hadn’t attended that school. If I hadn’t found my voice, if I hadn’t learned to bravely access the truest parts of myself, and put them on display, I likely wouldn’t have this blog. What Satan intended for evil, God used for good. 

Right then and there, I rescinded my paperwork from the other school and signed new paperwork to confirm that I would like to attend NCSA in the fall. 

I had all these ideas about how my life would look when I graduated from NCSA and arrived in New York. Not a one of them came to be. To say my confidence was knocked is the understatement of a lifetime. Six-ish months after moving to NYC (and three months prior to my attack,) I was introduced to my now acting teacher, Vance. He’s walked with me through the past 2 1/2 years with a lot of grace, patience, and encouragement. He’s been privy to lots of tears (NCSA broke the no crying habit,) frustrations, deep conversations, stops and starts, and back and forths about quitting. He’s been tough on me, but with an underlying spirit of gentleness that I will probably never be able to repay. And his acting class is bomb. 

But lately, I’ve felt so stuck. My work has been blah. And that’s almost worse than bad. I would rather you be able to say, “that’s the shittiest shit I’ve ever seen” than “well that was okay.” 

Okay = blah

blah = hell 

He has waited for me to realize this on my own. And today I realized it. And then, in his ever-annoying way, he made me expound upon my feelings to the entire class. Acting school may have taught me how to identify and talk about my feelings, but it doesn’t mean I like doing it any more than I did when I was 18. 

Expounding went something like this: "I just think that what I did today was horrible. I don’t even want to watch it because it’s blah. All of my work is blah and I’m not sure why. And all of a sudden I care about my work again and that’s so annoying because up until recently I didn’t care and now I do and I want to be great and not lame and now I’m crying, why am I crying?" 

I have a real ability to make myself not care. And since my life didn’t pan out the way I thought, and bad things happened, I decided not to care. In fact, I refused to do so. And here we are on day 14 of this 52 day journey, and I realize I want to care again. And not only that, I do care again. I care about my life, I care about my art, I care about my family, I care about my friends, I care about my classmates, I care about my colleagues. I care about my mistakes. I care about my wins. Caring is scary because it means you can get hurt. But isn’t it better to get hurt than to be blah? Isn’t it better to try and epically fail than not try at all? Isn’t it better to love and get your heart broken than to never know love at all? 

That all sounds so lame. Very very lame. But it also sounds so true. 

Lame but true. That’s a trend that I don’t think will ever not be. 

When my expounding was done, I was met with encouragement and commiseration from my classmates and from Vance. Why I expected anything else? I don’t know. It could be that I’m slightly stubborn. 

And so I’ve decided to actively care. The only reason not to would be because I have given into fear. And as has been determined the past 13 days, that’s no longer an option. 

 

 

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. 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. - all my love, B