The Cost of My “Me Too”

When I first saw the “me too” facebook request pop up on my news feed, I had a feeling it would go viral. But me, I opted to pass. Asking sexual assault and harassment victims to identify themselves on public social media didn’t sit right with me. I didn’t give much thought as to why — and since, many have eloquently explained the problems with asking victims to prove themselves to perpetrators — I just decided not to do it.

As I saw a few more “me too” posts pop up, I briefly wondered about my reticence. But not too much. I kept on scrolling.

It was not until a flood of “me too”s took over my newsfeed that I considered adding my name. And eventually, I did. But the truth is that I hadn’t wanted to think about it. I knew that adding my own “me too” meant shining a light on parts of my life I preferred not to think about. But I got caught up in the current of empathy, and I jumped in. And since then, I have spent a lot of time thinking.

I’ve been thinking about getting warnings from my mother as early as I can remember that yes, many men were good, but also some men were bad, and sometimes it was hard to tell the difference, so I should always be assessing and reacting, protecting myself. I’ve been thinking about how I carry my keys as a weapon when I walk at night alone. I’ve been thinking about how I always sit in the front car of the train after dark, just in case something happens so the conductor can hear me and get help. I’ve been thinking about the countless times I smiled politely or offered a demure “thank you” to an unwanted advance, because I was more afraid of the bitter threats that could follow my honest reaction. I’ve been thinking about the times I had to protect my own middle school students from being hit on by older men. I’ve been thinking about how I could not fall asleep for three nights following my own sexual assault, and how at one point I was sure I’d never think about anything else.

I’ve been doing all of this thinking, and I’ve also been realizing that, for the most part, I’ve always just accepted this as the way things are

And then last night on the bus on my commute home, a man ran his foot up and down my leg in a way that immediately set off all my alarms. I waited a beat. Maybe it was an accident. He did it again. I looked at him and he looked back, and I immediately moved away as far as I could, but I felt gross. I felt violated. And really, I didn’t even look good. I was tired from work, my makeup had all but worn off, my hair was a mess. I was wearing a long sweater over a high-necked t-shirt and loose-fitting jeans with sneakers. I could not have looked any less like I was asking for attention. I wasn’t asking for attention.

In fact, since I hit puberty, I have largely lived my life avoiding male attention. I’ve cut my hair short. I’ve worn long hem lines and high neck lines. I’ve practiced a face that conveys disinterest and distance. I’ve done most of this unconsciously as a reaction to my environment, and I’ve done a few things on purpose as a response to my experiences.

But ultimately, it doesn’t really matter.

Because even with my dumpy clothes and my short hair and my un-made face and my tired eyes, even with my disinterested look and my nose in a book, some man can still feel it’s in his right to violate my space, to make me feel unsafe.

Clearly, it’s really not about me.

And yet, that “me too” is mine to carry.

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The Braver We Are

Here’s the thing: I’ve been thinking about how to write this post for a long time. I’ve played with messages, metaphors, spins. I’ve written, and I’ve erased. I couldn’t figure out how to tell this, or even if to tell it. Nothing about my story is unique. Nothing is particularly exciting or groundbreaking. I won’t say anything that hasn’t been said before.

But none of that matters.

Because in this case, it’s quantity over quality. In this case, it only matters that I add my voice to the conversation. It only matters that I raise my hand and say, “Me, too.”

So I’m abandoning my usual need for perfection in order to simply send the message.

Our biggest enemy is silence. Silence leads to the illusion of solitude, of singularity, and this inevitably leads to loneliness. Loneliness leads to hopelessness, which leads to desperation, and the land of desperation is where we lose people every day. People end up in desperation because the stretch of time in front of them feels utterly unbearable when they believe they’re going to do it alone.

I know that from the outside, I look like I pretty much have it together. I’ve always had that problem. (Okay, it’s not a problem per se, but it has always prevented me from being transparent.) I’ve got a solid job, a wonderful husband, great friends, etc. I’m reasonably attractive, and I have some talents. I can even be extroverted when the mood strikes and come off as fairly sociable.

What is far less apparent when you look at me is the years upon years of internal warfare that I’ve waged. For pretty much as long as I can remember, I’ve suffered from persistent and sometimes severe depression and anxiety, even as a young child. As a teen, this presented in damaging and dangerous issues like self-harm and suicidal ideation. As a young adult, it looked like self-medication and denial. As a 30-something, I’ve finally learned to turn to therapy, spirituality, and medication to help tame my mental-illness-laden genetics. I could tell you the stories, and perhaps one day I will, but really none of that matters. What matters is that though I may never be fixed, I am always fighting.

