Here is My Power

I am a strong person. Years of dance training and a current love of spin class has left my legs powerful, and a natural upper body strength combined with frequent heavy lifting at work has given me a solid trust in the amount of damage my fists can do. That being said, I don’t stand a chance against a man. No woman does.

My body was built to withstand the excruciating pain of childbirth; to carry the weight of a friend’s bad day or the bouncy excitement of a toddler wanting to fly; to provide a sanctuary and safe embrace for someone in need. It was never designed to overpower a man’s intention, and it will never be able to. The day I realized this and allowed myself to accept it was terrifying for me, because it meant I had opened a door of awareness that could never be closed. On that day I had been playing with my boyfriend at the time and he took my arms and pinned me down, with little to no effort. I was laughing and demanding that he release me, but on the inside I had a momentary flash of sickness to my stomach. I am a 5’7, 140lbs. woman with fiery Scottish and Ukrainian blood in my veins. He was a slim 5’10, 160lbs. English boy in the army. Physically speaking, if you had looked at the two of us and not known anything about our history, the average person might have said I would be able to outweigh and beat him in an arm wrestle. Yet, in the moment that my arms were pinned I realized all of that meant absolutely nothing, and that I was entirely helpless. If he was able to incapacitate me while in a playful mood, I stood absolutely no chance of protecting myself against someone fueled by adrenaline and a need to feel in control. Since that day, I have been hyper sensitive to my surroundings. My previous belief that I’d somehow muster the strength to fight off an attacker was completely stripped away, and I have lived with a constant prickling of the hair on the back of my neck whenever I realize I am alone with a stranger.

The boyfriend who pinned me soon turned in to someone who I feared but could not stop loving, as he slowly began revealing his beliefs. I would never be his equal. He told me that part of the reason he chose to pursue law enforcement was to target pretty girls and give them tickets because he was tired of them getting free drinks at bars. Every bill we had was either split or paid by me, and if we were to ever get engaged he would ask that I pay for half of the ring because he shouldn’t get stuck with that expense JUST because he was born male. I was his property, his “stuff”. He hid me from his friends and was suspicious of me every time I went out without him. We drank every time we were together, and he would make sure I got drunk most times. Toward the end of the relationship he would only have sex if he believed I was drunk (I learned to pretend because that was the only time he showed me any affection), and the things he would say to me in the moment often left me feeling used at the end of the night. The playing stopped. When my depression would creep up he turned his back and told me he found himself caring less and less. Women are all going to hurt him eventually, and we are all cheaters. I belonged to him, but he didn’t want me.

I endured this for nearly a year before my will to love myself won out over the desperate need to make him understand that I loved him. I couldn’t understand how a 22 year-old man could possibly harbor so much hate and resentment in his heart, nor how he found it so easy to lash out at anyone’s attempt to be kind. I later found out some more things about his past behaviour that nobody knew at the time of us meeting, and if I had known then what I know now I would have never even bothered to learn his name.

 

Tragically, I learned 22 year-old Elliot Rodger’s name this last week. I learned of a man so deeply entrenched in rape culture and the belief that women exist solely for the purpose of pleasing him that he planned out an attack so vicious and disgusting that he killed himself immediately after. The coward couldn’t even stick around long enough to revel in all his expected glory. How are we supposed to give him a parade for ridding the world of Katherine Cooper, Veronika Weiss, Christopher Michael-Martinez, Cheng Yuan Hong, George Chen, and Weihan Wang if he’s not around to officiate it? Elliot, congratulations. You have achieved ultimate notoriety and fame. That’s what you wanted, isn’t it? To be famous and have everyone know your name? By your reasoning, you would be COVERED in women wanting you and apologizing for not being attracted to you before had you not killed yourself. Whoops! Boy, your face must be red.

Elliot Rodger, fuck you.

To all media outlets pulling theories out of their asses to explain why this might have happened, fuck you. His reasons were made painfully clear in his videos and written letters. This man hated women and wanted us to suffer for not bowing at his feet. It’s as simple as that, and to try to say he was bullied by a high school crush or he was on medication or had taken other drugs is a slap in the face to the families of the victims as well as the survivors of any sort of abuse or attacks. I don’t understand why it’s so hard for media to admit that a rich white boy in America was capable of pulling off something so heinous and outright evil while in charge of his faculties, but that’s the truth of it. If his skin had been ANY other colour, I guarantee you all of the headlines would have a very different tone to them. Now we are entering the obligatory post-traumatic event period where the rich, old white men in congress (ah, that’s why his skin colour is suddenly irrelevant) have to pretend they’re going to change gun laws and offer actual support for victims of attacks. Speeches will be made, fists will be raised, money will change hands, and then nothing will happen until the next murder spree.

There are plenty of good, loving men in the world. I believe that with all of my heart because I am lucky enough to know some of them. There are intelligent, bright, compassionate people everywhere you go. I never want to forget that or have my views tainted by the horror stories. But I can not sit by quietly and pretend to be okay with the everyday threats made against my gender. It has carried on far too long. I may not be able to physically fight my way to being considered an equal, but I can sure as hell use my voice. The force of us banding together and supporting each other is unstoppable. We are not silent, and we do not have to accept this.

