Thirty years ago… there was Scott.

Despite what happened to me when I was four, I have always maintained that I lost my virginity when I was fourteen. See, I don’t consider virginity some glass case to keep my virtue that – once broken into – causes irrevocable damage me or my value in some way. I was sexually curious and emotionally lonely, looking to feel some voids that had been ripped into my life with the absence of my dad. What happened to me when I was younger only skewed my thinking even more and I hit the ground running, defining my life by what I chose to do, not what was done to me.

I didn’t have boyfriends, necessarily. That came later. But like I’ve spoken about recently, just being held, voluntarily, was a huge deal for me. Still is, frankly. I’m a bit like a rose bush that needs tending. In my first marriage that didn’t happen. As the years wore on, the intimacy shrank and shrank until we were virtually no more than roommates towards the end.

It is one of the many reasons there is a second marriage.

As big as I am, the vastness inside me is so often times bigger. That was true when I was 14, that was true when I was 29… that was true thirty plus years ago.

It’s what happens when you need to feel loved so badly and you can’t seem to muster that feeling enough for yourself.

About 96% of the men I actually slept with I pursued. There have been a few that have pursued me, but it never worked out well. (We’ll get into that a bit later.) Generally I like to keep tight control over that just to mitigate damage. If someone really, truly pursued me, I wouldn’t have known what to do with it and probably punished them for it. If you needed convincing, well that was more my jam. Challenge accepted. I could easily spot the chinks in your armor and find my way in. When I decided to pursue, that’s exactly what I did. I didn’t wait around. I made shit happen.

Like I said, I have no patience when it comes to what I want. I’m very determined to get my way, especially when my way seems to lead down the much more fun path of self-destruction apparently. I don’t wait around a decade to get what I want. I figure out how to get there and I do.

That shit got me into a ton of trouble when I was younger. While friends were off smoking pot and going to concerts and going to school, I was trying my best to forge the weapon that had been used against me (sex) into something I could control.

It’s not uncommon for children who have survived sexual abuse to explore promiscuity as they get older. Some go the other way and avoid it altogether, but some have such shitty self-esteem that it wires their brain that they’re already “damaged” – what’s the point “saving oneself”?

This was what happened to me, especially having grown up in a super religious household that looked at virginity like some sacred jar to contain oneself. That’s part of the bullshit virginity = value argument which is WAY another blog altogether.

My jar had already been cracked. I had nothing to lose. (Or so I thought.)

But back 30-ish years ago, I was no stranger to sex. I got pregnant when I was 15 thanks to my reckless behavior. Because severe hyperemesis gravidarum rode shotgun, I ended up having to get an abortion because a doctor told my mother that my continuing with the pregnancy could result in harm to me and/or the baby. This doctor was a conservative family man she valued and respected, so she took him at his word. It scared my ultra religious mother to drive me 300 miles and shell out hundreds of dollars to save my life.

Despite what some might tell you, it wasn’t an “easy” way out. We suffered over it emotionally, she paid the price financially and I physically endured it. But difficult circumstances force difficult choices.

I ended writing hyperemesis gravidarum in my Groupie series much later. Since so much of that story was personal, working through things I was going through at the time, it was a no-brainer to include such a personal Easter egg. Many might feel I gave it to a character that I wanted to punish. What they didn’t/couldn’t get is that I did that to help me empathize with her, so I could write that character with all the dimensions she deserved… which was advice that I got from one of the biggest inspirations of the Vanni character. Even if this character was “the bad guy” – I still had to crawl under her skin and understand why she did what she did. So I gave us a commonality to share. It wasn’t revenge. Not in the least.

It was actually liberating.

Needless to say that after that happened to me, I got on birth control afterwards. I didn’t want that to happen again until I was ready for it. I wanted control over SOMETHING.

Then I met this guy named Robert back in the fall of 1986, when I was sixteen. We lived in Amarillo, Texas at the time, which was where my bestie lived. I spent every evening talking to him then just like I spend talking to him now. Except I didn’t use the Internet back then; we were still about a decade away from that revolutionizing how we communicated. Instead, I used the phone. Since we were too broke to afford our own landline, I would sit for hours at the pay phone at the apartment complex where I lived, which was conveniently located by the vending machines. I saw lots of people come for sodas and what not while I chatted away with the bestie. Most I ignored, since I’ve never really been all that crazy to people when not absolutely necessary.

One who could not be ignored was this guy with long brown hair and dark eyes – my kryptonite then and now. In an unusual set of circumstances, I could tell immediately he was into me and it didn’t scare me away like it normally did. Though he didn’t live there, he started hanging out there at his friend’s apartment regularly just so he could get to know me. He bought a LOT of soda, just to have an excuse to talk to me. And he was cute. Sweet. Seemed non-threatening. So I let the barrier down and let him. Within a few weeks we ended up dating and he became my first official “boyfriend.” I met his family. He met my mom. Though he was 24 and I was going on 17, no one really had a problem with it.

He even accompanied me to my first and only Journey concert in December of 1986.

Robert had epilepsy and, because of this, didn’t work. We ended up spending a lot of time together, and a lot of that time was spent in bed. My birth control ran out around November of that year, but Robert assured me that we didn’t have to worry about that stuff, that he had surgery when he was a kid that rendered him sterile. His mother confirmed the story, so I thought I’d save my mother the $$ and just not renew the prescription.

I started to worry about a week end it when he was telling me how he couldn’t wait to see me big and around, and what the names of our children should be.

By no surprise I guess I was pregnant by mid-December.

Again.

Robert swore that he wasn’t the one responsible, even though he was the only person I was sleeping with at the time. He tried to blame the bestie, since my best friend is a guy, but that guy is completely 100% rainbow-flag-waving gay, who has never even THOUGHT of a woman that way. We’ve known each other since we were ten and nothing even remotely sexual ever happened between us (which is why we are so close to this day.)

The support I got from Robert’s family slammed to a close. His mother went so far as to tell me that I wasn’t the first girl who tried to do this, trying to get to his disability check. I was dropped like a bad habit, despite all his promises of love I had been given.

If I hadn’t have had feminist leanings before this event, this would have kicked it into high gear. See, that’s the thing about men – at least the men way back then. They could decide they didn’t want fatherhood and walk away… and many times did. I knew several people whose dads just got tired of the father routine and bailed. One gal I knew went by her mother’s last name as a result. “Women,” she told me, “should get the credit for children.”

(Out of perverse curiosity, I tried to find him on Facebook and I’m pretty sure I did. And guess who has a armful of kids?)

We fight for choice but the truth is, nature really didn’t give us equal choice. And since I didn’t have that option to walk away like he did, I had to make the best choice I could. Even if I had chosen “the easy way out” with another abortion, I already knew how NOT easy that choice was, that it comes with its own set of emotional pain, physical pain and cost. I, as a woman, cannot just decide I don’t want to participate and walk away.

While I had some pretty awful morning sickness, it was nothing like the first time, when I couldn’t even keep water on my stomach for days at a time. So I decided to do things a little differently, since I knew I would already have pain, emotional trauma and financial cost. I was still young and still, clearly, an idiot, so I made the decision to give up the baby for adoption, so at least that baby could have a chance at a good life I didn’t have the resources to provide. Instead of going back to school like I had thought about, I spent those next months nurturing a child I knew would never be mine.

In July of 1987, I gave birth to someone else’s son.

July 8, 1987, specifically.

scott

It remains, to this day, one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. There are only two times in my life I felt like my insides were carved out and there was nothing left inside of me, and both instances involved losing my kids. The first was when I had to leave that hospital in 1987 without a baby filling my aching arms. The second would come years later when I was forced to leave what was left of my nine-day-old son in a cemetery grave all by himself.

I still ache from that loss, even all these years later.

Losing Scott, which is the name that I gave him before I sent him to his new family and his new name, hurt for a long, long time, easily until my own children came along later. It was why, once I had them, I would not let anything keep me from my babies. Even now, when they’re grown men, I’d do just about anything to have them near me.

As you can see, I don’t cope with loss well.

People have asked me if I ever tried to contact Scott, particularly now that he’s a man. I always hake my head. If he finds me, that is his choice. I knew his family was going to raise him to be aware that he was adopted, and so far he’s made no contact. I figure that’s the way he wants or needs it and I would never be so selfish to intrude on the life I wanted him to have, the one I couldn’t give him.

I gave him away with a promise I kept:

And a directive I hope he kept:

And that’s all I can do. Because he is someone else’s son, for whom my heart still holds the scar.

Happy birthday, Scott. Wherever you are. Whomever you love. Whatever you do. Know I carry a part of you with me always. ❤

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Dear Damaged Girl: Letters, Chapter 1.

A lovely friend of mine posted a blog not too long ago that was basically a letter to her younger self. I thought wow, that’s a neat idea. What would you say to your younger self with all the knowledge and experience you’ve gained from getting through all those past experiences?

My bestie and I were talking earlier in the week about how stunned our thirteen-year-old selves would be if we were to sit down and chat with them now, in how far we’ve come personally and as a society. That the things we thought were so set in stone back then turned out to be swimming around in a gray area we were too young to entertain way back then. For instance, the thirteen-year-old me was rabidly anti-cannabis. I believed the “Just Say No” hype. It wasn’t till my back gave out on me in 2006 and I needed really strong pain pills to deal did I realize where the true threats are, and often dispensed by the men in white coats we have been taught to trust.

But, again, blog for another day.

If I were to tell that thirteen-year-old that I’d one day trade those scary pain pills for a natural plant that worked better and actually healed, she’d be floored. But that’s the magic of insight. It teaches you where you were misled or mistaken, and you can change your mind accordingly.

Sounds like a brilliant exercise, honestly. After yesterday’s blog, I’ve moved up the theme in rotation on the blog because I think it’s an important thing to do right now, considering I’m still working through some PTSD issues from this past week.

So maybe, just maybe, this exercise will reach way deep inside my psyche where these “damaged” girls still reside and help them heal from their mistakes and trauma, because the one who guides them now has benefit of all these years, all these experience.

And hindsight is 20/20, after all.

I predict this may become an ongoing series of blogs, though I plan to write more than one letter today. I know I can’t cover it all.

