It takes a tornado to get me to sit up and pay attention sometimes. Maybe because I just don’t want to face it. Admit it. Acknowledge it. Own it. Maybe it’s human nature. Ignore the little signs, the little tugs and nagging thoughts. Maybe it’s fear – snuffing out the intuitive shove, imploring me to take a closer look at something that just feels off or odd or so not right.
Like the time I met my former spouse’s mistress. I knew. For one split second I knew they were having an affair. And in an equal measure of time I silenced the thought. It may have been only an emotional affair at the time, if I choose to believe him.
Hmmm…let me get back to you on that.
Like right now.
I don’t believe a word he says and probably never will. Unless he says something like, It’s raining. And I’m standing directly in front of him getting pummeled by cloud water.
In the time it takes three pieces of popcorn to burst open I forgot the intuitive slap across the face and took my pregnant self to the bathroom just after meeting the woman who would become The Happy Dance Chick.
Why they hell would I want to deal with that right now? If I pretend I never felt it then it won’t be real. I didn’t even go so far as to try to talk myself out of the sensation I experienced when I looked back and saw her whispering to a friend. I just jettisoned the feeling, the introduction, and those less than 5 minutes in time out of my bubble.
I didn’t think of her again until I searched for the word LOVE in Skype on his laptop. Five years later. Haven’t thought about her much since then either. I’ve got more beneficial things to do with my thoughts.
With the luxury of reflection, I’m drawn to times in my marriage when I should have stood up for myself. When I should have said, This isn’t acceptable. But I chose instead to pretend. Pretend that it will get better with time. That he will grow up. That I won’t have to walk on eggshells my entire life. Just until these difficult years pass. The years when children are little and patience is tried and time is always running out.
That’s not how it unfolds.
Never ignore the smoke.
Instead I taught him how to treat me by how I responded to his choices. My self-esteem crumbled back into a pile, the pile it was in when I graduated college. I climbed on top, sat down and surveyed the rubble. It’s easier to maintain a pile of rubble than be out there in the world keeping up a shiny house. And so I stayed. Slowly, the pile decomposed, leaving me on my bum on the planet and my ear pressed to a cell phone listening the Pocket Call of the century.
I’ve rebuilt the House of Cleo; self-esteem is my foundation. Over the last three years, with your tough love and support and ridiculous sense of humor, I’ve fallen in love with myself. I’m present in the moment, most moments, and truly conscious of what a delicious opportunity life is and how each smidge of time contains within it magic.
There are clues, and signs, and whispers continuously. I pay attention now and am learning how to listen better, hear more clearly, and decipher with better accuracy the messages being sent. I am working on discernment. And allowing things to unfold gently, slowly.
I’m learning to savor life. Before, I inhaled it so it wouldn’t inhale me first.
A few months ago I felt an urge to share something very personal.
I see your collective eye roll…as if I haven’t already gone there with you.
Well, we’re about to go deeper.
I was certain I needed to tell this tale. The words were sprinting to my fingertips. Just SO ready. And then…I curled my hands up into fists. Probably hit the elliptical and shoved ear buds in blocking out my own voice.
Then the signs flew round me like papers lose in a storm.
I have to SPEAK UP! You need to be seen, she says. You can help so many people, he says. Mountain lions, moths, spiders, a great white shark. I must not retreat. People I don’t know whisper in my ear…Sister Rosemary, girls who have been taken and sold, people who wake up and find they are living with a stranger, betrayed.
If I SPEAK UP another person can exhale. And then she can SPEAK UP. And he can SPEAK UP. And then my SPEAKING UP would be worth it. Worth the baring of my self. By SPEAKING UP I get to own it. Acknowledge it. SPEAKING UP HEALS.
By SPEAKING UP I take back the energy that is expended ignoring, hiding, diminishing, rewriting, pretending. I stop not listening. Then, when I hear what’s being said, I act. I make choices. And those choices free me. Then I get rewarded for making good choices.
It’s so easy they teach this stuff in pre-school.
Only sometimes it takes until we are far into adulthood to be able to put these lessons into practice.
