not okay 

Fall is in full swing and I haven’t written a blog post since August. This summer was particularly intense for a lot of us, with the election and so many social issues catching fire. I have been in a season of serious soul searching and have mostly steered clear of my blog of late. But right now, I need to write and share about an important subject that has recently gained traction. I need to connect.

We all heard Donald Trump boasting about his fame affording him the ability to do whatever he wants with women and “grab them by the pussy” and I’m not sure many of us were shocked. Appalled, disgusted and angry, but not shocked. I’ve heard a number of people, including the offender himself, repeatedly say that these are “just words” and they have assigned it the charming label, “locker room talk.” As many of us know all too well, these are not just words.

We are talking about real actions of assault and violation. It was real for me when I was grabbed in the “pussy” by a famous baseball star.

{Using this word absolutely makes me cringe, but let’s be consistent with the language that triggered this discussion. As I’ve said before about other topics, getting uncomfortable with the things we discuss is the best way to change the status quo, so I guess that’s true of the vernacular within the discussion itself.}

I was a 22 year old waitress and college student. I had just moved to Chicago from my small town roots and was still finding my footing but thought a job at a sports bar in my well-lit, populated neighborhood was a safe bet. Like every other young woman I knew, I regularly secured my keys between my knuckles when I walked home alone – I thought that was the most likely time and place for an assault, so I was on my guard at all times.

I’ll never forget that night the Cubs clinched the division and the infamous slugger who thought it was okay to do whatever he wanted with my body, as I served him the drink he’d ordered. I shot him a horrified look and hit his hand away from between my legs. Without flinching or skipping a beat, he did it a second time, this time even more aggressively. I hit his hand again and bolted.

This is where the story gets even better. I went straight to the manager, a nice guy who always looked out for the waitresses and bartenders when customers got aggressive or inappropriate. How quaint and naive of me to think that he would be equally horrified and kick him out, because guys had been kicked out for much less in the past. But this wasn’t just any random guy. The manager said, “there isn’t anything I can do because he’s a celebrity.” And there you have it.

Men in power think they can get away with whatever they want because they CAN.

This power doesn’t just apply to famous men. Men can gain power over women in other ways. For instance: The college professor who regularly ogled me and touched me inappropriately while I was seated at my desk or handing in an assignment – but he was my teacher and elder. The former boyfriend who sexually assaulted me and left both physical and emotional bruises – but he was my boyfriend. Sure, I could have filed a complaint against the professor or broken up with the boyfriend much sooner, but I felt powerless and afraid. I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers or make the situation worse. The idea that women do not have agency over their own bodies is rape culture. Sometimes rape culture is actual rape and assault and other times it’s an unwelcome touch or demeaning language, whether in or outside of the presence of a woman. This culture leads to offenders like Brock Turner and those who justified his actions and lightened his sentence.

Rape culture goes further, with the overwhelming emphasis on making oneself desirable and sexy in the eyes of a man. There are entire magazines devoted to teaching young women and girls 27 ways to blow his mind and a step by step guide to make sure you successfully transform yourself to fit his idea of what you should look like, what you should wear, how you should act and who you should be, because only then will you have value. For your convenience, 45-51% of those magazines are ads for the products that will help you to achieve the goal of desirable vixen. It took me years to deprogram myself from that mentality. What’s more, because my husband never asked me to change anything about my appearance and never expected me to fit this mold that I had learned, I thought something must be wrong when we were first dating.

Watching this campaign has been difficult for many of us and has elicited a visceral response in me. That response has only grown more intense as the insults and “othering” have compounded, but it wasn’t until I read a piece about domestic abuse victims being triggered by Trump and his campaign, that it finally hit me: for months, this has been a trigger for me as well and I didn’t even realize it. I just thought I was going mildly crazy. Watching him has made me feel raw, vulnerable and absolutely terrified. It’s made me angry, it’s made me want to hide and it’s made me want to fight back. I’ve had panic attacks and one utter meltdown.

There was a 33% increase in calls to the National Sexual Assault Hotline with domestic violence and sexual assault survivors being triggered by Trump during the second presidential debate and the onslaught of media coverage of the Access Hollywood tape. Liz Plank with Vox, posted an excellent video {highly recommend!} that went viral on social media last week. Plank concisely illustrates why Trump isn’t actually a bully, as he is often described, but that he has consistently exhibited many classic traits of an abuser, such as gaslighting, humiliation, deflection and making threats.

Writer, Kelly Oxford asked women to tweet her about their first assaults 10 days ago. She has since received millions of tweets from women, describing their experiences with sexual assault.



There is now widespread acknowledgment for this broadly defined culture of disrespect and abuse, that we have been taught to shrug off because it’s just the way things are. Women are voicing their outrage with the realization that it is not actually their fault. Men share in this outrage, but several men have associated their outrage with the chivalrous need to defend their wives, daughters, mothers and sisters. Rather, shouldn’t men be outraged, not for the sake of women but for the sake of human dignity? Not outrage on behalf of women, but also on behalf of men. Last night, my husband said that it is easy for a man to be outraged when thinking about this culture and its effect on his own loved ones, but the next step is to go beyond that personal scope and feel that same level of outrage when considering the impact of rape culture on society at large. Further still, to feel outrage for the boys who are taught these behaviors in the first place.