Women, we hold our power. Now, more than ever, is the time to support each other. Don’t whisper about the girl falling over drunk in the bar, go make sure she has a ride home and get her to have a glass of water. Don’t shame someone else’s body just because it’s not your idea of perfect, celebrate the fact that we were all born with some common features and be happy that we all carry our own stories and strengths. When you see each other being mistreated, step up and be a support system. This world is hard enough for us to exist in, we need to be on the same team.

Men, police each other. Make it cool to be the guy who calls out his friends when they make disgusting comments about a woman’s body as she walks by. If you love and respect women, don’t let being in a crowd change that, no matter what. Don’t be the guy who hangs on a girl’s shoulder at a party and invades her personal space to compliment her hair or say she smells good. Remember that lots of us will instantly be worried when we realize we’re alone with you and you happen to be blocking the door. Be aware of your body language, and be aware of ours.

We can all do so much better. My deepest and most heartfelt condolences go out to the families and loved ones of Katherine Cooper and Veronika Weiss, as well as to the families and loved ones of the men who were struck down for no reason other than being in a madman’s way. You all deserved something much greater in this life and it’s an insult to have your names associated with someone so unworthy of the air he breathed.

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I Will Always Hang Up First

The physical act of being left behind or even just the feeling of being emotionally shooed away has always caused me unbearable anxiety and panic. When I was a child I would get myself so worked up every time my mom would get ready to leave for a date or a night with her friends that I eventually began giving myself ear infections out of sheer stress. I have never in my life waited to hear the person I was talking to hang up their phone; I have always hung up first. One of the reasons I never host parties or casual get-togethers at my house is that I don’t want to put myself in a situation where people have to eventually leave me. I became the leader of my group of friends in middle and high school because I knew that if everyone looked up to me they wouldn’t walk away. I can’t, and have never been able to, deal with being left behind.

It stands to reason, then, that I am a certifiable loon for actively pursuing a relationship with a man who will constantly leave me.

When I was younger my family and I thought it was simply the idea of being alone in a room that caused me to panic, but as I got older I realized I was fine with my own company and that it was just the steps that lead to it that put me in an emotional frenzy. I’ve wondered what could have started it, and to be honest it didn’t take me very long to figure it out. I’m confident there were two events in my tiny years that caused a lasting fear of having someone walk away, and I bet that if my parents are reading this they can probably think of them, too.

I believe I was around 2 or 3 when my parents got divorced and my dad moved away. I don’t remember anything that was said or done during that time, but for years after that when dad would visit we eventually had to take him back to the airport or he would get back in his car to go home…and I was left behind. When I was 4, I had to get surgery on my hip. I obviously had no understanding of what was going on, only that I kept going to doctor appointments and had to wait in stiff, officey-smelling rooms while my mom talked. On the day of the surgery I was with my mom in a hallway when a nurse picked me up and carried me down to the operating room, kicking and shrieking the whole way because she didn’t let me hug my mom or say goodbye. To this day, when I think of that moment I can remember how frantic and terrified I was and it brings me right back to that feeling. I remember thinking that if I had held on to mom a little tighter the nurse might not have taken me right away and I could have just gone home.

I don’t blame either of my parents for either of those situations. Getting divorced was the best thing they could have done for themselves and for my sister and me, and if I hadn’t gotten the surgery I wouldn’t be walking today. Both of those things had to happen. The alternative option would be to have a dad who never came to visit while I spent my life in a wheelchair, and I am thankful for the reality I have. My hope is that by writing it down, I will find a way to fix it (as has been my way of finding solutions in the past).

Boy and I have been together since May of last year. Due to the nature of his profession, he leaves town for training exercises. Since we’ve been dating, he’s left about 3 or 4 times for up to two weeks at a time. I hate it. I love him and I support him in his dreams and want to see him succeed and keep reaching higher, and I know that part of my job as his partner is to be his cheerleader, but god do I ever hate it. Friends in similar situations have told me that it eventually starts getting easier, but it just keeps getting worse every time. Right now I am supporting him from two provinces away until his training finishes in May, and I have cried myself to sleep the last two nights in a row. I have tried rationalizing with myself and saying that this isn’t about me, it’s about him. I’ve tried pretending it doesn’t bother me, and I’ve tried tricking myself in to thinking he’ll be home soon. The problem is that you can’t rationalize a fear, and you can’t trick a feeling. This has been a problem for me my entire life and a few months of love isn’t going to magically make it disappear.

I normally try to end my posts with some sort of final point that ties everything together and makes it sound like everything’s got a happy ending, but I can’t do that tonight. I haven’t found a way to get past my issues, and sometimes that’s the reality. Right now I feel fine when I am busy and around my coworkers and friends, but as soon as I come home at the end of the day I take off my jacket and wait for the wave to crash over me.

