jump

day 21: dry bones : wild + free

Saturday, 3/26/2016

When I was little, I didn’t know a stranger. I had no inhibitions, no fear, and felt no need to adhere to everyone else’s paths. I was dubbed, “the wild child” - afraid of nothing.

At about two years old, my parents and I were walking over the river Seine in Paris and I casually looked up to my mum and in my precious, since disappeared, English accent said,  “See water, jump in!” If it hadn’t been for the literal leash my parents religiously put on me while in public, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that I would have indeed, jumped in. 

Very shortly after moving to America, we arrived to a friend’s country club for dinner and before my mum could say, “hi, how are you?”, she heard, “Muuuuuum!! Look at me!!! Muuuum!” She turned around to see me madly waving from atop the high diving board. Without any consideration for the fact that I couldn't swim, I jumped into the pool below. Poor Jude had to run and jump into the pool fully clothed in order to get me out before I drowned. 

around the time of the high dive...

around the time of the high dive...

In my days as a t-ball star, I got bored in the outfield and so would regularly take off my shoes, socks, and hat and spend my time picking the flowers and making them into crowns and necklaces for myself, my coach, and my teammates. The ball would roll by me and I’d hardly notice, too caught up in my own little world of flowers and song. (To be fair, t-ball is boring.)  

my t-ball glory days

my t-ball glory days

That innate free spirit and wild child faded after my first encounter with sexual assault at the age of 12. I didn’t tell anyone about him for over a year. I was staying with a family friend when he said something to me that jogged a memory so dark that I didn’t know what else to do besides tell her. I begged her not to tell my parents and she said I could trust her. I opened my eyes the next morning to see my mum and dad sitting on the sofa across from me. I was immediately driven to a lawyer’s office and from there to the children’s assessment center. If this was trust, I wanted no part of it, so I lied to my parents, to the lawyers, and to the police. I said there was no other abuse besides the verbal incident and that I thought he meant no harm.

I became calculated, guarded, and afraid of people and who they claimed to be. Because my abuser was an employee of a 501c3, the board of the organization quickly became involved. The question of my credibility had been raised. The president of the board had experience in working with school districts when this type of situation arose, and they often encountered instances where a student "came on" to a teacher, was rejected, and claimed sexual assault in retaliation for being rejected. I had no proof.

What did I do to make them think that I would do something like that? I would never have chosen this. I was so confused - and the only conclusion that I could come to was that it was my free spirit - my wild nature. Something about who I was made them think that I would come on to my teacher.  

It was a slow change, and until recently, not something I ever really clocked, but I began a calculated effort to suppress every “wild” part of me. If I was at a school dance and a song came on that I would normally unashamedly Chris Martin-dance to, I stood to the side. If it started to rain and I wanted to take off my shoes and run into it, I stopped myself. I changed the way I dressed and the way I looked. My peasant inspired shirts and dresses were replaced with polo shirts and capri pants. He had commented that he loved my hair because it reminded him of his wife’s hair. I had whole heartedly accepted that compliment because I thought she was so pretty. Now, I hated my free flowing curly hair and desperately wanted to make it straight and stiff. I asked my parents regularly if I could have it chemically straightened. They said no (thank God.) I wanted to be completely different from whatever had made him choose me. I wanted to be one of the girls that he didn’t choose. 

People in our community slowly began to hear that ‘some girl’ had made allegations against him. Could I believe that? Who would say such horrible things? Clearly that girl had serious problems. I mean, had they met him? He was the nicest guy and so involved in the lives of his students. I just quietly nodded my head and changed the conversation. To this day (unless they read this,) 98% of the people involved in that community have no idea that I was ’some girl.'  

About two months after my attack in New York, that teacher made international news for being pulled over with a 16 year old in the car. When questioned by the police, their stories didn’t match and he was arrested and later released on bail. An investigation was launched and it revealed that they had been intimately involved. It was rumored that other victims were starting to be identified and come forward. The police feared he had been doing this for years. That was 2014 - I came forward in 2004. Was I the first? I don’t know. But I do know that I certainly wasn’t the last. During the course of the investigation, he took the girl and her mother to Las Vegas and married her. He is now protected by spousal privilege. 

This was so tough to push through because it was an assault on my spirit. That year, a huge piece of my soul was suffocated until there was no oxygen left. What I began to believe about myself seeped into my mind without me knowing it. It seeped into my relationships, my coping mechanisms, and my interactions with people I love. In fact, only in the healing of my New York attack did I really learn that none of it was my fault - that it is not my free-spirited nature that caused any of this. 11 years later, at the age of 24, I finally began to breathe life back into those parts of my soul so long deprived of oxygen. I allowed the breath of life to breathe on me.

