Thanks To Vegas

I spent this morning praying the same thing over and over: Lord, what do I do?

In the wake of yet another confusing, terrifying, heart shattering tragedy, I’m left empty-handed and full-hearted, longing to know how to make a difference for those who are grieving, even as I grieve.

I log into Facebook to see the instant politicization of these lost lives.

Gun control! One side chants.

Anything can be a weapon! The other responds.

I am tempted to respond. Tempted to take my stance. Tempted to try and solve the problem, yet again.

I’m a student of the human mind & the human system. These attacks leave me desperate to understand. Desperate to fix it. Desperate to see us all come to a common place of sorrow & compassion.

Instead I see people tearing at each other, condemning each other. I see politicians using these events as a platform. I see justifications and racist media representations of the aggressor & exploitation of the victims. I see traumatic videos shared callously with empty, emoji ridden captions.

I want to throw up & scream & cry & hold the hand of Jesus.

So today, I prayed. & I got an answer.

I am fighting a battle that’s already been won. I’m fighting against a world that’s already so broken only One can fix it, & He already has.. the time just hasn’t come to see it fulfilled yet.

I’ve struggled with feeling like my faith is a cop-out. I fear being seen as complacent, I fear losing my sense & drive for justice. So I share information & reminders, I write about my convictions, & I hope my words don’t fall on deaf ears. But in the end, I can’t change anyone. I can’t prevent mass shootings. I can’t prevent people driving others down. I can’t prevent people being stabbed. I can’t prevent rape. I can’t prevent poverty. I can’t prevent police brutality. Yet, I have poured my energy into attempting to fix these things, so much so that I’ve had none left to pour into doing the most important thing there is: loving others.

It was seeing so many people searching for their family member or friend that made me realize I never know if I’ll be the last unfriendly face someone sees. I have no control over the last moments of someone’s life — but I have control over the moments I leave in someone’s life. What if I’m the angry person honking my horn at someone on the freeway because they didn’t merge fast enough and they are hit by a drunk driver on their way home? What if I’m the irritated customer rushing my cashier who is killed by her abusive boyfriend when she gets home late from her shift? What if I’m the sour face in the waiting room before the other patient passes away from surgery complications?

These people will never care about my social media campaigns for safe driving, for domestic violence advocacy, for better health care. But in those small moments, they’ll care that I didn’t take the same amount of time to share a meme as to make an effort to look at the bigger picture and let go of my own frustrations and give grace. Give love.

Thanks to Vegas, I’m done with politics. I’m done with spending my energy trying to convince others to change. I’m done trying to fix a world that’s out of my control.

I’m just going to love hard. Im going to smile and encourage my cashier, the stranger next to me in the produce aisle, the lady sitting next to me at the doctor’s office. I’m going to let go of my need to be everywhere doing everything at once & breathe.

We’ve been told to live like every moment is our last.

But what if we lived like every moment is the last for those around us?

Thanks to Vegas, I’m going to try.

xoxo, B

What A Netflix Movie Taught Me About My Participation In Rape Culture

Dear reader,

The following post contains triggers regarding rape and sexual abuse. The content may not be appropriate for someone who is a survivor of sexual assault. Please take care of yourself.

xoxo

The other night my husband and I did what so many couples do when they’re bored on a quiet night and selected a movie off of the thriller list on Netflix.

We chose “Return To Sender”, starring Rosamund Pike of “Gone Girl” fame. The synopsis stated that it was the story of a nurse who was raped and develops a relationship with her rapist while he is in prison. Since both my husband and I are huge fans of Gone Girl (way to bring it back, Ben Affleck) we thought it would be a well made thriller.

Unfortunately, the movie itself was terrible with mediocre acting, huge plot holes, and empty subplots. However, despite the lackluster storyline, the film did raise awareness to how I am a subconscious participant in rape culture.

The beginning plot is this: Miranda, the nurse, has plans for a blind date. She has never met or even seen a photo of this date, who is a friend of one of her coworkers. The plan is for him to come to her home to pick her up for their date.

The day of the date arrives, Miranda arrives home after picking up her dry cleaning to find a man on her porch. As is reasonable, she assumes he is her date (why else would he be on her porch?) and after a little awkwardness, she invites him into her home. As they converse, it is very obvious that Miranda is uncomfortable with the situation, and finally asks the man (William) to leave. It is revealed that he is not her date (duh, saw that one coming) and that he is actually her stalker. He subsequently locks her front door and rapes her.

As this is unfolding, I am sitting there commenting on the situation to my husband.

“Well that’s a surprise. Why on earth did she let a strange man into her home?”