The resounding message from so many voices telling their stories, is that it is no longer our burden to carry this shame. Let the shame fall to those who perpetuate rape culture and those who deny dignity to women. It is not okay. We can and MUST do better.

 

If you are a survivor of sexual assault, please visit RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) for support.

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800.656.HOPE

get over it: anxiety

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Flying: one of my biggest sources of anxiety. Panic attack level anxiety. I absolutely love to travel so I don’t let it keep me from flying!

More than 20 years ago, I was formally diagnosed with anxiety. When it got really bad in high school, I felt broken. I worked very hard to overcome it and I came out on the other side feeling like a stronger and much more complete person. That’s it, right? Buh-bye anxiety!!! Not so fast, honey.

A few months ago, I realized that I never really “got over it.” Struggling with anxiety is one of those things that once you start talking about, you quickly realize you’re in good company. That said, it doesn’t come up often and can be a bit of a taboo topic, but apparently I like writing about taboo topics, so why not!

I think anxiety is something you never really get over but that you learn coping mechanisms, whether or not you’re conscious that you’re doing it. My coping mechanisms have taken a hit since I became a mother, so my anxiety has been sneaking up on me a bit more than usual. Thanks to my two littles, I am waaaay too tired to stay up into the wee hours cleaning the house, organizing and reorganizing. Taking time for yoga has also fallen by the wayside. The internet says that getting enough sleep is important for keeping anxiety in check, so it’s probably safe to add that to my list! Combine these changes with some environmental stressors and you have a perfect recipe for your pot to boil over.
Anxiety manifests itself differently for everyone and it’s a perfectly normal response to stress. However, for some people it can color even neutral experiences. Some days, I feel anxious about the normal things that everyone feels anxious about and other days, it doesn’t feel so normal. Each person has different anxiety triggers. For me, it seems to be connected to the ability to control my surroundings and being in environments where I feel comfortable enough to be myself.

My husband brought up a really interesting point the other day – I have built my career around what can be one of the most stressful times in life, but planning weddings isn’t an anxiety trigger for me. One would think that my nerves would be through the roof with the responsibilities of a wedding planner, but I’m cool, calm and collected. Now the stress over work/life balance is another thing entirely, but the actual wedding planning process is almost relaxing. I think that’s because it’s my job to plan, to organize, to control what can be controlled. {All the love, pretty things, creativity and the warm and fuzzies probably don’t hurt either!}

Writing this blog has been helpful, for a few reasons:

  1. The writing process, in and of itself, is therapeutic, especially when I write about things that feed my anxiety.
  2. Posting those writings in a public forum is a great way to connect with people who can relate or who appreciate my perspective, so there’s no longer room to feel alone with my thoughts. It gives me a voice when I feel my voice is lost.
  3. Writing publicly and putting it all out there keeps me accountable to myself. It keeps me from floating back to my old habit of trying to be someone else in an effort to fit in and be liked.
  4. Writing about things that I love helps me to focus on the fun adventures in life and give those things emphasis.

So, for anyone who has ever wondered why I write publicly about personal things and touchy subjects, in addition to the fun stuff, there you have it. Life isn’t all fluff and prettiness for anyone. Part of being real is acknowledging and learning from the less than pretty. When I started this blog, I set out to keep from falling into to the look-how-fab-my-life-is kind of trap. I wanted to be sure I was open and honest, so writing this post is important for me to stay authentic.

This video popped up in my newsfeed via Upworthy {if you don’t follow them you should!} as a repost from The Mighty. It’s excellent and totally with the minute and a half. {No sound needed.}

Even though I sometimes try to convince myself otherwise… Having anxiety doesn’t mean that I’m weak. It doesn’t mean that my voice isn’t valid. It doesn’t mean that I’m not capable. It doesn’t mean that I’m not good at my job. It doesn’t mean that I’m not driven and focused. It certainly doesn’t mean that I am not a happy and bubbly person. {Because I am super bubbly, sometimes maybe to a fault!} Having anxiety just means that sometimes there’s a lot going on in my head and it’s harder for me to turn the volume down.

Understanding my triggers is essential. I know that if I’m approaching a situation that I can’t control, like flying, I need to do certain things to help me manage and get on with my travels. In that same regard, I’ve learned that it’s imperative to surround myself with people who bring the positive vibes so that I don’t sink into my own insecurity and defensiveness – I mean, who wants to hang out with Debbie Downer!? I certainly don’t want to hang with that girl, let alone BE that girl. Positive vibes and support are key.

I know I’m not perfect and I’m okay with that, but I think I’m finally done trying to be perfect.

xoxo