The most beautiful rain is falling outside right now. I awoke an hour or so ago to the rain falling on my tin roof in a most beautiful enveloping wall of sound. The rain is my favourite thing ever because I feel like God is corralling me off. It satisfies the intense hermit in me that wants to shut my door and windows and seal off the world. The rain says it’s ok to slow it all down to a crawl and not have to be bothered with the things outside my door. The rain sings a most beautiful song. 🙂
I suppose as I grow older (am I really going to be 50 this fall?!), I’m giving in more to my hidden persona; the Jane Goodall-like hippie that wants nothing more than to spend the entire day in the forest, taking macros of little things in their little worlds- up close. I can’t believe I’ve been in school for an entire decade now! I’m so ready to be finished with it all so I can finally- finally- focus on my art, photography, and music. I’m looking forward to closing the books once and for all (along with my many, MANY research papers) and buy an Epson professional printer and set up a small area of our new home (to be, soon); a proper print shop.
It’s going to take a lot of dedication and time, but I’m so looking forward to it. I’ll be afforded the luxury- after school- of not having to work. Even for several years, or never at all, if I want. I can stay home and go out and about and take all the pics I want- go where I like, and do virtually anything I want. When I’m ready, I can put on that periwinkle suit and Addiction Counselor hat (if I so choose) and make my mark on the world as a counselor. But first, I’ll explore my art. It’s an exciting thing to be able to wake up early in the morning and head out with my camera and collection of vintage film lenses in my Nat. Geo. bag. People who aren’t photographers probably don’t get it.
It’s such a rush to be able to go out into the world and see what only I can see. I can shape my perspective in a unique way and be a storyteller without words. To lay in the plush green mossy ground on the forest floor in the warm, afternoon sunshine and spend hours focusing my lens on tiny little things on leaves. I’m a visitor in their world. It’s an incredible thing to be able to make the tiniest corner of a leaf come into focus, making the rest of the leaf the size of a house, by comparison. Ants become giants and mushrooms- stadiums. It’s exhilarating!
But the real rush is taking the loot home and going through all of the images: Sizing up what stays or what gets tossed out. Whittling the pile down until only a few remaining “money shots” remain and those are the ones which will be edited and post processed. A full day’s shoot- and many hours- for 3 or 4 shots in the end. It’s the experience of it all, from loading up the bag to editing the chosen few to submitting or uploading the shots. And it’s all free! You really can’t beat that. It’s therapy. Photo-therapy at its finest.
Although my latest course Addiction Counseling and Families essentially began yesterday, my Discussion Board posts aren’t due until Thursday. Ever the procrastinator, I think I’ll spend the day lounging in my insanely plush (new) pillow top queen bed (that I um…bought Josh for Christmas. That’s right…it’s all for him! 🙂 ) and edit a new batch of pics from our Thanksgiving trip in the Smokey Mountains. Yes, my life ha been so busy and crazy that I’m only now getting around to editing my Thanksgiving shots from 2018!
Despite having 6 vintage (imported) Bulgarian and Romanian film lenses, only the Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 35/2.8 (my favourite lens ever) was used- throughout the entire trip. It never left my camera. These are two of many I’ll be editing over the next few days:
Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 35/2.8 film lens (Canon Rebel t3i) – An interesting tree I found on the way up to Clingmans Dome, in Smoky Mountain National Park, in southeastern Tennessee and North Carolina, U.S.
This one is Josh’s. (His capture, my edit.) The Appalachian Trail sign at the base of Clingmans Dome in the Smokies. Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon film lens 35/2.8- Canon Rebel t3i
There are two words that bother me greatly when I see, hear, or read them. They are: “Mental Illness”. Why does this wildly popular and acceptable term bother me so much? I’ll elaborate.
Quite a few of my friends are “mentally ill” at their own admittance, and those that aren’t, continue to use the phrase easily and without conviction. It’s just what people are known to be that have “mental problems”, right?
