#MeToo (Trigger Warning)

I have been thinking about sharing my story for many years. With the #Metoo movement trending, I think now may be the time. I am not looking for sympathy or pity. I am not looking for attention. And I feel a little pissed that I need to even say that I am not. What I am doing is sharing my story so that some can garner a greater understanding on how violence, sexual assault, and misconception is rampant in our culture. I am one of countless women you will encounter in your life time who have been changed forever by someone who is abusive. We have been told to be quiet about it. We have been told we will be judged about what happened to us. We have been told that it was our fault. We have been told that if we share we might be a preexisting condition. We have been told our story is not a worthy of a public audience. I reject what I have been told. I now share my story.

I have been raped 2 times in my life. The first time was when I was 17 years old. It would be considered date rape since I knew my attacker. He created a circumstance which lead to me having to spend the night at his house. We were just “friends”. I trusted him. In the middle of the night he attacked me. I froze. I did not move, I did not scream. I was paralyzed. My temporary paralysis made it a little difficult for him. But he kept trying. I remember falling back asleep with tears streaking down my face afraid to move.

When he drove me home the next morning, I did not speak a word to him. But he had a mouthful to say to me. He told me that if I said a word about it, he will tell everyone I am a whore. They would believe him because his family had money and I would be trying to ruin his reputation. He also said that I had to have lunch with him every week or he would tell everyone what happened. He picked me up at school every week for “lunch”. I would sit there and barely speak, he would go on and on about whatever. When he would drop me back off at school, he would always threaten me.

It took about 3 months for me to tell someone else what had happened. But once I did, it felt like a great weight had been lifted and that next week was the first time I did not go out to lunch. As soon as someone else knew my story, it did not feel like  it was a secret anymore and I no longer cared who he told. I don’t think he ever told anyone. But I sure did, even those who refused to believe me. But I let him torture me for 3 months.

The assault itself was bad. Yet, it was the emotional trauma I suffered week after week that did me in.  And the only reason I even told anyone was because my best friend saw a change in me and asked what was going on. Her and her mother listened and gave me support and the strength to stand up for myself.

The second time I was raped was in Milwaukee, WI at the GenCon gaming convention. I was 20 years old. I do not want to go into all the details. This event touched many lives and many that may read this blog. I do not want to trigger them.

I was raped by a stranger who got access to the hotel room I was staying at. I was heavily intoxicated from the night before. I was passed out. I was awoken by my friends asking me if I wanted that creep on top of me. (A bunch of us shared a hotel room at the convention.) I was not fully aware of what was going on. I awoke hours later by myself in the room. I knew something was wrong. My body felt violated. I had a foggy memory and pain in places I should not. Confused and emotional, I took a shower to wipe off the feeling of being dirty off. (Did not know I should not take a shower.)

Later I began to put the pieces together. Several people were coming up to me an asking if I was ok. Once I had confirmation as to what happened to me, I feel apart. I called my boyfriend at the time. He could not understand me and thought I told him that I cheated on him. It took one of my friends telling him they were taking me to the Police Station for him to fully grasp the situation. He eventually met me at the hospital.

At that time, Wisconsin law stated that you could give consent intoxicated. Therefore, even though I did not know the person and had witnesses, the police would not even going to question the individual. They said I could of consented and not remember. The rapist was from a well-established family in Milwaukee who was doing his residency as a medical doctor at the local VA hospital. Did I want to ruin his life? My rapist was also known to my witnesses. He was helping run the convention and was friends with the organizers. When my friends went to the organizers of the conference, the organizers took my rapists side and let him stay at the conference.

I still went to the hospital and had a rape kit done. My boyfriend at the time met me at the hospital. I stupidly insisted to stay at the conference because I was not going to let some asshole ruin my vacation. (Probably made this choice because of the first rape.) My boyfriend booked a room and regaled me with boring stories of WWII military maneuvers so I would fall asleep.

The next day, I was going to my friend’s hotel room to meet a bunch of people for dinner. I was in the elevator and a floor later my rapist stepped in. The elevator was packed with people. But I will never forget that ride up a few floors which seemed like forever. I got to my friend’s room, broke down and asked him to take me home. That night three of my male friends drove me back to Chicago.

This time I told my parents. I was soon in counseling. This counseling would last on and off for years. I would get triggered and have to go back. I could not sleep. I was scared of being in hotel rooms. It affected my relationships. At times, it affected my work when I was working in university housing.

