Thursday, February 13, 2014

I Am No Longer A Rape Victim or a Survivor...I am a 'Thriver'

16 Years Old
A few months after the assault.
I was 16 years old when I was sexually assaulted.  I was told I was lucky.  It could have been worse.  I could have been killed. I didn’t think I was lucky, though.  The life I wanted and saw for myself was taken from me.  I was saving myself for love…not marriage mind you, but I knew I would only be with one man.  I fantasized about my first time.  It would be wonderful, my very own love story, for the history books.  It was not, sadly.  I was broken physically, and in shock.  I could love on some level, but I didn’t understand if, or how, someone could love me back after what had happened to me.  I was told, “It’s normal to feel that way.” 

For years, it was a lot of people just talking to me, telling me what I was going through was “normal”.  No one really gave me the tools to heal.  Just talk.   I didn’t want to talk; I wanted to do something about it.  I remember very clearly, the moment I found hope in changing my circumstances.  I was in a sexual assault support group.  The councilor gave each woman a handout with three columns that read; Victim, Survivor, Thriver.  She explained each column and asked us to say which one we identified with.  At 26 years old, I was teetering between victim and survivor.  I had allowed the rape to define me for too many years. Some days I pitied myself, others I was just getting by.  I so desperately wanted to be thriving.  I wanted to be the carefree, strong 16 year old girl that I had been.  I didn’t know it was possible but this handout gave me new light.  Up until this point, everyone told me I would have a hard road ahead of me and I would never be that girl again.  It was this instant, in this group, when I realized, no matter what, we all have a hard road ahead of us.

It doesn’t matter what traumatic event you have faced, Life is not easy.  Still, when you boil everything down, we have one decision to make: will your life be about love or fear?  For so long, I had lived in fear.  Fear of love.  Fear of getting close to someone.  Fear of life.  I replayed events over and over again, hoping to gain some knowledge to my questions.  Why did this happen to me?  Was it my fault?  What could I have done differently?    It was this moment I decided I was going to choose love. I made peace with the past not knowing the answers to these questions. 
When I got home from group that night, I sat down on my sofa, my cat Jack was snuggled beside me, and I wrote down my new life’s mantra; “Everything I do in life, I do for love.”   I decided right then and there I wasn’t a victim anymore.  I wasn’t going to live my life just surviving or getting by day to day.  I was going to thrive!       

My little man, Jack
We've traveled the country together for over 10 years.
He's given more love than I could ever return in this lifetime.
When I read aloud my mantra to Jack, he reached his little fuzzy black paw to my face and he meowed back which I interpret as either “I concur!” (Or “Where are the treats, lady?”)

 It wasn’t long after, that the universe took over.  I had said aloud what I wanted and everything that I didn’t love was forcefully removed from me…Mainly my job.  Once I made the commitment to my life being about love, it became so. This loss fueled what I’ve always wanted to do; write and travel.  The choices I made were easy to make once I decided. Do I love it?  Does this serve who or what I love? Does this serve my purpose? 

26 Years Old
I decided I was going to thrive, not just survive.
What better way to thrive than with chocolate! 
This wasn’t a heal-myself-overnight type of situation.  I am human and it took a long time to undo a lot of the habits and false comfort I had surrounded myself with.  With each year, my mantra become stronger.  My purpose more clear.  Whenever I hit a bump, I reminded myself what I am about.  “Everything I do in life, I do for love.” 

After my assault, I had flashbacks and horrific dreams, my body paralyzed or shaking.  A boyfriend was usually shocked and freaked out next to me.  “Do I hold her?  What do I say?  What is going on?”   Now, when I do feel a flashback coming on, I am able to slow the process down, seize the moment, allowing more control over the situation.  I haven’t had a flashback in two years.  I still have nightmares, but they are few and far between.  I wake up crying, reach for my cat Jack.  I hold him in my arms, sometimes squeezing him a little too tightly like one of those stress dolls with the bulging eyes. He touches his fuzzy paw to my face and I remember I am lucky. 

For me, thriving is a mindset.  Yes, it’s easier said than done.  I have moments when I am scared, when I feel the fear creeping back in.  At these moments I remind myself of all the good I have in my life:

-I have a wonderful, supportive family.
-I have great friends worldwide who love me for me.
-I have a big-personality cat named Jack.
-I have a growing business that is going to help my community.
-I live on a beautiful island that I am in awe of everyday.
-I live in an amazing community that takes care of its own and is so supportive.
-I am resilient and strong.

