Good Men: A Letter To My Sons.

I’m a single mom to two sons. I’m also a survivor of rape and domestic violence.

I struggle to convey the importance of being a good man in a society where sexual predators are Presidents and Supreme Court Justices and where women go on national television to protect the men they know from even the threat of accountability for their actions.

In short, I worry about teaching my sons how to be good men in a society where being a man alone is what makes you good.

I used to emphasize being a good person but now I think I need to emphasize that in order to be a good man, you MUST be a good person.

So I’m penning this letter to them, tonight.

Dear Sons:

Even though you’ll always be my babies, you are also going to be men someday. And I expect you to be good men.

Good men are kind.

Good men comfort rather than bully.

Good men are respectful, gracious and patient.

Good men listen with open ears and open hearts.

Good men protect others in need–adults, children, animals.

Good men never touch a living thing in anger.

Good men don’t treat women like objects.

Good men seek consent before touching a woman (or romantic interest) and don’t resent them for having to seek it.

Good men don’t make promises they can’t keep because good men keep their promises.

Good men speak out against injustice, discrimination and abuse–even if what they say is unpopular.

Good men admit their mistakes and are unafraid to apologize.

Good men treat others as they themselves wish to be treated.

Good men try to help other men be good, just as I hope you two will always try to help each other be good.

From what I’ve taught you, and from what you’ve shown me so far, I have no doubts in your abilities to be good men. You’re already good people. Just don’t stop.

Love,

Mom

Making Time

When I was getting back into jogging, I saw a meme that really resonated in me. It read:

Someone busier than you is running right now.

That logic has stayed with me and become a source of motivation.

We make time for the things that matter. We don’t make excuses. If you’re making excuses, then the thing you’re not doing isn’t really that important.

I am using this logic to keep painting. My apt is small and not at all conducive to painting. I am a working, single mom. I’m stressed pretty much all the time. But if painting matters to me, then I’ll make time for it (even in this little apartment).

Case in point: I’m working on my largest painting yet. This is my “studio”:

I’m making it work because it’s something I want to do. (Albeit somewhat inexplicably bc who decides to be a painter at 44?)

I’m also blogging to keep up some writing. I’m using my cell phone as I type this. I’m making do because writing matters too.

What are you making time for in your life?

Productivity

I know I should be seeing a therapist but I’m stubborn.

I know I’m using food and wine to anesthetize myself.

I know these are terrible and destructive methods of coping with my emotions and stress.

And yet, I still do it. Old habits are hard to break. But I’m gonna try.

I’ve been painting. I am drawn to it and am pursuing it (when I can) because of the Rumi quote, “what you seek is seeking you.” Although I am using YouTube videos to learn about painting, I am determined to continue.

One thing I’ve noticed is that when I don’t use food or wine to distract myself from my emotions, I’m much more productive. I clean more and now, I’m painting more.

I finished an acrylic painting of my son last week (I’m sharing progress photos):

And another this weekend (12×12):

And tonight I’m starting again:

The painting on the wall of the woman is oil paint. I prefer oils but acrylics are more practical. They just drive me crazy because the paint dries so fast.

The point of this, of course, is that if you dont dull yourself with alcohol or distract yourself with food, there are a lot of things you can do. Like butcher a canvas.

Painting with Acrylics

First, let me say that painting is so much harder than it looks.

Second, I’ve never taken any art classes, so everything I create reflects my progression as a self-taught painter.

Lastly, I prefer oil painting but my small apartment makes it too hard to do, so I’m focusing on acrylics.

Acrylics are driving me crazy because I prefer blending on the canvas. And as you know, acrylics dry within seconds essentially. I have tried to use a slow-dri medium but it doesn’t make acrylics like oils. It still dries too fast in my opinion. But, space (and money) reinforce my commitment to acrylic painting.

This painting, which I call Safe Harbor, reflects my struggles with blending with acrylics.

I dont know why I’m writing about this. I just feel like sharing. And blogs are great for that.

Confession

I saw my older sister this weekend.  We have a strained relationship.  She tends to want to talk about childhood hardships and suffering while I choose to focus on the future.  Conversations with her are scratches at scabs from wounds that I forget exist until I see her.

That being written, I don’t know where to start.

I don’t remember much from my childhood.  My parents divorced when I was very young, probably around 4.

