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This week’s #FriendsFriday contribution comes to us courtesy of Jeff Nagle of The Roaming Mind. Jeff is our #VictorWalk Coordinator in Riverview, NB. Reach out to him at hawkeynut@gmail.com if you are looking for more info on this sister rally & walk which took place in Riverview on July 21, 2018.

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You are not doing yourself any favours by holding your story in. Live it, share it and give it away. The world needs you right now.

Everyone has a story. There is not one person on this planet that has not gone through some kind of adversity at some point in life or is going through some right now. While the old school of thought is to just bury it, don’t talk about it and deal with it, the new reality is, not reading your story out loud is no longer an option.

We live in a very open world, where demands on our transparency have never been greater. If we choose to remain closed, the battle between the reality on the outside and the truth that is building itself on the inside eventually break us down. Because we are so interconnected through social media, we can no longer just live our own lives as if we are on an island. Even if we don’t want to admit to it, we are constantly comparing our emotional state to that of others. If we have untapped emotional pain then this naturally happening emotional comparison only serves to drive us further into the ground.

I remember the life that I lead prior to coming forward with my emotional pain from childhood abuse. I was able to easily hold it in. As I had nobody else in which to compare to, I just believed that I was alone with my journey and accepted it as fact. It is no coincidence that with the rise of social media about 10 years ago (specifically, Facebook), my inner pain became a bit sharper. With more and more people speaking out, I began to hear my inner voice myself and I had an option to kill it or embrace it.

I chose the latter.

Recently, I had the opportunity to give my book to a world-renowned author and public speaker, Robin Sharma. He has written 11 books and his most famous book, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari has sold millions of copies. While I was a nervous wreck giving him my book, I had a sense of pride that I was able to give him a token of my appreciation. His books have inspired me countless times and then being able to go to his seminars every year has given me even more energy to continue on, learning and living life to the best of my ability. As we were about to part ways, he thanked me for the book and then told me, “The world needs you now.”

The world needs you now.

This is not the first time that I heard this phrase being told to me. Each time I hear it, it resonates with me quite profoundly. It leads me to question, what does the world need from me? What more do I have to give? Am I giving enough? And the answer is always no. The world doesn’t need my past and it doesn’t need my future, what the world needs from me is my presence. And that is all the world wants from each of us, our presence.

If we are carrying around a lot of untapped emotional baggage, it becomes nearly impossible to live in the moment. We are constantly at war with ourselves and others who we feel are attacking the weakest parts of us. Once we can share our pain, expose our weakness and allow others to help fix us, then we become ambassadors of victory. It doesn’t mean you have to be completely cured of your past, it just tells the world you are working on being a better you. Being a better you only comes from being present and that my friend, is why the world needs you now. If each of us is truly open about our intention of healing, then there is no reason why many of our world’s problems cannot be solved.

Be present by sharing your voice, being open about your pain, and by giving your story away. The world needs you now.

 

 

Copyright Jeff Nagle, The Roaming Mind (2018).  Used with permission.

Our thanks to Jeff. Be sure to visit his site and follow him at https://theroamingmind.com.

 

Five in a Five Part Series by Sandra McDonald

Boys, this is a really rough time for you, hey? For a minute there, it looked like one power-hungry victimizer might act as a lightning rod of all of mankind, allowing other attackers to skulk off into the shadows unnoticed. But the word is out: assault happens.

You might be feeling a bit demonized? A little freaked out? What if someone accuses you of a #MeToo offense? What if you’re guilty? What if you’re not guilty?

And how are you managing the chilling memories of your own trauma? Are you ok?

Some of you need to be called out. You know who you are (and you’re definitely not reading this blog).

Some of you will be wrongly accused (maybe you already have been?). That will unjustly upend your world.

Some of you are the long-silent sufferers of wounds so deep and frightening and life-shaping. You didn’t ask to have your own memories yanked out from there hidey-holes, but two little words, a hashtag, and a media explosion, and now you’re face to face with your own ghosts and monsters.