“She’s a woman who lives alone, why doesn’t she have a gun or at least a dog?”

“Honestly though, what was she thinking inviting him in?”

In a way, I think that my response was initially a shield for my own emotional well-being. I was raped by someone I knew and I was in a sexually abusive relationship for over a year when I was in high school. It is easier at times to cope with our own fears by putting someone we identify with in a position of blame. If we can attribute a responsibility to that person, it means the experience we had has some kind of meaning, some kind of reason. It wasn’t some senseless, brutal act that was forced upon us.

Which is exactly what rape is.

As soon as I became aware of the thoughts I was having about the rape scene, I felt a little stunned. After all, one of the biggest components of rape culture is victim blaming. But for some reason, this kind of victim blaming felt different.

After all, when we hear someone who was raped being blamed for what they were wearing, it’s easy to say “Oh come on, women shouldn’t be expected to cover their whole bodies to escape rape.”

But we are conditioned to believe it logical to say, “Well it’s common sense to not let a strange man into your home!”

But is it common sense? Is it really something that is so obvious that it negates the fact that a man abused his power and took advantage of a woman just because she let him in her home? Or have we women just been conditioned to believe that it is always our fault. That we allow rape to happen to us. When did it become common sense to expect a man to rape you if you let him in your home? When did we stop fighting to have a voice that says RAPE IS ALWAYS WRONG.

As a mother to a daughter, this breaks my heart. I will never have to teach my son (if I have one) the same things I have to teach my daughter: how to survive in a world that insists on blaming victims for the actions of their oppressors.

How do you teach someone to be safe at the same time you teach them it is not their fault if someone hurts them?

How do we teach our daughters that it is never their fault if they are harmed, regardless of actions or inactions?

Part of rape culture is the fact that predators know their prey are taught to fear them. Men who are going to rape know that they have a chance as soon as a woman lets her guard down. Maybe it’s time that we spend more time teaching men how NOT to be predators instead of teaching women how not to be prey?

As I was made aware by watching Return To Sender, I still have a lot of reconditioning to do myself before I can have any real knowledge on how to combat the rape epidemic. 

I continue to hope that as more people become aware of the reality of living in a rape culture, that more men will learn that we are done expecting them to be animals and we are learning to respect ourselves and expecting men to do the same.

xoxo

xoxo, B

When The Shaky Voice Is The Strongest

When I was in physical therapy after my car accident, something my therapist said to me stuck fast.

I was working my hip flexors to be able to walk without assistance and to realign the muscle and bone structure of my legs. To do this, I had to lay on my side and slowly raise one leg as high as I could for a certain number of counts before bringing it back down.

While that may sound easy (especially if you have strong hip flexors), the technique of it was difficult. One of the key points of the exercise was to relax the muscle after each lift instead of keeping it contracted (which didn’t work the muscles properly). I’d been doing well at going through the exercise (like thirty lifts a leg) when I learned that I had been doing them wrong and had to start over. As I did them correctly, the number of reps I could do dropped to 10-15 a leg — less on my weak hip.

Then my therapist threw me a curveball. I had been counting from the first rep (obvious, right?) And ending on whichever I could reach, up to whatever number I had been told to aim for (thirty at this point). At the beginning of this session, he came over and set his hand on my hip as I lifted and he asked “does it burn?”

I had been getting stronger over the last couple weeks, so I could answer “no.”

He nodded, took his hand off and said, “okay, these ones don’t count. I still want you to aim for thirty, but don’t start numbering them until they burn. That’s when it matters. That’s when they’ll really count.”

In that moment of course, I absolutely detested the poor man. It was hard enough to walk around on crutches all day, now I had to do thirty reps in incredible pain? He was nuts. It was horrible, my hips burned and my legs shook, but I pushed through as many reps as I could physically lift my leg. And once I mastered thirty, he added more.

At the end of these sessions, I could hardly walk. Often it was all I could do to make it to the waiting room, and I would need someone to assist me out to the car, or I relied on my walker. My legs trembled like you wouldn’t believe and man oh man did my hips ache. But suddenly my recovery was accelerated. In a matter of a couple weeks, I had improved 50% over what was projected. When I left the rehabilitation center initially, I had been told that I probably wouldn’t be out of a wheelchair for three months, and likely wouldn’t be walking for another three-six months after that (which would have been my graduation ceremony). Not only was I out of my wheelchair in a few weeks, I was walking within a couple months.

So why am I sharing this?

