Honey, I’m Good

IMG_4473

Riding horseback in Ireland. Bucket list- another check!

 

Honey, I’m good.

I have written about abuse, trauma, bullying and how society is so skewed. I have written of the unfairness of things. I have written about love.

Love is my favorite.

Bad things happen.  And we get to grieve.  We have a right to our reactions and our feelings no matter how they play out.  No one gets a say in how we manage. No one gets a vote on how we survive.

The aftermath of tragedy and trauma is stifling. The effects are physical, psychological and social, at least.

The result of my sexual abuse smothered me. Living with it is much like being suffocated by a pillow. For years, I struggled to breathe.  I could gasp, and that kept me going.  It was no way to live.

I just could not get enough air.

My abuse did a tattoo on me.  It wormed its way into the deepest part of me and, like a parasite devoured me.  The worse I felt, the more I fed it.

And much like metastasized cancer this malady took over.

Finally, I decided that feeling broken had to stop. I needed a new baseline.

We have the right and responsibility to come up for air and take charge of our lives and reclaim our joy.

I made a conscious decision, a conscious commitment to put the kibosh on low self-worth, anxiety, and sorrow parasitically existing in my soul. And Honey, that took YEARS. And I am still at it.

I am not fully there yet. I know that it is not possible to squeegee my past so that my screen is clean. But I can squeegee my mirror so that I get a clearer picture of myself, a picture that is not smeared and muddled.

I have said before that there is great power in vulnerability.  One may think that vulnerability is a weakness. It is nothing of the sort. Quite to the contrary.

Vulnerability takes strength. It takes courage, and it takes Moxie.

My cousin, Laura and I have recently co-founded Say It, Survivor (sayitsurvivor.com,) an organization committed to shedding a light on sexual abuse, helping other survivors to stand firmly in their stories and putting an end to this horrible epidemic.

We have had an overwhelming onslaught of love and support.  We have heard from thousands all over the world; People are speaking up, reclaiming themselves and joining our bandwagon. It is awesome.

Often there is the predictable reaction when I share my story. Folks are uncomfortable (understandable,) profusely sorry and express pity.

Another reaction that I have heard more often than not is, “But you are so NORMAL!”  That one makes me chuckle.

But Folks, there is no pity-party happening, At all. Not even a smidge of a pity party.

Then, there is the other side of the peanut gallery. Brace yourself.

There are haters. There are those who believe that we are trying to attract attention to ourselves. These are the people who gaff and roll their eyes and call us sensationalists. There are those who think that this is self-serving. There are those who are aghast that we would bear such “private” information about our past.

“Private.”  That is why we are doing this. We are trying to tell our private stories and encourage others to do so. Privacy equates to secrecy and that in turn evokes shame.

Shame. That is the cancer, the malady I am talking about.

There are people with whom I was close. Friends who I kept for years. I have not heard from them.  That is ok. For some, it is too painful and may stir up their emotions or past. I understand and continue to send love to them. I hope they heal if they have not already.

For some, it is not a “nice” topic.

Some, believe it or not, are embarrassed by me. And that is all good information.

Everyone has the right to their opinions and feelings. I can no sooner judge other’s opinion of me personally or of my charge. I am an activist and people are not going to like me or what I am doing.

That’s not going to change.

I am sad for people who have that perspective.  It must be painful to live with a perspective like that.

I have compassion for them.

In my painful past, where I was suffering from parasitic self-loathing and insecurity I would be defensive and hurt and embarrassed over this.

Laura and I  did not choreograph our dance. It was improvisational.  We did not premeditate what happened at the Carlisle Police Station on January 18. My car turned itself into that parking lot.

Our story is not exceptional nor is it unique. We are not heroes. We are just two women who decided to take charge and find peace in telling our stories to anyone who would listen, And Officer Paul Smith did just that.

Our charge is not self-serving. We have plainly decided to do what I said. We decided to take charge and shake it up like a snow globe.

And every serendipitous turn, every co-incidence were God moments. We are not thankful for our abuse. Not at all. But we also refuse to stay mired in it. We refuse to be victims.

In Say It, Survivor we are working for a greater good. It is healing and empowering to help others.

“Honey, I’m Good.”

