A Teflon Mind & a Haunting

Yesterday I read an article that made me rethink past traumas. This is an #ownvoices #metoo story, but it doesn’t get graphic.

One memory in particular has been haunting me, replaying through my mind of late. My first job contained my first experience of sexual harassment and slut shaming. I have had more than one instance of harassment in the work place BUT thanks to my first, have not reported any others due to fear of retaliation.

During a staff event, a coworker, we’ll call him Aaron (not his real name), touched me inappropriately. With both hands he grabbed my chest and squeezed almost as if he was honking a clown nose. I was so shocked he would do this that I didn’t know what to do. I immediately left and found a male friend of mine and stood next to him because I figured that Aaron would leave me alone if I was standing next to another guy. He did leave me alone for the day.

I did not lead this guy on. I had a boyfriend and he knew it. I didn’t flirt with him. I barely spoke to him. He was barely on my radar. I wore loose fitting clothes that were not revealing. He was just a creep.

I reported it to the manager as soon as he made time for me. The manager flat out said he didn’t believe me and that it was uncharacteristic of Aaron. He said he’d make a general announcement about flirting and physical contact, which he did do.

BUT he then scheduled me to work with Aaron. Right next to him. Aaron kept having issues and crises and I was expected to help him out by myself for long periods of time. He took every opportunity he could to touch me. He never grabbed my chest again but he leaned up against me and otherwise touched me as much as he could. I was terrified. He could have easily overpowered me. I was afraid to confront him, because I wasn’t sure what he’d do. So I ignored it the best I could. I wasn’t sure if arguing with him would be more exciting so I tried to shut him down the best I could.

AND the manager gave me the worst tasks. He singled me out and made my life miserable. While everyone else was at a company party, he pressured me into cleaning toilets because it needed to be done. Yes, it needed to be done, but if a few people had worked late then I would have been able to go. Instead I cleaned toilets for hours by myself. This was not in my normal duties, but I did it without complaining.

He made an excuse why I had to do volunteer and nobody could help me. It was basically along the lines that they needed to relax and blow off steam and I wasn’t as important as them. That was just one task. He found others. The manager did this to punish me, to slut shame me.

With Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford, I’ve been thinking about how I wasn’t believed and was put in an unsafe situation. It’s been really upsetting.

There’s a concept in Buddhism that attachments lead to suffering. I’m familiar with it. Not being a practicing Buddhist, though, I haven’t really thought about how it could apply to my life.

A Ladders article titled “The Teflon Mind: How to let go of the past” said:

However, blaming is a two-way street — when we can’t forgive others is because we can’t forgive ourselves too. Others did something wrong but, deep inside, we believe we did something wrong to cause it. When we feel guilty, it becomes harder to move on.

The guilt that the manager made me feel has stuck to me like a nasty residue on a sauté pan. Not just for that instance either. As a teen there was an older creepy man who kept playing with my hair and said multiple times that “if I were to be raped and get pregnant then he’d adopt the baby”. When I spoke with an authority figure in my life about this, it was I who was questioned: what had I been wearing? Nothing immodest or my parents wouldn’t have let me leave the house.

I have felt culpable in some way for Aaron. And for the creepy older guy. And for a worse assault that I keep private because of the pain it caused me.

I have let Aaron’s lasciviousness linger in the recesses of my mind like a film of grease that just wouldn’t come off.

Now I know: I must forgive myself. It wasn’t my fault. I have no control over the actions of others.

And … because of the treatment of the manager when I had worse situations, like that really painful one, occur I was too afraid to come forward. In fact, when I did open up about it, I was shut down and told I should be ashamed of being a victim and not ever speak of it.

I close with:

#TuesdayMotivation Set Yourself Free

One of my dear friends told me that the theme for her in 2017 is forgiveness. This quote has inspired me in writing Syzygy. I challenge you to not only forgive others but to also forgive yourself. 

Self Compassion. I’ve not had a problem forgiving other people. My worst enemy is often no further than the closest mirror. Forgiving myself is difficult. 

The way I talk to myself and the harsh way I deal with myself is not how I would treat others. I’ve admitted this before

If you’re like me it’s easier to let go of what other people did than to give yourself compassion. Compassion is vital and it needs to start internally. For us to be healthy, functional people we have to own our flaws and move beyond them: we have to forgive ourselves. 

Let It Go. If you’re holding on to bitter thoughts about someone, I challenge you to let them go. Madeline L’Engle said, “Hate hurts the hater more than the hated”. While you may not actually loathe the person who has wronged you, holding onto negativity just bogs you down like a ball and chain. 

Take a moment and think about the negativity holding you back. Decide to forgive and feel the ball and chain disintegrate. 

#TuesdayMotivation Infectious Inspiration 

A dear friend let me know that she is writing and that I had encouraged her. What she didn’t know is that she’d inspired me as well.  

When we share our stories we become vulnerable. We open ourselves to rejection in that moment.

At the same time those authentic moments are what inspire others. 

Don't be ashamed of your story. It will inspire others.

We each have a different human experience and story to tell. Your own struggles can help another person have courage or find a new way of looking at things. Inspiration can be infectious. Touching the life of a single person can in turn trickle down to others. 

This brings me back to writing about what hurts: when you write about your own pain you can touch those around you in a powerful way. 

The ultimate goal of writing is empathy: we want to evoke something in the reader. We want to make a mark on another’s soul. 

Who or what inspires you? Does this person know how you have been touched by them? I challenge you to let them know. 

In the Bleak Midwinter – Solstice Wishes

The star wheel has turned and even though we’ve had a warm winter with the drought and wildfires it still feels bleak.  Gray has finally washed over the landscape.  

