The Light-Dappled Leaves

*Trigger Warning. Please proceed with your heart held close.

When I was a little girl, maybe eight years old, I was chased from the swing set on our neighbourhood playground and tackled in the bushes by a fourteen year old boy. Troy was pretending he was in a trance, and that he’d become possessed by a demon. He sat on top of me and wrapped his hands around my throat, and there was no pretending in the strength of his grip. Troy made me realize for the very first time that I could die.

The only thing I remember once Troy started squeezing was looking up through the branches of the bushes and watching the way the light played across the leaves. I left my body, moving towards the green and the sun, and suddenly Troy decided to let go, or someone pulled him off me. I don’t remember how it ended. I don’t remember walking home. I didn’t tell my parents until I was 36 years old.

Troy is the reason why I feel safest in the forest. Why I feel alive when I’m near a lake, surrounded by trees. I guess I should thank him for that.

I’ve been searching for Troy for years, and it’s only now that I realize why. I’ve been on a quest to try and stop him. To help him see that he could be interesting without having to hurt anyone. To show him that there’s a reason why he zeroed in on me that day, and that this reason is because I am good, and full of light, and not because he could see all the ugliness inside me.

For years I have believed that I am full of something ugly that drew Troy to me. A putrid fog that hung around me, and enveloped us both.

I didn’t have to look hard, because Troy has found me over and over again:

In the four strangers who tucked themselves around corners so that while I was walking home at night, or walking through the school yard, or riding at the back of the bus, or browsing the toy department, I would see their purple-veined penises gripped firmly in their hands.

In the twenty-year-old brother of a friend who grabbed me at a birthday party when I was 12 and held me on the erection in his lap until my friend threatened to tell their mom.

In the boy I dated in college who decided to strangle me the first, and last time, we ever had sex.

In the ex-boyfriend who lied about a simultaneous relationship with another woman for the entire four years we were together.

In the friend who I passed out drunk beside, only to wake up to him going down on me.

Troy has found me, and I’ve always searched for Troy because for a long time I believed that I wasn’t meant for anything else. That the ugliness inside me was clear and obvious, and therefore I could only be met by a partner with the same kind of darkness in them. That the body and soul violation of lies and deceit were a part of love. That everyone was dangerous, and it was only a matter of time before their hands were around my throat.

I believed that those people who radiate goodness, sincerity, light; they made great friends but they could never really love me. Never understand me. I believed I couldn’t love them because I would tire of them. I would find excuses like ‘we have no chemistry’, ‘they aren’t deep enough’, and the one that really breaks my heart – ‘they’re too good for me’.

Every time a loved one lies to me, feeds me a half-truth, hides their real emotion, or avoids transparency, I am laying on the ground beneath Troy, fighting for my life. Deception unleashes the fury of a freckled little girl with spindly arms and missing teeth who is drowning in her loss of control. Because I’m not eight anymore, I fight back in a way I never could when I was too weak. I fight with words, I fight by shutting myself away, I retreat from love and light and allow the raging darkness to consume me.

Here’s the worst thing that Troy did, and what all the future Troys consistently tried to reinforce:

He convinced me that my intuition was paranoia, and my gut could not be trusted.

That the damage he inflicted would make me mistrustful and make me treat every future lover like they were Troy.

Troy, and all the future Troys justified their lies, their violations, by telling me they couldn’t be honest because I would react in a way that made it difficult to share their truth.

As if truth should have conditions.

As if my anger wasn’t justified.

As if I couldn’t feel the lies, or the unspoken realities swimming beneath the surface.

Now I sit beneath light-dappled leaves and I choose not to fight anymore. I don’t need to show Troy anything. I don’t need Troy anymore. Allowing the light to filter through doesn’t take a struggle. It requires stillness, and faith that those illuminating rays will reach down into the roots and feed what needs to be fed.

