Friday, April 26, 2013


I came across this article today that talks about American-born women, one of whom is the widow of the slain Boston bomber, who chose to convert to Islam, hijab and all. It's a brief account from each of them, but they are all saying the same thing: it was their choice, there was no brainwashing, they found the beauty in the faith and made it their own.

I think American culture needs to hear more stories like this. The opposition that these women face is born of fear and ignorance. I had a conversation with my dad on Sunday that gave me some pause. My mother is a self-proclaimed bigot, but my dad has always struck me as being very open minded and accepting. When I converted from Catholicism to paganism, I worried about what my mom would think but I told my dad. He never took Communion at church so I knew he wasn't Catholic and I figured he might be more understanding about my change. He said he had read a bit about pagan faiths and knew I wasn't devil-worshipping, and he also agreed that it was probably best not to tell my mom. I talked to her sister about my choices as well and how she thought my mom would react. I knew that she didn't go to church at all. My aunt agreed with us at the time. Some years later, she told me that she thought mom would accept me no matter what because "you are like her best friend." That made me happy. My mom is generally an awesome person, but we don't agree on religion and politics so we just don't talk about those things. But I'm getting away from my point.

That conversation with dad on Sunday surprised me. After a very busy weekend, we were just seeing the news from Friday that the second bomber had been caught. My dad went into a (calm) rant about Islam and how the bombers must have been part of some group that brainwashed them into doing the horrible thing that they did. I was really surprised to hear such ignorant statements coming from my dad. I tried my best to correct them, blame the people not the faith they happened to be a part of. He seemed to listen but I don't think I changed his opinions at all.

When even someone as generally accepting as my dad can form these negative opinions based on stereotypes of an entire group of people, there is something wrong. It's certainly more than I, as one person, can change. We all need to make an effort to understand.

There is so much of this article that I could quote that I'm just going to link it and encourage everyone to read it and maybe we'll remember that bad people are everywhere and in every faith and that does not make everyone bad too.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

One Year Ago Today

was a Saturday. I don't remember if I went to rehearsal. I do remember cleaning the heck out of my house Friday night. I do remember telling my dad, who was staying with me on weekends, that he had to be elsewhere for the better part of the evening. I remember cooking dinner, though what I made I couldn't say, I'm pretty sure there was asparagus. The exact dinner is really irrelevant.

I had a date. He brought a bottle of wine and a couple movies: Gremlins, which he knew terrified me but I was willing to see, and I think we also saw the Village that night. He warned me when the scary, jump out at you part was coming. And I spent the evening in his arms.

It was the first of many evenings spent that way. Pretty much weekly, and also weekendly (that's my word, shut up): dinner, made or picked up or gone out, and then sitting together with something on the telly. I remember one time we sat there together on that couch and talked all night and never got around to turning the TV on at all.

And it's not all TV. Sometimes it's parties, corn mazes, theater, karaoke, little local cons, a trip to Connecticut. It's been a wonderful year.

We don't really see each other as often as I wish; sometimes the distance between our homes is poignant. But we do what we can and I'll happily take what I can get. Any time with him is time well spent. He is kind and patient and understanding and handsome and gentle and affectionate. He is one of the most beautiful people I know.

This day marked our first year. I got to spend the day in his arms or by his side, where I most wanted to be. We didn't do anything special, and that's just fine. Being with him is what I needed.

Our first year. It's been so wonderful. I look forward to all the years to come, and I know each one will be better than the last. I love him, and I am so lucky to have his love.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Tackling Depression

A couple dear friends of mine have recently written about their experiences with depression. Lots of people have it, have had it, or will have it. Everyone has an opinion on it, and only those who have experienced it really know. We really know that it's not just feeling down or bored or lazy. It's not just feeling sad. It's not just mood at all. What's really going on is that a person with depression suffers from a chemical imbalance in the brain. All those chemicals that your brain produces to make you feel happy don't get produced as much in a person with depression, or they get absorbed and metabolized too quickly. That is how depression happens. We don't need to reach a certain age or have a certain event happen to be depressed, just our brain not doing with those chemicals what it should be doing. Yes, age and events can trigger your brain to not treat those feel-happy chemicals the way it should, but that is not necessary for one to have depression. This is important and everyone needs to know this. I can point to an event that was a 'cause' for me, but not everyone can and many don't have one at all. That's why antidepressants can work, they are drugs that adjust those chemicals in the brain. But the really important thing to know is that it's not going to just go away.

