Archives for posts with tag: love

survivor

I was having a shitty morning. One of those comedy of errors mornings when you run from one bus stop to another and another and miss the bus by 10 seconds each time. Eventually I landed on the floor of the light rail, sitting dejectedly and about ready to just give up and go home.

Waiting for the train, I opened up Facebook like the social media zombie that I am, and got a notification about a “memory” from a year ago. Because, you know, “Facebook cares about the memories that I share.” Right.

More often than you would imagine, these end up being a photo of me and someone I am no longer close to, resulting in a twinge of sadness or a rush of unexpected reminiscence. But today my notification brought me something beautiful.

It reminded me that I am two years free of my violent ex today. That’s 24 months/104 weeks/730 days.

This second year was a lot easier than the first.

Within the first year of experiencing DV, the majority of survivors become extremely depressed (check), cannot get out of bed (check), lose their job (check), and lose friends who aren’t willing to deal with the emotional baggage (check).

The women I met who have been through domestic violence situations (or are still in them) are incredibly resilient and courageous. They come from all walks of life and live with very different circumstances. Some were abused physically, some financially, some mentally. Many had their lives threatened. Most have kids with their abusers and thus have to deal with those fuckers on a regular basis. But every single one of them possesses a will to fight back against the slow and methodical erasure that comes from living with an abuser.

One of my survivor friends sent me a meme that was so simple and yet so profound that it blew me away. It said something along the lines of: “Every day, I wake up grateful that you aren’t here to ruin it for me.”

Damn right. I am lucky that I could get out – but I am also brave and strong for knowing that I deserve better. I am grateful for this strength and the people who surrounded me with love and shelter back then, and who continue to support me now that I’m back to “normal.”

I have a great career, fabulous friends, a wonderful family, and I live in a beautiful place. I’m physically fitter than ever and emotionally stronger than I’ve ever been before. Although I still fall into the same old trap of feeling unworthy at times, I have better tools to deal with these thoughts now.

Most of all, I’ve given up trying to please others as much as I used to, or doing things because I feel like I’m “supposed to.” I do things that I want to do, because they feel right. I date who I want, write what I want, dress how I like, and say what feels meaningful to me. I do my best to let go of people who don’t respect me and relationships that don’t serve me. I hold the love of my family and friends in my heart.

I’m truly grateful for all that I’ve been given, all that I’ve worked for, and the possibilities that lie ahead. Thank you for sharing this journey with me ❤

PNWBay

As all who know me are well aware, my time in DC (4+ years in total) was completely life-altering. It was a grand, terrifying, fun, miserable, gut-wrenching and soul-searching period of my life. But it was also a period that I knew would end.

And that it has. I write to you from my cozy corner of the big red couch in my mother’s house in western Washington State, fire blazing in the hearth and a light dusting of snow outside.

It’s after midnight here and I just finished reading about 100 pages of Game of Thrones book 5, bookworm that I am. I’m thinking about my friends back on the east coast – some tucked in their beds with their lovers and some eating Jumbo Slice after a rowdy night at the bars. I miss them. A lot.

And yet I feel this sense of ease and calm that I barely remembered existed until I moved back here a few weeks ago. I feel fear too – fear that this is all too good to be true; fear that the rug is going to be pulled out from under me and that this peace will disappear.

It’s not as if you can’t find that same peace in the District. It just wasn’t there for me.

It wasn’t just the constant sound of ambulances careening by my apartment, or the everlasting bruises on my shoulders from carrying far too heavy and far too many bags of groceries home for miles. It wasn’t just the way people don’t look at you or smile when you pass on the street.

It was everything, and it was nothing. I had ceased to feel the way I wanted to feel. I’d stopped seeing the upside of things, or the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

Don’t get me wrong – DC is amazing in so many ways. I love the city’s energy and the constant rush of so many things to do and people to meet. I love the educated, fascinating, varied individuals that inhabit it. And the friends I made there…they’ll never be replaced.

I suppose I’m just not the type of person who thrives in the District long-term. Many extraordinarily smart and fantastic people do – and I applaud them. But not this girl.

This girl feels comforted sitting outside the bar in the freezing winter air while her friends drink Rainier and chain smoke. This girl lives to see the mountain on a clear day, breathtaking in all its ethereal glory. This girl likes to run on paths surrounded by evergreens with the light northwest rain messing up her way too long hair. This girl missed her family.

I guess it’s simple. I’m home.

Remembering a Great Man

Adapted from my post on the Keith & Keith Funeral Home page

Richard Smith was very celebrated man: born on New Year’s Eve, the whole world celebrated his birthday with him every year, he liked to joke.

He was a veteran of the Navy and a successful lawyer who loved his wife Pat and his family with all of this heart. This past Fourth of July, he passed away. He was my grandfather.

Dick was brilliant, kind, generous and happy. He was also the only grandfather that I ever knew, since both of my biological ones died before my birth. And what a good grandpa he was! Although we were his step-granddaughters and he only knew us from our teenage years on, he always treated my sister Anya and I with great love and respect. He and Pat always made sure that we were included – that we were part of the family.

