the things we thought we wanted.

High school graduation happened for me on a hot, sticky June evening in 1999. As I sat on stage sweating, my hair growing larger and frizzier by the moment, I cared not what was being said at the podium. Instead, I was thinking about my looming escape from the shit small town where I grew up (an adolescent tale as old as time, right?). I had it all planned out: college, law school, a move to Boston (or other major metropolitan area) where I’d become a rich, high-powered attorney. It should come as no surprise that Ally McBeal was informing a lot of my understanding of what adulthood should look like, at the time. Being 18 is embarrassing, in retrospect. What did I know? I had an EYEBROW RING.

It’s 23 (!) years later, and I never went to law school. Or moved to Boston (or other major metropolitan area). And I spent many years bemoaning those facts, while also looking to some vague idea of the future as to when my life would “start.” I’ve made a fulfilling career of serving others and I know at my core it’s what I was meant to do in the world. But I could never shake the thought that I had this path, and I didn’t follow it.

I’ve spent a lot of the past 3 years really working on myself (i.e., paying for a lot of therapy in which I had to get very real about life and also cry/rage a lot to a woman who I am lucky enough to have found). It has not been a linear process; in fact, often times I felt like I was moving backward. It has frequently felt terrible, but the net result has been healing. I know myself now, I fully inhabit who I am and what I want and need and expect. This has allowed to re-examine existing beliefs, narratives, and ideas about my life, the lives of those I love, and those maybe I don’t love so much, anymore.

I went away a few weeks ago, alone, to stay with my friends who were renting a country farmhouse in the Hudson Valley. And while I was there, I came back to myself, as just me. Not as a mom, or a wife, or a professional, or any other identity I possess. Only me. The noise (metaphorical and literal) ceased, and I could think-hold myself in my proverbial hand and examine who I am, who I was, and who I want to be. And in those days, I realized something.

There was never any path.

Or more likely, there were many paths, and I had ideas about what I wanted mine to be. That’s all–ideas. And mine have changed many, many times over the years, as I experienced things and cracked open, making space for deeper understanding of the world and my place in it. I realize now that the expectations I had for myself when I was younger would’ve never made me happy. They seemed like a necessary blueprint for getting away from that town, those people, that mindset, that life. And while I maintain that I needed to do that getting away to have a shot at being who I am, who I wanted to be, I understand now that doing that can look like a lot of things. It was and is education (formal and informal), trying and failing, keeping and open heart and open mind, nourishing my self-worth and love, traveling, moving away from the black-and-white and into the gray, being clear on my values and moral compass. I’ve done that. Mission accomplished.

You know what I want, now? I want a home in the woods, where I can’t see or hear anyone else but my husband, son, and all the wild things we share our land with. I want to grow my food, make art through photos and writing, lavish the people I love with time and attention, and build a life around connection and meaning. I want to keep serving others as long as it feels good and does good. More analog living and less technology. I hope to work toward these things…maybe some of it will happen, and some of it won’t. But in this second half of my life, it will be more of a guiding philosophy in decision-making, and less prescriptive.

Am I getting older? You bet. Maybe this all sounds like the rambling of someone settling into middle age. But it feels so good, so warm, so right. There is so much that matters so little, and even more that matters a lot. And I think I may have confused those things, for a long time.

I’ve been talking about this with my friends and peers, and I’m finding that many of them share a similar sentiment. We were all sold the idea of a very narrow path toward and into adulthood and what success and happiness should look like, which really amounts to hustle culture. Competition, money, throwing yourself into being the best, having the best, doing the best. And I think we’re tired and finally realizing that for many of us, it wasn’t reality. We want to be present in our lives in real ways, to approach our work as something that funds our lives, not dictates it. You can do good in this world professionally, and still maintain personal boundaries and identities. There is nothing noble in losing yourself to the hustle, no matter what it is.

What did 18 year old you want? And how does grown-up you feel about where you landed? What matters most?


the truth hurts. until it helps.