I believe that this is an important philosophy to understand in all walks of life. When I started working out again, I drew on this experience to help me push through workouts — if it didn’t hurt (obviously not in a serious, health concerning way) it didn’t count. If I didn’t end my workout collapsing on the floor, I pushed my way through another one. If I was sore the next day, I forced myself to not cheat through the sets.

But in other areas of my life, I cheated.

Namely, my faith and my philosophies.

I was comfortable speaking out about the things that were kosher and bland — the things that pretty much everyone knows and most can agree with. The things that didn’t make the majority of people uncomfortable. It’s easy to say where god is in my personal experience of faith. It’s easy to jump on board with #alllivesmatter. It’s easy to passively share cryptic memes/photos/quotes without stating my own personal feelings on the matter — just enough to make people wonder but not enough to make them ask.

If you follow me on Facebook, I’m sure you’ve seen that recently I’ve grown to be much more outspoken about my political views, but it wasn’t until a couple days ago that I realized how important it is to own where I stand in the world, even if that means challenging what I think I know.

This past week, for the first time in my entire life, I questioned the existence of god. I didn’t question his power. I didn’t question his love. I didn’t question his words. I questioned his actual existence.

I questioned whether I could truly believe in a god who ordered his people to murder men, women, and children. I questioned whether I could believe in a god who allowed my family to struggle to the point of despair. I questioned whether I could believe in a god who allows such terrible injustices as a toddler being beaten to death and her killers given sentences like 3-15 years. I questioned whether I could believe in a god who has allowed thousands of people to be killed in the last couple years by acts of terrorism, both domestically and internationally — and yes, I consider every mass shooting an act of terrorism. Suddenly, everything seemed fuzzy… My absolute certainty that god existed was gone. And I felt the way I imagine many children feel when they learn that Santa was a myth — you build this beautiful image up in your head of some great idea and when you learn the truth, that image suddenly withers. It doesn’t just *poof* away in a cloud of glitter and leave you a little sad that it’s gone. It dies, and shrinks into a black, cold, bitter mess of twisted vines that lead nowhere.

After seeking some advice in the situation, some conversation prompted me to remember that instance in physical therapy, when my legs shook and the muscles burned and I was starting all over again.

I realized that through the years, this is exactly what has been happening with my faith, and I believe in everyone’s faith. There comes a deciding moment when everything hurts, everything shakes, and the thought of continuing to push through is impossible. Not just difficult, but impossible. You can’t remember why you started in the first place and you’re certain that if you stop now and find your own way around, it will be so much easier. But these, these are the moments when your strength is building. It’s not the moments when you are certain you can achieve all, when everything is happening the right way, when you don’t have to worry about the future. It’s the moments when everything has fallen apart, when nothing makes sense, and when you have no idea how to keep going. That’s when it hurts. That’s when it starts.

Recently in a discussion regarding allowing the Syrian refugees asylum in the united states, someone asked how anyone who calls themselves a Christian could insist we turn them away. Someone else who identifies very strongly as a Christian replied that her faith and her political views had nothing to do with each other. I jumped in and shared my own opinion on that matter, which is this:

If you are a Christian, if you truly claim to follow Christ, your faith should have everything to do with your political views. Regardless of whether you call yourself liberal, conservative, republican, democrat, green, independent, moderate, whatever, if you are not looking at the world as Jesus would, you’re looking at it incorrectly.

In saying that, I believe we must apply this exact same philosophy to growing our worldview. No one can be blamed for starting out with opinions, prejudices, and beliefs that they were raised with and taught, but learning should never stop there. If we aren’t challenging ourselves and our friends, families, and peers to stop and ask themselves the hard questions — even if their answers remain the same — how will we ever have any measure of strength in the world?

In finding my faith challenged to the absolute limit, I realized that all faith is is a form of unconditional love. I choose every day to love my husband, even when he has made it impossible, even when he has walked away from me. Obviously, I can’t question his physical existence, but I can question the existence of the person I am supposed to love. So even when I couldn’t make my brain wrap around the idea of a god incarnate who exists yesterday, today, and forever, even when I couldn’t find any promise in Jesus as his son, I chose my faith.

I choose to share that faith, even though my voice may be shaky. Even though I may still question and wonder and fight.

I choose to share my philosophy on the world, even though it makes me feel weak. Even though my stomach ties up in knots and I get an anxiety attack at the thought of seeing my notifications.

By speaking, by shaking, I am growing stronger. Though I may stand next to someone whose voice is bigger, tone is more sure, words more practiced, I know that I may still be the stronger one, because I will keep pushing through every trembling word.

I won’t start counting until it hurts.

With all my love,

B

xoxo, B