Saturday, November 15, 2014

I Met the Queen

I've been struggling with the way by which I want to write this. It's huge and it's multidimensional and it is so much like looking through an immaculately cut diamond with a laser. I met the queen this week.

I met the queen, and she knows she's the queen.

When Tashmica told us that she was on her way, I was literally Sandra Oh as Principal Gupta at Grove High School in The Princess Diaries. 






The QUEEN is coming."

Literally. Endless fangirling: commence. And when I met her on Wednesday, I came up right behind her, and she almost jumped out of her skin when I tapped her shoulder (because honestly I probably slapped it with my awkward excitement) and when she turned around, I almost lost myself in the magnitude of her presence. Because 25 years ago, she held Tashmica's bravery gently, like it was a baby blue Robin egg in a delicate mass of twisted brown twigs. I believe that she looked straight into Tashmica's soul that day the way she looked straight into mine on Wednesday night, and I believe that she saw Tashmica's strength and her potential for absolute greatness.

A potential that she is now pushing and leveling up, every single day.

The queen listened, that day. She was gentle. She was intuitive. She was humble, from where she sat as a monarch. She said those magical, delicious, honey-sweet words: "I believe you." She did the right thing.

And Tashmica this past Wednesday, clutching a giant check from the USA Network, told us how much she recognizes that gift. She told us that she had been unaware that children and teenagers are continuously made to feel dirty and worthless, or slut-shamed and silenced. Because she told the right person. She told the queen. And the queen came as soon as she heard. As a result of that, Tashmica comes as soon as she hears. She told us that we deserve the advocacy that we may not have been given, and that there is nothing wrong with us, and that we are survivors, Soulfires, all ablaze like sparklers on a dark November night.

I came to the Soulfire calendar reveal after a very difficult week. A week during which my flight response was mysteriously overactive, and during which I experienced some of the most profound sadness I've ever felt. I'm in transition. I've momentarily abandoned my passions that used to provide a solid foundation, and I've found myself in a cycle of frustration and loss. I fluctuate between sinking and floating, but I'm very seldom grounded. 

So when I approached Lisa the queen that night and told her that I was fine, that I was leaving school and that packing up my home broke my heart but that I was fine, she looked into my eyes and asked me a question. She asked me if, at school or at home in Clemson, I was being abused.

It caught me off guard. Nobody had ever asked me that before. Nobody.

My heart started beating like it was alive again. I have not been abused at Clemson, but nobody had ever asked me that before. And if anybody had asked when it was relevant, I would've likely said no. I wouldn't have been able to justify to myself that somebody was mistreating me. I wouldn't have given myself that grace.

But this time, I felt justified. I felt like I had just been inducted into this community...after all these years, it felt official. Here was a person who wanted to be certain that I was safe, and if I wasn't, I believe that she would have been the first to advocate for me, and for all of us. She wants us to be proud of our bravery, and to own it, and to celebrate it.

It was one simple question, but it carries such enormous significance. It meant that somebody, the queen no less, was standing at the ready to advocate for me. It means that I do deserve advocacy. And these people, these survivors, that have danced into my life are the people who would come running to me if I need it.

They'll come as soon as they hear.

Firecracker photo from the Lansing State Journal. All calendar photos by Jena McShane, hair & makeup by Heather Jarous; both brave, beautiful survivors with us.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Fear Itself

"..but as bad as I am, I'm proud of the fact that I'm worse than I seem."
-Ani DiFranco, Grey

I'm having the hardest time placing my own face over the things I know to exist behind the place a face usually goes. Or, more accurately, I'm struggling to assign my own face to this illness inside. 

Probably because, insightful as I may tend to be, I don't understand what's going on. I'm exhausted almost all the time but I'm not physically tired, so I wake up frustrated that I'll have to fight myself to get out of bed...and then most likely lose anyway.

Lately, I've been spending loads of time with the people who I love, and who, I imagine, love me. I am sad to realize, though, that it has only made me feel marginally better. At some point during the evening, I often find myself struggling to contain myself within my own body...and then I panic.

One of a few things happens; but no matter what, I dissociate.

Sometimes, I isolate myself in a place with fresh, frigid air. I find a staircase somewhere and sit, collecting my breath, scanning every nuance of my environment, hyper-vigilant and hyper-aware. I wait until I'm ready to sink back into the norm.

Sometimes, the invisible part of me has escaped. I don't know where I've gone. And I'm furious that I wasn't able to go with it; instead I've been left with the body that I'd readily abandon in a heartbeat just to be free. I call myself back. I plead. I beg. Where have you gone? Please come back. Where are you? Are you safe? Can I come with you? Come back to me.

Sometimes, I'm stuck. I shut down. I wonder why I am where I am, why I've allowed myself out of the house...when clearly I'm in this ridiculous phase during which I'm a complete basket case who, admittedly and with much chagrin, cannot feel safe even in completely normal situations. I feel as alone as I am inside. I feel outside. I do not feel real; I am not real. I curse this ball-and-chain body that is weighing me down and preventing me from simply dissolving into the dim light and the barstools and the thick air.

I don't exist. I can't exist. None of this is real.

And looking at the rest of the picture, it's glaringly obvious. I'm scared of everything right now. 

I'm terrified.