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Hug Gigi For Me

I don’t know how to mourn. I have had to say goodbye and bury my pets over the years, but I have never had to bury a human. My Baptsi passed away earlier this week and I don’t know what to do. She was the only grandparent I ever felt close to and saw on a somewhat regular basis, and over the last year or so we had also began talking on the phone more often. My mother’s parents passed away years ago, but I never had a relationship with either of them past my childhood…and the one I did have with my maternal grandmother was strained, anyways. The closest I have ever been to losing someone close to me was when my aunt passed away years ago, and even then, we hadn’t actually spoken to each other for years before that. Now, my Baptsi’s gone…

As I said, I don’t know how to mourn. I certainly know how to cry, but I have never learned how to work through the grieving process in a healthy way. My cat that I had my entire life passed away two years ago this month and I still can’t sleep properly because I don’t have her purring by my head at night. I have cried about losing Baptsi before saying goodbye, and my heart was ripped open when I realized she wouldn’t be here to see me get married or raise a family of my own. All of the things that became tradition during my trips out to Calgary to see family will now have little to no meaning, as a lot of them were centered around her and the timing involved with picking her up and finding activities she could attend in her wheelchair or walker. These kind of things have popped in to my mind over the last few days and caused my breath to hitch and my eyes to water, but for the most part I have completely buried her loss in the part of my brain that is rarely accessed. I’m afraid of what I will have to go through if I open up that box in my mind, so I keep pushing it further and further back.

On January 2nd, I decided it was finally time to start cleaning out some of my old junk that I haven’t used in years. I found a box of things from my teen years and in it was a small box of some of the jewellery Baptsi had given me over the years. I found a long gold chain with a diamond/crystal-encrusted elephant pendant and for some reason I decided to wear it for the rest of the night. I put it on again the next morning and went to work, and shortly before 10am my dad called me to say Baptsi had been hospitalized with pneumonia and congestive heart failure. I held the pendant in my fist for the rest of the day and fell asleep wearing it that night. I have worn it every day since then, including the day my dad called me to say she was gone. That night, I went for a long drive with the necklace tucked under my shirt and my hand holding it to my chest.

I’m flying out to Calgary tomorrow to be with my family for the funeral. I’m scared to see my dad’s face. I don’t want to cry in front of him because I want him to feel like he can be vulnerable and let me take care of him for a change, but I truly have no idea how my body’s going to react when I see him. I’ve been able to pretend that Baptsi’s passing isn’t my reason for flying out there, but when I see him I know the reality will hit me.

I was talking to my mom the other night because she always knows what I need to hear when I’m lost, and she pointed out something rather remarkable. It could be a series of coincidences, but as someone who believes in a more spiritual side of the universe, I find it comforting. I was in Calgary for Christmas, and Baptsi was in good health. Her 85th birthday was earlier in the month, and she had her Christmas meal with my uncle and his side of the family, and then she had Christmas with my dad and the rest of us. She got to see her two sons and their families (including her grandchildren and two great grandchildren on my uncle’s side), and everyone is in good health and on the path to building good lives. We’re all doing alright, and everyone’s grown up. Her husband (my Gigi) passed away in the late 1980’s and she’s been missing him ever since. As she once told me, “the idea of another man repulse[d her].  [She is] still married to Gigi, nobody will ever be better than he was.”

Sometimes, you are ready to go. She had one more birthday, one more Christmas, and one more visit with her children and grandchildren before leaving her body behind to go hold her husband again. She lived a full life prior to my Gigi’s passing, and ever since then she has missed him so much. My dad, stepmom, and uncle were all in the hospital with her when she passed away, and she wasn’t in any pain. I believe my Baptsi was tired. Her body couldn’t carry her soul’s memories any longer, so she had to leave it behind. She had excellent care while in the hospital and she took her last breath on January 7th knowing she was loved by all of us.

 

I feel you around me, and I will cherish my last memories with you forever. My heart is hurting knowing I can’t see you anymore, but I know that wherever you are, Gigi’s with you…and that’s what you’ve been waiting for for over 25 years. Please help dad get through the service on Monday and give him the strength to cry. I love you so much.

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My Vagina, My Rules

People face unsolicited advice every day, whether it be on the clothes they wear, the music they listen to, or the food they eat. I don’t think anybody’s managed to live their life free of this, but if someone has I would certainly love to find out how they did it. I have reached a point in my life where I gladly accept unsolicited judgement as long as it’s about anything other than my vagina.

People absolutely love telling me what I should and shouldn’t be doing with my own body. As a woman in what is supposedly a free country with education and healthcare available even to cats and dogs, it frustrates me to no end that I have spent most of my adult life defending even the most basic choices I have made for myself. When I was in high school and wanted to enjoy being young and having fun with my friends, I was accused of being a lesbian or a “man hater” because I didn’t want to have a boyfriend or lose my virginity in a hurry. After I graduated, the pressure intensified and my then-boyfriend decided to hide condoms and lube in my dresser as a “subtle” hint that he was ready for me to have sex with him (shockingly, it didn’t work). When I eventually felt ready to take that step with someone else, a whole new world of questions, examinations, and judgement rolled out.