I love my life.  I am grateful for this.  Because of my assault, I have met so many amazing women, I have traveled the world and I am on the path of my true purpose.  Who knows the type of life I would have had if I had not been raped?  Who knows the type of person I would be?  I do know that I wouldn’t wish what happened to me on my worst enemy.  Which brings me to what matters to me most: The only way to truly stop another person from being sexually assaulted is education, and to speak up.  I didn’t tell anyone for over a year about my assault.  I covered my bruises with clothing and make-up.  Most of the physical damage no one could see, and the emotional damage I was able to conceal as well.  Rape shouldn’t be happening.  No one should have to worry if they will be attacked, or if their loved ones could become a victim.  I would love to live in a world where rape didn’t occur. I want to live in a world where, if it did happen, it wasn’t taboo to talk about, and communities would stand in support of the victims.  Help those who need it, so that we end the cycle of violence. 

I’m lucky to live on an island that has a resource to help those who have been sexually assaulted or abused.  If you’re on Nantucket this Valentine’s Day, Friday February 14, 2014, please join the One Billion Rising global event to be held in the Nantucket Atheneum Library park at 5pm.  If the weather is poor, the event will take place in the Dreamland Theater.  This event is about love and rising above violence.  Come show your support.  If you’re not on-island, the One Billion Rising events are worldwide.  Search for an event locally.  Here is the website .

"Everything I do in life, I do for love."

 "One word frees us of all the weight and pain in life. That word is Love."  -Sophocles

Monday, November 11, 2013

War on Love: Four Lessons I Learned By The Break-Up With My First Love


(A very rough draft from my next book, War on Love.  Bonus: Take a shot of Whiskey every time you find a spelling and/or grammatical mistake.)

Days after Christmas, It was a chilly morning in the one bedroom San Francisco apartment.  I sleepily opened my eyes.  My head under the covers resting on my lover’s arm that was spooning my body.  I moved slightly, heard him grumble as he was waking up.  “You’re so cute when you sleep completely under the covers.  Why do you do that?” His voice was very scratchy in the morning, like a gears grinding in a car.  It used to bother me, now the sound has a comforting effect.

“It’s too cold.  I think I can see my breath.”  I whined as I put my icy fingers on his stomach, my head still under the covers. 

He flinched, “Your hands babe!  Too cold.”

“Well, warm them up for me.”  He lifted the blanket up forcefully to expose the top half of my body.  His skin began warming my skin as we laid wrapped up in each other.  He kissed my forehead and worked little kisses down to my mouth.  We made a small cocoon out of the blankets and soon our bodies were too warm for the covers, the cold room on our bare skin was a welcome relief.   When we were finished making love neither one of us wanted to get out of bed and brace the cold apartment.  “Is it time for presents?” I asked with a sneaky smile, I knew I finally found a gift he would love and I have been waiting to give it to him.  He smiled, kissed me as he replied coyly, “Maybe.” I stretched my arms above my head, slightly twisting my body to my side of the bed.  I pulled a medium sized package from under the bed.

“What’s this?”  He sat up against the headboard, smiling as he tore the paper away from the gift.  “Oh babe, This is great!  We are going to watch every single episode…starting now!”  He leaped out of bed with the complete 11 hour series of Band of Brothers plus bonus features in his hands and ran into the living room.  “I’ll make breakfast if you turn the heat up.”  I screamed from the bedroom.  He made a detour for the old heater on the wall of the Mission style apartment.  Done!”   

I sluggishly and reluctantly got out of bed and made my way for the kitchen.  I started turning knobs on the gas stove.  I had a few burners going, along with the broiler below.  The smell of bacon was filling the small apartment.  I used the bacon greased fry pan for the egg mixture I concocted.  I placed the bread is the broiler, since we didn’t have a toaster.  I peeked into the living room to check on my lover.  He had positioned himself on the floor in a pile of pillows facing the tv.  Since there wasn’t a sofa, he made his own out of pillows from the bed and chairs through out the apartment.  He turned and smiled, “Smells good baby.”  I smiled back, “Almost done babe.  Coffee is almost ready.”

We were starting to feel like ‘us’ again.  It had been five months of me feeling as though something had been ‘off’.  Something was wrong but I didn’t quite know what.  Maybe it was just cold feet.  Maybe I was just nervous about being someone’s wife.  I was hoping this feeling would go away on its own.  We had been a whirlwind from the beginning, I didn’t think things through and now reality was settling in. I was hoping it was just a passing hiccup.