Today, I am strong. I get triggered less often and when I do, I recognize it. I don’t watch certain movies. I still have the occasional issues with hotel rooms. I have a loving partner who is supportive and understanding. I have many friends who made sure that I was OK. Many of those friends were amazing men. Whether they stayed up all night with me because I was scared to sleep, or encouraged me to go to counseling after a work training triggered me, or just held me when I needed. I was lucky to have both male and female advocates. You know who you are and I am grateful for you being in my life and helping me on my healing journey. (Paul, Jeff, Eric, Michael, Glen, Wendell, Tim, Tracy, Jenny, Mary, Dino, and so many more.)

25 years later, the assaults are still fresh in my mind. But I learned that I am a survivor. I have also learned so many women have stories just like mine. When we hide these stories, it makes society complacent. I want the world to hear these stories. This is not the time for complacency. It is the time for action. When so many states are trying to change their definitions of what rape is, we need to stand and say NO! When rape culture invades our everyday existence, we need to scream back, you will not make me a victim! You will not make me worthless!! You will not make me at fault! Get out there and vote! The midterm elections are important and we can change the landscape of our state and federal government by electing people who will give us justice and a voice. I am a survivor.

Amateur Moves? Trump’s first week in

I have been thinking about all the gag orders for the executive agencies which the new Trump administration has attempted to put in place. At first, I thought the moves were a sign of not understanding how government works as well as a bit of paranoia. I thought that these moves were those of an amateur. Now, I am not so sure.

In my opinion, there are two types of take overs of a company, department, or office. The first is the wait and see approach. Someone comes in at the top and watches how things work for awhile. This person takes time with each employee and learns about their jobs, frustration, successes, and so forth to get an understanding of the organization. This executive is looking for buy in, trust, incremental changes, and eventually loyalty. I usually like this type of leader.

The second take over I have witness is one of control and power. The individual who comes in does not care about what you do in your job, how you feel about the company. They want to make change sometimes for change sake. This type of executive feels that they already know the solution and just starts instituting their vision. Usually, people below them feel unheard, not valued, and soon disgruntled. I find this type of leadership is selfish. Sure, it can help create  change quickly, but you ostracize large swaths of people. Eventually, it will bite you in the ass. Unless you have absolute control and no problem with firing.

I think Trump is that latter leader. He and his administration have a vision. They really do not care what people think. It is about ego and control. Therefore, for those of us who watch government, we might see amateur moves such as creating executive orders with out the guidance of entities who will be necessary for implementation as being a huge mess and not understanding how government works. We might see gag orders as paranoia and wanting to frame the  message. But I see the top executive of the US come in and take over. Purposely creating  fear. Purposely creating confusion and chaos. Purposely creating misinformation. His administration does not want your buy in.  Your marches and rallies will not work on any of them. They do not feel that their boss is the American people. He is Emperor and you are an ant.

I am not saying do not protest or march or create alternative twitter accounts. Actually, I think we need more of them. I want to suggest we rethink our strategy. We will not change Trump’s mind. He has too many yes men around him. We need to let those in power who can stand up to Trump know that we have their back. It is time for our congress people, career government employees, journalist, whistle blowers, academia, artists, activists, and everyday people send a message. WE WILL NOT BE BULLIED. WE WILL NOT FEAR. WE ARE YOUR BOSS. If all goes well, this might not be the age of declining democracy, but an age of the activist citizen.

In This Age

I have  been away from the blogging sphere for awhile. My year of the Divine Feminine was a bit of a bust.  That is OK. What matters the most is that we get back on the horse and keep trying. I am jumping back on.

I am feeling a call to write and create again for several reasons. 1) I am in a place in my life where I have the time. 2) I have been overflowing with ideas and need to expose these ideas to the world. 3) I feel secure in who I am and who I am is complex and a bit dangerous for the time. 4) People of all walks of life need to find a way to have their voice heard. 5) I need to do my part to stand up to the authoritarianism I see developing in my country.

My goal is to write in this blog weekly. It might be more or could be less. I will try to occasionally add some new poetry. But this blog will now be more about the world around me and how artists from all mediums must use their voice in this age.

I look forward to sharing my ideas, opinions, and citations. I look forward to sharing my original poetry and the occasional favorite.

Stuck and a Bit Angry

I have been feeling stuck. Some part of it may be because we are down to one car due to the other needing a new transmission. I have been in the house a lot this week. But it is more than the need for human interaction. (A toddler barely qualifies for human. I think he is part monster.) I feel as if I am wading through molasses this month. For a while now, things have been progressing. Spring brings vitality and fertility. It is a new beginning and we can witness it just by looking outdoors; flowers are blooming and trees are sprouting leaves. But I feel like I am not moving forward.

