Vlogging: Beginning Again

Two years ago, I came in from a walk (1,000 Miles) and sat down and made my first video. I loved sharing right off the top of my head (and heart), and it inspired me to keep going.

But then life got busy again.

One year ago, I joined Toastmasters because I wanted to learn how to share my stories orally without rambling and “umm”ing. It’s a journey (like everything else), but I have come a long way and decided I wanted to start doing videos again.

Yet, life is busy, so when I made this decision yesterday — two years exactly from the day I made that first one — I didn’t stop to make sure everything was perfect. I was out hiking around and just did it. I was red-faced with wind-blown hair because, like I said in my first video, the stories aren’t pretty, and the healing isn’t pretty, so sometimes the videos will come when I’m hurried and sweaty, and sometimes when all looks and is well.

That’s life.

My healing journey has been ongoing, but this video journey is now set to begin again. Thank you for joining me.

And join me at Alive to Thrive Journey!

*One day I’ll actually learn how to edit videos, but like everything else, it’s better to just do it rather than wait until you are perfect at something.

Domestic Violence: Obstruction of Justice

Domestic Violence: Obstruction of Justice by ScarsandTiaras.com

Excerpted from “The First 22 Years Are the Hardest” – 1997

The backdoor slammed against the trailer as Nate took off running. The older officer of the two that came for him chased for a moment, both he and Nate passing around front.

Then the officer just stopped, rested his hands on his expanded hips, and yelled, “Way to go! Now your wife is going to jail.”

Just another tactic, just another way to get Nate to stop. But he didn’t.

“That’s a fine husband you have there,” the officer said, and then read me my Miranda Rights.

I just stared at him. “You’re not really arresting me.”

“Oh yes I am,” he said, and the younger officer looked at him with wide eyes.

“For what?” I cried. “You came here for him!”

“Obstruction of justice. And what that means is, you got in our way.”

“I…but my kids….”

“You got someone to watch them? Because if not, I have to call social services,” the younger officer said. Maybe he was trying to be helpful, but I hated them both right then.

They allowed me to find a friend, sure that I wouldn’t run and leave my kids behind, although their father didn’t think twice about doing so, and then they led me to the back of the car. “At least we’re not putting you in handcuffs in front of your kids,” the elder officer said, as if I should thank him.

All the way to jail, I bit back words and tears, refusing to give them the satisfaction of breaking me. I also held onto the hope this was still just a scare tactic to get me to talk. There was no way they were really arresting me. And as the older cop pressed on and on, trying to get me to tell them about Nate, where he might be going, I stared out the window in silence.

My wall remained in place until we arrived at the jail and they handed me over for booking. The booking officer took one look at me and said, “Honey, what could you have possibly done?” I shook my head but I couldn’t speak. My sobbing became a second language as she fingerprinted and photographed me. As she finished, she looked over the paperwork and then up at me. “Was that your husband? Did he run? Did you lie?”

I looked her in the eye, shook my head, and lied again. No to all the questions. As far as I was concerned, they didn’t have Nate, and so I wasn’t going to be the one to tell on him. He was out, running loose, and here I was, getting locked up, away from my kids.

Another officer escorted me to a holding cell, and as I stepped through the barred door, something deep inside of me snapped. This was real. It was really happening. And worse, I agreed with the arresting cop: What kind of husband just runs and lets his wife go to jail in his place?

The cell was cold, sterile, but also thankfully empty. A row of benches lined the cinderblock walls, and I took a seat as far from the door and the toilet as possible. I wrapped my arms around me as the reality of it all set in. A man hollered down the row of cells, “Laurie, Laurie, talk to me, baby!” and I ignored him. I tried not to breathe through my nose, to touch anything, to be tainted by a long history of bad decisions. But the truth is, as I sat there, I knew in so many ways, this was my fault, my own bad decision. I should have never come back to him. I should have taken my chances in Florida. I should have taken a chance on me.

“Laurie, I know you’re down there. I heard them bring you in. Talk to me!”

I wondered about Laurie and her bad decisions. I wondered about the nameless man. His voice slurred as he called out for her. What did he do? What did she do with him?

“Come on, Laurie. Don’t ignore me.”