It’s not easy to move towards uncomplicated love. To allow myself to share heart space with someone who feels guileless and sincere. To silence the part of me that wants to run towards what I know is unsafe. To consciously move away from the stranglehold of the last Troy who tried to love me. But I made a promise to an eight-year-old girl that I would listen to her. She was the one who got the closest look at Troy. She can spot him from a mile away now. I promised her I would listen to her, and jump off that swing set. That I’d race home as fast as my legs can carry me.

Because I know it’s better to be alone than to be on the playground with someone who would take the breath from your body and then tell you that you’re overreacting.
That you haven’t even tried to see their perspective.
That you somehow asked for it.
That they don’t remember doing it.
That you shouldn’t have been there in the first place.
That you’re paranoid.
That you’re damaged and unclear.
That you have anger issues.
That your anxiety is taking over.
That they lost control.
That they were caught up in the moment.
That they couldn’t feel safe being honest.

I see you Troy, and you can’t hurt me anymore.

Join me for my next Facebook Live on September 24th at 9pm EST. Email me here with any questions or subjects you’d like me to tackle.

The World Isn’t Hard for Beautiful People

I have a weekly date on Periscope with my brother.

We are live every Wednesday at 9 pm, EST and we answer dating, relationship and sex ed questions. I happen to think it’s a lot of fun, and I’ve been honored to speak to a lot of really interesting personal matters via this format. We get most of our questions via Ask.fm because it’s easy to post anonymously there. Last night, I woke up to this question, which isn’t in fact a question at all,  and I knew it was going to end up becoming a blog post:

When I encounter women such as yourself, who are beautiful and appear to have it all together, I go deaf. It’s difficult to hear you because I assume you have no idea how hard this world is as a less than beautiful person. I know I am kind and smart, yadda yadda. Beauty is skin deep. I am sexist!

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How Being Fluid Got Me Off My Ass

Happy Monday Lovers!

Today I want to chat about how being fluid got me off my ass this weekend.

It’s time for another true confession. I’m a control freak. This is one of the big issues I try to recognize and move through every single day. There was a time when my need to have everything go exactly the way I wanted it to was so all-encompassing that it would fill me with frustration and anxiety when even the tiniest of things would fall out of place. I’m sure you can imagine how fun I was to be around, especially with the added unpredictability of my newly acquired young step daughters.

Now, when a wrench gets thrown into the works, which is actually a daily occurrence in my world, I am able to pause, breathe and relax into the change, redirecting and re-evaluating what my needs and the needs of the day require. Most of the time.

For example, Sarah cut my hair at home. She’s done incredible work on the kids’ heads, but I will freely admit I’m a hair diva. I bond for life with a good hair dresser, but I want to be as frugal as we can be now. I wasn’t sure I was up for the risks involved with letting someone I love, who has learned hair dressing on the internet, come at me with a pair of scissors, but I finally relented and let her have a go. I have very thick, weirdly wavy hair. It’s kind of a beast to tame, but I think Sarah’s first go was pretty darned good. It wasn’t salon perfect though, and I could see the difference, which drove me nuts. And subsequently drove other people nuts because I wouldn’t stop talking about it. We tried to fix it, but it still wasn’t right. What did I do? Saturday night, two tequila in, I tried to fix it myself. Secretly, in the bathroom. No surprise, it didn’t work. What happened was a huge lesson in ‘leave well enough alone’. Now, drastic measures would be required to repair the damage I’d done.

Past me would have cried. I would have been furious with myself for being so impulsive and stupid. I would have tried to blame Sarah for not getting the hair cut right in the first place. (See? I told you I could be an asshole!) Instead, I laughed, had a shower and then when Nekky came to bed, I shared the disaster of my hair with him and prepared him for the reality of my pending short hair. Then I turned to You Tube and found an amazing tutorial of the hair cut I would need to fix my lid. In the morning, I dragged Sarah upstairs, (after she’d had breakfast of course) and asked her to help. We took it slow, we followed directions, we made a few modifications because I currently have bangs. It was fun, and even when I feared we had cut too much bang, and that I looked like a medieval squire, I continued to breathe. Then I dried and styled my hair, and it was just fine. It’s better than fine, even. Sarah is a fiercely talented lady. I’m still not convinced that my bangs aren’t a bit too gigantic, but I’m going to stop obsessing about it, because there are more important things in the world than my hair.