Thank you for your kindness and compassion and love. Thank you for the outpouring of support. Thank you for spreading the word. Thank you for holding hands with Say It, Survivor.

But All, please don’t view me broken because quite to the contrary I am better than ever. I am empowered and charged up and ready to take this on.  I am privileged and honored for those who have faith and put their trust in us.

What a privilege.

There is something powerful, cathartic and joyful in putting one’s pain to work. And  ill-wishers shall be ill-wishers.

And I will bear witness to others with kindness, compassion and love.

Love is my favorite.

Let’s change the world, Friends.

 

That’s all.

 

More “MEAN”-ing

no bullying

I called my mother the other day. We were catching up, and we got to talking about MARYMORPHOSIS.  I told her about my post “MEAN”-ing.

Together we recalled how horrible and nasty those girls were to me in middle school.

Then she said, “Oh! Did I tell you that one of those girls ran by my house recently?”

Me, “Really?”

Mom, “Yes. She stopped and introduced herself.  She lives right up the street in that house where  Mr. So-and-So used to live.

Me, “And? Then what? Who was it???”

Mom, “She said that she was awful to you in middle school. She admitted to terribly bullying you.  She apologized to me. I can’t remember her name.”

Me, “She apologized to YOU?”

Mom, “Yes. She told me that she has middle school kids and that she does not want that to happen to them.”

My. My. My.

I wish I knew who it was that owned up to it. I also wish that that woman would apologize to me- not my mother.  I am pretty sure that she could find me, by social media or otherwise.  She could have asked my mom how to find me- right?

I am not holding my breath.

And I am so happy that this bully now is aware of the potential effects on her children; that she recognized her mistake.   I really and truly hope that mean kids spare her children.

My boys start school in just nine days, and all three will be in middle school this year.  I am biting my nails.  I am not ready. I am not talking about the 3″ binders and #2 Ticonderoga pencils ready, my friends.  I am talking about being mentally ready.

Middle school can be a fire pit.

SO many people reached out to me after I wrote “MEAN”-ing.  Many could relate.  Many have children who are victims of bullying. It is an epidemic. And there does not seem to be a vaccine.

It is highly contagious.

Victims are the hosts. And they are eaten alive by their peers who are cowards, hiding behind social media and electronics.

With Instagram and Snapchat kids can post pretty much anything they want.  They can comment any way they want. And with social media like Snapchat, the evidence disappears in about ten seconds.  It is easy to get away with it.

And that child who is on the other side is powerless and victimized.

And those feelings don’t go away in ten seconds.  They may never go away.

Don’t get me wrong, the folded square notes I found in my locker were painful. But social media is a killer. And it can be, literally, too.

I could put my thermometer on the radiator for days and miss school.  But now? There is absolutely no way to escape. Those electronics are inescapable.

My son just told me of how a girl from his grade posted a photo of her family on the beach during their summer vacation.  Some kids commented on her photo in which she was wearing a bathing suit. She was at the beach.

They called her “Shreck” and other names.  She took the picture down.

Another instance? My friend’s son posted a gorgeous image of a rainbow he saw in on vacation in Maine.  He was called “gay.”  Hm.

A child who is very close to my heart suffered from bullying in grade 5.  Several boys would taunt him, stomp on his foot, call him names and steal his lunchbox and throw it across the cafeteria.

bully-obesity

This boy who had always been gregarious and well liked all of a sudden withdrew.  He did not smile. He refused to take his puffy winter jacket off in the hot classroom because he said that it was his “protective armor.”

Doesn’t that break your heart?

Everybody, guess what? That happened recently.

For three months, the mother contacted the school.  The boy reached out to the school on numerous occasions.  Then, the mom put her foot down.

And finally, an action was taken. The parents were called in. The school intended to contact the police if the boys did not cease.

They stopped.

But it took three months for the school to take it seriously and do something.

Although there is a “no tolerance” policy in our schools, it STILL happens.

What are we going to do about this? How can we stop this? We need to educate our kids not only on what it means to be a bully but how it affects others.

Sit down with your kids before that first day of school. Explain that their devices can be a source of entertainment and fun and a way in which to connect with their friends. We need to educate our children that phones can be weapons too.

Tell them to put their weapons down.