“I’m not Laurie,” I said, needing him to just shut up so I could deal with my own troubles.

“What?”

“I. Am. Not. Laurie.” Anger was taking over. Good. Maybe it was time I finally got angry enough. The longer I sat there, the more the smells hit me, the coldness, the end of the road resolve. As soon as I got out, I was going to confess it had really been Nate who ran out the backdoor and where he might be. I’d just deal with the consequences later. Hopefully much later, if he got as much time in prison as he should.

This was no way to live, and I wasn’t going to lose my kids over him.

I was out of jail by midnight. My neighbors made sure I didn’t sit in overnight; to do so would have meant an automatic call to social services and possible loss of my babies. As I walked out of that cell with its stainless steel toilet lacking any privacy and ghosts of too many bad decisions to count, I vowed never to be back, never to take another hit for or from him.

I’m free-writing for 31 days during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, sharing pieces of my story – past and present.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Domestic violence: on becoming a chameleon

Domestic violence: on becoming a chameleon by ScarsandTiaras.com

“Mommy? Mommy, I can’t hear you!”

“Move!” my brother says, shoving me aside. He leans down to the heater vent and calls to our mother, whose voice comes back to us muffled.

Our stepfather Harold storms through the house. His kingdom is never enough of anything — never clean enough, quiet enough, obedient enough. He has once again shoved our mother into the bedroom, locking her in, and then locks us in our rooms. We yell to each other through the vents. He can probably hear us but he rarely intervenes at this point.

I hear Mom tell my brother to go out the window and run to the neighbor’s house. We’ve worn a path in the woods between our homes with this plan of action. It never leads to being saved, only to ridicule from the same sheriff’s deputy who comes out every single time.

“Now, you know he didn’t mean it,” Deputy Tommy always says. He’s Harold’s friend and it’s the 1980s, so all domestic violence is just a hush-hush scuffle of sorts. “You can’t keep calling us every time you can’t get along.”

My brother decides he’ll run for help one more time. Maybe this time it will be different. Maybe this time another officer will come out. Maybe this time he won’t suffer the consequences of trying to be the protector of our lives.

This is one memory and a million. They mush into each other, the details playing out the same, the punishments for breathing too loudly in the same space as my stepfather the same. Always tiptoeing, trying to avoid the new something that will set him off this time. If the dishes aren’t finished, he’ll pull them all from the cupboards and tell us to begin again. I stand on a chair to reach the sink, always trying to keep water from the floor so I don’t have to mop it with my own little head. If the dogs bark, it’s our fault. If it rains, it feels like that’s our fault, too.

He has no concept of love.

Except once upon a time, I thought he did. I was sure of it. He loved me. He doted on me.

I was his little girl.

I used to call him Daddy, not Harold.

Too often, I think it is worse to have been loved briefly by someone who now hurts you, than to never have been loved at all. I don’t understand the change of his affections, what I did wrong, and how to make it right again.

This try and try again to fix love, to put it where it belongs and how it feels right, will become the way I operate with all relationships — friendships, teachers, bosses, and anyone else I meet along the way. How do I make you love me right? How do I perform to keep you happy?

I become a chameleon early in life.

I’m free-writing for 31 days during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, sharing pieces of my story – past and present.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

I forgot to “specialize” as a victim

 I forgot to “specialize” as a victim by ScarsandTiaras.com

Have you ever listened to someone’s story and found yourself shocked at how many times he or she was a victim of abuse or assault? Did you find yourself wondering, even a little bit, why they were victimized repeatedly? Or maybe it’s you — you have been hurt by many, like I was. You can’t figure out why you were singled out, even if you’d rather it have been you and not, say, a sibling or friend.

In the last year, I’ve received different pieces of advice concerning the work I am doing here. Many say that if I specialize and bring the focus in tighter on one subject, like domestic violence, the site will grow. As it is, they say, it’s too broad.

At first, I really considered what they were saying. But then this snippet of pretend conversation popped into my head:

“Sorry, you can’t assault/abuse/hurt me because someone else already assaulted/abused/hurt me before you got here.”

“Oh, I didn’t know. My apologies. Moving along now.”