This weekend, my sister shared a memory with me that made me cry.  Not because I couldn’t remember it, but because I knew it was true despite the lack of memory.  That probably doesn’t make sense but I don’t know how else to explain it.

She said I was crying one night.  And I wasn’t a “cry baby” so my crying was notable.  My biological father went into the room where I was sleeping, on the floor, and he “beat the hell out of me” because he had to get up early the next morning for work.  Despite being hit, I continued to sob and scream, inconsolable.  My mother came into the room and decided to take me to the hospital.  This is a big deal because most of my life, we did not go to doctors or the hospital.

Now this part I do remember.  I remember being rushed down a brightly lit hospital hallway on a gurney.  I remember crying.  I remember being given a fireman’s hat and thinking that was the most pointless thing ever.

That is, of course, all I remember.

I was suffering from appendicitis.  They took my appendix out.  My sister said I was bruised on my bottom, legs and arms.  In hindsight, she was surprised they let me go home after the surgery.

When my sister told me about my dad hitting me, I cried without really knowing I was crying.  The tears came and yet I felt nothing.

She then shared that it was obvious I was sexually abused because whenever I came home from a visit with my dad, I was masturbating.  Five years old and masturbating against the vacuum and on the back of the sofa.  I asked her to stop talking about that because it was deeply humiliating.  She said it wasn’t my fault, I couldn’t help it.  I know she is right but the shame is so profound, I lack the words tonight to express it.

And yet, for some reason, I felt the need to tell her about the needles.

(Bear with me, because this makes no sense and maybe you, dear reader, can tell me what the needles mean.)

I was 28 and was having severe abdominal pains.  I finally went to the ER.  They x-rayed my stomach.  The x-rays showed what looks like two sewing needles in my lower intestines.  They had me drink a substance to promote bowel movement and then took the x-rays again.  The needles had not moved.  So they took a CT scan.  One needle appears to be imbedded in my tailbone and the other in my right butt cheek.

Now this is where it gets weird.  Or interesting.  Or something.  Part of my right butt cheek is missing.  I have a divot, so to speak, so the two cheeks are not the same shape.  I was told when I was young that a dog bit me on the butt.  I always thought it was weird that I was not afraid of dogs considering I was supposedly the victim of a dog attack.

I called my mother and I asked her if she actually WITNESSED the alleged dog attack.  She said no.  I came back from a visit with my father.  I was six or seven.  She took me upstairs to shower.  When she was cleaning me, she saw a wound on my right butt cheek.  She asked me what happened and I told her that I had no idea what she was talking about.  I had already blocked out what happened apparently.  She noted that it looked painful yet I exhibited no pain.  She called my father and he said I had been bit by a dog.  Of course, now we know that is not true.  Something happened and I have two metal objects in my butt cheek and tail bone.  I wish I could tell you that I knew what happened but I still do not.

My sister said she believed my dad hurt me to hurt our mother.

A few years later, when I was pregnant with my second child, the doctors wanted me to get an MRI (I had a difficult pregnancy).  I was filling out the MRI paperwork when I saw the question about metal objects in my body.  I told them that there may be two metal objects inside of me.  I was denied the MRI because the MRI could have killed me and/or my unborn child by pulling the metal through my body toward the magnet of the machine.  That really pissed me off because it was only through chance that I learned about the needles two years earlier.

I don’t know why I am writing this.  I guess I am just hurting and I am hoping that by admitting that I was hurt by my father, in sick ways, maybe I can start healing.

You see, I have few memories before the age of twelve.  Most are bad.  Like my dad hitting me when I knocked over his glass of alcohol.  Or my dad calling me into the bathroom to take a bath with him.  He was naked and I was 10.  I was confused and scared.  I left the bathroom, called my stepdad’s parents and asked them to come get me and they did.

I never saw my dad again.

I don’t ever talk about or even think about my childhood, which was also marked by poverty, homelessness and what I now see as mental illness by my mother.  But I don’t focus on the past.  I have always focused on the future.  I never saw the point of focusing on the past.  It is done and over with.  Thinking about it doesn’t change it, does it?

Yet here I am, at 9 p.m. drinking wine and reflecting on the fact that I self-medicate with food and wine.  And I feel like my heart is breaking and I don’t really know why.  I just know I’m lonely and my heart hurts.  And maybe I need to say out loud that I was sexually and physically abused by my father.  And I need a therapist who can help me get over this because even though I NEVER think or talk about it, it might just be the reason I engage in self-destructive behavior.  Or not.