I went back to the kitchen.  Strategically placed the scrambled eggs on two plates buttered the toast and laid the bacon over the eggs, then grabbed napkins, two forks and the hot sauce.  Made the coffee the way he likes it; lots of sugar. I went into the living room and handed him his plate and coffee.  “Mmm, this smells amazing hun!” His eyes became three times their normal size when he saw food.

“I burnt the toast, first time using the broiler to toast the bread, sorry babe.”

He picked up the blacken bread, took a bite “tastes good baby.”  I took a bite of the toast from my own plate.  “Mmm, tasty.  I think I may burn bread in the broiler from now on.  No more toaster for us.” I laughed as he gave me a kiss and pressed play on the remote, then Band of Brothers took over the small one bedroom apartment. 
A few episodes in we were snuggled under the blankets in a pile of pillows indented from our bodies, my feet pressing against his feet.  His arms wrapped around my shoulders and his hands in my hair, my head in the nook of his chest and arm.  The third, hour long episode had ended.  I looked up at him and him down at me.  I smiled.  He returned my smile with a kiss.  It didn’t take long before we set into our old ways.  It felt like what we once were; Making love all day.  We didn’t need an excuse.  We didn’t need much to get us going either.  We just had to be near each other for the desire to kick in.  We wanted each other, we needed each other.  We spent the rest of the day watching  the remaining eight hours of Band of Brothers, taking breaks to make love, adjust the pillows and snack on the left overs in the fridge from dinner the night before. 

We're back to us?  Maybe he changed his mind?  Five months before, he had told me we were “a twice a day couple”.  I was taken back because for two years he never put a limit on how much we would physically express our love.  Some days it felt like we didn’t stop, as though we couldn’t stop.  Now, he was telling me that was all behind us, he couldn’t do it anymore.  My reply was, “The honeymoon is over.”  A play on a long standing joke we had when our relationship would become a bit real.  Like the first time he passed gas in front of me or when I put my make-up on in front of him.  We would say jokingly to each other, “the honeymoon is over.” And then laugh it off.  When I said “the honeymoon is over” this time, I believed it.  We had become what I thought would never happen; at least I couldn’t see it happening for at least for a bit longer.  We weren’t even married yet but it felt like we were already settled into our marriage, our routine; Make love in the morning, make love before bed.  To my friends, this was not a problem.  “Twice a day, average couples only have sex twice a week, some less .”   They would tell me to not worry, it was normal.  But for me, this didn’t feel normal and would it decrease even more once we were married? I felt as though I had the wind knocked out of me.

At 25, my view on what a healthy, long term relationship was different than how I view relationships today.  I still want that “I can’t get enough of you passion” but I know it’s not a long term deal breaker.  At 25, it was.  He was my first love, the only real romantic love I knew up until that point.  I was crazy for him and he loved me right back.  Everyone should experience that at least once in their lives; to love someone and have them return that love.  It’s magic. But I wasn’t mature enough or mentally prepared to handle change in a relationship.  I didn’t truly realize the ebb and flow of romance and love.  Up until this point I had “Can’t live without you” type of love and I was addicted to it.  I was like a puppy dog when he walked into a room, even if he had just left; I was excited to see him.  I wasn’t prepared to settle into a routine.  I wasn’t ready for reality.  When we broke up a month after that Christmas I wondered how we got to the breaking point.  How did we lose it?  How did we grow apart?  What happened to ‘us’? 

From this contemplation and introspection I learned four important lessons.

-Communication: Don’t wait until it’s too late to talk about what’s on your mind.  Be open to listening to what the other has to say.  Say all that you need to say.  Don’t hold back but still be conscience of your partner's feelings.  You may not get another chance or opportunity to express yourself.  Be respectful of what your partner has to say.  Honor their opinions and feedback.  Try not to become defensive, they are just trying to be honest.  Communication is really the key in a healthy and satisfying relationship. 

-Don’t marry someone based on a great sex life: There should be something there of course.  The two of you should be compatible but great sex does not necessarily equal a great relationship.  There should be some sort of attraction and compatibility.  A great sex life can be the glue to a relationship but you shouldn’t depend on that holding the two of you together.

