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day 23: keep hiking : the unexpected human experience

Monday, 3/28/16 

Mondaaaaaaaaze. I do not like Mondays. I would go so far as to say that nobody likes Mondays, really. I was certainly not looking forward to today - parents having just left and all that. 

But then the unexpected happened. 

I turned the day around. And when I did - the day responded. 

I’m not kidding y'all. After today, I am once and for all converted into believing that what we put out there, the universe responds in kind. 

I woke up DREADING today. It’s strange how that happens. You can have such a “high” day like yesterday, and then wake up just feeling low. Like- wow, can I really tackle this week? But that’s the reality of the human experience. We all feel it. We all go through it. We may look different, have different backgrounds, like different things, and believe in different things- but the human experience is universal. Sometimes we forget that. Sometimes we just need a friend to remind us.

Friends are important y’all. Real friends. The ones you can call on days like today and just say- “hey, I am struggling. I don’t feel like it today.” - because that friend will tell you, yeah hard days suck - but the world needs you today. Someone needs what you have. So get out there, and give it. 

That’s what my twin from another mother did for me today - and does regularly - from across the country.

Jess, my sweet, where would I be in this life without you by my side? Fighting, encouraging me, talking me down, and never giving up on the adventure - to be honest I don’t want to know, so thank goodness I don’t have to. The world is nourishing your shine, Jess - keep hiking even when the dust clouds the way. 

Our conversation had me determined to turn the day around. To believe for the good. To be full of joy and gratitude, even if only for another day to live and breathe (which when you think about it is actually something to be massively grateful for.)

And then the out of nowhere happened. Another gorgeous friend from LA called me to see if I could make it out at the end of next month to record on an amazing project with him and a bunch of fellow artists. The days just so happen to coincide with the end of this 52 day journey. If it all works out, I’ll be out there on April 26, 2016 - the final day of this 52 day journey and on the two year date of my assault - a day that I don’t like to be in NY.. Last year, I flew home to Texas. This year, I’ve been thinking about hopping on a train upstate that day. Praying about how to make it through. And then this. I could be in one of my favorite places on earth, where some of my nearest and dearest live, making art about something I believe in. Oh, sometimes the love of God is too deep for me to understand. 

I don’t know if it will all work out. I’m so hopeful that it will. But I do know that I was in a place to receive the unexpected. To believe for the miracle. I believe that matters. I believe that if we live our lives in a pessimistic pothole of negativity, there isn’t room for the good to make it’s way to us. 

Some days I won’t want to hear this. Some days there will be circumstances that transcend this. But what if on those days, I do my damnedest to do it anyway? 

Pray for the unexpected. Believe for the adventure. You never know what’s right around the corner. 

 

 

 

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 3: tidal change

Tuesday, 3/8/2016

Today I had what I believe will be a key breakthrough in this 52 day journey that deals directly with the negativity issue discussed in day 2. Funny how the universe (or for me, God) works. And the fact that it happened on day 3 only fills me with utter excitement because 3 is my favorite number in the world.

Disclaimer: when it comes to this blog, the deepest desire of my heart is that people who share my faith, and people who do not, will read it and identify with it. This post will discuss two things that people who do not share my faith may find weird and freaky, but also may not! If you’re willing to approach it with an open mind (that does not ask you to believe what I believe, simply to read about it) I think you’ll more than likely identify in some way. So, if you can get through like three Bible verses and a little explanation…press on. And hey, why not get weird early on? At least that way, you know what you’re getting yourself into. 

Ok - so:

I think regardless of faith or religious beliefs, most people believe that there is good at work in the world and there is bad at work in the world. Some refer to it as good energy and bad energy. Forces for good and forces for evil, good spirits and evil spirits. How else could we explain things like war or famine or abuse or addiction? In the Christian faith, we believe that Satan, a fallen angel, is the author of evil and of lies and thus arrives a term that is often accompanied by assumptions of craziness or weirdness: spiritual warfare.

In the bible it says,

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, (we are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies,) but against the (evil) rulers, against the authorities (of the unseen world,) against the (mighty) powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil (evil spirits) in the heavenly realms (places.) - Ephesians 6:12 - New International Version (New Living Translation)

Humans are spiritual beings, so it makes sense that there would be good spirits and bad spirits, regardless of where we believe the spirits come from. 

Alright,

Christians believe that God did not accidentally drop any person onto earth; that every single human being was deliberately placed on this earth for a purpose <- what’s up Bieber album?

The Bible says that God knew all about us before he formed us in our mother’s womb, that He set us apart for a holy purpose (Jeremiah 1:5,) and that every hair on our head is numbered (Matthew 10:30, Luke 12:7.)

“It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ or got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.”  - Ephesians 1:11-12 (The Message) 

Christians often call this God’s plan for our lives. Others might refer to it as destiny. 