There’s some phrase about secrets making you sick, right? Sounds like it originates from old school sobriety communities, but there is something to it, nonetheless. I’m going to share something with you guys, something that scares me more than anything else to share. My biggest shame, and I’ve shared quite a few over the years in this space.

I have binge eating disorder. I was formally diagnosed in early February, but I’ve known that was the case for awhile. Writing that, “saying” that, makes me feel utterly exposed and well, just kind of gross. As a cisgender female-identifying person who came of age in the 80s/90s, it feels like there can be nothing worse to admit about yourself. But, I’ve learned something over the past few months: nothing takes the power and angst out of something like exposing it.

I’ve discussed in the past here that weight/body image is something I’ve long struggled with (take a number, right?), but over the past 5 or so years, I’ve developed extremely unhealthy eating habits and an increasingly sedentary way of living. I’ve blamed it on a million things: stress, the nature of my job, being busy, PCOS, etc. Those things don’t help, for sure. But the bottom line was, anxiety (and secondary depression), unresolved hurts/traumas (a big one being the death of my mom), and an increasing desperation to stop feeling those things, conspired to create a perfect storm. What I’ve realized now, is that while I was aware on an intellectual level of those things, I was completely disconnected between my mind and my body (and believe whatever you want, folks-that connection is very real, and very necessary for overall health).

I never really understood when people would talk about feeling empty and needing to fill that void with something-food, alcohol, relationships, whatever. But I’ve discovered that’s exactly what was happening to me-stuff, stuff, stuff until you’re so uncomfortable and checked out. It’s a vile feeling, but it sort of “exhausts” the other things you’re feeling, if that makes sense.

I started doing really secretive things like only eating certain foods in front of people, and then binging on “bad” things in private, hiding wrappers and packaging in the trash, throwing away receipts, you name it. Things I imagine are indicative of active addiction. In retrospect I kind of think its funny that I thought it was so secretive-my weight was giving me away.

But one day, something happened to crack the facade. Andy and I were looking through my online banking app for something for taxes and I got super, super anxious that somehow he was going to see what I was spending on food, and how frequently I was doing so. He, of course, didn’t. In that moment I thought to myself, ‘Am I going to keep doing this? This is completely exhausting.‘ And I just looked at him, and told him everything. And then I told my sister and my friends. And all of them being the incredible, loving people they are-they listened without judgement, and offered me all the support they had.

Since then, I’ve been working with my therapist, my doctor, and a dietitian. I’ve been finally treating myself with the care I would treat someone else who is struggling. I’m showing up for myself, first. I’m very early on in my recovery (and that’s really what this is), but I am down 20lbs, and feeling good. I am still triggered by emotions and presence of certain things (hey, candy!), but the focus I’m placing on connecting my thoughts/feelings to my body is helping me build healthier skills. I’m practicing feeling and processing things, and I’m also limiting the other things that hinder me, like alcohol. I’ve got so long to go, but I feel good about the foundation.

This is all extremely difficult for me to share, because it exposes me in a way that causes me deep shame (working on that too). But as much as I’m doing it to flex my own vulnerability muscle, it’s my hope that maybe someone else struggling with something like this will read it and be able to name it, in their own lives. I feel like a pressure valve has been released in my life, and I feel like I’m actually alive again. I want other people to feel that way, too. We all deserve it.

I have HAD it.

What was that? I ask myself, as I lay in bed, trying to will myself to sleep. A tiny twinge of pain in my head (Aneurysm!), or a knotted pain in my stomach (Cancer?), and I’m sent swirling into a spiral of anxiety or panic. On the REALLY heavy nights (Sundays, amirite? IYKYK), it veers to the more existential: the dying of our democracy, an unrelenting pandemic, climate disaster. The chaos of the world, of my middle-aged worries, of the things I cannot control, have all taken residence in my bed, in my mind, in my body. And I’m tired. I’m so tired of fear and despair and hopelessness.