But who doesn’t have “mental problems”? Who hasn’t at some point broken down and cried? Who hasn’t felt afflicted spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, financially, health-wise or otherwise? How did it affect you as person? Did you feel defeated? Did you feel like giving up? Did you fret? Worry? Call people? Overeat? Not leave your house for the day? The week? Pace your floors? Cuss? Scream? Throw something? Drink? Drink more? (See where this is going?)
How do we differentiate between a person who is exhibiting (fatigue, duress, insomnia, depression and other) physiological manifestations -very natural responses to his or her sexual abuse or other traumas- combined with their chaotic environments, and a person who is exhibiting these signs when everything is hunky-dory?
One would be classified as appropriate behaviors given the circumstances, and the other would be classified as exhibiting psychological disorders. Both examples describe the same behaviors! But the environmental norms surrounding them separate the two.
If a person has been sexually abused and placed in a normal environment with siblings and other happy folks who have a swell life, there is no way the sexually abused person is going to behave in an expected manner. Who would behave at optimal performance in school, church, family gatherings, etc. after being sexually abused and having to “guard it” like Fort Knox gold? A person who tries to keep it together year after year will eventually break down while trying to process massive amounts of: guilt, anxiety, shame, anger, rage, confusion, blame, self-loathing, envy- the list is very long.
Given the circumstances, it’s actually very normal behavior to exhibit signs of distress, anxiety, anger, OCD-like tendencies, insomnia, night terrors, and other maladaptive behaviors that are associated with trauma. People who have not suffered these traumas do not understand and it is extremely unsettling for them that they do not have answers that they can file away, shelve, and dress up with a tidy bow so that it’s sorted out in their heads.
But there needs to be an understanding in this area that these odd behaviors are very normal for sexual abuse survivors. What wouldn’t be normal is having suffered sexual abuse (especially as a child) and then sailing through life with little or no behavioral quirks. I dislike the word disorder because I challenge anybody to say that surviving sexual abuse is a disorder.
It is a triumph. Sexual abuse is a violation like no other and people give medals to those in wars who have been violated less and call them heroes. Sexual abuse survivors fight in the battlefields of life, and there’s no hero’s welcome. There’s no parade. No medals. We have to be our own heroes and rescue ourselves from the collective trenches of societal stigma and hate bombs that others throw at us and that we throw at ourselves.
Being a sexual abuse survivor is like being locked in a dark, dirty cell and given 5,000 keys: Only one will unlock the door, and you have one hour to find the right one, or you could die! Doom. Doom doom doom! And lots of crying, worry, and fears that you will never find the right key in time.
But again, I reiterate that these horrible feelings are absolutely normal given the circumstances. We need to carefully select the words and labels we assign to people who have suffered such traumas. What if they believe you?!
God forbid I ever believe any labels that have been placed upon me in life. I would be the biggest mess in the world. But I have assigned healthier labels for myself: loving, compassionate, real, honest, valuable, happy. After all, I am the one who has to live with myself and why would I want to live with a pessimist?
The term mental illness came about in the 1800’s after various psychological perspectives disagreed on what actually defined a person to be mentally ill. Some believed that it was evil spirits. Some believed it was “psychogenic”, or psychologically induced, and others believed that it was somatogenic, or “of a biophysiological nature” (that’s a fancy way of saying “relating to your body” rather than your mental processes).
They locked “mentally ill” people up on psych wards and in chains where they were beaten and starved, or placed in a metal contraption that rendered them motionless for hours and days at a time. When the patients in these asylums exhibited paranoia, fear, depression, sleeplessness, excessive anxiety and other abuse-related behaviors (as a direct result of the abuse), their friends and families sadly accepted what the doctors had prescribed them all: mental illness.
Many of these patients were exhibiting very normal responses to being held against their wills and physically and psychologically abused. People were quick to swallow the ideology of “mental illness” because it satisfied their need to classify and understand what was happening to their family member.
In other words, people created the term “mental illness” to be able to better control individuals, societies, groups, and religious wars were often the fuel that kept these controversial fires burning. With the classification of mental illness, the acts of physical and emotional abuse on those who broke society’s norms were not only unpunishable; but sanctioned, approved, and rewarded!
Just as toxic as any sexual abuse is the belief by the victim that he or she is mentally ill, because somebody said so. This is such a powerful weapon of self-destruction, and only the act of sexual abuse itself is stronger.