My need to control my physical body has been illuminated through this hair saga. From where I stand now, I can see why I need to exert myself so extremely sometimes – everything from hair obsession all the way to the need to conquer my anxiety and depression by feeding myself shitty food that I’m convinced makes me feel better. This need for control is likely attached to the trauma I’m working through. I can do something to my body that has an immediate and gratifying effect. I do feel better. But then I feel worse. Not just physically worse, either. Guilt and shame come flooding in, regret over too many cookies. Yesterday, rather than sitting and ruminating, I engaged in physical actions that made me feel good. I was already in a great mood, and the weather was glorious, so I’m sure that helped shift from staying in my head to being in my body and pushing through. It’s not always easy to put things in motion, so I’m going to make a little list of those activities to refer to them when I need them again. You can use them too if you like!

Physical Activities that I Can Immediately Access to Feel Better

Housekeeping – major spring organizing and purging, and major elbow-grease required scrubbing

Shifting plans to spend more time with the kids

An hour long walk in the woods with Noah

Pretty decent food choices all day long

A DIY manicure – I never do this kind of thing, but it felt so nice to just focus on making my hands look good

Yoga – though it became more like Aussie Rules Yoga as Noah tried to climb on me and turn me into both a bridge and a tunnel

Early bed time – not sure this would have been a choice, but I was so sleepy from all the fresh air and exercise that I tucked in with Noah and was asleep before I could even consider some bed time reading

Early wake up for more Yoga – I’m feeling really tired now, but I’m hoping I can adjust to this because I love how much time it leaves me with in the morning.

Why this particular rambling today? I guess I’m trying to let you know that if you can relax through change, try to hold on to the positive, and just keep breathing, you’ll see at least one great lesson. On the surface, I thought the lesson was “Don’t try to cut your own hair after drinking tequila” which is not without merit, but I see now that there was a deeper opportunity there. I could connect to a bigger issue and actually experience the ways I could make changes.

What hiccup in your current life has thrown you for a loop? What is the surface lesson there? What do you think the deeper lesson(s) could be? How can you do something today to embrace that lesson and make at lest one positive change?

Let us know your own physical tricks for dealing with your own little idiosyncrasies in the comments below.

Oh, and here are the hair tutorials Sarah followed:

There’s A Whole In The Bucket

I have to confess something to all of you. I am a fraud. I’ve been writing about my life here for years now, and a few of you have taken time to let me know that you have been inspired, that you find my writing hopeful and positive. Guess what? It’s a sham. When I write hopeful things here, 99% of the time it’s not because I’m feeling it, it’s because I need to feel it and I’m hoping that writing from a positive perspective will make it so. Usually it works. Today it won’t.

I suppose I can’t consider it a total waste if I make it to 40 and realize I’ve been doing it all wrong. You might think I’ve got a lot of stuff figured out. You may think I’m a great mom, and an awesome partner. That’s a lie too. I’m not. The sum of my life experiences has made me hard and angry. I respond to stress and conflict by going on the offensive, or shutting down and walking away to avoid going on the offensive. I perceive everyone as out to hurt me, and then I try to hurt them worse so they will back off. I’ve been mean and cold, and harsh and unsympathetic with everyone in my life who I love. Everyone, except Noah.

My son is the first piece of me that I can look at and feel nothing but love, even in the most challenging moments. Noah is my catalyst, who has taught me that the only way I can ever hope to soften and change is to learn to look at all of the other pieces of myself with that same unconditional love. Nothing in my entire life has been harder to do than this, and I am trying like hell to change. To soften. To sit in my vulnerability and share it without anger and blame. You could ask me to become fluent in Mandarin overnight and I swear it would be easier than the changes I am trying to make.