Kinda silly, right? If you’ve been hurt once, no one else can hurt you. That almost sounds like a dream. But the fact is, many get victimized over and over. Many factors come into play as to how this happens (age, the level of the assault, etc.), but it does indeed happen. I am a victim of many different types of abuse, all culminating in what I can only term “a painful past.” I don’t specialize in one topic because my pain didn’t come from one place in one way. I was built from a foundation of hurt.

Let me tell you what I do specialize in. I specialize in healing, in taking back what was taken, in tearing down the walls built of lies and rebuilding from truth and strength and love. I specialize in holding my hand out for someone else, whether his or her pain is from one experience or many.

So many of us carry around a million pieces of pain that we’re trying to let go of, and the load is heavy. I don’t have easy answers for setting it down, but I do know that each day forward is another day of trying to heal. There’s no deadline to get there, to get as close to healed as we can get, but we’re trying — I’m trying.

My goal here isn’t always clear because I’m still trudging through mud. I’m in the shallow end, but it’s still a mud pit all the same. Every once in a while, it sucks me back in deeper and I cry and feel all the pains from long ago. But each step forward eases that pain a little more each time. And maybe just by sharing, just by saying I don’t know how to do this completely because I’m still learning, we can keep growing together and help others avoid becoming victims in the first place.

This month, I WILL focus on domestic violence, since it is once again Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and I will share pieces of my story and where DV weaves its way through the rest of my life. But it won’t look like one steady focus because so much leads to so many other pieces. As always, I invite you on this journey. Read, share, comment, or just nod silently. I know you’re there.

I’m free-writing for 31 days during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, sharing pieces of my story – past and present.

*I have started a new journey of whole health — physical, mental, and spiritual — and I invite you to join me: Alive to Thrive Journey

Photo Credit: Pixabay

When the journey is new

When the journey is new by scarsandtiaras.com

I met a very new survivor of domestic violence recently and she expressed fatigue over the journey so far. She mentioned that it’s been several months and she can’t seem to get it all together. My heart broke for her. Though many people were helping her, many others were rushing her to be better NOW. You’re free, what’s the problem?

As she spoke, I nodded, trying to validate everything she was saying.

“I still love him.”

“He’s the father of my children.”

“I don’t know how to be on my own.”

“I hope I’m better soon.”

“I still love him…I just do.”

I was torn between letting her know the journey is long and in wanting her to have hope for something sooner rather than later. And I wanted her to understand that it’s OK to take her time but also not to stay long in the shadows. Healing is a balance of allowing yourself to process your feelings while also trying to move forward.

Had someone told me what my journey was going to look like, I might have hesitated in even starting. Because like many things, it can get worse before it gets better.

Instead, I told her there will be really good days, and there will be really bad days, and it’s OK to have both. But then the really good days come much more often. I encouraged her to seek counseling now, and to find safe people to share with (like saying she misses him without being rebuked), and more than anything, to give herself grace. I invited her to explore all her feelings rather than shoving them down. Most of all, I wanted us to part ways with her knowing she is allowed to feel what she’s feeling.

I don’t have the magic quick fix answer to anything because every story is different, but I do have the ability at least to lean in and listen. That’s something we all have to give.

I’m a survivor who never got justice

I’ve been trying really hard to find my opening into this conversation — that of the most recent sexual assault that is all over the news and social media — because this isn’t about me, but then again, it is. It’s about all victims.

We advocates love to jump in and share when the topic is in the headlines. While I am never, ever happy that another person has experienced such pain, I AM happy when a public conversation starts.

I could express outrage but I won’t. What I will do is share what justice does not look like.

Six months is not justice. We know this.

I’ve watched people do more time for property crime than personal crime. That has never failed to break my heart. In my experiences, I was left without justice, and despite my strength as a person, it still left so many areas in my soul broken.

My first abuser (attempted rape and sexual assault) did maybe 6 months in a “rehabilitative” camp. He went off and went on hikes and made arts and crafts, while I suffered at home, covering for him in school like I was his PR person who could never tell the real story, just a pretty version, a complete lie.

Then he came home and tried again.

My second abuser (sexual assault) suffered the “punishment” of having his dead wife’s wedding rings stolen. That’ll show him! That was literally the extent of action taken on my behalf. I still had to go to his house and see him. I still had to shut my mouth and pretend I hadn’t told because to mention it meant we could no longer do our laundry.