I’ve talked to my therapist about this, and she assures me I’m having a garden variety midlife crisis. But this is so much deeper than that. I feel fundamentally unsafe in the world, as though all of civilization is careening towards this proverbial brick wall of destruction. And I’ve learned that so many people share these feelings, which makes me feel simultaneously better and SO MUCH WORSE. I’m used to being the anxious worrier-I need other people to ground me. It’s like when you’re on a plane and turbulence hits, or the plane makes a weird noise-what do you do? You look towards the flight attendants. If they are walking about and doling out beverages, you relax. I love to be right and validated, but not in times of worry! Tell me I’m wrong, that I’m overreacting, that it’s OK. Keep pushing the beverage cart, so to speak-don’t buckle yourself into the jump seat and suspend service. I need YOU to remain calm.

I’ve dealt with anxiety and depression my entire life, but this is something different. It’s paralytic, almost. And it’s making me angry. I have an almost non-existent fuse, now. Por ejemplo: I was recently at an intersection, where I waved a man on. He then responded by throwing up his hands in exasperation, which was…confusing? Rather than ignore it, I screamed “F**K YOU!” out the window and gave him the finger. At 8am. What kind of monster does that? But it’s like it’s all bubbling there, right at the surface. The only thing bringing me any sort of real contentment and fulfillment is…get this…work. I got a promotion early this year, and I have been loving my work. And I’m taking very careful steps not to sink into it, because the last thing I need right now is professional burnout. But it’s the only thing that feels predictable and controlled.

I don’t really know why I’ve made the decision to share all this, especially after almost two years of silence on this blog (a medium which now feels painfully outdated, but hey, I’M now outdated, at 40). I think I’m just at max capacity. I mean, where are you guys at? How are you processing this hellscape we call the 21st century on a dying planet? The few things that seem to help me are: my friends, my sister, Andy, and D, being outdoors, and (of course) listening to Daddy Obama tell everyone it’s going to be OK, on podcasts. But what does the other side of this look like? IS there one?

Wow, ok.

Welp, that escalated quickly. I’m coming to you from my dining room table which has become a sort of weird self-isolation command center: work space, school space, puzzle I’m never going to actually finish space, and other random detritus that gives me anxiety to even look at. I’m not a cluttered dining room table person, and quite frankly, this is just more stress I don’t need right now. Fucking social distancing.

We’re on day 4, and I don’t know about you, but life over here is pure lawlessness. I’m wearing jeans that I’ve had on since like Sunday, trying to work (and by work, I mean transfer my entire service area over to a remote model), educate my kid, keep my dog exercised, and keep the house quiet so my husband can also deal with 1,000 conference calls. I’ve never felt more in control! *cries, stuffs Oreos/english muffins/pretzels/string cheese/Dots in mouth*

Here’s a true illustration of how it’s going: yesterday, Andy and I both had to be on important calls simultaneously, so I tried setting D up with some art to keep him busy. As is his norm, he flew through it in 10 minutes, and began whining and flinging himself all over the sofa for attention, while I muted my phone and hissed violently at him to be quiet. The call I was on was full of feedback/static and everyone kept talking at the same time, which was enraging me, and then! THEN. The dog started throwing up. And then D started dry-heaving, and I just started in disbelief that my life has taken this turn so rapidly. I mean, WHAT THE HELL IS EVEN HAPPENING RIGHT NOW? So, I sat for another 45 minutes on this call, angry, staring at piles of rapidly cooling dog puke in my living room that I could do nothing about. How’s it going at your house?

For real, though, this is weird, right? I keep vacillating between “This is fine, we can do this” and “Holy shit, this doesn’t have an end date, and I’m going to be stuck at home for the rest of my life.” Anyone that knows me, knows that the idea of being “caged” in by anything really, really doesn’t sit well with me.

Today’s a good day for me, but honestly, most days I am scared and deeply unsettled. About all the same things you are: the economy, the social isolation, the illness, the long-term effects of all this. I’m pissed at the lack of testing, the lack of sound guidance and leadership from the shithead pretending to be president, the countless people on social media who keep spreading misinformation as fact, in that angry, grammatically-inept, misspelled, racist way they have. I’m worried about D’s lack of interaction and opportunities to play with other children. About how I structure his days to ensure that he completes his educational responsibilities and meets expected outcomes, while I also try to work. And for real-if the weather turns and we start getting days on end of rain, shit’s going to get VERY dark over here. My one saving grace is being outside multiple times a day, getting to take walks.