At that time, I had my very first pap test. The doctor who saw me was the last doctor I have ever respected when it comes to my body, because he respected me and explained everything. A couple years before that, I had met with a surgeon who tried to scare me in to not ever having sex because the chance of my hip becoming dislocated was high (which, as a trusting teenager in a stressful situation, I believed). Since that day, I have met doctors and healthcare “professionals” who have slut-shamed me for having sex while in monogamous relationships. One told me to relax immediately after telling me, in so many words, that I deserved whatever STI’s I encountered while having sex in a monogamous relationship, because she needed to start the pap test and my muscles were too tight. One refused to discuss various methods of birth control with me because it made him uncomfortable, and then proceeded to try to write me a prescription for the exact method I flat out refused 2 minutes earlier.

Earlier this week I had my boyfriend of 8 months spend the night at my house for a belated New Year’s Eve. The day after, I found out my grandmother passed away and left work early to collect myself. As I walked in the door, I ran in to my landlord. She saw that I had been crying, so I told her what happened. All in the same breath, she told me she was sorry but that I shouldn’t mourn too long because I’m holding her spirit on Earth, and then she told me she could hear my boyfriend’s voice in the suite the other night. While she’s happy that I have found someone, she wants me to make sure he is The One before it’s too late. The walls in the house are paper thin, so she just wants to make sure I’m not making a mistake. I shouldn’t settle, and there’s just no way of knowing whether my boyfriend is marriage material this soon in to the relationship. Oh, and if he starts coming over too much for their liking they will raise my rent.

I feel it’s important to note that not only was this the first time he’s been to my house in the entire time we’ve been dating, but she decided to tell me all of this while I had tears streaming down my face due to losing my grandmother not even 3 hours earlier.

What I do with my body has and will always be my business, and my business only. That being said, if I am doing something that directly affects you, by all means, feel free to discuss it with me. Should I ever have sex on your dinner table during a family function, let me know your opinion. If you are offended when I replace all the headshots on a game of Guess Who? with pictures of my vagina, do tell. Hell, if we’re watching a movie and I suddenly start violently humping your leg, please stop me. But, if I am in the privacy of my (or my boyfriend’s) home having healthy, safe sex with a man I love, keep any and all opinions to yourself. I am proud of the choices I have made. I waited until I was 100% ready to have sex for the first time, and I can count the number of partners I have had on my thumbs.  I don’t share myself easily, and to imply that I do anything you must regret about your own past is not only ignorant but incredibly damaging. I was raised to follow my gut and be aware of my choices, but so many young women today weren’t given those tools during childhood. When you have grown up believing your only worth comes in the form of what you have to offer the opposite sex, you are so much more susceptible to the harmful messages being shoved down our throats. You can be a perfectly wonderful person and have lots of sexual partners, or you can be a perfectly wonderful person and not have any at all. You are not your sexual experience, no matter what anybody else tries to tell you.

I have said before that I am an advocate of healthy relationships, whether they be between two men, two women, one of each…let’s just say as long as both parties are human, it’s all good to me. As long as you are taking care of yourself and making decisions that feel right in that secret part of your heart that no one else has access to, I truly could not care less about what happens in your bedroom (or kitchen, or livingroom, or car, or…wherever). The reason I don’t care is that it has literally nothing to do with me, nor does it have any effect on me or my life whatsoever. I only wish the same courtesy could be extended by anyone who has ever thought it was within their rights to not only force their ideals and opinions on others, but also assume their way is correct.

My vagina, my rules.

 

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Ready for January

Depression and I have grown well acquainted over the last few years. I get small, manageable bouts of it throughout the year, but I consider September to December my danger zone. Right now I’m in one of the deepest holes I’ve ever fallen in to and I can’t find anything to help me climb out of it.

I tend not to view my life through the eyes of a victim because I know how good my overall situation is. That being said, the vast majority of the bad things that have happened in my life have occurred in those final months of the year, and it’s no coincidence that family birthdays (mine, included) and special holidays fall in that time frame. My 23rd birthday was on Saturday and I have spent the two days since then lying in bed, unable to move or get dressed or even turn on a light because the idea of letting the world know I’m alive makes my heart ache. I’ve ignored calls and texts from family and friends and they’ve assumed it’s because I had such a great time on my birthday that I’m hungover and basking in post-celebration dizziness, but the truth is that I spent the final minutes of my birthday pulled over on the side of the road, sobbing in to my steering wheel and rocking back and forth in a desperate attempt to comfort myself. The one person I wanted to lean on couldn’t give me what I needed, and the only other person awake was saying things I didn’t want to hear. What should have been a 35-40 minute drive took me just under an hour and a half.

