day 24: the flu: healing the body + mind, pt. 1

Tuesday, 3/29/16 

I have the flu. Not the “I have a cold flu” - the legit flu. You know, the one where your feet hit the ground in the morning to get out of bed and your whole body lights up achey in pain. That flu. Dang it.

I spent the entire day in bed, sleeping on and off… and it has me thinking...

How come our physical symptoms are so easy to hear and attend to, but when our spiritual body is sick, we stave off taking the necessary steps to heal? We ignore its signs and symptoms. We write them off as unwarranted, weak, or as something we just don’t have the time to deal with. Then, inevitably, whatever it is that those warning signs have been desperately trying to get us to notice, comes crashing down like a ton of bricks (usually at a very inconvenient or embarrassing time.) 

It’s interesting - in the last couple of years, there has been a health and wellness industry uprising of sorts. And while of course eating organic, unprocessed foods, and bringing your own tote bags to the farmer’s market has been on the agenda, the seeming backbone of this fairly new and thriving movement is our mental and spiritual health, both individual and collective. Almost any article on the subject, whether it’s about organic foods or non-toxic beauty products, also makes it a point to mention our mental state - touting the benefits of a regular mindful meditation and/or yoga practice. As if the world is finally recognizing that, “hey- this planet can actually be a pretty tough place to live.” 

But to go from living a life where we don’t really think about our own hearts and minds, to one where it regularly occurs to us, takes practice - and bravery. The fear of being selfish can be plaguing. As soon as we can understand the concept, we’re taught not to be self-centered. 

Friends, there’s a difference between being self-centered, and taking the time to center yourself. 

Life is not centered. It’s all over the place - that’s what makes it a wild adventure. I can’t think of anything more boring that knowing exactly what is going to happen in every moment. There are however, two sides to every coin. The unpredictability can be exciting. The unpredictability can also be heartbreaking.

The human body, if sick, ignored, or taken care of poorly, shuts down. We feel sickness coming on, we push through and ignore it, and a few days later, we find ourselves stuck in bed, worse off that if we’d just decided to take better care of ourselves at the first sign of a problem. Our minds are no different. If we don’t take the time to do some self inventory, and listen when our spiritual body is telling us it needs something, we will inevitably crash. If we ignore how we feel or numb our feelings with a substance or other habit, those things don’t go away. They just get put in a pressure cooker… 

[check back on Thursday for part 2 - for now, I'm going back to sleep to dream of here... my thoughts need time to formulate, and my body needs more sleep]

"Every time I stand before a beautiful beach, its waves seem to whisper to me: if you choose the simple things, and find joy in nature's simple treasures, life and living need not be so hard."           - Psyche Roxas Mendoza

"Every time I stand before a beautiful beach, its waves seem to whisper to me: if you choose the simple things, and find joy in nature's simple treasures, life and living need not be so hard."           - Psyche Roxas Mendoza

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 22 : pride + happy eyes

Sunday, 3/27/16 

“Your eyes look happy. Like there’s light in them again” 

Of all days, today, on Easter Sunday, the day that we celebrate Jesus rising from the dead, one of my pastors told me that my eyes looked happy again.

Two days after the assault, I was in church. It felt strange - like I wasn’t in my body.  I felt like I was watching it all take place while hovering above it. Everything seemed disjointed - like all the seamlessly moving parts were somehow now separate. Or maybe that was me. 

I couldn’t say or sing the name of Jesus. I would will the word to come out of my mouth, but it didn’t. It was like pushing on the gas when the car is in park - screeching, spinning, dying, to be set free. I felt like if I sang those words of worship, I would be a liar. So I just stood there. 

13 months later, I stopped going to church. The weight of that unvoiced hurt, anger, and deceit became too much to carry. I started to fear that people would see through me - that they’d see this ugly thing that I was so desperate to conceal, and that when they did, they’d reject me and no longer deem me fit to serve in church. So I left. 

My last day leading my team, one of our pastors pulled me aside and asked me why I was really leaving. I said that my new job was very stressful and I couldn’t continue to lead and serve well while performing well at work. He asked me again. I said the same thing. He asked again and even, semi-jokingly, asked if it was because of a guy. I stuck to my script. On the inside I was absolutely screaming the truth, but I couldn’t bring myself to say it. My pride wouldn’t let me. 

That’s the thing about pride - it steals the things we cherish the most. 

First pride, then the crash - the bigger the ego, the harder the fall - Prov 16:18.. 

     (Dang, sometimes the truth in love hits you where it hurts.)

My pride clouded my ability to see the truth. My church was my HOME. The people there were my family. The very last thing that they would do is reject me due to brokenness. It’s the exact opposite of who they are and what my church home is. 

My pride stopped me from asking for help. Even with my pastor staring me in the face, my pride pushed those words of truth down until they were swallowed by an awkward laugh and a lie.

My pride didn’t want anyone to see me as anything other than great. When one of my leaders asked me, “hey- how are you really doing?”, my pride answered for me.

My pride couldn’t stand the thought of being lumped in with the stigma of victim.

My pride told me I could do it alone.

My pride didn’t like the truth - that I actually needed community to heal.

My pride lied, and then it led me to a dark wilderness. 

stolen from my 2013 insta which was stolen from Pinterest.

stolen from my 2013 insta which was stolen from Pinterest.

In Luke 4, the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness. (Luke 4:1, NIV) 

It wasn't accidental, aimless wandering..the Holy Spirit LED Him there for a purpose. In reading it, one would conclude that purpose was to be tempted by the devil.

To me, this is one of the most beautiful depictions of Father and Son that the Bible offers. Ha- I can see your face in my mind, like - "tempted by devil, beautiful depictions of Father and Son…? Okay, crazy lady"- but bear with me, I’m going somewhere! 

God needed Jesus to experience that wilderness. The Bible later says that Jesus was tempted in every way that we are, yet did not sin (Hebrews 4:15.) So if He hadn’t been led to this wilderness and been tempted by the devil, that wouldn’t hold, which would make the word of God false. God, the Father, allowed, Jesus, His Son, to experience something really tough, knowing all along that He could do it. 

But I wonder if Jesus knew that He could do it. I wonder if the human part of Him ever doubted His ability to make it through. He had to rely so heavily on His Father during that time - in fact, the only weapon He used to get through it were His Father’s words. I mean Satan was tempting Jesus. That means he was offering Jesus things that He actually wanted, and Jesus resisted for 40 days and nights - WITH NO FOOD. I think it’d be one thing to be constantly tempted on a full stomach - but to be tempted by someone that you can’t stand for a prolonged period, AND be hungry at the same time? No, freaking, thank you. 

I also wonder what it’s like as a parent to know that you’re sending your kid into a hard situation where they can choose right, or they can choose wrong. God loved His Son, Jesus, so much (Matt 17:5, John 3:35,)  and I just have this picture of God in my mind, cheering Jesus on from heaven - like - “C’mon Son, you can do it! What have I always told you? You’ve got Me, I’m all You need! Keep pushing. Keep fighting. I WILL get you through! Trust Me!”

And see, Jesus believed Him.

So how come in my own wilderness I had such a tough time believing that God would cheer me on, His daughter (2 Cor 6:18, Gal 3:26,) in the same way? 

Maybe it’s because I couldn’t figure out if Jesus led me to that wilderness or if I wandered in on my own...  

I’ve said before that I needed that wilderness - I needed to go there to get here. I’ve always been someone that insisted on learning my lessons the hard way (much to the utter dismay of my parents growing up.) But did God need me to go there to get here? I doubt it. But I don't doubt that He loves me so much that He allowed it to play out that way, keeping me safe as it did.  

What I’ve realized is that how I got there doesn’t change that one constant - God loves me. He loves me wildly, fiercely, and passionately. It’s only a love like that that can light the way OUT of a dark wilderness. 

Eight months later, I finally found my way back to church thanks to the unrelenting love of my friend, Andrea. She knew that I felt wildly uncomfortable coming back to church, but it didn’t stop her from making sure my butt was, and is, in a seat every week. She encouraged me to be honest with my pastors and stood right next to me while I tearfully opened up about what’s been going on and asked tough questions. She sat with me through tears and arm-crossed worship. She is the epitome of “a friend loves at all times” (Prov 17:17.) Our church has this hashtag #sheissisterhood - and that’s what Andrea is, she’s Sisterhood- and no amount of writing will be able to give her her due. 

Andrea: aka my very own Gilmore Girl 

Andrea: aka my very own Gilmore Girl 

It’s been six weeks back at church and my pastor told me today that my eyes look happy again. I guess the eyes are the windows to the soul and all that... Because in all this time, it never even dawned on me that I was sad. And today, on a day when my eyes look happy again, I realize that for the first time in a long time, I am happy, and I feel the light beginning to shine. 

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 19: mum + dad

Thursday, 3/24/16 

My parents arrive tomorrow to visit and I am so pumped. They are two of my favorite humans and best friends. They’re wise and strong, flawed and encouraging, and most importantly, hilarious and fun to be around. 