But! All of this aside, I see some benefits in what we’re living through:

-People are waking up to the way they live, in terms of sustainability, destruction, waste and mindlessness. This very much includes me.

-I have witnessed so much generosity and kindness between people, and things that have been created to help people feel less isolated. People are realizing we all belong to each other. I wrote on social media the other night about how bad I was feeling, and my friend Sean took the time to do a meditation with me over FB Live. Not only did the meditation itself help, but I came away feeling less lonely and disconnected from others. Sean, if you’re reading this, I hope you know how much you impacted me with your kindness.

-My dog is getting WAY more exercise.

-I am getting WAY more exercise.

And the big one: it’s been a huge lesson in gratitude.

As I look around at all the mindless hoarding occurring, the isolation so many people are facing, the health complications that people face that makes this deadly for them, I realized with renewed sense that I am SO lucky. We have enough food, and the ability to get more whenever we need it. We have a warm, cozy home to stay in. I have love-my husband and son, and my friends. I have technology to call those friends and see their beautiful faces smiling back at me. But with all that, I (and so many others) are responsible to lighten the load for others. So, I sincerely hope that everyone out there that can, is helping out: your neighbors, your local businesses, the children in your community. Even just a phone call can change someone’s day right now.

I know that we are just at the beginning of all this, so I want us all to connect: tell me how you’re experiencing all this-leave a comment here, or on social media. Let’s talk, and share, and love.

The stories we tell ourselves.

In the work I’m doing to heal and grow, I’ve been thinking a lot about self-narrative. You know, the story you tell yourself about who you are, how the world sees you, and what you’re capable of. The things you just accept as fact about yourself. Of course, this is great when that narrative is affirming, but what about all the other things we tell ourselves, that aren’t so great?

I’m reading a book now called Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies, by Tara Schuster and in it, Schuster calls this narrative “the frenemy within.”  It’s that voice that tells you all the shitty things you come to believe about yourself-you’re lazy, undeserving, incapable, and so on, and how mindlessly we just absorb it all as gospel, shrinking ourselves from our full potential and ability to achieve the goals we have. That gave me pause. Do I do that? LOL, you sure as hell do!

So I got up this morning to journal (another Schuster strategy) before the day started, and explored this a bit further. I wrote down all the stories I tell myself about who I am…and it wasn’t great. I have terrible internal narratives about:

-my ambition/initiative/work success

-my parenting abilities

-my relationships

-my appearance

-my personality

Then I further broke each down, and looked at the root of my self-perceptions. And objectively speaking, nothing is rooted in undeniable fact. They’re rooted in societal norms, me taking things personally that are not personal whatsoever (another thing I need to work on), and my history: my childhood, traumas I’ve experienced, things I’ve witnessed other people experience, my struggles with anxiety.

After last week’s post, I got a lot of messages from people saying how much my experiences resonated with where they are in life, too. So, if that’s the case for you, I urge you to reflect on your self-narrative and try breaking it down: think about what you to believe to be true about yourself that isn’t positive or serving you, and then take some time to dissect it. Why do you hold those thoughts? How is it affecting your life, your plans, your goals? I think it might surprise you, how much you’re holding yourself back.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to hobble back to the sofa to ice my lower back, since I injured it last night by STANDING UP FROM A CHAIR. #foreveryoung

Love you, bbs.

Where did I go?

Almost 4 years. That’s the last time I wrote. The last time I did something I have loved doing my entire life. While we’re at it, I haven’t removed my camera from its bag in years, either. There are so many things like this that I’m discovering lately, as the realization sinks in that I seem to have lost myself. I don’t know what happened, or how to get back to that place.