Yesterday I listened to Lena Dunham on NPR. I don’t have cable. I’ve heard of the HBO show, Girls, and assumed it was about beautiful mannequins that can wear knee-highs with high heels and not look like fetish girls or hookers. They have jobs that require them to dress in expensive clothing, but they don’t really work. Buried within the episodes, because this is HBO, is a quirky, disturbing message of some sort. And for sure there is a quest to find love, because that’s what girls do.
She was talking about her book, I’m Not That Kind of Girl. She spoke in short, crystalized sentences that matter-of-factly spilled out things like, I’m hideous, in such a way that you didn’t feel at all compelled to cradle her but to nod in agreement. Not because she is, but because you have felt the same way about yourself.
And then she talked about being raped. In college. And how she wondered at the time if it really was rape. When she tried to talk about it with friends she wasn’t crystal clear but confused, perhaps by her own design so that she didn’t have to accept that she was deserving of rape.
Now, no one deserves to be raped. But that’s how it can feel. I’m not worthy of love, but I guess I’m worthy of rape.
That’s how I felt when I was raped. In the middle of the night. In a perfectly silent way. And I never said a word about it. Until recently with a few friends. And now, with all of you.
Instead of walking home after a party at a friend’s house I slept in his housemate’s bedroom. In his twin bed. Pushed up against the wall. I asked three times – are you sure it’s alright? Are you sure he won’t be coming home? Are you sure I shouldn’t just sleep on the couch?
He did come home. And I didn’t wake up right away. And when I did he was inside me. I just let him finish. I didn’t say a word. I didn’t SPEAK UP. I didn’t yell. I said absolutely nothing. I did absolutely nothing.
The ME Then is so mad right now.
He left the room. I left not long after, invisible as I slipped out the door and walked home. I crawled into my bed and went to sleep. And never said a word about what happened.
And that pisses the ME Now off in a huge way. That was a BIG CHOICE MOMENT. I chose to be silent. My response showed me just how much I valued me.
Not much. At least not enough to SPEAK UP.
Maybe nothing would have been done. My little voice certainly wouldn’t have stopped campus rape. But the process of SPEAKING UP would have started the process of healing. That’s a powerful place to start.
Movements start from one person who found a way to heal.
When I sat at the keys this morning I had absolutely no intention of telling you about when I was raped. Since that moment a few months ago when I felt the urge to tell you I couldn’t pinpoint a reason why it had to be said. I needed a good enough reason to put it out there because I was afraid of how I would be affected by saying, I was raped. And I wanted there to be a purpose beyond my need to heal.
I fully intended to write about signs and second acts and how important it is to be vulnerable and open. I wanted to write about a 5 hour and 45 minute conversation with a wise stranger that shook me up a bit. Taught me to not be SO sure how things will unfold. To recognize that massive shifts happen and the unthinkable becomes plausible.
Then I received a Facebook message from an 18 year-old college girl. She’s never been married. She’s never even had a relationship. Somehow she found the book and the blog and was moved to get in touch with me.
While rape is commonplace in every country, she lives in a country where it’s brutal and out in the open.
We traded messages. In the midst of our conversation she said she “…never had anyone to talk to about anything when confused…” She wondered if she could talk to me.
It was at that moment that I took off, running full speed in the dark, with Lena Dunham hot on my trail.
Thank you, Lena.
Finally…Moths have been everywhere lately. Unfolding their wings in my dreams, laying in gravel at my feet, getting caught in my hair. And here is what they have to say:
Moth offers the gifts of seeing in the dark and finding the least bit of light. When you are feeling overwhelmed by darkness, use Moth medicine to help you see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
Or maybe the light isn’t at the end of the tunnel. Maybe it is somewhere else, somewhere unexpected. Moth’s connection to the Moon confers the gifts of intuition, psychic awareness and dream answers. Moth can intuitively find the light, even when others may not notice it.
Use these gifts of optimism and faith to see your way through the darkness, not to deny the darkness. This is not blind faith (though the shadow side of Moth energy is blind faith, as well as following a false light) or seeing the world through rose-colored glasses. This is knowing that the least bit of light is enough and faith that that bit of light is out there, nearer than you may think.