But I’ll try to fix at least one thing anyway.

Let’s get to it.

Dear four-year-old me:

fouryearoldgin

I know how scared you are about what’s happened to you. I know you’re confused. You don’t understand why this bad, horrible thing happened, and you think it may be your fault that you are now “damaged” in society’s view and in the view of your God. You knew it was a bad idea to go with a stranger without asking your mother. But I want you to know that what followed was NOT your fault. You didn’t ask for it. You didn’t deserve it. God wasn’t punishing you. A very sick man simply took an opportunity to harm someone, and now you feel like you are paying the price.

I wish I could tell you that it will get easier, but that would be a lie. The truth is you’ll get stronger, so much stronger, in fact, than what has happened to you. I know that’s hard to believe given how small and powerless you feel right now, and you’re going to spend the next many years trying to hide that, so everyone around you will see a good girl. A perfect girl. You will chase that perfection until your soul aches, going out of your way to make the best grades, be the best Christian, be the best daughter, until you realize that no matter what you do – you can’t erase what has been done to you.

But this landed in your lap for a reason. Not because you deserve to be hurt, or used, or violated. But because you’re strong enough to take this thing and turn it around to help others, and that is your purpose in this world. One day girls will come to you, to share their stories, because they will be inspired by your bravery. And you will champion them and make THEM feel stronger, better, less damaged as a result.

You will do for others what no one will do for you, because you know how important that is.

I know you don’t feel that brave right now, and that’s okay. It’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to be scared. What that man did to you was wrong. And confusing. And scary. But it’s all on him, honey. You are a sweet, innocent child who did what you did with all the best intentions of a child. He violated your trust because of his own sickness. And though it feels like it now, it had nothing to do with you. It could have been any girl on that street, maybe someone who wasn’t strong enough to handle it – who might have one day used this event to harm themselves in ways they can never take back.

But that’s not you. You’re strong. You’re special. You’re meant for much greater things. And though you feel it right now, you’re not alone.You feel like you can’t tell anyone because the people who love you most won’t love you anymore if they know. That, too, is another lie. They will still love you, and they would do their best to protect you. And one day you will trust enough in someone to tell your story, and he will change your entire life. He’ll save you because he thinks you’re worth saving.

Because you are.

You are not damaged, merely changed. Shame will try to convince you that no one will ever be able to love you the way you are now, but they will. Some will even love you more. One day you will have children who know your story, because you will have long since shed the shame of it and tell it to the world, and they will think you’re one of the strongest people they know.

Feel the pain, because that’s okay. What happened to you really sucked and should never happen to anyone. But you’re going to be okay. You will survive to tell the tale, and tell the tale you will. And you will heal others, because of your strength and the talent that God has given you to re-purpose this evil thing for the good.

That man tried to damage you, but the truth is he cannot damage you, no matter what the world says and no matter how you feel. You are as perfectly you as the day you were born, created by God for a purpose that only you can fulfill.

He tried to extinguish your light, but my darling, darling child – you will burn so much brighter as a result. Some people fear the fire, they run from it, hide from it, do whatever they need to do to protect themselves from it. You, however, were reborn into it. And just like a phoenix, you will rise… beautiful because of your scars – not in spite of them.

***

Dear fifteen-year-old me;

ginpose1985

A long time ago, something bad happened to you that rewired your brain to think you didn’t deserve to say no or draw boundaries, like your body wasn’t yours anymore and you didn’t even really want it to be. You were born a perfect child of God but ultimately damaged by an act of man. Now you see yourself as a half-thing, who will only be beautiful and lovable if someone else finds those things in you.

But the truth is that you will find love many, many times, by many, many good men, and you will still feel this nagging feeling that no one can fully love you because of what happened to you.

Worse, you’re going to think you deserve certain things that happen to you. That God himself smote you in some way and you no longer deserve the happy ending designed for those who are undamaged and perfect. All those books you read reinforce that idea, that you have to be a certain kind of woman to win the heart of a good man.

One day, though, you’re going to write your own books, about girls who look and act more like you, who are deeply flawed and can still find their way to their Happily Ever After, no matter what the world around them has to say about it.

You’ll write those stories because you’ll live those stories, and one day decide the book world is big enough for this radical concept. And you’ll gain a passionate following of women just like you, who were waiting for someone brave enough to tell these stories. Their stories.

Your story.

No one is telling you this right now. They tell you that you have to change who you are to be happy. One day, though, you’re going find that love more than once, and all you’ll ever have to be is you.

Because you are more than enough. The people who can’t see that right now simply aren’t your people. Your people are coming, and they’re going to love you as fiercely as you love them.

Right now, though, you accept a lot of stuff you shouldn’t from people who can tell how vulnerable you are and how lonely you feel. You give yourself away because you think the damage is already done. You accept this crazy idea that if you can’t be loved for real, then an hour of being held or kissed or “loved” will do.

Yet you hate yourself more and more with each indiscretion. You’ll see how little they love you beyond what they can get from you, and you’ll love yourself less as a result.

And with each passing moment you’ll feel more and more damaged, like you deserve the pain they inflict.

You have the right to say no. Though your consent was circumvented so long ago, robbing you of the decision who might earn their way into your body, you never give up this right. So when that man touched you today against your will, that wasn’t him taking something you’ve lost the voice to protect. That was him doing something very wrong because he felt like he could.

There are a lot of guys out there like that, then and now. They look at women as half-lings that are only as valuable as their desirability. And you’re going to figure that out on a subconscious level way before you figure it out as a conscious thought. You’re going to do everything you can to repel guys like that, to keep them away, because you know inside that the next man who touches you without your consent will pay the price for all of them. Inside you burn with this hopeless rage, ready to tear the heads off of these jerks. You’ll fantasize about it in your weakest moments.

And one day you’ll write stories about it, to summon strength that lays dormant within you, so you just won’t feel so damned vulnerable anymore.

I know how much you hate it.

But sweetie, you are so much stronger than you know. You’re going to find your voice and establish your boundaries, and one day people will step out of your path to let you pass. Men will try to intimidate you and you’ll back them down simply with a look. You are formidable. In time, men will call you a force of nature.

And a few will love you enough to brave the storm.

Those are the keepers, and they don’t deserve to pay the price for what that man did to you today.

Where you will need to be brave isn’t to karate-chop some handsy jerk – but to allow those close to you who want to be there. You can’t fear intimacy, because there will be good men who will deserve your best and won’t get it because of fuckos like this one.

Today he grabbed you and you didn’t say anything, mostly because you think you lost that right. It was okay to be scared. It was okay to be shocked. It was okay that you didn’t know what to do. Despite how old you feel, you’re only fifteen.

One day, when you’re much older, you’ll know what to do and it’ll never happen again. And you’ll make a vow that no one will touch you that doesn’t deserve to, and that list will be exceedingly small. Because you matter. You matter big time. As you are no one will ever be again, and one day – way in the future – you’ll figure that out for yourself. Because I know you’ll have to do it your way and in your time, despite those mistakes you could have avoided along the way.

Everything that is happening is leading you somewhere pretty freaking special. And you are strong enough to endure, to get to that finish line… to win.

I know you think you have to be perfect or intact to do that, but let me tell you honey… you already are. You are perfectly Ginger, who is flawed, passionate, intense, vulnerable, strong, fiery, unlovable, lovable, domineering, a pushover, funny, melancholy, angry, stubborn, obsessive, purposeful, smart, stupid, courageous, a coward… every good and bad thing rolled into one… just like every other human on planet earth. You’re just turned up to 11, because you were meant for something greater.

Why?

In that ball of conflicting craziness, you’re kind; you fight for those who can’t fight for themselves, you have the fortitude to stand alone if it means doing the right thing. That’s what makes you special and so, so brave, no matter how weak you feel. Never, ever forget it. All those heroes you admire, who stood up, stood strong, made a difference? You’re one of them. Mostly because of things like this. You know what it means to feel powerless, ashamed, and outcast. And you will spend the rest of your life giving more love to those in need so they don’t feel that way.

You’re everything and nothing rolled into one – and that’s okay. Not everyone will like that. You’re going to scare a lot of folks off. You’re even going to hurt people, not because you want to or mean to, but because that’s the price we often pay to live through the kind of trauma we’ve faced. Hurt people hurt people, and you’re going to do that even with the best of intentions.

Some won’t even be able to forgive you… but you have GOT to learn to forgive yourself.

When you make a mistake, you will do what you need to fix it and move forward, even if the only thing you can ever do is say, “I’m sorry.” You truly mean it, and that’s what counts most. You’ll learn from it, and never repeat it again.

You will make your share of mistakes, but this event was not one of them. You feel forced into silence again because the fact of the matter was that you have been sexually active for a year now, and you feel that you can’t argue that what that man has done to you was bad because you allow older men to touch you all the time.

You’ve internalized all the arguments that they’ve said about victims of sexual assault deserving what they get because you buy this bullshit that you’re only worth what someone else thinks you’re worth.

This is the greatest lie of all. You matter. Your voice matters. Your consent matters. You are the Queen of your own life, and your body is your empire. People must earn their way into your favor. No one can just take it or steal it away, no matter what. No matter who you let touch you, no one else can circumvent your will and touch you without your green light. And you didn’t give it, so what that man did was wrong and you have every right to be upset about it. Your first impulse will be a shameful one, to bury it so no one else knows. It’s something that you’ve been doing for eleven years now, hiding the scars that others have inflicted, because you think they make you ugly and lesser than… that they leave you damaged and unworthy of any good thing.

They absolutely don’t.

One day you will see that you’ve suffered enough, that you didn’t deserve any of that, so punishing yourself beyond that is stupid.

When that day comes, you’ll use it as ammo to fight against a society that has created these shitty rules for girls and women. And, with all your fiery intensity and stubborn persistence, you WILL make a difference, even if it’s only with one girl who feels less alone, less scared, less damaged as a result.

The world needs you, flaws and all, which is why you’re here. You won’t be able to change a lot of the bad stuff that has happened to you, but that was never your job in the first place.

It’s your job to embrace every flaw and every scar and show the world that you can be fucking perfect anyway.