I’ve slowly taken up a meditation practice over the past 4 months, and it’s been eye-opening, in terms of really examining myself and my life from all angles. The realization that I’ve been on this weird auto-pilot, while also feeling extremely unfulfilled and lost. I look in the mirror, and I don’t recognize myself- physically (which is another source of inner turmoil) or spiritually…my eyes have lost their light. While there is part of me that is grateful to be seeing myself more clearly, I have to say…it’s really, really painful and uncomfortable. And I can’t get away from it.

Like all women, I give a lot of myself away, all the time. My career, my marriage, parenthood, community obligations, you name it-it sucks me dry. Until now, I haven’t been able to name it. I am frequently angry, impatient, sad, and exhausted. And guilty-all the time, for seemingly everything. For thinking I should be taking on more at work to demonstrate my readiness for new opportunities, for making lazy dinners instead of an IG-worthy meal (that’s also organic!), for not playing a bit longer with D, for the food I put in my mouth and the exercise I don’t do, for going up to bed early to read before I sleep,  because I could be spending that time with A, for not giving my hair a full blowout in the morning, opting instead to tie it up on my head. And a million more things I can’t articulate. It looms.

Why do we do this to ourselves? More accurately, why do we allow societal constraints, media, and expectations to tell us that there is only one way to live: to do it all, to be everything to everyone, and do so with a smile on your face. Don’t be angry, don’t be difficult, don’t complain, don’t cry, don’t be too much. Be agreeable. Think of everyone else! Don’t be selfish. THEY NEED YOU.

It makes me want to run. And I’m confused by these feelings, because I have so much to be grateful for: a husband who supports me in all things, and lifts as many burdens from my shoulders as he can (while also making me laugh), a son who is brilliant, funny, kind, and open-hearted; friends who are the truest definition of family, for me. I’m healthy, my people are healthy, I have a home, a job, food to eat, access to healthcare.

What I’m discovering is, these aren’t feelings of wanting more…they are feelings of wanting less. Less pressure, less fast-paced expectation, less social media, less horrible news bombarding me around the clock from this dumpster fire of an administration,less DO DO DO. Less time constraint. Less guilt. Less of all these things to make room for real abundance: time, love, nature, mindfulness, patience, nourishment in all its forms, and joy. The way I measure success is changing, and I need to change with it.

So, I’m making some commitments to myself, and you:

-carve out time everyday for myself, to do something that lifts me up

-continue working on establishing boundaries for my own well-being

-name the things I need, to the people I love

With that, welcome back to this space. I’ve missed you.

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Colin Kaepernick doesn’t owe white people a defense of his actions.

I’ve been having some real disaster social-media conversations with people over the past few weeks, regarding race and privilege in the United States. The term “white privilege” has become the dirtiest phrase out there, among so many white dudes (and let’s face it, it’s usually dudes) who bristle at the slightest suggestion that yes, they are in fact privileged, despite not having an excess of wealth. As much as it makes my eyes involuntarily roll….I kind of get it. I mean, don’t mistake me, I think they’re totally wrong, but I grew up in an environment where this sort of mindset was the norm. And if you don’t take the step towards the uncomfortable, necessary education that these issues require, you remain stuck in that space. And it’s a space that has never seemed OK to me.

Jokes with racist connotations, inflammatory words and phrases, the general expectation that dating a person of color was not OK, the assumption that black people were entitled, aggressive, lazy, that black men were predatory, and thus, to be feared. At home, at school, in the community-these things were part of the landscape, in one way or another. Compounding this, was that my community growing up was lily-white, conservative, and not well-educated, on the whole. The most “progressive” of those professed not to see color, which is, by all accounts, ridiculous and invalidating. It has always seemed so small-minded and silly, but I’d be lying if I said I never internalized a fair chunk of it. I did. And for that, I am ashamed. It appalls me to even write these things, but I do so from a place of humility, and from a place that recognizes that we all need to get real, and face facts regarding our own biases and values and inclinations. Because, I promise you, they are there. Dig a little.