-Everyone loves in their own way: Just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want to be loved doesn’t mean they don’t love you just the same.  Everyone expresses love differently and there are many different ways to love someone as well as different types of love.  Don't take someone's love for granted.  If you feel you love them more than they love you, you are not honoring the way they love.  Just because it doesn't feel the same vigor or level, doesn't mean they don't love and care for you any less.  Don't base your love on checks and balances.  It may never feel  or be equal. 
 -Know Yourself and Never Settle: What do you want?  What do you not want?  What are your deal breakers?  What are your priorities in a relationship?  No one can be your everything and you can't be someone's everything.  What are you willing to give up for something that could be truly great?  Always ask yourself 'Are you settling'? 
(I'm finishing up writing War on Love.  This is a book about my love mistakes, love lessons and some of my favorite love stories.)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

How To Hit On Me Successfully

It's summer time on Nantucket, which means there is an influx of men that have a belief that the way to a girls heart is with how much money they make, or houses they own or that they just bought a private jet/boat or whatever. These "pick up" tricks couldn't be further from sparking some interest.  I will fill you in on the deadly combination that gets me every time. Start off with how you've become the master of putting up shelves or you just built a bookcase...table and table...etc. Then follow up with "you've been grilling every night this week." Throw in a joke for good measure. Followed by a book you just started,finished or you're really into. If you can fit in somewhere how close you are with your family, you'll have my full attention. Last but not least and probably the most important, if you can make me laugh I will be putty in your hands. If you can do all of his without revealing one of my turn-offs, I'm yours. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

DIY Necklace Display

I love when everything has its place and is neat and tidy...doesn't always happen. In fact the last few years my things have been here, there and everywhere. Sometimes feeling as though I am living out of a suitcase. I recently started coming up with solutions to organize my truck load of clothes, shoes and accessories. While going through my parents attic filled with items for over 350 years, I came across a top to an old mirror. Quickly I saw the possibilities and went to work on them. I found this item in my parent's house; if you don't have the luxury of an old basement or attic, I suggest Thirft Stores, yard sales,and here on Nantucket we have what is called the Take it or Leave it. I know people that have furnished their million dollar homes with refurbished items from the "Madaket Mall". 

 What discovery I made in the attic, It just  needed to be cleaned up. 

Holes were spaced and drilled for the drawer knobs. 

Drawer knobs screwed in. 

Added wire to the back to hang the new display. 


All in all it took about an hour to complete. Not bad!

What you'll need:
A piece of wood
Drawer knobs: buy online or find random knobs at thrift stores, yard sales etc. 
Eye hooks for wire to hang. 
Nail to attach to wall or mirror hook 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Is Sex The Way To Say 'Thank You' For Dinner?


“I really wasn’t into him but I felt I had to, it was a really nice dinner.”  This is what one of my adorable, amazing girl-friends emailed me the other day.  I almost reached my hands through the computer screen to grab a hold of her shoulders and shake some sense into her.

“What?!?!?  No…you don’t owe him anything!” I followed this by a short version of what I am going to offer you here.  Just because someone takes you out on a date does not mean you have to sleep with him or her to say thank you.  I’m sure every guy and a few girls are reading this thinking, “but it sure be would nice if you did.”  Dating is about courtship, not sex.  Sure people mix it in there and mix up what the true purpose of dating is.  The reason for going on a date; getting to know someone and for that person to get to know you.  Let me take you away from the romantic relationship scenario and give a business example, which for some is an easier concept to wrap their head around. 

Since graduating from grad school I have met with every type of businesses almost everyday.  Over the years, I have taken someone or been taken out for breakfast, tea/coffee, lunch, dinner and drinks, etc etc.  The point of this social exchange; Do we want to do business together?  When I buy someone a drink or a meal, I’m not expecting or assuming they’ll want to go into business with me.  The reason why I buy them the drink or meal is for the following reason; I respect their time – They could be anywhere, doing anything, which is an honor because they have taken the time to meet with me.  That means the world to a small town girl like myself.  Time and love are the only things on this planet that you cannot buy; it has to be given.  If a business shares their time with me, I would love to voice some ideas over a cup of their choosing.  Maybe the relationship will go further, maybe it won’t.  I’m not looking to be pressured or pressure someone into a situation that they’re not comfortable with or ready for.  This should be the same with dating. 

If someone takes you on a date, your sheer presence should be enough.  Much like a business meeting, you could be anywhere and going out to dinner with anyone else but you choose to be with them.  You’re sharing your precious time that cannot be bought back.  I learned this valuable lesson after a few bad dates…I can never get those hours back.  I could have been home washing my hair or snuggling with my cat, instead of wishing the dinner date came with a mute button.

I hope it goes without saying that you still should voice your appreciation for the date and for them taking the time to be with you.  Releasing from your lips an excited “Thank you” should be enough, especially on the first date.  If you go out with someone that expects more, well then in my opinion he’s not a man.  Sure he may have the working parts; Male anatomy, male strength and male brain.  Also, selfish, egotistical and self-serving come to mind.  Is that someone you want to be with?  Hopefully, not.  Do not do anything you’re not comfortable or ready to do.

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