***

Weigh in: 290.4 (-4.2lbs from last week)
Monthly measurements: 48/44/55, size22/24 (down from 49/45/58, size 26/28 from last month)

 

Trigger Warning: When you need to talk about that stuff you can’t talk about.

Today’s blog begins with a forward, because it’s going to look like I’m veering away from what this particular blog normally does and it might come as a little shock to people who expect one thing when they come here, only to get something completely “off topic.”

You’ll see how it comes together eventually, but first, let me get you up to speed:

From about 2004, my online presence has been fairly political. It wasn’t because I had any aspirations to be strictly political and never wanted to paint in such a narrow lane, it’s just that I have always, always, always been very politically conscious, even way before I could vote. It permeates in my writing, whether professional or personal. It’s just who I am, as is being outspoken about it.

This was how I developed my following. This is how I honed a lot of my writing. It is what drives so much of my passion towards stories that change the current narrative. Every time I write about a fat girl finding love, it’s a sociological statement. Needless to say that when you are that driven to make a sociological impact, politics often ride shotgun because this is the framework of our society.

Several of my stories have blurred the lines with politics, because you can’t talk about the current condition without addressing the perimeters that have created it.

As a “public figure” I’ve been warned relentlessly to back away from it, and I did try for a time when I was trying to save the sinking ship of my writing career after careening into the iceberg known as Amazon Unlimited. (Topic for another day.)

What I found, particularly with my readers, who many times are just as passionate about these things as I am, backing away and playing it “safe” was not beneficial. Many of the people who found me and followed me did so because I was fiery, outspoken and saying the things they many times didn’t have the words to say.

I have ALWAYS taken this responsibility very seriously.

The “you’ll make more $$ if you keep your mouth shut” strategy didn’t work for me. As an indie, I can literally tell in real time how what I do impacts my profits. When I was saying nothing, exactly nothing was happening. If I participate in a Twitter hashtag, the sales begin to ring up.

(Literally. I have a report system that rings like a cash register whenever I make money. I can tell IMMEDIATELY if it helps or hurts the bottom line.)

So I know what works for me and what doesn’t, and I’ve finally gotten to a place where I do what I know is right for me, regardless of what other people have to say about it.

(It only took 47 years, but better late than never.)

Still, I have my own set of rules of where I put this information, who sees it and why. Everything I write in a public space is for a purpose, period, and I’m very conscientious about it.

When it comes to my personal FB page, I let loose on whatever topic fires me up. It’s my living room, so to speak, and I get to take the floor amidst my chosen family of friends who have decided that what I say adds to their life experience, hence why they decided to add me in the first place. Whether you unfriend me, hide my statuses or challenge me, that choice is yours. But my FB is my place to share what I think, and what I think has value, and I’m not going to shut up if I feel I need to speak up. I’ve always figured that the people who have befriended me or follow me know this is a part of who I am and make their decisions accordingly, as I do with them.

No doubt there have been some readers who have reached out to befriend me that find me a little off-putting. Like I said before, I know I’m not for everyone. I’m 100-proof, and if you need me watered down, my personal FB is not the place for you. Facebook, the way I see it, is a place for friends. And if you’re my friend, you know this comes with part of the deal, and accepted it because you have accepted me.

I save the more homogenized version of myself for my professional Author Page on Facebook. There, I don’t get as controversial. I talk mostly about the books. I try to engage on less confrontational topics. (And, not for nothing, I don’t post a lot or engage as many people as a result, because it’s damn-near impossible for me to divide myself this way. So that’s irrefutable evidence of how keeping me out of my brand actually affects it.) I have way more followers, which looks successful, but I’m not sure it translates as much into the kinds of sales my reps tell me I could get if I were just more of a soft touch.

What matters more is that even ONE person decided to follow/fan/friend me, whether they buy every book or not. Their support for what I do inspires me to do more of it, and that’s invaluable. And, to quote Kurt Cobain, I’d rather be hated for who I am than loved for what I am not.

This makes me a HORRIBLE marketer for myself, I know because I’m not trying to get the whole world to buy a book. But my books aren’t for the whole world, so… what’s a girl to do?

Twitter, though I use it for writing, sort of gets the same treatment as my personal FB page. The fact is, from a marketing perspective, it pays for me to get involved there in the national discussion. One cannot ignore that, particularly in the last year or so, our national discussion has been mostly political. I don’t shy away from that. And the readers I’m trying to court wouldn’t, either. More people see me if I participate, and – if they like what I say – they check out what I do. Eyes on me is not a bad thing for my career, hence why I’ve kind of married the two there even when many, many of my writer friends religiously follow the “no politics or religion” rule.

And yes, they may be more successful than me because of this but like I said before – I’m striving for significance.

oprah

Kind of like when a reader of this blog wanted to recommend a Ginger Voight book to me to find some personal value as a heavy person. THAT is my reputation as a writer now, and I couldn’t be more proud or feel more successful.

Again, it’s a matter of putting me in my brand. Lots of people can write a book. But only I can write the books I write. I’m what’s different, and so I’ve never really felt it productive to whitewash me out of it just because I’m a little harder to take, saying things people don’t want to hear, or addressing issues polite society normally ignores.

That’s not me. Then, now, or ever.

I just dole it out differently, like FB and Twitter above. Likewise Instagram is *mostly* personal and Snapchat is just for pure silliness. My blogs are broken up between political, professional and personal – with this being my most personal blog.

Since I decided to put myself back in my brand by posting this blog on my professional author page on Facebook, I’ve been extraordinarily conscious of the idea that I have to keep on topic in order to protect the audience I’ve created there.

But what do you do when your personal life is affected profoundly by the political?

I’ve created this space to be a No-Bullshit zone, where I can talk about ANYTHING I think affects my progress becoming the Ginger I want to be.

And that’s where we are today.

Honestly I’ve wanted to have this conversation for months but I’ve held off, working up my nerve to write it. Today I am just going to rip off the band-aid. I can only hope that you can stick with me all the way to the end to see why this discussion was necessary, particularly after this week.

Buckle in. Keep your arms and legs inside the car. I promise I’ll get you to the other side and it’ll be fine.

Let’s talk about November.

Last year I started my physical transformation in July and things were going great. I was losing weight, my body was transforming, people I regard highly were starting to see me in a new light because I was finally conquering one of my demons. It was a productive time.

Then October happened. A tape was released of presidential candidate Donald Trump making some shocking comments about women.

I wasn’t so much surprised by this. I’ve been familiar with his work from the 1980s. He’s always been sexist. He’s always been crass. The things he’s said about women, much less the way he’s treated the women in his life, have laid the groundwork that – when it comes to women – DJT has little to no regard for them if they don’t have something he wants.

This tape laid it out in black and white, irrefutable evidence how little he regards women. In a moment of what they tell me is “locker room talk,” this braggart basically admitted to sexual assault as defined by the simple term: one needs consent to touch another person.

See, a lot of people misunderstand the immediate backlash, thinking the word “pussy” was offensive. It wasn’t. I write lady porn, FFS. I curse like a sailor. I play “Cards Against Humanity” in mixed company. What affected me – profoundly – was the four-letter word he used before that. It is the word “grab” that makes me physically recoil.

We’ve spoken here a lot about my sexual assault when I was four. I’ve been open about it. I’ve talked a lot about it. I feel I’ve got keen insight on how it has impacted me my entire life.

But oddly enough, it wasn’t *that* event that Trump’s comment triggered.

It unearthed another memory, one I had done my level best to suppress, but awoke in my brain like it had just happened, and, honestly, I’m still reeling from it.

I was about 15 years old and I was with a friend of mine in an auto repair shop visiting the owner there, who was our mutual friend at the time. There was this old man there in the shop, kind of Santa Claus looking, in his Texas overalls, just sitting on a stool and shooting the shit with everyone. When I walked past him, he grabbed my breasts with both hands.

I was fifteen years old and wore a size 42C bra, and this guy just grabbed him like he had every right to. Like it was a part of the conversation. He didn’t ask. There was no preamble. They were just breasts in his general vicinity and he decided that was enough to grab them.

“I’m automatically attracted to beautiful [women]—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything … Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” – Donald Trump

how about now

Still to this day I get incredibly antsy when men I WANT to touch my breasts get too grabby. I will automatically shy away and shut that shit down, even if you’re my husband. Ryan Effin Reynolds himself, who holds steady at #1 on my Laminated List, couldn’t even pull that shit off.

This event was why.

And I had all but forgotten it… until October of last year.

After that it became my mission to ensure that a man who could say what Trump said would never make it to the White House. Ever. Just like Clayton Williams sealed his fate with me in 1990, by comparing the weather to rape and saying, “If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.” That ‘off the cuff’ comment virtually ensured my vote for the incomparable Ann Richards back in the day, and I made it my mission for her to win. Likewise in October of last year, I made up my mind DJT could never make it to the highest office in the nation, becoming the most powerful man in the world.

Because… no.

(Incidentally, it was “mansplained” to me in 1990 that what CW said wasn’t that bad, because ALL men talked like that. I didn’t buy it then either. Maybe I just hold men to a higher standard? I don’t know.)

But then… November happened.

The unthinkable happened.

And that was where I started to fall apart. And I know that I risk the dreaded “snowflake” comparison by admitting that, but this wasn’t just about Trump winning an election. This was about something much, much, much deeper and more distressing than that, that had taken root in my spirit a long, long time ago, that had been simmering just below the surface of everything, this past trauma that had never been dug out like the cancer that it was.

His becoming president was merely the trigger bringing it all to the surface.

I spent the whole night of 11/09/2016 sobbing when I realized that I lived in a country where someone could say something like that – and all the other horrid things he said or did – and it wasn’t enough to prevent him from becoming one of the most powerful men in the world.

As each minute passed, I felt more powerless. I felt more vulnerable. And that’s when I did what I have always, always done. I ate. I was crying while I did it, even on November 10, when I was trying to explain to my coworkers why it was hitting me so hard.

I knew when I was binging, too. I wasn’t in denial one bit. I was aware every second with every bite. I would eat past being satiated and keep going, till I was miserable and in pain. I kept going. I kept going and going and going. Just the act of eating made me feel, for the lack of a better word, safe.