 I have had a long road to getting where I am, and I still have a million miles to go in my education and understanding of racial inequality and privilege, in this country. And for that reason, I talk about it. A lot. I engage in those HORRIBLE “debates” on social media, that sometimes devolve into me being threatened with physical or sexual violence. I ask questions. But I shut up and listen when a person of color is talking. Please, for the love of God, stop saying “But I’m not that sort of white person.” On some level, we are ALL that sort of white person. It is not up to us to determine the narratives of other communities. People who disagree  call me condescending or suggest that I labor under the impression that I have all the answers. On the contrary, I have these discussions and allow myself to be uncomfortable in the pursuit of knowledge (even if it brings up parts of myself that make me embarrassed to confront) because I have learned enough to know that I don’t know shit. And it’s my responsibility, as a white person, to educate myself, wherever and whenever possible. To recognize that my experiences and opinions are limited, and finite. And it is certainly not the responsibility of the oppressed to soothe our feelings about these issues, or to feel obligated to educate us-you gotta do the work, my friends. We all do. 

 I want to touch on the Colin Kaepernick situation as I wrap up, because it’s causing a lot of strong feelings, from various points on the spectrum. And I’m going to break it down for you like this: that flag, that anthem? Yes, it does represent the sacrifice made for freedom…and one of those freedoms is peaceful protest. Also, you don’t get to yell and scream about black people protesting “aggressively”, but then decide that Kaepernick’s silent approach isn’t acceptable. You can’t have it both ways. It is not, and has never been, the role of white people to tell communities of color what they should and should not be troubled by, and how to handle that frustration….but it sure as hell hasn’t stopped them from trying, anyway. Just like with the people in our lives, we can love our country, flaws and all, and still expect better of it. CK’s position of power and privilege as a wealthy athlete isn’t a notch against him-it’s his responsibility to use his influence and convictions to raise others up. Privilege is not something to be ashamed of; rather, the critical action is to have an awareness of it, and utilize it to act in solidarity with others. And I commend Kaepernick for doing just that.

This article can also be found on the Huffington Post, here:

Armchair activism doesn’t stop rape.

By now, everyone has heard about the reprehensible sexual assault that took place at Stanford by Brock Turner, a 20 year old student athlete, who was convicted and sentenced to a mere six months in jail for his crime. This alone caused an outcry, and then his father, seemingly the most tone-deaf individual on the planet, wrote a letter defending his son, and lamenting the mental and emotional toll his ’20 minutes of action’ and their consequences have had on him. As someone who has experienced sexual assault, and as a human being in general, this story has made me ill. It’s made a lot of people ill-everyone has been talking in depth about it across social media, sharing their strong reactions to the heinous act, as well as the abdication of justice, with Turner being given such a short sentence. Good, I thought. People need to be talking about these things. And then I came across a blog post that I am assuming has gone viral, as many of my friends have reposted it. It’s titled “We With the Pitchforks”-you can read it here.

I share in the author’s frustration, as well as those who re-posted it. And a large part of me agrees with every single word written. But, there is something about the angry mob mentality that just seems counterproductive to me.I say this not out of defense for Turner…he doesn’t deserve defense. He’s dug his own grave, and this will follow him for the rest of his days, both personally and professionally, as it should. I say this out of a pure desire to want better for us, as a society. Armchair activism so easy, in the age of social media. It’s easy to share a blog post on social media, it’s easy to rant about it over a dinner party (and these are all things I’ve done, about a myriad of issues, myself). What’s not easy, though, is to change the culture of rape that we’ve so blindly allowed for far too long. This happens every single day, across the world. Fighting a hateful act with more hate is not the answer. Filling the world with the righteous courage necessary to act up against the institutions and systems that treat these crimes as permissible, is. And it’s not just about sexual assault-it’s about all forms of gendered inequities and violence.