You certainly don’t deserve to be hated, blamed, or shamed for just being male, but it’s a little tense out there right now. Our current culture is so tough on you: you’re either Homer-Simpson-sluggish or Trump-Weinstein-lecherous. You are the buffoon, the emotionally bereft slug, the power-mongering tyrant, the hammer-wielding superhero. Gone are the days of being just a regular, God-fearin’, hard-workin’, nice guy.

Would you consider re-writing that narrative? Your story is important.

Right now. In this conversation. You might have your own #MeToo chapters in your story?

How can we, as a culture, make space for men to be men to be men. What does that even mean today? I have three sons that, I have to tell you, I’m scared to death for. Did I do enough to teach them the value of their gender identity – in all of its masculine, feminine, and something-wholly-other goodness? Did I teach them the value of all humanity? The need to respect, validate, and truly hear the stories of their Others? Will they be at ease in their own bodies, with their own thoughts, and in engaging wisely and generously with the world – as men? Will they manage their need to be respected and powerful in the world, and will they do this without attempting to master another person along the way?

Your story. As brother-father-son-victim-abuser. We need to hear it just as badly as you need to give voice to it. There are people who will listen, without judgment to the scariest bits of your history. And if those bits include hurting others, don’t make a shiny apology, using words to gloss over bad behavior in an effort to distance yourself from hard truths. But don’t take on responsibility where it’s not yours to bear, either.

Contribute. Learn. Listen. Validate. Believe. Tell the truth of your experience. Know your own hungers. Own your hungers, and learn to manage them in ways that do not bring harm to any other person. You are not a monster. You are a man. #MeToo can be made a thing of the past with your work to that end.

Four in a Five Part Series by Sandra McDonald

#MeToo is an exposure of men behaving badly – and at great cost to the security, well-being, and identity of women. It is a match-flare flash of light into the dark corners of long-kept secrets. A sudden, alarming glimpse of the danger faced by most (all?) women at some point in their lives.

It is right that long-silent victims have an opportunity to bring their own violation out into the light (where it will lose so much of its shaming power). Your experience has made you stronger, more courageous, more fearful, more resolute, more timid. You’ve been marked by it in one way, or another.

Do find a safe and loving space to share your story. We might argue that social media isn’t the most secure place for that vulnerability. But your dear friends, a trusted advisor, a mentor, a space like BFF – it is important for your healing, and the healing of your world, that you tell your story.

#MeToo and #ItStopsNow are also a  testimony to the wrenching truth that women have just not been there for each other.

I well know what it is to be the one powerless woman in a room full of powerful men. I know how they use their bodies, their language, and their money to keep an intelligent, resourceful, get ‘er done gal in “her place.”

And I know what it is to be one of many women in a room, looking hopefully from one face to the next, thinking “Surely these women will stand with me for what they know must be done here?” only to see, immediately, that their heads are bowed and their lips are silent.

“Maybe if you weren’t quite so opinionated they would agree to make changes/adjust policy/implement procedure.”

“If you just talk more like a man they’ll be more willing to listen to you…”

“Oh, you just misunderstood his intentions.”

“It sure wouldn’t hurt if you just showed a little ankle…”

I was part of a community of women that knew exactly which ones were being hit by their spouses. It was an open secret, amongst the women, that Sally’s husband had gotten “a little carried away” with Sue…but it was all just a misunderstanding.

Your story can help change how men interact with women. More importantly (?) it may help change how women interact with one another.

But not if we leave it as a hashtag one-liner out in the Twittersphere. What is our part, girls? In our homes, our relationships, our places of employment, and the way we spend our dollars? We don’t need more blog posts, news feed buzz, or clever kitty-cat headbands. We do need to put action and choice and instruction (with some maturity and cool-headed sass) to the dogged work of adjusting the mindset of a culture. A global culture.

