The things I did for love. Tied ribbons in my hair for you to snag and twist in the crook of your finger Anchored myself to the ocean floor, my voice screaming in a stream of bubbles rising to the surface where they popped in silence Imprisoned myself in the cage of your fears, the padlock key hidden away so long ago that I no longer remember its burial place Weighed every meal to the precise gram so you’d still see me as beautiful Layered my skin so thick with masks that I forgot who I was underneath Clipped my wings with the blade of your insecurities, ensuring I would never fly higher than you Bottled up tears and trauma to spare you their ugliness Dampened my light to the merest spark (don’t burn too bright) Swept my mad genius under the rug, appalled when the wind blew too hard and my madness curled out, rising in the stagnant air like wisps of smoke from a smoldering fire Stamp it down again. This is not love.
The things I do for love Stand in the sunshine, my back straight, my arms resting at my sides, my face tilted skywards Cut the kite string tethering me to your angry hands Tend my wounds with gentle words Wash my face free of makeup and grime, fresh and clean, freckles and wrinkles Open my cage door, stretch my wings Dive! Knowing I cannot fail Peel back the rug, let my madness breathe and ignite my soul’s creative spirit Here I am I unlock your cage, untie your hair, lift you to the surface to gulp deep breaths of salty ocean air Here you are.
This is love These are the things I do for love
*inspired by the vulnerability of a video posted by an old friend; let’s walk each other home
If you read my last blog post you will know that I’ve declared 2019 to be my year of No More Excuses. There are three areas of my life that I decided to focus on: giving back, God, and exercise. So far I’ve made an excellent start to my commitment. And there are opportunities for you to get involved in these areas too!
I’ve had a couple of big ideas lately. At times I find them daunting. I don’t doubt my ability to carry them out but I do wonder at my legitimacy and credibility.
Do you know the kinds of ideas I’m talking about? The ideas that are outside your field of expertise (if you even have a field of expertise!). Those ideas that you imagine someone else is better equipped to bring to fruition. The fantastical, make-you-feel-alive ideas that keep you up at night. Those ideas! We all have them. Sometimes they are born out of conversation with others who share our passion. Other times they slowly dawn on us as we realise we have some skill or talent. Sometimes they even come to us fully formed in a dream.
God meets us where we are.
Not where we think we should be.
Not where others think we should be.
Not where we think others think we should be.
Not where we think God wants us to be.
God meets us where we are.
We see this time and time again all through scripture; that God meets us where we are. He approached the Samaritan woman at the well. The father of the prodigal son came out to meet his returning son. He met the tax collectors at their dinner table. He came to Saul on the road to Damascus. This is God’s unfailing grace and mercy. He meets us where we are. There is nothing we have to do, no way we have to be, no thoughts we have to think, for God to love us. God loves us because THAT IS WHO GOD IS, not as a consequence of our actions. There are no hoops to jump through, no ladders to climb, for us to be able to come to God. He is already here, breathing every breath with us.
I followed a little of the Ford Kavanaugh hearing yesterday. Mostly though I’ve been reading comments left by other women telling of their experiences of sexual assault, harassment, rape, and abuse. It’s been really hard and I found myself crying. A lot. I woke up crying this morning too. It feels very isolating. I don’t think these things ever go away. No amount of therapy, talking about it, having a good life now, takes away the brokenness inside. I am forever changed. And it is always relived. I still see it playing out in my life.
I feel sad and disempowered and fearful for 14 year old me who was raped. Who started drinking the next day because I couldn’t make sense of the world. Who blacked out the first time I drank. Whose next sexual encounter was 2 days later in a drunken state with 2 boys. Who on 3 occasions woke up from black outs with men fucking me. Who twice received unwelcome sexual attention in the workplace and nothing was done when I reported it. Who, at age 20, would wake up distraught and fighting my boyfriend if he tried to cuddle me while I was asleep (I once kicked him, jumped out of bed, and ran through the house to escape). Who still chooses men who seem less physically threatening. Who still feels incredibly endangered when faced with an even vaguely threatening environment.
It’s easy and convenient to minimise small events; the unwarranted flirtatious texts, the unsolicited dick pics, the requests to ‘send nudes’, the ‘just for fun’, the ‘little secret’. I may even laugh at these things in the moment, but later on they’re not so funny. My first reaction is still defense (laughing) and only with some space and time can I access my feelings. The cumulative effect is large and draining.
Almost as bad as all of that is the sense that there is no one to turn to. There is the societal urging to ‘get over it’ and ‘rise above’. I can’t do that all the time. It’s painful to be the Phoenix rising. Yes, I may no longer be debilitated by my fear and brokenness but it is never gone, the scab is never truly healed because it gets picked at regularly in small ways. And in sad ways, I pick my own scab too.
I’m tired today, and I don’t know the way out. But if I get vulnerable with you, you may see me, you may hear me, you may remind me that I’m not alone, that my sisters got my back. If I get vulnerable, I’ll be shown the way out.
It’s often only with hindsight that I recognize the moments my life changed. And so it was with the moment Graeme entered my life. It was a Friday afternoon in July 2000 and I was utterly beaten by addiction. That afternoon I truly believed my only option was suicide. My mind was shattered, my body ravaged, my spirit splintered. I did not know who I was. As a last act of desperation I called Lifeline.
In those days NA in Durban was not organized. There was no phoneline to call, no website to visit. But Lifeline gave me Graeme’s phone number. It took hours but with my Dad’s encouragement I finally spoke to Graeme.
Graeme did what we in 12 step fellowships are called to do; he carried a message of hope to me, the desperate addict. When he spoke he was speaking my story. He was the first person to give me hope; the first person I believed when he said there was a way out. He was the first person I called when I got out of rehab, and the first person I met at a meeting.
During my first couple of years, Graeme listened to my bullshit, told me it was bullshit, and gave me suggestions for a different perspective. He never told me to go away when I relapsed and he never shamed me. He reminded me that “this too shall pass”.
The impact of Graeme’s answering my phone call has been huge, not only in my life. He demonstrated for me the power of sharing our experience, strength and hope, and nothing more than that. The only things that mattered were “do you want to change?” and the program is the solution. His one small act led me to 7 years of phoneline service where I had the privilege of doing for others what had been so freely done for me.
Graeme, you will be missed. You will forever be part of my story, with gratitude and humility.
I’d like to go swimming with you –
diving under crashing waves
the salty ocean tingling our skin
floating and drifting quietly on the swell.
I’d like to drink tea with you –
quiet earnest conversation about who we are
gentle chamomile smoothing the pathways between us
raucous laughter and trips down memory lane, bold mint and tart hibiscus
fuelling our non-stop chatter.
I’d like to tend a garden with you –
our hands nurturing life, the sun on our backs
dirt under our nails
insects buzzing their gossipy secrets between us
flowers and herbs serenading us with their scents.
Even though I hate gardening, I’d like to tend a garden with you.
And I think a lot about how we’re not supposed to think about dying. Why is it that death and dying are taboo in our society? Why are we so scared to even give voice to that sometimes fleeting thought of desiring a permanent way out? I stay silent because I don’t want to be judged. I don’t want to be moralized or cajoled into an ‘attitude of gratitude’. I want to be allowed to feel what I feel. I want to be allowed to examine my thinking. But mostly I don’t say anything because I don’t want people to worry. I’m not suicidal. But I do think a lot about dying.