Anyway, I'm not really here to go into what depression is on a medical level. A friend of mine posted an article on her Facebook page that I thought was worth a mention. Just based on the title, 21 Tips to Keep Your Shit Together When You're Depressed, I thought this was going to be another list of 'just be happy' sparkles and unicorns and rainbows. I was pleased to see it was more of a counter to that sparkles and unicorns and rainbows list. Number 19 made me stop reading that and start writing this: "Depression will lie to you. Depression will try to tell you what others are thinking. That you are unloved and unworthy, that others think little of you or don’t care – or even wish you harm. You are not a psychic. Keep repeating that. 'I am not a psychic'. Repeat. The only way to know what another person is thinking is to up and ask them." It's a lot like what my friend Enid wrote on her blog: "DEPRESSION HAS BEEN LYING TO YOU. Depression tries to tell you that you're worthless, you're bad, you're stupid, you're blah blah blah de fucking blah blah on and on and on it talks so damn much about so much bullshit and it's all LIES. Christ on a fucking cracker, it will not shut up. It goes on and on blah blah blabbity blah and you're not good enough and nobody cares and nobody understands and blah blah blabbity BLAH the world would be better off without you, your friends, your family, they'd be better off without you blah blah blah OH MY GOD, DEPRESSION, SHUT UP."

I never really thought of it that way before, but it's very true. Depression tells you that you are alone, that no one cares, that nothing will ever change or be better, and that you deserve to feel that sad and helpless and alone, and you don't deserve to feel anything else.

Like most people, those chemicals in my brain fluctuate. Quite a bit. Generally, I'm a happy person. I have a job, I have a home, I have family who care for me and a boyfriend who loves me. There are some days when all of those things I have are so far away from me it's like they're not there at all. I can't control when that happens, I can't change a habit or do something different to keep that at bay, it happens because it's in my brain. Now, I've come a long way from the time when I wanted to end my life. I remember that well. It seemed things were fine; it was 1997, I was graduating high school, going to be the first person in my family to go to college, I was acting which I loved, and I wanted to die. A friend of mine saw some signs and was concerned and told my mother. My mother asked if everything was alright. I lied. I told her everything was fine and my friend was being silly. Then I worked on my plan. No one really cared, not my friend who was concerned, not my mom who took that information seriously. Depression told me so. And I had a plan. And then I realized I needed help, fessed up to my mom about lying about actually being ok, and she got me some help. I don't know what changed my mind about asking for help. Not a clue.

That point, that almost no return point, I haven't been in a place like that in a good long while. But there was a time, it was two years ago November. It was bad. I was the worst I had been since that day in 1997. I didn't want to die, not like I did then, but I did want to hurt myself, and on some occasions I did. I've never been a cutter, but it's easy to explain away a few bruises. I was already well practiced in that anyway and mysterious bruises crop up on me all the time (I just bruise easily, I've always been that way). So I did that, I hit myself with things until there were bruises, until I could feel pain when I just lightly touched them. I used a variety of things, one time it was the metal hammer from my toolkit, the butt of my Phantom pistols on my mantle, the poker I use for the woodstove. I once heard it described, in relation to cutting, that the pain you cause yourself is feeling something other than the things depression is telling you to feel. I hit my legs, my arms, my torso, my head. Just to feel the pain of a bruise. I have never harmed myself like that before or since. But I honestly cannot promise that I never will again.

My friend Jade reminds me that the village doesn't go away once the child is raised. There is a reason why humans need groups of others around them, that's the way we are built. If you think you need help, that's when it's time to ask for it. And don't wait. Having worked on coping with my depression on my own for years and years and years, I can tell you that it's hard, so very hard, and I really don't recommend it.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

What They Say


The big topic around the Internet a few weeks ago was the Steubenville rape case. I actually started writing this then, but then I got sick and then time went on, the media focused on other things, and it sat unfinished. But it still has to go somewhere, so here it is. Back to the case, I was not following it closely. I wasn't reading tweets or looking at videos or paying a whole lot of attention to the details of the case. But it was there, just outside my vision - something to pay attention to without diving too far in. Diving in meant memories, you see, and they're hard enough to get out of my head on a good day.