In Ezekiel 37, we hear the story of when Ezekiel journeys with God to a field that is filled with dry bones that have been bleached by the sun. Dry bones are dead and brittle. They break easily and have lost all of the protective marrow that keeps them healthy. But God asks Ezekiel if the bones can live. When Ezekiel tells God that only He truly knows that, God tells Ezekiel to prophesy over the bones - to tell them that they can indeed live. 

4 He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones: ‘Dry bones, listen to the Message of God!’”
5-6 God, the Master, told the dry bones, “Watch this: I’m bringing the breath of life to you and you’ll come to life. I’ll attach sinews to you, put meat on your bones, cover you with skin, and breathe life into you. You’ll come alive and you’ll realize that I am God!”
7-8 I prophesied just as I’d been commanded. As I prophesied, there was a sound and, oh, rustling! The bones moved and came together, bone to bone. I kept watching. Sinews formed, then muscles on the bones, then skin stretched over them. But they had no breath in them.
9 He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath. Prophesy, son of man. Tell the breath, ‘God, the Master, says, Come from the four winds. Come, breath. Breathe on these slain bodies. Breathe life!’”
10 So I prophesied, just as he commanded me. The breath entered them and they came alive! They stood up on their feet, a huge army.

That’s what Jesus has done for me. He has breathed new life into my spirit that was dried up and dead. He looked at a girl who some would have deemed broken beyond repair and said, “I’m bringing the breath of life to you and you’ll come to life…You’ll come alive and you’ll realize that I am God.” The old is gone, the new has come (2 Cor 5:17.) It wasn’t a maybe or a kind of. It was an “I’m doing this and you WILL do this.” We can’t count ourselves out until our time is up. God was, and is continuing to be, faithful. Every day, a little more of that wild and free little girl is breathed back to back to life, and the structured, stifled, breathless prisoner is set free. My dry bones are becoming their own little army. And that army does battle every single day. 

Every day I battle against bad habits, poor coping mechanisms, and a desire to give up and give in. Every day I fight for and remind my spirit to run free. Every day I tell myself that who I am did not cause this, but it did save me. Every day I remind myself that I am found. Every day I choose to believe that today will be better than yesterday. Every day I fight to believe that I am walking into astounding freedom. Fighting every day used to feel like a chore because I was fighting to merely survive, and I was choosing to fight alone. But now I am fighting every day to LIVE - and I’m certainly not doing it alone. 

PS - Lecrae raps verses from Ezekiel 37 in the song below - skip to 2:15 - and it is SOUL STIRRING. 

day 7: smoothie-gate

Saturday, 3/12/2016

On Saturdays I am part of a baller film acting class. No, really. I wouldn’t be rolling my ass out of bed to be there at 11am on a Saturday if it wasn’t as good as it is. 

Sidenote: When my sister and I were little, my dad gave us the first of many life lesson attempts about how we were not allowed to curse (I’m still learning) outside our favorite Saturday morning breakfast place, Shipley’s Doughnuts (there is little I would not do at any given moment for one of those damn (also in the Bible - that'll make sense in two seconds) doughnuts. The only ‘curse word’ we were allowed to say was ‘ass,' because it was in the Bible and was another word for donkey. You can imagine how much fun my sister and I had that day calling my dad an ass everywhere we went, and met his protestations with, “But it’s in the Bible!” Who can argue with that? He did not find it as amusing as we did. 

this is from a few years before the "ass" debacle, but I just love this photo 

this is from a few years before the "ass" debacle, but I just love this photo 

A class at 11am on a Saturday requires advance breakfast planning. Enter: smoothies. Also known as, manna from heaven. What is it about smoothies? I don’t know, but I have a problem. A real problem. It is a hint of warm outside and my smoothie world transforms. In one particularly bad week last spring, I spent $70 on smoothies, which I only realized  after a friend asked me how many smoothies I drink on the regs due to the volume of snapchats devoted to them. That embarrasses me on many levels and I started making my own smoothies the next day. So (homemade) smoothies, hello lovers, and welcome back to my world.

just one more Liquiteria for good measure

just one more Liquiteria for good measure

 

Apparently, the winter, and therefore, lack of smoothies, made me forget that you have to actually put the lid on your personal smoothie maker... I came back to see my kitchen decorated in my version of Liquiteria’s blue velvet smoothie - 20 minutes before I’m supposed to be in class. And because I’m still new at transforming my negative thought process to a positive one, it went something like this:

“ooohhhhh f***ing sh**balls no. (looks up at heaven) seriously?!! Craaaaaap. This freaking blows. Ugggghhhhhhh. BECKYYYYYYY you freaking idiot. See this is it! This is the proof that you will not get your life together and should not do this journey and should DEFINITELY not write this blog. You can’t even put a lid on a smoothie maker, how the heck are you going to do actual life things?”  