My bestie and I were talking about anxiety not too long ago and he said, “Chew something, it gives you the feeling of being safe. It’s primal, going way back to when we lived around campfires. If you were able to eat, you were in a safe space.”

I chew gum now, but back in November/December, I was eating everything that wasn’t nailed down. I’m not the four-year-old I was back then, or even the fifteen-year-old. I knew from experience the only way I could protect myself from DJT and his ilk was to make myself repellent as possible, so gaining weight was a complete win.

And I knew in my head I couldn’t keep going like that, that DJT and his ilk aren’t worth dying over, so I knew I’d stop the insanity eventually – and of course I did. We’re in the fight of a lifetime now, and childhood defenses won’t work anymore. You can deflect confrontation if you look a certain way, but you need to be prepared if that confrontation comes and someone finally calls your bluff.

Now that we live in a country where men far and wide can wear “Grab Em By the Pussy” T-shirts, virtually triggering PTSD in someone like me on the regular, I know I need to be stronger to make my stand.

I don’t stand alone, and that helps.

But it’s still a struggle, particularly this week, when I was tossed into a fight or flight situation full of triggers that affected me HARD.

Honestly I had a pretty stellar week as far as the food goes. I kept off of sodas, drinking more than 100 oz of water per day. I laid off of sugar, only indulging in a little chocolate sauce on some fresh banana as a dessert for a couple of nights. I allowed myself to eat better foods, mostly devoid of dairy except for a few exceptions. As a result I felt better, even with my back. It’s still in shoddy shape but I’m more mobile, and that’s a win.

THEN… Thursday happened.

I work in a hospice, which is Medicare mandated to have a certain number of hours performed by volunteers. One of our volunteers is a special needs individual, who comes to work with us as part of his life skills program. He has Down’s Syndrome, and is a friendly guy loved by almost everyone in the office. We treat him like he is one of our own and he loves it there.

Last year, around election season, I realized that he was vocally pro-Trump, which the gray-haired lady who brings him every week, made it clear she was as well. At the time I thought she was his parent, and I couldn’t for the LIFE of me understand why she’d worship the likes of Trump after what he did with Serge Kovaleski, much less encourage what I thought was her special needs son to do. I knew at that point to stay away from either of them because any conversation there would be unproductive.

This volunteer comes every Thursday and they always start in the lunch room, where he can socialize with everyone, which he loves to do. They were already there when I walked in the other day, so I decided to sit at the other end of the table with my friends and just hide in my phone until they left.

Alas, it was not to be.

While they were having their own conversation, my coworker leaned into me saying, “They shouldn’t allow Trump to tweet.” It’s a sentiment I fully agree with, so I leaned in to share what I was finding on my phone. Our coworker next to her decided to ask what we were talking about, and my coworker said, “Oh, just how much of an idiot Trump is.”

It was the wrong thing to say.

The volunteer said, “I like Trump!” His handler, whom I found out later was not his parent, said, “I like Trump, too. I think he’s doing great things for this beautiful country, bringing it back to what it used to be.”

So she posed the question: “Why don’t you like him?”

At first, I tried to shut the conversation down. I just mumbled, “There are too many reasons to list,” and tried to back out of it. (I want credit for that at least.)

Nevertheless, she persisted.

So finally I said, “Because I am a rape survivor.”

She looked at me, this woman of 50 years plus, and said, “What’s that?”

My coworkers and I blinked at her for a second before I said, “It means I’m a survivor… of sexual assault.”

She immediately disregarded that, and me, “Well that has nothing to do with Trump!”

I tried to explain about the comments he made, and she wasn’t going to listen to that either. She shut it down by saying, “FAKE NEWS.”

THEN she deflected to Clinton and Hillary, and Obama, and all the ills of progressive policy, which she says have ruined this country in the last thirty years. When I pointed out that Republicans have, by and large, been in charge of policy for the last thirty years, she deflected again.

It devolved to the point where I could sense how it was affecting my overall health, noting how it raised my heart rate and caused me to tremble with this impotent tension that had no where to go, and I finally said, “You know what, we can’t have a conversation about this because we just have two differing opinions.”

She said no at first but then kept going, on and on and on, prodding the bear on the chain just like a child teases a dog tied to a tree, ultimately calling me a communist and a socialist because I believe we need to take care of each other, to which I replied, “Gee, I thought wanting to take care of each other is what made me a good Christian.”

Finally I said, “Fine. Sway me. Tell me one good thing he’s done. Just one.”

After she stammered for a minute she decided, “You’re right. We can’t have this conversation.”

That, after hammering me with her opinion for nearly twenty minutes straight, taking up my precious lunch hour to hurl a few personal insults as well.

The whole thing was so distressing to me that I ended up in severe pain from holding back all I WANTED to say to her but didn’t, mostly because our volunteer was right there and I wasn’t going to attack her and – by default – attack him for the beliefs he shares.

The girls took care of me afterwards, we even went for a walk though I was not well, physically or emotionally, after such an upsetting conversation. It wasn’t her necessarily. It was everything else that has been bubbling up for the past however many months. She just unleashed it because, as I later learned, she likes to poke people who work there and has had about three other blow-ups before. Some employees changed their entire lunch schedule JUST to avoid her.

As was her MO, she just wouldn’t let up until I had to confront it, which honestly pisses me off even more because I feel she does it mostly for the LOLZ of doing it. She dropped her grenade and happily skipped away, having wiped her ass on me like she felt I deserved. She devolved to name-calling, I didn’t. I kept it to the issues, she didn’t. But she got the last word in, so she was happy as a pig in shit.

Meanwhile I was left in the debris of my good day, trying to recover from a drive-by of nastiness that I had withdrawn my consent even to participate in, right from the beginning.

Consent is everything, folks.

Later I comforted myself with a diet soda and a sliver of chocolate cake because that’s how that shit works for me. I needed to feel better and that’s the quickest route.

But it just drives it home that when I feel powerless, I do that kind of thing. It’s a defense mechanism I developed when I was very young and it still gets used in a very reactionary way.

This was my stumble this week, and why I had to talk about it.

People might say, “Well, just don’t engage these people. Don’t allow them to have that kind of control.”

I’m working on it. I’m not there yet. Not by a long shot, especially when current events trigger such deep-seated post-traumatic stress that physically bubbles up in me no matter HOW I handle the situation. I only engage because if I ran from it, I would feel even MORE powerless, which isn’t an option.

My buddy Hal is a master of not taking it personally, and I would have PAID MONEY to see him handle that woman and that conversation, because I don’t know how to take my own personal reaction out of it. DJT is a personal affront to me. And this has nothing to do with the fact he’s on the other side of the aisle. This has everything to do with the fact I consider him a vile sexist who contributes NOTHING useful to any conversation he’s in, and felt that way even back when he had a (D) behind his name. My husband was threatened with the pain of divorce if he made me watch that stupid Apprentice show because for the past thirty some odd years something about this guy has triggered me. HARD. He’s a smug, condescending elitist who would have no use for that woman, or particularly her volunteer, if they didn’t worship the ground he walks on. We know this because we have three decades worth of evidence supporting the hypothesis, particularly the way he speaks about the people he thinks are beneath him (which, btw, is everyone.)

That audiotape finally showed me WHY he vexes my spirit. He’s a predator in every since of the word, and someone who has been hunted as prey could see it.

But I can’t convince her of this. I can’t convince anyone of this, which has been the most heartbreaking part. Every day there’s something new that makes me point and say, “THIS! This, this, this. THIS is why,” and it doesn’t seem to make any kind of impact at all. For a while there I actually felt like I was going crazy. I grew up thinking Nazis were bad, Russia should be regarded as a potential threat and no one – EVER – made fun of someone physically disadvantaged without branding themselves an asshole.

Simply put: This is no longer the country or society I thought it was seven months ago.

Which brings me right back to feeling powerless. Every day is a struggle to come to terms with this and not change my core beliefs as a person.

They tell me this is why people voted for him, because they felt that powerlessness for the last eight years. If this is how you felt, then know I empathize. And I empathized beforehand too, because feeling powerless is nothing new to me, or the other people who felt like the last eight years actually made us feel a part of something again, where this was our country too and we had a right to it every bit as much as you did.

Things may be back to “normal” for you, but like the old saying says, “Normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.”

How do we fix this where we call ALL feel normal at no one else’s expense?

I honestly have no idea. I think it has something to do with learning that we’re all the same deep down, that a difference of opinion doesn’t make us an enemy, and a win for the least of us is a win for all of us.

Again, blame that on my crazy Christian upbringing, which is why I’ve always championed those who needed an advocate.

Now I just need to figure out how to be an advocate for me in the process. This, I fear, will take a lot more time and self-examination, which is exactly what this particular blog is for.

Stay tuned, I guess…

workinprogrewss

Victims, Survivors or What’s Behind Door #3

Recently I’ve given a lot of thought to the idea of victims vs. survivors. I even started a blog about it because of my strong personal feelings on the subject.

Many of you who have been around the blog a while know what kind of circumstances I’ve survived with varying degrees of success, level 10 being healed and happy and level 1 being blissfully ignorant with my head buried in the sand.

Granted there have been more 1s than 10s, but one thing I reject, wholeheartedly, is the idea of being a victim. A victim is someone that things happen to, which is a very powerless place to be. Someone else did something to me, without my consent, without my permission, and yet somehow *I’m* changed for the worse, made lesser than or damaged? I don’t think so. Things have happened to me, some even dared to define me, but I am not a victim. I’m a proud survivor who has weathered the storm, even if I don’t have a spare inch of flesh left from the brutal whipping it gave me.

And that’s really what it kinda feels when you say, “I survived.” You beat nothing, you won nothing, you simply lived through something that have otherwise killed you. It doesn’t matter how tore up I am on the other side of the crisis… I survived something I didn’t want to go through, or shouldn’t have had to go through, so that indicates some kind of strength.

Or so they tell me. It sure doesn’t feel like strength at the time.

I’ve had people tell me they didn’t know how I got through most of the stuff I’ve gone through. My standard response is, “What choice did I have?” I got up day after day and I went on day after day.