I did not want to call them that day. I made my friend promise not to. In his wisdom (don’t get a big head over there,) he ignored me and called almost as soon as I was safely inside the walls of the hospital. A brave feat considering he was aware of his position at the bottom of their list of favorite people.

I didn’t want them to know or to see me - I knew that I looked different - I felt almost unrecognizable. Especially my dad. I especially didn’t want him to see. I don’t know how to put into words why (believe me, I sat at this computer for far too long trying to figure out how to phrase it) but I think that any dad with a daughter or daughter who is close to her dad will understand. It’s just not supposed to be that way. This is not something you’re supposed to have to do.

And my mum - well, on the one hand, my mum’s a doctor who ran an ER, so she’s used to seeing, and acting, in crisis. But on the other hand, I’ve put her through the ringer with all my medical stuff - and putting her through this seemed wildly unfair.

Beyond any of that, I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed and I was convinced that they’d see me differently. When they looked at me they’d no longer see their fun, adventurous, and wild Becky. When I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t see her anymore - how could they?

They were on a mission trip in Poland when my mum’s phone rang. If memory serves me correctly, they were in the middle of a church service - surrounded by a group of people who know us intimately, and who stopped everything they were doing to pray - to help my parents book flights to New York, to stand in the gap where they stood in disbelief, and to fight on their behalf when they were knocked down in shock. I am immeasurably grateful to each and every one of them. 

When my apartment buzzer rang the next morning, I shook in anxiety as I walked over to let them in. Opening the door took every bit of courage I had. No matter how old you get, you want your parents to be proud of you, how could they be proud of this? Head down, half hugs - I couldn’t look them in the eye. Eventually I did - I don’t know when. There was no getting around the awkwardness of the initial conversation - but once it was over, it was over. 

There’s no handbook for this, and as I look back on it, I realize how well my parents know me. I don’t have kids - so I can’t claim to know a love like that. But I know from all the parents I know, that the hurt you feel for them when they’re hurt is astronomical. I know how I feel when a member of my family is hurting. It’s a palpable pain - one that takes over. You feel like you can’t breathe and you want to do whatever you can to fix it - to take it away. Whatever emotions they felt about the whole thing, they didn’t overtly feel them around me. I’m sure there were tears cried, and anger spewed - but not in front of me.

We didn’t dwell on it, but we didn’t ignore it. They listened when I wanted to talk about it, but they didn’t pry or prod. They encouraged me with loving messages from those that knew what had happened, but they didn’t tell the world. They read through all the hospital paperwork and mum made sure I was taking the correct medication at the correct times, and prepared me both mentally, and with supplies, for the possible side effects, but she didn’t treat me like a sick patient. I took a couple days off work and we got out and did fun things - my dad even quietly suffered through yet another open-top bus tour (my mum and I have a love affair with open-top bus tours and he most certainly, does not!)

And then after a couple of abnormal days, they helped me settle back into a routine. At first it was modified - I couldn’t take the train - being trapped in an enclosed space with no way to get out made me feel like I couldn’t breathe. They graciously picked up my uber tab for a couple of weeks. They made sure I was seeing a therapist. They made it clear that nothing I did warranted this. But they treated me normally. They still called me out when I was in the wrong and we still laughed until we cried when we found something funny. All the fears I had about them seeing me differently were unfounded. I was still Becky boo of kalamazoo to them. 

I don’t know what was said on the phone that day, but I do know that if he hadn’t told them, I never would have. That fear, shame, and pain would have been buried in such a deep, dark place, that I think that silence would have suffocated me until I died. The only reason I could say it, was because I knew the people that I was saying it to, that I was walking those first few initial days with, were safe. 

Because no matter where we are in the world, rugby matters. 

Because no matter where we are in the world, rugby matters. 

Occasionally I’d catch them staring, and would wonder what they were thinking when they saw me now. Well, I don’t know what they were thinking when they looked at me over those two weeks, but when I looked at them, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. I saw pillars of strength. I saw freedom. I saw joy. I saw hope. I saw encouragement. I saw unconditional love. I saw safety. I saw a future. I saw Jesus. 

I have loved you with an everlasting love - Jer 31:3 

day 18 : 25 | what a time to be alive

(this one goes out to Becca Blank on her 25th birthday: couldn't have planned it if I tried.)

Wednesday, 3/23/16

I excel at reverse mind over matter. I have this habit of pretending that things that are happening are not actually happening, and think that I believe in my subconscious that if I ignore them for long enough, they will magically disappear. Hence, waiting four months to come to the doctor to have them look at my wrist. 

It is neither helpful nor realistic. But it’s how I tend to operate. Have tended to, I should say, since we’re on a journey of change. Yes, we. Lord knows I can’t do it alone, y’all. 

Turns out the CityMD doctor, aka the master of purgatory, thinks I have carpal tunnel syndrome.   Dr. Purgatory gave me a rather obtrusive (and ugly) brace and told me to make an appointment with a wrist specialist. I would have much rather have a broken wrist than a symptom of growing older. Logical? No. Where I’m at? Damn straight. 

I realize I’m not actually old - but I turned 25 this year, and it was the first birthday that I truly panicked over. 

25 just seems so adult.

22: basically still in college, poor decisions both expected and kinda welcomed.

23: graduated into adulthood, only just starting to navigate - mistakes expected and excused 

24: ok need to start to get it together - been adulting for a little while now and it’s time to reign it in a bit, however... still not totally there yet, so live it up - just be more responsible about it 

But 25? - been an adult for long enough that nothing can be blamed on naiveté; own your mistakes. No blaming poor decisions on age anymore. (In immediate retrospect, this is actually a good thing, and there is freedom to be found in it - but that’s currently not the point. We’ll get there.) 

Getting older is scary because I’m afraid of losing out on the fun. Young = fun - am I right? Probably not.

I feel like a lot of people fall into one of two categories -

  1. high school was the best time of my life
  2. college was the best time of my life 

I fall into category numero uno. High school was a blast. College was work. It was fun - but it was work. 

Now, high school was partly a blast because I happened to not suuuuper be interested in the academic side of things. But the social side? All over it. When you’re 16/17/18, live in a warm climate, have a car, reasonable resources, and awesome friends, life is pretty much designed to be one big party. There are no real responsibilities. Decision making on a whim and going where the wind takes you are basically the only requirements - especially in the summer time. I think the toughest decisions my friends and I made during our senior summer were : 

  1. when we would go to someone’s beach house
  2. whose house the party was at on a given night

We spent endless days and nights in Kitty’s backyard, in the pool, going to lunch, dinner, and Starbucks… nothing was decided until the day of and even then we’d change things around as we felt it. It was a simple way to live. 

            #seniorsummer

            #seniorsummer

At the time, all the adults in my life were telling me to "cherish this time because you’ll never get it back." But listening to adults when in high school is not exactly the average high schoolers m.o. So you can rest assured, that it wasn’t mine. 

The reality of it is that you can’t understand the freedom of having no responsibilities until you’ve had responsibilities… 

I now get the progression of high school to college. In college I was eased into real responsibilities. Make good grades, excel at my work, do my laundry, keep my dorm room or apartment clean. That pretty much sums it up.

And at the time, that felt like a lot of responsibility. I had never done my own laundry or cleaned my own living space. I’d picked up my room and kept it “clean,” but no, I’d never dusted or mopped floors or vacuumed. Not for a lack of effort by my parents. When I was in high school, my mum threatened to take away my allowance every week that I didn’t bring my empty hangers to the laundry room for my clean clothes to be hung on - I sacrificed my allowance. Why? I have no idea. In an attempt to teach me how to iron, my mum refused to have my clothes ironed until I learned - I settled for un-ironed clothes. I claimed that I had too much to do. I would LOVE to know now what it was that I thought I had to do that was so important… I was in actuality, just being a brat.

In my first year at college, when I was forced to take responsibility for my own living space, I became a total OCD neat freak. About two weeks in, I saw dust on my counters, and felt grime on my floors and realized that the room wasn’t going to clean itself. I promptly drove to Target and bought every cleaning product/supply imaginable.

But I purchased those products with an allowance. My food was paid by for a meal plan and later, when I moved off campus, by an increased allowance. My bills were paid by my parents. I thought I was such an adult. But L O L. 

The multi day cleaning process inflicted on my mum and boyfriend upon moving into my first apartment - #whythepinkuggsB

The multi day cleaning process inflicted on my mum and boyfriend upon moving into my first apartment - #whythepinkuggsB

If you’re reading this and thinking, “this girl is a spoiled brat. My parents paid for nothing. I had three jobs in college. I had to earn scholarships.” - I see your point and that’s awesome - Good for you!! I’m glad you learned early. I’m not discounting that I had it easier than I realized - but everyone grows up differently and knows life in a different way - this was my reality. So to me, it was hard. 

Actual life is different.

After two weeks of helping me move into my third floor walk-up, build furniture, and get to know the city, I closed the door to my parent's cab the day they left, got back up to my apartment and realized I had no idea what to do next. How was I going to do this? How could I? I was all alone.