We need to start tossing out terms like “mental illness”: those two words alone are TOXIC. I will never accept terms like “mental illness” and “psychological disorder”. Those are conceptual words made up by people who do not understand what it is like to live in a world with wild, technicolor vision. How about that?
How about, “I have a family member or friend who has really been through it, but they have still been able to [insert accomplishments here] despite their setbacks.”
It’s all about perception and presentation, and I think we owe one another a sum of decency as to how we present each other.
I wrote this post so that other sexual abuse survivors might gather strength and comfort. Know that there are others who have suffered the same things in life, but refuse to be labeled! You are who and what you believe you are.
You have to believe yourself into something positive, constructive, hopeful– and be fearless in your conquests! Be bold in who you are, and acknowledge that you are a survivor rather than a victim. And when you learn that, teach others that too. Choose positivity rather than negativity.
Those 5,000 keys?
They all open the door.
I can hardly believe that it’s been a year since I’ve started this blog. I’ve always kept a diary, since I’ve been a young girl, and so I thought, “Why not make my diary public?” It really is just that, my diary. I’m sure I could start a blog, perhaps a commercial one, and “like” everyone to death and “follow” tons of people, and, as the unspoken rules dictate, reciprocally speaking, in turn, have tons of “followers” as well. But that’s a double edged sword. Nothing wrong with it, but I don’t like to play the back-scratching game. Some people make their whole lives their blogs, and as with anything else, feel so bonded to it that they don’t know who they are without it. Much like Facebook. We all want that 15 minutes! But why? Why do we need to feel like we have to have 560 “friends” or 300 people “following” us? How many of us would be able to kill our online identities and never look back? I’m speaking from experience, as I’ve done this several times in the past.
My first Redbubble (art/photography) site had hundreds of people who were “watching me” and after a while I actually felt responsible, like I had a new obligation to report to them or something. I grew tired of the notoriety and perhaps responsibility that goes with the territory and, without a word to anyone beforehand, wiped out my account entirely. Hundreds of pics- gone in a second- and I simply vanished. I did the same thing with my Facebook account- poof. Gone. That was over three years ago and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It killed my vanity immediately! I had to do some in-depth soul searching and re-prioritizing. I didn’t communicate with anybody for almost 30 days. Ironically, that was the same time I was published in Digital SLR Photography magazine. Oh the irony! I was finally published and I couldn’t even tell anybody, because I virtually murdered my online identity! Even so, it was an enlightening experience and one that has changed my views of society and social circles overall.
I really don’t know what I want to do with my life. I know that I want to make a difference in other peoples’ lives, perhaps through Photo Therapy. I’ve seen few programs on the subject and it’s virtually unheard of in my community. I would like to develop a program that teaches children/teens/disabled/disadvantaged people how to express themselves through photography. To tell a story.
For me, taking pictures allows me to control my environment, instead of my environment controlling me. I can change the scene and manipulate my perspectives and make the sun dance in any direction I want- it’s really quite empowering! I would like to help kids, in particular, to tap into the rich stream of art within themselves, and to be able to express their angst, joy, hatred, love, laughter- whatever it may be- through photos.
I can see the light on the horizon. I’m not there yet.
Maybe I’ll volunteer at the Boys and Girls club of America.
I’m just not sure yet.
I know this: I am a poor woman. I will probably always be a poor woman. But that’s what drives me. I have a constant hunger that pushed me to go outside of myself- always- and think of others, do for others- to really try to make a difference in their lives.
I have a message, and it is this: “Never give up. Know your value. Always believe that you were created for other people. The more you suffer in this life, the more valuable you are to others. We all take turns on the great wheel of pain. When it’s your turn- step up boldly. Remember that every drop of pain you go through can benefit another human being- somewhere…somehow.”
When I was a child, I was given five dollars in quarters, as were all of my siblings. When nobody was around, I split up my quarters into four little, equal piles, and then I hid a pile in each of my siblings’ drawers, underneath their clothes. It was my delight to sit back secretly and wait for them to see the extra money they had.