As a child, birthdays and Christmas were always spent together as a family. My dad would fly out and stay with us for a weekend or a few days extra, and we’d all celebrate together. I don’t know whether my youth blinded me to the tension, or if I internalized it in an attempt to pretend everything was fine, or if my parents were just better at hiding problems then than they were as time went on, but in any case, it made me happy just to have everyone together. As I got older, it became painfully obvious that the holiday joy I looked forward to was more like a masquerade ball and the guards came down only when everyone went to bed. My sister was never one to soften words or filter thoughts, so I took it upon myself to maintain the peace by being extra cheery and playing up the “little girl excited for family time” role. I’d break every now and then because I was a teenage girl and hormones had that effect on me, but for the most part I remember keeping it together until I was alone in my room (this was also the time when I first started feeling depressed and had found an unfortunate way of dealing with it).

I moved out of my mom’s house in September when I was 18, and things changed drastically. Our parting was on horrible terms and we ended up not speaking for roughly four months. During that time I felt my heart harden as I put all my energy in to keeping myself busy, and then felt it shatter as I watched my pets suffering at the hands of a selfishly neglectful roommate. I spent that Halloween sending my friend away to have fun while I packed my dog in to my car and drove around with her whimpering and shaking in the backseat for 3 hours because she was terrified of my roommate’s friends and the loud party he was having. My dad came out for my birthday and bought me supplies for my house, and I could see the disappointment and sadness in his eyes when he saw where I lived and how sideways things had gone. I saw my sister regularly and she gave me a birthday card from my mom that I initially refused to open. My dad flew out for Christmas as usual and he and I spent Christmas day having breakfast at a Denny’s because he wanted to make sure I had a real meal and neither of us wanted to stay in my house. My mom and I didn’t start talking again until sometime in late January, and then I moved to Vancouver in May.

Ever since that winter, the pressure on my sister and I to keep the peace between our parents has intensified. That’s not to say they would throw punches if they were in the same room, they just both have needs that two grown daughters with schedules of their own can’t always accommodate. I love both of my parents fiercely, but they are complete polar opposites. My dad keeps things to himself and can’t relax for 5 minutes without getting anxious and feeling the need to clean or build something. He’s a provider and rarely takes time to do something just for the sake of making himself happy. The things that he’s open about make for great conversation (and both of my parents have a wicked sense of humour), but certain things are completely off limits and I have always had to guess how he feels in certain situations. My mom is an entirely emotional being and will talk about almost anything you ask of her. She would gladly give up her own meals or comfort for the sake of feeding or caring for an animal in need, and she sets aside time to treat herself in some way at least once a week. She, too, hasn’t mastered relaxation, though not for a lack of trying. My sister and I were her life for 20 years, and when we were both moved out she didn’t know what to do.

Both of my parents have told me several times that they haven’t forgiven the other for how things went down during those four months of hell. I have absolutely dreaded having them in the same room ever since then because as much as we all smile and pretend nothing’s wrong, I can feel the resentment and tension in the air and I know that it wouldn’t be that way if it weren’t for me. So, I try not to mention the other when I talk to one of them on the phone, and if we do all happen to be together I am exhausted by the time I go to bed because I’m watching everyone’s body language like a hawk and trying to steer clear of any conversation that could create disagreements or further tension. I feel my chest tighten when I think of my birthday or Christmas because I know a very delicate dance is about to be required in order to make everyone happy and not have any feelings get hurt because one person thinks I’m favouring someone else over them. I tend to become overly full of Christmas cheer starting in late November in an effort to distract myself and focus on something else; I listen solely to Christmas music, I turn on my coloured lights in my house every day, and I spend as much time as possible in malls and outdoor holiday exhibits. The more I watch other people the more lost in my head I become, and then I don’t have to think about what’s at hand.

I suppose I don’t know how to relax, either. I’ve been trained to watch and read people so I can diffuse situations before they get out of control, and it’s something I can’t turn off even when I make a conscious effort to do so. What’s even more frustrating is that I seem to attract the type of people that need constant diffusing or reading because they’re either one comment away from a fight or they give me no cues at all. As much as I hate it, being tightly wound is what feels normal for me. I really do hate it. Constantly being on watch for someone to melt down usually leads to me letting people walk all over me in order to avoid a conflict, and when I’ve finally had enough and I speak up, I get chastised and and brought down because it comes across as me being childish or stubborn. For example, I hate doing shots. I prefer drinking wine or other things I can sip and enjoy at my own pace. I’ve told my friends this more times than I can count, especially after my best friend ordered a shot that’s always disgusted me for my birthday last year. I warned her then that if it ever happened again I wouldn’t be humouring them and I would leave it on the table. This year, it happened again. I told my boyfriend beforehand that I would not be doing any shots that I didn’t recognize or ask for, and he laughed it off and said “that’s not how birthdays work”. At dinner, my best friend and her fiance were teasing me and threatening to buy me a gross shot, and I firmly told them not to do it. The fiance disappeared for a bit and when he came back I knew he had ordered something for me. Immediately, my stomach tightened in anger and I asked him what it was. He thought it was a great joke and refused to tell me, and then the waitress brought out what she called a “cumshot”. You can take a guess as to what it looked like. The teasing began and I felt my heart pounding in my chest as I fought back angry tears and told my friend to move out of my way so I could go to the bathroom. Unfortunately, she came with me, and I had to pretend everything was fine when it wasn’t. The rest of the dinner was ruined because there was a tense energy around the table, and once again I knew it was because of me.