Everyone kind of does that, really. Aside from offing yourself, you’re forced each day to put one foot in front of the other, no matter what title you claim.

But these were my two choices I was presented with, you see. When you are a sexual abuse survivor, especially, the power to claim one’s own status is an important part of the healing process. We can’t change what was done to us, only how we identify ourselves afterwards. When I say I’m a survivor, I’m reclaiming what someone tried to steal from me. It’s one of those bad things that dared to redefine me, but I have always had the power to decide exactly who that might be, so his attempt to destroy me failed.

That’s the power behind the word “survivor,” but it occurs to me that we’re still selling ourselves short. Every day we refuse to allow those things in our past to destroy us, we’re conquering our past and rewriting our future.

We’re not just lucky to make it through the crisis, we’re kicking dirt on it and marching onward.

Personally I think it deserves a bigger word. A better word. A stronger word. The only thing the word “survivor” really does is shift the power back to us. What we do with that power… now THAT is what truly defines us.

That’s what it boils down to, really. We get to choose who we want to be and who we’re going to be.

My problem is that I’ve limited down to two choices with some sad little either/or option, ignoring the obvious all along.

What if being a *survivor* is only a notch above being a victim? What if my life is still at the mercy of my circumstances, and all I can really say I did was hold on tight until the storm finally passed?

If the best we can say at the end of the race is that we lived through it, that really isn’t that empowering of a position. We’re battered, bloody and broken, but we survived.

We didn’t win. We didn’t thrive. We didn’t succeed. We simply made it through.

And yeah, that’s admirable in its own way. Even if you come in dead last in a marathon, at least you finished. The little battles are just as much a victory as the big ones.

I just think we need another identifier. And I’m pretty sure that Matthew McConaughey unwittingly provided one for us.

I can hear you scoff, but bear with me.

When Matthew McConaughey accepted his Oscar for Best Actor last Sunday, he spoke about the three things that he needed daily:

1.) Someone to look up to
2.) Something to look forward to
3.) Someone to chase

It was #3 where a little nugget of actual wisdom lurked, but not necessarily in the way he presented it.

He said that when he was 15, he was asked who his hero was. He finally answered, “Me in ten years.” Ten years later that person asked him if he had become his hero yet and he said, “No, you don’t get it. My hero is me in another ten years.” His future self is the one he’s been chasing, and always will chase, because that person is ten years more evolved than he is right at this moment.

This may seem like an egotistical thing to say, virtually having the balls to thank himself when he won his award, but I’ve given the idea some thought and it really does have actual merit.

The us we’ll be in ten years should be the person we chase. That person will be older and wiser, and hopefully further along in their personal ambitions, making their – and by default ‘our’ – dreams come true.

But I disagree that Future Us is the hero.

Every decision we make now will make that person everything they’re going to be. Your diet today impacts your health tomorrow. Your budgeting today affects your prosperity tomorrow. Your training and growth today affects your career tomorrow. Every thing you do reverberates into the future. That makes us, right now, Future Us’s heroes. We’re the ones putting out the fires and chasing the dreams and putting in the work and the effort, in hopes that we’ll craft ourselves into the people we want to be, regardless of our circumstances.

For example, it was Past Matthew’s decision to take the part that won him the Oscar. It is Present Matthew’s choices in what he will do with this experience in the roles he takes and the projects he gets behind. Future Matthew is nothing more than a silhouette that he is shading in one day at a time and one decision at a time.

Take a second right now and think about what you want for your life in ten years. You may want a better job, a nicer home, a family, advancement in your career, good health or all of the above.

What you do right now, today, will craft that existence for you.

You have that power.

I have that power.

And nothing that has happened to us so far, no matter how awful and tragic it may have been, takes that power away.

We don’t have to choose simply between “victims” or “survivors” anymore.

We get to be *heroes.*

How fucking cool is that??

Imagine what you could do with your life if you would embrace being the hero of it. What would you do? How would you act? What would you change?

That person looking back at us ten years down the line needs us to make our choices accordingly. What we do today, what we tell ourselves today, whether we act out of fear or courage today, will shade that empty silhouette into a person of our own choosing, no matter who that is, no matter what we do. We define him or her with our choices of how we react to the obstacles in our path.

Sometimes those obstacles suck. I, myself, have been staring at a faint light at the end of a tunnel since August of last year. Sometimes it’s been salvation, other times it’s been a locomotive ready to flatten me every single time I struggled to my feet. It seems the closer it gets, the more I feel like I have an Indy boulder behind me, scorpions, snakes and spiders in front of me and ninja assassins swooping in from both sides of the tunnel walls that are closing in.

So far I’ve survived, but barely.

But it stands to reason, considering that’s been my objective. I’ve been taught to withstand the bad times so I might survive to see the good times, and by no surprise that’s what I’ve been doing.

Such low expectations… no wonder I’ve struggled so much.

I need to remind myself that this is my movie and this is my story. Future Ginger is depending on me to buck up and keep fighting for everything she’s going to be. If I am going to be her hero, I better start acting like one.

The first thing I need to do is send a big thank you to Past Ginger for pointing me in this direction. She wasn’t perfect, God knows, but she invariably laid the groundwork for who I’d be today. And I am not ashamed to admit that I like that person. She’s all right.

In fact, she’s more than all right. She’s much stronger and smarter than she’s ever been, and she has the power (and persistence) to create the world of her choosing.

(Just imagine what she can do in 10 years!)

We are heroes on our own personal journey and that’s pretty cool.

So what are you going to do with that newfound power today?

Fat-Shaming: Shame on me? Shame on YOU.

Recently in Wisconsin, a viewer took it upon himself to address the “weighty matters” of news anchor Jennifer Livingston’s “irresponsibility” to her community by carrying extra weight. She laid an eloquent and classy smack-down to said viewer, addressing instead his need to bully someone he did not know, had never met and even admitted in his letter he did not watch.

Funny that despite this disconnection, he still felt compelled to write her a critical letter with one main objective: to shame her into losing weight.

Because Jennifer didn’t “fit” into this narrow paper-doll mold the rest of media anchorwomen find themselves in, she needed to be “reminded” of her community responsibility to teach young girls everywhere that fat is bad, fat makes you a lesser person despite all the other qualities you may have. He framed it with the BS “health” argument, saying that she had a responsibility to show young kids, “particularly girls,” that the obese lifestyle is bad for you. In order to do this effectively, in this guy’s mind, one must ONLY see thin newswomen.

Here’s a newsflash for ya. Most newswomen are thin and, by most standards, “attractive.” So are our actresses. Our models now weigh 23% less than the average American woman – this is what the media serves up to “young girls” everywhere. And you know what’s happened? Obesity has skyrocketed. This is good news for the diet industry, which has profit margins that climb steadily along with America’s collective waistline.

Not so good news for those “young, impressionable” girls – who end up fighting off eating disorders like anorexia and binge-eating in a cruel, pointless endeavor to be as perfect as those photo-shopped beauties they see on magazines.

This reinforces to girls and women everywhere that they are only as valuable as their appearance, and that is the most irresponsible message we could ever send them. A more effective and productive message would be that a girl/woman has value based on her individual qualities and merit, rather than her dress size.

But people who would shame a fat person see themselves as superior to fat people, and well within their rights to judge someone harshly based on one simple but obvious aspect of their lives. As if any of us are ever judged solely on one trait anyway.

But to guys like this one, it doesn’t matter that Jennifer is articulate or intelligent or in any other way qualified to do the job of news anchor, because of her *appearance* she has failed not only herself but the community she serves.

This is fat-shaming at its worst, this idea that if fat people are “made aware” of their condition by the criticism of others they’ll do what they need to do to lose the weight.

Um, thanks? I had no idea I was morbidly obese until this very moment. I just woke up one day and BOOM… I was fat. Whew, I’m so relieved I had a conscientious stranger to point it out! I’ll be sure to tell my doctor, because I’m sure she missed it too since she OBVIOUSLY never addressed it with me. Husband, kids, family, friends… yet NO one has bothered to tell me in all this time how irresponsible and unhealthy I am. Clearly because I carry all this extra weight, I must eat at McDonald’s every day and Pizza Hut every night, right? I must have skyrocketing blood pressure and diabetes because I wake each day to a dozen donuts and wash it all down with a Big Gulp. I was just one hot mess waiting for that ONE stranger to whip my butt into gear by shaming me into making better choices.

I’ll let you in on a little secret, something that our media seems blissfully unaware. Fat-shaming doesn’t work, and actually makes the problem worse. I’ll give you two examples:

When I started my sophomore year, I entered – for the first time – a co-ed P.E. class overseen by a former football coach. The standard uniform for our class was a T-shirt and a pair of shorts. At the time I was what you would now consider a size 16/18, so the largest shorts I could find in 1985 still fit me like a cigar band around an overstuffed sausage. Walking out into the gym and up the bleachers around other 15-year-olds, particularly the males who relished tormenting me, was like entering one of the nine circles of high school hell.

Little did I know it was about to get much worse.

Though I carried 40-50 extra pounds my other classmates didn’t, the coach made it an imperative to judge all of us based on my ability (or inability) to do the exercises he directed. He sent us all out to run a mile. I’ve never run a mile in my life and as such I fizzled out about halfway through. (Maybe a quarter, I’ve blocked much of this memory.)

My coach decided he’d make an example of “my laziness” by essentially throwing me to the wolves. The entire class ended up penalized by my inability to perform a task that I was physically unprepared to master. It was one thing to be the outcast because I didn’t fit in and it was a jolly good time to make fun of me. For this coach, this wasn’t good enough. He wanted me emotionally ostracized; hated because I was “different.”

I tried to appeal to his sense of decency but, as it turned out, he didn’t have one. He berated me further. “Don’t you WANT to lose weight?” In his mind the fact the other kids hated me had everything to do with me and my choices, instead of his using it against me to shame me. He had no empathy, and, in fact, set the example for his entire class to bully someone based on their limitations. Yes, I wanted to lose weight. Yes, I wanted to run a mile without stopping. Yes, I wanted other kids to stop teasing me. But what I wanted most, what I needed most, was GUIDANCE… not shame… to get me there.