It matters that I tell you this because silence has been my enemy for a long time, and I know it is a demon that haunts too many other people. It matters because at some point, I know you reach your tipping point. You have to make a choice between continuing like this, or… not. My hope is that by coming out of the shadow of my own struggles, I can help shed light into someone else’s darkness. I know you can only live under the thumb of misery for so long before you throw your hands up and surrender. But there’s a lot to be had here, experienced and felt and given and shared, and I think it’s worth the fight.

The harder we fight, the braver we are. The braver we are, the happier we will be.

 

 

 

An Open Letter to Brock Turner’s Mother

Dear Mrs. Turner,

I understand. Brock is your baby. You grew him, birthed him, fed him, changed his diapers, helped him stand, wiped his tears, cheered him on. You love him, probably more than anything else in this world, and watching his current state is extremely painful for you. I get that.

However, what I think you don’t understand is exactly how your son got into this position.

Listen, I wasn’t there. None of us were. But having read more articles about the case than I wish I had, and having heard the testimonies of the two men who intervened, I think I understand the basics. Your son was at a party where copious amounts of alcohol were being ingested. He met a girl, who was also drunk, and he was attracted to her. Maybe they started fooling around and the girl passed out. Maybe she even seemed “into it” before this. Let’s go with that, since it sets your son up in the most positive light possible. After she went unconscious, your son continued to molest her and penetrate her in ways she was unable to consent to. That girl woke up in a hospital, not in her own clothes, confused, and afraid. She was subjected to a rape kit examination, which can be even more penetrating than the event itself. She had to hear from other people what had happened to her, she had to suffer through excruciating cross-examination at his trial, and now she has to live with that trauma for the rest of her life.

Your son was drunk, let’s assume that. He wasn’t in his best mind to make decisions. But he still made them. And they were bad decisions. They changed the life of another person forever and in irrevocably painful ways.

I have held my tongue thus far because this situation has nothing to do with me personally. However, after stumbling upon your Brock Turner Family Support Facebook page today (quite by accident), I can no longer be silent. As a sexual assault survivor, a woman, and a decent human being, I have to make this heard.

You claim your son is not a criminal; he is a “good boy.” In the now infamous letter your husband wrote to the judge at Brock’s trial, he details all of Brock’s wonderful traits and the reasons why Brock doesn’t deserve to go to prison. (Let’s just ignore, for now, the way he refers to the incident of rape as an issue of promiscuity.)

Did you think before this that all criminals were evil people? Did you think they were all anti-heroes who had no hearts, no souls, no consciences? Do you think your son cannot simultaneously be a good person and a criminal? Because he absolutely can.

Being white, being an athlete, being a popular kid, even being a “good boy” does not diminish Brock’s actions. It does not excuse his choices. He committed a crime and is thus, by definition, a criminal, and he should be held to the same standards of all other people who commit that crime. Did you know that, in general, California law gives 3-8 years for a rape sentence like your son’s? And yet he was given 6 months. SIX MONTHS. Because the judge was concerned about his well being.

I will not go into race, class, or gender biases here, although they all exist and are infuriatingly at play in this case. What I will impress upon you is that your son got the lightest possible punishment for a horrendous crime. He got off easy. Clear and simple.

And yet here you are, publicly calling him a victim, defending his needs, crying out over the unfairness of his sentence, demonizing his fellow inmates and practically putting your son on the cross in the process.

Your son may be a good person, Mrs. Turner, but he raped a woman. He forever altered her life, her relationships, her ability to trust and to know herself. He committed irreversible damage to another human being, and he needs to be held accountable for that.

When you parade yourself in public as his ultimate defender, you look like a fool. But worse, you look like you don’t care at all about anyone else. Do you have a daughter, Mrs. Turner? How would you feel if she were the victim in this case, and Brock was someone else’s child?

You are insulting every woman who has ever been sexually assaulted when you claim your son is a victim. And let me tell you, we’ve all got enough to deal with. We don’t need you throwing the highest form of our society’s rape culture in our faces. I certainly hope you don’t call yourself a feminist, because it is hard enough to swallow that you are also a woman.

No one is asking you to disown your son. No one is even asking you to be angry with him. We are, however, asking you to keep your harmful rhetoric to yourself. You are only adding insult to injury and lending support to the side of perpetrators everywhere.

The girl your son raped will suffer in silence for years to come. Brock will have to do the same.

Sincerely,

Roxy Krawczyk

 

100 Days: Letting Go & Living Love

I’ll be honest with you – I didn’t expect much of Day 100 besides some New Year’s Eve prep and a silent countdown to the magic midnight moment. (I am still enamored with the kismet of my “random” start date leading to completion on New Year’s Eve.) I figured this challenge, which came in like a lion, would go out like a lamb.

I was so wrong.

Today as I was sipping my morning (ok, afternoon) coffee, I had a moment of reflection on the passing of years, the turning of a new page. This moment that we call New Year’s, what is it really?

As far as I can see, it’s a symbolic chance to start over. To begin anew. To let go of everything that happened as of late and put your best foot forward.