But still, I was interested in the verdict as much as any woman, as much as any crime victim, should have been. "Delinquent," which means guilty on the juvenile side of court, and a year or more in detention. Good. Very good.

And then the country reacted, and it shocked me. News agencies talked about the case, but not about the victim and how she would hopefully get a sense of justice, or maybe find it easier to heal and move on. No, about the criminals, boys but still convicted criminals. Before I go into that, I feel I should point out that I have a fair amount of empathy for people who do wrong - Monty's plight should be evidence enough of that. At the same time, Monty never physically hurt anyone, least of all me. For whatever he is, even his own kind of monster, he is not a rapist.

That puts me in an interesting place, because someone somewhere must love these children and love them still even though they are monsters. That means that somehow on some level I must understand why someone would still love these boys, would speak on their behalf, would mourn their bright futures now gone. I don't. I don't understand it. They're rapists. And that makes me feel like a hypocrite.

But it's not without cause, without reason. I'm going to share something here that I've shared with few. Even best friends who know me well may not know this, and some acquaintances who know me barely know this already. Funny how that works sometimes, but I digress. This is coming out now because, the raw truth is, I'm not as healed as I thought I was.

I was raped. By two different men in two very different times of my life and two very different ways. There was no scary man in a dark alley. I wasn't wearing short skirts or high heels or drunk. And neither of them was just one incident, but a period of time, over and over.

The first, I was a child and he was a teenager, not older than those boys from Steubenville. My conscious brain blocks a lot of it out, I was so very young, but memories I thought long buried have ways of showing up when least expected and certainly not desired. It went on for a period of years. He was my best friend's oldest brother. Any time spent with her meant possible time with him. And it wasn't just me. He molested his sister too.

What I remember most about that time of my life is what happened after my best friend and I were convinced by another friend to tell our parents. I don't even remember how she got us to that point, or why we told her at all. My friend went first, and when she came back out, it was my turn. She was in there a long time. I told my mother while she was washing the car. I don't remember her reaction. I do remember my embarrassment.

What followed was doctors, a whole slew of them. Months upon months with medical doctors, years with mental doctors. I remember the very first appointment after. The doctor was some old balding man, he wasn't our regular doctor, I guess he was someone that maybe the police told my parents to take me to, but I don't remember any police. He treated me like an object and talked to my parents like I wasn't even there. Sure, there is very little I would have understood at that age, but why couldn't he even address me like a person instead of treating me as a thing on his examination table? I mean, to go through what I went through and then they bring me to a scary man doctor who couldn't even tell me what he was going to do before he touched my body? And every subsequent evaluation was like that, even when I saw other doctors at that facility - get on the table, doc does his thing, and then talks to my parents like he was discussing a new couch he bought for his living room that he couldn't get through the door. What was burned into my brain was a whole bunch of adults standing around looking at me and looking very angry. I thought I had done something really terrible and I wished that I never told anyone it happened at all. I wished I never told anyone. And if that boy was ever punished in any way for what he did, I never knew, and I still don't know to this day. In a lot of ways, that hurt more than anything. Our paths still crossed fairly frequently, our families were still neighbors after all. There was never a time when he just wasn't there (i.e. serving a sentence somewhere). And I still had to go to those joint family functions. My parents never let me just stay home.

Through a series of events that are largely irrelevant here, I stopped going to therapy. I knew I still needed help. I grew into a depressed teenager and wanted to take my own life. No one would want me, you see. I was damaged, and when I told people, boyfriends or regular friends, a lot of them left me. I was too messed up to deal with. Not worth the trouble. I entered my adult life mistrusting everyone, never to be sure who was going to stay with me or who was going to try to help me or who was going to decide I was too much trouble and give up. Everyone in the boyfriend capacity gave up. Some I never told at all, so when those relationships finally ended, they had no idea why I was broken. And I was always the reason why we didn't work.