Here I am, two days later, and I can’t bring myself to leave my house because I know I can’t handle running in to anybody I know. It’s not right, but I have to save my cheerful act for work or I won’t make it through the week. I am more than ready for January.

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What Are You Looking At?

I have stared at people my whole life. That’s hardly breaking news, considering every person on the planet tends to do the same. The thing is that I do it for exactly the same reason every time, and I’m looking at exactly the same body part, no matter who it is.

When I was a kidlet, I had two wishes that I thought about constantly. I wanted to be 6 feet tall when I grew up, and I wanted to be able to sit cross-legged. Thankfully for my dating prospects and fashion choices, the first wish never came true. Unfortunately for obsessive little me, neither did the second one (the screws and plate in my left hip made well sure of that). I would always be the one kid sitting on her knees or with her legs straight out in front of her. School assemblies were brutal…partly because it’s cruel to expect any 9 year old to sit still on a hard gym floor for over an hour, and partly because on top of that I was the kid hugging my knees trying to take up the same amount of space as my friends. Not only that, but I was barely taller than a beagle until puberty kicked in around 8th grade. Dance classes were a different beast, but at least in that setting I could pretend I was stretching differently and exercising my creative right as an arTISTE.

I would watch other kids cross their feet while standing and sink down comfortably to a cross-legged position. I’d secretly practice it in my room at home and get frustrated that my left leg refused to learn the choreography, and then I’d give up and move on until the next day when it would inevitably happen again. I stretched every day and got to the point of being able to rest my forehead on my knees when sitting with my legs straight out, and have my toes resting against my ears when lying on my stomach doing a back arch. But I still couldn’t sit cross-legged. I could never. sit. cross-legged. Everyone said to me, “Why do you care? It’s nothing special,” to which I always replied, “That’s because you can do it”. That was the point; it wasn’t special. It was a thing every normal person could do. Like counting to ten on your fingers or eating with a fork. The fact that I couldn’t do it meant I was the human equivalent of the skeleton Halloween decoration missing an arm. It still works and looks pretty normal, but…not entirely the way you wanted.

So, I started watching other people do what I couldn’t. I would watch the way their legs turned out and settled nicely to the sides, and I would visualize myself doing it someday.

In my teens I met with a doctor to talk about my options for giving my hip a more permanent fix that didn’t cause so much pain during day to day living. One of his first suggestions was obviously a hip replacement, and since I had always associated those with old people I was hesitant. This was well before I had even considered having sex for the first time, but I needed reassurance that if I had it done I would be able to carry and have children without incident. He told me that wouldn’t be a problem, but then he decided to play Abstinence Fairy and warned me that having sex could dislocate my hip because of the way my legs would likely be bent. I later found out that he said that just to scare me in to not having sex (what is up with doctors these days?), but I’d be lying if I said his words didn’t stick around in the back of my mind for a while. Well that’s just great, I thought, if I’m having a romantic evening that ends up in the bedroom and suddenly I turn to screaming spaghetti, there is no way I’d be able to undo that mood killer. I guess I’m dying alone unless I pull a Mary and somehow become pregnant without having sex (pfft, yeah, we all know what you did, girlfriend).

So, hip replacement-less and now full of fear, I carried on living…and watching other people. I loved watching slow motion videos of professional dancers and gymnasts completing routines because I could see the way all of their muscles worked together to do incredible things. I would watch my friends and myself in the mirrors at our dance classes and memorize what it looked like for different bodies to bend in exactly the same way. I was enthralled by all of it. It amazed me that two people could do the same thing, and that one of them would do it naturally while the other would be working hard. I learned to focus my attention on the things I could do (or learn to do), but even though I stopped actively trying to bend in a way that was a physical impossibility, I never stopped watching. When people bend down to pick things up, most of them tend to turn their knees out slightly and bend at the hip. Both of my knees turn slightly to the right unless I consciously change it.

Today, Boss 2 was up on a ladder and was turned sideways. He had his right side against the ladder and his left knee turned out so he could rest his left foot on the rung closest to his right knee. I ended up watching him work simply because I wondered again what it would be like to turn out without thinking. I’ve been called out on it in the past by people wondering what I was looking at, but I earned enough weird looks as a kid when I was honest that I’ve learned to just say, “Nothing”.

All you normal people and your damn forks…

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“Careful, it’s sharp.”

I have had a tumultuous relationship with knives and their friends for years. My skin is covered with evidence of our disagreements and brawls, and my memories are speckled with various incidents and accidents. Right now I have a scar on my forearm (about 2.5 inches in length) that I earned while doing the dishes earlier this year. I also have a scar on my wrist from a scalpel mishap while carving pumpkins back in middle school around 9 or 10 years ago. Every so often, I will be minding my own business doing nothing noteworthy and a memory will come rushing back for seemingly no reason. It happened last night while I was making dinner, and I feel like enough time has passed for me to feel okay talking about it.