So I began to think, what do I want to let go of?

At first, the list was short. Nonexistent really. I did a good job of living my best life this year in many ways. I am getting joyfully proficient at my job. I am a good partner in a healthy relationship. I am learning how to be a better daughter, a better friend. I am coming to a sense of peace and equanimity with my body. I am letting go of negative habits and replacing them with positive ones.

I felt pretty good about myself this year. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and survived – in fact, I would wager to say that I thrived.

So what to get rid of?

 

This morning I saw an article about ISIS issuing a fatwa about the correct way to rape women and girls. Horrific. Repelling. There are no words for the pure hate involved in that story and the feelings of grief and disgust it stirred within me.

But, for perhaps the first time, I did not read it. I did not share it.

Because me reading the details of that story, pushing them on others, does absolutely nothing to stop those horrors. It does nothing to help those women, to rescue those children. All it does is to fill my heart, my mind, my life with a little more darkness. And I do not need that. No one does.

 

I have frequently asked myself this year: What can I do in the face of all of the evil in this world? It sometimes feels so large and pervasive that it seems there is no respite, no solution. I have not felt there was an adequate answer.

Then, several weeks ago, a family in my school community experienced an unexpected tragedy. It was a sudden and heartbreaking reminder that so much of life is entirely out of our control. And it reminded me of the larger feeling of a dark cloud that hangs over us all.

That day of the wake, I had a conversation with a coworker who I very much respect and admire. She reminded me that all you can do in the face of darkness is to share joy.

 

All you can do in the face of darkness is to share joy.

 

Those words stuck with me. They have been simmering in the back of my mind for days now.

And so in that moment this morning, I decided that in the new year I will let go of the darkness. I will make it my mission to share only joy. I will not give in to the evil. I will not give it a single moment more of recognition than it needs. And that does not mean pretending that it does not exist; it means refusing to feed it.

 

Now, bear with me – this was not the surprising part.

 

That part happened hours later, as I sat sipping my afternoon coffee, thinking about moving from this year to the next and carrying forward this better version of myself that I have discovered as of late. In these past 100 days, I have found parts of myself that I lost years ago, that I love dearly, that I wouldn’t trade away for anything now. I have let go of parts of myself that were only hurting me, that were holding me down, that I wouldn’t take back for anything now.

And I realized that in order to do that – in order to move forward with only the best parts of myself, with the intention of only sharing joy and love – that I would have to let go of all of the other dark parts for good.

It was time to forgive myself.

With a flood of hot tears and searing memories, I silently let go of each moment of pain I had experienced and held on to so tightly for so many years. I forgave myself for each moment of pain I had caused the people I loved, moments I had been punishing myself for for years.

I let go of all of the imperfect parts of myself. I forgave myself for them. I honored them as parts of my developing self, and I set them free.

I don’t need them anymore.

The true me is here now, and it is greater than all of my flaws, all of my mistakes. I cannot fix my past, just as I cannot eradicate the darkness in the world, but I can move forward with the best of intentions, with the purest of souls. I can share joy. I can share love. I can share light.

I can rise above my own darkness, and, in doing so, I can fight for the world’s light as well.

In this new year, I wish you all this light. I wish you this moment of forgiveness. I wish you self-love. It is the biggest lesson I have learned in these 100 days, and it is one I will carry with me for the rest of my life. And you you cannot teach it; you can only learn it.

Treating the Symptoms of Human Derangement

In the wake of yet another mass shooting, I hear familiar rhetoric coming from familiar faces.

“Guns are not the problem,” they tell us. “People are the problem.”

Well… yes. I will concede that point: Guns are not the problem.

 

The problem is Hate.

The problem is Rage.

The problem is Fear. Pain. Guilt. Desperation. Misunderstanding.

The problem is the derangement of the human mind.

The problem, like the flu, is unpredictable, uncontrollable, and universal.

 

But the problem does not stand alone. Like any illness, it has side-effects that are just as affecting, just as torturous, as the root issue.

The illness is in the human mind,  but mass shootings are its symptoms. They are the headache, fever, chills, and vomiting of our disturbed mentally ill.

 

I wholeheartedly agree that we must address “the real problem.” We absolutely must reform our healthcare policies and our mental health stigmas. We must demonstrate peaceful conflict resolution and offer alternative rage remedies.

However, like the flu, derangement has no easily pinpointed source. There is no simple solution. We can try preventative aid and still fail. We can mandate medical intervention without seeing results.

 

So, while we are using this metaphor, let’s examine what our doctors do for their patients compared to what our society does for its citizens.

 

What our doctors do not do is tell people with the flu: “Sorry, the problem is complicated and difficult. We’ll work on a long-term solution, but for now you just have to suffer.”

No. They prescribe medication to treat the symptoms. They make it easier to bear out the pain of waiting for a cure.