Sitting on the steps of my Upper East Side walk up - #gossipgirl

Sitting on the steps of my Upper East Side walk up - #gossipgirl

But I was also excited - I had finally made the move to my magical NY. This is the place that alllll my dreams would come true. I would run around New York, wild and free, loving life. 

I remember thinking in those first few weeks that it had to be smooth sailing from here. Surely, my trials were behind me - having my heart totally broken and surviving life-saving brain surgery seemed like I had paid my dues. I would be walking into my promised land soon. That was over three years ago.

A tough family circumstance that began last November, came to a head on my 25th birthday in January. I was halfway across the country and could do nothing. I was helpless and hopeless. As I drove away from returning my new puppy (another post for another day - oof, that's a toughie), I couldn’t stop sobbing. I was now 25 and what did I have to show for my life? What dreams had I accomplished? What goals was I actively working towards? What lives have I touched? How have I contributed to the world?

I would say that from April 27, 2014 - March 5, 2016, I exercised my great ability to pretend that that my life was not what it was. There were patches here and there where I’d get on a roll, I would determine myself to make a change by accomplishing a trillion things on a to-do list aimed at my goals, and then something would set me off course. The life I pictured for myself couldn’t be further away. The things I thought I’d have accomplished couldn’t seem more unlikely. My life could not have looked more different from my plans if I tried. 

That hasn’t changed. I’m still 25 and my life doesn’t look the way I planned, dreamed, or imagined…. It looks better. 

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. - Prov 16:9

I have learned more than I ever could have wondered about. I have grown more than I thought possible. I have survived more than I ever thought capable. I have more clarity about what I dream than I could have if everything had gone according to plan. I have learned how to fully own my mistakes. I’ve learned when to stand up for myself, when to walk away, and when to extend the olive branch. I have a visceral understanding of bravery, perseverance, joy, and freedom. I am so glad that nothing went to plan. 

The detour hasn’t caused my dreams to diminish, it’s caused them to grow. 

At 25, my life is just beginning. The responsibilities aren’t so scary anymore - there’s a freedom in them. And sometimes, a song will come on and I’ll long for that carefree high school life for a minute - but when it’s over, I’m ready to get back to the life I have now and the life that’s ahead of me, because I know that even in the trial, it just keeps getting better. 

And you know what? I slept with that dumb brace on and it actually made my wrist not hurt for the first time in eons. #thebestisyettocome

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. - Jer 29:11

day 17: terrorized | a spirit of defiance

Tuesday, 3/22/2016

Today is the first day that I have ever felt utter fear on the subway.

I’m already annoyed because I’m on the train on my way to a CityMD (aka purgatory) to get an X-ray of my wrist that I’m confident I fractured a few months ago, refused to go to the doctor for, and now hurts like a b. I get a seat (score!) and look at the guy across from me. He seems nice enough. There’s a young kid listening to absurdly loud rap music to my right and a girl taking selfies to my left. Normal enough. And then I notice a guy in a huge jacket looking at the map. It’s not that cold in New York tonight - maybe 50ish degrees - and he’s bundled up and has gloves on. I can’t stop staring at him and all of a sudden, fear grips my entire body. 

This morning the world woke up to news of the terrorist attacks in Belgium. 

At first, my mum mentioned it to me over the phone and I answered with an apathetic, “yeah that’s sad.” I looked on Facebook, and there was some mention of it here and there, but nothing like the magnitude of posts when Paris was attacked. Celebrities were posting the standard flag heart photo with the hashtags #PrayForBrussels #PrayForBelgium #PrayForTheWorld. But most of the people I actually know were mainly still focused on the state of our country’s election (Jesus, help us.) 

Have we become so accustomed to this level of evil that we no longer give it a second glance? Are we so self-centered as a country that when atrocities are happening all over the world, our main concern continues to be who is still enough of a democrat or enough of a republican to suit our fancy? Am I so focused on my own '52 day journey' that I respond to news of this magnitude with a, “that’s sad,” all because it didn’t happen down the street from me?

I logged onto twitter a few hours later and saw news that the hashtag #OpenHouse was trending. The people of Brussels were opening their homes to those stranded. I saw footage taken after the underground explosion and was struck by the eery almost silence - the sound of rubble falling, a baby crying, and people telling each other, “it’s going to be ok.” Before I knew what was happening, I was crying and couldn’t stop. How much longer will the world operate on this level of evil? The tough answer to that question is that, as a Christian, I don’t believe we will ever see the world operate on any other level until Jesus comes back. 

But that three letter statement - as a Christian - stops me in my tracks. I know what it is to believe something to the core of my being and to hold those beliefs in such high regard, that I give up things for them. Good things, fun things. Things that I don’t want to give up, but I do, because I believe God calls me to. 

I was eight years old when Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris shot up Columbine High School. The next year, I was given the book, “She Said Yes.” It was reported that in the moment before Eric Harris shot fellow student, Cassie Bernall, he asked her if she believed in God. When she said, “yes,” he pulled the trigger. I remember reading that book as a nine year old and feeling intensely sure, and ashamed, that I wouldn’t have the bravery to say yes. I knew that the Bible says that if we deny our Father on earth, He will deny us in heaven (Matt 10:33.) I didn’t want to be denied in heaven, but I knew I would be too afraid to leave earth. 

Last year, when Paris was attacked, something shifted. I left my house that morning and realized that if I had a gun pointed to my head, and someone asked me if I loved Jesus, that I’d say yes.  I understand what it is to hold convictions so dear that you’d die for them. But I don’t understand holding convictions so dear that you’d kill, torture, or maim others. I can’t understand that. I won’t understand it. 

So here I am, sitting on the subway, and all of a sudden, this intense fear overtakes me. Not a stingray/cat fear (see Day 10) - a real, paralyzing fear. It becomes incredibly real to me that I could be on a subway car with a suicide bomber. Would it be a long, slow, and painful death? I start looking around at my fellow passengers, just waiting for the car to explode. 

And then it hits me. This is what terrorists want. Hello, it’s in their name. Terror. They want us to be afraid, to doubt the goodness, the common decency, and respect in others. They want to convince us that its only a matter of time before they succeed in terrorizing our city, our country, our people. They want to take away the joy of freedom. What is that? People thinking that our joy or our freedom is theirs to take away. Why is that? I’ve thought about it a lot on this journey. Did my attackers intend to take away my joy? Did they intend to take away my freedom? Did they know that what was a mere few hours in their world, would impact me forever? Did they even think about it that intently? Probably not. It is statistically likely that I am just another girl whose name they didn’t know in a long line of unconscious girls whose names' they didn’t know. In other words, I was nameless, faceless, and worthless. And in the weeks and months following, I believed that “logical conclusion.” 

But I’ve come to realize that I can’t believe in logical conclusions when I believe in a miraculous God. 

Whenever you feel unloved, unimportant, or insecure, remember to whom you belong. - Eph 2:19-22

Listen, I know- in the darkness, it’s a fight to believe the truth. So fight, friend. I promise you it’s worth it. Fight to defy the lies. Don’t walk, RUN to the truth.

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I am nameless: No. “But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, Jacob, He who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.” - Isaiah 43:1

I am faceless: No. “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born, I set you apart.” - Jeremiah 1:5

I am worthless: No. “Her value is more precious than jewels and her worth is far above rubies and pearls.” - Proverbs 31:10

At some point, I became angry at the lies and angry at the liar (John 8:44.) And when you get mad enough, It’s pretty amazing what you can do in a spirit of defiance. Any parent of a teenager (shout out to my parents when they think back to parenting teenage me - #sorrymumanddad) can tell you that. 

Fear is the thief of joy. Joy is freedom. Let’s be doggedly defiant in our resolution to not let fear rule. 

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 15: consent | jokes on jokes

Sunday, 3/20/2016 

I did literally nothing today. I laid in bed all day and watched 'Covert Affairs.' So if that can be called “doing something,” well, that’s all I did. I think I needed a day to just not think. 

Annie Walker is my hero. Like, if I could be a fictional character, I'd be her. 

Annie Walker is my hero. Like, if I could be a fictional character, I'd be her. 

The past two days have been tough for me - I’ve thought a lot (cue the jokes.) But Friday night keeps replaying over and over in my head… 

On Friday, I was out watching Day 2 of March Madness, and I could not hide my feelings when Texas lost to freaking Northern Iowa at the buzzer.

Basketball is no football to me, but sports are sports. I’m from Texas, therefore I’m patriotic, and as long as they’re not beating North Carolina (my loyalties run deep,) I want my Texas boys to win. So the look of shock, sadness, and utter dismay that took over when Paul Jespersen made a three at the buzzer to boot Texas from Round 2, did not surprise my roommate (who was out with me .) But it sure did shock the group of guys standing one table away from me. 

Now, I don’t know if this is a southern thing or not, but it seems to be that a girl residing in New York city, with a remote knowledge and/or liking of sports is an anomaly. It’s weird. Weird as in I have had at least three guys jokingly propose to me over my ability to discuss football ‘on their level.’ (so. many. reasons. not to accept those proposals in that one little phrase right there - ew.)