So, if God has a purpose for my life, and I ultimately believe that God is good (which despite the anger expressed in recent posts, somewhere deep down I still do,) then I also believe that the purpose for my life is for good and not evil. For joy and not pain. For provision and not lack. And if I believe that satan (or the enemy) is the author of evil, then his goal would understandably be to derail that plan for my life. 

Or in non-faith terms - why would evil forces or negative energy be excited for good to prevail? 

You’re probably like, ok Becky thanks for the religion lesson, but could you get to the point? 

Ok the point is this: I believe that satan’s greatest weapon against the human race is to attack the mind. Or, in other terms, for the bad energy at work in the world to create a mine field of negativity. 

I’ve been pretty transparent about my negative thoughts on this blog so far, but there’s a deeper level to that negativity that is almost embarrassing to admit. Negativity is a kind way to refer to how I’ve been dealing with myself. The more accurate description would be self-hatred. 

I was on the phone with my therapist (yeah, I’m back to that, but this time I’m actually being honest and it’s crazy how much that changes things…except it’s not crazy and makes total sense) and was narrating a recent experience when she stopped me and said, “Wait- what did you just say?” I quickly repeated myself so that I could get on with my story when she stopped me again, “Becky - do you hear how negatively you are speaking about yourself?” The honest answer was - no, I didn’t. I have become so used to the way I address myself, that it no longer strikes me as abnormal. She asked me to expound upon my general self-talk patterns of late: 

  • “You’re fat” 
  • “Your skin - ew, why would anyone want to look at you?” 
  • “You’re a whale.” 
  • “You’ve got so much baggage, no one will ever want to take all that on."
  • “See, there you go f*****g up again. You are SO past the line of God’s actual forgiveness. Prepare for withholding of blessings, big time.” 
  • “You’re SO negative- look at all these terrible things you think - geez, it’s no wonder you’re depressed. You’re depressing."
  • “You’re on your own - good luck.” 
  • “You don’t deserve good things.” 
  • “When will you ever learn? Are you this stupid?"
  • “You’re a liar and a fraud.” 
  • “Can you imagine if people knew that this is how you truly are? My god, you’d have ZERO friends. You can’t tell anyone."
  • “Whey even try for the life you long for? Never. Gonna. Happen.” 

— and then I’d get mad at myself for thinking all of these horribly negative things: cycle repeat — 

My therapist asked me what I feel like is keeping me from the life I want - because believe it or not, this ain’t it! 

The best way I can describe it is this: I can see the life I want. I can picture it vividly. I can almost touch it. It’s just waiting on the other side of this impermeable, multi-layered plexiglass wall.  I’ve tried bulldozing it down, walking around it, punching it, body slamming it - and nothin'. It will not budge. She asked me, “if words were written on this wall, what would they be?” 

     hopelessness 

     give up now 

“You know what? That is not your voice and that is not the voice of the Lord,” she said. "That is the voice of the enemy. What would God say in response to all those statements?”  (Go with me here, y’all - I know to some of you, this is SO WEIRD.) 

  • “I’m a child of the most high God.”  
  • “I’m a daughter of the King” 
  • “I am set apart for such a time as this” 
  • “I am beautiful and there is no blemish in me” 
  • “I am cleansed, washed clean, and restored” 
  • “I am found” 
  • “I am a lover and not a hater"
  • “I am free” 
  • “I am gifted with a beautiful mind, equipped with love and positivity.” 
  • “I am created with a purpose.” 
  • “I am promised more in this life than I can even think, ask, or imagine.” 
  • “I am a servant of the king.” 
  • “There is a plan, set apart before the beginning of time, for my life.” 
  • “Every hair on my head is numbered and known to God.” 
  • “I am known for all that I am, and I am loved.” 
  • “I am never alone.” 
  • “Jesus is my truth and His voice is gentle."

Without any concentrated decision, the statements immediately switched from what I like to call, you:accusatory statements, to I:ownership statements. Because my spirit recognized the truth on its own. And I felt my heart lighten.  (for those of you who are Christians, I think it’s worth noting that satan is no dummy. It’s no coincidence that the pride surrounding his beauty and intelligence, and his desire to BE God is what caused him to fall from heaven in the first place.) 

It’s amazing how the truth can turn your whole life around. I have been believing versions of those you:accusatory statements since the spring of 2013 without even realizing it. 

Not anymore. 

Tides are changing sweet friends! 

I am committing to amending #11 on my prep day list from “no needless negativity” to “NO negativity - especially in my mind.” Anytime a negative you:accusatory statement arrives in my mind, I will answer it back with an I:ownership statement. 

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.”
- Mahatma Ghandi

I hope that this post was enjoyable and made sense to anyone who read it. While my faith is the most foundational thing in my life, I think that faith so often needlessly divides people - “oh, she believes in something so big that I don’t believe in, that there’s no way we can relate.” I just don’t buy into that. We’re all sharing the same human experience - we’re just sharing it in different ways. 

It’s strange to be going to bed not dreading tomorrow. I can’t remember the last time that happened. 

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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.