Now, is this a logical thought jump? Absolutely not. But it allowed me the excuse of remembering the plethora of reasons that I don’t want to write about this journey, let alone be on it. Or actually, the only reason : fear. And in that fleeting moment, that was comforting.  

Sidenote: I’m starting to wonder if I should forewarn those featured on this blog that they are making guest appearances. Probably should. Hopefully they won’t be as annoyed at their guest appearances as I am at my constant appearance, but if they are, maybe they’ll just begrudgingly oblige?  Er, I don’t know. I should think on that. 

So here I am, sweatily sitting in class, 45 minutes late from having to clean up my smoothie mess, the MTA sucking the life out of my soul (as it regularly does,) and all out sprinting to get there before the hour, talking about an episode of 'The Good Wife’ with a group of girls - and this guy, Jack, who I don’t really know, turns to me and says, “you should start a blog.” Ok. So. Uhhhh. Here’s the thing. Acting class is weird because I don’t actually really know the people in it. I don’t know where they’re from or what their favorite food is or if they like their parents or really anything about their lives. But because we do this awkward thing where we get up in front of a camera each week, which believe it or not is very invasive and off-putting, and read scenes together - and sometimes you’re meeting someone one minute and reading a scene about penises in the 1800’s with them the next (I'm not kidding you, I can't make this stuff up) - you know them. So like, I don’t know them, but I know them. 

So Jack's “you should start a blog,” threw me for a loop. Now, granted, Jack was talking about me starting a blog in regards to TV shows. But I truly think that sometimes God (or the universe - hopefully by now we’re at a place in your reading of this thing, where you know that my faith is the foundation of my life, but if you don’t believe in God, and the universe is your higher power, or maybe you don’t believe in higher power, you can go to your relatable place of understanding when I make references to God because I certainly don’t want to be EXclusive, but I also don’t want to keep taking breathers to not “offend") uses people to tell us things in whatever way we need to hear, regardless of context. He kept talking but I was just kind of staring and not hearing him because the first time in the history of my life that a person who I truthfully, barely know, tells me I should write a blog is on the same day that I spent the entirety of smoothie-gate clean up coming up with reasons not to write a blog.  

Try and tell me that’s not a sign. Now because I am this way, I immediately jump to, "ok, but why am I meant to do it?" Well, that I don’t know. There are about a bajillion potential reasons swimming up in my head, but since I’m not the orchestrator of the universe, I’ve learned that sometimes its best not to try and figure out the ‘why.’

I also learned that I need to get back to running on purpose. Like going on runs. Not out of necessity. Because there were moments in that sprint to class where I thought “this could be it."

day 5: pick six

Thursday, 3/10/2016  

When I was nine years old, I went to visit my new school that I was dead against being forced to attend. It had been a long application and interview process and this was the day where I would tour the place that was to be my new stomping grounds. The fact that they accepted me was, in and of itself, shocking. In my interview, when the headmaster asked me why I wanted to attend the school, I broke down crying and said that I didn’t and that it’d be good if they denied me admittance. Then I proceeded to wipe my snotty nose on my yellow pearl snap button down shirt with a denim collar and little navy blue baby’s breath flowers all over it. He then very gently offered me a kleenex. 

I remember moments in life by what I was wearing. That was my favorite shirt at the time. Heck, if it still existed today in an adult size, I’d wear it. My fondest memory wearing it was at my Granny and Grandpa's house in the English countryside. We have a photo somewhere that I can't seem to find...

Granny and Grandpa Paul’s house was the keeper of my secret spot (which I now know was not secret at all.) In the very back of their garden was a big bush, and nestled up against the back of that bush, was a wooden bench. I would sit on my bench for hours, telling myself stories, dreaming about what my life would be, and laying down on it, just looking up at the sky. If I stood on the bench and got up on my tiptoes (thankfully, the trusty bush was tall enough to hide this occurrence from my Granny’s manner minding eyes,) I could see over the back fence and into a field that stretched for what seemed like a hundred miles - you couldn’t see beyond it. This last Christmas, we took a detour past the cottage and the new owners have changed everything. I hate change. I so desperately wanted to knock on the door and ask if I could go sit on my bench for just a moment, but the fear that I might discover that in all their changes, my secret place no longer exists, stopped me. I want to remember it in all its perfection - a place untainted by the realities of life. My greatest desire when I was a little girl peering over the fence, was to jump it and just run through those fields until I couldn’t anymore, collapsing in a fit of giggles, gasping for air. I’d still love to do that.  