Anyway, this group of dudes waltzes over to me with the various comments about heartbreak - a word to the wise: nobody who has just witnessed their team lose wants to hear some dumb joke about said loss or rehash the specifics about why they lost, how they lost, or if they could have done something different to make them not lose. No one. 

“Can we buy you a drink to ease your pain? Don’t worry, we won’t roofie it. HAHAHAHA (as if they’ve just told the joke to end all jokes) Weeeeeelllll Jared might roofie it, but we’ll make him stay right here with you while WE get the drink. We’ll watch him the whole time. Nothing to worry about here!"

Ok bro, I don’t wanna be that girl, but REALLY? In what world is that a funny joke? Actually, remove the funny part of that statement - is that even a joke at all? 

It’s a weird, weird world we live in, that we joke about rape. It’s even weirder when you tell someone maybe we shouldn’t joke about roofies, and they don’t get why. 

This guys literal inability to understand why that’s not funny, makes me nervous for the next generation - what are we teaching them? Are we teaching young men and boys that roofies are a joke to be laughed at? Are we teaching young girls that their lucidity in giving consent is not important? Living in New York, I hear young people’s conversations on the street, on the train, and on the bus, more often than I’d care to (I pity the poor adults that had to overhear my friends’ and my teenage conversations!) and I’m disheartened at the value they seem to place (or not place) on their bodies and their sexuality. Yesterday, while walking home from a run, I heard a girl who couldn’t have been more than 16, defending herself to a young boy that called her a “worthless ho,” with, “Boy, my p***y so tight, I ain’t no ho.”  

I just wonder if between entertainment, politics, social media, and how insanely easy it is for anyone to access porn - are we giving the next generation a fighting chance at self-respect? Do young girls know where their worth is found? Are they being taught to value their minds above their bodies? Are we teaching young men that women have far more to offer than what they can provide in the kitchen or in the bedroom? 

I don’t remember much from my sex education class in middle school besides that it was short. I may be wrong here, but I don’t remember consent being discussed. I think it was assumed. I don’t fault my school for that - I think the assumption of consent might partly be a generational thing. My parents have said to me on more than one occasion that the fact that my generation has to worry about roofies is shocking to them - they didn’t even exist back when they were in college. But the world has changed, and if our tools of education aren’t evolving with it, well, as one of my pastors says, “if you ain’t helping, you ain’t helping.” 

I mean, I would assume, that a grown ass man in a bar at least knows one female that, if she were roofied and assaulted, he’d be horrified, and would therefore never make a joke about it. But, here we are. 

Assumptions will get us nowhere. But change will. Now, I’m the first to admit that I hate change. In fact, I abhor it. But when change is absolutely necessary (as in there is literally no other option because I’ve explored them all,) I can get my butt in gear and do what needs to be done. 

The fact that schools anywhere are teaching abstinence as the only form of sex education BLOWS MY MIND. Like, we’ve established that I love Jesus. I get the whole waiting till marriage thing. I think that is a great thing to hope and pray for for your kids, teach them, and lead them towards. I’m not poopoo’ing that. But it’s statistically very unlikely that a teenager will wait to have sex until marriage that in not educating them, we’re setting them up to contract STD’s, HIV, and get pregnant. 

However, all of this is a moot point if we fail to consider the issue of consent. Consent has somehow become confusing…. how? I don’t know. But if police officers are confused by it (well, how did you tell him no? Uhhhh I used the word, no….?) we can bet our sweet asses that kids are confused by it. I mean, rape porn is a thing. Did you know that? It’s an actual, money making, thing. The idealization of rape. How is that legal? The porn industry as a whole disgusts me, but that? I can't. Porn is one of the most easily accessible things on the internet. It pops up constantly when you’re not even searching for it. If young people, whose hormones are absolutely raging, come across it, are we really shocked that they don’t look away? And are we surprised when they go back for more? And when their minds are being filled with that garbage from the age of 13, 14, 15, 16, why are we surprised that their view of what sex is meant to be is skewed? Why does it surprise us that college boys turn to roofies in order to act out those fantasies? 

We’ve got to completely change the way we teach young people about sex. That’s initiative #2 on my big dreams list for I ARISE; to tackle sex education in this country. I want a country wide mandate that states that schools must prioritize and enact a comprehensive sex education course that includes abstinence, protection, contraception, and above all else, consent. If we have come to a point where we have to spell out what consent is, so be it. Let’s do it. Let’s train up our kids in the way we want them to go.

Consent: 

  1. cannot be given when a person is unconscious
  2. cannot be given when a person has been drugged (so if you drug a girl and she says yes, it doesn’t count.)
  3. cannot be given when a person is black out drunk 
  4. can be redacted at any point without explanation 
  5. is non negotiable 
  6. is not about equality or a a political agenda
  7. is not to be automatically assumed 
  8. is only the person’s to give and take away as they deem necessary
  9. is not limited to sexual intercourse but also includes any other sexual activity 

If there is any confusion about whether or not consent has been given, chances are it has not been given and it’s time to step away. 

Consent is the biggest part of sex education because without it, it’s not actually sex - it’s rape, assault, and abuse. There’s no such thing as consensual and non-consensual sex. There’s consensual sex, and there’s rape. And that piece of the puzzle is missing from what we’re teaching today’s kids. I’m just not ok with that.  

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  

day 13: disbelief: my experience with the NYPD

Friday, 3/18/2016

When I stumbled into the police station that morning I was fading fast.

I wonder if I’ll ever get over the fact that there was a police station on the same street as the bar that I left that night; within blocks of the apartment that I was taken to.

Survival instincts are fascinating. After he threw me into the street, threw my shoes and bag at me, and shut the door to his building, I remember laying on that concrete, breathing a sigh of relief for freedom, and closing my eyes for just a few seconds. I was so tired. I likely would have gone to sleep right there on that rainy street had I not been glaringly aware of the fact that my friend was still gone.  

Once I got up off the ground, I stumbled, yelling my friend’s name, until I made my way back to the bar of origin. I don't remember how I figured out where that was or even what it was called. At this point, it had been almost 12 hours since my friend and I left my apartment to go to dinner. The bouncer told me that she’d tripped on her way outside to look for me, face planted, and the friend of apartment guy picked her up in a cradle and put her in a cab. A few minutes later I was escorted out by apartment guy “like a dead fish.” 

Five months after my attack, President Obama and Vice President Biden launched the “It’s On Us” campaign. I'm so grateful for it. While it seems obvious to me that men should step in if they see something fishy going on, this is a re-education for a lot of people. I don’t say that condescendingly, but with full awareness of what rape culture in this country is. My friend who picked me up later that morning told me that it was very obvious to anyone with a pulse that I was off. Not drunk. Off. But nobody stepped in to ask if I was okay. In fact, at least one person, the bouncer, saw that I resembled a “dead fish,” needing to be propped up against a wall to stand, and just let me go. 

Confession: I feel this [I know, unnecessary] need to justify myself every time I tell this part of the story. To justify why I remember certain things, like my encounter with the police, so vividly. Except that there is no justification. I don’t know why. To try and come up with an answer would be useless. Being drugged is a jarring experience. Pieces of that night are completely black, other pieces are blurry, some are flashes, and then there are a couple of very clear moments. When people ask about it, it can often become, “Well if you were drugged, how do you remember that but you don’t remember this?” I don’t know. I just don’t. I wonder the same thing, but why is that even a question that people ask? 

I’ve read through my friend’s and my texts from that night a hundred times. I’ve tried to piece it together. To make sense of a timeline. To figure out how this happened. I have racked my brain and I’ve racked her brain. Neither of us know. Her memory goes dark about two hours before mine because she passed out and proceeded to sleep for hours. I’ve been told that I have more memory because I didn’t sleep until I got to the hospital. How much I believe that logic is questionable, but it’s vaguely comforting, so I’ll take it with a grain of salt.

The door to the police station weighed about 50 million pounds. There was a female cop and two male cops that I remember. Male cop A was older, balding, tall, and kinda fat (if I’m honest.) Male cop B was young. 

“My friend is missing. I went to look for her and she wasn’t there and something bad happened to me and she’s gone.” 

Female cop: “Is she over 18?" 

"Yes"

Female cop: "How long ago did you last see her?” 

“I don’t know."

Female cop: “Has it been 24 hours?” 

“No. No, not 24.” 

Female cop: “Well, there’s nothing we can do to help you until she’s been missing for 24 hours.” 

“No you don’t understand. She’s never been to New York. She wouldn’t just leave me. Something bad happened.” 

Female cop: “Ma’am, as I said, there’s nothing we can do until she’s been missing for 24 hours. Go home.” 

I grew panicky and started to cry almost uncontrollably. Male cop A stepped in and told me to please calm down. I said something to the effect of, “I can’t calm down. You’re not listening to me. She’s never even been to New York. She wouldn’t just leave me because she will have no idea where she is or how to get home. Her phone is off. I went looking for her and something bad happened when I went where he said she was, please.” 

Male cop A: “Where did you go to look for her?” 

“An apartment” 

Male cop A: “Where?” 

“I don’t know. Somewhere close. I walked here.” 

Male cop A: “With who?” 