Our society, on the other hand, refuses to do this. We say, “Guns aren’t the problem, people are the problem,” and we leave it at that. We allow innocent people to be mowed down, literally every day, and simply throw up our hands asking, “Well, what can we do?”

 

People are the problem.

Mass shootings are the symptoms.

And guns are the go-between.

 

If we cannot immediately solve the problem but we are fed up with  the symptoms, let’s start by taking a look at the middle man.

If people are determined to hurt others, let them attack with knives. Let them lash out with their fists. But stop letting them commit mass murder with such ease.

In asking for gun control, I am not asking to take pistols out of the hands of citizens. I am simply asking for limited access to the weaponry whose sole purpose is to inflict the most amount of harm in the least amount of time.

I am asking gun enthusiasts to compromise, just a little bit, in order to save the lives of thousands of innocent people.

I am asking to minimize the collateral damage while we work on a larger solution. 

 

I beg of you – our elected officials, our NRA representatives, our second-amendment purists:

Please stop telling us that your unfettered rights to military-grade assault weapons take precedence over our safety.

Please stop telling us that we just have to live in fear and pain and grief until we can find a way to fix everyone.

Instead, do what some of the smartest, most educated professionals in the world do every day:

Ease the suffering while you search for the cure.

 

PS: Think this is a silly idea? Check out Australia.

100 Days: Sobriety & Stardust

Well here I am, at the crest of 8 weeks sober, and it seems a good time for another reflective post. And yet as I sit down to write, I’m not sure what it is I have to say. Sobriety is no longer new; it’s no longer exciting. It has become, well… normal.

56 days in, I find I don’t have the “a-ha” moments that I did at the start. I’m not triumphing over habits and cravings, because those habits and cravings have ceased to exist. I’m not rediscovering my interests and passions; I’m simply living them instead.

I have settled into a daily routine – into a lifestyle – without my long-familiar props, and I’m happy to say that it suits me just fine.

What does stand out to me is all of the time, energy, and space that has opened up in my life. Instead of spending my evenings zoning out to the television, wine glass in hand, I find myself crocheting, coloring, cooking, cuddling. I have the emotional stamina to process my thoughts, my feelings – even my worries – and to let them go. I have the mental space to consider new opportunities, to make new plans, to knock on new doors. Simply put, I have so many more chances to be present, to live my life instead of just surviving it.

And really, as I write these words, I realize that’s what I had been doing for so long: surviving my life. I was living in the future, always waiting for and worrying about what was coming next. And I was living in the past, consumed by experiences and hurt that I couldn’t let go of. I was living in fear that if I removed the crutches with which I hobbled along life’s path, I would be flooded by my demons, unable to move an inch in either direction.

And yet, on the contrary, I have never felt freer. I have come to see that in pushing myself out of the nest, in taking that leap of faith, I was also making a strong statement of self-belief. I was saying, “I can do this,” even though I wasn’t at all sure that it was true.

I have in fact spent years practicing faith on mere principle. I have wanted to believe that if I put the right energy out, I would get the right energy back. I have wanted to believe that things happen for a reason, that there is a time and place for every moment. I have wanted to believe in cosmic justice, in a guiding force too large to see. And so I have spoken the words and thought the thoughts just hoping to co-create their truth. A purpose, a wisdom, a balance in the universe – it was all I could do to believe.

The more time that I spend with myself, the more that faith begins to evolve. I find myself asking less and less for answers from the universe and more and more for answers from myself. In moments of doubt I turn inward, led by a powerful sense of my own intuition. I have started to understand that the very thing that is so much larger than me is in fact also the thing at the very core of me.

Talk about a shift in perspective.

I can imagine that to an outside reader, my musings may be starting to sound like a particularly mellifluous AA espousal. So let me be clear: I am in no way saying that using alcohol was preventing me from having these realizations, from taking taking these actions, or from fully engaging in my life. Using alcohol was just a secondary symptom; it was a bandaid covering the real problem.

The problem was that I did not trust myself. I did not believe that I had all that much left to offer. I was afraid to even be alone with myself, quite certain that I would not like the person I found there.

The real problem was that I did not know myself at all.

I knew what I loved and what I hated, what I desired and what I feared, who I was to the people around me and what roles I could fill if I tried.

But I didn’t know me – 

the part of myself made of stardust,

the infinite piece of my soul.

I had lost my own essence. And, worse yet, I didn’t know when I had lost it.

People go to extreme lengths to find themselves, to talk with their true inner beings: they perform fasting meditations; they take silent retreats; they go on solitary vision quests.

This is my fasting meditation.

This is my silent retreat.

This is my solitary vision quest.

Each moment, each step, my path is becoming clearer to me. My inner universe is expanding – I can feel it shining in my eyes and radiating in my smile.

And I am so grateful that I have chosen to take this journey now, when I have so much of my life left to live.