Sometimes, I denied how much the scars of my past affected my present, but the truth is they never really stopped, and affect me still. Some days are worse than others, naturally. I've come a long way, mostly on my own, though. I've forgiven myself for the thing that was never my fault to begin with. I accept that the guilt and shame I felt and the responsibility I felt I had were all because he put those thoughts there. That boy knew what to say, what to threaten, exactly how to put the blame on me - blame that I carried in my heart for years and years and years. I know that now, I see what he did. I know it wasn't me. I forgive myself for those feelings, they weren't mine.

But before that, I shelled myself up pretty well. Never sure who to trust, doing my best to protect myself from further hurt. That slowly turned into doing what I thought my partners wanted. I had been left, abandoned so much, maybe I needed to change and then I wouldn't be alone and then I'd have those things - that family - that I convinced myself I would never have because I didn't deserve it.

The next one; he was what I thought I wanted. He was gorgeous, he paid attention to me, he made me feel special. He was also narcissistic, manipulative, controlling. I didn't see that then, it didn't come out until later.

One of the arguments I heard out of the Steubenville case was that she was drunk. That must make it ok. She was drunk, she couldn't give consent, and lack of yes means yes.

It doesn't. I shouldn't have to say that. Lack of yes means no. Only yes means yes. If there is no yes, the answer is no. And having said yes before, to anyone for any reason, does not automatically mean yes now.

So, this guy, who was so wonderful at the beginning, eventually turned into something very different. He thought that dating meant yes all the time. No meant I needed convincing, and he eventually learned exactly what he could do to drive me to give in and get it over with rather than hold my ground. Then he convinced me that I needed him, that I would never do any better than him, that I should be happy with him because I'd be alone forever without him. He told me what our future would be like together, with him running everything and me doing what he said. And I stayed because he was the best I could ever hope to get. He told me so.

Being in control made him feel manly. Leaving bruises on my skin made him feel manly. And when they were in places I could not hide, I made up stories of how they got there so no one would know. Good, convincing stories, because I am an actor and that comes easily. Even people who knew the stories were made up didn't know what was really happening. I hid that part too. And I stayed because he was the best someone like me could ever hope to get. He could do better than me, even, so I was lucky I had him to take care of me and tell me what to do at all. As long as I gave him what he wanted, whenever he wanted it. And if I didn't, he'd remind me of just how much I needed him, of all he did for me, of how sad and alone I was without him.

Eventually, I got tired of fighting and gave up even trying to say no most of the time. Sometimes I still said no, but it didn't last. It was exhausting trying to fight him off- you know, in a playful way that wouldn't hurt him because he was my boyfriend and had a claim to my body simply by being my boyfriend. A few times, I even told him how his behavior made me feel and things would change for a little while, but they always went back. I was miserable, but I stayed. Because I knew I was broken and I couldn't get any better, I didn't deserve it.

You see stories all the time about battered women who keep going back to their abusers, who don't press charges, who eventually end up in very bad places -or dead- because they kept going back. Every time one of those stories comes up, almost everyone asks "why doesn't she just leave? She's not happy, he's abusing her, just get out. Why didn't she do that?" I keep my mouth shut. She doesn't just leave because she can't. She is not mentally capable of leaving. He told her she has to stay, that she's worthless without him, that she's got nothing if he's not there to provide it. She stays because he is clever and knows just what to tell her to get it permanently in her brain that she must stay. I know this because I was one of them. I know this because I stayed. And I knew better, I knew I was miserable, and still I stayed.

And he was one of the ones that I never told while we were dating. I can't say he had that to hang over me or use against me. He didn't need the ammunition because I was already broken. I did eventually get out. The unbelievable possibility of something better came up and I got out. I told him after that, while he begged me to come back. He, of course, did not see things the way I saw them. I told him why the way he treated me particularly hurt me the way it did, and he said he would have done things differently if he knew from the beginning. I don't believe it. That basically says everything he did was ok if there was no past trauma, but in the face of past trauma, it was not. Wrong. It was all not ok no matter who you are or what's happened in your life.