I have thought it might be that I am spending too much time reading stuff online. It saddens me to see how our country and our government has been hi-jacked by crazies. Of course, not all are crazies, but the media covers so many of them that it becomes difficult to believe there are politicians who have common sense or fully understand the underlying beliefs this country has shaped for itself. And many of the fights we have to now engage in were won decades ago. And this fight I speak about is Women’s right over her own body. I am not talking about abortion, I am talking about our bodies. In Mississippi, there is a woman who was arrested for manslaughter because her child was still-born. In Virginia, the GOP has recommended a candidate for attorney general who tried to pass state legislation which would have required a woman who had a miscarriage to report it to the police within 24 hours. In addition, the police or medical examiner would have to authorize the disposal of the remains. Violation would have been a class 1 misdemeanor. There have been more than 400 documented cases in the US in which women were arrested or detained for a miscarriage or stillbirth.  It is laws such as these and politicians create who them which inherently say that a  woman can not be in control of her body and if the body does not perform in a prescribed way, it must be criminal. Bodies do not work that way.

I feel I am stuck because as a society we are stuck. I feel I am stuck because as a woman I am stuck. I am dumbfounded at the complete lack of intellectual discussion in our elected halls of government on the right to privacy (women’s bodies), medical knowledge and law. I am beginning to feel I am a criminal in my fellow citizens eyes if I want to control my menstrual cycle or make decisions which are in my and my families best interest about a pregnancy or if my own body chooses to make the decision for me. Women are not criminals just because they have a female body.

I do understand it is all about power. Most of the politicians who are creating and passing this type of legislation are men. For some reason, men have once again become scared of the sacred vagina and its magical power to birth life. The religiosity of some segments of our population have become frightened of the rise of women in general. Therefore, the answer is more women in power. There needs to be a force to combat the ridiculous  extreme views on women. And who knows women’s issues better than women?

I wrote a poem in 1994 which I feel illustrates our apathy as a society. I was writing a paper on political apathy for my Political Theory class at the time. I feel these goof balls have mostly been elected into office because of our nations political ignorance. And our ignorance stems from apathy.

 

What is this world we live in with its majestic towers of white?

Dusty winds of wetness and chilling tales of fright.

Crimson snow would work better to relate the underlying theme.

It would surely wake us from societies sleep induced dream.

Yet, we close our eyes and picture the world in which we believe

has no violence or hunger or a soul that anguishly grieves.

The world has taken notice of our sleep encrusted eyes.

We drown ourselves in blindness and continue to believe the lies.

A wake up call is what we need and crimson snow would do.

A shock to society to rip the blinders from you.

 

Happy Anniversary

I wanted to write this entry weeks ago, but my mother was in town and just did not get around to it. My husband Tracy and I’s wedding anniversary was on March 21st. We have been married for 3 years. Yet, our love story spans 20 years. I met my husband a month or two before my 20th birthday. I believe it was September 1992. A friend introduced us at a bar. The story from my husband is all his friends were talking about this girl Heather and he felt he had to meet her. He met up with his friend Paul at the Apple Pub where I frequented. For me, it was lust at first sight. He was tall and incredible handsome. We played footsie under the table. I remember kissing him that night. My head swam and I knew that someday I would marry him. It was a “you just collided with fate” kind of feeling. And that was a very strange thought for me. At 19 I did not want to get married any time soon. I thought maybe sometime in me early 30’s I would think about marriage, but I had school and a career to create first.

We had spent a few months after that first meeting chasing each other, yet always missing each other. Finally, we ran into each other right after Christmas. We went on our first date to the Metro and Smart Bar. This date has always been the best date I have ever gone on in my life. No date has topped it. But that was it, one date. Later he said  he was not ready for a relationship at the time and was just dating. Of course, that spring he started to go to college where I was attending and I had to watch him saunter past me almost daily. I would go all gooey inside and he would just smile and keep walking. Yet, I still felt I was going to marry him. Of course, I wrote poems about him.

Look upon his shinning face

Watch him walk with style and grace.

See his eyes, a mystery.

Oh, what is to become of me?