The solstice is here and with it I’ve made a silent wish for peace in myself and in the world.  We watched Vice news last night saw the conflict in the Ukraine.  It looked like the movie set of a post apocalyptic film. It was hard to believe that it was happening in Europe.  

“War is over if you want it” croons the modern Christmas classic. We all know that’s not true.  It’s kind of like the law of scarcity.  Poverty might be eliminated but scarcity will never be eliminated. The same logic seems like it should apply. At the same time Harvard has proven that we are living in less violent times. Maybe my wish for peace has been answered but I just don’t have the eyes to see it.  

Another wish I have for solstice is for serenity. 

What wishes do you have for solstice?

Delighting in Winter Lights

Tonight I relished the cold as much as I could with my sweetheart at the NC Arboretum.  To be fair I have a metal plate in my neck and I’m quite aware of it during the sub freezing temperatures that we walked through listening to carols and admiring sparkling lights.  

There was a certain joie de vivre though that we seized as we listened to the jazzy renditions of holiday tunes and my hubby took umpteen pictures of bonsai LED glowing in the dim. 

I thought of three different poems tonight and I hope these three poems will light your winter:

1- You, Darkness

You, darkness, that I come from

I love you more than all the fires

that fence in the world, 

for the fire makes a circle of light for everyone

and then no one outside learns of you. 
But the darkness pulls in everything-

shapes and fires, animals and myself, 

how easily it gathers them! –

powers and people-
and it is possible a great presence is moving near me. 
I have faith in nights.  — Rilke

2 – Song of The Open Road

Next was Whitman.  There was a Christmas wishing tree.  My husband asked if I wanted to write a wish for the tree and my answer was, as it typically is when posited with these dilemmas:

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune. 

This is one of my favorite poems, though exceedingly long. I like the excerpts of it in “Singing: The Living Tradition”.

3 – Shab-e Yalda

Lastly this poem was read at a special solstice service a few years ago by an incredible woman who goes to the UUFF. 

This winter solstice fires will burn all night,

with sparks cascading; messages in flight

I’m always excited to learn about other cultures and traditions.  

The walk was highly ontological–chilling enough to be present.  I didn’t really focus on poetry during the walk but now that I’m home am glad I can.  

Do you have any poems that brighten your winter?

The Ending 

I’m so happy to finally have finished my first draft of my second book.  

I’m looking forward to starting revisions.  

I know it’s too short at this point but know I’ll expound upon it in the revisions just like I did for the last one. 

My critique partner gave me good feedback about my villain – that she felt too rushed in many of the scenes.  

I’m also happy that I feel like I’m able to finally give my readers the ending that they wanted with the first book.  

On my own voice

A dear friend of mine is a sociologist who loves literature. One of her theories is that there is no such thing as fiction. She maintains that all work is somewhat true, somewhat autobiographical. 

Another Oscar Wilde quote:

Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.

How many masks do we  put on as fiction writers? My husband on the other hand finds this line of thinking absurd. He holds that there is definitely fiction cut and dry. 

In my WIP I tell the truth about some hard moments in my life.  I hope that it rings true and makes people feel.  In doing so I aim to write about what I know in a highly fictionalized way that I hope will make people think. 

Is there such a thing as fiction? I think so, but I must admit that I have attempted to pour out part of myself into this book.  

The book I’m reading now (Silent Hall) has been described as perfect and incomparable on the back cover. I’m enjoying it, but I wonder how much of it the author has poured himself into.  I wonder what kind of life he’s had and what he’s wanting the reader to think and feel. 

It’s also intimidating to see a book described as perfect when I know how replete with errors mine is. 

The Path to Victory 

Romance author Eden Glenn told me the other day that I should read The First Five Pages, so I did.  

Noah Lukeman ends with this:

Ask yourself what you would do if you knew you would never be published. Would you still write? If you are truly writing for the art of it, the answer will be yes. And then, every word is a victory.  

That’s a scary thought. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. 

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was able to hold a pencil.  That’s when I wrote my first stories.  

Right now I have two screenplays, a novel, and a novel that I’m working on.  

Last year around this time I was working on a screenplay.   I know I should finish it but I put it on hold to work on NaNoWriMo last year and now I’m working on the second book in that series. 

Why do I write? Part of me needs to create  whether anyone sees it or not.  Part of me wants to be heard though.  

I’ve had a very lovely conversation with a friend recently about fiction and whether any writing is fiction or whether it is all non fiction.  

I believe the goal of writing is empathy and human connection especially in speculative fiction.  

But as Oscar Wilde said in The Picture of Dorian Gray, “It is simply expression,  as Harry says, that gives reality to things”. 

While publishing is a goal of mine, I will keep writing and working hard toward improving my writing and try to count each word as a victory.  

The Male Perspective & The Kindest Rejection 

I know… strange title.  It’s 3 AM and I’ve woken with a migraine.  As nausea rolls over me by the light of my salt lamp I’ve thought about the fact that only 28% of characters in films are female despite the fact that we make up half the world.  

I have four writing writing acquaintances — two are close, two are not, all four are male.  

One of my close female friends said she didn’t think she could formulate characters into voices.  I’m not sure if it’s a lack of confidence on women’s part or what.  It’s just intriguing to me. 

The feedback I’m receiving is entirely male until I get to beta readers.  Also several of my beta readers are male as well. I’m not complaining.  I am grateful for the feedback I have received.  I’m just musing and curious. I know two editors who are female but they are copy editors not content editors. 

There was a chat room I used to be part of that had another female writer who was German.  There are female writers out there.  We exist.  I suppose they’re just writing romance and not fantasy or YA and not NA. (Nobody else is writing NA… *crickets *)

This brings me to my kind rejection. From the The Speculative Literature Foundation I received an individualized letter. It was the kindest rejection I’ve received.  I didn’t expect to hear from them at all much less to hear something encouraging.