Three in a Five Part Series by Sandra McDonald

Have you found yourself tangling with unexpected memories of your own sexual history these past few months? Yeah, me too. In fact, #MeToo has compelled my own experience with unwanted touch and talk burbling right on up to the surface. I didn’t invite these thoughts. But here I am: thinking about my 47 years through the misty lens of long-quashed memories.

In “Your Story” I noted (in over-simplified terms, for sure!) that we communicate in the pattern of our own generation. I’m somewhere in the middle of, “Shhhhh. Nice girls don’t talk about such things!” (Words sternly spoken by the matriarch of my family. We also sit legs graciously crossed. We do not pick our noses in church. And we never, ever cry.), and “Don’t use those words – that’s my trigger!” I’m learning sensitivity to, and pushing against, this position just a bit…but that’s a different story, Resilient Friends. You’re stronger than you know!

This means that I share easily about some things, but there are many things that I, for the sake of propriety and the protection of the bullies in my life (What a strange propensity we have for this, right? A jumble of terror and politeness.) feel more comfortable remaining mum about.

I am not a beautiful woman. No, don’t protest that. Not even out of politeness. I’m not being self-deprecating or hateful. I am not pretty. I am prone to chubby with small eyes, thin lips, and a too-stubby chin. I’ve got a set of great birthin’ hips (read: broad and well-padded). My wobbly bits have always been strangely wobbly and I have never turned the head of a boy with the flip of my hair.

And I am a victim of sexual shaming and inappropriate touch. How I missed being more violently assaulted I cannot tell because there were some near misses.

“You fat cow!”

“You have hands like a man – look how big they are!” (One of the church elders made it a weekly point to meet me by the coat racks, my back pressed against dangling jackets and stacks of Bibles, to comment on some aspect of my physical appearance. Eyebrows too furry, waist too narrow, dress too short/too long/too lacey/too plain. And big ol’ man-hands.)

“You eat enough to be a farm boy!” (For Gramma, whom I revered, love and loathing were baked, equal parts into cookies, and squares, and ooey-gooey cinnamon buns.)

“You’re filling that top out really well right now.” (This by a man, lolling, legs-spread-wide in his church pew, as he leered at my milk-engorged breasts after the birth of my first son.)

“Come here. Sit on my lap. I want to show you how much God loves you.”

My stomach turns to jelly as this memory lurches to mind. He was a man 30 years my senior. A professional counselor working from a Christian retreat centre. I was 17 years old and feeling lost. My upbringing was staunchly patriarchal (that is, man is the head and woman is the submissive, weaker second), and subjugated (men lead, women serve). It did not, for even a second, occur to me not to obey.

And these are just a few of the encounters with men. It is the stories of women, one after another, from as early as I can remember, putting me in my place with shaming, hate-filled, “If only you were born a boy” intent that has heart-scars twinging with confusion and self-deprecation just when I least expect it.

My story is riddled through with religion, sex, morals, ethnic background, and shame, shame, shame.

But it doesn’t stop there. I am the mother of three sons. I am a neighbor, a friend, a wife, a relative. I am a listener and a story keeper. Countless women and men have shared their stories of one-off assaults and chronic abuse at my kitchen table. Of rape, incest, verbal assault, and unwanted solicitation. And I’m asking myself, “How have I contributed to the continuation of shaming-into-silence?” To listen to your story with full-hearted compassion and the willingness to look for resources is one thing. But is there more for me to do to ensure that cycles of abuse cease? How do I more capably advocate for healing for victimizers? How can I hone my language to ensure this conversation is being given space (carefully, gently, boldly) and then sacredly held? Did I (and here my heart stutters and my lungs fail with sick fear) do enough to teach my sons the honor due all of humanity? All races, genders, religions?

My story goes well beyond creepy men and handsy boys into a life where it is (desperately) important that I make space for women and men like you to bring some of the hard stuff out into the light of day. By getting what’s on the inside out, in a space that is wise and patient and free of judgment, we can heal hearts and quiet minds.