I was an adolescent girl with a shit-ton of problems, not a willing volunteer for boot camp.

The whole ugly affair actually led to my dropping out of high school. I couldn’t see it getting any better. I didn’t have the support of the administrators, who could have changed my classes and found a better fit for me to meet the P.E. criteria. Looking back, though, I don’t know if it would have helped. At the time I was so effectively shamed I’d never fit in the high school scene I no longer cared to try. I dropped out and waited until my 18th birthday, when I could take my G.E.D. and get a diploma without losing my soul to the hell that was high school.

Here’s a visual aid to put things in perspective. This was me in 1986:

What I wouldn’t give to be “that fat” again.

Fast forward a year or so and I’d meet the man I would eventually marry. Dan was the son of a marine, who understood well the macho “motivational” tool of shame. He wasn’t crazy about my extra weight and made sure that he’d say whatever it took to get my ass in gear to lose those 40-50 extra pounds. But here’s the dirty little secret about shame as a weight loss motivator: the more you are shamed, the more you hate your body. The more you hate your body, the less likely you are to do what needs to be done on the long journey towards fitness.

Those 40 pounds became 60, then 70, then 100… until finally I was 185lbs over the “ideal” of 165.

Before:

After:

Fat-shaming does not work. The target audience either won’t care because they are perfectly happy being fat OR they will further bury themselves with food as their self-destruction of choice. So it will ping off their happiness shields OR it’ll penetrate like a sword – but not with the results you intended. If someone is fat because of self-loathing, then your shame will only compound the problem and MAKE THEM FATTER.

Many times an overweight person isn’t just fat because they eat too much, generally they are using food as a coping mechanism for something that is wrong somewhere. Making them feel shame only exacerbates the problem.

When I married my second husband, he signed on the dotted line knowing I came “as is.” And a funny thing happened over the last 13 years. He gave me acceptance and support and that 185lbs excess went down to 170, then 150, then 120. The trend of accepting the world’s shame and punishing myself for it has reversed. Instead I find value in myself and as such, I make better choices and am healthier for it, both physically and emotionally.

Before:

After:

I’m not losing the weight overnight but that’s not how it works anyway. I’m in for the long haul, much more so than some idiot that passes me on the street and makes their condescending remarks. You have the luxury of holding off giving me value till I reach a goal weight, but I don’t. I have to value myself every step of the way or else I’ll never make it where I want to go. Weight loss is a process… a long, grueling, back-breaking process. The more “obese” someone is, the longer the journey, and quite simply it cannot be cannot be diagnosed and treated by outer appearance alone, especially by laymen who have never walked in our shoes. Therefore, shame (i.e. unsolicited criticism) is a unnecessary and ineffective roadblock that ultimately serves your needs and not mine.

So see, you can’t claim some sort of moral superiority when you shame us. It’s a bullying tactic, not a motivational tool. You’re positioning yourself as the superior, judging someone based on one key element while dismissing everything else that makes that person the beautiful, flawed, unique individual he or she might be.

There is more to the story than some before/after photos. You can’t possibly know the struggles of another person upon first sight. I have had guys shout to me, “Go on a diet!” while I rode a bike. It didn’t matter that I was TRYING to lose weight, just that I wasn’t there yet. Why be so results-focused on someone who may be making the incremental changes they need to in order to be healthy, especially if you’re going to use “health” as your platform to shame someone?

I’ll tell you why. You don’t care about our health. We are an EASY TARGET and you’re a LAZY BULLY. Whenever you see a fat person, you don’t have to work as hard to figure them out. They come with some handy-dandy labels and built-in comedic value that helps you dismiss their value as a human being. Best of all our society supports you entirely as you do so. But here’s the thing…assessing a fat person as lazy or stupid or unhealthy or inferior is just as bigoted (i.e. wrong) as saying all black people are X, all white people are Y, all women are Z.

It’s condescending, and, frankly, rude.

The only difference between a fat person and a thin person is they wear their perceived “flaw” on the outside. Imagine one of your flaws, and we all know you have some, being the unmistakable body suit you have to wear every day. Imagine it as a label you had to proclaim no matter where you went, that would make you an object of scorn, that you couldn’t hide. Would *you* willingly give up your value over that one trait and accept the shame of strangers? Would you suddenly shift focus and change so people you didn’t know would be more comfortable with your existence?

A fat person is merely fat; it doesn’t make them inherently bad or lesser than anyone else. Their choices are their own responsibility, and you can’t possibly know what those choices are just by the fat they carry. Frankly you don’t care to know dick about why they do what they do. You just sneer down your nose at them, hoist all your condemnation on their already-burdened shoulders and then toodle on your merry way with zero accountability you may be part of the problem.

You want to talk about irresponsibility to your community, that’s it.

You can hate me because of my weight, you can even make your snide judgment calls on how I may adversely affect the world around me, but frankly your bullying shame tactics say more about your character defects than any of mine.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It’s not my baggage. You can keep it.

i want to just fall off the earth and disappear.

This is a search phrase that brought someone to my blog, and it saddens me profoundly to think there is someone out there in this much pain. So it is to you that this blog is written.

I don’t know what you’re going through, but I’m pretty confident to say I know what you’re feeling. I’ve been there many times myself. I know what it’s like when life just seems so overwhelming that the only thing you can hope for is a reprieve from the pain and the encompassing sadness that makes every new day seem like another exercise in futility.

Sometimes we sink so far into ourselves that we lose our perspective. Yet, when times like these hit that is all we can really shift or change in the face of unyielding, negative circumstances.

Those moments when I was the saddest and most at the end of my rope, it wasn’t the situation that changed as much as my own perception of myself.

I’ve been perilously close to suicide two very distinct times in my life.

The first one was nearly a decade after I was sexually abused as a child. I was thirteen years old and a friend of mine was going through a literal trial prosecuting a man who had sexually assaulted her. All the stuff I had buried out of shame and guilt bubbled to the surface and I felt as useless as I ever would in my entire life. I felt corrupted and vile – a creature born for God to scorn, and punish with the very worst of what life had to offer.

Since I was so young I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. All I could see was how pointless it all was. Why bother? What possibly could be there to gain?

In a rare (and IMO miraculous) phone call from my friend who lived out of town, my perspective changed in an instant. What had been to that point a close friendship turned into a kinship – he told me through his own tears that without me he didn’t think HE could go on. What he had been going through as a young man trying to come to peace with and understand his own sexual identity was made *easier* by my presence. But I had no way of knowing that because of how deeply wrapped up in my own sorrow and conflict I was.

My situation did not change. I was still the survivor of sexual abuse, my friend was still prosecuting her attacker (and I was a key witness to prove her case – facing her attacker right along with her.) Everything around me had not changed.

I had to change from the inside… and a kind word from my best friend was that catalyst.

I put down the knife that was quite literally to my wrist and got back in the ring.

Many years later I lost my newborn son nine days after I gave birth to him. When the paramedic came in to find me where I huddled with my two young boys (aged 4 and 2) and told me the news, my knees buckled and I nearly sank to the floor. With all the strength that he had he held me up, looked me straight in the eye and told me I had two other boys who needed me… and I had to be strong.

Those words did not change my circumstances – but my perspective shifted from my own overwhelming, soul-crushing grief to the needs of my two children… who needed me to make sure their world was okay.

And for a while I was able to stay true to my cause. But life eventually took over and my perspective shifted again to living my life for everyone else, pleasing everyone else, and finding it was a useless endeavor. A mere three years later my sons had been removed from my home because of my husband’s mental illness, we were staying with my passive aggressive mother who believed that we owed it to her to do everything the way she wanted us to do it. I was working for an equally passive aggressive boss who took out her own self-loathing on me by being unnecessarily cruel, and I was supposed to tolerate it because of the benefits she had so magnanimously given in ostentatious grand gestures. My equally martyred sister took advantage of me the same way, and ended up telling me that my beloved father I lost wasn’t really my biological dad – coincidentally ON the anniversary of his death (which was also his birthday.)

By then I was shrinking away from the blows by losing myself in negative behavior like eating and the Internet. I wasn’t focused on doing what I needed to do to fix all that was broken, my perspective shifted to those things that gave me instant gratification in the moment. New cyber relationships took the place of real ones, and I ended up acting out in dangerous ways.

By the fourth anniversary of my youngest son’s death I was at the end of my rope. I had been rejected by everyone in my life I did want to be there and those I didn’t were clinging to me with a death grip. And of course I felt obligated to be there. I sank so far into a pit of depression I had quite literally planned out how I would finally put an end to my suffering.

I was going to go to my son’s grave, take all the pills I could get my hands on and overdose there.

Fortunately there was one voice left to save me. It was another stranger, a person I had only spoken to via an Internet chat room and private messaging. He was a stranger, so I felt safe enough to unload my burden – because I knew my best friend Jeff would just talk me out of what I felt was the only thing left I could do to spare myself even one more second of pain.

Everything that gave my life meaning I lost – and everything that just made everything worse.

He called me and we talked all night – until he had finally convinced me that, no matter what I thought, the world needed me. I had too much to give and too much to do. I was necessary.

The next day I went to the doctor and got a prescription for anti-depressants. That was January of 1999. By December of 1999 I had moved away from my mom, quit my job, broke ties with my sister, got my kids back and was in a brand new relationship with someone who really loved me for me.

It was the most transformational year of my life – and I would have missed it had it not been for a kind stranger reminding me that while I couldn’t blink my eyes and change my circumstances… I could change my perspective.

Instead of listening to all those hurtful, depressing things that stole my thunder and buried me alive in an emotional grave… I can instead cling to those positive words that empower me and give me the strength to pull myself up again and know that at life’s end… the times I have outlined above are the minority.

I have been through hellish times, but I’ve also been through amazing times – times where I could see all my dreams (and all the things I previously thought myself unworthy of) become a reality.

And I KNOW you can get there too.

The world needs you.

YOU ARE NECESSARY.

You may be at the end of your rope… but you have the ability to tie a knot and hang on, and that’s what typing that search phrase on an Internet search engine was doing.