“I don’t know him. He said she was there. But she wasn’t and when I tried to leave he - they, wouldn’t let me.” 

 Male cop B: “Ma’am what’s your name?” 

“Becky"

Male cop B: “How old are you?” 

“23.” 

As he’s about to say something else, Male cop A stops him. 

Male cop A: “Becky, is it?"

“Yes."

Male cop A: “Becky - you’re a 23 year old grown woman, slurring her words, with a hickey on her neck. Go home and take responsibility for your actions.” 

I hadn’t looked in a mirror. I didn’t know I had a hickey. It was like being punched in the stomach. In that moment, I felt like I was stripped bare and attacked all over again. I caught my breath, turned around, and left; completely ashamed. Male cop B looked at me with such pity in his eyes I wanted to vomit. Male cop A just gestured for me to leave while he shook his head and muttered something under his breath. If any part of this experience has been the most difficult to shake, it was his words. “Take responsibility for your actions."

I did go home. When I got there and my friend wasn’t there, I called the police again. I didn’t know what else to do.

Two officers showed up at my door - one female and one male. 

This time it was the female officer that met me with the gut punch: 

“Ma’am if what you’re saying is true, and your memory is so foggy, the only explanation for that would be that you were drugged. But if you were drugged, it would be impossible for you to hold a coherent conversation with me right now (which is actually not true dependent on which drug was used.) I think you probably just had too much to drink. Your friend will turn up and you’ll both laugh about this whole thing over dinner.” 

By the time the SVU detectives arrived to the hospital, I was more human - fluids and some sleep will do that to you. They asked me a million questions and they asked them over and over again. They repeated the same questions, asked me in a timeline order, then out of order, and circled back again. They wanted to know if I’d ever had a one night stand before. Had I ever reported sexual assault on another occasion? How much did I have to drink? Did I do drugs? Had I ever done drugs? Did I remember saying no? Was I sure I’d said no? What was I wearing? How long did I talk to the subject?

Listen, I know that due to a flawed judicial system that those officers do not control, they had to go about it this way. After all, this is, they explained to me in no uncertain terms, how it would go down in court.  

Because my recollection was so foggy, because I’d been drinking, because my past wasn’t perfect, because I went willingly, and because there were three people in that apartment and two would say everything that happened was consensual, my case would be difficult to prosecute - if they even found the guys. If my drug test came back and the drugs had already worked their way out of my system, it would be even harder, despite the fact that the rape kit showed signs of sexual assault and physical violence, and that they were able to obtain DNA. It could take up to a year to get to trial, and the defense would rip me apart because of my past (which isn’t truly that much to write home about.) I declined to move ahead. Somehow I wound up feeling like I’d done something wrong.

Hating the police is a popular attitude these days. “F**k the po-lice” and all that. I see videos of the police all the time that disgust me and make me sick to my stomach. I also know that the majority of the police are good. I often wonder if the many people who so vehemently hate the police have never actually had their own negative interaction with the them. 

An internal affairs investigation was supposed to be launched in regards to the officers that I encountered at the police precinct. The call never came. I could hate the police if I wanted to, and with good reason. And for a while I did.

But I decided a while ago that hating them served no one. They didn’t know I hated them - the only person who felt that horrible fire burning deep within me, was me. The only person forced to face the ramifications of that fire, was me. Also, as a Christian, I’m called to respect those in authority over me. Romans 13 is pretty clear on that. 

     Romans 13: New International Version (NIV)
Submission to Governing Authorities
 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good

But this is also where it gets tricky for me. Because according to the above, in my situation, the police didn’t do what they were called to do: serve for my good. Unfortunately, that doesn’t matter. I’m not responsible for their actions or consequences for those actions. I’m responsible for mine. Their failure to fulfill the call on their lives, can’t be used an excuse for me to be disobedient. 

Also, hating the police would be a waste of time and energy. What would it accomplish? 

Romans 13: The Message (MSG)
11-14 But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We can’t afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! 

That night did end. Dawn did break. And I’ve got bigger fish to fry than hating the police. I'm on earth for a limited time (let’s be real, we’ve all got our expiration date) with a purpose in mind. And I highly doubt that hating the police is that purpose. I don’t want to fritter away my time. 

In my big and grand dreams of what I ARISE could do as an activist organization, I have four initiatives that I would love to pioneer. Police response and protocol to situations involving sexual assault is at the top of that list. Instead of hating the police, I want to get to know them. I want to be a friend and a partner of the police. [“I get by with a little help from my friends…” and all that.]

I think there needs to be massive reform and re-education, and I want to be on the front lines of that movement. But in order to do so, I need to learn, and I can’t do that with bitterness in my heart. I want to learn and understand exactly what police officers are taught about sexual assault and how they are instructed to work in those situations. And then I want to help them be better. Just like I want my friends to help me be better. 

I mean can you imagine being a police officer? The stuff they must see every day? Especially in New York City. It’s no wonder that jadedness takes over sometimes. But that doesn’t mean it should. If officers, or just the general population for that matter, viewed the women who report sexual assault the way they would view their wives, sisters, daughters, or mothers, I think the general attitude would change. If there was education on the statistics, on just how common sexual assault and sexual violence is, maybe it wouldn’t be so quickly cast aside. If people weren't judged by their past, but viewed as survivors, the ability to listen and hear the truth could increase. If there was re-education in place to teach that rape is not just the lady grabbed in an ally at knifepoint, but also the girlfriend or wife that says no and is forced against her will, the girl who is drugged and seems to “willingly” leave with someone she doesn’t know, the drunk girl who passes out and is used while unconscious, and the consenting participant who changes her mind at the last second to no avail, not only might there be a real desire for change, but the actual response itself could shift. 

I know the statistics. I’ve quoted some of them on this blog. I know that it’s bigger than just re-education and reform. But we’ve got to start somewhere. Small change encourages big change.

That may seem naive, but nobody ever accomplished anything by not trying because it seemed naive. And nobody ever changed anything by focusing on hate.

I won’t hate the men and women who have bravely vowed to protect the citizens of this country and I won’t support people that do. I won’t respond to my own experience with the police by inciting negativity towards them. I won’t participate in discussions fueled by anger and hate. I won’t encourage people to act out against the police or disrespect their authority. I won’t do any of these things, because my experience with the police is a part of a greater, collective experience. And I won’t allow that experience to perpetuate any more negative experiences. 

But I will allow it to positively change the world. 

                            Dawn always breaks 

                            Dawn always breaks 

day 12: everything happens for a reason: [no, really]

 

Thursday, 3/17/2016

So today I have to email a new doctor and I don’t want to. I feel like I’ve paid my dues in the medical realm. 

On May 21, 2013, I underwent elective brain surgery. Why would anyone elect to have their brain cut open? Absolutely debilitating headaches that take you out for hours to days at a time over the course of four years, and continually get progressively worse, push you to the point of saying, “Yeah, sure! Slice my head open. Sounds good!” 

(warning:one mildly graphic scar photo a little ways below - but if you’ve watched ‘Scandal,’ this is child’s play)

My elective surgery saved my life. After opening up my brain, my baller neurosurgeon/friend/mum’s colleague went to find my parents. We’ll call him BallerDoctor. It’s a little strange to think of my brain just chilling in the open air. Also do you want to know my biggest regret in life thus far? Forgetting to ask BallerDoctor to snap a pic of my brain while he was mucking around in there. I mean, I had the chance and the chance will never present itself again (at least it better not.) I blew it. Merp.

“Becky’s brain was gray and very little oxygen was reaching it, therefore it was not pulsating well. She'd been living on borrowed time. In addition to the procedure agreed upon, I had to cut through the lining of her brain, remove some dura from the top of her skull, and make a little patch in the back to give the brain more space.”  — Why, yes - I AM so smart that my brain is extra big and needs more room to compute its brilliant ideas…. 

Apparently, the scans I’d been having to monitor my very common (but also rarely and severely symptomatic, hence the choice to have surgery) brain malformation had not told the whole story. 

Let me tell you something - waking up from brain surgery is a b***h. When I woke up from the successful surgery, I almost immediately started vomiting. Actually, I was HURLING. I’d been ‘under’ for longer than expected and my body was not loving the repercussions of that extra anesthesia, so it decided to rid me of it in the most vile way it knew how - for three days. At one point I begged my doctors to give me enough pain meds to kill me because l really did not think I could take the pain. My time in neuro-ICU is pretty foggy due to a plethora of Michael Jackson’s pain meds being IV’ed into my body (they are MIRACULOUS,) but it’s truly remarkable how your body doesn’t forget that level of excruciating pain. Wanna know the weirdest sensation? Feeling every.single.pulsation of your brain. In case you didn’t know, it pulsates the way your heart beats. And if your brain had been slammed up against your skull for years, you wouldn’t know that. But once that pressure is relieved, you find it out real quick and it is weirrrrrd.

Getting to the point of choosing to have brain surgery was a four year process that began in 2009. 

