Thursday, March 24, 2011

In Response to Kevin Powell's Open Letter to Chris Brown


I'm sure you get this a lot and I don't even know if you'll read this, but after reading your open letter to Chris Brown, I was so incredibly grateful that I really felt I had to reach out. I am a 30-year old Latina 6-time assault survivor and a healer. The first time I was violated, I was 5 years old and the last time I was violated I was 26. I grew up in a home with a wonderful father who treated feelings like they were poison. He did not speak to me for six months after my last assault, and it took quite the journey to place him squarely in my life again. I can truly say that the work was worth it.

His ease with anger and alienation to his pain created my total lack of ease with anger at any level. So much so that when it came time for me to be angry at my attackers, I had an awful self-imploding reaction. It has been many years of therapy and a lot of diving into the ugly before I've been able to really claim my full emotional spectrum. And no matter how I fight it, there is constant learning that being a survivor is a life long process.

In any event, I wanted to thank you for a few reasons. One, I absolutely understand the courage it takes to be truly introspective about a life long battle with the scars of trauma. In that way, I feel like so many of us are in a fox hole together in our are enduring journey to self-healing, we're in a fox hole and so many times in that journey you feel alone. I can only imagine you may know what I'm talking about when I say that its the art of learning that the valleys should be relished instead of avoided or accepted that you find peace. That learning, as painful as it can be, is salvation. Every. Time. When your trauma happens young, your brain is wired in a different way, and you have to fight the perceptions of right and wrong built in your head from the beginning of your cognition.

Many years ago, I was sitting in a group of teenagers, much less healed than I currently am, and I had a young man admit in a session to punching a hole in a wall and pressuring a girl into intercourse after she had refused him. He had listened to my survivors story and admitted this racked with such guilt, he had not understood until that moment, what he had done. He loved and respected me and that connected him to a larger narrative of women and the crosses we carry. Now all the damage in me yelled so loud around the need to scold or chastise, in fact many of the young women in the group were already ready to verbally lacerate him. What came next, I can only see as God's divine hand, as my heart opened up and I allowed my love to say that I saw him as whole and flawed and redeemable. I told him the first step to his own healing was admitting and owning that shame but that the second step to his healing was going to be admitting the pain that causes any being to seek value in external gratification. That self-medication and the denial of that can cause such anger, that anger can then cause such guilt. Guilt is an albatross around the neck of a healing spirit.

It is of this young man I thought of as I read your letter to Chris Brown. Admittedly, in the way you can with celebrities, I felt indignant about him and his anger until reading your letter. And when the GMA interview aired my first thought was "She'll always have to live with having been a victim, it is only right that you live knowing the pain of being seen as a predator". And I never factored in the truly broken spirit and pain of a young man who would react in such ways to someone he loved. He was not a human to me, he was, as you so eloquently pointed out, the face of every attacker in my history.

It occurs to me that a part of being a healer is the empathy you are blessed with and the ability to extend love to every last unhealed soul. While we make choices around whose healing we participate in, I feel like we are bound to a coda that has us at very least see the humanity in our brothers and sisters. Thank you for reminding me that these brothers and sisters exist everywhere and that this love is something we put into the universe. Whether we know them or not.

I have watched so many of my brothers, especially the brown and black men in my life, fight their emotional body. As if this fight could render into submission hearts that strong. I have watched men I loved medicate on drugs, alcohol, sex, and in some cases even medicate with me as their drug of the moment. I have watched them run from themselves at full speeds, hoping they could get away from both their better and worst angels. I say this because my last piece of gratitude in this overly long letter is for being a man that is okay with not running anymore. The more there are of you, the more I know my brothers will understand the peace that happens when you stop running. I am convinced that my ability to truly feel safe in the world as a woman is tied to the end of that running. So thanks.

Warm regards and more appreciation than I can possibly put into words.

Your sister in the fox hole,


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Feel Babies! Feel! The Art of Deep Sea Diving

I read a book once that said the American narrative is "Good and getting better" and that this narrative taints our history books and doesn't really allow for all of the complexities and flavors to come through. If the stories that are being told do not reflect this narrative, then they get silenced. I've come to wonder whether or not this is a very cultural American view of the world or just every peoples view; I can see how that robs us of people, stories, and worth all the time.

I recently saw the CEO of my org do this session on failure that really struck me. Her basic message was one I had been trying to work out in my head for awhile. Failure is a necessity in a fully lived life. She said if we only accepted or avoided failures than we encouraged living that was tepid. Our peaks can only go as high as our valley's and as a result both get shrunken. On the other hand, if we failed deeply and relished the failure, the learning from the ultimate valley's created massive peaks in our living experience. (She had visuals that make this easier to express, haha)

I think a tepid relationship to failure ties into a tepid avoidance of the dark in our worlds and I think it's why we get so fascinated with pieces of art that are particularly dark, because they dare to go places where we normally put firm boundaries, but I digress.

As an assault survivor I can say that the avoidance of the dark stymied my healing for a very long time. The thing with being a survivor is that you actually CAN'T avoid it. It sneaks up on you in increments and pieces numbing or darkening your life. So then, you're faced with a choice, do I live a numbed and slightly sadder (for some slightly angrier) existence or do I dive into the pool of dark emotions and allow sadness, grief, and anger to be a visceral part of my living?

I have found that as I do, I may be in iteration 5 or 6 of diving back in to the scary parts, living becomes more vibrant, richer, and more full of gratitude. I feel the anger or sadness and thus feeling hours liberated from it and doused in gratitude for the warm and beautiful world that surrounds me, is a better high than I can bring myself to articulate in words. I am so aware that if I avoided the dark, my ability to see the light would be limited. So constricted with the pain that it would be hazy at best.

I've worked with a lot of kids and its taught me so much about our shared human experience. Mostly, they say what adults don't like to admit, and I appreciate the candor around it. In this time, a major theme pops back up over and over again when it comes to healing. Many of them have conceived success as "not hurting". And this, to me, is the major disservice that we do our collected community. We let so many of our little creations grow up believing that the goal is to not fail, hurt, be mad, or sad. In reality, this is exactly the existence we should wish for them. One of great joy and great pain which means life has been full of great living.

I can't tell you how many times I've been in rooms of adults and kids where I just want to scream out "FEEL my darlings! Feel!" I mean, I don't cause part of communicating is finding ways to be heard and the crazy lady screaming is rarely heard. haha. But the emotion is there.

I hate the thought of cauterizing a heart/spirit, especially as carelessly and unintentionally as we do. It really is such a different deal when someone makes a choice around this and says "No, actually, this is the life I want." vs stumbling into half living believing there is no other choice.

Of course, I can also see that this emotional meandering and self-indulgence is a luxury of the safe. When you have created a world as safe as mine, you can dive back into the dark, you know life rafts and life guards exist all around you. So thank you my lovely friends for giving me such a safe place to go deep sea diving in. It is allowing me to ingest more and more that I am not broken, just human.

Boy that humanity guys, it will get you huh? This overriding want to be animatronic when we are flesh. When did we put such a premium on being unaffected? When did that make us grown ups? What I know, and I admit that is very little, is that all of my favorite people have gone deep sea diving. They have dived so deep that the pain/anger/frustration/sadness/indignance/grief is no longer a trophy that gives them exemptions in how they treat themselves or their loved ones. They don't use booze, sex, drugs, church, kids, or anything else to avoid the tide of emotion at their perimeter. They swim and it is just another emotion(s) in the many that they get to feel as a part of living.