You reached out… and I’m reaching back… just like my best friend before me, that firefighter and that Internet stranger.

Looking back on all those moments where I nearly let go of everything and gave up, I see all the good things that I would have missed. The pain was not worth missing out on getting to know my children – even Brandon, who I lost after nine days. It was not worth missing the places I’ve been able to go and the things I’ve seen – the people I have gotten to know and have loved (some of whom even loved me back.) I’d have never seen my name in print from a book I published, or accomplish those things other people can only dream of doing.

It may hurt now… it may hurt a lot… but I promise you as someone who has been there… it gets better.

So lock in that dream or that goal and hang on for dear life.

It’s worth it.

And it gets better. ❤

Disillusioned.

I guess there comes a time in everyone’s life when we see people for who they truly are and not as we had hoped they would be. This usually coincides not so coincidentally with our own realization that we deserve a certain level of treatment above what we are given. As our own self-worth elevates, the hero-worship in others deteriorates – and necessarily so.

It’s a positive step, though there are many growing pains associated with the process. I’m not the kind of person who easily lets go of the people that I love or situations that are so deeply ingrained into my daily routine, even when the times get rocky or I feel emotionally battered. I’m in it for the long haul and I hang on like super glue. This should earn me some level of devotion but the sad truth is no one will ever be able to give back to me what I give to them, and it would scare me silly if they did.

So I attach myself to people and relationships that are inherently imbalanced. I go back and forth between two very opposing ideas: The idea that just because someone doesn’t love me the way I think they should it doesn’t mean they don’t love me the best way they know how, and the idea that it makes me lesser of a person to keep giving my best to someone if all I’m worth to them is a rare and random passing kindness that may or may not have ANYTHING to do with how they legitimately feel.

Thanks to the many abusive, codependent relationships over the course of my life, I have a hard time deciding what’s a normal boundary and what’s an unrealistic expectation.

It’s very hard for me to put my emotions aside, step back and re-evaluate this objectively.

But at the same time I’m tired of being hurt. I can appreciate much of it comes from my own growth beyond what another person was put in my life to teach me. If they won’t allow me to teach them and grow with me, then what exactly would I be fighting for other than trying to prove that years invested weren’t, in fact, wasted?

Sure they taught me something and that has value, but everything else I did for others was nothing more than a flash in the pan… a rain drop in an ocean that ultimately has no value to them beyond some random lip service. When it comes to investing anything emotionally, I simply wasn’t worth it.

In essence… they taught me how to be unafraid to be myself but ultimately that wasn’t good enough.

This doesn’t help me.

And how long will I justify waiting for that validation? It’s becoming more and more clear to me it will never come no matter what I do…. or frankly… what they do.

And that’s just not fair to anyone.

So what more is left?

The Catch .22: As I work on my self-esteem that says I demand better, I fight off residual remnants of the disease to please. If I take a stand, then I lose whatever place in line that I thought that I had – which, depending on the day – was something that made me feel like what I did made a difference to people and meant something special. If I issue the ultimatum of, “Treat me with the respect I deserve or I walk away,” I’m scared that I will simply be dismissed and in short underscore every negative thing I’m trying to train my brain to erase.

The last thing I need is to be discarded like a dirty, torn paper towel that no longer serves any function but useless clutter.

As you can see, these two thoughts work in opposition of each other. For the last year or so it’s been an emotional upheaval that has had me chasing my proverbial tail. It’s hard to fight for my self-esteem when I give too much of it away to people who clearly don’t give a damn if I’m around or not.

That leaves only one real choice, and the thought of that hurts just as much as staying in the situation.

Frankly it scares me, because it will just reinforce my feeling that I’m not good enough to sit at the “cool kids” table. I’ve been edged off the map by those who are different (prettier, smarter, bolder, more successful, more desirable – more whateverable,) which I have always interpreted as “better.”

It’s hard to see it any other way when the personal preferences of others clearly put me at the bottom of the list with zero (honest) communication as to why… so I get to fill in the blanks with the absolute worst scenarios because that’s all I’ve known all my life. But these people would never know this because I’m not a person as much as I am a resource. There was no getting to know *me* beyond what meant anything to them because there was never any interest to.

So there was really no two-way street. No give and take. Just what felt like were enough crumbs to keep me on the line and some promises that never saw the light of day.

Pacify and ignore… rinse, lather, repeat.

I deserve better than that.

Especially when I don’t ask for a whole lot. Common courtesy, trust to participate in the relationship and make my own decisions accordingly… these are NORMAL things. Yet it feels as though I get punished for respecting or expecting these boundaries, simply because I had the misfortune of feeling more emotions than what others felt I “should.”

I’m not going to apologize for feeling something for someone. The heart goes where it wants. If that kicks me off the list, then so be it. I refuse to accept that’s a failure on MY part.

When I love, I love A LOT. And I’m fully aware that scares the shit out of people. Maybe in a way it demands that they continue to grow and elevate themselves to be worth it, I don’t know. Maybe I really am a force of nature that emotionally swoops in and wreaks havoc on a safe and predictable emotional existence simply used to giving half-way.

But you know what? Maybe that’s not a bad thing.

Maybe I should stop being afraid of this and just embrace that power. Maybe I wasn’t put on this earth JUST to learn something from someone else but to teach them something in return. My love is undeniably transformational and anyone would be lucky to have it. Very few can claim it as it is a gift that is too precious to be squandered just because someone is afraid.

Whatever you feel it demands of you *I* never made those demands… nor would I or will I.

All I ever wanted was to be treated with respect and appreciation – both of those things I’ve earn in spades by being dependable, loyal, kind, loving and accepting.

BUT … that doesn’t mean I have to accept the bullshit. And anyone who truly cared about me would never expect me to.

I get a right to my own rules of engagement, and no one gets to set those but me. I get the right to manage my emotions and my life like the adult I am, and be trusted by those who say they care about me to do so.

Bottom line I’m never going to make the changes I want to make until I take a stand for my right to feel what I feel, whether other people think I have a right to or not. It’s never going to feel right or authentic or genuine until I do, and I will continue to punish myself in one form or another for not having the courage to demand fair treatment.

Until I make a stand I am doomed to be disillusioned in the one person I absolutely cannot allow to let me down.

Myself.

The Best Gift: Realized Dreams

I had a pretty spectacular Valentine’s Day. I basically “gave birth” when the proof of my first printed book “Dirty Little Secrets” came in the mail. The whole emotional “unveiling” was broadcast live via my U-Stream channel, where you can watch me blubber/giggle like a goober. It was very surreal and you never really know how long you wait for something until you hold it in your hand.

I conceived the idea for Dirty Little Secrets way back in 2002. It was the second screenplay I endeavored to write and I think I wrote it in about a week; the last 40 pages I wrote in one complete stretch. It changed somewhat over the years, but never more than in the novel version. In 2009 I decided to make it into a book via my annual NaNoWriMo writing marathon, and because I had the room to grow and explore some of the things I didn’t in the script I went into some deeper history to what made my characters tick. I also got to add a ghost, which is always fun. I personally like learning more about the characters and story by digging a little deeper. We writers like to think we can “control” the worlds we create but sometimes characters have a mind of their own.

This was never more true than with Mike, the antagonist of Dirty Little Secrets. Originally the story was going to be a glimpse inside what it would be like to grow up gay in an extremist religious household, and how denying oneself could lead to self-destruction. My protagonist, Grace, was 19 years old and pretty far gone in all kinds of addictive behavior, using her body to get the slow poison meant to kill her.

That’s all I had, really, when I set out to write. These were the pre-outline days when I just couldn’t wait to jump right into a story. I had a vague idea where I was going, but no real “plot” to speak of.

I was ready to let the story reveal itself to me.

A few pages in, Steven told me that she needed someone in her world she could talk to. As the story starts, Grace is fairly isolated, and he felt that giving her someone – a friend or someone she could commiserate with – would be a good thing for her and for the story.

I agreed and I write the introductory scene for Mike, who – the minute I hit the return key to give him his first lines of dialogue – turned sinister within the first few words he spoke. Essentially, Mike because the physical embodiment of all the ways she was abusing herself.

That piece of the puzzle connected to the major plot point, where Grace causes the accident that would kill Mike’s pregnant wife – that would literally blow up the small, conservative town of Jonston, Texas with all the dirty little secrets everyone had been keeping.

No one was safe from the literary shrapnel that came from that first, fortuitous meeting of a character I never knew was going to be a part of the story.

I love it when stuff clicks like that.

Eventually I did give Grace a friend, a person I originally meant for her to fall in love with and discover her own personal truth. But as it turns out to write Grace as gay actually didn’t feel authentic to the character. I allowed her to find love, but it was with the person she always needed to love… herself.

I put Grace *through it* in DLS. This is not a light read by any stretch. It tackles pretty much every dark secret one could have in a southern town that prides itself on spiritual superiority. It was a bit of a an odyssey for me as well, given that I grew up the product of sexual abuse at a young age, similar to Grace. There’s an unspoken shame that comes from the condemnation of stout religious fundamentalism. I was bad. I was forsaken by God and thus had no real purpose or worth after being “tainted” or “stained.”

I knew a lot about Grace’s journey, except in place of drugs I used sex and food.

The similarity of her name, Grace McKinney, and my maiden name, Ginger McCandless, struck me only after I wrote it.

And it makes the dramatic ending of the story that much harder for me to read. It’s no wonder I regurgitated it all out in a 40 page writing frenzy. It came from a pretty dark place.

As a matter of fact, the original story was way, way more depressing. But a fellow writer, who told me after he read it that it was an important read even though he’d have to have a fifth of whiskey to read it, immediately pleaded Grace’s cause that I had to change the ending. I had to keep it her story all the way through to the end.

I agreed to a point – but the fact was it wasn’t just her story. The story is equally her father’s, and he, in fact, needed to change the most through the story.

So I kept what I thought was a necessary, albeit sad/shocking/depressing/crushing climax of the story… but I did change direction in certain areas that I hope to be a more satisfactory ending for those who fell in love with Grace throughout her painful journey.

Above all it’s a journey of hope – of rebirth… of salvation and self-realization.

In that way it is very fitting that it is my debut novel.