Feb 8, 2009 |

fly back one day early from college auditions at my mum’s annoying insistence. She has these things that she calls ‘holy spirit holds’ where she knows she’s supposed to do something, but she has no real, concrete reason why. You might think she sounds wacko, but I kid you not, every time she’s honored that “feeling,” it has paid off.  There was no reason for us to fly back a day early and I wanted to miss an extra day of school, but she had a “feeling.” As a high schooler not particularly interested in the school part of high school, I was not amused.

Feb 9, 2009 | 3:45pm -     

pull my car over on the side of the highway due to severe stomach cramps. They pass, so I ignore them.

Feb 9, 2009 | 7:00pm -     

in rehearsal and turn to a friend and tell him I think I’m gonna puke  

Feb 9, 2009 | 7:15pm -    

make it to the bathroom just in time to start uncontrollably throwing up blood. Not vomit with some blood in it or the type of blood that comes out after you’ve been vomming for a while and have scratched your throat. No. I was throwing up only blood. And not old blood. I was throwing up pints and pints of fresh, red, blood and I couldn’t stop.

Feb 9, 2009 | 7:45pm -     

Mum picks me up from rehearsal and takes me home, while I continue to vomit blood into a trashcan in the car. 

Feb 9, 2009 | 8:30pm      

Mum calls 911

Feb 9, 2009 | 8: 45pm     

Ambulance arrives. I code in the ambulance on the way to the ER, so they divert and take me to the closest hospital, not the one we requested.

Feb 9, 2009 | 9:00pm  

Arrive at the hospital. My whole body is numb and tingling 

Feb 10-18, 2009 |        

ICU. Since they can’t find the source of the hematemesis (or as I like to call it, vomming blood,) and since the vomming didn’t stop for three days, they decide to look at every part of my body. I have the first of many MRIs, CT scans, spinal taps, blood patches, bleeding time tests, blood draws, and neurological exams. Over the course of this week, they discover a brain malformation, a blood disease, a connective tissue disorder, and cysts down my spinal cord. This vomming blood episode flung my previously asymptomatic existence into symptomatic overdrive. While that was extremely painful, it was not life threatening. And unless it’s going to kill you, you can pretty much convince yourself, and your body, to do anything. 

[If my mum had not heeded her “holy spirit hold,” this would have all gone down in Chicago - a city where we knew no one and had no medical connections. We would have been forced to spend a week in their ICU and then go through the grueling and complicated process of having records transferred to Houston, choosing new doctors ourselves, and trying to explain a medically inexplicable situation to people who were not there to witness it.] 

Over the course of the next couple of months, we ironed out the members of my medical team and began to look for ways to calm the symptoms.

[If I hadn’t coded in the ambulance, requiring a diversion to the hospital that was closest, as opposed to the one of our choosing, I would never have the team I have now. This team of internationally recognized doctors not only saved my life, but they have become a part of my family. They’ve answered calls and texts in the middle of the night and met my family and me in emergency rooms in the early hours of the morning. They’ve even come to my shows and performances.] 

I get put on some headache medicine, one of which I quickly had to stop taking due to the fact that it made me forget everything. Literally. My mum would tell me to do something, I’d agree, and later when she’d get annoyed that I hadn’t done whatever it was we’d discussed, I’d get frustrated and tell her the conversation never happened. This was initially chalked up to me being an annoying teenager (which I indeed was,) but a couple months in, my mum realized that I wasn’t that annoying (no, really.) I forgot how to get places that I regularly drove to or that I had conversations. I’d call my dad and he’d say, “Treasure, you called to tell me that a little while ago.” It was scary.

I became a pro at lasting through never ending MRIs (the longest I ever did was 8 hours with very short breaks) despite being claustrophobic. I have a phenomenal system and if you need tips - I gotchu. I became oddly used to the sensation of peeing myself provided by the contrast medicine used in CT scans (don’t worry, I didn’t actually pee myself.) I once watched a blood draw butterfly needle pop in my arm and send blood flying everywhere - I barely even blinked. I’ve passed out from having too much blood drawn at once, and I learned how to keep still while a doctor sticks a long ass needle into the space around my spinal chord, and then later injects blood into that space and tells me to “take as much pain as I think I can."

The day the blood vomming began was one of my first days of rehearsal for a production of “Beauty and Beast.” I’d been out on tour for my junior year of high school with the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, “Whistle Down the Wind,” and came back to Houston really nervous about adjusting to life off the road. “Beauty and the Beast” was one thing that had me really excited. And then I got sick. 

A combination of miracles, grace, and patience on the part of my school, the company producing “Beauty and Beast,” and the cast I shared the stage with, allowed me to continue on in the role of Belle. In a way, it saved my spirit. It planted a seed that I would need to survive the next four years. Amidst a never-ending slew of doctors appointments and bad news, it was a reminder of the thing that brought me joy my whole life, even while muddying through the darkest circumstances. For just a few hours every night, I escaped my reality and stepped into the shoes of a young woman who also needed hope, and refused to believe that new beginnings weren’t possible. You could hear little girls gasp when I appeared at the top of the stairs in my yellow ball gown. They reminded me that magic was real - and I needed all the magic I could get. Over four days, we got to tell 20,000 people that magic was real in a massive outdoor theatre that is the stuff of dreams. My dad loves to describe leaving the theatre early one night to catch the metro, and hearing my voice echoing across Hermann Park. He says he stopped with tears in his eyes and just listened to me sing “A Change in Me”, whose lyrics couldn’t be more fitting to the two months we’d just pushed through. 

Two days after my high school graduation, I was met with the following words from a cardiologist (we’ll call him DrNoName):

“well, I hate to say this - you need to find a new career. You have a grossly enlarged aortic root. It is more than likely another symptom of the greater issue we can’t yet diagnose. If you continue to pursue this career path, you will likely die. The over-exertion on your body will cause your aorta to burst. I know you’re going on a mission trip in a few days to work with children, but you cannot pick up a child. You can’t even move a box. Not until we figure out a way to reduce this dilation.” 

I could see his lips moving and I could hear what he was saying - but I couldn’t compute. Two days after my high school graduation, and DrNoName was basically telling me that my life as I knew it was over. This was supposed to be a “just in case” check-up. When my doctors suggested I see a cardiologist, it was as a total precaution. They had no reason to believe anything was wrong with my heart, but since almost every other major organ had been looked at over the last three months, it “couldn’t hurt” to check my heart, too. Up to now it had been scary and weird, but nobody ever even remotely mentioned death as a possibility. The idea wasn’t even on our radar.

You will likely die? I felt all the breath leave my body and I just barely squeaked out a quiet “ok.” 

Insert Judy Moyes into the conversation. Things to know about my mum: 

  1. She is mad smart - one of a handful women in the world to be accepted to the Cambridge University med school in 1974. Seven degrees and a phenomenal pediatric oncologist.
  2. She is not to be messed with  
  3. We would not have made it through months of testing, diagnoses, worsening symptoms, college decisions, and doctors appointments without her
  4. She cannot stand morons 
  5. She is fiercely protective 

“Excuse me, DrNoName, would you mind stepping outside for a minute to walk me through these test results a little more extensively?” 

Yo, that’s how you know that Jude is PISSED. 

She ripped DrNoName, who you can well guess is no longer a part of my medical team, a new one for the way in which he relayed life altering medical information without any type of hope or concern for the way a teenager might react to that information.

[But you know what? If he hadn’t been such a dumbdumb, we never would have been placed with my now cardiologist, who we’ll call DrNotToBeMessedWith. DrNotToBeMessedWith runs not only the cardiology department, but also the entire internal medicine department of the hospital and the Heart and Vascular Institute where my care is based. DrNotToBeMessedWith never misses my 6 month stress echo - in fact, he stands right next to me the entire time. He also managed my cardiac care during my brain surgery … from CHINA, because that’s how much he cares.] 

But that day, the only words I kept hearing over and over again were, “You will likely die.” I was MAD. Why did this have to happen? Why did I get 18 normal years with these stupid problems lying dormant and then everything came crashing down all at once? I felt like a shell of myself. Two girls who were my “friends” started questioning if the problems were real since they couldn’t see them. Cue us not being friends anymore. I had a few of my college options stripped from me due to the necessity that I needed to be close to high ranking emergency centers. Within my first two weeks at college, I had to wear a heart monitor for a week to gauge how my heart was reacting to the rapid increase in physical activity - under a leotard. It wasn’t exactly inconspicuous. I was mortified and I was guarded.

So how did I respond to this news? I decided to push my body to its limit. I drank until I threw up regularly. I stayed out way too late and never got enough sleep. I pushed myself to a breaking point until Valentines Day 2010, when I had to fly back to Texas for an emergency myelogram and blood patch. 

When you have a myelogram, they strap you to a table that resembles one of those spine inversion chairs (except you’re on your stomach,) insert a lumbar needle into your spine, push dye through that needle, flip you upside down, and watch on a screen to see which of the multiple spinal cord cysts I had, the dye would leak through. Once that’s been established, they determine how many of the many cc’s of blood that have been previously removed from your arm will be necessary to insert into the space around your spinal cord, then squirt blood into that space, until you can’t stand the pain anymore. That part is called a blood patch. The blood acts as a glue, sealing the holes in your cysts, and allows the spinal fluid level in your brain to rise back up to a healthy level. THE HUMAN BODY IS AMAZING. 