I will never forget the vacations and holidays that we spent together in Long Beach and Yakima. There are so many fond memories from those times – moments that brought our new family together.  There were trying moments too – and tears sometimes. It’s not always easy to form a cohesive family unit in the aftermath of two divorces. But we made it work, and Dick’s kindness and hospitality made a huge difference.

Of all of the memories, there is one night that I especially hold in my heart right now. It was Christmastime, and all of my siblings and I were sitting in Dick and Pat’s living room (which was beautifully decorated for the holidays, of course). From his wheelchair, Dick read us a number of solemn yet hauntingly beautiful cowboy poems. As he read, he lit up, and I was entranced. I will miss his laugh and kind eyes – but I’ll never forget them if I merely recall this moment.

Just four days before his passing, Dick renewed his wedding vows to his beloved wife of 65 years. The beauty of the long life that they shared together is overwhelming. I can only hope to have the strength and patience to find a love equally as wonderful and lasting.

I feel like it’s taken me a few days to fully grasp that he is not with us anymore. I feel sad, and yet happy and hopeful on the other hand – because he lived such a long, rich and meaningful life. That is something truly spectacular that many people aren’t lucky enough to have.

I’m sending all of my love to my wonderful step-family and hoping that time will ease the grief.

Dick will never be forgotten – and he will always be loved. I’d like to think that all of those fireworks last Thursday were actually set off in salute of his amazing life.

Read Dick’s obituary in the Yakima Herald.

Via UpWorthy. ORIGINAL: Photograph by Brandon Stanton for Humans of New York.

A New York City photographer ran into two teenage boys dressed nicely one recent night. He asked them what they were up to.

“We just got back from the prom.”

“Did you have dates?”

“Um, yeah.”

For as much as I disliked being around teenagers this weekend – I was stuck on a bus with about a dozen spoiled, drunk, drug-peddling 16-year old kids swigging out of bottles of vodka-spiked Gatorade and saying the absolute most vulgar things imaginable – this picture of teen romance is uplifting and beautiful.

It wasn’t that long ago that these boys might have been beaten up for taking this picture, or for going to a dance together. And there are a lot of places in the world where they still might be. But that is slowly changing and I am overjoyed to see it happening.

On the other hand, not all teenagers bring a smile to my face.

Back to the bus this weekend.

Sex was a big topic of conversation for these upper-middle class kids on their way to a music festival (free of parental supervision and already a bit intoxicated). One of the boys loudly announced that he “likes sex more than sleep.” Another young couple (obviously the popular kids at their high school) made it clear to everyone that they were sleeping together. When we asked if they used condoms, the girl and I had this exchange:

“Why? I’m on birth control.”

“Umm, what about STDs?”

“Who has STDs?”

“Well, do you really trust your boyfriend?”

Silence.

“Please tell me that you’ll at least use condoms when you’re single and in college.”

Silence. 

“Maybe….”

[Boyfriend interjects]  “Condoms SUCK!”

Oh boy.

Living in Washington DC, where the HIV epidemic still rages with 2.7% of the population infected, this seems like a ludicrous way of thinking. But then I remembered: she’s 16. This is the result of an extremely sexualized media and a lack of basic sex education.

Let’s remember a few facts:

Put simply, kids are going to have sex. Duh. Therefore, they are going to be at risk of contracting an STD or getting pregnant.

So they should have all the necessary knowledge to make safe decisions, right? It doesn’t mean that they will choose wisely, but at least it alerts them of the risks.

As I’ve touched on before in this blog, the idea that teaching comprehensive sex education in schools is equal to encouraging teens to have sex  is ridiculous. It’s going to happen. Or it’s not – that depends on the teen. But either way, kids should have all of the information they need to make the right choices.

That’s why there’s a growing movement to make comprehensive sex ed a requirement in American public schools. Currently it’s only mandated in 22 states and DC – what about the kids in the other 28?

If you know a teen in need of sex education (or any teen at all), tell them to visit ScarleTeen, “Sex Ed for the Real World.” It’s a great resource with advice that I can imagine being able to relate to when I was that age.

DOMA Project rally this weekend in NYC

This weekend I saw a beautiful couple speak at a DOMA Project rally in New York City. The love between the two men speaking was palpable. Everyone in the crowd embraced and cheered. We couldn’t take our eyes off of these individuals who – despite being openly committed to one another and deeply in love – are not allowed the same marriage rights as heterosexual people such as myself.

Not only can they not legally marry in most states, but they also do not have the ability to receive/transfer US citizenship through marriage simply because they have chosen a same-sex partner. One of the men was US-born; the other, South American. Laws like DOMA keep these men from being able to raise a family in America. They are destructive TO marriage – not in defense of it.

Today and tomorrow the Supreme Court is discussing both DOMA and the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage.

Charles Cooper, the lawyer defending Prop 8, has already received intense questioning from many of the Supreme Court justices today, including potential swing-voter Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Tomorrow will tell us more – and by the end of this week, we will know where the highest court in our nation stands on these fundamental human rights issues.

I chose today to begin writing about the things that matter most to me. I think they will matter to some of you out there as well. Two of these issues are marriage equality and immigration reform, one reason why I’ve made this photo my first post.

Visit The DOMA Project at http://www.domaproject.org/ to learn more about what can be done to fight the exile and deportation of bi-national gay and lesbian couples due to DOMA and the troubled American immigration system.