Can we model the Golden Rule? Please?

Golden Rule

That’s all.

no bullying

After “MEAN”-ing. A Loving Message

My friends, following is a timely and beautiful piece posted on one of my favorite blogs, Momastary.

What perfect timing!  The topic of one of my recent posts was about bullying. Thanks, G for this letter.

Bullying.

I experienced it. My cousin, Laura experienced it. Now, my son suffers from it.

Please. Please. Please.

Talk to your children. Read this letter to your kids. Glennon gives her permission to substitute her son’s name with your child’s.  We can minimize bullying by being aware and educating our children on what this means and what it feels like to victims.

Glennon is inspiring. She is full of love. She brings good into this world.

We connect with Glennon. Glennon connects with us.  Want to know why? She is vulnerable, honest, real, and she offers a full heart. Consistently.

My cousin, Laura, turned me on to her. Laura took me to see her.

Here is Laura, our friend, Jessica and I waiting in great anticipation for G to arrive at The Old South Church in Boston. Glennon more than delivered.

11692614_10207718242260560_6823226904896578657_n

Then, by choice, the three of us waited at the very end of the line of many, many women to say hello to G.  It was worth the wait. We loved being last.

Glennon’s sister Amanda was by her side. What lucky women. They have each other. And they share full hearts collectively with all. And they make a difference.

11709515_10207720978008952_7737388702009681029_n

Glennon says, “Love Wins.”

She is so very right. And so is Amanda.

Thank you, both.

Right on!

That’s all

READ BELOW

http://momastery.com/blog/2015/08/18/before-school-conversation/

Namaste

re- “Do”- nion

1393_logo

Last year I decided to do what I love and love what I do. So, I started a business called “table24.” I offered personal chef and small-scale catering.

129table24-logo jpg

Clams Casino and the logo

Out I ventured with grand plans, a beautiful website and chef’s jackets. Oh, the chef’s jackets! I was off to the races. I immediately had clients! I was busy in the kitchen! I was trying all sorts of new recipes! I am yelling right now!

Just what I wanted. Or so I thought. It was a huge disappointment. It was also a huge lesson.

You see, for me, cooking is a creative and cathartic outlet. Best of all, cooking is the means by which I express my love and affection for others.  In my family, food is glue for our togetherness. We all participate in it, find joy in it and, well, love to eat.  And I get to put it all on the table. YAY!

IMG_2875

Shrimp Etouffee- On My Michaels “A” list

My Michael and My Three Musketeers (a.k.a. my boys) get jazzed about giving me cooking challenges. We have had some doozies. One of their all time favorites is Fried Chicken and Waffles. It was love at first bite.  I am so happy when they are happy. And when mention of our evening meal gets airtime at bedtime prayers. Alleluia! Score!

As the head chef (and only chef) at table24, I spent the majority of my time in the kitchen.

Alone.

Alone and I are not a super combination. I am far too social. I started to talk to myself. I began a love affair with Dierks Bently and Keith Urban over Pandora. I developed a tick. It was worrisome.

Then, it dawned on me.  All of a sudden cooking carried a new meaning, a new stigmata- money.  It was my business so I charged people. I was expressing my affection for those about whom I cared and my new clients. And  I expected to be PAID for it?  Oh, how very wrong.

Talk about conditional love.

I packed up that carnival and left town.

Much like cooking, writing is cathartic. When I started MARYMORPHOSIS last month, my goal was to help others, to serve others, in sharing my story.

I recently attended my 30-year high school reunion. I had not been back to Ursuline in 15 years and was so looking forward to seeing everyone. Going back to Ursuline feels like going home.

IMG_3164

The motto of Ursuline Academy is Serviam, Latin for “I will serve.”

I was pleasantly surprised and a bit overwhelmed by the number of women, classmates and otherwise, who actually pulled me aside privately to express how impactful the content on MARYMORPHOSIS has been.

That to me is success.

When I first attended Ursuline I was thirteen years old and entering the 8th grade.  It had been a year since that day in the kitchen when I “outed” my abuser.  I was still reeling from the response, or lack thereof.  I was also still being abused.

My parents sent me to Ursuline primarily because it was an outstanding school.  But also, they pulled me out of public school because I was so horribly bullied that it was unbearable.