The changing part wasn’t actually the hardest, not after I realized how much of my rage and self-protection (some people call this defensive or offensive behavior) were tied to a traumatic event from my childhood. This illuminated nearly every single behavior that I hated, it contextualized and explained it. It allowed me to see myself stuck as that seven-year-old, stuck in that place of terror, and love the hell out of my little girl self. Once I could do that, it was like a switch was flicked and I was able to empathize better with everyone around me. By loving myself better, I could love others better too.

But here’s the hard part. None of the people around you can see what’s happening inside, and when you’ve been the kind of difficult-to-live with, angry asshole that I have been, they continue to see you as such. You keep trying, and they keep treating you as though the same kinds of negative behaviors are happening, even when they are not. They get stuck, because they are afraid of those behaviors, and their fear makes them blind to anything good that might be happening. I am trying so hard to be better, but it’s not landing, and sometimes it’s a spectacular fail.

To make matters worse, I’m trying to evolve while living with my in-laws. A lot of in-laws. There is often up to eleven people under our roof! Multiple witnesses who have seen every parent and partner failure I have made in the last two years. They are good people. They are wonderful people, and I love them, but I don’t really know them that well. I need privacy. I need a safe space where we can heal, where I can try to flex these new muscles, where I can organically grow, or fall flat on my face as the case may be, and not have so many witnesses. I need safety.

I’m trying to fill the bucket, but the bucket has a hole. Nekky put that quite eloquently this morning, and it struck me as very true indeed. There’s a hole in the bucket. A big one. And I’m so very, very tired of trying to fill it up with good only to watch the good fall through the hole. I feel like I am constantly failing.

Of course I want to heal my relationship with my daughters. What flows freely with my biological child has been an excruciatingly painful contrast to my many shortcomings where my daughters are concerned. I have some serious lost time to make up for, time that consists in equal parts of a total lack of understanding about how children ‘work’ and so much misdirected pain and hardness from my past.

It would be nice to have a healthier relationship with my partners, though I’m at the precipice of deciding that romantic relationships aren’t really intended for people like me. Those relationships need to be a two way street, and I just seem to suck the life out of everyone and give very little back. At the very least, it would be nice to heal some shit so we can at least be awesome friends and parents.

I just don’t know how to keep filling the bucket when there’s a goddamned hole. As always, I turn to the Internet for answers, hopeful that the lyrics to the old folk song will have a happy ending.

From Wikipedia:

There’s a Hole in My Bucket” (or “…in the Bucket“) is a children’s song, along the same lines as “Found a Peanut”. The song is based on a dialogue about a leaky bucket between two characters, called Henry and Liza. The song describes a deadlock situation: Henry has got a leaky bucket, and Liza tells him to repair it. But to fix the leaky bucket, he needs straw. To cut the straw, he needs a knife. To sharpen the knife, he needs to wet the sharpening stone. To wet the stone, he needs water. However, when Henry asks how to get the water, Liza’s answer is “in a bucket”. It is implied that only one bucket is available – the leaky one, which, if it could carry water, would not need repairing in the first place.

As I’m reading this, feeling more and more despair, I glance at the title of this post. I’ve spelled “hole” “whole”, quite by accident, but maybe that’s it? Maybe I just keep pouring myself into the bucket, all of me, every last inch no matter how big the hole gets. Put the whole in the bucket, even if it gushes out onto the ground. It’s going to go somewhere, all of that bucket-filling stuff, and if that particular bucket can never be filled, at least I can say I tried. Really tried. Not like I tried with my failed marriage. Not like I tried with countless careers that I gave up on. Not like I tried so many times before until it hurt too much to keep trying. There is no epidural for life. It hurts sometimes, and maybe it’s in pushing through the pain that we are reborn, truly reborn.

I don’t feel better. I don’t feel happier or more positive at the end of this post. I’m not going to lie, I am aching and tired and I feel like giving up, but at least I have a little direction. If I can’t fill the fucking bucket, at least I can water the grass.