A More Honest Look at My Year

Someone I follow online sent out an “end of year exercise” to think about all the aspects of the year that is coming to a close. There were many questions to think about as I reflected over the past 11 months. I was kind of surprised by the negativity I expressed. In my last post I said I thought it had been a “healthier, happier” year. Now I am questioning that.

When I compare the two years, I see that while 2016 had a series of dismal times that culminated in a tragic event, I was relatively unaware of the severity of the problems. So while the year was punctuated by a handful of unsettling and hurtful experiences, I feel like I passed from one to another with relatively little distress in between. On the other hand, 2017 saw me actively dealing with pain for the greater part of the year. Emotional pain, physical pain, and financial pain all found their way to my days. When reflecting on the year in free form writing, the words that surfaced were Pain, Money, and Fear. That surprised and concerned me. I’d like better than that. So I used them to develop new words for 2018 – Comfort, Resiliency, Enrich, and Assurance. I will use these words to shape my goals for 2018. I also chose a “Word of the Year” – Recovery.

 

As for my official goals, I have done so-so. I did pretty poorly on issues of creativity and self-care. However my goals for health & physical fitness and personal relationships were completely realized. Taking care of my kids and my house came in at pretty much the expected level of completion. I have a few more weeks to see if I can hammer out a little bit of progress on some of them (I give myself partial credit, remember?) In January, I’ll make a full report.

I am a positive, optimistic person in general, but I am given to Pollyannaism at times. I’m glad I stopped and took a better look at what I thought was a “good” year. I deserve better than what I have been getting, but I also need to realize that it takes a while. I’ll work on making next year just that much better again.

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Yes, #MeToo

In light of #MeToo, I thought I’d speak out more specifically as one of my friends has. Not too many people know this story because I have always worked hard to repress it.

I’ll start off with the easier stuff to work up to it. Like most woman, I have been subjected to misogyny flung at me from a passing car, a guy being way too close to me for comfort, sexuality used a a method of humiliation. More specifically, I have had a company manager ask me what color my underwear was and my direct supervisor ask me to have sex with him (even knowing I was married.) Strangely (or not) when I left the workforce some 18 years ago, whatever harassment I experienced diminished. Or perhaps my perception of its danger reduced because I was no longer dependent on the people in power for my job. But the actual assault happened in high school.

I was one of the “smart kids” and never felt like I could attract the interest of a boy. When a boy two years older than I asked me to dance at a local dance, I was over the moon. I started dating him. Looking back, I am fairly certain he started manipulating me right at the start. My parents hated him. They were right. He somehow put a proprietary stamp on me and certainly after that no boy would even look my way. I’ve actually spoken to at least two men who say they were interested in me back then, but didn’t move on it. I told them I wish they had, they could have saved me.

We dated about a year and a half, and I freely admit that we did what was then called “heavy petting”. He worked his hardest to convince me to “go all the way” and one time I let him try. It was a disaster for me and I made him stop. The next time we went out, I was not so lucky. He was not interested in my protestations. We were in an isolated area and I remember trying to work out how far I’d have to run before getting to a house where someone would be. When he was done, he took me home. Without saying what happened, I told my parents I never wanted to see him again. I am pretty sure I was enlisting their help to protect me because I knew things were going to get worse. They did.

He tried to call, he got hung up on. He came to the restaurant where I worked, no one would seat him in my section. He glowered at me from the counter with a cup of coffee, colleagues made sure I didn’t have to go to the front area. He volunteered at my high school in the theatre (he had already graduated and the theatre was my only “extracurricular”.) He defaced property at my house and I was TERRIFIED he was going to burn down my house – copying a popular movie at the time. He also tried to kidnap me. I was driving to school early (for a National Merit Scholarship meeting!) and I saw his car in the lot across the street from my house. I tried to leave the back way, but he saw and started following me at a terrible pace. Being just 17, my only thought was “if I can get to school fast enough, I’ll be alright.” I did not, however, remember that I was going to school early and that there was going to be no one in the parking lot. I made it to school, jumped out of my car, and started to run. As you might imagine, I was not fast enough. He grabbed me, dragged me to his car, and started to shove me in. What I saw next has stayed vivid since that day. My father’s car came flying over an embankment and stopped feet from the front of his car. He leapt out, grabbed the guy by the shoulders, and threw him off me. My dad was about half a foot shorter than this guy, but he had fatherly rage on his side. This, by the way, is the reason I always believed I could “save” one of my kids if I needed to. My dad escorted me into the school office and frankly I have no idea what happened next. Were the police called? I don’t know. Did my dad confront him? I don’t know. Was the school told to bar entrance to this guy? I don’t know. I do know that the cop in my very small town  DID find him and inform him that he was no longer welcome and he better not show up there again. I never saw him again. Sadly, that did not mean the end of it though. Even though I went off to college the next year, he continued to harass my family. But that’s another story.

For years these events haunted me. When I started each new college year, I mapped out in my head two different ways to escape my dorm room and most academic buildings if I learned he was coming to find me. I decided what guys I could trust to be bigger or stronger than him so I could go to them if I needed it. I fantasized about shooting him (there were no guns in my household, so it was only a fantasy.) Eventually, it all faded. And yet, when I joined Facebook, the first thing I did was block him. When Google+ came into existence, I was signed up automatically because I had a Youtube account, but I never used it. In 2012 HE ASK TO ADD ME and I was momentarily thrown back into panic. I ignored it for months then blocked him. I didn’t want him to see he was being blocked in response to the request. And now, because of the bizarre climate we are living in, I am dredging it up once again.

Back then, “date rape” and “stalking” weren’t a thing yet. I wish they didn’t have to be a thing now, but they are. So……..

#MeToo.

Don’t Box Me In

I have a friend at the gym I have known for two years now. He’s more than just a “hi, how are ya” friend, we’ve had many meaningful conversations and talk about a great deal of different topics. Recently, I asked him about his accent. Growing up as provincial as I did I have NO CLUE how to identify different accents and have, on occasion mistaken an Aussie for a Brit (hanging head low low low.) I was curious but not burningly so, I have known him for two years and never asked ’til now. He answered that he doesn’t tell people; he often tells people he’s “from heaven”, and generally (politely) fucks with people who ask. Much like Jim, who when people ask “So, what do you do?”, “Drugs” is his pat answer, Alan tells inquirers of that same question “I’m a stripper and a pimp. Are you interested?” I also have been known to stymie people’s queries into “what I do” by answering “ask me something else, people in this area are too defined by WHAT THEY DO.”

We talked about this for a while; how people tend to put other people in boxes, make assumptions, and seem generally uncomfortable with not knowing someone’s provenance. He started his academic career at Oxford and currently teaches at Georgetown; he’s lived all around the world and can speak five languages. He doesn’t want a box. So many people have been put in a box recently. It makes me sad to think about. My neighbor now has family living with her and when her daughter hollered a hello across the cul-de-sac, I made sure to go over and talk to her and the newly arrived cousins. “They only speak Urdu” she informed me. That made me make sure I actually talked to the little boys. One shook my hand and both smiled brightly at me. I don’t want those boys put in a box either.

This isn’t a “this is what we should do” post. If I knew what to do I’d have done it and made millions doing so. Maybe it harkens back to my recent Facebook post (https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fcheryl.b.demas%2Fposts%2F10208482941186122&width=500)  about #justbebetter.  If everyone would #justbebetter, people wouldn’t have assumptions made about them. People could be freer with their countries of origin, sexual identities or preferences, their bodies, their mental health status, their interests; people wouldn’t be put in boxes.

Because only IKEA furniture belongs in a box.