I’ve mentioned before that my last relationship wasn’t healthy (nor could it be considered so by anyone’s standards), but the end of it was when I realized I had put myself in the very situation my mother had spent my entire childhood arming me against. We were living together in an apartment and I finally broke up with him after he admitted to cheating with several people. I still remember exactly what I was wearing and where I was sitting when I told him “I’m done”, but that’s irrelevant. What followed after that was the most emotionally draining and mentally manipulative 5 months of my life. We continued to live together until I could find a place to move to – he slept in the living room, and I kept the bedroom. I had to endure seeing him and feeling his presence around me every single day, when all I wanted to do was scream and run away. He wanted us to act like friendly roommates…make meals together, watch TV together, go to the grocery store together. He would cry just loud enough so that I could hear him no matter where I was in the apartment, and he made me feel like a monster for not wanting to take him back or listen to his problems. Every time I left the house he would ask where I was going, and if it was somewhere he wanted to be he would ask me to take him along. He came home drunk one night after I had painted my nails and he grabbed my hand so he could look closer at the design. He used my razor in the shower and when I took that away he used my toothbrush (that only happened once and then I hid that as well). He cried often and told me he had no reason to live and that he dreamed about ending it all. When he cried, he would beg me to let him sleep in my bed so he could feel close to me. He made me give him a hug before I left for a weekend to see my family because he was going to miss me. I became responsible for his life.

One night, he snapped. He knew about this blog and that I was making a video diary and he found out about a date I had gone on. When I was reading in bed that night, I heard a loud bang on the other side of my wall that was followed by loud sobbing. At this point I had already gotten in the habit of blocking my door at night because I didn’t trust that he would leave me alone, so I was scared to go find out what he had thrown. A few seconds later he angrily texted me, demanding to know what I was thinking by going out with someone, and then I heard more sobbing and muffled screams as he yelled in to his pillow on the other side of my wall. My heart was absolutely racing, and even my cat (who I kept in my room with me that night) was looking scared. I don’t remember how much time passed before things reached their worst point, but it didn’t take too long.

After one particularly rough night, I woke up in the morning to get ready for work. When I walked out to the kitchen to have breakfast, the first thing I noticed was a large knife stabbed in to his bedside table. The second thing I noticed was that the knife had blood on the blade…as did the second knife sitting on the table beside it. He was gone (he left for work before I usually woke up), and there was no note or any sort of explanation. My body went cold and I felt the hair on the back of my neck raise. I grabbed my phone and called my sister, and broke down as soon as she answered the phone. She told me to take pictures and leave the knives exactly as I found them, but the damage had been done. He was making his point loud and clear, and I was terrified. I had become so isolated while with him that I only had two friends at the time, and I wasn’t very close with either of them. I knew that if something went wrong, nobody other than my bosses would know. He was in the house more often than I was, and my cat would be left alone with him. He got home before I did almost every night, and I could open the door to any number of scenarios. All of this was running through my head and I still had to go to work that day.

He got mad at me that night because I didn’t call him to find out if he was okay when I found the knives. He said I made it pretty clear that I didn’t care whether he was alive or dead, and that we needed to buy sharper knives because the ones we had didn’t do a good enough job. And then he laughed. When I went to bed, he snapped again. The sobbing was so loud that I couldn’t sleep. Some time passed before he calmed down, but eventually his violent sobs subsided to whimpers and he played the victim card hard enough to make me come out of my room and rub his back so he could fall asleep (remember, he had me convinced his life was in my hands). When he had dozed off, I went back to my bedroom and I waited. I knew I wouldn’t be sleeping that night, so I waited until I knew for sure that he was asleep. I called his cousin, told her what he had been doing, and told her to come over because I was calling the police. His cousin and the police both showed up at the same time, and after asking him some questions they decided to take him away for an overnight evaluation. In the meantime, they recommended that I spend time with his cousin so I wasn’t alone overnight. I stayed at her house for a few hours before deciding to go home (it was the middle of the night at this point), and then when she dropped me off at home he texted me from the hospital:

“Don’t worry… xx”

I had never realized how many knives we owned until that night. I spent a long time going through the entire apartment, bagging up every single knife, razor, pair of scissors, and blade that was in there, and I hid them in the trunk of my car. I had nightmares of him coming home all night long, and when I woke up for work the next morning the reality of the situation hit me hard. I felt sick to my stomach because I knew I wasn’t safe, but I had no idea how unsafe I was. The unknown is always scarier than the known because at least when you know what’s going to happen you can prepare for it. I didn’t know if my cat would be alive when I got home, nor did I know if I would be greeted with any other threats, verbal or otherwise. I didn’t even know if I would be alive within a week at the rate things were going.

Obviously this story has a happy ending because that happened over a year and a half ago and I’m writing about it now. As seemingly random as that memory was when it popped up while making dinner last night, I suppose I subconsciously remind myself of it all the time…because I have purposely never used those two types of knives since the day I saw them on the bedside table.