You, too. BFF can help.

Two in a Five Part Series by Sandra McDonald

I am a woman of a certain age. Not quite a senior. Not quite a young woman. The generation before me talked about nothing. Compelled to silence by strong (read: threatening) hands, the social mores of their day, and the hopelessness that comes from deeply entrenched belief that their story will not make a difference, their inner voice says, “What difference would it make if I did talk about it?” #MeToo is a bit baffling and alarming to the ones who’ve gone before us in building a tidily polite society.

The pendulum is swinging to the extreme opposite of that rigidity. The generation following mine talks about everything. Nothing is private, sacred, or off-limits. #MeToo makes sense and there’s an understanding that paying attention to Self is legitimate, normal, and even useful.

You fit somewhere in this mix, too, hey? For reasons that are good enough for you, you have openly spoken of your trauma, your broken spirit, your fear for the future. For reasons that are good enough for you, you have kept your experiences tucked well away from the eyes and ears of even the people who know and love you best. You wouldn’t dream of speaking them aloud.

Your story is your story. You carry great courage through your day (and you know it takes courage just to get out of bed some mornings!). The goodness that is deep within you is always ready to bring light and hope right out into the open in this dark world. Your humor and uniquely-yours point of view? It’s going to be the thing that helps make the world a softer place for someone else.

You are resilient. Do you know that about yourself? You probably don’t feel resilient, but consider what you’ve come through – and here you are! Still breathing in, breathing out. Sometimes that’s enough. But you’re moving past that, too. You’re loving others. You’re considering loving yourself.

That is a bit of sticking point, right? Loving Self. For some of us, that’s a far off and distant land – the stuff of fairy tales and whimsy. Or, more darkly, impossible: to love Self would mean considering who that Self is. And we don’t think that person is worth knowing at all.

While our newsfeeds explode with stories of assault, intimidating powers-that-be, and stories of intimate violation your own story has been pulled to the forefront of your thinking. You didn’t invite it. But thoughts you’ve avoided for years, forever, are suddenly squarely in your line of sight.

It’s ok if you don’t know what to do with that today. It’s ok if want to talk about things long-silent. Your experience is your own. It’s ok to find someone who is safe and present and selfless to share how you relate to the cultural story. It’s also ok if you don’t want to talk about this yet.

If you are ready to talk about the very complex ways that you have been impacted by trauma (and that trauma may not be sexual in nature), you are not alone. There are listeners, friends, and professionals nearby. Your story is important. A healing and moving-toward-wholeness You will ensure that the generation that comes after us…and the one that comes after them…can focus their energies on other things.

First of a Five Part Series by Sandra McDonald

#MeToo is not a new movement, but it is new to Hollywood, and that means that, for this brief moment, it has grabbed the spotlight, our imaginations, and talk show conversation. The other night I watched an interview between a comedian and a famous actor. The former boldly challenged the latter to account for accusations of inappropriate touch. The latter, panic-eyed and breathy, choked out scripted lines (carefully shaped to reassure that he meant no harm, he doesn’t remember, he’s appalled that anyone could ever think…), decrying the shocking extent of sexual victimization in his industry.

But you, BFF reader, are not surprised by the reach of sexual assault, rape, or inappropriate touch and language. You already know that it can happen to anyone. Anywhere. And it happens at the hands of the powerful, the rich, the frightened, the poor. It is perpetrated by those who know better and who glory in the control they wield. It is perpetrated by those who were victims first, and who, truly, may not know any other way to be. It continues in closets and corners and offices and public spaces. It’s happened to you, and to the people you adore.

Maybe you’ve even contributed to this not-so-secret secret shame? Courage, friend. We all have. If only by our silence, the turning of an avoidant gaze, you and I share in this part of the human condition.

Organizations like BFF have had boots on the ground on these issues for years. They’re doing the good work of making space for conversation, helping us to find the language to shape and understand our own stories, and moving us forward in finding wholeness.