I don’t know.  I just know I am in pain and I don’t usually acknowledge that.  But denying the pain doesn’t make it go away, it just makes it manifest in sneaky ways… in ways that prevent me from loving myself, forgiving myself, protecting myself.

I hope this journal entry is the first step in a much bigger process.

Please don’t pity or feel sorry for me.  There is contempt in pity and I have plenty of that (contempt) for myself.  What I need to learn is how to love and care for myself… how to overcome the shame of actions I could not control…  because although those actions do not control me today, the shame undoubtedly does.

If you have read this far, thank you.  I know I am not alone and I am hoping my confession tonight will help others know they are not alone either.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.  This blog was that one step for me.

Shut Up and Get Over It

I support Hillary Clinton as much today as when I voted for her.  In light of the latest round of Hillary attacks, I want to explain why I believe in her as much as I do.

I identify with Hillary.

Hillary is flawed but Hillary is a fighter. The fighter in me recognizes and respects the fighter in her. 

see in Hillary the resilience that keeps women alive around the world. In fact, I believe Hillary is offensive and threatening because she is the display and embodiment of the strength that quietly resides in every woman.

Hillary Clinton’s candidacy was evidence of the intelligence and independence that many men fear exists in the women around them.


Hillary exhibits on a public stage the same sheer will that enables women every day to survive sexual assault, sexual harassment, sex-based discrimination, domestic violence, social trivialization and professional marginalization. The facts may vary, but in many ways, the story is the same.

Hillary remains standing despite attacks on her character, her gender, her appearance, her motives, and her marriage.


Hillary remains steady despite the attacks on her performance not only as a politician, but as a wife and mother as well.

Although my background and life path differs from Hillary Clinton’s, I nonetheless identify with her when she is assailed by people who want her to suffer and be shamed for having the audacity to not only survive, but to fight for that survival.

Hillary Clinton is not perfect, but neither is anyone else.


Hillary’s detractors are now attacking her book and the related tour, saying that she should just shut up and get over having the presidency stolen from her.


That’s good advice actually for her detractors. 


This is Hillary’s life and it is her story to tell.


Shut up and get over it.

All Politics Are Local (Reflections on an Election)

I’ll be honest, I had no idea what I signed up for when I submitted my paperwork to run on the last filing day. I have learned a great deal and I would like to share these lessons with you.

 

1. Nonpartisan elections are surprisingly political.

 

2. The politics within one’s own party can be worse than the politics between the parties. Moreover, the politics within our own parties are notably more painful because it is like having a fight with a loved one rather than a stranger. I don’t care what a stranger says about me, but I care a great deal about what a friend or loved one says.

 

3. You will like some candidates on the other side as much as you like some on your own side. This should not be a source of discord and yet it usually is.

 

In the last three months, I have befriended candidates and candidate spouses, some of whom were on a slate or affiliated with a group of candidates other than my own. Party or slate loyalty should not, and does not, preclude genuine respect or affection for anyone else.

 

I consider myself to be incredibly blessed by these new friendships, some of which may be short-lived, but others I expect to be long-term. In either case, however, my life has been enriched by these relationships.

 

4. Even though I look at my campaign and identify many missteps and mistakes, I am comforted by knowing that I was not alone.

 

I have a great deal of respect for every person who ran their race while I ran mine. In particular, I feel a deep bond with the many candidates who, like myself, had never run for office before. Together, we navigated the choppy waters of local politics. Regardless of the outcome on Saturday night, I am proud of all of us.

 

5. I have been humbled by the people who have supported me in this process. I wish I had the words to convey my gratitude to each and every person who has given me (and my campaign) their time, their attention, their support, and their money. Every kind word, every phone call made, every block walked, every person my name was passed to, every dollar donated… I am grateful for every single one of these things. I am grateful to all of you.

 

6. You will anger people without trying to and you will be misunderstood, more than once. The people who matter are the people who come to you directly to address these instances. Some people, however, will not do that and you have to let those misunderstandings, and those people, go.

 

7. Politically active people are passionate people. Conflict is inevitable. But forgiveness follows (or should follow) in short order because we are essentially a family. The people who piss me off the most are also the people for whom I feel a great affection.

 

Dysfunctional or not, I love the misfits of my party. I can only hope the feeling is mutual.