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When Did That Happen?

I woke up this morning feeling completely in love.

I don’t think anything hugely monumental happened overnight, but something relaxed in my mind and made me let go of what I was holding on to until now. I know the exact moment I realized I loved Boy a while ago, but I still kept part of my heart to myself so I could save face if I got hurt. A decision I didn’t know was on the line got made in my mind overnight, and now I’m dancing around my house wearing the socks with sticky bottoms my mom bought for me because she knows I lose control on laminate flooring.

He’s the last thing I think about before falling asleep. His laugh is one of my favourite sounds. I have the same amount of fun with him as I do with my best friends. And we make the best nachos together.

Giving in to what my heart wants feels nice. Sometimes I don’t trust it, but I think it chose wisely on this one…which is nice, because it led me down a bad path last night when it chose chips for dinner.

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What Makes a Good Friend?

I ask myself this question every now and then.

My answers now are substantially different from what they were when I was in elementary school (although having lots of candy to share with me is still a bonus). I thought about it again this morning when my best friend took it upon herself to send me a barrage of funny pictures and Buzzfeed articles after I poured my heart out to her about a problem I’m having. This girl gets me in a way I haven’t experienced with another friend, which is odd to me because we rarely need to have intensely deep conversations to reach that level of understanding with one another. She celebrates my successes as enthusiastically as if they were her own, and her heart breaks when I cry. She is most definitely a good friend and you can’t have her because she’s mine.

I was deep in thought while sweeping the floor at work (as one does), and I came to the conclusion that I have yet another idea of what it means to be a good friend. To me, a good friend is someone who knows exactly what they would need to say to completely destroy you, but would never do it. To know what would destroy someone, you have to know what matters the most to them in their entire world. You have to know their past, where their heart lies, who’s stepped on it before, and what’s given them strength to push forward. You have to have seen them fall down, rise up, and probably fall down again. You have to know what makes them get up in the morning. You don’t learn those things about a person without making a real connection with them.

 

Good friends also drink wine and carve pumpkins with me in the dark on a Monday night.

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May You Burn.

I have always believed the very worst humanity has to offer comes in the form of animal abusers and child molesters. There is a special circle of hell reserved for anyone who has ever looked at a child and thought, “I’d like to see you naked”.

I feel like society has been slightly numbed to some of the truly disgusting things we do to our own thanks to the Hollywood effect of making even the ugliest villains oddly handsome or otherwise appealing. If our favourite crime shows employed entirely undesirable people for the roles of predators I think it would be far more difficult to turn off the television and remain unfazed. The truth is, sometimes these people are pretty or handsome…but never in the eyes of the victim. They see a version of their attacker that nobody else in the world has been privy to, whether they want to or not.

She was 6 years old, and trusted you. You were friends with her family for years and spent many nights sleeping over after a fun night as a group. Who knows how long you were watching her…maybe it was the way she would animatedly tell stories at the dinner table and make up beautiful fantasy worlds that made you look at her differently. Perhaps it was her excited hugs when you came over to visit…those amazing, little girl squeezes that only come from children who are genuinely happy to have you around. Whatever it was, you decided you would burn it down. You looked in to those bright little eyes and said goodnight as she scampered off to her bedroom. You waited until everyone else was asleep, and then you made your way to her room. You knocked softly and slowly opened the door to see her lying there.

You could have done the right thing and walked away, but you didn’t. You woke her up and told her to come to your room. She was 6, of course she followed you. You took off her happy cartoon animal pajamas and tossed them on the floor, leaving her sitting on your bed completely vulnerable. On this first night you had only managed to work yourself up to taking pictures of her naked body, but oh, you certainly got over that fear real quick, didn’t you? One night of ruining a little girl’s faith in a man she trusted just wasn’t enough for you. You really needed to burn it down. This became a routine for you. Soon enough you became so comfortable with the idea of shattering her heart and terrifying her in to silence that you pressured her in to doing things that someone 10 years her senior should only be BEGINNING to consider…and still, she told no one, because she felt like she couldn’t. You made her feel like she had somehow deserved it. She hadn’t even lost all of her baby teeth yet.

You are the reason she will struggle to have healthy relationships for the rest of her life. You are the reason she will need years of therapy to convince herself that she was not at fault for your vile ways. You are the reason this little girl, years later, broke down under the weight of this secret and confided in her family. You are the reason I got a tearful call last night because her aunt thinks she failed at protecting her beloved little girl.

You burned it down. Her trust, her innocence, and her spirit. There are no words to describe what you deserve. You are completely worthless. The death penalty would be too good for you, you’ve earned the chance to let anyone who loves this girl to have 5 minutes alone with you. My wish for her is that she is someday able to forget what you ever looked like, although I know that’s not possible. If you can muster the decency to do one good thing in your life, let it be you turning yourself in and admitting what you have done.

I hope you burn. I’ll bring the kerosene.

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