I went away to Grad school in DeKalb. In September 1996, I saw him again at a wedding. I remember being so nervous when I got to the reception. The wedding was full of emotional turmoil for me. Mike was there, an ex-boyfriend who cheated on me the year before ending our 3 year relationship. Oh, he had the nerve to bring the girl he cheated on me with even though they were not longer dating. Tracy was there stag. And I came to the wedding as friends with another ex-boyfriend of mine, Jeff. I got drunk before dinner. But something magical happened within all the drama, I had a great time. And there was drama. Jeff left me there and Mike purposely was flaunting the other woman. But I danced most of the night with Tracy and he drove me home. Later that week I called Tracy and soon we were really dating. I use to pick him up at the train station in Geneva, IL and he would spend the weekend. We had 3 nice months together. Than he moved to California. Our parting was bumpy. I was a bit immature. He was running away from his life in Chicago.

Marry me to the moon, since my hand has waded in deeper waters

 The sun can no longer shine its brilliance upon my skin

And my dreams float somewhere way up there

In April 2006, I was living in Southern California as a divorced single parent. My romantic life was non-existent and I yearned for love. One night, I was at my parents’ house in the Californian desert  sitting alone in their backyard. I looked up to the night sky and spoke my heart. I told the stars exactly what I wanted and needed in a man. Then I saw a shooting start. It was my first time I ever saw a shooting star. I knew in my soul the universe heard my plea. Almost a month later, I had a dream. I was at my parents’ old house in Chicago. They were having a party. I was downstairs in the basement (my old room) and Tracy was walking up the stairs. I stopped him and asked him why he was there. He said cryptically, “I have been here the whole time.”  I woke up. I immediately felt I needed to call him. I went to work and told my friend Kristen about my dream. She thought I should find him and thanks to google people search, I did. He was in Chicago. I called my friend Kelli and told her about the dream and what I found. She said I needed to call him. I did that evening.

It had been 9 1/2 years since I spoke to him. I called. When he answered he acted like he did not know me, but then said, “Heather I would never forget your voice.” We talked for about a half hour and  he asked if I wanted to go for a beer. I said  I could not; I lived in California. How funny. We began talking on the phone for a couple of months. I finally came to Chicago for a week visit late June.  We feel madly for each other. By the end of July, I had a job offer out of no where (never even applied) to come back to NIU and start in August. I packed my bags and the rest is history.

Like a masterpiece waiting to be painted

All the colors no longer tainted

with the mysteries of the past

ghosts we thought would haunt us to our last

I pick up a brush with your hand in mine

paint a picture that is simply divine

We look upon it day by day

Love painted it, they will say

My husband said the most wonderful thing to me on our anniversary. He said I was the love of his life. He never said that before and I am sure he has not felt this way all these years. He loved and loves me, but it took him some time to reconcile his past. I just have to say, I knew it all along. Happy Anniversary from the love of your life.

The Soul of a Poet

Anyone who has known me since elementary school would say I fancy myself a poet. I was published in a couple of anthologies as a teen. I wrote everywhere: in class, at the dinner on napkins, at the bar, in my car and quietly in my room. I have hundreds of poems. Now, I did not say they are the best poems. But it was a means for me to express the mercurial landscape of my inner self. Writing poetry was my soul reaching out to others as I covered the rest of myself with a hard candy shell. We are talking jawbreaker here. Sometimes, my poetry was the only vulnerability I showed to others. It takes work to gain the nickname Ice Queen.

In my mid twenties, I experienced what I can only call a softening. I became a mother and a wife. I lost my husband to another woman and became a single mother. I was broken and open and constantly vulnerable. I did write a little bit during this period, but not nearly as much as I thought I would. I went from being a jawbreaker to that sour cherry candy, soft and chewy with a hint of sour.

Over the years, I have picked up the pen but not consistently. I use to create at least 2 or 3 poems a day, now I am lucky if I do that in a year. I realized I have changed drastically from that hard shelled person. I am happy and content. I love myself, my family and my friends. I feel blessed and actually share my thoughts and feelings with others. As my wonderful 2nd husband says, “You are comfortable in your own skin.” Therefore, poetry does not work in my life anymore, right?

Oh, how wrong I have been all this time. Poetry is the creative blood which makes my soul sing. I have been happy with all these areas of my life, but my creative self has been hidden away. I have not felt completely whole. At first, it just started as a restlessness and was easy to ignore with the hectic life I have lead. I have two boys, a teenagers and a toddler. I was working so hard in Higher Education as the bread winner of the family. I just did not have time to investigate the restlessness. Than a miracle happened. I lost my job.