I seem pretty together now and for the most part I am. Except when I'm not. It was something that I won't go into in recent weeks, in addition to the news, that made me realize I'm not really ok. I wasn't as healed as I thought I was. The relationship I had after that guy suffered for it, in part anyway, and I didn't realize that until long after it was over. I'm still broken. Maybe I was re-broken and just didn't realize how much. It's not really fair to the important people in my life, but I know it's there and I won't deny it to myself and that's a start.

That's not the only thing I know. I know I am beautiful, I am smart, I am clever, I am creative. I know how to take care of myself and how to be happy with my own company. I also know it's ok to depend on others from time to time and that some of them want me to. I know that love exists, that I can love and that I can be loved. I know that broken is not wasted or useless or out of chances. I know that hurt is not incapable of healing.

Monday, April 01, 2013

No Sloof Lirpa Today

Those who know me know I'm not a practical joker. I tend to find many common April Fool's jokes trite and tiresome. Among these, the I'm pregnant pranks, the I'm getting married pranks, the famous person you really like is dead pranks (that one is particularly cruel, really. Poor Jeff Goldblum has fallen off that cliff so many times, I hope he never goes to New Zealand so as to not tempt Fate!). My own little joke then becomes to make you believe that I fell for your joke. Unfortunately, that really ends up funny to no one but me, but pleasing myself is what it's all about anyway, right? Anyway, I learned long ago not to believe a single thing I see posted anywhere on the Interwebs today. If you have some real news, tell me tomorrow.

But I'm not really here to talk about April Fool's Day and how it's not a tradition that I really get behind. I'm here to tell you about a brief adventure that resulted in the slaying of a perfectly innocent frying pan in a terrible, fiery passion.

It all started today, when a lone woman wanted dinner. She had a long day at work and it was well past her regular dinner time, so she was tired and wanted to make something quick and easy and yummy without slaving over the stove forever. It's a simple wish, really, one I'm sure we can all appreciate from time to time. So, she decided to make a nice and simple meal that she fondly remembers her mother used to make for her and it was called Egg on Toast.

The recipe is simple: egg, bread, butter, and whatever seasoning you like for your egg. Today, that was salt, dill, and cheese. Our fearless hero heated her frying pan, gave it a spritz of cooking spray for good measure, and browned two pieces of buttered bread, one at a time, for the pan was small. She then shook salt and dill over the pan (this gets your seasoning cooked into the bottom of your egg) and without warning, the butter and cooking spray that was heating in the pan turned brown and sizzled, then foot tall flames jumped forth from its black, non-stick surface. Smoke billowed and filled the tiny galley kitchen. Luckily, our hero has experience with flaming geysers of bacon grease from her job at the Virginia Renaissance Faire (and it occurs to me, dear readers, that I've never shared that story with you. Huh.), so she calmly moved the pan off the heat and let the flames burn out. What followed was simply a matter of turning down the heat, re-greasing and seasoning the pan, and cooking the rest of her dinner.

The first egg to hit the pan charred on contact and left quite a bit of eggy residue, but the second egg came off just fine. A little underdone because sticking to the charred pan was a concern, but still edible on a perfect piece of toast.

Now, it occurs to our hero that murdering that frying pan and then proceeding to cook her dinner on its charred remains probably wasn't too bright. She has no way of knowing if any of those too-black bits on her egg were just bits of egg or bits of burnt non-stick coating that she has since consumed. This is why she has declared the frying pan dead, she can't trust the non-stick surface after it had a few good seconds of active flambé. The plastic spatula appears to have not survived the ordeal as well.

But, the good news is she did not burn the house down. Now we'll just hope she doesn't get sick! 

 ˙ǝnɹʇ ʎlǝɹıʇuǝ sı ʇı ˙ǝʞoɾ ɐ ʇou sı ʎɹoʇs ǝʌoqɐ ǝɥʇ ʇɐɥʇ ʇɹodǝɹ ʇsnɯ ı ʇnq
¡ʎɐp s,looɟ lıɹdɐ ʎddɐɥ 'ǝɹǝɥ ɯ,ı ǝlıɥʍ