That is a story for another post, however.

This was on the tail end of the time span that my grandfather abused me but it was still happening. Simultaneously, I was traumatized by a handful of horribly cruel girls who victimized me because I had a new pair of Nike sneakers or a cute boy had a crush on me and not them.  How Cinderella-esque, hmm?

The Ursuline girls were beautiful in every way.  I was made to feel welcome. They included me. They were so kind to me.  Thank you eighth-grade friends, Gaby, Lisa, Anna, Sarah, Christine, Kim, Sheila and on and on.

IMG_3406

I was shocked.  How was it possible that all of a sudden I was liked?  I had a warped perception of myself. I loathed me. How on God’s green earth could anyone like me?

As the years passed my network of friends grew and changed.  I always felt liked and accepted on some level. But that deep-rooted hurt dominated.  Having been the victim of sexual abuse killed my spirit, robbed me of my purity and stripped me of my childhood.

Then vicious, vulture-ish girls took what was left.

Chin up!

I should have won an Academy Award. I played the part well. I was wearing a costume and by that in no way am I referring to my green plaid skirt and sensible brown shoes.  It was four years of “Showtime!”

IMG_3392

I still have my beloved green plaid skirt.  My Dexter is its best accessory!

I put my head into my books, and I pulled my grades from a consistent B/B+ average to a straight A average. Ursuline was HARD. And my classmates were brilliant. I did homework until 1:00 AM most nights. But I did it.

I was in clubs and committees, the class VP and the captain of the cheerleading squad at our brother school. I had great roles in school productions. I was cheerful with a cute and popular boyfriend who was the lead in the school musical. (Incidentally, while I was on stage he was backstage with one of the dancers. Yawn- you know that deal.)

march 034

“S-U-C-C-E-S-S!! That’s the way we spell success!”

And, of course, I accomplished all of this on about 300 calories a day. I starved  myself so that I would be the skinny “-est.”  Eshh

Prior to the 30 year mark, former Mary would have fasted, had a fabulous hairdo and the perfect slimming outfit prior to attending said re-union. This year I didn’t iron my pants and I had roots. Oh, and I had dirt under my nails from gardening earlier that day. I did shower, however.

But in 2015, for the first time, I felt as if I could show my high school classmates the real Mary. The real, raw, honest Mary.

It felt so good just to be myself.

And my classmates were STILL nice to me.

When I post I often feel as if I have taken off all of my clothes and am doing high, deliberate kicks with “jazz hands” across stage of  the nationally televised Presidential debate.  I feel like I am the half-time show at the Superbowl.

It sounds mortifying, doesn’t it? Strangely, there is great comfort in vulnerability.

Every day I remind myself to “love myself with the heart with which I love my child.” And Honey, let me tell you, it is a hell of a lighter load.

I left my high school that evening feeling lighter and happier. I felt as if I were re-writing part of that sad high-school past. I felt as if I got a do-over.  I was able to accept the kindness of others. It was joyful.

Writing has become a part of my daily life. I know that some of my friends won’t read what I write. Some are probably shaking their heads and snickering with others on the ball field but want in on something?

I.COULD. NOT. CARE. LESS.

HA ! Imagine that!? It feels LIBERATING!  People can relate! Through one’s honesty, others find their humanity and feel a sense of community.

But, the best feeling is that I genuinely believe that I am helping people.  And folks have told me just that. And I believe them. So there.

“I will serve.”

It is such a juxtaposition that there is power in vulnerability, don’t you think? One would think that being vulnerable simply makes you weak. That is wrong. Bet on it.

“I am she. She is me.”

When my cousin wrote “He Wrote It Down” and I subsequently wrote “BEFORE He Wrote It Down, “ THOUSANDS no… HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS read our story. HUNDREDS WROTE TO US.

Over and over we read the response, “ME TOO.”Maybe you said it, too.

Do you see what I mean? In telling our stories, in our bare, honest truth and without shame, there is power. Good power. Power in your freedom, your happiness and your self-talk.

lavender-1603

There is an abundance of love that we all have deep inside ourselves that is meant for US. WE MUST LOVE OURSELVES.

And that, my pretties, is it for today.

That’s all.