My third abuser (no idea how to classify his actions) was ignored. His “punishment” was that he would still have to buy things for my family. I would still have to see him.

My final abuser (sexual assault, rape) was my first husband, and since we were dating (I was 13) and then married (14), it doesn’t count. (It does. Of course it does. But the message I always got was that it doesn’t. A man can’t rape his wife!)

Sexual abuse “ended” in my life when I was 22.

Recovery is ongoing.

Healing is ongoing.

I’m sharing this today not to highlight my abuses but to speak about what life looks like afterwards with no justice. I can’t speak to healing and recovery from a place of knowing justice because I never got such a thing.

Not getting justice, whether from the judicial system or a parent who is supposed to protect you, is re-victimization. I can’t say that it’s worse than the actual initial abuse, but it’s certainly ongoing and can last longer in its own way. It feels like no one believes you, no one cares to protect you, no one is on your side. It feels like you were stupid for ever speaking up, for trying to tell.

A six-month sentence looks like me being asked, “Are you sure?” after fighting off my would-be rapist. I feel that punch in the gut, the feeling of, “He matters more than you.” I hear old whispers of, “You are worthless. You are stupid. You don’t matter.”

No victim should ever feel that way.

In 2012, I finally broke. That was about 15 years after my painful past “ended.” Sitting in the belly of all that ugly pain was this tangled knot of injustice. When I talked with my counselor, weeping and aching in every part of my being, it kept coming back to not feeling protected, not being taken care of… to injustice.

But let me tell you what happened in that small counseling room: my counselor believed me. She leaned into my story and she heard me and she saw me and she believed me and she wept on my behalf. And while I may never, ever see judicial justice, I got a big portion of it then, and more and more as I’ve spoken out and shared openly the ugly things no one likes to talk about.

When each of you lean in and listen too, you help heal that gaping wound.

I am more whole every single time.

So, when we talk about the lack of justice for Brock Turner’s victim, and for all the others who suffer in silence, lean in, hear them, see them, believe them, and weep on their behalf. To be heard and believed has been one of my greatest sources of strength and recovery. And I thank you.

To this young lady: I see you, I hear you, I believe you, and I weep with you.

The 10 Commandments of Self

— Part 1, Originally Written in 2012 —

The 10 Commandments of Self by scarsandtiaras.com

1 – I shall not hide who I am – flaws, quirks, weirdness, beauty, intelligence, talent…all of it.

2 – I shall not pretend I do not have pain. I will acknowledge it, work on it, and learn to let it go.

3 – I shall not speak of myself negatively. I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and I shall stop calling God a liar.

4 – I shall speak words of kindness to myself daily, even hourly if need be.

5 – I shall nurture myself.

6 – I shall not take everything so personally.

7 – I shall give myself rest, mercy, and grace.

8 – I shall learn my limits; I shall not say yes when I’m overwhelmed.

9 – I shall not allow guilt to dictate my decisions.

10 – I shall forgive myself and let go, no longer beating myself up for past decisions, choices, and ideas that went wrong or simply didn’t work out.

After a tumultuous week of up and down, I almost felt sorry for my counselor. In addition to the purging of the past, now I wanted to dump the weeks’ events on her lap too. Thankfully, she can take it. I wasn’t sure I could.

“OK, so I want to ask you this: What did you do to nurture yourself after all of this?”

I blinked at her, not sure I understood the question. “Ummmm…”

“Everything you have shared with me so far of this week and your past has a running theme – you taking care of everyone else. So I’m asking you, what do you do to take care of Angela?”

She might as well have been speaking Greek.

“I don’t? I guess?”

I am not certain of my answers, of my thoughts. Do I? I don’t think so. I just move on to the very next thing. There’s always something new on the horizon; there’s no time to dwell for too long on what has already happened. (Which is not true, since I’ve sort of been dwelling on my wayback past for quite a while now.)

My walkaway thought this week is to figure out how to take better care of myself, to nurture myself, to be more tender with my own heart, to be kind to myself, to be the kind of cheerleader for myself that I am for others, to love myself.

Truth: This won’t be easy.