Now, not many people would say losing my job was a miracle. It was very scary for me. My identity was my work-self. I was a strong capable provider for my family. I was a hard working innovative administrator. I was lost for at least the first 6 to 8 months being unemployed. I desperately looked for work and was devastated after each failed interview. I needed something. I needed a life saver and was recommended a book, the Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss. What an amazing read! It started me on a bit of a spiritual journey. I still look for work, even a year and a half later. Yet, I feel good about who I am and where I am going; most of the time.

A couple of months ago, I realized after all this spiritual growth and meditation I still felt restless. I still did not feel complete, comfortable but not complete. One night when I was drifting off to sleep, I asked for inspiration as to why I was restless and how to fix it. I went to sleep at 10:30 p.m. I was awoken with words flowing through my brain that needed to be written down. I stayed up until 1 a.m. writing, which is really late when you have a toddler. And than I finally knew why I have been restless for the last decade of my live. If I had been working the daily grind, I would of barely noticed this restlessness or just replaced it with something else. I would not of had the time or energy to try and fix it or wander on my spiritual journey. Being a stay-at-home mom this last year has afforded me an opportunity to figure out me. What a glorious gift.

I want to share with you what I wrote that fateful night. It is deeply personal but also helped me realize what part of me I was ignoring and how to integrate it back into myself. Enjoy:

I don’t remember when I wrote the words. I was 8 years old and wrote a poem for my Great Grandma, 2 Grandmas. It was a poem full of love and adoration that only a small child can write with clear abandon. I do not remember giving it to my great grandma. I do not remember seeing her smile and kissing me in thanks. Was it a school assignment? Did I learn to rhyme and want to show off my new skill? I don’t think so. Legend has it that I just wrote it one day sitting at the table. I believe being 8 and writing for fun is a bit strange, maybe even worthy of a family myth.

I do remember when it came back to me. It was a several months after 2 Grandma’s death. I was 16 and her death hit me hard. I did not speak for days, scared of what might come out. My family whispered that I might need “professional” help. I just stared at the soon to be family matriarchs in the funeral home’s restroom with a cigarette dangling from my fingers. No one yelled at me for smoking. Was I really that scary?

The funeral was an entire week after 2 Grandmas’ passing. She was 86 years old and had six children, many grandchildren and a good number of great grandchildren. The funeral became a reunion of sorts. And I would not speak a word. Well, until they lowered her casket in the ground. It was so quiet, everyone obeying the decorum of the moment and I begin to scream. Not the hysterical sobbing one would expect at a moment of great grief. A primal “Nooooooo!!!” burst from me as if I was watching a horrific traffic accident in the making. I ran to the grave looking as if I was to throw myself in the hole. Someone restrained me. My father took me to the car and left me to sob. The next thing I remember, my sister punched me in the arm, “punch bug yellow”.  Mom looked over at me, smiled and said gently,” well, now we know you can speak.”  I laughed. I laughed so hard I believe I was shaking the van and my father, mother and sister joined in, grief fueling the insanity of the moment.

The luncheon was just plain weird. My Great Uncle Kenneth accused me of being a funeral crasher. Numbed from my earlier outburst, I called him blind. Someone else at the table tapped his shoulder, “Ken, this is Linda’s eldest Heather”. “She does look just like her mother.” He responded. And all I can think of is that this family dissolved me into whispers, glares and half hearted smiles while hiding the youngest behind their skirts. I was not a monster. I was pure concentrated grief and not the kind that was contagious.

Several months later, my Great Grandma’s things were divvied out. So and so got this, so and so got that. My Grandmother found something saved with all of 2 Grandma’s very important papers. She handed me this well worn sheet of loose leaf paper with green ink. The title simply said “2 Grandmas”. It sang the virtues of my now departed favorite person in the world through the eyes of an adolescent, signed very carefully, Heather age 8. My world swam. It was my very first poem, the poem of legend. She had kept it all these years. She always understood me the most. I have the soul of a poet.

This late night burst of grief and understanding has lead to this blog. At first I thought I would write a book about my poetry and what was going on in my life when I wrote a particular poem. But now I know this rediscovery of my poetic soul is a journey rather than a destination and blogging is the perfect medium for the journey. I invite you to share this journey with me. Hopefully, I can offer up some inspiration and understanding along the way. I will share my poetry; some from the past and hopefully new stuff. I am planning on sharing the joys and struggles of finding one’s self on a soul level. Let the journey begin.

In Love and Light,

Heather

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