(she looks oddly happy and comfortable - I can assure you, I was not smiling.) 

Once they were finished, my doctors gravely looked at my mum and me and informed us that my levels of spinal fluid were alarmingly low. They lovingly, but firmly, reminded me that ensuring that I did as little as possible to exert force on those cysts, especially vomiting, was of utmost importance. I feigned innocence, though everyone in the room knew better, and went to recovery. After that day, I swore that come hell or high-water, I would never ever subject myself to that stupid procedure ever again. HA.

It’s funny when you think you get to control your own life. Fast forward three and half years, six weeks post brain surgery, and I’m still not able to walk. I can physically do it. Like I could put one foot in front of the other, but I couldn’t stand upright without pain so severe that I would pass out. Nobody knew what was going on and we started to think that I was stuck this way forever. Before my surgery, my doctors warned me that the cysts down my spinal chord made things much more complicated. There was a chance, small - like 5%, but still a chance, that I would be irreversibly worse off after surgery than I was pre-surgery. I decided the potential reward outweighed the risk. I began to strongly regret that decision around week three post-surgery. By week six, I was going out of my mind. 

My whole life, I planned to move to New York and be on Broadway - and if I’m being honest, I never doubted I could do it. Call it pride or call it confidence - it was what it was. I worked hard, I was talented, and I wanted it. During the fall of my senior year of college, my mum called me to say that the team she worked with at MD Anderson had just hired a new neurosurgeon (BallerDoctor.) After hearing about my situation he told my mum that he may be able to help me and would like to meet with me. 

Vehement no. In no way was I interested in meeting with a man who cut into people’s brains for a living. But as the year progressed, so did the headaches - and by spring break, I was feeling a little desperate. At the end of a very long appointment we made a deal. If the New York showcase that I was performing in with my class in a few weeks went as planned, then I would move directly to New York and forego surgery. If it didn’t, I’d come home and have the surgery. I'd had a pretty great year at school and enough of the visiting industry guests had expressed interest in me, so I thought my plan was foolproof. I’d move right to New York, and I’d get out of this surgery. 

Ha. Expectations were not met and I was devastated. I’d just come through what I considered to be the toughest months of my life (my first real heartbreak) and I was shattered. The last piece of hope dissipated and I realized that I truly had nothing to lose - no career to speak of, no one to spend my life with, and I couldn’t imagine it was possible for my headaches to get any worse. So I kept my word. And it saved my life.

[If my life had gone according to plan, I never would have had that surgery and I may not be here now. Borrowed time is a strange way to look at life on earth.] 

So here we are, six weeks post brain surgery, and I’m no better. My doctors are stumped and they recheck my charts. Maybe in those first three days of vomiting, I had burst the majority of the cysts in my spinal chord. The idea of doing another blood patch as a last ditch effort to improve things is pitched. Remember that? The inverted table hell? My short and concise answer was as follows, “F**k no.”

That’s how much “taking as much pain as possible" hurts. It was being marketed as a way to relieve post-brain surgery headaches and the inability to walk, and I was still saying no. But a week later, I conceded. If it was my only chance to feel normal again, I’d take it, because I sure as hell couldn’t take this. Two days later, I was up and walking around.

[If I hadn’t made the decision to drink myself into oblivion out of anger many a night during that first year of college, we wouldn’t have had the key to revealing the actual success of my surgery which gave me a completely new life.]

I haven’t had what I dub “brain headaches” since that day. I never thought I would know what it felt like to live life not in pain. Knowing what life New York is like, I now know that I would never have been able to handle it in my pre-surgery existence.

[If I never got sick on February 9, 2009, we likely would have found out too late that I had a brain malformation and a heart condition. A brain malformation that was fixed in surgery and a heart condition that has no bearing on my career path or my day to day life, despite what DrNoName said, because it’s controlled by medicine, diet, and exercise.]

My doctors never could figure out what caused the initial vomming up blood that started all of this. Every single test (and there were MANY) came back inconclusive. But I know what (or Who) it was. 

The day before my surgery, one of my mum’s friends from Bible Study called me and asked if I could come over. She felt like she’d "heard from the Lord" and wanted to share with me. I finished up my manicure and eyebrow wax (priorities, people. If I was going to die in surgery, I was going to die looking good) and headed over. She told me that, while she was praying for me, she felt led to turn to Psalm 91:4 in her bible: 

“He will cover you with His feathers and under His wings you will find refuge"

She said she had a vision of me in that operating room - that there would be feathery wings like the ones the Victoria’s Secret angels wear (I kid you not) on either side of me, keeping me suspended in the air - and that they would keep me safe. 

Listen, even I was like - “ok wackadoo" - and went on my merry way. 

Halfway through my surgery, BallerDoctor told my parents that one of the brackets keeping my head in position had malfunctioned. He had no idea how or why - there was a one in a million chance of something like that happening. It was as if someone took a hammer to the bracket because all of a sudden, it snapped, the screw grazed my scalp in a line as my head began to fly downwards, and then it was almost as if my head was suspended in the air, giving the cardiac anesthesiologist time to hold it safely in place before any damage could be done. I mean, this is brain surgery. It’s not ideal for your head to be moving around while BallerDoctor is in there with a knife. The surgery was abruptly halted while they retrieved another bracket and clamped my head again so that it wouldn’t move. Crisis over. I didn’t totally believe that story until I read it in the medical report a few months later. How was that possible? Because, Jesus. 

I don’t know why God has chosen to save my life over and over again. People tell me it's because I have a purpose, a great calling on my life. But there are people all over the world dying every single day. Are we saying that they had no purpose? No calling on their lives?  

Being faced with medical uncertainty has put a lot of things in perspective for me. Death is a reality - something I’m both afraid of and yet have been forced to come to terms with. Science would say that one of my medical issues will be the thing that takes my life one day down the road. Maybe. Maybe not. I know that day will not come until I have accomplished what I was put on this earth to do. And when that day does come, I’ll be one of the many all over the world dying that day, and it won’t mean I had no purpose or calling - it will mean I fulfilled it.

Almost seven months after my surgery, I got a tattoo of a feather on the back of my neck as a reminder of this saga. And you wouldn’t believe how many times since my assault people have asked me why it was there. A tattoo I never see unless I look in the mirror while holding another mirror - almost as if God just wanted me to be reminded that while I couldn’t see my worth or value, it hadn’t gone anywhere. He covered me with His feathers and He gave me refuge once before - why wouldn’t He do it again?

day 11: pet peeves in the 8th grade

Wednesday, 3/16/2016

I had a phone date today with my best friend who lives a million miles away on a tropical island and she dropped an awesome life lesson bomb on me.

When we were in the 8th grade, Truly suggested that we make pet peeves lists. It was middle school - we were all very into paper games. MASH determined the course of our lives and homemade fortune tellers decided who we should like. It was very important that you used gel pens and had a good “font” for handwriting.

We made our lists and gave them to each other during geography. I quickly wrote Truly a note -

“I feel like these are all about me”

She wrote me back: “hang on I have something to add”

So I subtly handed her her list. (I was not tryna get detention for the hundredth time.)

She passed it back. The final addition: “when people think everything is all about them.” 

It turns out that whole list was indeed about me. To this day, I fall into fits of giggles when I think about this story. 

Believe it or not, over 10 years later, we’re still best friends. As Truly recently commented on my Instagram, if our friendship can survive the 8th grade, it can survive anything. (Junior high = rough)

Truly moved to a different school for high school. Lucky for us, her school and my school were less than a mile apart and her house was two minutes from either location, so on any given afternoon, we could be found laying out by her pool before I had to head off to rehearsal. We signed with the same modeling agency in the 9th grade and bemoaned the lack of cheeseburgers we were allowed to eat until a year later when we both said screw this hip measurement thing, we miss french fries, and quit within weeks of each other. We snuck in and out of her house via the roof and spent countless nights in her bed laughing our heads off telling stories of our latest escapades. She’s family.

She moved to a small tropical island called Nevis about two years ago to be with her boyfriend (now fiancé - hello! - I’ll be at that wedding in Italy in May!!!!) and it was quite the adjustment.

Though I often rag on technology, I am so grateful for it when it comes to keeping up with those I love. Letters just wouldn’t suffice when it comes to everything we need to catch up on. So today we’re catching up after two whole weeks without a phone date (thank goodness we don’t have to worry about “phone minutes” anymore!) - and I’m telling her about all of THIS - the blog, the beach, JD, my new outlook, the negativity breakthrough - and she stops me and as her voice cracks, says, 

“I’m so happy I’m almost crying. You know we had our rough patch (we had our first fight since the pet peeves fight about six months after my attack and we were lame and didn’t talk for a bit)  and I think it was partly because I knew that no one could pull you out of the place you went to after what happened to you. It was dark and you weren’t going to hear anything from anyone that knew you and that was scary.” 