You have a role in this conversation, and in changing our world. If you are a man or a woman who has wounded another, it’s time to make things right. BFF can help with that. If you are a woman or man who has been wounded, will you give yourself permission to consider moving toward healing? There is space here for you, for your story, and for the restoration of your heart, mind, and body.

If you are the loving Other of one of the above, you are not powerless. Be the loving, attentive, and aware listener that your Hurting Person needs. Your part of hearing and helping is no small thing. Feeling inadequate and overwhelmed? That’s ok. This is really big stuff! But you can give to a work that is equipped to provide professional care. You can make it possible for the people who are courageously walking alongside the hurting to keep doing what they’re doing.

It’s ok if you and I are not comfortable putting ourselves out there on the front lines. It’s not ok for you and I to pretend that the people we love, and who love us, have not been marked by this.

Whatever our engagement in this (temporarily?) public conversation, let’s move things forward together. Then, when humanity revisits this conversation in the decades to come, it will have been propelled forward by good work done in our time.

The Good (Finding Joy)

1. My daughter wrote a blog about anxiety and tips on how to deal with it. It was a proud mama, joy-filled moment for me.

2. Our BFF meet-up on Wednesday reminded me of why I chose to take this journey publicly. Those humans who show up and allow vulnerability to be present in a room full of unknowns, are truly magnificent souls. Those conversations fill me up and bring me great joy. Watching people leave looking like a weight has been lifted, simply as a result of meaningful conversation, is nothing short of magical.

3. My week ended with a group of ladies who work together, and although I no longer put in hours there, I am graciously invited to their team events. Christmas dinner, laughter, saying tender goodbyes to a staff member who is a pillar of the company but is moving on…and a gift for each of us that holds rich meaning.

As I continue to look for and be mindful of joy in my life, I’m finding it! Grateful.

Okay, mushiness dealt with, I had a couple of journey wins too. As a result of writing down my food intake, it is in my face that my choices suck. I used to eat so healthy, and surprise, surprise, I felt good then! So, as I’ve committed to making small changes, I started to add in a quinoa salad with my nachos and cheese, choosing to make a much smaller plate of salty goodness. I said I’d cut out eating at night, which I’ve done really well with. With age comes that dreaded metabolism slow down, so I can’t eat the portions I did even 10 years ago and get away with it. I’ve always known that, just didn’t want to face it!

Every time I walk up or down stairs without having to lean against the wall, I could do a happy dance! The simple act of putting on my boots or shoes without leaning on a wall? Priceless! Progress.

My mind has shifted. I have a knowing, a confidence that I didn’t have when I began three weeks ago, that I’m going to do this. I’ve taught my kids that we become what we focus on. It’s not just b.s., it’s scientific fact. As I write, I’m getting a glimpse of how re-jigging my own focus is beginning to turn the sails. Slow but sure, I’m on my way.

The Bad (Stuff that didn’t go so well)

My activity levels are definitely still in the tank. The “fun” part is that I’m not content staying there. I did walk, but any attempts to push the use of my shoulder were met with too much pain. That will eventually get resolved, so in the meantime I will continue with walking.

The Ugly

I didn’t realize how afraid of falling I am. As much as I was hoping to walk outside, I think I may need to find an inside track to use.

I can hardly look in the mirror and see me. All I see are my stomach rolls, my back fat and the grey, thinning roots sprouting on top of my head. While that may sound a bit pathetic, it’s raw and real. For someone who was a size two before kids, it’s not always easy to just accept the changes in my body, even though they’re all teenagers now. Keep in mind that I worked for a modelling agency for three years (part time) and used to host/produce a tv program. Vanity ran deep and I fell prey to the societal norms and expectations of what “pretty” is/was. My body and my looks got attention. The turkey neck I now see wasn’t part of the plan.