So if you read it let me know what you think about it. Constructive criticism is always welcome, as is lavish praise. 😉 You are also more than welcome to leave reviews on the Amazon pages. The paperback is still being processed for sale on Amazon, but if you click the link above you can purchase it directly from my store. (And get a discount!)

If you decide to use DLS for any kind of book club, contact me via Twitter/Facebook and we can schedule an interview via U-stream after your club reads it.

And because of the issues of sexual abuse that I tackle in the book, 10% of all sales go to RAINN. Check em out and support them, they are doing a very important work.

The Unstoppable Year… CONTINUES!

Entering a Shame Free Zone.

In this week’s episode of “Heavy,” the A&E show about people who are tackling their eating disorders to combat morbid obesity, one of the participants spoke of how her teenage daughter was ashamed of her size to the point she didn’t want to introduce her to her boyfriend.

It both broke my heart and made me mad that this child would be so thoughtless and uncaring to her mother. As a parent you never want to be a source of embarrassment to your child. You want them to be proud of you in the same way you’re so often proud of them – just because they’re yours. I can imagine this mother’s heartbreak as I would have been devastated if my children ever expressed as openly to me their disgust about my size as these girls had to their mother.

But of course, my kids never would. My kids were raised with a healthy respect for me as their mother and care too much about me and how I feel to ever be so hurtful. My sons rarely saw me cry because of their behavior, and if they did it crushed their spirit and broke their hearts.

Shame should never be used as a motivator for weight loss. People who overeat to the point of morbid obesity obviously don’t have any real self esteem. We eat in a destructive way that is to the detriment of our health… nothing you could say is worse than anything than the things we’re already saying to ourselves.

In fact, if anything shame has been the deciding factor for my weight *gain.* No one does shame like fundamentalist religious folks who make you feel like a low-down dirty dog sinner just for having some posters on your wall. In my book Dirty Little Secrets I go into great detail about how the shame spiral in this type of environment leads to all sorts of self-destructive behavior as the leading cause of addiction.

Shame, I’ve done. As you can tell by the numbers on my scale, it ain’t workin’.

If you could hear what goes on inside my brain, what has been recorded for a lifetime over my never-ending chatterbox, it might surprise you to find it more hateful and more vitriolic than anything you could ever even DREAM to say. And believe me, I’ve heard it all… even from those who were supposed to be my friend.

People don’t even really try to hide fat biases. Not really. They cloak it under the umbrella of a “joke,” but there’s an underlying malice there that suggests we should be ashamed of ourselves for letting ourselves go so badly.

In other words, we need to be ashamed because we’ve caused YOU to feel disgust or discomfort.

It’s like the gym teacher in the 10th grade who couldn’t figure out why I would “want” to be fat so badly I wouldn’t push on and try to do things I didn’t think I could do. Because of this he used things like humiliation to motivate me, thinking that the peer pressure from the others he punished for my decisions would stir a fire under me.

It drove me right from the class and the school itself.

Even with Dan, who was raised by a militant father and had a very black and white view of the world couldn’t understand why I would ever want to be heavy.

Not so ironically I would end up gaining enough weight to be just like those women he used to disdain, and make me swear I wouldn’t be like.

Shame leads to low self-esteem, which leads to overeating, which leads to a bigger size… which leads to more shame.

It’s a cycle that doesn’t work. At least not for me.

I was reading earlier about director Kevin Smith, who lost 65 pounds after his humiliating walk of shame off of a Southwest airplane last year because he was deemed “too fat to fly.” Maybe for men it works out a little differently, maybe they don’t see being overweight as the inherent moral failure like we women are supposed to. Maybe they need a little shock to the system in the form of humiliation to get them moving.

For me? I would have just gotten fatter and never tried to fly again.

Shame doesn’t work for me because I’ve internalized my own brand of shame since I was four years old. That shame has re-wired my brain to believe I’m not good enough to belong to the world of beautiful, successful people. If you try to use shame in order to get me to change, all it’s going to do is feed the beast within.

Literally.

So having said that, I thought it was important to establish that I’m not losing weight because someone made me feel ashamed for how I look. I’ve actually been fortunate enough to surround myself with an enormous support group who make me feel empowered AS IS, many of whom have made me feel beautiful and sexy and all those things “the world” probably would be shocked to learn someone like me can feel.

These are folks who will love and accept me through all my changes, who make me feel better about who I am and by doing so encourage the positive changes toward my own personal success no matter what that happens to be. They’ll love me the same at 165 pounds as they do 284.

They see something that is beyond the scale… so they’ve inspired me to look deeper within and find it too.

Success for me isn’t about being thin and more socially accepted by the world at large. It isn’t about fitting into a certain size. The reason I’ve decided to lose weight isn’t because it’s a moral failure to a world that can concern itself with how much a celebrity weighs as a headline.

The reason I’ve decided to deal with my weight is because I have something to prove to MYSELF… not to anyone else. Quite frankly, I owe nothing to the world around me that seeks to compartmentalize me by something as superficial as how I look.

If you’ve rejected me because of my size, you aren’t worth me at ANY size.

But I owe myself better than what I’ve done with my body thus far. I owe my husband and my kids the ten or so more years I’m robbing them of by being so self-destructive and – frankly – selfish and self-centered.

I am stronger than what I’ve allowed myself to be thus far. I owe my dreams 100% of my effort and my focus, not some lazy lip service that says I can have a dream but I’m not worth any real goals.

So by fixing this one thing that I always felt was beyond me, I can become the force of nature my husband believes me to be, the one I know I can be… where nothing and no one can stop me from living the life I know is carved out especially for me.

I don’t need to be thin to do that. I don’t need to be “socially acceptable” to do that.

But I DO need to be empowered to do that.

And the way I know I empower myself best is to fight this lifelong battle and finally win. I’m stronger than my problems. I am stronger than my addictions. Everything that has attempted to bury me through my life I can rise above.

I have everything I need to overcome my obstacles, as proven by the fact I’m still standing after all the things I’ve been through.

For all the shame the world has tried to give me, I have a much better gift to give myself. One of self-esteem and empowerment that says I can do anything I set my mind on… and I deserve so much better than what I’ve settled for all my life.

And that’s why I’m losing this weight.

There will be those who still want to impart shame on me during this long journey because of their own discomfort. But ultimately I get to choose whether or not I need to internalize it. Personally I think it speaks more to their moral failures as people than to my own failure to ‘be thin’.

Anyone can lose weight.

But no one can be as perfectly me as I can be, as I was born to be…

And frankly… that’s entirely too kick ass to feel ANY shame.

My food journal, courtesy of Sparkpeople.com.

The Conversation.

I don’t know why I’m tap dancing around what was said. Here was the aforementioned email:

it would be really nice if you could help. What ever differences you have with ***, get over it. I am dealing with her and **** *** all by myslef with no help from you….so when the day comes and *** dies, don’t even think you are ever stepping one foot in this house

—–

And here’s my response:

Yes your asking so nicely really does a lot to make me want to help.

One day you both will realize that the guilt thing doesn’t work on me anymore. Those chains are effectively broken. If I didn’t earn your love by being there for you in the past – and you know DAMN WELL that I was there for you when everyone ELSE in your life had bailed, nothing I ever do in the future is going to be enough.

I tried to be your ****** and I tried to be your friend. But you are too twisted with bitter venom to believe anything but the worst in me. Deep down, under everything you never quite let go of this image you have that I’m just out to get what I can get and use everyone. Forget the fact that I dropped everything to come out and be with you when you were DYING.

I’m only as good as my last good deed for you. And quite honestly… I’m worn out. I’ve got my own family who needs me and who loves me and who doesn’t beat me up for what I’m not, trying to pretend they care just so they don’t end up alone.

It’s all about money and what people do for you… and you never ever think about the damage you wreak on everyone else. The way you leave people abandoned – like Dan and I when we went to LA the first time and you had NO PROBLEM whatsoever in leaving us stranded and homeless.

Like having my son die and you had NO PROBLEM in ignoring me when I needed someone in my life to comfort me.

I tried to bury the hatchet a long time ago when I tried to get you hired on at ********, and you had NO PROBLEM in talking shit about me to my coworkers.

You couldn’t even find any decency then when I did something for you that didn’t benefit me at all. I got no credit, I certainly got no loyalty.

All I got is what I always get from you… another kick in the head for being born as someone you have gotten a lot of victim miles out of hating for 41 years.

It’s always been about you. It will always be about you. Which is why you’re alone with no one in this world willing to give any thing more to someone so coldly selfish you only care about what you get. No gift is sincere, it’s just blackmail to make people owe you.

Those are your demons. You’re going to have to fix them yourself. I’m done.

But thanks for showing me that Christian crap you tried to lay on me earlier this year was all a big hoax.

And you were the one who wanted to take on this thing with ***** *** so don’t come crying to me now. I warned *** in ** that you would buckle under the strain – but no one listens to me. If I had my way, ***** *** would still be in ** getting proper care by people trained to do so… or at least getting some help here.

I’m sure she didn’t tell you that was my suggestion – to get some kind of part time help here. I was the one calling the VA and trying to set things up. Hell, I was the one who was taking care of things in ********** – three months of my life I dropped because I was needed by people who didn’t even KNOW me.

So you can take your guilt trip and stick it. I’ve already tried to help as much as *** will let me. No one listened to me then, no one’s going to listen to me now.

Yet somehow I’m supposed to bail everyone out when they find themselves painted into a corner… like it’s my fault.

Well guess what? This spoiled opportunist doesn’t want ***’s house. I don’t want ***’s money. Y’all want to beat me up for being this huge leech who has taken more than you’ve all wanted to give… well allow me to let you off the hook. I don’t want ANYTHING from anyone who wants to keep me bound by guilt and obligation, and I certainly don’t consider that family.

You can love me or you can leave me the hell alone.

I would deeply appreciate the latter.

If y’all really loved *** you’d get him the proper care he deserves. That’s not from me. That’s not from you or ***. That’s from doctors and therapists and people trained to handle his illness.

But I guess I know which way my family will go.

It’s all about the money, his suffering be damned.

And I don’t want any part of it.