I never told them that I did that. 🙂 After all these years, it has been my little secret. I learned something that day; there is no better feeling in the world than to give to somebody else, and it’s all the more powerful if your pockets are empty afterwards. This, is my joy in life.
And now I will share (with whoever may want to read this) a special story of giving, that involves a pair of grey house slippers, a homeless woman, and myself.
Merry Christmas to whoever may be reading this, and know that God is watching over you; He sees your struggles, hears your cries, and genuinely loves you. ♥
Pay it Forward
Today I was at my mother’s house. I’d popped in to collect some library books and chit chat for a moment. I was pressed for time because my classes started last week (Behavioral Sciences/Substance Abuse) and 5 classes + 2 teens is nothing to sneeze at! She asked me if I wanted the new pair of house slippers on her sofa- her neighbor had given them to her: size 10, just my size. They were gray, with gray fur trim around the edges and super soft inside. I accepted them, and with a hug and a kiss I was out the door.
I had only driven a few blocks down the road when the feelings were put on my heart to go and take the shoes to the local homeless shelter. It would have been fairly easy to go and drop them off as a donation, I’m sure somebody could have used them. But this felt more personal, and the feelings that were tugging at my heart were very clear, “Go to the parking lot- somebody will be there that can wear them.”
I had no idea what was going on, but I knew that these feelings were too strong to ignore. I had to go. The shelter used to be a church- it’s in a seedy part of town and known to be running rampant with drug addicts and alcoholics. I know the scene well- I lived there years ago. I took the back alley, keeping my eyes peeled; I didn’t see anybody at first, it looked pretty empty. As I got closer, I could see two couches out at the dumpster right at the edge of an alley. Sitting on one of the couches was a woman in her 50’s, facing the alley- backpack at her feet. There was nobody else around. She sat as still as a stone and even as I pulled up alongside her, she didn’t turn her head. I knew immediately she was the one I was meant to find.
I took the slippers and walked up to her and said, “Excuse me, I have some new, gray slippers here, would you happen to be able to wear a size 10?” (I didn’t want to come across as a total whack-job, but I knew I had to do this.) She was startled, but gratefully accepted the slippers- she wore a 9 1/2. Bingo!
We talked for a moment and she told me about her sister who’d been brutally murdered in the city next to us only a year before. She also told me about her daughter she hadn’t seen in over three years. I shared some of my own story with her along the same lines and I felt for a moment, that we were able to share an understanding of sorts, we truly had walked in each others’ shoes in life. I shared with her that I was a former resident and knew her plight all too well. I too was no stranger to losing a child. I asked her if she had a Bible- she did, a small one in her pocket. Then I asked her if she had any money. She looked frightened and I realized how my question had sounded! I explained that I didn’t want money, I wanted to give her a few dollars. At first, she was hesitant, but I knew she was embarrassed, so I made light of the situation, handing her $20.00. I told her that if I had two pennies, I would give her one, knowing that God had all things in His hands. What I give, He will make sure I get back somewhere else.
She broke out in tears and I gave her a big hug. I asked her her name and she told me it was Lucille. “Lucille, I’ll keep you in my prayers. Everything is going to get better, it really will. It’s going to take time! But it will get better,” I told her. And with that, I left.
This evening my friend stopped by. I hadn’t seen her in several months and we had tea and cake and a nice visit. I shared my earlier experience with her regarding Lucille. I had been feeling almost selfish, like I wanted to keep Lucille all to myself. It’s not every day something like that happens! It had become suddenly very precious to me, but I told her about Lucille and how God had put it upon my heart to go and look for her there.
After my friend had left, I went to my computer. (I needed to try and get an Algebra assignment in.) Sitting there by my keyboard was a twenty dollar bill. Before my friend had left, she had snuck in here and left the money on my desk. Smiling, and in shock, I sat here and shook my head, and then I laughed. I knew exactly how Lucille had felt earlier.
I love that life is so beautiful. (So hard sometimes!) But so beautiful, and our lives can be touched by total strangers…
I’ve written a BIO for those who want to know more about me.
(Tab at the top.)
Everything in it is incredibly true.