I’m looking forward to staying put for Christmas this year and having family at my house for the first time. Ever. I’m already finding joy before the week’s even started!

What are some wins you can share? Or the bad, or the ugly. It all matters, and it’s all part of the journey.

Our conversations during our free monthly meet-ups take us in a variety of directions, and in order to ensure we circle back for reference, we’re going to start posting these resource blogs the day following a meet-up. The intent is to provide a roundup of resources or references from the conversation the night before.

Our next meet-up date will be in September, to be announced soon, stay tuned!

What a gorgeous, blue sky day. As he cinched the rope around my waist, I instinctively knew this was no blue sky, innocent outing.

I begged Mom not to make me go outside to play with him, but I was met with no choice. How could she have guessed my discomfort? At the age of four, my inability to communicate the fear of being alone with him left me vulnerable. I felt helpless. It wasn’t the first time he’d tied a rope around my waist.

As he led me down the back alley, I wondered what was next. Last time it was just a walk. Would it be the same this time? Of course, my Mom had no idea he had a rope at the ready, nor that his intentions were less than pure.

As a curious 12-year-old, he found a ditch for me to lay down in, and promptly pulled down my underwear and began to explore. Part of me wished it was a more private spot as other neighbours drove by, trying to figure out what we were up to. He told me to get my panties up fast, and promptly walked me home to avoid questions. Yes, the rope was still around my waist until we’d reached my yard. He never asked me to ‘play’ again, thank God. I wonder sometimes who else was subjected to his curiosity.

Fast forward to when I was twelve. I had a friend down the street who invited me to join her on the wild side, meeting the gang at the park, smoking and drinking. I never could get the hang of smoking and refused to drink – the smell was disgusting to me and I had absolutely no desire to try, but oh how I wanted to fit in.

One night after dark, the guys started talking about us girls and our various stages of development. As the most under-developed of the bunch, they began to mock me, teasing that they should “feel me up” to see if there was anything there.

Initially I didn’t take them seriously but then they started heading my direction. I told them not to even think about it and I was scared. I started running but it didn’t take much for them to catch me and throw me down on the gravel.

As three or four of them held me down, the guy I’d had a crush on for months stuck his hand up my shirt. His buddy was next. They laughed and laughed as they announced to the rest that there was nothing to feel.

I got up off the ground and took off running again, but this time they didn’t chase me. As I got closer to home I tripped on the curb and fell, resulting in a cracked elbow.

At least it was a good cover for my tears.

Years later, as an adult, I shared those experiences with my precious Mom. She was sad and mortified, apologizing that she hadn’t picked up on the fact that the neighbour kid was unsafe, or that there was more going on with my rebel friends than what she already knew. I didn’t blame her. How could she have known?

That was a time when stranger danger wasn’t a thing (but neither perpetrator was an unknown anyway), and such topics weren’t discussed. She wishes she knew then what is common practice now.

I don’t know that I’ve talked about it much, but I felt I’d resolved some of the underlying issues as a young adult and didn’t need to discuss it.

Given the community I am now involved with here, however, leads me to believe there is power in sharing my story. If even one person feels they aren’t alone in their silence and finds their voice, it will have been worth it.

Even though I inherently knew I hadn’t done anything wrong, shame lived inside me for several years. The ‘not good enough’ self-talk was prevalent too. No wonder hey?

We’re scared to talk, we feel ashamed, we want to protect ourselves and maybe even others, thinking it’s better if they don’t know.

As children, we may not know how to put a voice to it. As parents there is often talk about age-appropriate discussions regarding safe touch, but when age-appropriate isn’t considered from a perpetrator’s point of view, when exactly do we talk to our kids? Knowing what I’ve experienced and what stats indicate, I’m beginning to wonder what age-appropriateness and stranger danger conversations should sound like.

What I do know is, staying silent is never the answer. Encourage your ‘others’ to talk, provide a safe and trusting environment, even if it’s uncomfortable for you. Their safety and security may depend on it.