Those are not easy words to hear. Especially from your best friend. Especially when you know they’re true. I wasn’t going to listen to anyone because I was fine. I wouldn't even acknowledge the darkness to myself. But to know that my friend could not only see it, but could also see that I was rejecting offers of help to climb out, and that it scared her.. well that blew. 

But that’s the thing about true friendship. She didn’t run away. She waited. I wouldn’t have heard her two years ago. I wouldn’t have heard her two months ago! And she knew that, so she waited. And in her waiting, her objective never changed. She gently coaxed me in the right direction. She never let a conversation go by without asking how I was really doing and what steps I was taking towards my dreams, regardless of whatever version of BS I fed her that day.

A true friend knows when it’s the right time to tell you like it is, from a place of utter love, and even if it’s hard to hear, you hear it, because it’s them. Then, you take it to heart and you make a change. 

I want to be a friend like that. I can’t believe how blessed I am to have friends that are amazing examples of how to love others. I get chills when I think about the teachers that life offers us if we’re willing to open our eyes. Thanks Tru, love you mucho. 

day 10: what if?

Tuesday, 3/15/2016

Blerg blerg blerg blerg blerg (sung to the tune of Rhianna’s “Work.”) 

My favorite word to chuck around when I’m less than amused my something is blerg. Oddly close to the word blog.. 

I am feeling blerg about my blog. That is to say, I am feeling afraid about my blog. 

In the past five minutes, I have realized that in my beckybrain, fear (my arch nemesis,) is almost always accompanied by two small, yet mind-numbingly frustrating words… “what if?” 

What if…. what if…. what if….

“what if I tell my story and am forever labeled ‘Becky - you know my friend that was raped?” 

“what if people, much like the police, don’t believe me?” 

“what if no one reads it?” 

“what if this insight into who I am (aka, me sprawling out some of my innermost thoughts for anyone on the internet to read) causes people I know to dislike me?” 

“what if I like a guy (and we're friends on Facebook so he knows I have this thing) and he reads it and he is like 'whoahhh, no thanks?'” 

“what if people ask me questions that I don’t know how to answer?” 

“what if I tell my story and those involved feel disrespected?” 

“what if giving people such unfiltered insight into my soul is a horrible idea?” 

“what if people close to me are shocked by decisions I made (that they don’t know about and I may write about) in the aftermath and push me away?” 

“what if I’m an idiot?” 

Two tiny words…. but oh so much power. What. If. 

But then, almost out of nowhere - 

What if in someone labeling me in a way I fear, they immediately think to reach out when they have a friend who goes through something similar? 

About a year after my attack, one of my guy friends turned to me and said, “but that can’t be right. Things like that don’t happen to girls like you.” What if the realization that things like this happen to girls like anything changes how he sees the women around him and it has a ripple effect?  

What if even one girl reads this who needs a voice? 

What if reading this blog causes those I love to understand me more

What if I like a guy and he reads it and thinks, “wow, she’s [insert positive notion here]?” 

What if people ask me questions and I’m honest? 

What if in writing about it, it lets those who helped know how grateful I am for what they did? 

What if giving people such unfiltered insight into my soul does just that - gives them insight into my soul? 

What if those decisions I wish I’d made differently resonate with somebody going through a similar time and it helps them know that nobody gets to judge or determine your path to healing? 

What if I’m smart? 

And the biggest one - WHAT IF this is not about me and not about you but about the person that reads it that needs to know she’s not alone? That needs to know the pain ends and the joy does in fact come? 

And just like that, what if, has become a phrase I love. 

PS - Coldplay has a song called "What If," as if I needed anymore of a reason to decidedly love the phrase. 

day 9: yoga + police reports

Monday, 3/14/2016

Yoga is changing my life. I will say it 45,000 times no matter how cliche I sound since we’ve already established that I semi love cliches. 

But for real - I did two catch up yoga sessions today (writing takes a lot longer than I thought - lesson 87 million in 8 days.) And my body and mind feel 75,000 times different. Can you tell I’m into big numbers today? 

My mind feels so much clearer and my body so long after yoga. I have never had so much awareness of what it is to feel physically squished as I do now that I’ve started regular yoga practice. No more squish for me. I used to have a fish named Squishy actually. 

                       RIP Squishy

                       RIP Squishy

.After yesterday’s entry, and my digesting it, I decided to request a copy of my police report. So I emailed the detective who was in charge of my case for form clarification (the NYPD website, like all government websites, is hella confusing.)

I've got a lot of mixed emotions about filling this piece of paper out but also a weird peace in knowing it will provide me something tangible. Almost as if in some weird way, it's proof that it happened - why I go through spells of feeling that I need that proof is complicated. Partly because my memory is so foggy and partly because the police didn't believe me. One of these days, we will get to that part of this experience. 

It’s crazy to think that I’m almost two years down the line and only just now getting to this point where I'm ready to read their take on it. That’s a lesson in being patient with others and myself. 

I doubt that it will shock you to learn that I do NOT excel at patience even a little bit, 

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 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 6: answers wanted

Friday, 3/11/2016

Roomie night. Allow me to let you in on a little secret ladies who live with a roommate that you adore. Adopt the roomie night thing. For real.

Anyways - some things to know about my roommate and I before I dive in to the serious stuff. 

                [sidenote: I am aware that the real word is anyway, without the s, but I like the s better.]

             BeckY and BeccA

             BeckY and BeccA

  1.  her name is Becca. Yes. Becky and Becca. It confused our doormen for the first 6 months that we lived in our building. 
  2. we met in college but weren’t close friends. Different departments, different friend groups. Saw each other at parties - our mutual friend forced us to hang out when we first got to NY and it was an idea of sheer brilliance
  3. we are polar opposites. Firstly, she’s a blonde and I’m a brunette (as if that matters.) She’s messy, I’m a neat freak. She loves Kate Spade, Haute Hippie is my jam. She loves Seth Cohen, I love Ryan Atwood. (I will never stop loving the OC for all that it was and all that it is and I may or may not regularly jam to the OC mixes...) 

Our roomie nights, which happen pretty much every 6-8 weeks, consist of the following, in this order: 

  1. Champagne 
  2. Indian food 
  3. Cookies 
  4. Champagne
  5. Sex and the City 
  6. Champagne
  7. Serious talks
  8. Pajamas 
  9. The Dixie Chicks and Justin Timberlake’s Future/Sex Lovesounds album dance party

On this roomie night I expressed that I have a lot of questions about the morning of my attack and the only person with the answers is the one who came to pick me up from my apartment that day.

At some point after being thrown out with the trash, dismissed by the police (more on that at a later date,) and going back to the bar to ask for help, I made my way home and called to ask for help, even though we hadn’t spoken in six months. I don’t know how I made it home, but since the Lower East Side and it’s inconvenient subway situation is annoying, I’m going to go ahead and assume I took a cab. I don’t really remember calling, but I do remember sitting on the steps of my Upper East Side walkup at some point in the early hours of the morning, drenched by the rain, talking on the phone, and repeating versions of, “They took me and I tried to leave and they wouldn’t let me” over and over again.

My first recollection of seeing him that morning is that hearing him yell my name was like being ripped out of a trance. I didn’t know how long I’d been standing in the middle of the street, in the rain, but when I turned around to see him coming towards me, I understood something that was happening for the first time in eight hours. The age-old concept of cause and effect made sense - I called for help, and someone came. The next thing I remember is being in the East Village. I made us go down there because I wanted to find the apartment I had been taken to. In my nonsensical state, I thought maybe we’d find my friend, who I was still unable to make contact with. He convinced me to go to the hospital and the next thing I knew, I was standing in the emergency intake area desperately searching for words to describe what happened. 

When I crawled onto that hospital bed and was finally able to lay down, after being awake for over 24 hours, everything that had been remotely keeping me human faded away. I was seeing double and vaguely understood that my thoughts weren’t making sense, though I was desperate to explain what happened and for someone to take me seriously about finding my friend. I think I heard him say my name before it all went black. 

The day begins to become clearer when I woke up. I have no clue how long I slept. It starts in flashes and then slowly becomes long sequences. At some point I was given sweats to change into. My most vivid memory is when I saw myself in the bathroom mirror after they performed the rape kit. I couldn’t help but stare. My eyes were so swollen from crying that they were almost completely shut. I looked white as a ghost and my hair was ratty after being in the rain for so long. It’s a strange feeling to not recognize your own reflection in the mirror, to be observing your life from the outside. 

In the two years since my attack, the hardest part has been the not knowing. To have parts of your life be completely blank, as if those hours didn’t exist, when you know that they did, is infuriating. The doubt has, at times, made me feel crazy. And for a while, I thought that since I couldn’t remember, I could pretend it didn’t exist. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work. 

I have a long list of questions to ask about that morning that I’d like answers to. But complicated history well, complicates things. So I guess the question becomes, can I survive without the answers? And, without second thought, I know the answer is yes. Do I want to? That one’s a little trickier.

Sometimes it’s good to sit in the unknown. Even if it’s the most uncomfortable place to sit. I mean, seriously, I might as well be sitting on a hot stove. 

Sincerely, 

the girl with the burning bum 

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~*