My point is, by all means, share information…but share productive information. Share statistics on the prevalence of assault across the country. If you know someone who is willing to share their own story of assault, help them put it out into the world. Learn about rape crisis programs in your area, and support them, whether financially, or through interfacing with your legislators about the importance of these services. Stop teaching little girls and women that it is THEIR responsibility to avoid being raped, and start creating the expectation for boys and men NOT TO RAPE. Stop laughing at jokes about gender stereotypes, or sexual assault, or feminism. It’s not all in good fun. It creates an environment of acceptability, and of women being lesser than whole. If you’re a dad or uncle or any other man with a special child in your life, model how to respect and speak about and equitably interact with women. I promise you, they are ALL watching. Challenge your own beliefs and values (you too, women, because we all internalize it) on relationships and interactions between men and women, and how we view “roles.”

Let’s create a world where the Brock Turners fade into the ether, a bad dream, and where women can move freely without the threat of violation.

It’s time to tell our stories.

When I was nineteen, I was raped, just a few days after returning to school for my sophomore year. It was something that took me almost seven years to fully process. And by fully process, I mean that I dealt with horrible anxiety/depression, an interruption in my education, weight gain, an inability to concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time, and this uncomfortable startle reflex whenever anyone approaches or touches me without warning. These last two issues, while less severe, still linger. It took me a long time to stop feeling like I did something to warrant what happened to me, the ever-expanding list of “I shouldn’t have” statements growing in my mind.

I never reported what happened to me, to the school or police. I told my friends, who supported me in the best way they could. The boy approached me a few days later, as I was pouring cereal into a bowl at the dining hall, to offer a half-hearted apology for “getting out of control”. I didn’t know his name. My body felt hot as I stammered back, “It’s ok”. It wasn’t. I couldn’t meet his eyes. I wonder if he felt absolved. I went to Planned Parenthood, where they tested me for every lingering consequence. Everything was fine, thank God. I still consider those women who treated me to be some of the most important people I’ve encountered in my life. They saved me in a lot of ways, when I had no one else, and changed the way I viewed the world. I couldn’t bear to tell my parents at the time, or the person I was dating. I felt like it would destroy them, that they would find fault with me. I kept this from them, and started therapy, thinking it would help lift the feeling of being suffocated. It didn’t.

I told my boyfriend. He promptly dumped me. I told my mother, and in response, I got “Oh, we’ve all made dumb decisions when we’ve been drinking. Stop beating yourself up about it.” I’d like to believe she was just misunderstanding what I was telling her, but I don’t know how much clearer it could’ve been. I didn’t dare tell my father, as I honestly had no idea how he’d react. I’m not sure if my mother did. These responses from the people I needed the most, sent a very clear message: you did this to yourself. It took me a long time to realize that was incorrect. I never believed that women could feel they were at fault, after a sexual assault. Until it happened to me.

I’ve told a small number of people this story over the years, and the response has always been the same: Why didn’t you report it? And while the 33 year old me has the wisdom to know that I should’ve, the 19 year old me didn’t. I had no voice. I felt like I would be blamed, my actions picked apart, my reputation destroyed. I was smart enough to know how these things panned out, but not smart or strong enough to know how to fight back against it. To say that nothing I did gave anyone permission to violate me in the most heinous of ways. The panic and trauma coursing through me sent one clear message: get away from this. Put it away. Otherwise, I feared at the time, it would follow me. I needed to just move past it.

But it did follow me, an apparition reminding me that life would always be divided into “before the thing that happened at school” and “after the thing that happened at school”. Until just a few years ago, I couldn’t even say the word “rape”, in regards to my situation. It was always “the thing that happened”. The more I thought I was distancing myself from it, the more I realize now that it was tethering me back even tighter.