My new school scared me. I knew that I was being sent there because it was a more academically focused school with the structure needed to tame my wild and rambunctious spirit. I wanted to be left wild.  Leaving my old school made me realize that I would have to make new friends. I’d never even realized that making friends was something you do and I wasn’t scared that I wouldn’t.

Sitting on the big leather chair inside the school office waiting for the tour to begin, a little blonde girl that I recognized from a basketball camp I’d attended earlier that summer, walked in with her parents and plopped down right next to me. 

“I like your Nike watch. I’ve got a turqouise Baby-G, see? But I like yours too. I’m Kitty.” 

“Thanks. It was my Christmas gift this year. I like it because it’s sporty, but I like yours too. I’m Becky.” 

Kitty and I didn’t know as we sat in our soon to be art room later that day, bonding over the Mary-Kate and Ashley movie, “Passport to Paris,” that our friendship would stand the test of time. We should have known - because any friendship that begins because of Mary-Kate and Ashley is obviously a good one. 

We had no idea that we’d become a part of the same friend group and watch each other go through our most formative years. We didn’t know that I’d be there when she got her heart broken for the first time or that she’d be there to see me and cheer me on as I fulfilled one of my biggest dreams. We were definitely clueless when it came to all the questionable decisions we would have a ton of fun (sorry, Mum and Dad) making together in high school. We couldn’t have predicted that during out senior year of high school, I would be rushed to the hospital, and that when I was discharged a week later, it would be with the knowledge that I was sick with life-threatening conditions. We might not have even believed how fun our 'senior summer’ would be - when our group of friends saw each other every single day, until that gut-wrenching day when the first of us went off to college, and the weeks involving lots of teary goodbyes began. None of us were going to the same schools. It was the first time that classes would finish at the end of the day, and the option of just driving to Kitty’s house to lay out in the pool or hang out on the third floor didn’t exist. 

The group text started almost immediately after the first of us left. Well, this was 2009, so it started as a group Facebook message. We had to be completely up to date on every nitty gritty aspect of each other’s lives. Our first Thanksgiving home was the reunion of all reunions and our best tradition began. Every Thanksgiving night at about 9:45pm, we all go to Kitty’s house, light a bonfire, make smores, eat her leftovers, have a few drinks, and talk into the night. (#holeyjeans) Personally, I like to think that in our subconscious we do it because it's Thanksgiving and this group of girls is one of the things we are most thankful for in our lives - but writing that down, I can see the girls rolling their eyes and going “ohhhh gawwd” at my puttering on. Thanksgiving is truly “our” holiday though. In college, that five day weekend was like the holy grail…always the scene of our most memorable, or not so memorable, nights. It still is. Though in our old age, we’ve become much more responsible. I think.

                                                           Thanksgiving

                                                           Thanksgiving

We know each other so well that sometimes it’s just weird. And other times it's perfect. The first time I had my heart shattered into a million pieces and told them via group text, not one of them called me for a few days, because they knew I wouldn’t be able to, or want to talk. But you better believe that my phone never stopped buzzing with messages for three days. We have seen each other at our best and at our worst, been there for each other’s highest highs and lowest lows…and those lows have been pretty dang low. We’ve fought hard and made up hard. We once went over a year without one of us, and it sucked every single day. But it took us all of about five minutes to get over it and welcome her back with open arms the first time she showed up to our standard “last night we will all be together before one of us leaves” dinner - and it’s never been different since.

Our lives are changing and so are we. We’re adults now who live in different parts of the country, with jobs and responsibilities. Our dreams, beliefs, and priorities have shifted and changed, but I have to believe that at the core of it all, our deep rooted friendship won’t. A few months ago, the last time all six of us were together, I threw out the idea of giving up on everything I came here to do - and every single one of them just yelled at me a version of “absolutely not” (Melanie’s version may have had a few choice words thrown in there...) because they know me and they believe in me - even when I don't believe in myself. (I’m vomiting at how corny I sound.) 

I can’t imagine my life without Mary Ellen’s long lasting bear hugs, Mel’s high pitched scream when I walk through the door or when a particularly funny part of a story is told, Eleanor’s bringing Curly Sue (her dog) everywhere we go - she’s basically the 7th honorary member of Pick Six, Kitty’s chuckle laugh, or Sarah’s “heyyyy” when she walks into a room. I have learned everything I need to know about friendship from these girls. They are my chosen family. They are a massive part of why I miss TX, but an even bigger part of what keeps me here. Whenever I come home, one of my mum’s first questions is - “Well, what are your plans with the girls?” because she knows. 

The group text that began seven years ago lives on strong today, and as I write this post, with tears in my eyes on and off at the gratitude I feel, my phone just buzzed to say I have a new message on our thread, and all seems right with the world. 

*~hugz n kisses~*