I’m sharing this not for you to feel sorry or angry for me, I’ve done enough of that for all of us over the years, and I have finally made peace with it. But, I’ve been thinking a lot about my experience the past few days, after reading this article from the NY Times, about the alleged mishandling of a sexual misconduct case of a young woman named Anna at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, here in Geneva. After reading the article, as well as the HWS official response on their website, I can’t help but feel like there’s a fair amount of accuracy in the NYT article, and a fair amount of backpedaling and “Let’s quote our policy and practices to cover our asses” in their response. In my opinion, HWS grossly mishandled this situation, and failed not only this student, but any student who has ever kept quiet about a similar experience, for fear of reprisal or dismissal of its severity. Regardless of all that, more than the pain I feel for the young woman, I feel incredibly proud of her bravery. She is so young and so vulnerable after such a trauma, to have found her voice, and gone to such great lengths to tell her story, her truth. I lay in bed last night, trying to imagine the firestorm that is surrounding her now, how dizzying that must be. I wondered if she second guesses her decision now, and the feedback she’s getting from people. I love that despite the fear and apprehension she’s likely feeling, that she plans to return to HWS in the fall, to continue her education. “Someone needs to help survivors there,” she said.

And she’s right. Interactive videos or other vague educational tools are not going to stop sexual violence. It’s going to take a cultural shift to change people’s attitudes about power, assault, and sex in general. That shift will only come from people speaking up about their experience, and taking individuals and institutions to task their slut-shaming, scrutinizing of a victim’s actions prior to an assault, and dismissing of claims. Boys need to be taught from a young age that girls are not merely there for the touching or invading of space, and girls need to be taught to be strong and comfortable in the claiming of their bodies as their own. Women (and men, in those cases) need to come forward, share their stories, and remind others that without exception, no always means no. Because as I’ve said before-if it happens to one of us, it happens to all of us.

If you’ve read the article and HWS response, and are compelled to voice your support for the improvement of the colleges’ handling of sexual assaults, you can do so by signing the following petition:

What the hell just happened?

I’m writing this as Dempsey sleeps on my shoulder, my computer balanced precariously on the Boppy pillow on my lap, and wondering…how did we make it through this past month?
He is 5 weeks old now, 5 weeks that simultaneously dragged and flew by. And I have to be honest-the first 4 were incredibly rough. I didn’t anticipate the difficulty I would have in adjusting. On top of the garden variety lack of sleep, I couldn’t even sleep when he did, because I had such bad anxiety. Trying to recover from a c-section and care for a newborn, dealing with my mother’s death, and just generally worrying about how I was going to adapt to it all, really took a toll on me. I frequently felt sort of out of my mind, and yes-I was suffering from a little depression as a result of it all. And just as swiftly as it all hit me, it all lifted, on the day he turned one month old. I’m not sure what was responsible for the flipped switch, but I am incredibly grateful to be feeling like myself again, happy, much more rested, and able to more freely enjoy the experience.

It got me thinking about the messages that we’re sent about parenthood, and what to expect. I got the impression that sure, I would be sleepy, but life would be so lovely with a new baby, all mushiness and love. And while there were those moments, there were more frequently really difficult ones. I would cry uncontrollably in response to a simple inquiry of “How’s it going?” And no one ever talks about those things, which then makes you feel like there is something wrong with you. I started to feel like a bad parent for feeling like that, for wishing at times that I had my independence back (or even just a free pair of hands), that I could have even one more night of uninterrupted sleep.

Once I started feeling normal again, I felt more comfortable coming clean about these feelings. As I talked to other moms, I began to hear a lot of my statements echoed in their own stories. So many people said that they experienced the same thing, and that those who had multiple children recalled feeling incredible anxiety when they became pregnant with their second child, unsure if they could do it again. So, the lesson in all of this becomes: talk about it. We as women need to share our stories with one another, support each other, validate what others are feeling. Because if we don’t, we continue to perpetuate feelings of isolation, shame and guilt. Women need to know that they aren’t alone in those feelings, that it’s OK to ask for help. Feeling overwhelmed doesn’t make you a bad parent, it makes you normal. Healthy, happy babies need healthy, happy parents, and that’s ultimately what we all want for our families.

I’m amazed everyday at how much easier it gets-how we just adapt to this tiny (yet huge) little person in our lives. I look at Dempsey, watch the way he changes each day, see him growing and developing and becoming his own little person, and I feel so grateful for the opportunity to be his mom. Even more so, I’m grateful for the support of everyone in my life that supported and encouraged me in those first few weeks-it lifted me up at a time when I needed it most.